"She Knew What Would Happen If She Started Drinking:" Blaming The Victim, Princeton Edition


This week in victim-blaming, a Princeton student explains why it’s a drunk girl’s fault if she gets raped. Luckily, students and non-students alike are on hand to rebut her.

In yesterday’s Daily Princetonian, freshman Iulia Neagu wrote of a (probably soon to be ex-) friend who accused a man of rape after he had sex with her when she was too drunk to consent or even remember anything the next day. Neagu asks, “Should the fact that she willingly got herself into an advanced state of inebriation prevent her from complaining about anything that happened to her while she was in that state?” Basically, Neagu’s answer is yes. She continues,

She knew what would happen if she started drinking. We all know that the more people drink, the less likely they are to make wise decisions. It is common sense.
Therefore, the girl willingly got herself into a state in which she could not act rationally. This, in my opinion, is equivalent to agreeing to anything that might happen to her while in this state. In the case of our girl, this happened to be sex with a stranger.

IvyGate quotes one Princetonian commenter who said, “I’m very disappointed the Prince staff allowed this to be published. They’re obviously just using a poor freshman as a sacrifice to the publicity gods.” But others at Princeton are taking the column seriously. In a response published today, Katie Rodriguez, Avital Ludomirsky, Amanda Yamasaki, and Jillian Hewitt write,

If someone drinks to the point of an “advanced state of inebriation,” there are certainly expected consequences. These could include hospitalization, blood alcohol poisoning and a massive hangover. To give carte blanche to perpetrators to take advantage of an inebriated person, however, is unacceptable.

They also note that “It is not common practice to refer to victims of other crimes as having ‘gotten themselves robbed’ or ‘gotten themselves shot.'” Unfortunately, it is common practice to compare rape under the circumstances like the ones Neagu described — when the victim has been drinking, for instance, or wearing a short skirt — to being robbed while walking through “a bad neighborhood.” In what’s not a direct response to the Princetonian article, but is one of the smartest blog posts I’ve read in a long time, the Washington City Paper‘s Amanda Hess eviscerates that analogy. She writes,

The person that compares sexual assault to getting mugged after “walking in a bad neighborhood” does not consider the mugging victim who lives in that bad neighborhood because he can’t afford a place with less street crime. He does not consider the mugging victim who works late into the night so that he can pay his rent. He does not consider the mugging victim who does not have the means to fastidiously avoid his life circumstances.

Hess also points out that someone who has always had the means to live in a safe neighborhood may “start to feel a little bit empowered about his own safety. He’ll start to think that he has avoided being held up at gunpoint because he’s made good decisions in his life, not because he was born into privilege. He’ll start to feel a little bit superior to people who live with street crime as a matter of course.” Similarly, people who have never been raped, be they men or women, may feel that they’ve made better decisions than rape victims, that simply being smart is enough to avoid assault. But, Hess concludes, “When it comes to sexual assault, every neighborhood is a bad neighborhood for a woman.” And as Neagu shows, it’s also a neighborhood full of people yelling at you.

‘Princetonian’ Tells Women They Were Asking For It [IvyGate]
Rape Analogy: The “Walking In A Bad Neighborhood” Theory [Washington City Paper Sexist Blog]
The Real ‘Sex On A Saturday Night’ [Daily Princetonian]
What Constitutes Consent? [Daily Princetonian]

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