Can women just stop getting raped already? Jeez! I mean, ladies—there are so many ways to prevent your own rape. You could never go outside. You could avoid all men. Or you could build a rape wall around your house, because I hear walls are a great solution to everything.
Sound ridiculous? Yes, yes it all does. And yet we live in a society where real people continue to write real things in real publications that tell women how not to get raped—implying that this violent crime is somehow women's fault.
Case in point: This past weekend the Kansas City Star, a McClatchy newspaper serving Kansas City, Missouri, published an Op-Ed titled, "Women can take action to prevent rape." As you might guess from the title, the piece was pure victim-blaming disguised as the worst life hack ever.
While the column will live on in print forever, the paper quickly realized the folly of its ways and took the article down online—and also issued an apology. But plenty of screenshots are still floating around, and not shockingly, people have taken to social media to express outrage.
So what exactly did the column advise? Penned by a guest writer named Laura Herrick, who's described as a school teacher, the piece encourages women to take rape into their own hands and stop it before it happens by, um, laying off the booze. She writes:
I saw a quote on Facebook that said, "When a woman drinks too much she expects to wake up the next day hung over, not raped." I agree. But as women, shouldn’t we take responsibility for our bodies by not becoming so intoxicated that we don’t know what is happening? Every woman should know her drink limit and stop there. No, she’s not asking to be raped by being drunk. But isn’t it her responsibility to reduce the risk by not getting to that point?
She then delivers this gem:
And if you wake up the morning after doing the 'walk of shame' don’t yell rape if you regret your actions of the night before. Accept your role in what happened, learn from the experience and move on.
SO. MUCH. IS. WRONG. HERE. For one, Herrick is assuming women are making up rape stories in such large quantities that she needs to tell them to stop it—which is just not true. While it's nearly impossible to get a hard number, research has shown most rape reports are not, in fact, false, and ignorant statements like this one only perpetuate the inaccurate and dangerous stereotype that sexual assault victims are lying. In an age when people still deny that rape culture exists and actual rapists get only six months in jail, this is the opposite of helpful.
But it gets worse—Herrick goes on to question victims' recollections entirely:
And if a woman is so intoxicated that she can’t remember giving consent for sex, then how can she know that she didn’t give consent? … If she was so drunk she was unable to make good judgments, then how can we be sure that she has any idea what actually happened?
Is it just me, or does her piece seem more interested in chastising women for their terrible life decisions than genuinely helping them?
From there—and this is classic—Herrick proceeds to stick up for the poor men who are too scared to get near a drunk girl, fearing they might
rape her be accused of raping her.
I hate that I have to tell my son that if he sees a drunk, unconscious woman, he needs to either run the other direction or find women to help her. … Men should be able to help a drunk female without thinking about calling a lawyer first.
Poor men. All these women are getting raped, and it's totally ruining their partying experience.
So … what was the Kansas City Star thinking when it published this piece? In a public apology, Tony Berg, publisher of the paper, took full responsibility, saying "it should never have been published." And that rape is never the victim's fault. #NoShit
That's all well and good, but the fact that this piece made it past several eyeballs with working brains attached, and that someone then pressed "published" after reading it, is proof that rape culture is still alive and well. And that's a problem.
Come on, people. Instead of wasting our energy teaching women how not to get raped, let's focus instead on teaching men not to rape in the first place. Sure, there will always be bad apples—but with almost every other crime, we believe the victim. Would you blame a mugging victim for his or her choice in wardrobe? No? Then don't blame a rape victim either.
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.