Is It Victim Blaming?


I was told, this week, that I am a promoter of rape culture. I was called a victim blamer.

If you know me at all, in person or through this blog, you can guess that I was a bit blind sided by that. I spend my life cheering for the underdog and seeking ways to help the downtrodden. It’s not just that I feel it’s the right thing to do. I truly feel it is my calling from God.  So when those words were said to me I examined them very closely.

The conversation in question was about the following scenario:  A young woman gets very drunk and finds herself alone in a parking garage stairwell with a man she’d only just met. The next day she is claiming she’d been raped. He’s saying he scored. That’s all the information given. We don’t know if she asked him to stop or if she was passed out cold.

You can probably imagine the rest of the conversation.  It basically boiled down to me saying, “young people need to know that the idea of “drinking responsibly” includes more than just not driving drunk and the other person telling me I was being an insensitive jerk.

It seems to me, in our society, that there are two camps, drawing up sides.

Is It Victim Blaming? |

One side takes a strong stance of, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”  Quit whining that you were raped. You shouldn’t have been drunk/dressed that way/hung out with that crowd/danced at that party/shown your ankles in public/etc.  Quit crying about being poor. Get a job/a 2nd job/go back to school/spend more wisely.  Throw “the race card” out the window. Everyone has the same rights now so being a minority is not an excuse for anything.

Basically, the people on that side of the aisle are tired of hearing excuses. They feel like there are too many people who feel too coddled in this country. They are sick of those who have made poor choices claiming that they are entitled to the same life as those who have been a bit wiser.

The other side is appalled at the lack of sensitivity. The girl was sexually assaulted! For Heaven’s sake, give her a break!  People can’t find a second job. There are NO jobs to be had!  And who will care for their children while they work 80 hours a week?  Those who are minorities are often discriminated against in a thousand ways, big and small, each day. Without special rights and protection they will never be able to reach true equal status.

These folks will argue that we’ve all made poor choices at some point. And maybe showing a bit more compassion will rid the world of a few of its ills.

I tend to be in the 2nd camp more often than the first.  Maybe because I’ve made more than my fair share of stupid moves in life and only through the grace and kindness shown to me by others have I been able to recover from any of them.

Is there no middle ground?

Is It Victim Blaming? |

In the case of the story at the beginning of this post, is it not possible that the man acted hurtfully, unethically, and perhaps illegally AND that the young woman acted unwisely?

Yes, we should teach our sons to be compassionate and kind and chivalrous.  We should hold men accountable for their hurtful actions toward women.  A man should know better than to have sex with a woman who is too drunk to make an informed choice. Here’s a crazy thought. Maybe we should be teaching our sons they should know better than to have sex with a woman who isn’t their wife.  Hmmm…. that’s a can of worms for another day.


We should teach our daughters to act with wisdom and discretion. There will always be bad people in the world. Don’t go drinking alone. Take some girl friends with you and stick together. Don’t allow yourself to be drunk and alone in a dark parking garage staircase with a man you don’t know.

That’s not taking the responsibility off the rapist. It is putting some power into the hands of the victim.

The same could be applied to all of the scenarios above and countless others.

Yes, we need to take care of those who are hungry, homeless, sick, addicted, and generally downtrodden.


People who have been given a hand up need to put some effort into getting their feet under them and standing on their own. Only in that way will they ever be able to give a hand to the one behind them.

We need to recognize that discrimination is real and we need to create systems that work toward eradicating it.


We need to teach our children that everyone gets pushed around in their lives. That is not an excuse for doing or being less than their best.

It seems like such common sense to me.

Drive safely. Wear a seatbelt. You might get in an accident anyway, but at least you’ll have done everything you can to minimize the damage.

Lock your doors. You might get robbed anyway, but you’ll have lessened the chances.

Keep a fire extinguisher in your house. It may still burn down but there’s a chance you could stop that from happening.

It’s “What Do You Think? Wednesday” and I really want to know your take on this.

Where do you draw the line between victim blaming and personal responsibility?

Is It Victim Blaming? |

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4 responses »

  1. You’re not “allowed” to see both sides anymore. Check out any controversial post in Social Media. No discussion allowed. You’re either with us, or you’re agin’ us. Heaven forbid we find any Common Ground…that’s where the solutions lie.

    • It does feel that way too often! Look at the way congress operates! I am such a big believer in taking a strong moral stance and standing your ground. ALSO, I am a big believer that if we can’t learn to see from any place other than “our own ground” we are simply going to fall apart as a society.

  2. Love this post. I agree with you – we should be teaching people not to rape, and we should be teaching people how to protect themselves best from bad situations. From my experience, the group that shouts “victim blame!” is often taking the stance that we shouldn’t have to teach our daughters to protect themselves. Of course we shouldn’t have to. Of course it should be common sense to not rape and to get informed consent and that informed consent doesn’t happen when one party has been drinking. But the sad reality is different, and I feel that it would be ignorant to send our children into the world without an understanding of how to protect themselves just because they shouldn’t have to. They might have to, and any step that avoids more bad situations is a good step. Those are just my two cents, anyway.

  3. I think the problem in this situation is acting as if drinking irresponsibly and raping someone are equivalent. One is a crime, one is not. One has a victim, one does not.
    Also, if a woman tells me she is raped, I am going to err on the side of believing her. I am not a court of law; I am a compassionate human being.

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