In late February, a Manitoba judge condemned a rape survivor in court for wearing a tube top, no bra, high heels and makeup, which he implied had led to her sexual assault. Justice Robert Dewar called the assailant a “clumsy Don Juan” who had succumbed to “inviting circumstances.”
In 1999, Italy’s highest court ruled that a woman wearing jeans could not be raped because it is impossible to remove a pair of pants “without the collaboration of the person wearing them.”
When an 11-year-old was gang raped in Cleveland, Texas this March, a controversial New York Times article noted that the victim “dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s,” as if this were a relevant factor in the crime perpetrated against her…
“If someone breaks into a house, do you blame the owner for having a house that looks appetizing?” asked Elizabeth Webb, the 24-year-old organizer of SlutWalk Dallas. “I don’t think so!”
Given Dallas’ close proximity to Cleveland, Texas and the fact that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Webb felt it appropriate to organize SlutWalk Dallas, which will take place on April 23. A survivor herself, she feels very close to the issue.
At 18, Elizabeth Webb became a statistic. Along with one in four college women, Webb joined the rank and file of rape survivors. Like 80% of victims, she was sexually assaulted by someone she knew — a close friend who drugged her at a party. Like 15 of 16 rapists, Webb’s attacker never spent a night in jail.
Although she reported the rape the next day (which her Texas hospital required before administering a free rape examination), Webb stopped pursuing the case after succumbing emotionally in the face of the onslaught of questions acquaintances asked with raised eyebrows, questions aimed at challenging the integrity of the victim: What were you wearing? Why did you go to his party? Why did you drink?
“Sexual assault is traumatic, and to add victim blaming on top of that is damaging to the psyche,” said Webb, now 24, who only recently relinquished her sense of self-blame. “I can’t remember what I was wearing, but why weren’t they asking why he slipped something in my drink?”