Rape and Victim Blaming

For my inquiry blog, I have decided to focus on women’s rights as a whole and not limit myself to any specific area within that field.  Each week I will pick a news story related to this subject and write about why I think it is important and how human rights are being upheld and/or violated.

It is estimated that one in four women (in the United States)  will be the victim of attempted or completed rape in their lifetime  (This is based on the number of rapes reported, so the actual statistic is much higher; this statistic also varies by country).  When a woman is raped, there are many ways that society can react.  Providing love, support, and care are great ways to help, but others respond much more negatively.  One example of this is victim blaming, an extraordinarily common phenomenon.  Victim blaming is terrible under all circumstances but the type of victim blaming is found on a continuum.  On one side, one might say that the woman was asking for it by drinking, dressing a certain way, or flirting with a man.  Others may say that marital rape does not exist.  On the other extreme you find cruel and unusual punishment for rape survivors, and even honor killings.  Not only is the survivor victimized by the rapist, but she is victimized again by the criminal justice system.  (I use the word she in this paragraph because blaming occurs mostly with female victims.  However, many men that have been raped have their sexual orientation and masculinity challenged.  Others believe that there is no such thing as raping a man.  For the purposes of this blog, I am going to focus on women.)

This week, I stumbled across a news article on www.feministing.com about a “35-year-old, Filipino woman living an working [in] Saudi Arabia, who was raped.”  Rape, in and of itself, is a huge violation to fundamental human rights, but this case takes it ten steps further.  Because Saudi Arabia considers “all sex outside of marriage – including rape and sexual assault” illegal, women can be punished for being raped.  In this situation, the woman is victimized twice.  First, she was victimized by the coworker that raped her.  Then, she was victimized by the criminal justice system, which equates rape with sex and punishes the victim rather than the rapist.  Because she understood the legal system in Saudi Arabia, “Camille” did not file a police report.  Instead, she tried to leave the country but was forbidden from doing so without completing a medical exam.  Her doctor found out that she was pregnant (from her rapist’s baby) which indicated that she had sex outside of marriage.  Because of this, she was arrested and imprisoned.  Her punishment is to be lashed 100 times.  However, according to Sharia, women cannot be lashed while pregnant.  However, Camille miscarried in prison, therefore the exception no longer applied to her.  This is an extreme form of cruel and unusual punishment, especially since she did not commit a crime in the first place!

Closer to home, women are often blamed for being raped.  Take this commentary by Bill O’Reilly for example.  He focuses on what the woman was wearing and sees this as justification for the horrendous crime committed.  This is his description of the victim:

“She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at two in the morning.”

To hear the rest of his commentary, click here.

Another example is of an anonymous woman who wrote to her local advice columnist.  She was drunk at a party and was promised by her date that he would not rape her.  He broke his promise and raped this woman.  In the advice column, Amy Dickinson “informed “Victim? in Virginia” that she was a victim of her own awful judgment. She equated getting drunk at a frat party with asking to be sexually assaulted.”  This attitude is present all over the world, not simply in the media.  To sign a petition to ask for Amy’s formal apology, click here.

This is a video of clips from survivors, their friends, and family.  Their comments are clearly reflective of our rape culture and are indicative of a serious problem.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. toriarose09
    Feb 07, 2010 @ 21:06:16

    I look forward to more information on this topic. The section having to do with the advice columnist really struck a nerve, it reminded me of when someone I know was raped and the police wouldn’t charge the guy because it didn’t last longer than five minutes. It is repulsive to believe that people think in such a manner about rape.


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