Victim Blaming and Speaking Up

So, it seems a Toronto cop thinks women tempt men to assault them by dressing like sluts, and decided to spread that misinformation while giving some safety tips. Since making this comment, the officer has apologized, and according to the Toronto Star, is also being disciplined and will undergo more professional training.

That professional training part is really important. It’s great that he feels embarrassed by what he said and that he apologized for saying something completely inappropriate, but there’s a much larger problem here. Telling women to protect themselves by not dressing like sluts isn’t a bad thing to say because it hurts people’s feelings. It’s a bad thing to say because it implies that women who dress like sluts (whatever that means) are responsible for being raped. It implies that men rape women because they’re horny and turned on. It implies that women won’t get raped if they don’t dress in away that turns rapists on. It contributes to a culture that lets rapists get away with raping because people actually believe that women who show off their bodies are inviting people to have sex with them and therefore anyone who rapes them is simply giving them what they asked for. At best, it’s a crappy safety tip because it doesn’t actually work. At worst, it makes the world a less safe place because it helps make rape accepted.

And what’s worse is that this police officer seems to believe all those things about rape. This wasn’t a safety tip that someone else gave him and he repeated. He said that he knew he wasn’t supposed to say it, but he said it anyway because he thought it was good advice. So that means that he believes it. Maybe not explicitly. Maybe if he really thought about it he would realize that he’s wrong, that assaulting someone is unacceptable no matter how they’re dressed. But clearly, on some level, he does believe it. He thinks that women should stop dressing like sluts so they don’t get raped. And that implies that women who do dress like sluts somehow deserve to be raped because they didn’t do everything in their power to protect themselves. And I’m assuming that by “dressing like sluts” he means wearing revealing clothing, but I can’t be sure because what people wear doesn’t necessarily reflect their sex habits.

What’s been great about this story is that so many people have been pointing out why that kind of thinking is wrong. In the first article I liked to, one commenter said that the officer had a point, and every other comment was an explanation of why that was not the case. Police Chief Bill Blair has said that this shows he needs to work harder to “sensitize [police officers] to the reality of victimization.” And that’s awesome, because it means that, when someone says something like this, people know that it’s wrong and are confident in saying so. But there are still people who think that that kind of thinking is right. And they’re spreading that message, either directly or indirectly.

I don’t know what kind of training this police officer is going to have, but I hope it includes learning about how rape happens. I hope he learns that rape is something violent that someone does to someone else, not something that just happens to people because of how they are dressed. I hope he learns that the way to stop rape is to teach people not to rape, not to tell people how to dress.

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