A Little Victim Blaming With Your Coffee.

The Daily Mail says women might imagine being drugged and put at risk of rape, but in reality they just drank too much.

Dr Adam Burgess, from the University of Kent school of social policy, said rumours about the prevalence of date-rape drugs were little more than an urban myth.
This led young women to underestimate real risks of alcohol misuse, which can include impaired judgment putting them at risk of sexual assault.
‘The reason why fear of drink-spiking has become widespread seems to be a mix of it being more convenient to guard against than the effects of alcohol itself and the fact that such stories are exotic – like a more adult version of “stranger danger”.’
The study, published in the British Journal of Criminology, found that three quarters of students identified drink-spiking as leading to an important risk of sexual assault – more than drinking too much alcohol.

If a journal of criminology is making these conclusions, you can start to understand the thinking that informs the legal system when dealing with rape cases. The person who analyzed this data set either hates women or is not a woman because (a) “oooh, I was drugged,” is a far cry from an exotic story and (b) being drunk isn’t what puts a woman at risk of sexual assault–being near a rapist does.
Perhaps looking at the increase in use of alcohol by women and its harrowing effects on self esteem on the body or the mind, or who is providing the alcohol to the victim, creating said circumstances for violence, might be helpful. But no, it is so much easier to blame young women and suggest they have rape fantasies about “stranger danger” and lie about their irresponsible boozing. Anything else you got that will shame women about their habits and suggest they were “asking for it?”
via Daily Mail.
Thanks to Hannah for the link.

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59 Comments

  1. abyss2hope
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    When you talk about a link between alcohol and sexual assault you can’t just look at the alcohol consumption of victims or potential victims if you are wanting to assess and reduce risk.
    VAWNet’s Alcohol and Sexual Violence Perpetration estimates that about half of sexual assaults are committed when the offender under the influence. “…among first year college students, heavier drinkers were more likely to report that they perpetrated sexual assault.” and “Alcohol is one of many factors that increase the likelihood that a man will feel comfortable forcing sex on an unwilling woman.”
    If we are going to talk about causality then this alcohol consumption is what we need to focus on first and foremost. Too often this alcohol consumption is completely ignored.

  2. abyss2hope
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    What I think we need to get over is the idea that telling women to look out for their safety is true prevention.
    If I’m in an environment where sexual violence is truly disgusting and unappealing to everyone with no excuses given for any sexual assault then no matter how bad I am at looking out for my safety I won’t be raped.
    However, if I’m in an environment where sexual violence is either widely celebrated or tolerated and where there are no perceived negative consequences for rapists then I can be great at looking out for my own safety and I’m still at terrible risk of being raped.

  3. baddesignhurts
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    i think it is absolute fantasy to suggest that a very deep patriarchal construct such as the rape culture can disappear instantly. that’s patently ludicrous. NO OTHER SOCIAL MOVEMENT has *ever* affected that degree of change that quickly, ever. even if the majority of people’s minds could be changed that quickly, there has *never* in recorded history been a society free of crime. NO degree of societal condemnation has EVER completely eliminated crime in society.
    therefore, in the name of potential rape REDUCTION, i am interested in knowing the tactics of rapists, and how they target their victims, and the frequency of their crimes. based on that information, i can better assess my risk, though, as you accurately point out, my risk is never zero. i may or may not modify my behavior in response to that risk; it’s not fair that i should even have to consider doing so.
    but life isn’t fair.
    i believe that this information, ***in concert*** with stronger societal condemnation and increased prosecution of rape, and a deeper cultural respect for women, provides the best opportunity to reduce rape. most importantly, no matter actions they may or may not have taken, a victim is *never* to blame for a crime committed against them.
    but, given the world that exists today, i find it the height of irresponsibility to discourage women from taking steps that may (but may not) protect them from crime. and to brand those who *do* make those suggestions and perform that research as victim-blamers is absolutely reprehensible.
    living in a fantasy world is bad for women. all those girls who got pregnant or contracted STIs because they didn’t know about birth or disease control? their parents were living in fantasy, too.

  4. Sam
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    The article itself is very interesting and it’s argument is unexpected, considering how the DM presents it. Here’s one of the concluding paragraphs:
    Drink-spiking “distorts the central elements of sexual assault: the intention of an assailant to exert power over and violate the victim, and the loss of autonomy the victim experiences as a result. The entire set of claims about why a victim was intoxicated is bound to smuggle back in blame of the victim and displaces attention from the perpetrator’s violence. It is significant that the perpetrators play almost no descriptive role during interviews and focus groups”

  5. Sam
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    The article itself is very interesting and its argument is unexpected, considering how the DM presents it. Here’s one of the concluding paragraphs:
    Drink-spiking “distorts the central elements of sexual assault: the intention of an assailant to exert power over and violate the victim, and the loss of autonomy the victim experiences as a result. The entire set of claims about why a victim was intoxicated is bound to smuggle back in blame of the victim and displaces attention from the perpetrator’s violence. It is significant that the perpetrators play almost no descriptive role during interviews and focus groups”

  6. abyss2hope
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    The problem with your criticism of me is that I did not “suggest that a very deep patriarchal construct such as the rape culture can disappear instantly.”
    You may believe I live in a fantasy world but I do not. I’ve been raped more than once. I know the dangerous flaws in putting the emphasis on girls and women to avoid rape rather than putting the emphasis on boys to not rape.
    We can make important strides instantly because we are all part of our culture and that includes being part of our rape culture. Many people don’t take these strides because they feel they are futile when they are not. Not being able to completely eliminate crime should not be a reason to accept current levels of violence as just the way it is. The level of sexual and domestic violence is not static across the globe or across time. If culture can foster sexual violence then culture can inhibit sexual violence.
    When you write about reducing rape you leave out primary prevention. This is the key to not having each sex offender who is sent to prison or who dies replaced by a younger sex offender.
    If our collective goal is rape reduction then the best way to do that is to put twice as much effort into primary prevention (stopping attempted perpetration and the willingness to perpetrate) as we put into defensive measures.

  7. abyss2hope
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    you wrote: “NO degree of societal condemnation has EVER completely eliminated crime in society.”
    I agree. The reason for this is that condemnation alone fails to address the underlying social toxins which support the condemned behavior. If all we say is “Don’t rape,” and all we do is punish some of those who’ve been caught and leave the overall rape culture undisturbed we’ve failed in the longterm goal. Primary prevention is about fostering the positive structures, behaviors and attitudes we want to replace the negative structures, behaviors and attitudes we oppose. Each of us can take small steps toward primary prevention which cumulatively can have a huge immediate impact. Rape culture says this is just a fantasy.

  8. FemiNick
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I just love this kind of discourse, honestly. I learn so much about my point of view and how it contrasts from others. I have to say as I was reading the article I was buying into the issues about date rape drugs and alcohol and whatnot. Then I read the commentary from the lovely people here at feministing, and completely changed my mind. I went on to read some of those comments and came to an idea of my own. I haven’t read them all so i apologize if this has already been offered.
    I find it problematic that people offer what women SHOULD do to prevent rape. Not necessarily in the sense of how this leads to victim blaming, although that is a significant problem, but in the idea that there is something that women SHOULD do to be acceptable. Instead perhaps a solution is simply to provide to people the way in which people are victimized as well as the ramifications of victimization, (e.g. people exploiting others with lowered/altered inhibitions; the psychological, social and other ramifications on the victim), and allow women and men to make a choice for themselves what they will do with that information. This would hopefully be a learning experience for both (potential) victims and (potential) perpetrators. For instance, it could allow (potential) victims to avoid situations in which their inhibitions are lowered if they believed that was the right choice. It could also lead to teaching (potential) perpetrators what their actions really mean, and many different situations in which their actions could be sexual assault/rape. This is of course in addition to an overall societal condemnation of rape. I’m sure there’s a perspective of what i’ve just stated that will render it somewhat less than useful, and I look forward to such responses as a learning experience.
    Nick

  9. abyss2hope
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I believe shoulds and musts are appropriate and even needed when it comes to rape but only when they are directed at those harming others or who are allowing harm they witness to go on unchecked.
    Many people are so busy giving those they view as potential victims should and should not messages that they forget the basic should and should not messages:
    “Don’t rape no matter what that other person did which seems foolish or stupid or provacative. And yes, if the other person is unconscious or semiconscious they are not consenting.”
    “If you see someone harming another person intervene directly if safe or get help to intervene.”
    Often people will say everyone knows not to rape so there is no need to repeat these messages, but by the frequency of sexual violence this is clearly untrue. However, should not messages are not sufficient prevention since many of those who commit sexual assaults don’t define their actions as assaults.

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