Blaming victims of rape only worsens the harm done

HIHsquareRape is a terrible enough crime, the brutal and vicious violation of a human being, debasing her, using her body as nothing more than a receptacle, leaving her traumatized for perhaps the rest of her life. Making things still worse is the practice of actually blaming the victim. Or rationalizing the seriousness of the crime away.

For instance, I came across at, a commentary by contributor Jen Roesch on what happened to a teenager in Steubenville, Ohio. In January, a 12-minute video went out over the Internet of young men joking about her being raped last August, along with Twitter and Facebook posts.

It included photos of her unconscious, too inebriated to resist, being dragged about by the wrists and ankles from location to location to be repeatedly assaulted at several parties, for hours, while others watched. Incredibly enough, there were remarks on social media blaming the girl for putting the football team (Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, star athletes — no surprise, there — are scheduled to go on trial March 13) in a bad light. For putting herself in a position to have this happen to her.

Roesch writes that the young woman “is traumatized, unable to sleep, socially isolated and afraid to go to school.” Having to face the attitude that she brought it on herself certainly doesn’t help her mental or emotional state.

Look at the mentality of even those who are trusted to administer justice. Superior Court Judge Derek G. Johnson, of Orange County, California, in 2008 justified denying a prosecutor’s request to sentence 43-year-old Metin Reza Gurel to 16 years in prison for raping his girlfriend, giving Gurel instead a sentence of six years.

“I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down,” Johnson said, according to the California Commission on Judicial Performance. “The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case.”

He went on: “That tells me that the victim in this case, although she wasn’t necessarily willing, she didn’t put up a fight. And to treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape. I think it’s an insult. I think it trivializes a rape. I found this whole case to be a technical case. The rape is technical. The forced oral copulation is technical. It’s more of a crim law test than a real live criminal case.”

This sort of willful ignorance would be intolerable merely from an onlooker. For it to come from the mouth of someone who purports to be a legal authority on whom the woman depended for justice is unthinkable. Yet, it happened.

Since he’s not a doctor, what the hell does he know about what the body will not permit? It’s just a technicality that the man forced a woman to service him? I wonder how technical he’d find it had someone forced themselves down his throat.

Women are not immune to this sort of brain-dead reasoning. In the early 1990s, Katie Roiphe wrote a book, The Morning After: Fear, Sex and Feminism, which basically stated date rape doesn’t exist. Instead, according to her, date rape was women changing their minds after the fact and hollering, “Wolf!”

Laura Sessions Stepp wrote in the magazine Cosmopolitan, quoting a woman, “If you make the choice to leave the bar with the guy, then you are also creating the opportunity for something to go wrong. I think that is the point that needs to be driven home to everyone who participates in the hookup culture. Yes, you can practice safe sex. Yes, you can have casual sex without strings. But this behavior carries a risk.”

It is frightening that anyone can excuse getting a woman alone and forcing her to have sex, but it is all the more abhorrent coming from a female. Rape, sadly, is a common fact of life that shows no signs of decreasing. Tragically, things are made still worse by turning a blind eye to the deed and a deaf ear to women who suffer in cruelest silence because people refuse to hear their pain.


Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403. 
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