Misguided Leaflet Places Blame on Victim

religious leafletI just read a story over at Jezebel that has me seething. A teen girl was anonymously given a religious pamphlet while working the drive through at a fast food restaurant in Virginia. Now, I’m all for freedom of speech, but the content of this pamphlet crossed a serious line.

According to an article in the Bristol Herald Courier, the pamplet was addressed to “Women and Girls” and said, in part:

“You may have been given this leaflet because of the way you are dressed. Have you thought about standing before the true and living God to be judged? Scripture tells us that when a man looks on a woman to lust for her he has already committed adultery in his heart. If you are dressed in a way that tempts a men to do this secret (or not so secret) sin, you are a participant in the sin. By the way, some rape victims would not have been raped if they had dressed properly. So can we really say they were innocent victims?”

The article featured an interview with Sandra G. Rasnake, the sexual assault program director at Bristol’s Crisis Center. From the article:

Rasnake said she confronts similar ideas, although not generally printed and distributed in mass, from the women she talks with daily. Victim blaming, she said, is the most prominent reason rapes are so rarely reported and even more rarely taken to trial. Sexual assaults, she said, come in second for the country’s worst conviction rates.

What I hate most about this is that the leaflet uses religion as a foundation for its misguided message and aims to tap into people’s fear and guilt. As a victim in college, I know how traumatizing it can be to be sexually assaulted, and I also know how complicated the emotional fallout can be. Victims often feel confused, ashamed, embarrassed, tainted, and disempowered. And I know I’m not alone. Check out these statistics from the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN):

  • 1 out of a 6 American women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime
  • 17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape

And according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

  • approximately 28% of victims are raped by husbands or boyfriends and 35% are raped by acquaintances

Just so we’re clear here, rape or sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault. Sexual assault is about control and power, and if the sexual contact isn’t consensual, it’s a crime. To find out more, visit RAINN here.


  1. clarissa Said,

    March 30, 2010 @ 3:06 am

    I see nothing wrong in telling girls they should not dress provocatively and although I believe men should have self control that goes for the girl too. If someone left a whole lot of jewellery on show in their car with the door open and they were robbed of it surely no-one could say that person was entiitled to as much symapathy as someone who was sitting at home, jewellery on them & some in drawer when someone bursts in and robs them! I am female and would vote for all girls to be taught in school how to dress unprevoccatively and all boys to be taught the same. I would also vote for boys and girls to respect each other.

  2. dreber Said,

    April 5, 2010 @ 10:52 am

    Clarissa, I completely hear you with your last statement that boys and girls, or all people actually, need to know how to respect each other. I also agree that dressing certain ways can send an unintended message, but in no way, shape, or form does that mean they are responsible for being the victim of a violent crime.

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