Sports Stars & Rape Victim Blaming In Our Culture

by Ashy to Jazzy in

Rape Victim Blaming:
Because We're Too Uncomfortable With Admitting That Our "Stars" Are Scumbags

rape victim blaming victim blaming 101 

It's a far too familiar situation: a young woman pulls together the courage to come forward, she admits to authorities (many times after much hesitation and fear) that a young man raped her, and the young man is the star athlete [insert star athlete name here] on [insert sports team here]. But what happens next is even more sickening than the supposed incident: the victim is blamed.

"She's just a gold digger who's after his fame" or "they had sex before so she can't say that" or "she shouldn't have been drinking so much" or "what was she doing at a party with players drinking if she wasn't planning to have sex" or “it probably was consensual” or “any girl would feel lucky to have sex with him”, the list goes on and on.

Shit Everybody Says To Rape Victims (inspired by "Shit Girls Say")

From the incident on August 12, 2012 with the Steubenville High School football players in Steubenville, Ohio to the recent accusation brought public involving the Heisman-favorite quarterback Jameis Winston at Florida State University to the 2008 accusation involving Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (which ultimately settled out of court, money not discussed publicly by either party) and another 2010 incident involving Roethlisberger where charges were never filed against him. 

Now, this is not to say that every supposed “victim” is an angel and every man accused is a guilty scumbag. In fact, we've seen many situations historically where a young man was falsely accused, had his life subsequently destroyed, only to have the woman come forward years later and admit that . But the problem lies here: we don't have the faith in our own justice system to be able to deliver true justice. We see young men falsely accused and convicted (see Brian Banks who spent 5 years in jail and 4 under probation after being falsely accused of rape), but then we also see many incidents (i.e. Aaron Hernandez's many incidents that were brushed aside or covered up and the 15 years of ongoing sexual assault on young boys by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky) where the incident is brushed aside, swept under the rug, and are allowed to continue their sport as if nothing ever happened. How do we have faith? Aaron Hernandez is a perfect example of the star gone wild; had someone intervened earlier and taught him the lesson that he is not above the law or moral standards and is still accountable for his actions, maybe he would've made different choices with his life.

Unfortunately, we are in a society where sports stars are held to a different set of moral standards. Where does this come from? An inaccurate sense of self-importance; some of this starts early on (and even earlier than we've seen in history) with youth baseball series being televised on ESPN and weekly high school football games commonly being locally and sometimes nationally televised. We see in pop culture that sports stars (especially the football players) are the guys that other guys wish they were and all the girls and women want to be with. Most schools have a zero-tolerance violence policy (even for those defending themselves); but on the field, it is common to see fights break out and physical altercations are generally encouraged to “toughen the boys up”. It seemed like it was more difficult for Michael Vick to return to the NFL following his arrest for dog fighting charges than it was for Roethlisberger following 2 different rape charges (one of which charges were brought against him).

With the way media portrays the victims, and the hesitance of authority figures to believe these type of accusations, how can victims feel the courage to come forward and be honest about what has happened? This situation is difficult because there's so many different factors at play here. But I have a few ideas of how we can change this current culture

Changing the culture of rape victim blaming

  1. Demand more from our athletes. Starting from youth sports, athletes need to be reminded that they are still a member of society that adheres to the same moral codes. The game is not more important.

  2. Discuss rape and consensual sex with your sons. Make sure they understand coherence and consent. Just because "No" isn't being said (or potentially can't be said if they are not coherent or conscious) does not imply a "yes".

  3. Discuss the topic with your daughters as well; teach them that if they are not consenting, they need to verbalize and not be afraid to say the word “NO” or be careful not to put themselves in a situation where they are unable to say no (or have a friend say no for them).

  4. Teach your daughters that they are more than a “damsel in distress” that will ride their way to a cozy lifestyle by marrying a rich guy (or getting themselves knocked up by a rich guy). Too many young girls are still taught that the easiest way to get rich is through the male they eventually marry, so it's not a surprise that rape victims are accused so often of trying to get money from their accused raper.

  5. Stop blaming the victims, and don't condemn a man just because he is accused....the 24 hour media system provides partial stories, and too many people's live are ruined with half-truths. 

  6. Stop "slut shaming". Men having a large number of sexual partners is expected; women having a large number of sexual partners is something to be shamed for. However, this culture of "slut shaming" leads to the culture of victim blaming.

Watch "How Slut Shaming Becomes Victim Blaming"

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