Recently, there has been a news report of an 11 year old girl who was abducted and gang raped. In the story, people have been reporting that the girl would dress like a 20-year-old as a possible cause for her victimization, a claim that has been now been used in the political sphere. This is not the first time a victim was blamed for her own rape, nor has the clothing been to blame. But beyond the human and just discussion of victim empathy, the whole concept of a victim being to blame does not make any sort of logical sense.
The logical flaw appears because rape is not an impulsive act. For a rape to occur, you need an environment you can isolate and control the victim in, which takes preparation. You can’t just grab a woman and assault her in a public place, you either need an isolated area decided upon a head of time, or you need to enlist confederates to control the area for you, requiring some sort of coordination. Then you need to actually draw the victim into the prepared area, which, again, requires forethought and planning. Finally, you have to render the victim vulnerable, typically done through either through drugging her, which requires planning and patience, overwhelming her with just enough force, which requires control, or through intimidation or manipulation, which requires lots of interaction and preparation. In short, the process of committing a rape requires planning, and therefor cannot be considered impulsive. This is not mere speculation, it’s supported by research.
For a victim to be the cause of any kind of attack, especially if the presentation of the victim has any part to play, the crime must be an impulsive act. This is because, if the person’s presence or clothing were to be the cause, the person would be what is known as a “trigger.” If I were to walk into a biker bar with a shirt that said “Harley Riders are Pussies” and had a beer bottle smashed over my head, that could be explained as an impulsive act caused, in part, by the shirt, which triggered the violent action of the biker. This is because impulsive acts are sudden, triggered, occur outside of any planning, and last a short period of time. Planned acts are thought out, intended, and mindfully executed.
So here is the simple logic to absolve victims and clothing:
If rape is a deliberate act, then it’s cause is established before the presence of a trigger. Therefor The victim can never be causal to the rape.
In other words, the rapists were determine to rape somebody long before they chose the victim. In reality, the decision to rape was made prior to securing the victim. If that victim had not been present, another victim would have eventually been chosen anyway.
In the case of the 11 year old, the claims of clothing fail because of this logical flaw:
She was lured into the car by a lie that she would be driven home. She was then taken to a pre-chosen location, and threatened with violence in order to get her to comply. She was then assaulted by multiple men. All of this required planning and intent to rape, not impulse. Even if there was some confusion due to her dress, the stated description was only that she dressed like she was 20 years old, and the rape of a 20 year old is still rape.
This does bring up the question: If blaming the victim, or the victim’s clothing does not logically hold up, why do people do it?
The reason’s differ for different people. For many, it’s an attempt to deny a rape even occurred, because if you can make the rape the victim’s fault, then it was never truly rape. After all, rape is a horrific act, the thought of which terrifies most people. For people who value their ideologies more than real people, the victim blaming gives them a chance to write a morality tale, one in which failing to meet their beliefs and standards results in the most dire of consequences. For many, the plight of the victim forces them to look at the actions of their abusive friends or family, and they would rather choose loyalty to a criminal than justice. Finally, there is the darkest reason of them all: hiding from our own complicity in the crime. For, even though most people will never actively perpetrate this horror, we live in a society that treats women as unequal and objects while glorifying sexual aggression and drunken encounters, and rapists are acting on the social messages we put out, as they have come to understand them.