Date-rape can be confusing — for the victim, for policymakers, and apparently, for advice columnists, one of whom recently offered some none-too-compassionate tips for a woman whose friend believed she'd been raped.
Here's the question "Friend Has Revised One-Night Stand Story" posed to Slate's Dear Prudence:
A friend recently called me and said she had a one-night stand after drinking too much. She was beating herself up over drinking too much and going home with a guy she met at a bar. I reassured her that everyone makes mistakes and didn't think much more of the account. However, since then, she has told many people that she was a victim of date-rape — that the guy must have put something into her drink . She spoke to a rape crisis line, and they said even if she was drunk, she couldn't have given consent so she was a victim of rape. She now wants to press charges — she has the guy's business card. I have seen her very intoxicated on previous occasions, to the point she doesn't remember anything the next day. I'm not sure on what my response should be at this point. Pretend she never told me the original story?
Prudie responded, "Trying to ruin someone else's life is a poor way to address one's alcohol and self-control problems. Since her first version of the story is that she was ashamed of her behavior, and since you have seen her knee-walking drunk on other occasions, it sounds as if she wants to punish the guy at the bar for her own poor choices." And she gave Friend a game plan:
Talk to your friend. Tell her that she needs to think very long and hard about filing a criminal complaint against this guy if there's any way her behavior could be construed to be consensual. Say you understand her shame, but you're concerned about her drinking, and if she addresses that, she won't find herself in such painful situations.
This advice makes sense if the letter-writer's friend is in fact an alcoholic who wants to "punish" innocent men for her personal problems. It makes no sense if she was actually raped. The latter is definitely a possibility — rape victims often blame themselves, and for all we know, that's what the friend was doing when she was "beating herself up." Being drunk on other occasions doesn't mean she couldn't have been drugged in this one — even without drugs, she also could've been too drunk to give consent. Friend's account of the rape crisis line's response is confusing, but they probably told the woman that being drunk doesn't mean you can't be raped, and if you were blacked out, that means legally you can't consent to sex. Although really, we don't know what they told her, because we weren't there, and neither was Friend. We simply don't know what happened that night.
Some commenters on the Slate thread make these arguments. Others say things like this:
A woman saying that she is raped is not enough to make a man a predator. OF COURSE we all understand that it falls to the authorities to investigate and resolve. But I am still entitled to the opinion based on the information in the letter that the LW's friend felt guilty about her behavior and to make herself feel better, told herself it was rape.
She makes a good point. Really, why did the woman in question bother calling a rape crisis line? She should have just asked a selection of internet commenters what happened to her — because who needs information when you have opinions?
One-Night Stand or Rape? [Slate]
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