Reporter's Notebook

On Rape and Empowerment
Show Description +

A reader debate sparked by singer Chrissie Hynde’s controversial comments over her sexual assault and a woman’s role in preventing similar assaults.

Show 4 Newer Notes

'Rape Victims Rarely Feel Free of Culpability'

A reader makes a comparison:

I’m not interested in wading into the debate over Chrissie Hynde, but I’ll dip my toe in enough to say that the approach to rape prevention expressed by Katie Russell makes me think of the abstinence-only approach to sex ed. The absolutist approach actually results in more problems (pregnancy and STDs on one side, rape on the other) because proponents refuse to accept the reality of the situation they face (kids like sex / women are vulnerable to rape).

This reader uses an analogy:

A rape and the situation that led to it are two different things. A woman can take some responsibility for what led up to it while laying blame for the rape at the rapist’s feet.

This might sound callous, but here goes.

Sophie has a thought provoking piece on the controversy surrounding Chrissie Hynde—the lead singer of the Pretenders—and her comments regarding a sexual assault she experienced four decades ago. Sophie isolates an interesting irony among Hynde’s critics:

[T]here’s no denying that speaking publicly, as Hynde has done, about how women can be to blame for being sexually assaulted if they’re dressed provocatively is both wrongheaded and extraordinarily damaging to many victims of rape. But Hynde’s choice of words—comparing the outraged responses to her comments to a “lynch mob”—seems to demonstrate that she feels more victimized by the flood of comments and messages and thinkpieces and news hits responding to her story than she does by actually being assaulted in the first place.

Which raises the question: Is attacking Hynde for blaming herself (and yes, by association, blaming others) ultimately productive and worth the cost of revictimizing her? Or is the impulse to shame her and others like her sometimes more about self-gratification than advocacy?

Sophie continues with an incisive indictment of Twitter as a means of expression. Meanwhile, a few readers take on the highly-charged topic of rape prevention:

Chrissie Hynde is refusing to be a helpless victim. There’s a fine line between taking responsibility for what one can take responsibility for, and blaming the victim or letting bad people off the hook … but I believe she is properly walking that line. Chrissie is what a genuinely empowered woman looks like.