She Asked For It?

9142666_600x338Why are victims so often blamed for rape?

What’s “her” motive in the situation? What drives the rapist? And who has control?

I’ve been thinking about this as two men are sentenced for joining eighteen others to brutally rape a 16-year-old Richmond, California girl.

She wore a lavender dress to the homecoming dance. But she left early and began dialing her dad to pick her up. And then a schoolmate invited her to join some friends who were drinking on school property, and who encouraged her to drink too much. She said they were polite — at first.

She doesn’t remember anything after one kicked her in the stomach and she fell over.

TRIGGER WARNING Author’s Note:  What follows in this blocked quote contains graphic details that may be triggering for some survivors of sexual violence.

Punching and kicking her, the men dragged her around. They beat, stripped and raped her. They assaulted her with a walkie-talkie. One urinated on her. Some burned cigarettes onto her back. Another emptied her purse and stole her money.

Her distressed dad kept calling until a man answered her cell and said his daughter was good at f-ing and giving head.

In all, twenty men participated. Others watched.

Two hours later someone finally called the cops and the men ran away.

An officer found her unconscious and bent over a table’s steel poles, with her lavender dress twisted up over her naked bottom. She was covered in vomit, bloodied and bruised. “She looked wet,” he said, “She looked really clammy white. I thought she was dead.”

When her distraught father learned what had happened, he started screaming and shaking a nearby fence.

Doctors say she was near death.

She awoke the next day in a hospital, nauseous and in pain, with a swollen face, a bruised body, a neck brace and catheter:

My head hurt, and I saw five of everybody staring at me. My body hurt from head to toe with excruciating pain every time I moved. (My legs) felt like somebody had ripped them out of place (and) as if someone had took out my insides, stabbed them and put them back in.

On this same day, her attackers laughed and joked about the assault.

Still, some blamed her:

At a vigil for the victim of the October 24th rape and beating, some students, including young women, hinted that they fault the victim because of rumors about her sexual history. Some students, like 17-year-old Luis Gastelum said if a girl, “…goes to a dark alley, you’re basically, not asking for it, but something was gonna happen.” Sixteen-year-old Briseida Rodriguez also questioned the circumstances leading up to the rape. “Why would she be over there with all them guys? Knowing that the homecoming is in the gym, not over there, so that’s why I think it’s her fault.”

Her fault?

She did get drunk. And she hung out. Are those “crimes” worth punishment by beating, rape and possibly death — in the “she asked for it” scenario?

The rapists also got drunk and hung out. But unlike her, that holds no fault? Have you noticed that when rapists drink they aren’t blamed for drinking?

They also beat and raped and found other means to humiliate her. They nearly killed her.

They controlled the assault. She didn’t.

And what of the motives of the girl versus the boys?

She sought friendship.

They wanted a sexual thrill, and to feel powerful and dominant. At least one wanted her money.

And they didn’t care how much it all made her hurt.

Some men will blame her because it makes them feel safer — they will be less likely to be accused or convicted of rape, should such a situation ever arise.

Some women will blame her because it makes them feel safer – if I don’t act like “that” I will be safe.

Some blame the victim when rape charges hurt the image of their community.

And some blame the victim just because they’ve heard so often that it’s her fault.

Really, I think we know who’s the bad guy.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on August 16, 2013, in feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. I am both moved and disturbed by this blog post. I recall reading about what happened to this girl at the time that it happened. The questions posed here pushed me to think beyond what I thought I already knew. I had not considered the concept of safety as a means to defend looking down on another and finding fault in them. I believe it is true women blame other women for what happens to them to feel safer and feel better about themselves. It is possibly a defense mechanism, because the reality that we walk alongside predators every day is too ugly. I had also never considered that the reason the men who committed these horrifying acts blame the victim is because they refuse to acknowledge that they are the monsters society is afraid of. Everyone wants to feel safe, yet it is the woman who is held to unattainable standards to ensure she keeps herself so. It goes without saying what happened to her was not her fault, nor will it ever be justified.

  2. I have heard about similar scenarios many times and I feel sick to my stomach everytime I hear about something as terrible as this. It is shocking that women are blamed for being abused but it is even more shocking when they are being blamed by other women! It seems like women have been restricted for so long and as a result many of us have learned to accept or even support the fact that we are not supposed to do certain things, dress in a certain way or act in way that is not approved by men because if we do we deserve to be punished. The fact that people can abuse someone like this without any major consequences shows that our society have a long way to go.

  3. Just saw this in the New York Times and it’s a good example of a man, who may be prone to rape, blaming rape victims.

    Asumal Sirumalani, a popular Indian spiritual leader who is known to his followers as Asaram Bapu, has fought a long battle against sex…

    A 15-year-old girl filed a police complaint on Aug. 20 in Delhi against 72-year-old Mr. Asaram, accusing him of sexually abusing her…

    In fact, Mr. Asaram has not exactly been immune to such controversy in the past; the Gujarat police are investigating the mysterious murder and mutilation of two young boys in his ashram in April 2008.

    [yet he has recently said] that the young woman gang raped in a moving bus in Delhi could have saved herself by acting helpless and addressing the men as “Bhaiyya” (brother), and then suggesting that stricter rape laws could be misused by “bazaaru auratein” (“loose women”)

  4. I popped over here as I saw your comment on Rohan’s blog, thanks for popping over to my blog. A powerful post, rape is always about “power and control ” over the person being assaulted. It is beyond me how people can apportion blame to the girl and almost as ridulous as the comments often leveled at vistims of domestic abuse ( which often includes rape) such as “she must enjoy it” “she goes back so she deserves it”. You are right we need to change our culture and that starts with raising awareness and backing that up with appropriate sentencing.

  5. I just read about a controversy because Dr. Phil tweeted “If a girl is drunk, is it ok to have sex with her?” SOOOOOO many people commenting that girls shouldn’t get drunk if they don’t want to get raped. Those of us who said maybe boys just shouldn’t rape girls at parties were told that we were silly idealists and even anti-men. Excuse me, but I do not think that holding boys/men accountable for their actions is anti-men. I think that claiming that men are incapable of being held accountable because of testosterone/peer pressure/higher sexual drive/having a penis is anti-men. I even had someone tell me that boys who rape are just acting on instinct! So girls shouldn’t wear skimpy clothes or drink because all these poor boys can’t control their nature-given animalistic urges. Right, because procreative sex ALWAYS involves peeing and vomiting on the woman and taking pictures of it to show all your friends. Animals in the wild do that kind of thing all the time.

    • I am completely baffled by how unthinking and unthoughtful people can be. Other than that they must be trying to protect themselves from future accusations of rape. If people actually believe this crap then rapists have nothing to worry about.

      • I can’t even wrap my brain around that kind of thinking. Me leaving my door unlocked does not give a thief anymore right to my stuff than if he broke in through my window. A girl being drunk does not make her rape any more excusable. People can say all they want that we need to educate our daughters (and yes, we should), but if they think that alone is going to help, then that worries me. We are asking people to be responsible for not becoming victims. There is only so much a person can do to prevent their own victimization. We need to change something in our culture so that we are not producing young men who rape in the first place.

  6. overcoming depression

    I think the crucial sentence in your post is: “She sought friendship.They wanted a sexual thrill”. This is where putative friendship between boys and girls/men and women becomes a tragedy. Perhpas the reason why (some) men see a women’s/girl’s act of being friendly as an invitation for sex is that. Unfortunately, in such cases a Women/girl is reduced to a sexual-being at best and as a sexual-body at worst. This is so sad.

  7. I’m not sure what is more problematic, the lack of compassion from the boys who did the crime or the lack of empathy from the rest of society that blames the victim. Something needs to change.

  8. This is so awful. It’s very true that women blame the victim because it makes them feel safer, and that’s sad. We live in a society that poses a threat to women to the extent that women have to lie to themselves that sexual violence won’t happen to them as long as they aren’t asking for it.

    I really feel for the victim in this case. I can’t imagine the pain she is going through.

  9. Crimes like these just leave me confused.

  10. Recent case in England “York, – A judge allowed a paedophile to walk free today after his 13-year-old victim was described as a ‘sexual predator’ in court.”

    • That sort of thing drives me absolutely nuts!

      So sad that so many people still see things this way.

      • I had a girlfriend who was raped at knife-point. Although the rapist was eventually convicted, she was put through a very harrowing time by the defence council in court. It was like she was the guilty party, and the rapist was the victim. I had a really strong desire to attack both the rapist and his lawyer in court.

        As I write this, I realise that I have never resolved the anger in me from that time. It was nearly 20 years ago.

      • Thank you for sharing that. I’m hoping that as awareness increases our culture will evolve.

  11. Only two sentenced? I hope they get the other bastards involved too. Wow, the father called and some prick said that to him after they brutally raped her? Holy shit, if I was the father, brother, family member or best friend of that girl. Those guys would pray I don’t find out their names and where they live, because I would f****** castrate every single one of those pieces of shit and then kill them or beat them so bad, they would be paralyzed from the neck down. It would suck being in prison, and I’m quite the moral person, but I think most or tons of fathers and sons, brothers, etc would feel this way too if this happened to them. She was asking for it? Bullshit, what god damn jackasses. I can’t even fathom what is going on in their f’ed up minds to do that, but sadly it happens more than one would hope. I’d hope it doesn’t happen at all, but this is not a utopian society and unfortunately, there will probably never be an end to rape happening. But they need to frickin get the rest of those guys, round them up and not a god damn slap on the wrist, but life in prison or at least 30 years and not protected custody but in general public in the prisons so they can have their karma back and be raped and beated in prison. But knowing how messed up the justice system is, this probably won’t happen. You have drug dealers, who deserve jail time, but who get longer sentences than sexual offenders, molesters and rapists. I know they sentenced that castro prick for life, but I hope he’s not kept away from protective custory or away from general public innmates, f*** him. He did a hideous act, he’s in where guys who do hideous things are and if he pays the consequenes from other inmaets then so be it.

    • I know that a couple of other guys have already been sentenced, too. I’m not sure what’s going on with the rest of them.

      And it drives me crazy that there are people in jail with longer sentences for drug crimes than for violent crimes. Jail time for marijuana possession especially bothers me. And I think a lot of the reason that people are arrested for drugs is to get people of color in jail and take away their voting rights.

  12. “Some women will blame her because it makes them feel safer – if I don’t act like “that” I will be safe.”

    This is a good point. And possibly why you find so many women blaming victims. They think that they can protect themselves if they just avoid certain behaviors. If only that were true.

  13. Oh, good God. They blame us for breathing.

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