Disrupt   |  October 20, 2013

Victim-blaming perpetuating rape culture

The Disrupt panel discusses the cycle of victimization that is perpetuated from a culture of victim-blaming in rape cases.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> imagine a victim of domestic abuse being labeled a nuisance for calling the police for protection. now imagine that same victim being told she's at risk of being evicted from her home. that's exactly what happened to 34-year-old lakisha brigs when police told her she had violated the third strike. you better hope your abusive boyfriend stops after the second assault. one more strike means eviction. after the third strike she was scared to call police. neighbors reached out when her ex-boyfriend attacked her with a brick and stabbed her in the throat with shards of glass. how about a teacher fired from her job after her abusive husband showed up in the parking lot threatening her and putting ten tire school on lockdown? that case got national attention. last week governor brown signed a law protecting victims of abuse from facing discrimination. harassment in the workplace is a common tactic used by abuser. it's estimated 75% of domestic violence victims faced harassment from partners while on the job. california is only the seventh state to enact these kind of protections. what about the famous story out of marysville, missouri, where 14-year-old daisy coleman was raped and left in the freezing snow on her front yard. despite what seemed like mountains of evidence against her attackers including a videotape of the assault her case was dropped for lack of evidence. it didn't look like daisy would get the justice that she deserved. but this week it was announced that a special prosecutor will reopen the case. in each of these cases, women have been victimized not once, but twice. the second time -- the first time by their attacker. but the second time a legal system and the social stigmas that treat victims of abuse as somehow responsible rather than focusing on the blame on their tormenters. joining me to discuss this culture of shaming and blaming the victim, congresswoman yvette clark from new york. and krystle ball. thank you both for joining me.

>> thanks for having us, karen.

>> krystal , i wanted to start with this idea of shaming and blaming the victim. we've got some sound from elizabeth smart who's actually kind of come out and used her experience. she wrote a book. to try to talk about the need to have compassion sort of for all victims. i want to play that sound. then we'll talk about it.

>> after being raped, i felt completely worthless. i didn't even feel like i was human anymore. and it is just so important to let these survivors know that they're not any less of a person. you don't love them any less. and that to pretend like it never happened or to pretend like rape doesn't exist or that it only happens in the wrong parts of town, you're doing that survivor a disservice.

>> and i wanted to play that because i think we think about obviously what happened to her was horrible. but i think to some degree people will put that in a different category. and then you see some of this stuff like this week there was a story about, hey, college girls , stop drinking and you won't get raped. it's this crazy stuff. there was an e-mail that was going around written by a boy from a fraternity about, you know, how to catch your rape bait.

>> wow.

>> when we have that kind of stuff going on, you know, the victims are all victims. it seems like, again, we separate them into different categories. and i know you've talked about this before, sort of blaming and shaming those victims. and i feel like they're violated all over again.

>> i think that's exactly right. i think what elizabeth smart is doing is so important because the horrible reality of the matter is that 1 in 5 american women will be raped over the course of their life. almost 20% of american women . so women who do face sexual assault , who have been raped, they are not alone. and i think having a woman like elizabeth smart come out and say, i felt worthless. here's how i dealt with it. it reminds me a little bit of the it gets better campaign that helps, you know, young lbgt youth not feel alone. not feel like they're the only ones going through that. i feel that's incredibly important. the issue you're speaking to as well, it's unbelievable that here we are in 2013 and we still have this attitude of she was asking for it.

>> right.

>> that's what's at heart here. and you're seeing that coming out over the social media . in some of the rape cases that we've seen in steubenville and now in maryville that you just referenced with daisy.

>> in maryville daisy actually mentioned she had seen someone with a t-shirt where it said matt-1, daisy-0. that attitude, it's so wrong. you sort of switch to domestic abuse because, again, i think we tend to blame the victims of domestic abuse . certainly when you're talking about getting kicked out of your home or losing your job. as i mentioned in the intro, that's a tactic that is actually used. because it keeps the victim economically dependent. i know you've sponsored federal legislation to try to deal with it. talk to us a little bit about that.

>> you know, it's clear that in our civil society today, there's a paternalism that has really kept us from having a debate about humanism. and as a result of that, the rights of women and girls has been suppressed for far too long. and being a survivor should be something that's heralded. given what we've gone through in terms of our humanity. what our legislation does is it makes sure that those who have been victimized are supported. are put in a position where they feel protected. and that it's a value to our civil society that that is being done. it's just really unfortunate that we're in a place where we're debating the value of human life and how our women and girls are treated when we know that none of this is directed towards the perpetrators of these types of crimes.

>> right. you know, krystchri krystal , that's the thing that strike s me. we put so much on these women victims. particularly when we talk about rape. how about the guy who raped her? how about the girl shouldn't get drunk? how about the guy shouldn't get drunk or the guy shouldn't be in a position where he's trying to take advantage of a girl. shouldn't we teach our boys that that is not appropriate behavior?

>> absolutely. absolutely. there's still a very much sort of boys will be boys kind of an attitude. think people feel, too, like obviously everyone is against rape if you ask them that question.

>> of course.

>> but i think people have this misguided notion that sexual assault and rape is something that happens to other people in other towns far away . not to me and not to my community. so when you see something like a steubenville, ohio, or maryville , missouri, where it's a popular, you know, academically gifted, at&t lhletic athleticalathletic athletically gifted player that the community knows and loves, walls go up. it couldn't be that boy. no way, no how. it must be this girl's fault.

>> very quickly, congresswoman, what strikes me, too, what you're talking about, i see this not just a woman's issue or just about hating men. because i love men. let me just say that. but that this is something that as a society and culture we really need to take on and pay attention to the ways we reinforce it. even when we may not mean to be doing so.

>> it's the double standard in how we view law and how we view how it's applied to women and to men. you know, oftentimes the most vulnerable in our civil society have the onus of proving that they're worthy of support given the type of abuse that they've endured. when it's actually, i believe, a mental health concern that we need to be dealing with here. because when you perpetuate this type of pathology where no matter what these young men do, there's always the suspicion goes to the victim, then there's a mental issue for not only the victims that now are being shunned in civil society , but the raising up of these individuals who've committed the crimes.

>> sure.

>> as somewhat hero like in our civil society .

>> i certainly hope as women we support -- do a better job of supporting each other, particularly those women that we know who have been victims or are victims. congresswoman yvette clark and krystal ball, thanks to you both.