There are often times when you read comments made by people and without context they may look bad, but they seem less terrible when “in context”. That’s the famous argument celebrities and politicians use, right? “That comment was out of context.” “You didn’t read the comment in its entirety.” Whether that’s a legitimate excuse or not, that’s the one we get. Then, we get to debate about whether or not the context was worthy of the comment. It’s a crazy cycle; one that does its job of division.
In my city, comments from a councilman went viral. Comments like “…if you go to a sketchy nightclub known for these types of attacks with inadequate security, you bring unreliable friends with you and something happens, don’t be surprised.” And that seemed to be his defense for his other comments like “…use common sense and avoid the best you can if you want to avoid sexual assault. I assume that you wouldn’t go hiking in an area littered with grizzly bears, would you be surprised if you were attacked?” On social media after this story made it to our local forums, he defended himself by saying “…someone asked my opinion about something so I answered it truthfully. I could have lied just to make everyone happy but I’m not that type of person. I’ll be honest even if it hurts me.”
So was this commentary out of context or an honest statement about what he truly believes? Is he just ignorant of what those type of statements could mean for people who have experienced their own assaults, some who still suffer in silence because “it was their fault”? Or does he mean it and truly believe victims should be the ones to not put themselves in public, rather than maybe saying “okay, no matter where you are and what you are wearing, it’s never the rapists fault. Unless you happen to be in your own home and they break in. Or you’re at someplace where rape doesn’t happen. Because, there are ‘rape-free zones’ that are always obeyed.” But, if they broke in and someone was wearing just a t-shirt and that’s provocative, maybe that was their fault too? It’s obviously not the rapists fault. If it were, then maybe there would be harsher penalties for those who commit these devastating crimes.
So, was it out of context? I mean, potentially. I don’t know the guy. I don’t follow him on Facebook to know. But, I mean, is there ever a good context for saying things like that? I’ve been pretty pissed about something when talking to someone and I don’t recall ever comparing their victimhood about something to the plight of a rape victim. But I mean, I suppose you could claim ignorance about the implications with those statements. Again, who knows. Maybe they never had to watch someone suffer through the aftermath of an assault to take it as seriously as they should. Was he baited into the comments by someone else who just got under his skin? I’ve seen people annoy my husband, never heard him ever say something like that to prove a point.
Was it ignorance? He kept repeating the emphasis of how people should be taught in schools about sexual harassment and the like. Then, people can learn. I remember being in high school, where I graduated 18 years ago. I definitely remember learning about what sexual harassment was and what my rights were. I don’t really remember there being a section about how not to rape, but I sort of assume a decent human being would already know that lesson… though arguably any decent human being would just know sexual harassment is bad.
Or, was it just that this was how he personally believes? Again, I don’t know this person. But based on his interactions on this topic, it seems that he does believe this and stands by his opinions. I honestly admire people who stand by their convictions. Even if I find their convictions to be disgusting and disturbing and not one that I would want representing our city. If he truly believes this misguided notion that there are just some cases where women had it coming, then that’s his belief and who are we to tell him what to believe?
He’s not my city councilman. I’ve only engaged minimally with my city councilman and I found him to be a decent man that cares about his constituents. He fixed the problem I had as soon as he could and I couldn’t be happier. This councilor in question insists he will be re-elected anyways despite this, defiant to anyone who tries to help educate him on the errors of this thinking. How this type of thinking resonates with women, which is why many assaults even decades later go unreported. Because after something like this happens, they blame themselves when they shouldn’t. But now, they have an elected official that believes it. Whether out of context or not, whether out of belief or not, this belief system is why we are still behind on the times. Why rape is still something that people sweep under the rugs, as a shame that a woman brought upon herself and her family. Why rapists can walk free because “why should this few minutes of his life destroy his future”, disregarding the fact that those few minutes already destroyed another life. Any notion of assault being the fault of the victim isn’t one that I would ever support, no matter the context.