Why Are We Shaming Rape Victims and Not Shaming Rapists?
We have allowed a heinous and inexplicable culture of rape to flourish on our college campuses. Last week, the New York Times ran an exhaustive front-page account of an 18-year-old girl who was raped at a fraternity on the campuses of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York. The story was as much about the small, liberal arts school’s mishandling of the case as it was rape on campus. When will we stop blaming the victim? Why aren't the boys committing the crime being publicly shamed?
The line of the school’s defenders is that a) they did the best they could, given that they are not experts, and b) what are you going to do when the girl in question (who allowed the Times to use her first name, Anna) was black-out drunk? In a study by the National Institute of Justice, campus rape victims who had been incapacitated by drugs or alcohol said they rarely reported their attacks to police, and a third of them said they didn’t realize a crime had been committed.
I don’t write of these things dispassionately — my daughter is a college senior (in Chicago) and though she has not been raped there, she had some scary encounters in her teen years and, yes, drugs and alcohol were involved. I think she learned from those experiences and I’m a great believer in personal responsibility, but why doesn’t that apply to young men in our society?
When my daughter was in high school, she had a lot of friends from other private schools in New York. The ones I was wariest of (with good reason, it turned out) were the boys whose good liberal parents — architects, TV producers, ob-gyns — had no idea what their sons were up to. Did they talk to them about protection, respect, “no means no”? Seemingly not.
Annie C. Clark, who co-founded a group called End Rape on Campus, recounts reporting being raped to an administrator at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill only to be told, "Rape is like football: If you look back on the game — and you're the quarterback, Annie — is there anything you would have done differently?"
"You’re the quarterback"? How about: "You’re the football"?
In the 2012 Steubenville case, in which a 16-year-old girl was violated by pair of high school athletes, more was made of the degradation that occurred after the rape via social media than the assault itself. Here, too, the girl was blacked out from alcohol (who needs roofies?) and much of the commentary in the news and social media called into question her “judgment” (how was your judgment at 16?) and the damage done to her assailants, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Hayes, who were convicted in juvenile court of the rape of a minor.
Poppy Harlow, reporting live from the trial on CNN said it was "incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart.”
And yes, Poppy Harlow is a woman.
It would take all the space on the Internet to explore what happened to our society’s regard for women — our daughters, our sisters, our wives — and how feminism failed to make inroads into the more piggish backwash of the male psyche. In the 2011 rom-com "Crazy, Stupid, Love" Ryan Gosling plays a cad who says, “The war between the sexes is over; we won the second women started pole dancing for exercise.”
But blaming women and girls for embracing a culture that celebrates activities (and attire) that used to be reserved for hookers is no better than saying women in short skirts are asking to be raped. I just didn’t know people were still saying that in my country — on college campuses, no less.
One of the more hopeful stories that came out of the Steubenville case was that of Deric Lostutter, a member of the hacker collective Anonymous. The twentysomething Kentucky man (who, for the record, did not go to college but dropped out of high school to help support his family) began by outing members of the Westboro “God Hates Fags” Church, appearing in videos wearing the customary Guy Fawkes mask.
After news of the Steubenville rape case broke, Lostutter struck again, threatening to expose the rapists, as well as those who spread videos and pictures of the victims and the adults who tried to cover up their crimes, "unless all accused parties come forward by New Year's Day and issue a public apology to the girl and her family."
Along with other members of Anonymous, Lostutter uploaded offensive videos and tweets by friends of the rapists — who, of course, objected, saying in essence that their insults were being taken out of context. He was raided by the FBI and despite (or because of) the support he has received, he faces charges that could result in ten years in prison — ten times what either of the rapists received. (Where’s Poppy Harlow now?)
The idea of publicly shaming rapists seems to have some traction; if newspapers can publish the names of those arrested for solicitation, and there are no laws to protect victims of sexual assault from humiliation on social media, why not use the same tools against those who commit the crimes? But let’s be as brave as Lostutter has been about it. Let’s show the villains' faces.
Originally published on Mom.Me