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Wednesday, May 30, 2007
(11:45 PM) | Stephen:
Stop Blaming The Victims

Last March, there was a party in San Jose where several members of the De Anza College baseball team allegedly gang-raped a 17-year-old girl. Two women have come forward as eyewitnesses: Lauren Chief Elk and April Grolle, who are also students at De Anza College. They have granted an interview to a San Jose television station, in which they describe looking through a cracked-open door off the kitchen where the alleged victim was laying down, pants around her ankles, men standing all around her, one of them in the act of raping her.

Chief Elk, Grolle and another woman broke down the door in order to break up what was happening. The victim's mouth was full of vomit. Her jeans and panties were at her ankles. Used condoms littered the floor.

The Santa Clara County DA has declined to press charges, citing a lack of sufficient evidence. To their credit, the Sheriff's office still considers this an open case; we can only hope this means they are still working on providing enough evidence to the DA so that he will try to find some justice here.

What's especially disturbing is that the girl, when she was being rescued, said "I'm sorry." One of the guys in the room reportedly said, "this is her fault. She got drunk and she did this to herself." There are no words in any language capable of expressing the pure evil contained in that sentence.

The problem in this country is that female victims of crime are generally blamed for the crimes. They are blamed for being drunk, or walking alone, or showing cleavage, or dancing, or looking at a guy. No matter what crime occurs, there is always an undercurrent of blame directed at the woman, letting her know that really, if she had just had some common sense or other such thing, then nothing would have happened.

A woman's body needs to be her own. All the time. No matter what she might do to it, that doesn't give anyone else permission to do something else to it. It's just that simple. And the problems that we're having in this country with abortion, with getting that HPV vaccine into widespread use, educating girls about birth control, the skyrocketing growth in cosmetic surgery - even to the point of designer vaginas - the eating disorders that plague women, and the way in which women are routinely assaulted and raped, not by monstrous strangers sneaking into their homes at night, but by their friends, their coworkers, their dads and brothers, all these problems stem from the basic assumption that women's bodies are not their own.

That's why the task of feminism is not done. That's why anyone who actually believes that women deserve equal protection under the law must never relax their guard, never give in to a sense of accomplishment or complacency just because it's now legal for women to vote.

That's why it's so important for our young men to be taught that they are actually responsible for their own actions, that they are not savage beasts beholden to the base urges of their penises. Our young men must be taught from birth that it is never ok to belittle women or take advantage of greater physical prowess. Men need to stop viewing sexual encounters as conquests. We need to excise from our culture the idea that women are fickle creatures who will "say no when they mean yes."

We need to understand that rape is a male* problem. And all of us men are responsible for it, because of the jokes, the insinuations, the attitudes that for some of us may never result in actually physically assaulting a woman, but for many men provide an atmosphere of acceptance in which they will act out their desires.

*Yes, women rape men. And yes, there is a problem with underreporting. But just because I'm not addressing that issue in this post doesn't mean I don't care, nor does it invalidate my argument.

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