6 Unbelievably Insensitive Things Said to Rape Victims

Every two minutes, another American is sexually assaulted. One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. Unfortunately, 60 percent of assaults are not reported to police and 97 percent of rapists never spend a day in jail. According to research funded by the Department of Justice, only between 8 percent and 37 percent of rapes ever lead to prosecution, and just 3 percent to 18 percent of sexual assaults lead to a conviction.

Recovering from sexual assault can be excruciating. Not only must survivors grapple with the devastating aftermath, such as PTSD, sleep disorders, depression, and a host of other issues, they are often subjected to insensitive reactions from law enforcement, the media, and their own communities.

Rape culture, allows, excuses, and even encourages sexual assault and rape to persist, and significant part of this culture includes blaming the victim.

Here's a list of the worst things recently said to rape victims:

1. Sexual Assault Victimhood is a “Coveted Status”

According to opinion writer George Will, colleges and universities are cultivating an environment in which victimhood is appealing. In his syndicated opinion column in the Washington Post, he writes, “They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” Not only does Will blame the Obama administration for its contribution to what he believes is ridiculous college “progressivism” with it's “crucial and contradictory statistics,” he uses a mocking tone towards sexual assault victims throughout his piece.

Soon after the outrage over his awful column, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch apologized for publishing the piece, admitting it was both offensive and inaccurate, and decided it would no longer run Will's syndicated column. Unfortunately, they're the only publication who has taken this stand.

Despite all the backlash, Will still refuses to apologize for what he wrote. In an interview with C-Span, he defended his initial argument:"A lot of young men and young women in this sea of hormones and alcohol...you're going to have charges of sexual assault,” he said. “You're going to have young men disciplined, their lives often permanently and seriously blighted by this, don't get into medical school, don't get into law school, all the rest, and you're going to have litigation of tremendous expense."

2. Quit Crying

When a student at the Ohio State University campus called 911 to report that "a small male, white boy with a white shirt" broke into her friend's home off campus, held a gun to her head, and then forced her to perform sexual acts, the 911 operator told said, "Ma'am, you're going to have to quit crying so I can get the information from you."

Because she was not in her own home, the victim was unsure of where she was. When the operator asked the 20-year-old for more information the victim answered: “I have no idea. I have no idea. I have no idea. The back door,” to which the operator harshly responded,“Well, they’re not going to be able to find him with the information that you’ve given.”

The dispatcher, however, will not be fired. A 911 supervisor told the local ABC news station that the dispatcher could have better handled the call, and though they will review the incident, they will not reprimand her because the victim has been helped and a suspect has been charged.

3. It Wasn't Rape Because He Didn't Orgasm

In 2010, University of Southern California student Tucker Reed was raped by her then boyfriend. When she decided to press charges, the administration dismissed her claim, despite providing audio recordings of him admitting to the crime. Reed said a USC official told her that the goal was not to punish the assailant, but instead offer an “educative” process.

In 2013, Reed and 12 other students filed a Title IX complaint, and the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights launched the inquiry. According to the students, they suffered from the failures of USC administrators and the Department of Public Safety in responding to reports of sexual violence on campus.

Reed, the lead complainant, says a Department of Public Safety detective told her the campus police determined that the incident could not be considered rape because her alleged assailant did not orgasm. Because of this, they decided not to refer the case to the Los Angeles Police Department.

As if her school's mishandling of the crime was not traumatic enough, when Reed spoke to Rouman Ebrahim, Los Angeles County deputy district attorney for the sex crimes division, he explained to her why her ex-boyfriend would not be facing criminal charges. "And that is a mountain that is going to be very hard to climb in front of a jury in trying to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt," Ebrahim said to her. "That's the main problem here.”

4. Ask Your Rapist for Forgiveness

When Katie Landry was a 19-year-old college student at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C, she was raped by her supervisor at her summer job at an ambulance company. Shortly after, Landry shared her story with Jim Berg, the dean of students at the fundamentalist Christian school. Instead of offering compassion or legal guidance, Berg asked if she’d been drinking or smoking pot and whether she’d been “impure.” During these sessions, he also referred to her “root sin.” “I remember her looking at me and saying, ‘You know that the nightmares are your own fault, because you're choosing to replay pornographic thoughts in your mind,’” she recounted.

Unfortunately, many other students experienced similar counseling from Pat Berg, a professor of counseling married to Jim Berg. Another student named Sarah said Berg fixated on her “sin,” and then blamed her when she was unable to recover from her trauma. Sarah said Berg told her that she needed to repent for any pleasure she experienced during her rape. According to emails, Berg also urged Sarah to call her rapist and ask for forgiveness because, according to him, if she didn’t forgive, God wouldn’t be able to “use her." “I would say that the impact of the two years of counseling I had with her is that I felt like I had been raped all over again,” Sarah said.

5. You Should Have Been Married

In response to the #YesAllWomen hashtag that erupted after the UC Santa Barbara shooting, W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson penned an op-ed in the Washington Post that argued that married biological fathers are key in ending violence against women. 

“This social media outpouring makes it clear that some men pose a real threat to the physical and psychic welfare of women and girls,” they wrote. “But obscured in the public conversation about the violence against women is the fact that some other men are more likely to protect women, directly and indirectly, from the threat of male violence: married biological fathers.”

According to the authors, married women safer than their unmarried peers, and girls raised in a home with their married father are significantly less likely to be abused or assaulted than those who live without their fathers. They also claim that married women are less likely to be raped, assaulted, or robbed than their unmarried peers, suggesting that single women are partially responsible for the sexual violence they or their children experience. 

6. You Deserved It Because You Were Promiscuous

Last year, Corey Batey, 19, Brandon Vandenburg, 20, Brandon Banks,19, and Jaborian McKenzie, 19, were arrested on five counts of rape, and two counts of sexual battery, and consequently kicked off the Vanderbilt football team. On June 23rd, Vandenburg's lawyers submitted a 128-page motion to convince a judge that the case should be dismissed. The document included interviews with witnesses that described the victim “as a promiscuous and heavy drinker who had a history of dating football players, even working with [Coach James Franklin] to recruit football players.” The defense also claims that prosecutors withheld almost 28,000 text messages, including messages the victim sent on the night of the incident. According to them, the woman was also taking selfies and texting them to someone while she was being medically examined after the alleged rape.


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