- Amy DickinsonChicago Tribune
- Gerould KernEditor, Chicago Tribune
- Geoff BrownAssociate Managing Editor, Features, Chicago Tribune
Tell Amy Dickinson to Correct Her Rape Victim Blaming Advice Column
UPDATE: In a response to criticism from a disgusted reader (one of many) this week, Dickinson defends her original response, claiming while she was "too harsh," she was not victim-blaming. Not only does she misconstrue the failures of her original response, Dickinson still refers to what happened to the victim as having sex -- completely missing the point that "being raped" is not the same as "having sex." She continues to focus on the need for the victim to keep herself safe, rather than pointing out that rape is always the perpetrator's fault, never the victim's.
In a November 27 column, syndicated "Ask Amy" columnist Amy Dickinson published insensitive, irresponsible, and factually incorrect advice to someone who wrote in asking whether she had been raped. "Victim? in Virginia" wrote that she had gotten drunk at a frat party and went to a guy's room, where he had sex with her despite promising that he wouldn't. Dickinson informed "Victim? in Virginia" that she was a victim of her own awful judgment. She equated getting drunk at a frat party with asking to be sexually assaulted. She never said that what the guy did was wrong, and she qualified his behavior, saying that if he was drunk his judgment was impaired. Dickinson's "advice" sends the message that victims of sexual assault are the ones responsible for it, rather than the perpetrators.
This petition demands that Amy Dickinson not only apologize for her bad advice, but also that she correct it -- properly -- in her next column. It also copies her editors at the Tribune, who should make their position against victim blaming clear, if she won't.
- Chicago Tribune
- Editor, Chicago Tribune
- Associate Managing Editor, Features, Chicago Tribune
Your November 27th column, "Bad Choice, Yes, But No Is Still No" / "Sobering Advice for Rape Victim," is irresponsible, insensitive, and factually incorrect. Then, in your December 8th response to a reader's criticism, you compound the problem by defending the original column, admitting only that it was maybe "too harsh," and misconstruing how you presented your response.
You claim that you called what happened to Victim? in Virginia "rape" in your original column, when in fact you referred to it as "sex that shouldn't happen." In your "apology," you continue to refer to what happened to the survivor as "she did have sex." No, she did not have sex. She was raped. Sex was forced upon her. Semantics? Maybe. But vital ones.
You do not make it clear that rape is never the victim's fault--instead, you continue to focus on the survivor's choice to drink as leading to the assault. You claim to be concerned for the writer's safety, but drinking does not give anyone a license to rape, or make the rapist less culpable, which is the message you're sending readers, and unfortunately an all-too-common meme in our society.
We should all be taught best practices for balancing risk reduction with living our lives fully. Unfortunately, in a woman's world, going to bed alone in her own locked home can be risky. Simply being a woman is risky. Why? Because violence against women is tolerated, and often -- as in your column -- not called by its proper name. Which is rape, by the way.
The appropriate time to give guidance about how to stay safe is before a rape occurs. If you tell a survivor things like, "Getting drunk at a frat house is a hazardous choice," after the rape, it's no longer guidance -- it's blame. Perhaps you don't realize how traumatic rape can be. I don't think Victim? needs to hear that she should avoid getting drunk at frat parties: she already told you she made a bad decision. What she needed to hear was a clear, simple statement that yes, she was raped, and the person to blame is her rapist.
As a journalist with a powerful voice and a large audience, it's your responsibility to swallow your pride, consider why your column hit such a nerve, and embrace an opportunity to correct misconceptions about sexual violence. Write a new column for next week that is honest about and apologizes for the failures in both of your responses to date, retracts your victim blaming statements, and makes this clear: Rape is not the same as having sex. Drinking does not make the victim more guilty, or the perpetrator less so. What happened to Victim? was rape. And she is not to blame.
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