"You Make Men Want To Be Sinful:" Blaming The Victim, Religious Pamphlet EditionS

Today in victim-blaming, a pamphlet making the rounds in Bristol, VA alleges, "some rape victims would not have been raped if they had dressed properly." The upside: Bristol residents, including a local pastor, are outraged.

In an incident that should have earned her some hazard pay, 19-year-old Keshia Canter was handed the pamphlet as she worked the drive-through at Bristol's Hi-Lo Burger. Claire Galofaro of the Bristol Herald Courier reports that the woman who proffered the pamphlet told Carter, "Even though nothing is showing, you're being ungodly. You make men want to be sinful." Elements of Canter's "ungodly" look: jeans, boots, a zebra-print t-shirt, a black jacket (zipped up), and a lip ring. The pamphlet suggested, "You may have been given this leaflet because of the way you are dressed," and later made the following claim:

Scripture tells us that when a man looks on a woman to lust for her he has already committed adultery in his heart. If you are dressed in a way that tempts a men to do this secret (or not so secret) sin, you are a participant in the sin. By the way, some rape victims would not have been raped if they had dressed properly. So can we really say they were innocent victims?

Aside from being pretty much the most upsetting possible example of concern-trolling (oh btw, your clothes could make someone rape you!), the leaflet's claim is offensive to men and women alike. Unfortunately, this kind of victim-blaming has been all too common lately, and a recent British study showing that a majority of women think victims are sometimes at fault for rape made it seem like rape culture was thriving on both sides of the pond. But in an encouraging turn of events, Bristol residents are taking a stand against it.

Sandra G. Rasnake, sexual assault program director at Bristol's Crisis Center, says the leaflet's claim is "insulting to men." She elaborates, "The men that I know and associate with are not so lust-driven that they cannot control their urges. By this person's argument, everyone working at Hooters deserves to be raped."

And it's not only those employed in dealing with assault who are angry. Pam Yates, Keshia Canter's mother, says,

What if my daughter had been a rape victim? I hope that they never handed this to anyone, especially a young person, who's been through that and struggles with that daily. And then they get handed something that says they are at fault. I cannot believe that a Christian, someone who walks in God's shoes, would have made this.

Perhaps the most heartening response comes from one of Bristol's prominent Christians, Rev. Bill Houck, pastor of Northstar Christian Church. While he supports "modest dress," Houck also says,

It is this type of thinking that would cause a woman not to report being raped and to somehow think it is her fault. As a Christian, a father and a husband, that is a horrific statement. The rapist is wrong period.

Houck's words underscore the fact that religion doesn't have to include disrespect for women, and that being a Christian doesn't mean seeing rape as a response to a woman's "temptation." While it's upsetting to read this latest missive in the long annals of victim-blaming, it's good to know that Bristol's residents are stepping up to defend a woman's right to safety and control over her own body — no matter what she wears.

Blame The Victim: Religious Leaflet Claims ‘Ungodly' Dressed Women Provoke Rape [Bristol Herald Courier, via TriCities.com]

Earlier: How Colleges Fail Assault Victims - And How Students Can Help
"She Knew What Would Happen If She Started Drinking:" Blaming The Victim, Princeton Edition