Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blaming the victim in a local news story

In a small town in Northern Ontario, there was a sexual assault that has "left a town in shock" (because sexual assault is so rare). A teenage boy went for a walk with a friend and sexually assaulted her.

The news story led with a resident who said "If it's true, I'm disgusted"

If it's true? Really? Is that how we want to talk about these things? I am so annoyed right now. Every time I hear something implying that a rape victim could be lying about what happened to them, I worry that more rapes will go unreported. False reports are extremely rare, more often the victim recants because of the court systems or allegations are just not prosecuted because of the he-said she-said thing.

Then, the news story went on to talk about underage drinking and warned girls to use the buddy system. More implicit victim blaming. Even if she didn't lie about it, she should have stayed sober and should never have left the house with a boy- even one that she knew. In all seriousness, as far as she knew she was using the "buddy system."

If a news story is presented on a similar topic, programs need to make sure that they are not blaming or shaming the victim. She has been through enough.


  1. So would you prefer guilty until proven innocent?

  2. Is that the only alternative?

  3. If we want to have innocent until proven guilty, why do we immediately find the woman guilty of doing something wrong or assume that she's lying? Amazing how women always are entreated to change - why don't men change their behavior? Why don't men stop raping? Why don't men take responsibility for their actions? Is that so hard?

  4. Re: "So you would you prefer guilty until proven innocent?"

    This question is misleading. Of course the SUSPECT is innocent until proven guilty. The point Ms. Marx seems to be making, however, is that when it comes to reports of rape, people are suspicious of whether a crime was even COMMITTED in the first place.

    To make a comparison to robbery, it would be like the reporter walking up to a random person on the street, and saying, "a bank was robbed today," and for the person to respond, "Well, if it's true, I'm disgusted."

    That would be a pretty odd response. Most people would take a news reporter's claim that a robbery OCCURRED to be a given, regardless of whether they believe the persons accused are actually innocent or guilty.

    With rape, however, there always exists the initial suspicion that what a woman claims happened did not occur. Some of this may be due to the nature of the crime itself -- it could have happened with having no outwardly visible signs (unlike a robbery), and it may be reported much later than when the event occurred. But I do think that in these cases, that whatever the physical and other evidence eventually reveals, one must first and foremost take a report of a rape seriously and assume it to be true first.

    Obviously I believe medical experts and law enforcement officials do this everyday, to their credit. The problem is that the public at large does not seem to be willing to believe such accusations without harboring some sort of suspicion.