Monday, March 8, 2010

The Roethlisberger case highlights the new victim blaming: men accused of rape

We have recently written that so-called "victim blaming" is, at the very least, overstated. It is used as a convenient rationalization to support the claim that underreporting of rape is rampant (you know the shtick: rape is not reported due to the fear of victim blaming).  When "victim blaming" is used with respect to women, it is usually of two varieites: it's a manifestation of the wholly non-controversial belief that you gotta be careful because there are criminals out there. (Now that's misogyny, isn't it?)  The other kind of "victim blaming" isn't really "victim blaming" at all -- it occurs when the speaker (almost always a woman, by the way) doesn't really believe that a rape occurred -- the accuser was "asking" for it, literally.

I do believe it is rare when people know that a woman actually has been raped but insist on blaming the rape victim.  At least among men, it would be considered insensitive in the extreme. 

Far more common is the victim blaming of men accused of rape.  If you doubt that, take a look at the blogs discussing the latest sexual assault accusation against two-time Super Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  He showed poor judgment. He shouldn't go to bars with young women. On and on it goes.  Ben Roethlisberger went from being a gutsy, smart, champion competitor to a nitwit who needs to hide in his bedroom, swear off women, and live like a monk.  Importantly, these comments generally assume Roethlisberger's innocence from criminality but nevertheless hold him responsible for the accusations.  The comments barely discuss the accuser.  She largely gets a free pass. 

It's as if we're talking about humans beings who fail to take precautions by going near wild animals who can't help themselves but to attack. 

But whether men are guilty of rape or women are guilty of false rape reporting, men alone are to be blamed.