Friday Feminist Fuck You: Victim-Blaming

Transcript after the jump.


Fuck you Stamford Marriott Hotel and Carleton University – or more specifically fuck your lawyers and administrators who are using victim-blaming in the court cases brought against you by women assaulted on your property.
Carleton University in Canada is being sued by an assault victim who says the school failed to have adequate security measures in the building where she was attacked.
In response, Carleton has said that the student didn’t keep a “proper lookout” for her own safety and should have locked the door to the lab where she was working.
Similarly, a woman was raped in front of her children in the garage of the Stamford Marriot Hotel, and sued the hotel for a lack of security and failing to notice her attacker – who had been suspiciously hanging around the garage for days. In response to her suit, the hotel’s lawyers say that the woman is to blame and “failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities.”
Because as we all know, if we just used our senses and facilities better, women would never get raped.
I know we’re used to seeing victim-blaming in the media and in the courts – but the combination of these two cases coming out in the same week and having such similar narratives really just pissed me off. How long will we have to wait until the blame for rape is placed where it belongs – with the rapist?
So, Carleton University administrators and Marriott hotel lawyers, for victim blaming and all around assholeness, Fuck You.

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30 Comments

  1. rebekah
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    hey Jessica,
    Thank you for this. I love how “using your senses” is how a woman keeps herself from being raped, gosh wonder why that didn’t work when I fought off my attacker for four hours, and I was still raped. Huh, maybe I didn’t do it right, or maybe I didn’t say no loudly enough, or maybe I deserved it “because I was wearing a skirt” and didn’t “lock my door”.

  2. ArtByMoretti
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Wonder what their attorneys would be saying if the woman was impaired in some way (i.e. blind or deaf)? Not that it should make a difference, it still isn’t the woman’s fault!
    But I doubt they’d open their ignorant mouths if that were the case. Or maybe they’d still argue that it was her fault she was blind or deaf? Sadly, I can almost see this happening… “Well you shouldn’t be blind” eek!

  3. ArtByMoretti
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Wonder what their attorneys would be saying if the woman was impaired in some way (i.e. blind or deaf)? Not that it should make a difference, it still isn’t the woman’s fault!
    But I doubt they’d open their ignorant mouths if that were the case. Or maybe they’d still argue that it was her fault she was blind or deaf? Sadly, I can almost see this happening… “Well you shouldn’t be blind” eek!

  4. Marj
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    This aggravates me too. While I can kinda understand the idea that women should look out for themselves, these people miss the point that we shouldn’t have to. It’s a good idea for me to lock my apartment while I’m out too, but even if I forget, that doesn’t mean it’s alright for someone to come in and take my stuff.

  5. aleks
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    “How long will we have to wait until the blame for rape is placed where it belongs – with the rapist?”
    The lawyers aren’t defending the rapist, their clients would love for all the legal and media blame to go exclusively to the perpetrators. They’re defending the owners of the locations where the rapes occurred, whom the victims are suing for not preventing the rapes. The victims claimed that the Marriot and Carleton were negligent in providing security, and the defendants are arguing that they took all reasonable precautions and should not be held liable. They’re saying that they created a reasonably safe environment where people who took care of themselves would have been safe. This is sleazy and ridiculous reasoning. I don’t know whether the locations were lax in their security, or whether they did what they should have and it just wasn’t enough in these cases, but deflecting possibly valid and possibly not allegations of negligence by claiming the victim, who did not have an obligation to secure the premises, was insufficiently on guard is absurd. Weird tactics sometimes work in court, but the PR nightmare for a hotel and university saying “You’re on your own…”

  6. PhemalePhysicist
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s unfair to call the administrators of Carleton University “assholes.” If you read the article that you linked to in the story you’ll find the last paragraph says the follow:
    “Since the attack, Carleton has spent $1.6 million upgrading security on campus, more than tripling the number of video cameras and enhancing the network of emergency phones, improving outdoor lighting, adding five security officers and 20 uniformed student-safety patrollers and installing swipe-card readers for access to the chemistry and biology buildings.”
    I don’t think Carleton is blaming the victim at all, it is obvious that the blame for the crime belongs to the perpetrator of the crime – the rapist. Carleton’s lawyers are simply defending the preventative measures of their institution and not only that have openly realized the problems with their security and have taken steps to fix the problem.

  7. lizdexia
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Yes, but doesn’t having made those improvements constitute an admission of inadequate measure? I’m glad they did so, but having fixed things after an event does not negate responsibility. That’s like pleading not guilty to DUI on the grounds that you’ve since joined AA.

  8. crshark
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    “How long will we have to wait until the blame for rape is placed where it belongs – with the rapist?”
    Tell that to the person suing the hotel. I’d say it is more accurate to describe the woman as “blaming” the hotel for her rape than to say that the hotel, in alleging that its own conduct no more likely led to the woman’s injuries than did her own conduct, is “blaming” the woman.

  9. rebekah
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    no they are not, and all those security upgrades should have been there to begin with. It is a university’s respoinsibility to make sure that their female faculty and students are safe while they are on campus. We have a right to go to work/school and to live in a safe environment. If a school doesn’t have proper security and then goes to say that a survivor was raped because she wasn’t looking out for herself more, then they are victim blaming, because its easier than admitting that they should have been watching out for the rapists more

  10. rebekah
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    no they are not, and all those security upgrades should have been there to begin with. It is a university’s respoinsibility to make sure that their female faculty and students are safe while they are on campus. We have a right to go to work/school and to live in a safe environment. If a school doesn’t have proper security and then goes to say that a survivor was raped because she wasn’t looking out for herself more, then they are victim blaming, because its easier than admitting that they should have been watching out for the rapists more

  11. rebekah
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Exacty, there is only so much you can do to protect yourself. I thought that taking years of self defense training would suffice, but after four hours of constant fighting I was tired, and he got a lucky blow in that I could recover from quickly enough. Does that mean I am responsible? Because of four hours of fighting later I was tired and fell after missing a block? I don’t think so. I think that my RAPIST was responsible and it was made very clear to him that I didn’t want to have sex with him. Just like I think the majority of women who are raped make it more than clear in one way or another, and no matter how vigilant they are it isn’t going to help if a man is stronger/determined to rape you/armed ect.

  12. Antinome
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    As I said in the other thread, I do not agree that this is victim blaming.
    This is not a lawsuit against the actual rapist, it is a lawsuit against the school.
    It is a case over negligent security; implicit in such a suit is the premise that the rape was preventable by actions of people other than the rapist himself. In such a case if a person is going to say that someone else should have prevented the attack, their own ability to prevent the attack is fairly subject to examination.
    Premises owners have a duty to take reasonable care to protect their invitees from the crimes of third parties. Similarly though, people do have a duty to take reasonable care to protect themselves.
    In the Carleton case, they alleged she did not lock the door of the lab she was in and she did not follow procedure in letting them know she would be there after hours. Would these have prevented the attacks, I can’t begin to speculate without knowing more about what happened, but they they are reasonable potential precautions that might be relevant. Just as the additional precautions the victim is claiming Carleton should have taken are also reasonable potential grounds for liability.
    Again none of this should be a defense against a claim against an attacker himself. He is responsible for the attack.

  13. Javalover
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Look, while I agree with you that we shouldn’t blame the victim, I also feel that the university and hotel shouldn’t have been sued, because using your same argument, that’s just putting the blame on them and not on the rapist. The victims are suing the hotel and school arguing that they didn’t provide them with enough protection. In a sense, the victims are blaming the school and hotel, by suggesting that if they had better security they wouldn’t have been raped. In retaliation the hotel and school are saying that the victims themselves could have done more to protect themselves. To me both parties are just blaming each other for something neither of them did! I believe in a free market society. If you as a consumer don’t feel safe, don’t feel that a school or hotel has adequite security, go to another hotel or school that provides better security!!! Don’t go around suing and blaming the location that you got raped at. If the victims hadn’t of blamed the school or hotel in the first place, they wouldn’t have gotten blamed themselves!

  14. Antinome
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Java:
    I disagree with the idea that this lawsuit is invalid. While the victim here could theoretically sue her attacker for the harm that he caused, in reality even if he is ever identified it is highly unlikely he could compensate her in any way for the damage he did.
    The issue in this kind of lawsuit is more who should bear the risk of the insolvency of the attacker. In this case that risk should be allocated among the people who could have stopped the attack (taking the attackers fault essentially out of the equation) (1) . The basic idea here is that the party who both had a duty use reasonable care to prevent the attack and failed to do so is the better person to bear the risk of the insolvency of the attacker. If the victim was reasonable in protecting herself and the school was not, it is better that the school pay her damage and be left to try to get it from the attacker. Similarly if a jury found that both could have reasonable done something then the risk is allocated between them. Finally if the school did what it reasonably should have done then there is no reason the risk of loss should be shifted to it.
    (1) Sadly this is not actually how this is done where I live but thats a different discussion)

  15. Milena
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Carleton and the student who was suing reached an agreement today, although I don’t think details have been released yet.
    I’m also a little hesitant to call the Carleton case blaming the victim. The statements everyone is quoting are part of a legal text. Their only purpose is to answer the charges made against Carleton, so of course they sound really unsympathetic. Either way, I think Carleton’s administration does take this issue seriously, and it’s unfair to call them assholes. The president, Roseann O’Reilly Runte, sent out the following email to students and faculty today:
    Dear Colleagues and Students
    The legal case surrounding the 2007 assault on a student at Carleton has been resolved. We all hope that she may now overcome the pain and suffering caused by the assault and begin the process of moving on with her life.
    It is appropriate to take the time today to address again the issue of Carleton’s commitment to creating a culture without violence and to protecting and supporting all members of the community. This is a university where we care about one another. The safety and well-being of students, staff, and faculty are important to us all. That is why, as an institution, we continue to take steps to make Carleton a safer and more secure place to live, work, and study.
    We have made significant investments in safety measures including additional safety officers on the bike patrol, crime prevention programs that raise the visibility of safety officers on campus, additional cameras, card access systems to control and identify persons accessing buildings, improved lighting, special walkways, and additional assistance phones across the campus.
    Among the steps taken is the recent hiring of a Coordinator of Sexual Assault Services. The Department of Equity Services has also initiated the following:
    -met with representatives of Carleton’s Coalition for a Sexual Assault Support Centre, CUSA, GSA, the Womyn’s Centre, the GLBTQ Centre and the International Students’ Club to discuss how Equity Services and these groups can work together on awareness campaigns and training;
    -established training programs for First-Year Facilitators, Residence Fellows, Athletics Staff and new international students. These training sessions are being introduced throughout the months of August and September and will eventually be offered more broadly across the campus throughout the year;
    -planned a “Man Talk” conference on October 15 and 16, 2009, with the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW). This conference will focus on ways to engage men in ending violence against women. OCTEVAW is comprised of community organizations including numerous community and health centres, the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, as well as students;
    -begun to develop protocols for the co-ordination of sexual assault services;
    -worked on a poster campaign to be launched in September 2009 to complement the students’ “No Means No” campaign.
    Enhancing and improving the support provided the Carleton community is an ongoing process and we will continue to find ways to work with the many, fine organizations in our community such as Ottawa’s Sexual Assault Centre. We also look forward to collaborating with other educational institutions as well as professional and health organizations.
    I continue to welcome comments and suggestions from students, staff and faculty and members of the Ottawa community . I am convinced that Carleton can be known as an increasingly positive, forward-looking, and caring community.

  16. aleks
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    It depends on whether they should have known their previous precautions were inadequate. If they were especially lax before and are playing catchup after a tragedy occurred, that’s their fault. Maybe they were following reasonably good procedures that didn’t stop this one particular crime, and now they’re stepping up.

  17. cebes
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    I agree with a couple of the comments above. This sounds like “Victim blaming is bad, so blame the place the rape happened instead.”

  18. gilraen-surion.myopenid.com
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    So if she had locked the door and a fire had broken out. She would not have been able to escape and the fire department would have said her death was her fault she should not have locked the door!
    The one to blame is the perpetrator, never the victim. Regardless of whether the victim is right about her claim in lack of protection. To even say it is her fault as a defense is just so utterly wrong!

  19. Posted August 15, 2009 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    FYI: The details of the settlement with never be made public. There was a gag order.
    This issue has infuriated me but the responses of people on here have made me even more upset.
    Back in 2007, another student and I spearheaded a campaign at Carleton University to get a student-run, university funded sexual assault centre. We did an audit of existing services on campus and found that they were patchy at best. Health and Counceling, for example, had a 4-6 week long waiting list. Unacceptable.
    We started our campaign by having a referendum question where over 75% of undergraduate students and over 80% of graduate students voted in favour of this Centre.
    In the summer of 2008, CU got a new president, a female president, who came to Carleton with all this talk about “being the student’s president”. Well, she isn’t.
    We have spent the past 3 academic years FIGHTING with administration to improve safety on campus and to acknowledge sexual assault on campuses.
    All those “initiatives” listed on the e-mail sent to all students? WE asked for those and I swear, it was like pulling teeth. Every inch we ever got was only gotten through demands, after demands after demands.
    For the sexual assault centre? We have been explicitly told by Carleton University’s President and administrators that it is NOT going to happen, EVER.
    So, please, take it from someone who has been fighting this fight for the past 2 and some years: Do not believe Carleton’s administrators. This is the same school that currently has a human’s right complaint against it for silencing Israeli Apartheid Students and for firing a professor for suspicion of terrorism.
    This is also the same university who was sued by the victim LAST December and only when the news hit this August did they address it. Furthermore, we students have organized a demo against them for Monday, August 17th and all of a sudden, CU settles a day before? Not a coincidence, in my experience.
    And debating whether or not the victim should have sued Carleton is really taking away from the bigger point: Carleton U released statements that stated that the victim “failed to prevent the assault” AND that the injuries she “claims” to have sustained are “excessive, exaggerated and due to a pre-existing medical condition” (all legal documents are available online, if you want to see for yourself).
    We should ALL be disgusted by this.

  20. sangetencre
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    And debating whether or not the victim should have sued Carleton is really taking away from the bigger point: Carleton U released statements that stated that the victim “failed to prevent the assault” AND that the injuries she “claims” to have sustained are “excessive, exaggerated and due to a pre-existing medical condition” (all legal documents are available online, if you want to see for yourself).
    We should ALL be disgusted by this.

    Thank you.

  21. PamelaVee
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    This makes me ill. Whenever men rape women, it’s always a question of what SHE was going at the time. What is her occupation/ what isher sexual history/ why was she there alone/why was she out late/ what was she wearing/ what is her sexual history/ was she drinking?
    ALL OF THIS IS IRRELEVANT.
    The language of rape is also passive and this says a lot. Women “getting raped” as opposed to men raping women.
    Disgusting.

  22. GREGORYABUTLER10031
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Carleton University’s lawyers have a professional duty to aggressively defend their clients – and the university’s trustees also have a fiduciary duty to defend their institution from lawsuits.
    The same goes with the Marriott’s lawyers and managers.
    They wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t fight off every lawsuit – no matter how meritorious those lawsuits might be.
    Yeah, it might be the moral thing to do for Carleton University and the Marriott to just give an apology and a big fat 7 figure check to these two women – but, in the world of business, morality often has to be sacrificed on the altar of profitability.
    Those managers and lawyers are simply doing their jobs by fighting these lawsuits to the best of their abilities.

  23. GREGORYABUTLER10031
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    If they were competent attorneys aggressively representing their client, they would say that a blind or deaf woman would have had an even greater duty to take extreme care to protect her own safety precisely because of her disability.
    No, it’s not pretty but that’s what civil litigators do when defending their client against a lawsuit – and a lawyer who does not do whatever he/she has to do to defend his/her client is an unethical lawyer.

  24. GREGORYABUTLER10031
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, she should be suing the person who is 100% responsible for the rape – the rapist
    The Marriott corporation didn’t rape her – they are 0% responsible for her rape.
    But, they probably have deeper pockets than the rapist does, so she’ll get a lot more money suing Marriott then she will suing the rapist.

  25. GREGORYABUTLER10031
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Basically, you’re defending the “deep pockets” theory of civil litigation – the person with the most money should pay, rather than the person who is responsible.
    Under that theory, a murder victim’s family would sue the Sig Sauer Corporation of Linz, Austria and Billy’s Gun Shop in Dothan, Alabama, because they have greater assets than the drug dealer who shot the murder victim (who’s assets are not attachable because he keeps his drug money in a hefty bag in his girlfriend’s apartment) and the gun dealer who brought the gun in Alabama and sold it to the drug dealer (and who, like the dealer, banks his ilicit cash in a garbage bag in a stash house).
    I happen to think that theory is bogus – because how can you sue somebody who had absolutely nothing to do with the crime?
    In the cases here, Marriott didn’t tell that guy in the garage to go rape a woman – that was his idea and he is 100% responsible for his bad acts.
    The same with Carleton University – they didn’t tell that guy to go into the laboratory at night and rape a woman scientist – that was his idea and he is 100% responsible.
    Further, Marriott does not have an affirmative duty to verify the identity and destination of people in semi public areas of the hotel, like their parking area.
    So, people who go in that area have an affirmative duty to take great care to protect their lives, persons and property, because it’s their responsibility, not Marriott’s.
    As for the Carleton University case, university campuses are open to students, faculty, staff and authorized visitors on a 24 hour basis – the university does not have an affirmative duty beyond checking ID at the entrances to the campuses
    There are many universities – for example, Columbia University and NYU here in New York City – who assume all persons on campus are authorized visitors, faculty, staff or students and therefore do not check ID’s and allow the general public free run of the campus at all hours of the day and night.
    Considering that this is the case, a person working late at night in a deserted area of the campus does have an affirmative duty to take great care to protect his/her life, person and property – and that would include locking themselves in the laboratory they are working in, to protect themselves from harm.
    So, really, in both these cases, I think the women who are suing those institutions are in the wrong and are going after deep pockets (or, in the Carleton University case, where the attacker was never caught, going after the only pocket available).
    Bottom line, suing innocent third parties just because they have a lot of money is not going to stop rape.

  26. bifemmefatale
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Fuck that–I want businesspeople to start prioritizing right action over profits once in a while. Prioritizing profits over ethics is what brought down the whole world economy a few short months ago.

  27. vhs
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    This is not a criminal trial. This is not a rape trial. It is not a trial about who was the rapist. The claim here is that the owners and providers of these facilities were somehow legally responsible for preventing the rapes that occurred, and did not live up to this responsibility. So, as others have already pointed out, the statement “place the blame with the rapist” is somewhat misplaced here, because that is not what these trials are about at all – the trials are about placing the blame with the owners of the property where the rape occured, NOT with the rapist.
    Now, it might be that the owners of the property did have some legal responsibility for securing the premises, and that the users of the facilities who were victimized by the perpetrator had a (legally binding) expectation of the facilities to be secure. In that case, the trials do make sense, even though they are actually about placing the blame at someone who is not the rapist. But in that case it also – unfortunately – makes sense for the defenders to claim that they did provide the necessary security but that no “product” is ever fool-proof. This trial is not about who committed a rape, but about whether the companies’ product (a secured environment) was good enough – it is a normal defense in that kind of cases to claim that the user of the product showed “negligence” in the use of it, and that the manufacturers are therefore not to blame.
    This sucks. Of course it does. But notice please, that that is the nature of a civil law-suit against a third party. The law-suit is not against the rapist. Blaming the rapist is not an option here. The rape-victims are not blaming the rapist in these trials, they are blaming third-parties. Now, they might be totally justified in doing so, but in that kind of trial the defenders do not have the option of blaming someone who in this trial is a third-party (the rapist). They do not have a case where they can say: “but it wasn’t us, it was the rapists”. They are on trial for not delivering a perfect product and the task of their laywers is to show that the product was in fact as good as it can be when used according to instructions. In that trial their defense is to prove that the plaintiff used their product with negligence – they do not have the option of blaming the rapist because that is not what is on trial. The trials are not about the rapists!
    This sucks, but that is the unfortunate structure of that kind of trial – and the lawyers of the plaintiffs are also working within that framework. The rapists are not on trial here. There is no question of blaming the rapist. That is a misunderstanding of the nature of those trials, and the lawyers would be bad at their job if they went that way. Yes it sucks, and yes it’s wrong. But that’s the nature of law-suits against third parties in this legal system.

  28. BitterBitch
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:07 am | Permalink
  29. Naught
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I agree, the fawning media attitude towards the attackers made me want to puke. My “favorite” part of it (not that the media had time to bring it up) is that Therese Ziemann is also married, and spent over $4000 of her husband’s SS disability money on this while their home is near foreclosure. Yay, hypocrisy.

  30. abyss2hope
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I disagree with your view of attorney ethics. An attorney who believes in doing “whatever he/she has to do to defend his/her client” can easily cross the line and become an unethical lawyer. Your definition of ethical obligations actually encourages unethical practices as long as those harmed by the unethical behavior are not that attorney’s clients.
    Private litigators can be as unethical in their approach to a case as a prosecutor can be. Doing “whatever he/she has to do” implies setting aside ethics as long as the goal of the case is met. Most people get that it is not okay when a prosecutor does “whatever he/she has to do” but fail to get that ethics works both ways.
    This reportedly happened in a Louisiana case where a father was accused of raping his minor daughter. Attorneys John Stocksill and Daniel Stanford have been accused of “improper contact with an opposing witness” due to their interaction with the victim in this case.

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