Blaming Rape Victims

Esther - posted on 02/17/2010 ( 32 moms have responded )

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http://www.theatlanticwire.com/opinions/...

A significant number of Brits believe that rape victims should take the blame in certain situations. Does a rape victim ever hold the blame? What if they dress provacatively? Go back to the assaulter's for a drink? Or get into the assaulter's bed?

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ME - posted on 02/20/2010

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Perhaps the way we are wording things is just different. I would, as a victims advocate and counselor of victims of violence and sexual abuse, NEVER suggest that a woman take "responsibility" for what happened to her. It would NOT have made me feel better as a victim to have been told to take responsibility either. The term "responsibility" has a lot of layers; it can mean moral, ethical, criminal, etc...so, we have to be careful about what we are suggesting the victims of these crimes take personal responsibility for. Believe me, we blame ourselves enough without being told to...however; I wrote my Master's Thesis "Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse: Regaining Autonomy Through Epistemic Authority" after developing a theory that survivors are empowered and healed by being given the chance to "own" their stories and choose their own paths back to mental, emotional, and physical health. I believe my theory holds for teen and adult survivors of sexual crimes as well. For me individual counseling only got me so far...I really started to heal when I went into martial arts. No matter how hard people pushed me to do group counseling (the preferred method for survivors), I knew it wasn't for me, given my personality...just because some things work for some people, doesn't mean they work for everyone.

Michelle - posted on 02/20/2010

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I think the reason people aren't understanding me the way I want to be understood is the gravity of the topic and how sensitive an issue it is.

I'm not saying it's her fault and I'm not saying we should tell women it's their fault. I don't think it's my fault and I don't think that women "ask for it." It's just about owning the situation. This is, in my experience as a former victim and a volunteer victim's advocate in-training, the only way to truly move past this kind of trauma. You can't just push it out of your mind like I tried to for so long. You can't just assume that time will heal you. You can't just think that talking about it.... blah blah blah. You have to come to terms with it. You have to say to yourself, "Yes, this happened to me. Yes, had I made some difference decisions, I may have been able to avoid it. Yes, I will be more aware of my decisions now." Etc. Obviously, I did this with the help of a professional therapist, so I understand that everyone's different. But this was a very big part of my therapy and healing process.

ME - posted on 02/17/2010

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I was the victim of both sexual abuse as a child and rape as a college student. I think that it is insane to even suggest that a woman has anything to do with being assaulted. I drank too much, but I went to bed in my own house, in my own bed, alone, with no one but friends and room mates left awake...one of them raped me. I could have done nothing to prevent what happened to me. I was a 110 lb woman, he was a military man home on leave...he was SO much stronger than me! I have since learned kung fu, and taken steps to isolate myself, and my homelife from ANYONE other than my immediate family...but that doesn't mean I couldn't be victimized again. Afterall, it was an immediate family member who abused me during my childhood.

We don't blame victims of muggings or robbery for the crimes committed against them...they might make changes to their home security or begin carrying mace when they leave home...but they are not accused in court of being too lazy or of being in a place they didn't belong as a means to get the criminal out of his/her punishment...it's just outrageous that women are put through further victimization during the legal process if they want to accuse their rapist or abuser in public!

?? - posted on 02/17/2010

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The only time rape is the victim's fault is if she consents to having sex... wakes up, sobers up and claims rape. And I think in those situations, that victim should be given the same treatment that someone accused of rape would be given.

I am a victim of rape. I still feel like it's my fault, I *know* in my heart it wasn't my fault, but I can't help it because of the fact that I didn't make different and ultimately better choices.

The first time I was raped, I was 11, I was sick, I was laying on a couch at my friends birthday party and I was attacked. I feel like I should have went home. My thought process is basically you were sick !! you should have went home !! why would you stay and sleep on a couch where this could have happened???

I had no idea what that all meant, what happened, why it happened, what they had done to my body, I had no freakin clue... I knew what SEX was, but, I was taught that sex was a beautiful magical wonderful experience that people who care about each other do to share their love. There was nothing beautiful, magical or wonderful about that so I didn't think it was SEX...

So when I was 12.. I was at another birthday party for a friend of the family... 16 year old boys were in abundance. I was layin on the couch downstairs watching TV and a boy that I had had butterflies in my tummy about came down and sat and was watching TV with me... he asked if I wanted to go out to my friend's tree house and just talk... I was sooooooo excited that this boy wanted to hang out with me. We even told my mom who was upstairs that we were going out to the treehouse. We got in there and he kissed me and and he was touching me and I told him no... he held me down and stuffed his jacket in my face.

After the first time it happened, I had started to get bitchy, cranky, whatever, with my mom and so we weren't close. I was rebelling more and more and more... I had just started smoking, I stole smokes from her all the time, I stole money from her to buy smokes, I had started using marijuana, I started drinking beer... so when this happened to me again.......... I came to the conclusion that between mom hating me, boys hurting me, girls betraying me..... my purpose in life was to be hurt. That it was "normal" for me to be treated that way.

When I turned 13 in January 96, my brother played soccer and one of his friends... started flirting with me... we started "going out" in May. He was so sweet, he was so kind, caring, he would give me little kisses and he would hug me... but he didn't pressure me to have sex at all. When we had been going out for about 7-8 months, we were making out and it led to us having sex for the first time and I was so uncomfortable because I was waiting for him to hurt me... I didn't know what to think of it. I didn't enjoy it, but I didn't not enjoy it either. After that though, he got... colder with me. He wasn't so sweet and kind, he was possessive but only in little ways that kinda made me think "What? Ahh whatever." And then when we had been going out for about a year and a half... things changed with us... I stopped going to school, started homeschooling, he moved away to go to college and I was expected to be available at my parents whenever he wanted to talk to me... when he would come in on the weekends, I was to be with him from the time he got there until the time he left. Sex was at his beck and call, I was to feed him, make sure he had what he needed... I wasn't even allowed to talk to my friends...

In '99 we moved in together with my brother. My brother left at 6am and came home at 11pm and went to his room to study then go to bed. It was rare that he was even home. In that year I had broken bones, bruises, black eyes, he raped me everyday, I was his maid, his cook, his whatever he wanted me to be. I was completely under his control. I didn't know any better and I didn't want to lose him.

On our 4 year anniversary... my brother came home when my ex had the frying pan in the air and I was curled up in a ball on the floor.... I fought my BROTHER who was telling my ex to leave and never come back. I hated my brother. I wanted to kill him. I've never seen my ex since that day. And I still feel like it's my fault sometimes. Sometimes.

There's no one in my family that knows this... my brother thinks that was a 1 time thing. There's only a handfull of people that know the whole story... that, obviously isn't the whole story either. But I still feel like it's my fault because... why the fuck didn't I leave?!?!! I stayed. I know that I wasn't ME.. NOW. But still... I'm not a fuckin robot, I should have left. I wish I had left. But I didn't... so I still have to take responsibility for the fact that I didn't make that choice.

I don't want pity because of what happened, I've dealt with it NOW the best I can so far, I still deal with it. I still flinch when I see a hand go up in the air. I still flinch when Devon touches me and I'm not expecting it. I go BAT SHIT CRAZY when someone grabs my arm. I lost it on some old lady in a grocery store some time ago... I was walking around the apple stand, and I guess I walked in front of her a little bit, she grabbed my arm, I turned around and screamed "DON'T TOUCH ME!!!" I apologized about 28390189031 times, dropped my grocery carrier thing and left the store in tears.

Anyways... my point in saying all of this... just because it may not be the victims FAULT... I've found it easier to deal with taking responsibility for my actions in the whole thing. I didn't ASK for it to happen to me the first times... but I did put myself in the position for it to continue to happen with my ex. No he had no right to touch me, to make me do anything I didn't want to do, but I have to find peace with the fact that I didn't leave.

No a woman doesn't ask to be raped by dressing provacatively, but she does have to take responsibility for the things that she does leading up to it. The sooner she takes responsibility for those actions, the easier she will be able to understand WHY it happened and the sooner she will be able to 'deal with it'.

That's my thought process, that's my coping mechanism, that's the way I have come to accept what has happened and how I deal with it.

Emma - posted on 08/09/2011

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Rape is Rape and it is never the victims fault !!!!!
That said living in the Rape capital of the world as a woman i know i need to keep myself safe by trying to avoid blatantly dangerous situations. In a perfect world i should be abel to walk down the road whereing a micro mini shit faced drunk at 2 in the morning and no one lay a finger on me but that is not reality.
In till the day that we all live in that perfect world woman need to be aware that although thats how it should be its not and to be safe.

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ME - posted on 02/20/2010

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I think there is a major difference between "owning your actions" and owning your story. Being allowed to tell one's story in her (or his) own words and explain what that story "means" to her as the survivor, is different from owning the responsibility (even partial)for the attack. Children are NEVER responsible in any way for sexual abuse...I was 4 when it started and 9 when it stopped....I know none of you are suggesting that there was something I should have done differently...However, often times women who were victims of abuse in childhood have eating disorders, drug addictions or dependencies, or exhibit other dangerous behaviors in adolescence or adulthood. I'm not sure that such women can be blamed for these behaviors...which is not the same as me saying that they cannot change them. Anger and blame do nothing for the victim or to the perpetrator (unless it's "legal" blame), this lesson helped me to let go and move on! The mind is a funny thing, and will react to trauma in strange ways...for some trauma victims it takes years to recognize that the trauma they suffered is the origin of the behaviors...some may not remember the truama at all until years later...Of course, I'm not saying that EVERY adult victim of rape was also a victim of child abuse...but a lot of them were...just some more food for thought...

?? - posted on 02/20/2010

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I am in the middle of the 'own your actions' dilemma with my attacks. As an 11 year old, feeling ill, laying on a trusted family friends couch, trying to feel better... the ONLY thing I could have changed was to go home. Obviously... as an 11 year old feeling ill in the home of someone my entire family trusted... why would I think to go home? I wasn't aware of rape and what it meant, or what it was. I was only 11. As an adult... I stayed in the situation and ended up in a bad relationship, staying in that relationship -- in THAT situation, I should have made better choices and I own that. But as an 11 year old, it's still very hard for me to 'own' my actions because I don't think there is a child out there, 11 years old, feeling crappy, at a birthday party, in the house of a family friend who would EVER think "Oh I might get raped if I lay on the couch, I'm going to call mommy and go home, just to make sure!" So with that situation, I have a hard time accepting it sometimes, I have a hard time grasping the reality of it.

And I have the same problems with the second attack too. Of course I could have chosen to stay in the house, in the basement or go and sit with everyone else instead of go to the treehouse with him. But I was 12... I had already been attacked once... why would I think "Oh this boy is going to do the same thing to me." I DID think mom is just inside, there are abotu 2 dozen people just inside.. he's not going to do anything stupid or mean.. there's too many people here, someone could just show up, someone could hear something... he just wants to talk anyways so whatever...

Both times I felt I was in a safe place. Both times I had absolutely ZERO reason to think anything bad might happen to me - especially that !!!! So, sometimes, I have a hard time owning my actions that lead to the attack. Sometimes I have extreme WHY ME moments where I completely break down and lose all control of myself and the pain.

But then I think, if it wasn't me... it might have been someone else. And if it was someone else... it might have been someone who was like one of the dozen girls I know who were raped, couldn't deal with it, and committed suicide, or turned to drugs and/or alcohol. I'm not GLAD it happened to me, but better me than someone else who couldn't deal with it. I've been able to help a lot of girls and young women because of my experiences, and a few young men too.

I don't know WHY the guys decided to do what they did... I don't really care all that much either, because I don't control that. I have made their lives a living hell though -- it's hard to live a happy life when, where ever you go, everyone asks you why you raped that girl.

Ez - posted on 02/20/2010

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Michelle I totally understand your point, and it's the same point I was (perhaps unsuccessfully) trying to make in my PP. Thankfully I am not a victim, but as an outsider I actually see it the same way you do. Nobody CHOOSES to be raped. Nobody 'asks for it'. But it is about taking control of the things we do have power over. I can choose not to go to that hotel room with half a dozen drunk idiots (even if one of them is my friend). I can choose to always buddy up with my girlfriends when out at night. If I choose not to, it doesn't mean I DESERVE to be raped, but it means I could have made a better choice and perhaps saved myself.

Rosie - posted on 02/18/2010

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when a woman says no, that should be the end of it. it's always the man to blame in cases of a woman being raped. i don't care if she was dressed like a slut, or walking around at night or whatever, it is not her fault.

i do agree with michelle and jo to a point. my sister was raped, and she was walking around drunk at night. she does this quite often as she is an alcoholic. i by no means am saying she asked for it, but she also put herself into a position that made it easier to happen. she was not dressed like a slut, she had on a t-shirt and athletic looking jogging pants. she was at a bar that night, got a ride from her friends to their house, and decided to walk back to the bar to get her car to go home. approximately 12 blocks i'd say, and some sicko pulled over, asked a question to get her close to the car and grabbed her and raped her. my question is, where were her friends? why didn't they drive her back to her car, or call her a cab since she was drunk?

i do understand your correlations michelle, and it made me understand your feelings a little bit more, but since it's never happened to me i guess i won't ever fully understand. i have trouble telling a woman who's gone through so much trauma, that it was her fault in any way shape or form.

i'm pretty sure i was a product of rape. my father was abusive and my mother stayed with him for years. i've asked her why she stayed and why she even had sex with him, she said, well i pretty much didn't have any choice in that. she never came out and said he raped me, but she might as well of. i don't blame my mother for staying and putting us through the abuse as well, but i do still wonder why she stayed. i guess that could be correlated with rape in a way. i don't understand why my mother stayed, but i don't blame her either.

Michelle - posted on 02/18/2010

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Esther-- You may actually know someone and just not be aware of their story. Some women have never told anyone, or may even not remember it or have convinced themselves that "he didn't mean it that way". I did not remember for two years until one day I was talking to my mom and suddenly..... just.... remembered.

Jo-- Absolutely!! No means no, no matter who says it. It happens more than you'd think.

Mary Elizabeth-- I'm not excusing the rapist or saying he should get lesser charges or anything like that. And when someone's robbed there ARE situations where had the homeowner done something differently they wouldn't have been robbed. If you'd locked your door, if you'd locked the windows, if you'd..... etc. That doesn't mean that the crime is excused. That means you learn from your mistakes so that it doesn't happen again. And like I said in my first post, of COURSE there are cases where there is NOTHING you could have done differently. But for the most part, there is always something you could have done differently. The part the victim needs to understand is that doesn't make it her FAULT, but it does make it something you change about your habits. You accept responsibility.

For example, let's say I'm in a foreign country, CLEARLY dressed as and acting like a tourist, and I leave my purse on the bar behind me while I'm drinking. When I turn around it's gone. It's not my FAULT that it was stolen. But there are things I could have done differently to prevent it from happening.

Esther - posted on 02/18/2010

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I saw an Oprah show the other day about a man who was molested as a child by his mother. I was watching it while Lucas was taking a nap and when he woke up in the middle of the show, I had to go outside and take a deep breath before I went upstairs to go get him. I was just feeling so sick and I didn't want to "transfer" any of that to him. It was disgusting.

?? - posted on 02/18/2010

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Another question.......can men be raped? I don't think women are ALWAYS the victims of rape... I don't think it's fair to always assume that it's the man that is the rapist and the woman that is the victim.

Esther - posted on 02/18/2010

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This thread leads me to another question - who is raising these boys/men? How can so many of them apparently think it's OK to do this? Don't they have mothers? I would hope that my son would be instilled with higher morals, more compassion and more self restraint than that.

JL - posted on 02/18/2010

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It is never a woman's fault.NO means NO. I don't care if the women is standing completely naked shaking her vajayjay in some dude's face. If she says No I don't want to have sex then the dude has no right to assume she was asking for it. Scantly clad flirty drunk women are not asking for it unless they specifically sex yes I want to have sex with you.

Now I get making responsible choices. I mean if you are out somewhere and a sports star or some other guy you do not know who is along with his buddies asks you to come to his hotel room....think about it because I doubt he wants to have an indepth conversation about the political undercurrent occuring in the US.

Women especially young women need to be taught to be smart and be safe. You cannot always trust others to take care of you and respect you. But even with that in mind rape it is never a woman's fault and many rapes are committed by acquaintances in a place and situation that they assumed they were safe. It is never justifiable no matter how much the lady was flirting sexually wiht the dude...he just needs to take his blue balls and go jack off somewhere.

To the women who shared their stories....Thank you.

Esther - posted on 02/18/2010

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I had heard the statistics but it is not the same as hearing so many women you "know" tell you. I really am pretty sure that among my RL friends nobody has been a victim, but I'm sure among my acquaintances there are probably a few that I had no idea about. It's just horrifying to see a human face put on the statistic.

ME - posted on 02/18/2010

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1 in 3 women has been the victim of sexual abuse or assault during their lifetime...chances are, you know more victims of these crimes then you realize!!!

Sara - posted on 02/18/2010

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I was thinking the same thing, Esther.

And well said, Mary. I completely agree with you.

Esther - posted on 02/18/2010

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I just have to say I'm horrified at how many of you have been victimized or know someone who has. Until COMs I didn't think I knew anyone who had been raped or molested.

ME - posted on 02/18/2010

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My point was that it doesn't matter how a woman behaves...if a bigger, stronger man wants to assault and rape her, he will. Most rapes are committed by aquaintances. For example...the man who raped me was my friend from age 14 until age 22 when he assaulted me. My friend was raped by her high school boyfriend on prom night. My other friend was raped by her room mates bro who was spending the night after a party. Women are raped by friends, family members, husbands...etc. We are not safe because the culture we live in says that this type of crime is "justifiable" in some way if the woman stays out too late alone, or has a few too many drinks at the bar, or flirts with someone, or kisses someone, or wears a short skirt, or has had multiple sexual partners in the past. The same culture says that men cannot help themselves when women wear such clothes or behave in such ways; this is complete bullshit. No crime is ever justifiable for any reason. Women should not be required to know self-defense or hide from the world in order to avoid such crimes...not doing these things does not make rape our responsibility in any way.

Sarah - posted on 02/18/2010

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I agree with you all that rape is never the woman's fault.
I will say though that i know some women who put themselves in dangerous positions every single w/e. Someone i know semi well goes out every weekend, get's absolutely wasted and then wanders off home on her own, or passes out on the street on her way home etc etc. She has been raped twice, and assaulted/mugged multiple times. Is she to blame?? Not really, but she certainly isn't helping matters.
Her friends have tried to talk to her, to help her, but she won't listen at all. She continues to act the same.

Ez - posted on 02/17/2010

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I don't think rape victims should ever be blamed. EVER. It is the man who chooses to over-step the line. It is the man who causes the pain. It is ALWAYS the man's fault. In a perfect world, a woman would say 'no', at any point in the exchange, no matter how she's dressed or where she is, and that refusal would be respected. But we do not live in a perfect world, so as women, we need to take responsibility for our choices and use our common sense.

For example, here in Australia there has been a well-documented phenomena among major sporting teams to 'bond' over group sex. They go out on the drink, invite a girl or two back to their room, and go for it. It has been covered in the news, social commentators have voiced their opinion, and sporting administrators have stepped in to address the blatant disrespect for women among top male athletes (mainly footballers) in this country.

Following all of this, there have been several women go public with rape claims. Now I am not saying that just because a woman enters a room with a couple of men that they are giving their consent to whatever the men desire. 'No' always means the same thing. But what I AM saying is that, after all the media coverage, WHY would you put yourself in that situation?? Whether the claims are true or not, even the slightest possibility that it might be should be enough deterrence. Nothing good is ever going to come from joining a bunch of drunk, randy young men in their hotel room.

* Post referring to adult victims, not children.

Esther - posted on 02/17/2010

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Jo and Michelle thank you both for sharing your stories. Thankfully I have not experienced anything like that in my life. It leaves me feeling physically sick to read your stories and to know how many women these things have happened to and to hear that it happened to two women I have come to like and respect. I honestly don't really know what to say. On the one hand I think I get that it is empowering on some level to take some responsibility for what has happened to you because it enables you to make different choices now to decrease the chances of you being victimized again. However, when I hear either of you say that you think you should have stood up more or told someone or dressed differently or any of these things it still kind of makes me want to cry. I think I get what you're saying and you are probably right, but what happened to both of you is just still SO wrong that hearing (or reading) you taking any responsibility for it at all feels wrong too. Especially considering your ages at the time of the assaults.

Michelle - posted on 02/17/2010

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Jo, thank you for sharing your stories.

I have been victimized as well, and here's my take-- Of course, it is always rape. It is NEVER your fault, EVER. HOWEVER, there are certain actions that victims took leading up to the attack that they need to take responsibility for and learn from, and my therapist taught me this.

I was molested by my step-father (whom I considered to be my "daddy") when I was 12. He molested me numerous times because I was too scared to stop him, and he had me convinced that I couldn't tell anyone because they would think I liked it and think I was a slut.
It was my own fault it happened more than once. Had I been stronger, had I stood up and said something, it would have happened once. When I did stand up, no one thought I was a slut, no one thought I had done anything wrong, and a part of me knew that they wouldn't all along, but I listened to him because I was too young to know any better.

When I was 16, I went out and got wasted and did things sexually that I shouldn't have been doing because I just didn't care anymore. I didn't think that sex mattered, and I was trying to piss off my mom too, I think. I don't really know why I made the decisions I did. My therapist tells me I was still coping with being molested, but I don't like to use that excuse. I made stupid decisions. By the letter of the law and by their intent, I was raped at least three times in one summer, once by two men at the same time. I could have stood up and done something about it, but instead I owned the mistakes I made. I shouldn't have put on that slutty ass outfit, which I knew would make guys want to have sex with me, I shouldn't have gotten wasted, because I knew they would take advantage of it. I asked for it.

A woman who puts on slutty ass outfits and doesn't read the signs is not ASKING to be raped, and it is not her fault. But she does need to understand the risks she is taking as a woman. Women have things about life they just need to understand. We ARE physically weaker (in general) than men. We ARE too trusting and can be intimidated by men into doing things we don't want to do. Therefore, there are precautions we need to take.

Don't get me wrong, there are instances where it is inevitable. There are sickos who do it for fun and no safety precautions you could have taken would have stopped it.

Jo, again, I really thank you for sharing your story, marital or relationship rape and abuse happens all the time. It's so hard to deal with and I'm sorry you had to go through that, and I'm glad you're out of it and going through the healing process.

Rachel - posted on 02/17/2010

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It is NEVER a womans fault, i dont care what she was wearing or weather she was flirting, if she says NO and he does'nt stop it's RAPE no matter how u look at it. I cant stand it when people say if she was'nt wearing that she would'nt of got raped or she's asking to be raped wearing that outfit and acting like that, now most of the time that i hear these comments they are from woman's mouths. I cant stand it just because a chick decided to wear a mini skirt and boob tube does'nt mean that she asked to raped, or just because she was out having a few drinks and was flirting whith a guy does'nt mean she has asked to be raped. NO STILL MEANS NO!!! Even if she goes home with him to his place and starts to do something with him and then says no it's rape, he did'nt have consent.

Lady - posted on 02/17/2010

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Jo you posted at the same time I was and I never read your answer before hand - if I had I probably wouldn't have bothered you said it so much better.

Lady - posted on 02/17/2010

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I think people have to take more responsability for their actions - no it is never a womans fault if she is raped but going out skantily dressed and getting out your face you need to realise that you are putting yourself more at risk. In an ideal world we could do whatever we liked and wear whatever we liked and still be safe but unfortunatley we don't live in an ideal world there for we have to be aware of the risks we are taking.

Sara - posted on 02/17/2010

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If you don't consent to sexual intercourse with someone, it's rape, plain and simple. You could get naked and make out with someone, but if they want to have sex and you say no then they have sex anyway, it's still rape. Should people try to make better choices and not put themselves in situations like that? Probably, but it shoudn't lessen the fact that rape is rape, no matter what you're wearing or who you're with.

Isobel - posted on 02/17/2010

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I don't think there's ever anything a women can do that makes rape OK. That being said, it is a sad fact of life that we are the weaker sex and there are certain things we must do in order to keep ourselves safe.

Here's another question...I saw a show the other day in which men were caught trying to have sex with under-aged girls (one of those cyber predator shows) and I actually felt really sorry for one of the men that showed up. He obviously had the mentality of a 10 year old boy himself. He was so sad and sorry...he was crying, weeping like a small child. That doesn't change, though, what that young girl would've gone through...I wonder what the solution would be in that case.

[deleted account]

I don't think so. And I think the primary reason for this confusion is that the average person doesn't understand that rape isn't really about sex-it's about power and about pain. I think that women should be, and hope that they will be, careful-but I don't think it's ever the woman's fault that a guy sexually assaulted her-and I think it's bizarre that, with all the other crimes in which we sympathize with the victim, rape vicitims are inclined to blame themselves and to be blamed for their attack. It's just wrong.

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