There has been quite an amount of discussion in Ireland, this year, again, around the subject of whether someone is in part to blame if they are sexually assaulted or raped.
I started writing a blog post on this subject quite a few times since the latest iteration of this old ‘blame the victim’ discussion got an airing this year. I found that as I had quite a lot to say on this matter, it was nearly impossible to condense my writing into an easily accessible blog post.
So I will just say this:
No. No the person who is sexually assaulted or raped is not to blame.
I don’t care what they were wearing, drinking, otherwise ingesting. I don’t care how late at night it was, or where they were. If someone was sexually assaulted or raped then that was without consent – let alone enthusiastic consent – and the blame and shame is all on the person doing the assaulting and/or raping.
I understand that even over the course of my adult life, the general understanding in our society relating to the question of consent and sexual behaviour has changed a lot. I will also add that I believe that sometimes people confuse the fact that they might warn teenagers or young adults in their lives about ‘not going out dressed like that’, and so on – because they themselves have learned that there are people in the world who will attack, and rape, and assault. However, the fact that you may have learned this, and that you warn perhaps younger, perhaps more innocent, people about it – does not mean that anyone is to blame if they are sexually assaulted or raped.
It is always the person who is doing the assault who is to blame. In my opinion the only time a person doing any assault may not be to blame if is they attack someone in self-defence – and I don’t think we can ever say that rape is an action of self-defence.
And as for the argument that someone couldn’t control themselves because their victim was wearing something in particular, or behaved in a particular way – in my opinion anyone holding onto that as an excuse is saying they are not able to stop themselves raping someone. Anyone holding onto that as an excuse is saying they are a danger to the public in general.