Exercise to Illustrate Victim Blaming in Rape Cases

The following exercise for use in a training or classroom is intended to highlight the frequent victim blaming that occurs in cases of rape. Imagine if the types of questions that are asked of rape victims were asked of a robbery victim. It doesn’t happen.

“Mr. Smith, you were held up at gunpoint on the corner of First and Main?” 

“Did you struggle with the robber?” 

“Why not?” 
“He was armed.”

“Then you made a conscious decision to comply with his demands rather than resist?” 

“Did you scream? Cry out?” 
“No, I was afraid.” 

“I see. Have you ever been held up before?” 

“Have you ever GIVEN money away?” 
“Yes, of course.”

“And you did so willingly?” 
“What are you getting at?”

“Well, let’s put it like this, Mr. Smith. You’ve given money away in the past. In fact, you have quite a reputation for philanthropy. How can we be sure that you weren’t CONTRIVING to have your money taken from you by force?” 
“Listen, if I wanted –”

“Never mind. What time did this holdup take place, Mr. Smith?” 
“About 11:00 P.M.”

“You were out on the street at 11:00 P.M.? Doing what?” 
“Just walking.”

“Just walking? You know that it’s dangerous being out on the street that late at night. Weren’t you aware that you could have been held up?” 
“I hadn’t thought about it.” 

“What were you wearing at the time, Mr. Smith?” 
“Let’s see…a suit. Yes, a suit.”

“An EXPENSIVE suit?” 
“Well yes. I’m a successful lawyer, you know.”

“In other words, Mr. Smith, you were walking around the streets late at night in a suit that practically advertised the fact that you might be good target for some easy money, isn’t that so? I mean, if we didn’t know better, Mr. Smith, we might even think that you were asking for this to happen, mightn’t we?”

From “The Legal Bias Against Rape Victims (The Rape of Mr. Smith).” Connie K. Borkenhagen, American Bar Association Journal. April, 1975

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