Monday, October 28, 2013

COMMENTARY: Sexual Assault, Priorities, and Misplaced Blame


GARDNER, KAN. ----- A teenage girl is at a small get together with some friends from school. Alcohol is being consumed. Incapacitated, she is allegedly raped by four boys. The incident is documented with photos, which are then passed around. The victim is blamed, bullied, harassed, and ultimately hangs herself.

A teenage girl is at a party, drinking with friends. She leaves to go to another party with some football players. Incapacitated, she is sexually assaulted by two of them during the ride over to, and at the house. The incident is documented with cell phone pictures and passed around. The victim is blamed, bullied, and harassed.

A teenage girl is at a party with friends. There is alcohol at the party and the girl is partaking. Incapacitated, she is sexually assaulted by multiple members of her high school’s football team. The incident is documented by the perpetrators, as well as other members of the party. The pictures are passed around social media. The victim is ordered by the court to keep quiet about her ordeal and her attackers because of a law that is supposed to protect the identity of defendants who are minors.

A teenage girl is with a friend in her room. They are watching movies and drinking some alcohol. She is texting a boy from the football team. After a bit, the boy comes and picks her and her friend up to take them to a party. More alcohol is consumed. Incapacitated, both girls are allegedly raped. The elder of the two is found the next morning outside in dangerously cold temperatures by her mother. She’s taken to the hospital. Charges are filed, then dropped. Harassment, bullying, and blaming of the victim ensues. The elder victim twice attempts suicide.

A teenage girl is drunk at a party with some other teenagers. Incapacitated, the girl is allegedly raped by at least three boys. The incident is documented with videos, which spread on social media and through text messages. The victim is bullied and harassed. She hangs herself.

The first of these cases happened in Nova Scotia; the second in Steubenville, OH; the third in Louisville, Ky; the fourth in Maryville, Mo.; The fifth in Saratoga, Calif.

What’s the lesson to be learned here? Some would try and tell you that the lesson to be learned here is that these girls should have been more careful, been more aware of their surroundings. They would tell you that these things happen when young people drink and sneak out and disobey rules. Some would even be crueler and tell you the victims were “asking for it.”

Are those really the lessons to be learned? Hardly.

Yes, there are legitimate reasons that underage drinking laws exist. Yes, poor decision making too often leads to life altering and potentially life ending consequences.

But maybe the actual lesson to be learned lies somewhere in the fact that our society seems comfortable with telling its teenage girls, “don’t break the rules or you could get raped,” but not at all comfortable with confronting the things that lead to rape being a supposed consequence of drinking.

Maybe the lesson also lies in so many people’s propensity to look at a sexual assault case and say “What could the victim have done differently?”  And also in the message such an attitude sends to all victims and all attackers—both past, present, and potential.

How many victims are keeping quiet out of fear of the ridicule they’d receive? How vulnerable must a victim's mind be after such a traumatic event, and how many of those vulnerable minds start to believe it could actually be their fault when they’re hearing so many people say it? Which, by the way, if you are one of those victims and you are reading this: I promise it is not your fault.

Maybe the lessons aren’t clear, but I’d be willing to bet those are good places to start searching.

If I get mugged and robbed, was I asking for it because I was in a place where potential muggers and robbers walk about? Are murder victims to be blamed? Did they have it coming?

“We need to stop the muggers and the robbers,” people claim. “We need to punish those murderers,” say the masses.

 So why is the call for accountability of rapists also so often joined by slut-shaming of the victim?

To put it more bluntly: a murder victim’s life isn’t there for the taking, regardless of any actions on the victim’s part. By the same token, a person’s body isn’t there for the taking, regardless of what they may or may not have had to drink.


Adam Drovetta is a contributing writer and reporter for the Gardner Edge. He can be reached at