The following is an unedited Facebook post from Brian Fry, former Speak About It actor and leader of Bowdoin Men Against Sexual Violence. Brian has worked with the Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine as an educator in schools, and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Medical Sciences at Boston University. Brian writes in response to the national media conversation regarding alcohol consumption and placing blame on female sexual assault survivors. Sparked by the Slate article by Emily Yoffe entitled, “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk,” SMU student Kirby Wiley submitted an op-ed to the student newspaper last week further condoning the behavior of drunk women as an invitation to be assaulted by men. Below is Brian’s response.
Dear Kirby Wiley,
You disgust me. You perpetuate sexual violence with your incredibly naïve and poorly researched article arguing that college women need to stop “putting themselves in situations where they appear vulnerable” by drinking alcohol. You clearly don’t know a damn thing about the complex topic of sexual assault, you don’t realize the terrible adverse consequences of blaming the survivor, and you don’t understand that easy solutions to the problem do not exist. Because of your article, there is at least one woman somewhere who is guilt-ridden, full of self-hate, and utterly devastated. She was sexually assaulted and because of you, she will loathe herself so much that she might not tell anyone for years, if at all. And because of you, she may never begin to heal from her experience, she may never regain her self-confidence, and she may never feel empowered by positive intimate physical relationships ever again.
Kirby, I’m going to assume that you’ve never tried to put yourself in the shoes of a sexual assault victim or do not personally know someone who has been sexual assaulted, because you would have never written this article otherwise. Do you really think that bringing on further negative media attention to the victim, negative feelings from millions of strangers, and even worse, negative feelings from the victim herself really helps solve the problem? Have you ever taken the time to imagine how embarrassing, demoralizing, and humiliating it could be to come forward and admit being raped to one person, let alone an entire school and its administrators, or even have it publicized to the entire country? Or how releasing intimate details about one’s private life to the world is already terrifying enough without the feeling that everyone is going to jump down your throat, blame you, and call you a liar? Have you ever thought that the public opinion of rape is severely marred by how rape cases are already being handled in the media, and that this in turn feeds victim blaming and a general downplay of how serious sexual assaults are for the survivors, their friends, and their families? Or that all of of this is in spite of the fact that rape is no more falsely reported than other comparable crimes in the US (estimates are ~2-3%) even though it’s estimated that between 75-95% of rapes are never reported to the police?
Because of you, Kirby, I broke my personal rule and wrote an insanely long Facebook status because I feel people need to hear this. Sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter what someone was wearing or how much he or she was drinking. It doesn’t matter if a person appears flirtatious or “inviting.” Being raped is about having a conscious choice taken away from you by someone else. Blaming the victim of a sexual assault will always do far more harm than any of the theoretical good you suggest in your article.
And by the way, both women AND men can be victims of sexual assault. That’s an issue that the media rarely recognizes and is all too often swept under the rug. But wait, I forgot—according to your argument, those male victims should also be to blame for drinking too much in college, joining the military, or being born to an abusive relative.
In the future, please do your research before you go out and write an uneducated piece that lacks both supporting scientific evidence and an awareness of how it will actually impact those who read it.