[trigger warning for rape apologia, victim blaming]
When I announced rather publicly to the internet that I was going to be writing an article on how Pensacola Christian College has treated sexual abuse, assault, and rape victims, I expected to face some pushback. For the first couple days it was rather mild– all along the lines of “you’re sowing strife among the brethren” or “I can’t believe this could happen at PCC” or “PCC is a good school! How dare you!” It wasn’t really anything bad.
But, starting last night and continuing through this today, I’ve been inundated with comments and e-mails. I’ve blocked people here, in the comment section, for violating my comment policy. I will not ever tolerate rape apologia or victim blaming. I put up with a lot of stuff– sexism, racism, ableism… but only to a point. I believe in allowing people the opportunity to learn. That’s all I’ve been doing since I was a racist homophobic misogynistic ass, so I try to make sure that growth can happen here. I also love it when people disagree with me– as long as they’re not attacking my character. Disagree away, it’s fantastic.
So, while I will never allow someone to openly victim blame myself or any of my readers, I do want to take this opportunity to show everybody what victim blaming looks like. Normally I do not use comments for blogging fodder– I think that would make it more difficult for new readers to comment, and I don’t want to do that. However, two of the comments I got last night are a textbook example of what victim blaming looks like in real life. One I did not publish, the other I did (although I warned the second that what she’d done is called victim blaming. Since you can reply to her comment, please do not harass her. She’s been corrected already).
The problem with victim blaming is that, ultimately, it sounds perfectly reasonable, even common-sensical. Hopefully you’ll understand why it isn’t by the end of this post.
On to the first comment:
I went to PCC and the rules at that school make it nearly impossible to even get yourself into a situation like this. The school tries VERY hard to prevent it. You aren’t allowed off campus without other girls being with you. You can’t go to the beach without other girls with you. You sleep in a dorm with no one but girls. Guys are not allowed in the dorms. You are not allowed to be in any location with a guy alone; meaning you must be in a chaperoned area at all times, or you are breaking a rule. Cameras are everywhere. Motion sensors are placed on the fences. You scan in to leave the campus, you scan out to leave the campus. Your parking spot is checked by security guards every hour. Security officers patrol every empty building on an hourly basis. You are not allowed to touch members of the opposite sex. You are not allowed to talk in the unlit areas after dark. You are not allowed to stand around with members of the opposite sex after dark.
So I’m highly suspicious of this. And I think the faculty had a right to be somewhat suspicious, especially if the reputation of another person was at stake–and possibly a criminal investigation. So my plea to you would be to be very careful about casting a stone if you yourself are not at fault for bypassing one of these guards that the school put in place for your protection.
That said, the world is a wicked place and I would not be surprised if legitimate rapists attended that school. And I am not saying your story is not legitimate, but I think you owe it to the school to make share everyone gets the whole story here.
Let’s not pretend that PCC does not try to prevent this from happening. I cannot think of any other educational institution that goes out of its way to protect women like PCC does.
First off, his first paragraph is a pretty good summation of how crazy PCC is, which he rationalizes as good because it “protects” people. Some of these rules have softened in recent years, but most of them are still very much enforced exactly like this. It also completely ignores the reality of male-on-male, or female-on-female rape (which also, in an overwhelming majority of cases, has nothing to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with power, aggression, and dominance).
And while PCC is a fundamentalist college, how this person views the functions of PCC’s rules is not any different from how rape culture functions. The same exact argument is constantly made about rape victims in secular contexts. Were you drinking? What were you wearing? Did you lead him on?
The point of this line of questioning is: what rules did you break? And it’s all based on the assumption that Good Girls don’t get raped. Good Girls follow the rules. Good Girls obey the expectations of the culture. Only girls who break the rules get raped. It’s all over his comment, in how it’s “impossible to get myself into a situation” if I was following the rules like a Good Girl. And, since I obviously wasn’t a good enough girl or I wouldn’t have gotten raped, I owe it to the school to tell the “whole story”– the “whole story” including the part of how I am not a good enough girl. And, since I wasn’t a Good Girl, it’s perfectly reasonable for people to suspect whether or not I’m telling the truth about being raped. Good Girls don’t get raped. Only Bad Girls get raped, and Bad Girls deserve it. If I was stupid enough, or slutty enough, to break the rules, then I stepped outside what was put into place to protect me– so what else could I expect? Duh. Of course I got raped. I broke the rules.
It’s true that bad things happen and positive experiences don’t change them – you’re right. But do not forget to give the benefit of the doubt on both ends.There’s often much more to the story than “They were kicked out because . . .” I know because I have had friends who worked in Student Life who had to deal with situations that were severely misconstrued and turned into hateful gossip. The people at PCC love the students, and they do everything in their power to protect them and do what is right for them.
I can guarantee you that if a girl went to Student Life immediately after she were sexually assaulted, but had been obeying the rules of where she could go during what times with the correct number of friends (all rules set up for her protection), they would not expel her. I also know of people who were sent home to recover from situations, but people who did not care for PCC always referred to them as being “kicked out.” Remember that it’s easy to “tweak” a story so it sounds to be more in our favor – I’ve had to learn this many times even through friends, and constantly remind myself not to do it myself.
This is the same exact argument. If she obeyed the rules. If she told someone immediately. If she were a good girl. If she met with this person’s– or, in this case, Student Life’s– approval, and only then would a rape victim deserve not to be treated like a Bad Girl. If she did something, broke the rules, went anywhere alone, then she deserves to be expelled because she wasn’t a good enough girl. Bad Girls — and, by this definition, all rape victims are Bad Girls — deserve to be treated like garbage. Bad Girls don’t deserve help and comfort. Bad Girls don’t deserve justice or vindication. Bad Girls get expelled.
These arguments both ignore the reality that rape victims are raped because rapists rape them.