An Indiana state lawmaker issued an apology Saturday for sharing a Facebook post that critics say suggest rape victims are responsible for being attacked.
Indiana state Rep. Jim Lucas, a Republican who represents Indiana’s 69th district, said he’d been “publicly excoriated” for sharing his view that women should “empower themselves to mitigate their chances of being violently assaulted.”
Critics and constituents alike slammed the lawmaker — who is a vocal proponent of gun ownership as a means of self-protection — and accused him of co-opting a discussion about rape to champion his pro-gun stance.
On Monday, Lucas shared a photo of a handwritten letter he sent to an Indianapolis Star reporter urging her to follow up a June 4 profile of a rape victim with a story about women “taking steps & learning how not to be a victim.”
“After reading your front page article in the Sunday Star about the tragedy of rape, it would be nice to see a follow up article about the thousands of Hoosier women that are taking steps & learning how not to be a victim,” Lucas wrote.
The letter, written on official stationary embossed with Indiana’s state seal, was met with swift criticism and sparked a week-long debate and hundreds of comments, pitting Lucas and his supporters against others who said the post advocated “victim blaming.”
In the days that followed, Lucas doubled down on his defense of the original post, taking the time to personally respond to several comments, and in a subsequent post, even volunteering to pay for women who sign up to take a firearms training and self-defense course.
But on Saturday, Lucas said he’d had an opportunity to speak with the woman profiled in the original story and now realized why his words offended so many.
“I learned how common, everyday words can be so extremely sensitive to survivors of such horrible acts,” Lucas wrote. But he also said the backlash was a result of a misunderstanding, and criticized his detractors for twisting his words.
"Is there any wonder people don't want to discuss this issue and it remains off limits?" he wrote.
This is not the first time Lucas’ social media posts have drawn criticism. According to the Indianapolis Star, the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence called for Lucas to be ousted after he shared posts in December and January that appeared to promote domestic violence.
Lucas later deleted the posts and apologized, but he told the Star that the response to the posts were "totally blown out of proportion."