Blaming the Victim

One of my greatest problems with people in general is an almost universal lack of accountability. Society, it seems, teaches us that there is always somewhere else the finger can be pointed, and there is little reason to fess up to personal failings or fault when a suitable target is in range. You may call that cynical, but the recent actions of Carleton University and the unrelated assertions of a child molester do nothing but confirm my views.

A young woman was brutally sexually assaulted a year ago in one of Carleton’s buildings as she worked alone in a science lab late at night. Not only was she sexually assaulted, this young woman was also severely beaten and injured, after which the perpetrator fled the building. The event prompted Carleton to put in place hightened security measures, and the university spent a considerable amount of money to ensure upgraded safety for students on campus.

The reality is this crime did not have to happen, or at least not in this way. Had different security measures existed on campus at the time, this young woman would likely never have been attacked. The fact that her attacker was able to access the building and the lab in question with such ease created a dangerous environment, and, unfortunately, she was the victim of circumstance. It is a fact that the crime could have occurred a hundred different ways; rapists are predators, and will always find a means and a place for their sick attacks. The university, however, can’t be held entirely to blame, even though it cannot be found faultless, either. Realistically, the university should endeavour to create the safest environment possible for its students, but this can’t be blown into complete culpability for any and all crimes committed on campus. Suing the university for this crime is not unlike suing the city for a rape that occurred in a public park because the city should have taken greater measures to ensure that it couldn’t happen.

I’m all for personal accountability. You have to protect yourself as best as you can, and have to accept that you are never entirely safe. As a student of Carleton University, I was often amazed at how many students prowled the maze of underground tunnels that connect building to building on campus. The tunnel system was a great way of staying warm and dry during wet weather or winter, but, at the same time, I found it amazing that bad things didn’t happen more often in the warren of passageways. Simply put, it would be easy to get lost, lose yourself, or lose someone else down there. Travelling the tunnels, I was always aware of my surroundings and the inescapable possibility that someone with less than honourable intentions could be waiting around the next corner to accost me.

You can say the same things for open spaces out of doors at night, open buildings, or even parking lots.

The student in question has sued the university, claiming that they should have done more to protect her safety. I agree, they should have, and, after the horrific crime, they did. It’s a case of too little, too late, but that doesn’t change the fact that the situation was acknowledged and that the university responded. It’s tragically too bad that these improvements hadn’t been made for other reasons, before this crime ever occurred. But, I don’t think it’s right for the student, who has every right to be angry and want justice after the physical and psychological trauma she has experience, to hold the university responsible for her rape. The school didn’t rape her, the sick fuck of a rapist did. Maybe the school could have done more to make the situation less dangerous, but she could have just as easilly been attacked walking to her car or taking a stroll down the sidewalk.

But, the university hasn’t handled this well, to say the least. Carleton has responded to the student’s charges by claiming that the student, in fact, is the responsible party. Carleton claims that the woman should have taken more precautions to ensure her own safety. The school comes across as saying “You got raped because you didn’t protect yourself,” which is callous and ludicrous. Students frequently work and study odd hours, late at night and alone, just to keep up with their courseload. The number of times I found myself late at night in a lonely corner of the library, I can’t count.

Switch tracks a moment: a 62 year-old man who has admitted to engaging in oral sex with a 9 year-old girl claims that the encounters were initiated by the girl, not himself. Furthermore, he actually claims that he didn’t refuse the advances because he didn’t want to hurt her feelings or make her feel rejected.

What the fuck?

If a woman I found unattractive flopped down in front of me, tore off all her clothes and fondled herself while begging me to have my way with her, I would have no problem declining. Who gives a shit whether it hurts the person’s feelings or not, if you don’t want to do it, you don’t. The situation should only be made easier if the girl in question is 9 years old.

Blaming the victim isn’t anything new. It used to be that the standard defence against rape charges was to claim that “she asked for it” and try and point out as many instances of promiscuity, flirting and provocative dress as possible to discredit the rape victim in order to support your contention that you were just doing what was natural. After all, if the girl has had sex, complimented your hair, and wore a low-cut shirt, how could any guy be faulted for tearing her clothing off and holding her down while forcing themselves on her while she screams and cries?

This was why they created the rape shield law, so that the victim’s character and sexual history could not be used to victimize her all over again in court.

We live in a sick world when 62 year-old men actually think it’s a valid defence to claim that they were led on by a 9 year-old, or that their concern for the girl’s self-confidence are valid reasons to excuse having stuck their dick in her mouth. I don’t give a shit if the little girl was completely out of her mind and came in wearing lingerie and carrying a box of condoms, molestation is molestation because the adult should know better and have the presence of mind to act responsibly. If this sick bastard manages to have his punishment mitigated because of this ridiculous claim, I think the judge should be disbarred.

And, Carleton should know better than to make a claim such as they did, even if there is a certain amount of truth to it. The student shouldn’t be holding the school legally responsible for what the diseased loser did to her that night, but the school should know better than to try and defend itself by saying that the student should have. If they did what was necessary under the law to ensure safety requirements were met, that will out in court. The fact that they upgraded their security precautions after this incident can either show that they were prudently alarmed by the incident and wanted to improve upon an already adequate situation, or it can indicate that there were badly needed changes to be made in the first place. Again, this will eventually out in court. There’s no need to point the blame back at the victim, who definitely didn’t want to be raped, beaten and hospitalized.

If everyone involved would just own up to their responsibilities instead of trying to shift guilt to someone else and mitigate their conscience, some of these terrible crimes could be avoided in the future. But, welcome to the reality TV world, where taking responsibility for your own situation is never more important than finding someone to shoulder it for you.

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