Last spring, in cities across North America, women staged a series of marches called “Slut Walks.” They were protesting a common sentiment about rape, voiced by a police officer in Toronto: that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” to avoid being victims of assault. Apparently, the Pennsylvania Liquor Board didn’t get the message. True, the board’s “Control Tonight” public service ad campaign, which has now been pulled after an outcry, didn't blame rape victims for what they wear. It just blames them for drinking too much. A controversial new ad, which was yanked this week after a flood of complaints, shows a women’s legs on a bathroom floor, underpants pulled to the ankles, with the words: “SHE DIDN’T WANT TO DO IT, BUT SHE COULDN’T SAY NO.”
There they go, focusing on the behavior of the victim, effectively letting the rapist off the hook — as if he couldn’t help himself, since she was just so… there. How about focusing public-awareness ads, instead, on men who would take advantage of incapacitated women? Who wouldn’t even bother with the question of consent?
This week, the Centers for Disease Control released a survey with disturbing new data on sexual assault: Nearly one in five American women reports being raped sometime in her life. More than half of those women say they were raped by an intimate partner; 40 percent say they were raped by an acquaintance. We could go down the roster of those alleged victims and point out all sorts of supposed risk factors: wearing close-fitting clothes; having one too many vodka tonics; living in the wrong neighborhood, dating the wrong guy. None of them change the fact that rape is a crime, and that the responsibility for that crime lies with the perpetrator, not the victim. Better that a liquor board send a message to potential rapists, instead: Rape is illegal, no matter how much the victim may have drunk.