Thursday, March 04, 2010

Godly Rape Victim Blaming

Many rape survivors and others have heard rape victim blaming in a variety of forms from people who seem to agree on nothing else. Atheists, Muslims, Christians, conservatives, liberals and people who claim many other labels for themselves have come up with ways to present victim blaming as a higher truth. Many times it seems like in each of these groups victim blaming is the default.

Feminism is an exception to this default but unfortunately too many people who label themselves as feminist also blame some rape victims and sometimes do this in the name of upholding feminism and female empowerment.

Evolutionary psychology is a theory which is frequently used to position men raping women as natural and that not raping when a man is aroused in proximity to a non-consenting female is unnatural. EvPsych can be used to say that women need to understand that the way they dress can put them at risk of being raped.

Other than removing God from their beliefs about rape this theoretical basis for victim blaming is in substance no different from the message contained in a pamphlet recently presented to a young woman in Virginia.

From a Bristol Herald Courier story by Clare Galofaro:

BRISTOL, Va. – Nineteen-year-old Keshia Canter handed three burgers, fries and milkshakes to a car-load of Tuesday afternoon customers at the Hi-Lo Burger’s drive-though window. A lady sitting in the backseat leaned forward, between the two men in front, and handed her a leaflet: “Women & Girls” it said across the top.

“Even though nothing is showing, you’re being ungodly,” Canter recalled the woman telling her. “You make men want to be sinful.” [...]

It continues with one essential theme: The sins of men are, in part, the fault of women, specifically women in tight-fitting clothing. Yates was annoyed. Then she got to a section on page two:

“Scripture tells us that when a man looks on a woman to lust for her he has already committed adultery in his heart. If you are dressed in a way that tempts a men to do this secret (or not so secret) sin, you are a participant in the sin,” the leaflet states. “By the way, some rape victims would not have been raped if they had dressed properly. So can we really say they were innocent victims?”
This last question which has as the accurate answer, "Yes, we can say they were innocent victims and we must say this if we don't tolerate rape," is one which still dominates many discussions about the prosecution of rape because of pervasive bias.

I could as easily mirror the structure of this victim blaming as, "By the way, some male murder victims would not have been murdered if they immediately went home to their families after work and spent all of their days off with their families. So can we really say these men were innocent victims?" When I do this the logical disconnect in this structure hopefully becomes clear to everyone and we see that this is a statement of bias.

This pervasive bias has been and can still be used by jurors to acquit guilty defendants and contributes to convicted sex criminals being free too soon so that they can commit murder. It can be used to rule that certain rapist/murderers must be put to death while others whose actions and intent and ongoing danger are no different are ruled to not be deserving of this sentence.

This pamphlet seeks to shift the responsibility for individuals who practice victim blaming onto God or the scripture. These people likely reject evolution and all interpretations of feminism, yet many people who believe in evolution and some who call themselves feminist agree with everything this pamphlet writer believes except for the root cause for why victim blaming is okay. Just substitute, "make men want to be sinful," with "make men want to pass on their DNA," or "women need to communicate their boundaries better and not get into dicey situations."

Atheists and other non-Christians who use this story to slam Christianity need to remember that this practice is not unique to Christians. What must be slammed is blaming women for men's choices and positioning all men as just one sexy outfit or lustful thought away from committing rape.

When those of us within a certain group challenge others in that group about their victim blaming and/or rape denial too often we are accused of not being a true member of that group or we are simply assumed to not be a member of that group. But I can be a Christian while calling out all those who use Christianity to justify actions and beliefs which support rape.

The pervasiveness of victim blaming does not make it natural or a universal truth. This pervasiveness comes from how this pervasive attitude allows men who consider themselves decent human beings to commit rape and the pervasive attitude that those who are otherwise decent human beings cannot be real rapists and must have been led by their victim into rape if the rape itself cannot be denied.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:56 AM   2 comments links to this post


At March 04, 2010 6:51 PM, Anonymous m Andrea said...

The wierd thing is that when we take them at their word, ie "all men rape", then they get mad.

If "all men rape" then why don't we convict every alledged rapist during their trial?

They are so stuck in their non-logical rut that they can't even comprehend how foolish it is. Why would their precious god have designed every man to be no better than a dog?

At March 07, 2010 2:19 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

This topic just makes me so sick, sad and angry. Keep putting these things out there. Its so important to get people to actually think logically and question what they are told to believe. I retweet almost all of your posts these days!


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