The Kansas City Star publishes column in defense of rape
“Women can take action to prevent rapes” is a real Midwest Voices opinion column that appears on The Kansas City Star‘s website. I’m reluctant to link to this garbage to give the Star traffic from it, but here you go, if you must read it.
(UPDATE: The Star pulled the story, and publisher Tony Berg issued an apology in a column titled “Rape is never the victim’s fault. Period.”)
To the editors of the Star: What were you thinking when you signed off on this victim-blaming bullshit? “This will get a lot of clicks and comments” is not an appropriate response. This column alone is reason enough to pull the plug on Midwest Voices. A voice telling us that women shouldn’t drink too much or it’s their fault that they get raped isn’t a voice that needs to be heard in a daily newspaper.
The voice telling us this is Laura Herrick, described at the end of this and other of her Midwest Voices contributions as “a public school teacher for 25 years … who has written a book on parenting and is now writing books for children.”
She starts with a disclaimer: “I empathize with women who have been raped.” She adds: “I would also like to remind men that ‘no means no’ (and if someone is too drunk to say no, then no is implied); that no matter what a woman wears or does, she isn’t ‘asking for it.”
Then comes the but, and it’s … astonishing:
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? 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.
Let me answer your question, Ms. Herrick. No.
No, it’s not “her responsibility to reduce the risk” by not getting drunk. Rape isn’t something women should have to avoid like sunburns and colds. I can reduce the risk of getting a cold by not touching my face so much. I can reduce the risk of getting a sunburn by putting on sunscreen. That’s not the same as “I can reduce the risk of getting raped if I don’t get drunk.” Sometimes, the level of intoxication is not under a woman’s control. Ever heard of date-rape drugs?
As for that last line, Herrick is pretty much telling women to get over being forced to have sex against their will. She also seems to believe that many women are crying wolf. She has no clue clearly as to why so few rapes are actually reported. She has no understanding of the trauma, the shame, the guilt, the pain that rape victims go through.
Herrick seems more worried about men. In fact, she suggests that intoxicated men should get a mulligan if they assault someone:
When men drink, their decision-making abilities are also limited. If a woman was too drunk to know what she was doing and should be excused for what happened, then why are men not allowed to be too drunk to make good decisions? … 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?
You can be sure because rape is rape. Forcing your penis inside someone who is (a) too intoxicated to remember consenting or (b) unconscious is rape. Consent is an agreement, but that agreement can change.
Herrick goes on to tell us that she’s a mother, and she worries about her son helping drunk women:
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. And people should be able to interact sexually with someone they are attracted to without fear of being convicted of a crime.
Ms. Herrick, tell your son to help his drunk friends get home safe. And tell him not to rape his drunk friends once he gets them home, because then they’re not safe. Tell him he doesn’t have a right to have sex with someone who is too intoxicated to consent. Explain consent to him.
Better yet, find a sex educator or a member of the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault who can properly explain consent to him — and to you.