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Don’t like the news? Change it.

July 7, 2009

There’s an MSc student at the University of Leicester called Sophia Shaw. She’s working on her dissertation, examining men’s attitudes toward coercing women into having sex with them. Interesting, no? And from her preliminary findings, she has a study that backs up everything we’ve been trying to say on this blog about sexual violence: no actions taken by women consistently predict whether they will experience sexual violence. Not being drunk, not wearing a particular kind of clothing, not having a gregarious personality. Women with these characteristics experience sexual violence at the same rate as those who do not have these characteristics.

That’s an important finding for us, but apparently debunking harmful myths about sexual violence isn’t exciting enough for the Telegraph, which reports the following headline instead:

Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, claim scientists

This “misreading” of Shaw’s study (and its pimping by the British Psychological Society) is yet more totally blatant evidence of our deep, deep desire to find survivors to blame for sexual violence. We fail to accept that crimes are perpetrated by criminals, not requested by their victims.

The Telegraph is either hoping to tap into that desire, or is so caught in the blame-the-victim paradigm that it is incapable of reading this study any other way. It’s shoddy reporting no matter how you look at it (the study isn’t even finished, for crying out loud, much less reviewed and published!), but it’s also socially malicious, irresponsible, and cruel. While an article like this might give some satisfaction to someone who does not believe their life has been touched by sexual violence, it’s massively destructive to survivors and their allies. Stop. It.

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