Victim-Defending Perspectives

Victim-Defending Perspectives

Victim-Defending Perspectives
Victim-Defending Perspectives

“Our daughters, our sisters, our wives, our mothers, our grandmothers have every single right to expect to be free from violence and sexual abuse. No matter what she’s wearing, no matter whether she’s in a bar, in a dormitory, in the back seat of a car, on a street, drunk or sober—no man has a right to go beyond the word ‘no.’ And if she can’t consent, it also means no.” (Vice President Joe Biden, 2014 [quoted in Editors, New York Times, 2014a])

Victim-blaming views became controversial during the 1970s and have been strongly condemned ever since then. Victim-defending arguments, origi- nally developed by feminists in the women’s rights movement, challenge this conventional wisdom handed down from generation to generation and provide alternative explanations for why some men force themselves upon women.

Over the ages, rape had been pictured as an act of lust and an outpouring of uncontrollable sexual urges. This old view seems plausible only if the vicious physical injuries and devastating emotional pain sustained by the “objects of desire” are ignored. Threats of violence and the use of force surrounding the sexual assault—before, during, and after—betrays its true nature: an attack upon the victim’s dignity and personhood for the purposes of conquest and degradation. According to this new view, rape is really all about power and control. In essence, victim blaming arises from the old view whereas victim defending rests upon the newer interpretation.

Victim defending rejects as a myth the notion that rapes are acts of lust or outpourings of uncon- trollable passion. Sexual assaults are reinterpreted as outbursts of aggression fueled by anger and hatred. Through sexual acts, assailants express their inten- tions to dominate, subjugate, and humiliate females


Copyright 2016 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. WCN 02-200-203

in general and their target in particular. The assail- ant reveals his contempt for females—certainly not “passion” or “love” for a particular girl or woman. Nothing suggestive, flirtatious, or erotic on the vic- tim’s part could justify such hostile and degrading reactions from a stranger, acquaintance, intimate, or even a spouse (Russell, 1975; Clark and Lewis, 1978; and Griffin, 1979).

Using force to compel an unwilling partner to submit and be controlled as a depersonalized object should never be confused with “making love” or even “engaging in sex.” Victim defending questions the applicability of the concept of precipitation, which was originally developed to describe the blamewor- thy, aggressive initiatives taken by men who start and then lose fights. Although some homicides might be deemed justifiable (cases of self-defense; see Chapter 13), there is no such thing as a justifiable rape (see Amir, 1971). In victim-precipitated homicides, the person who died was the first to escalate the level of conflict by resorting to physical strength or a weapon; then the survivor reacted to the assault by fighting back with deadly force. Violence incited retaliatory violence. Because the woman does not physically assault the man before he attacks her, the only way to apply the concept of precipitation to rape is to con- sider the incident as primarily a sexually charged encounter. Only then can real or presumed teasing and sexual advances by the female be considered trig- gering mechanisms. But there is no justification for his resort to force, no matter what she wore, said, did, or promised. Furthermore, there is great confusion and disagreement over what constitutes a sexual overture. Because the female’s behavior can be subjected to a wide range of interpretations, whose perceptions should be accepted when deciding if there was pre- cipitation on her part: his, hers, the police’s, the jury’s, or the researcher’s? (See Silverman, 1974; Chappell, Geis, and Geis, 1977; McCaghy, 1980; and Muftic and Foster, 2010.)

Therefore, the belief that certain rapes are pre- cipitated has been dismissed as a personification and embodiment of rape mythology, cleverly stated in academic-scientific terms (Weis and Borges, 1973), as a scholarly endorsement of the rapist’s point of view that provides an excuse for blaming the injured

party (Clark and Lewis, 1978), and as an ex post facto interpretation that fails to take into account the female’s version of events (LeGrande, 1973).

As for date rapes, victim defending asserts that whenever unwanted intercourse occurs, a real rape has been committed, and not a seduction as the culmination of a romantic courtship ritual. Nor is the rape a terrible misunderstanding stemming from miscommunication. The boy or man has used coer- cion to take from her what he wanted and intended to get all along, while violating her personhood in the process (Estrich, 1986; and LaFree, 1989). If she was silent and passive and yielded without a strug- gle, this behavior should not be taken to mean acquiescence. Such an interpretation overlooks the paralyzing effects of the aggressor’s overwhelming physical strength, his use of force at the outset, his tactics that caught the victim by surprise, or the implied threat posed by the presence of a weapon (see Estrich, 1986; and LaFree, 1989).

Victim defending also dismisses as “ideologically tainted” the crime prevention tips girls and women are supposed to follow in order to survive in a “man’s world.” Females who did not scrupulously observe these precautions are unfairly set up for blame and even berate themselves (“If only I had.…”). A woman who abides by the long and rapidly growing list of recommended self- protection measures (given heightened concerns about drug-facilitated date rape—see below) ends up resembling the proverbial “hysterical old maid armed with a hatpin and an umbrella who looks under the bed each night before retiring.” For years a laughable stereotype of prudery, she has become a model of prudence (Brownmiller, 1975).

Adhering to crime prevention tips means for- going many pleasures and privileges to which men are accustomed, such as taking a walk alone on a deserted beach or strolling through the park at night. Warding off would-be rapists requires women to engage in an extraordinary amount of pretense and deception (pretending a boyfriend, husband, or father is nearby). Furthermore, seeking the protection of “trustworthy” men to fend off un- wanted advances by predatory males undermines the efforts of women to develop their own strengths,

336 CH APT ER 10

Copyright 2016 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. WCN 02-200-203

self-confidence, self-reliance, and independent net- works of mutual support.

The clash between victim-blaming outlooks and victim-defending counterarguments sharpened in 2011 when a Canadian police officer lectured a group of college women that if they wanted to avoid attracting assailants, they should not dress like “sluts.” This advice sparked an angry protest that went viral, leading to demonstrations in 70 cities across the globe. At these “SlutWalks,” some young women marched along defiantly wearing bras, halter tops, and garter belts. Feminists were divided: Some cheered them on for challenging the belief that women who appear alluring are ask- ing to be hit on, sexually harassed, or assaulted, since so many victims were not dressed provoca- tively when attacked. But others fretted that the well-intentioned scantily clad demonstrators actually were insensitive to how divisive matters pertaining to age, race, class, lifestyle, and body image can be to the women’s movement (Traister, 2011). Slutwalks have continued as part of a

campaign to condemn the persistence of both vic- tim blaming and rape culture.

Victim defenders do not portray females as naive, gullible, helpless, dependent, and vulnerable targets who require strict supervision to keep them out of trouble. Women, like men, exercise agency and ultimately are responsible for their own choices and fate. But victim defenders insist that rape pre- vention campaigns should not solely be aimed at females, but should educate and enlighten potential male aggressors too, as well as to pressure and threaten them to do the right thing when relating to the “opposite sex.” In sum, victim defending aims to dispel “rape myths” that shift the burden of responsibility from the perpetrators on to the women they attack. Not surprisingly, a meta- analysis of studies examining rape myth acceptance concluded that boys and men are more likely than girls and women to endorse these blame-the-victim views (Suarez and Gadalla, 2010) (see Box 10.1).

Place Your Order Here!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *