Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

How did The Times newspaper respond to a complaint?

One of our campaign supporters, @InHollysKitchen, wrote a complaint to The Times newspaper following their article written by Prof David Nutt, discussing alcohol. The image below was the main area of concern, specifically the comment 'It's the drug that's going to get their daughter raped':

Prof David Nutt The Times

Holly emailed The Times feedback team - this is the email copied and pasted in full (email addresses redacted)

To The Times,

I am writing with regard to an article you published on Monday 18th November in the Times2 section. It discussed Professor David Nutt and his work to create a synthetic alcohol. It went on to detail why, in the Professor's opinion, alcohol is very dangerous and included this sentence: 'It's [alcohol] the drug that's going to get their [parents] daughter raped'. I would like you to print a correction immediately.

This kind of statement is simply not true and only contributes to a culture of victim blaming that is damaging the lives of countless people who have experienced sexual violence or abuse. To imply that because a woman is drunk is the reason she would get raped is ludicrous and categorically incorrect. Both women and men get raped not because of anything to do with their own behaviour, but because there are RAPISTS in existence. For Professor Nutt to imply otherwise, and for yourselves to print this statement, is wrong.

Just over a week later (Tuesday 26th November), The Times printed 3 articles/pieces discussing sexual violence and the need for a change in culture:

1. Article Page 13: "Sex Education failure leads to rape and abuse"

2. Opinion Page 31 Carol Sarler: "Claire's law won't save women from violent men'

3. Times 2, Article Page 9: Porn, video games and parental neglect: coming to a stage near you'

I want to reference number 3 in particular. The Times is a media partner for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. The prize has been awarded to Anna Jordan for her play Yen which explores what happens when young men are exposed to violent pornography and video games. As a reader I am confused as to how you can be supportive of works that aim to challenge the increasing damage caused by 'porn-culture' yet also print a piece that states girls who drink alcohol will get raped? You are giving mixed messages. And I urge you just to give the correct one.

To repeat, girls (and men) get raped because there are rapists. NOT because they drink alcohol.

I will be forwarding this email to Professor Nutt and asking him to issue a retraction as well as recommending he spend time researching and talking to campaigns such as http://everydayvictimblaming.com. I'd also like to recommend that you become aware of their work so as to not make a similar error again.

I look forward to your response,

Kind regards,

This response was received from The Times:

Dear Ms [Name Redacted]

There is no reason for a correction or retraction of the remarks made by Professor Nutt and there is nothing in them that suggests women are at fault if they are raped.

The professor was discussing the danger of alcohol abuse in the young, and the responsibility that parents have for educating their children about it.

There is no inference of "victim blame" here. Surely any parent who failed to warn their children that being drunk in public is likely to increase their vulnerability and reduce their ability to look after themselves would be seriously lacking in common sense.

Yours sincerely,

[Name Redacted],

Feedback editor,

The Times.

So, there we have it. 'There is no inference of "victim blame" here.' A particularly dismissive comment to make, when the detailed email made it clear that language such as alcohol 'get's their daughter raped' is victim blaming.

It seems to us that The Times feedback team could do with some training on reporting sexual violence, as well as how to respond appropriately to customer complaints. In addition to this, they need to acknowledge that victim blaming is insidious, that we often don't realise we are doing it, and how damaging it is to continue to perpetuate these myths. As it is clearly a waste of time to complain to The Times feedback team, we're hoping some publicity on social media will draw their attention to their error and will allow them to reflect on the skills of listening and hearing, skills that appear to be absent in this case.


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6 thoughts on “How did The Times newspaper respond to a complaint?

  • ‘reduce their ability to look after themselves’?! Says it all really – the inclusion of yet a further statement of victim blaming in their response. The Times really do have a lesson or two to learn on rape culture and victim blaming. Very, very disappointing.

  • Taz DeVille says:

    So you can’t rape or be raped when sober….??? I beg to differ. I work with women and men for that matter who were raped or abused sexually when they were stone cold sober. Some were even children and had never tasted alcohol. This article is misleading.

  • Hecuba says:

    Typical male supremacist response because The Times is owned and operated by white men and hence males are never ever accountable for their choice and agency to subject women and girls to male sexual violence.

    Times is not a newspaper it is a powerful tool of mens’ male supremacist system, which is why it is a waste of time complaining to them.

    Instead shame the Times each and every time Times publishes yet another misogynistic article claiming women are responsible for not preventing males from sexually preying on them.

  • Rusty Cage says:

    It’s interesting that they think rape is caused by women not looking after themselves, rather than a rapist deciding to rape them.

    Also interesting that they seem to imply (from the description of the article) that a porn culture is damaging. Yet the Times owner doesn’t mind a lot of children’s first experience of soft porn being from their other publication – the Sun.

  • Hannah says:

    Why is it so hard for people to grasp, that rapists will rape regardless if their victim is drunk or not? Even if you don’t drink, take self-defence classes and carry around a taser – a rapists will still rape someone. Women shouldn’t change their behaviour, rapists should change theirs. Period.

  • […] is one way of challenging statements or comments that are published, and one of our supporters did just that. The Times were dismissive and arrogant in their response, thus confirming the need for some sort […]