Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Victim blaming & poor research in a student newspaper

This article appeared on the online platform of The Temple News, a student newspaper for the community of Temple University, in the Delaware Valley. Its headline suggests that the Campus Safety Services of this particular university have been linking alcohol with cases of sexual assaults. So far so victim-blaming. I read on to see what research and ‘fact-finding’ has gone into this assertion.

However, it appears as though this ‘finding’ is not backed up by any sort of coherent evidence, as statistics of sexual assaults in the University area are first outlined, then followed by some more about ‘underage possession and consumption [I am assuming this relates to alcohol but this is not made clear in any way]’. In fact, one has to go back to realise that the previous reports of sexual assaults were stated to have not included alcohol and that two very different sets of statistics have been recklessly thrown together, linked only by the victim-blaming comments of the ‘Acting Executive Director of CSS Charlie Leone’ who states that:
“The drinking may seem like more, but we have a coordinated effort using various law enforcement resources trying to curtail drunken behavior,” Leone said. “That behavior leads to sexual assaults.”

Let’s remember that this is nothing more than the opinion of one person which appears here to have ‘inspired’ this article, without an iota of critical, journalistic evaluation.

This comment is then, again, followed by the description of one case of indecent assault, and a separate case of indecent exposure. None of these are stated to have involved alcohol, so reading through this piece several times, I am still struggling to see a valid link between these cases of sexually motivated attacks and assaults, and the consumption of alcohol. As a student who was apparently interviewed by the newspaper, is quoted that she feels ‘sad whenever [she hears] about any sexual assaults in Philadelphia’, it is becoming clear to me that the premise of this article is simply build on moral judgements about the alcohol consumption of students, and an attempt is made to artificially dramatise this by linking it to sexual violence (which in my view paradoxically trivialises and lessens the systemic nature of SV and relieves the University and the CSS of its responsibilities).

The article leaves open who in cases of sexual violence would be the person having consumed alcohol (oh wait, none of the cases reported here did involve alcohol, as the writer stated!) and employs statistics in such a misguided (whether wilfully or not) manner which makes the entire article so nebulous that some readers may just take the headline away from it, which is nothing more than a platform for displaying the victim-blaming attitudes of the people whose job it is to facilitate students safety. I would expect more from any student newspaper and suggest they go on a bit of a real fact-finding mission about the true nature of sexual violence, and how to report it, and subsequently review this article very carefully. There is the opportunity to leave comments for this article at the link provided above, if anyone would like to do so.

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