Posts Tagged ‘Big Red’

End victim blamingLaura Graham is a Lecturer in Law at Durham Law School and co-convenor of Gender and Law at Durham, and Michael Passaro is a member of Gender and Law at Durham.

Trigger Warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault.

Today a number of anti-rape and anti-harassment groups have called for an International Day Against Victim Blaming, marking the two-year anniversary of the first ever Slutwalk on April 3rd 2011 in Toronto, Canada. Slutwalk began as a protest against a remark made during a campus safety information session at Osgoode Hall Law School by Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police officer, that women could avoid sexual assault by not ‘dressing like sluts’. Clearly, this message places the onus on women to take measures not to be raped. This message is hardly new – we receive it all the time through from the media, from women-focused ‘rape prevention tips’, from MPs and celebrities. In fact, this victim blaming attitude is so pervasive that in a 2005 Amnesty International survey found that 26% of respondents thought that a woman was wholly or partially responsible for her rape if she was wearing ‘sexy or revealing’ clothing; and 30% of respondents thought she was wholly or partially responsible for her rape if she was drunk. Yet, the overt victim blaming from someone in a position of responsibility and authority caused such outrage that it provoked a march in protest, the first of many in a movement which spread globally. While there have been many valid criticisms of the Slutwalk movement (in particular, that ‘slut’ is so entrenched in misogyny that it cannot be reclaimed, and that Slutwalk ignored the different impact the term ‘slut’ and its ‘reclamation’ has on women of colour), the message that victims/survivors of rape should never be blamed is one that should be taken seriously. This message deserves recognition all year long, not just on this day.

However, given that today marks International Day Against Victim Blaming, we wanted to discuss an incident that has been receiving a lot of press coverage in the US, but which has been surprisingly underreported in the UK. This is the case of Jane Doe in Steubenville, Ohio, a shocking example of victim blaming if ever there was one.


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