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New York City Council Member Shuts Down Victim Blaming in Two Minutes Flat

God grant me the eloquence, composure, and facial control to someday take down the patriarchy as succinctly as New York City Council member Laurie Cumbo did on CNN earlier this week.

When asked by CNN’s Pamela Brown to comment on a gang rape victim’s behavior the night of her assault, Cumbo — without missing a beat — explained:

That’s typical of just what I spoke about: that individuals often talk about the woman, they rarely talk about the individuals who actually committed the rape. Those are the individuals that need to be focused on right now [….] We shouldn’t talk about whether she was drunk, we shouldn’t talk about whether she was properly dressed, we shouldn’t talk about the time of evening that it happened. That is too typical of how we discuss rape in the city, the nation, and really the world. We need to focus in this situation on those five individuals that committed this heinous crime and what were the bad decisions that they made all throughout the day.

Cumbo goes on to speak eloquently about the systematic neglect and marginalization that Black folks — particularly Black women — suffer, and concludes with an affirmation that “whether you are on the Upper East Side or in Brownsville, all women matter, and we’re here to make sure that message is sent loud and clear.”

 

Transcript below.

Laurie Cumbo: There is a way that people respond to violence against women and it’s not appropriate. We feel that it needs to be stronger, it needs to be more effective, there needs to be legislation, there needs to be strategy, there needs to be implementation, as well as enforcement. Every woman in the city of New York should feel safe, whether they are coming home late at night, early in the morning, coming from a party, or going to work extremely late.

Pamela Brown: No doubt about that. But I have to ask you this, Councilwoman: law enforcement sources have told CNN that this alleged victim in this case was drunk, combative, and bit a police officer, and she initially refused treatment. What can you tell us about that?

Cumbo: I would say that that’s typical of just what I spoke about, that individuals often talk about the woman, they rarely talk about the individuals who actually committed the rape. Those are the individuals that need to be focused on right now. It does not matter…

Brown: We get that, we get that. That’s correct, it’s about the perpetrators.

Cumbo: And that’s who I think we should focus on. We shouldn’t talk about whether she was drunk, we shouldn’t talk about whether she was properly dressed, we shouldn’t talk about the time of evening that it happened. That is too typical of how we discuss rape in the city, the nation, and really the world. We need to focus in this situation on those five individuals that committed this heinous crime and what were the bad decisions that they made all throughout the day. Had they been drinking? Had they been smoking? What are their situations in terms of what would be put in someone’s minds to think that something like that was okay. And a lot of it is neglect. They’re in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York. They’re thinking that because they’re black, she’s black, her father is black, they’re thinking that no one really cares about what we do in this community, there will be no repercussions. But we’re here, we’re discussing this matter, because we want to let individuals know: whether you are on the Upper East Side or in Brownsville, all women matter, and we’re here to make sure that message is sent loud and clear.

New Haven, CT

Dana Bolger is a senior editor at Feministing.com and the co-founder (and former ED) of Know Your IX, a national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, and The Nation. She's a 1L at Yale Law School.

Dana Bolger is the co-founder of Know Your IX and a senior editor at Feministing.

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