FROM being drunk to not fighting back or not keeping their legs closed, rape victims have heard it all when it comes to outrageous excuses justifying their attacker’s actions.
And as horrifying as these comments may seem, they are made even worse when they come from people who really should know better.
That’s the view of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia executive Karen Willis, who called for people in positions of leadership to think before they speak when it comes to sexual assault cases.
Ms Willis’s call follows the shocking comments made by a New Zealand lawyer who said a rape victim should have closed her legs and after India’s chief investigator compared the legalisation of sports gambling to “enjoying” sexual assault.
Lawyer Keith Jeffries caused gasps across the Tasman last week when he argued that a sex act between a convicted rapist and his 20-year-old female victim was consensual, because she didn’t “close her legs”.
And Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Ranjit Sinha was involved in a debate on sporting ethics when he muddled his words on gambling and rape.
“I feel that if we can have lotteries … if we can have casinos in some tourist resorts and if the government can declare schemes of voluntary disclosure of black money, what is the harm if we legalise betting? Above all, do we have the enforcement agencies?,” he said.
“It is very easy to say you don’t have enforcement agencies. It is like saying if you cannot stop rape, you enjoy it.”
And while Mr Sinha’s comments didn’t appear to be deliberately controversial, he isn’t alone in trivialising sexual assault, especially from someone in a position of leadership.
Sporting stars to lawyers and politicians have all been guilty of getting it spectacularly wrong when it comes to blaming the victim.
Here are just some of them:
1. Victims ‘should fight back’
New Zealand lawyer Keith Jeffries raised eyebrows with his controversial “legs closed” remark.
During his closing address at a trial in the Wellington District Court in which a bouncer was accused of raping a woman in an alleyway in the city, Jeffries appeared to blame the victim.
George Pule, 34, was found guilty of raping the young woman in an alleyway after the bouncer promised to help her gain entry to a club, Fairfax NZ reports.
Jeffries told a hearing that the woman’s allegations were made out of regret and not because the sex was non-consensual.
“All she would have had to do was to close her legs … it’s as simple as that,” he said.
“Why didn’t she do that? … The reason she didn’t do that was because the sex was consensual, as easy as that.”
But Ms Willis said it was ridiculous to blame someone for not being able to fight back because it wasn’t always an option.
“Aside from the fact that men are often a lot stronger than women, a lot of victims fear for their lives and in a situation where they are told they will die if they don’t do as they are told, guess which they choose?” she said.
2. The victims should not have been drinking:
Tennis star Serena Williams slammed a rape victim for being drunk.
In the case, two players from a high school American football team in Steubenville, Ohio, were convicted last March of raping the girl.
“I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you – don’t take drinks from other people,” Rolling Stones magazine quoted Williams as saying.
The tennis champion later apologised for her remarks.
But Ms Willis said alcohol was never an excuse for taking advantage of someone and anyone who did was breaking the law.
“Perpetrators may think if the victim can’t remember then maybe they can get away with it,” she said.
“But the law in NSW – and most states across Australia have similar laws – says that if a person has consumed drugs or alcohol and can’t give consent, it’s a crime.”
3. Victims should let someone know their whereabouts
In March an Indian minister caused outrage when he appeared to blame a Swiss woman who was gang-raped and robbed in the country for failing to inform police of her travel plans.
Umashankar Gupta said the rape of the woman, who was camping with her husband in Central India, was unfortunate but that “foreign travellers should inform the police about their movement so they can be provided with adequate protection,” The Times reported.
“They often don’t follow the state’s rules.”
Ms Willis said comments such as these effectively meant women were safer in their own homes when in actual fact rapes in domestic violence cases were almost always committed around their own home or in other so-called safe areas.
4. Rape victims ‘enjoy it’
Norwegian businesswoman Marte Deborah Dalelv was jailed for having sex outside marriage in Dubai in July this year.
Ms Dalelv had been raped during a business trip and was arrested after reporting it to police who asked her: “Are you sure you called the police because you just didn’t like it?”
Her case was pardoned in March following an outcry.
Ms Willis said any act of violence was wrong and anything done without consent was not enjoyable.
“This thinking trivialises sexual assault,” she said.
“The only person enjoying it is in the person in power who is dehumanising and degrading the victim.”
5. Women can’t get pregnant through rape
Missouri congressman Todd Akin made headlines with his shock claims that women rarely become pregnant in cases of “legitimate rape”.
In a television interview last year, he asserted that a woman’s body can spontaneously block an unwanted pregnancy.
Ms Willis said this was ridiculous thinking given rape has historically been used as a weapon of war designed to impregnate women in an attempt to “dilute bloodlines.”
“It has been used as a form of genocide,” she said, adding countless children were born through rape.