No one has asked: What did the boy do to ask for it? What was he wearing? Why did he go into the showers with Sandusky if he wasn’t willing to have sex? Is he coming forward now because he wants money? How do we know it wasn’t consensual and then the boy regretted it? Was the boy flirting with Sandusky? How many times had the boy “done it” before?
Some of the lack of victim-blaming is because Sandusky’s targets were children and young teens. But before you embrace that as the whole explanation, remember these situations:
–11 year old girl raped multiple times by a bunch of boys and young men. Her neighbors said “she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground.”
–11 year old girl sexually assaulted by a 23-year-old man. The judge said, “I don’t think [the victim] is free of fault. I think the old adage that it takes two to tango is true here.” The defendant’s lawyer said the girl was “extremely well developed,” looked older than her age, and was wearing heavy makeup and a “split-skirt” when he met her.
–Three 12-year-old girls raped by a group of young men. In court they were referred to as “Lolitas.”
There are many more, but you get the point: Being a child or teen doesn’t exempt you for being blamed for your own attack.
So why isn’t victim-blaming rearing its ugly head in the Sandusky case? I’d say there are two interrelated reasons: sexism and heterosexism. Allow me to oversimplify.
Sexism: The idea that boys are worth more than girls. Females also have sexual powers that can overcome men (see: burqas). If men do something bad to a woman or girl, it must be (at least in part) her fault. And since women and girls are of low value, why does it matter if they are harmed? And why should men get in trouble for it?
Heterosexism/homophobia: The idea that two men having sex is repulsive, unnatural, and degrading. It’s unimaginable that any “normal” person (read: heterosexual man) would want to do that. So of course these boys are blameless.
Both of these systems of belief are heinous and wrong. All beings have value. Some people want to have sex with those of the same gender.
And blaming victims is wrong. No matter how old they are or their gender (and no matter what they wore or drank or where they went). The boys Sandusky abused/attacked are getting a pass on one part of the sexual assault experience: being blamed for it. Hallelujah.
But it’s not because we all had a sudden awakening about the wrongness of victim blaming. It’s time to notice that.
Photo Credit: bookgrl
Lauren Taylor leads Defend Yourself, which teaches skills for stopping harassment, abuse, and assault. She’s been part of the movement to end gender-based violence for more than 30 years, and she works hard not to internalize or perpetuate victim-blaming.