In her latest column, advice columnist Amy Dickinson says she hopes a letter from one of her readers "will be posted on college bulletin boards everywhere." After reading Dickinson's advice for said reader, I sincerely hope this isn't the case.
A reader named "Victim? In Virginia" recently wrote into Dickinson's "Ask Amy" column looking for clarification on an event that happened during a frat party she attended, noting that she was intoxicated and agreed to go to a room with a man who promised he would not do anything inappropriate with her.
"Many times, I clearly said I didn't want to have sex, and he promised to my face that he wouldn't," the reader writes, "Then he quickly proceeded to go against what he "promised." I was shocked, and maybe being intoxicated made my reaction time a bit slow in realizing what was happening." Looking for clarification that she had indeed been raped, the reader later asks, "if I wasn't kicking and fighting him off, is it still rape? I feel like calling it that is a bit extreme, but I haven't felt the same since it happened. Am I a victim?"
Dear Victim?: First of all, thank you. I hope your letter will be posted on college bulletin boards everywhere.
Were you a victim? Yes.
First, you were a victim of your own awful judgment. Getting drunk at a frat house is a hazardous choice for anyone to make because of the risk (some might say a likelihood) that you will engage in unwise or unwanted sexual contact.
You don't say whether the guy was also drunk. If so, his judgment was also impaired.
No matter what — no means no. If you say no beforehand, then the sex shouldn't happen. If you say no while its happening, then the sex should stop.
She then goes on to quote a passage from RAINN's website regarding drinking and rape and encourages the girl to get tested for STDs and pregnancy, and to "see a counselor to determine how you want to approach this. You must involve the guy in question in order to determine what happened and because he absolutely must take responsibility and face the consequences for his actions, just as you are prepared to do. He may have done this before."
It's incredibly alarming that Dickinson feels the first thing an obvious rape victim needs to hear is "well, you were drunk, so you were asking for it." Closing her advice with a bit about facing the consequences of her actions, as if getting drunk at a frat party is equivalent to RAPE, is also quite disturbing; the language Dickinson uses seems to evenly place the blame on both parties and make light of an incredibly dark situation, as if the girl should just go up to her rapist and ask him to fess up at the counselor's office so that both of them can move on and he can finally stop, you know, raping people, just as she can stop drinking too much at frat parties.
Dickinson may want this letter posted at colleges across the country as a means to scare young women out of drinking at parties; after all, it's their fault if they get raped, right? It's not about a larger rape culture, or a modern masculinity that promotes the notion of "no means yes," or the incredibly tired parade of victim blamers who still insist that rape is the fault of any woman who dares to drink at a party or wear a skirt or walk down a street at night or go into a room with a man she trusts or dance a certain way at the club or, you know, be born with a vagina.
Perhaps Dickinson is right after all. Her advice should be plastered around college campuses. They could even build an entire course around it: Rape Culture And You: Victim Blaming 101.
Rape Question A Matter Of Consent [Chicago Tribune]