Stanford Rape Case: All of us must learn to stop blaming the victims of rape

Child and adolescent psychotherapist Joanna Fortune visits schools around Ireland, and many of the teenage girls she meets level blame on a rape victim if they have consumed alcohol.

“I present scenarios and what I notice is amongst young teenage girls, when the girl has consumed alcohol, in general, there is a degree of apportioning blame to her,” says Joanne.

“I try to reflect another perspective. I encourage perspective-taking, the ‘what if?’

“Victim-blaming is often women-on-women and it starts at a really young age, it’s fear-based.

“The fact that women think like that about coming home, constantly watching their back, is not a thought process that men often go through.

“The thinking is: ‘Girls should keep themselves safe,’ as opposed to ‘the boy shouldn’t rape’.

“But rape happens because of rapists, not because of what women drink or wear. And the Stanford victim’s statement is allowing that come to the surface — the only thing that girl is responsible is for the hangover.

“It’s really shining a light, we usually see the light shone on the impact of the perpetrator but not the victim. It’s potentially game-changing, in bringing women’s awareness to this, and supporting each other and activating the male voice.

“This isn’t women against men, this is about society, and we all have a role to play in keeping women safe.”

In relation to a victim’s consumption of alcohol, somehow reducing the responsibility of the rapist, Ms Fortune believes that when we think like this we are missing a fundamental point.

“I find it very concerning that public discourse can view rape as anything other than what it is, a terrible and violent crime,” she says. “It is not a consequence of being drunk or because of what someone wore. To link those two is to entirely misconstrue that fundamental point. Victims are never responsible for being raped, their rapist is responsible.

“Instead of questioning the victim and their behaviour, question the sense of entitlement of her rapist, question the sexism of a court system that prioritises the wellbeing of a convicted rapist over the wellbeing of any woman he will come into contact with in the future.”

The psychotherapist, who works out of her practice Solamh, says that boys and girls, men and women, all have a role to play in changing the conversation around rape.

“We have to empower our children to challenge this victim-blaming culture,” she says. Our girls must be empowered to stand up and support each other and our boys must be empowered to do the same.

“Men have an important role to play in changing the discourse around rape. Men can challenge the thinking of their peers, challenge objectification of women, rape jokes, references to drunk girls being ‘easy’ girls.

“And women have got to stop apportioning responsibility for rape on to the victim. Women must stand up and support other women. This could be any woman. How would we want our story to be heard and responded to?”


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