“Unfortunately, it’s considered bad form in today’s social climate to ‘blame the victim’ or even acknowledge the degree to which her actions put her in harm’s way.” – Waterbury Republican-American Editorial, April 13, 2013
These are the “unfortunate” words of a Connecticut newspaper that on the same day in a front page headline referred to the rape of two 13-year-old girls as a “tryst.”
The editorial dismisses criticism of the Torrington High School football players accused of raping the girls and the students who bullied the victims as “an exercise in stating the obvious.”
It says girls are responding to a popular culture that says it’s “OK to be sexually provocative,” and that “boys and young men … respond predictably.” (Emphasis is mine.)
The Republican-American editorial board completes the victim-blaming cycle with a reference to girls’ use of alcohol and drugs stepping in to “do the rest.”
The newspaper could have saved some space. One of the students who bullied the victims following their alleged rapists’ arrest in February summed up the point they are trying to make in the editorial with this tweet: “Young girls acting like whores there’s no punishment for that men acting like boys is a sentence.”
I’ll offer my own paraphrase of the Republican-American’s editorial: Stop talking about those poor young men who couldn’t help but “respond predictably” and blame parents for allowing their girls to act like whores.
The “tryst” headline could perhaps be excused as a really poor choice made in the rush to get out a newspaper. Editors actually changed the web version of the headline after being criticized on Saturday, and acknowledged that it was the wrong word. But the editorial was purposeful.
So what happens when the next Torrington girl is raped? Will she report it knowing that classmates called the last person who did so a “snitch” and a “whore” and rallied to defend her alleged rapists? Will she talk to police knowing how they described the football player case?
What will she think when she sees the last person’s rape described as a “tryst” on the front page and opens the paper to find the blame placed on her parents?