April 11th, 2006

drac emu

eight myths about rape

I figure this is a good time to publicize this list, which comes from Helen Benedict's Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes.

These myth are especially relevant today, and they appear to be almost completely unknown.

"Whether any one victim is labeled a 'virgin' or a 'vamp' and which myths are brought into play, depends both on the characteristics of those who are discussing the case and on the circumstances of the crime itself. Going over the vast amount of sociological literature on this subject---studies of how people react to rape scenarios---I have identified eight factors that lead the public, and the press, to blame the victim for the rape, and to push her into the role of 'vamp'.

1. If she knows the assailant. (Victims recieve more sympthy in the assailant is a stranger.)

2. If no weapon is used. (Studies show that the public is more inclined to believe a rape happened if a weapon was used.)

3. If she is of the same race as the assailant. (Victims traditionally attract the most attention if they are white and their assailants are black. Blacks raped by whites tend to recieve more attention than black-on-black crime, which recieves the least attention of all.)

4. If she is of the same class as the assailant. (She will be blamed less if the assailant is of a lower class than she.)

5. If she is of the same ethnic group as the assailant. (If prejudices to do with ethnicity or nationality can be called in to slur the assailant the victim will benefit.)

6. If she is young. (Older women tend to be seen as less provacative.)

7. If she is 'pretty.' (Studies have found that although people tend to be biased against attractive rape victims, they are biased in favor of attractive assailants. The idea is that an attractive man does not need to rape because he can get all the women he wants, a relfection of the 'assailants are motivated by lust' myth. This finding applied tellingly in the Chambers/Levin case.)

8. If she in any way deviated from the traditional female sex role of being at home with family or children. (People blame the victim more if she was in a bar, hitchhiking, at a party, or out on her own anywhere 'good girls' are not supposed to be preceeding the attack.)

Copyright 1992 Helen Benedict.

I think a ninth one needs to be added to this list, as well: if the assailant is of a higher social class than the victim, she will be regarded as a cynical gold digger.

In any event, if you wish the see the foundation myths for these myths, I have a category called 'Myths about rape" to which I will be adding this list as a reference. I urge you all to go out and buy this book.