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Blaming the Victim of Rape: The Similarities Between Steubenville, Ohio and New Delhi, India

rapeI try not to think about it. I can’t imagine what a women goes through who has suffered this violent crime.  I look at my beautiful daughter hoping beyond hope she never experiences the tragedies that have been all over the news lately. I look at my son and think he could never participate in gang rape violence towards a girl, but I imagine the mothers in Steubenville and India feel the same.   Really, I can’t imagine.

I grew up in Ohio. I understand football.  I understand protect the football team.  I understand excessive teenage drinking. I understand parties. I understand unhealthy attitudes towards sex. I understand the dynamics between teenage boys and girls.  I understand because I lived it. I grew up in a similar environment as the victim in Steubenville.

Yesterday, I read an account of the New Delhi rape describing the victim.  Just like the girl in Steubenville, Ohio, her identity is being protected.  Unlike the girl in Ohio who was raped by people she new while almost unconscious from alcohol, the victim in India died at the hands of strangers and was sober during her attack.   It makes no difference. Rape is rape.

In both countries, the victim is blamed by some.  The defense lawyer in the India rape case Manohar Lal Sharma has stated, as reported in the New York Daily News:

Manohar Lal Sharma said 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey and her male friend were “wholly responsible” for the horrific torture they suffered in the Dec. 16 attack in New Delhi because they were an unmarried couple on the streets at night, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady,” Sharma told the newspaper.

“Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect.”

The family of the girl in Ohio has stated they have “been harassed, intimidated, and threatened by citizens of the town who feel she wasn’t sufficiently traumatized to call it “rape.”   The football coach Reno Saccoccia dismissed the rape charges as an excuse for the girl’s partying.  Perhaps she needed to die, like the woman in India, to get such an acceptance of her trauma.  Oh, but that did not work for the young woman in India either.

The girl in Ohio has been criticized for not reporting the gang rape immediately, playing soccer the next day, for not knowing what happened, etc.  It was only through social media that the evening’s events revealed themselves.  I blacked out twice as a teenager from too much alcohol.  Once was when I went to a party with my new stepbrother after my mom’s wedding (one I opposed), and the other was after my childhood dog had died.  Both times emotions led to the excess. I am not proud.  I am not making excuses.  It has never happened again.  I don’t know what happened to me during those hours still to this day. I can only trust I was in safe company, but in one of those circumstances, I still have questions to this day.

What is wrong with our culture?  What is wrong with our world?

The Socialist Worker explains,

An extensive report by the Centers for Disease Control in 2010 found that one in five women reports having been the victim of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Any serious of discussion of rape and sexual assault today has to address why they take place so widely–and the multiple ways in which sexual assault survivors are re-victimized.

I’ve read the exact same statistic for Dehli:  1 in 5 in women have been raped, and it has been called a “rape capital”.

In both countries, underreporting makes police statistics unreliable.  According to OnVab:

  • According to a document from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 1.8 incidents of reported rape in India per 100,000 people in 2010 compared to 27.3 in the U.S. However, if certain estimates which say that only about one in 10 rapes get recorded in India, are true, that would make India’s reporting rate much worse than the results of surveys in the U.S. suggest.
  • According to the The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN, a U.S. nonprofit organization, only 46% of U.S. rape cases get reported to the police. That number comes from the U.S. Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey.
  • Another way to compare countries’ rape statistics is to look at conviction rates. India’s National Crime Records Bureau shows there were 24,206 reported rape cases in 2011. Of those that made it to court that year, which was not disclosed, 26% ended in convictions. In the U.S., RAINN estimates that just over half of rape cases that are prosecuted in the U.S. each year leads to a conviction, a much higher rate than in India.

Of course, we can’t forget Todd Akin’s statement about “legitimate rape”.

We can judge India, but shamefully, our culture that claims to value women more, does not when it comes to sexual violence.

The Socialist Worker continues:

AS HORRIFIC as this argument might appear to most people, the assumption that women are responsible for engaging in risky behavior that can lead to them being victims of rape or sexual assault underlies much of the mainstream handling of the question.

This is the argument used by the Indian defense lawyer that the single woman should not have been out alone with a man.  This is the argument used by some in Steubenville that the girl should not have been drinking.

There are no excuses!  The victims are not to blame.  The definition of victim does not include culpability.

I cannot watch the video of the Steubenville boys bragging.  I tried. I cannot.  My daughter is just five years younger than the victime.

Seven years of age and continents separate these two famous rape victims, not much else does.  They have gained attention, but there are millions of more victims whose cases we do not know.  In fact, this is going around Facebook today from a woman in San Francisco:

On Saturday evening I was walking home from a friends potluck through the mission when I was attacked – an attempted rape. I was actually being quite conscious of those around me due to the fact that I’m heading to Nairobi in several weeks and personal safety has been on my mind. As I turned up 23rd street, I noticed a man walking to me that ‘zero-ed’ in on my presence, locking eyes on me. There was no side street to turn down, and I didn’t want to turn around, exposing my back to him, so I kept walking. As we neared each other, I tried to walk around a tree quite close to the curb, before I could do so he lunged at me.

He knew what he was doing and how to attack someone. He went first for my eye socket with his thumb and put his other hand in my mouth to stifle my screams and slammed me down to the ground. He was using the hand in my mouth and on my jaw to try and slam my head on the concrete, presumably to knock me out. Once I was down on the ground he straddled me pinning down my arms. After about 15s of struggling just to avoid him knocking me out, I was able to use all my strength to surge up on my right side to unpin that arm. Since I’m a climber, I’m strong, and I don’t think he was expecting this and was unprepared for that maneuver. Luckily through this move and some biting, I was also able to get his hand out of my mouth and started screaming – first just yelling and then screaming for help. I struggled with him while screaming and trying to avoid him knocking me out for another 30s until a couple in a house several houses down the street threw open their window and turned on lights. This scared him away.

Infographic via OnVab


  1. The coach needs to be charged with something (accessory after the fact for attacking the girl verbally) and lose all his teaching certifications.

    We have a case going through the system near Houston. Young girl (10 or 11 I think) was held for days and gang raped. She was blamed. She had to be put in foster care as witness protection to protect her from the “community”, because the family couldn’t afford to move.

    • exactly kimberly, there is also a rising culture of misogyny among young men in this country that needs to be addressed. today i had to report a teenage boy for calling a teenage girl “whorish” while watching a live stream on the asteroid tonight. the only thing she did was compliment one of the astronomers by calling him a “cutie”. there were several men and boys posting graphic sexual ascii images and making sexual comments yet this idiot chose to zero in on this young girl’s innocent compliment. The same teenage boy had a video posted called “vagina destroyer” where he painted a female genitalia being “destroyed” by a male genitalia. it has thankfully been removed by youtube, very quickly i might add. this online and real life culture of misogyny has got to be addressed. we need to stand up for the under dogs and little “guys” who are usually women and girls not men and boys.

  2. Can I just say, as a rape survivor, I agree and thank you for the article. OAN, I cannot understand why such importance is placed on spelling and grammar for those of us fruit to find more meaningful employment when SOMEONE let this article go out with spelling errors. Not even just this article. Even Steubenville files has mistakes and misrepresents their own info!? Need a spell checker??? Hire me!

  3. I am sure there are influences at work to detract from home births. (AMA?) Births at hospitals is the #1 money maker for those hospitals. The number of homebirths still hovers at around 1%. Give me a break. Just because someone has a home birth doesn’t’ exempt them from trauma or even PPD afterwards. To blame homebirths from “birth rape” is ridiculous!

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