More victim blaming in the media

Matt DeRienzo has some great pieces about how one paper in Connecticut, the Republican-American, has been bunglinghandling the accusations of rape in Torrington, Conn.. After labeling the rape a tryst, which implies consent, even though the court documents show one of the victims said “No” repeatedly, the Republican-American published an editorial suggesting that we should hold the victims and their parents accountable for “putting themselves in harm’s way” and for dressing provocatively. After all, the editorial suggests, the young men responded in a predictable way.

Predictable? Sadly, yes. But that is the fault of the young men who acted that way, not the girls—and at 13 years old, they are, indeed, girls—who were raped. I’m getting quick sick of this idea that boys and young men are incapable of helping themselves when they are aroused. These are not unthinking animals, these are human beings. Not every young man put into that situation would rape a girl. The young men now accused of rape made a decision; they didn’t act on instinct.

Every time a media outlet proposes that a rape victim should have been more careful, didn’t belong where she was, or was dressed in such a way to provoke the assault, it sends a very clear message: That in some circumstances rape is acceptable, or nearly so. To blame the parents of the victims for not exercising proper discipline ignores the much larger question: Why weren’t the young men taught not to engage in sex with someone who said no?

Journalism has an important role to play here. Reporters and editors can make it clear that a rape victim’s clothing, location, alcohol intake and sexual history have no bearing on whether the incident was rape. They can help reinforce the definition of rape, and make it clear that having sex with someone who doesn’t consent, or in the case of Steubenville, can’t consent, is rape. And they can educate the public that bullying and shaming a rape victim is unacceptable.

DeRienzo and the Register Citizen are doing their part by exposing the identities of those who would bully a victim into silence. We need more like them, and far, far fewer like the Republican-American’s editorial board.

 
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