By: Elizabeth Klein
As more and more sexual assault victims are stepping up to tell their story in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, a hashtag campaign has exemplified the magnitude of the issue. #MeToo was created by Tarana Burke and popularized by actress Alyssa Milano in a tweet that encouraged women to post “#MeToo” to show the amount of women who’ve experienced sexual assault. The results have been alarming. In the 24 hours following Milano’s tweet, the hashtag was tweeted around half a million times.
In light of these brave women and men coming forward to share their experiences, the nature of sexual assault must be made clear. Many people, especially assaulters, turn to victim blaming as justification for the sexual assault that occurs. But there is only one reason for rape. It’s not alcohol. It’s not clothing. It’s not partying. It’s not drugs, nor is it sexual promiscuity.
It’s rapists. Rapists cause rape, not anything else. Yet even today, society often chooses to look for ways to invalidate the claims made by people who’ve been sexually assaulted, creating a rape culture that shames victims who report their experiences.
It happened with Brock Turner. Two years ago, he sexually assaulted an intoxicated woman at a frat party behind a dumpster (referred to as Jane Doe). For his crimes, he was given six months in jail, but only served three after being let out for “good behavior.” Part of the argument in court against jailing Turner included his father’s suggestion that he go on a lecture tour to teach “other college-age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.” The dangers of sexual promiscuity? I hope by that he means his son being a rapist, because nothing Jane Doe did that night provoked her rape in any way. The risks involved with sexual promiscuity should be centered around health and taught by high school physical education teachers, not registered sex offenders. And the intoxication of Turner and Jane Doe does not validate what happened that night, as the tour implies. Though Turner would like to blame the incident on alcohol and sexual promiscuity, he has only himself to blame.
It happened with Bill Cosby. Nearly 60 women claimed they’d been sexually assaulted by the comedian after Temple University basketball director Andrea Constand took him to court. Constand claimed that Cosby drugged her and molested her in 2004, yet received backlash for coming forward. A juror on the case said that she was “well-coached,” bringing up the fact that Constand was wearing a bared midriff before she was assaulted. The fact that Constand was showing her stomach has nothing to do with her sexual assault. She could’ve been wearing nothing and Cosby still didn’t have the right to touch her. The juror attempted to place the blame on Constand for exposing her midriff, but clothes don’t make people assault others. People do.
It happened with Cory Batey. The former Vanderbilt football player was found guilty after raping an unconscious woman at his university. During the trial, his defense did everything they could to blame the incident on the actions and behavior of the accuser. An attorney on the case said he believed the victim made mistakes that night too, saying “She drank quite a lot of alcohol.” However, the victim’s intoxication didn’t give Batey the right to abuse her, assault her, and rape her. Batey was the reason behind what happened, not alcohol.
It’s 2017. Victims should not be forced to answer to the ridiculous arguments of rapist sympathizers just to receive the justice they deserve. What’s the point of blaming assault on the behavior of the victim? Why do people try so hard to justify sexual assault? They certainly don’t react that way for crimes such as robbery and murder. Nobody blames a gas station clerk when a robber takes all the money from the cash register. Nobody insinuates that people who are shot are asking for it because they were drunk. Why do they do this for people who were assaulted, for people who were raped? Factors like alcohol and clothing are insignificant when it comes to serious crimes like rape. There is no gray area in situations like these, no underlying factors that split the blame between the victim and their assaulter. Rape is caused by rapists. That’s it. Let’s stop blaming victims and start paving the way for a culture that’s more accepting of people coming forward to tell their story.