Stop Victim Blaming

"Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?"

Priya Kukreja, Co-Editor in Chief

Federal Court Judge Robin Camp directed this question, along with other insensitive remarks, towards a woman involved in a rape case during a trial in 2014. Two years later, this judge is finally facing possible removal from the bench over his comments.

Judge Camp’s reaction to rape is one example of a larger phenomenon in sexual violence cases that conveniently shifts the blame from the perpetrator to the victim.

It seems intuitive that victim blaming is immoral and grossly damaging, but that’s not the case for everyone.

So let’s talk about it.

Instances of victim blaming have become monstrously common in discussions of rape and sexual assault. Questions like What were you wearing? Or was there alcohol involved? Or why were you alone? Are heard all too often as responses to rape allegations.

Not only are these types of responses absurd, but they are damaging and offensive. A woman doesn’t wear a so-called “provocative” outfit to “ask” to be assaulted. Implying that a victim is at fault not only absolves the perpetrator, but also maintains an environment where rape is prevalent without consequences.

By now, everyone is familiar with the story of 20-year old Brock Turner who in January 2015 was discovered (and chased down) by fellow students as he assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Turner was charged with six months in prison and recently let out three months early for good behavior.

The victim involved in the incident brought national attention to the Stanford rape case with a powerful letter outlining her experiences through the trial. Not only was the letter insightful, but its gut-wrenching reality was able to dismantle all stereotypes associated with rape. She revealed that the defendant in her trial asked her to describe irrelevant details of her past such as her sexual history and her alcohol intake as an attempt to shift the blame away from Turner.

These type of evasion tactics work to delegitimize victims’ experiences and sustain a culture where sexual violence is actively normalized and excused in media and popular culture. Just look to how the media originally portrayed Turner as a “potential Olympic swimmer who could lose his future” instead of as the rapist that he is.

We as a society recognize that rape is a traumatizing event. It elicits feelings of guilt, shame, powerlessness, worthlessness, remorse, betrayal, mistrust, or anger. But what surprises me most is the insensitivity towards rape victims and the eagerness to forgive or justify the actions of the rapist.

The Stanford victim sparked an international conversation that brought sexual assault and its misconceptions to light. We have an obligation to continue the conversation around rape culture and push for solutions like consent seminars, harsher consequences, and show compassion towards victims. Conversation is good start, but clearly, there’s still substantial progress to be made.