Slut-shaming and victim-blaming go hand in hand.

The Indy Star profiles a 14-year-old girl in Elwood, Ind. who is 8 months pregnant due to a violent rape by a 17-year-old who is about to be sentenced. Some people in her neighborhood see an 8th-grader with a baby bump and decide that’s a good time to show contempt rather than sympathy. Reporter Tim Evans charitably attributes their judgment to ignorance of the girl’s circumstances:

The young girl has felt the stares and endured the rumors running through this small town.

That uninformed reaction to a pregnancy at 13 is no real surprise. People here see a child having a child and are appalled.

What they don’t know is the back story: The pregnancy is the result of a sexual assault, a fact hidden behind the curtain of privacy that cloaks juvenile court proceedings in Indiana.

So the taunts, the gossip — and worse — continue.

Yeah, here’s the thing: if they knew the back story, I don’t think their reaction would be any better. If the rape case were in the public record, those same people now painting “slut” and “whore” on the family home would instead be castigating this girl for having the temerity to step into the boy’s car. They would be furious at her for allowing her face to stand in front of her assailant’s fist.

In a culture in which the assumption of “promiscuous behavior” turns a very young girl into an outcast, there is an incentive—whether perceived or actual—for a girl to claim rape to recover her reputation. This, in turn, gives rise to an incentive for finger-wagging onlookers to be extremely mistrustful of girls who report rape. They call her a liar, paint her as a vindictive, twisted sociopath, put her every decision on trial while showing zero interest in the motivations or actions of the accused, and split endless hairs about what exactly counts as rape, anyway. When people have already decided that a girl who consents to sex is a moral failure (whereas a guy who extracts sex is just doing what any man in his place would do), they only have a very limited store of sympathy for a rape victim, and they’re very picky about how they parcel it out.

This is not a matter of ignorance. This is about misogyny.

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About alysonmiers

Alyson the Incorrigible of House Miers; High Priestess of Sparkly Fractal Flames; Summoner of Creative Insults; Wrangler of Adverbs, Semicolons and Conditional Clauses; Bane of Euphemisms; Mixer of Genres; and Mother of Witches.

One thought on “Slut-shaming and victim-blaming go hand in hand.

  1. Well put. When we do our WLP sexual assault training with high school students we hit the ground by having students enumerate all the questions people immediately say when they hear about a rape case. Ten out of ten are about “she did” and “she was” ad infinitum — and not a damn thing about the behavior of the predator/assailant. I’ve found this to be an effective way to get them thinking about the culture of misogynist objectification and normalization of male violence.

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