Sago Boulevard

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Who's Fault is Rape?

Steve Gilliard seemed to have pissed off more than a few feminist bloggers (Echidne of the Snakes, Feministe) by writing yesterday about the media's and pop-culture's attitudes about rape, in context of Natalee Holloway, the girl who disappeared in Aruba following her senior-class trip. I think that in the case of any tragedy, there's something wrong about looking to blame the victim. This is true for a heavy smoker who's dying from lung cancer, a prostitue with AIDS, and a reckless driver injured in a car accident. Even if it is their fault, I find blaming them publically to be distasteful. Of course, it may not be their fault. There are smokers who live long lives, a prostitute may get AIDS from a blood transfusion, and a reckless driver may be rear-ended while stopped at a red light.

Rape is different, though - which is why Gilliard's article is so controversial. It's hard to imagine rape actually being the victim's fault. While the smoker, prostitue, and bad driver all flirt with danger, a rape victim (yes, even a girl who drinks at a party and goes home with a guy she's never met before) is in a quite a different category. But so far, nothing in Gilliard's article contradicts this. In fact he says, "I don't think it's not so much that 'she got what she deserve[s]', but a media refusal to look at their conduct and say these girls were placed in a less than optimal situation." He's not blaming the victim. He's criticizing the lack of precautions taken.

While it's true that a victim of rape does nothing to deserve what happend, there may be something she does that makes a tragedy more likely. This seems to be quite a simple distinction and it surprises me how many fail to see it. Walking alone in Central Park at 3 AM does not make me deserving of assault but it's a pretty bad idea. Getting drunk at a party and going home with guys you barely know is a similarly bad idea. It's not that she deserves to get into trouble but that it's more likely when you're not careful. I think that was Gilliard's point.