Apologizing away rape hurts, not helps
Amid the rush of sentimentality I experienced while celebrating my last spring break as an undergraduate, I was overcome with renewed hatred for people who excuse bad behavior.
My spring break rage was sparked by a news story about Michael Philbin, the 18-year-old son of Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who raped one 17-year-old girl when she was passed out and then forced another girl to perform oral sex on him.
Judge Sue Bischel called Philbin a good person who simply made a horrible decision and “took advantage” of two intoxicated girls. Bischel decided Philbin didn’t have to register as a sex offender because it was “not appropriate” and “excessive punishment in the long term.”
He was sentenced to six months in jail — with work and school release privileges, of course — and could be released after four and a half months for good behavior. Philbin can petition to have the two misdemeanors removed from his record upon completing probation.
As if the judgment weren’t disgusting enough, the news story, which was written by Andy Nelesen and appeared in the Green Bay Press Gazette, continually referred to Philbin’s actions as “underage sex” rather than what they were: rape.
This unfathomable court case and its ensuing coverage are merely blips in the never-ending trend of “rape apologism.” Bischel blamed one privileged man’s double-rape on “special circumstances,” calling him an otherwise good guy — you know, aside from that nasty habit of raping women — and chose to protect a rapist rather than the public.
While most people could agree the apologism exhibited by Bischel is reprehensible, another widely practiced form of rape apologism exists in the form of victim-blaming — especially in incidences when women are at parties, drinking, wearing revealing clothing or committing any other apparently rape-inducing sin.
Just ask Katie Roiphe, antifeminist author and ardent rape apologist, whose book The Morning After dazzled media critics, including The New York Times book review, by insisting that rape on college campuses is far overblown and women are just “crying rape” rather than confessing their own misconduct.
In the book, Roiphe made sure to distinguish between “real” rape — you know, the kind committed by a stranger and with death threats — and the imaginary date rape scenario.
“Today’s definition (of rape) has stretched beyond bruises and knives, threats of death or violence to include emotional pressure and the influence of alcohol,” she wrote.
“Why aren’t college women responsible for their own intake of alcohol or drugs? The so-called rape epidemic on campuses is more a way of interpreting, a way of seeing, than a physical phenomenon.”
Nevermind the fact that actively preying on a woman’s incapacitation is pretty despicable, and that somebody who is heavily intoxicated is not in the position to give consent. Clearly, if a woman is drunk or high, she’s just asking to be raped — and should be held responsible.
Roiphe is not alone in the victim-blaming racket. Heather MacDonald also penned an extensive rebuttal of rape on campus, called “The Campus Rape Myth,” which ran in the winter 2008 edition of City Journal.
MacDonald played off all Roiphe’s apologist tactics, even going so far as to refute a Harvard student’s retelling of her own rape, asserting that if the student didn’t think getting drunk at a party “carries a serious probability of intercourse, she’s at the wrong university, if she should be at college at all.” So it’s not actually the fault of the person who forcibly rapes somebody — it’s just stupid, slutty girls leaving themselves open to be raped that are the problem.
But, of course, rape apologists await such circumstances of a woman being raped while intoxicated so they can turn around and deny the prevalence of “real” rape and instead blame women for “getting themselves raped.”
Recall the death of 24-year-old graduate student Imette St. Guillen, who disappeared after a night out and was later found dead, having been raped and tortured, by Darryl Littlejohn, a bouncer at the bar where she was last seen.
The news garnered attention from major media outlets and brought the victim-blaming rape apologists out in droves. In her piece titled “Ladies, You Should Know Better,” Wall Street Journal editor Naomi Schaefer Riley explains how although millions of men in the United States are committing rape each year, it is the job of women “to reduce the likelihood of a rape,” and “a 24-year-old woman should know better.”
That’s right: Rather than insisting rapists should know better than to rape, or questioning why so many men and boys (by far the predominant perpetrators of rape) think sexually assaulting girls and women is OK, Riley places the blame squarely on the heads of those being assaulted.
It’s time for people to stop apologizing for others’ misdeeds so that we can truly begin unpacking the underlying problems of pervasive sexual assault in the United States, rather than re-injuring already injured parties.
Renee Sessions is a senior majoring in English.