Mom Shares Victim-Blaming Sexual Assault Question Assigned To Her Teen

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
Image via Facebook/Charity Willard Eigenberger

A room full of high schoolers were asked for ways a victim of sexual assault could’ve prevented the attack

A mom shared an infuriating question posed to her daughter’s class after viewing a video on sexual assault. It’s victim-blaming at its worst — and aimed at a group of impressionable teens.

Charity Willard Eigenberger posted a photo of an assignment given to her daughter Haven, a high school freshman, after viewing a video in class on sexual assault. It reads, “What could have Melissa done differently to have avoided her sexual assault (provide at least 4 examples)?”

Wow. So not only are the students being asked to pick apart the actions of a sexual assault victim — they’re expected to come up with four entire things Melissa could’ve done to avoid being attacked? Unreal. Imagining the possible replies from these students makes my stomach churn, if I’m being honest.

It’s a well-known fact that women under-report rape and sexual assault, partly due to the pervasive culture of victim-blaming in our society. Suggesting a sexual assault victim should’ve somehow altered their behavior to avoid being raped or forcibly touched is repulsive — but all too common. The attacker is the one who needs to change their behavior of course, not the victim. Posing this question to a group of young teens is not only dangerous — it’s horribly insensitive and cruel to anyone in the class who’s already experienced being the victim of sexual assault.

Because let’s make one thing crystal clear — a sexual assault or rape is never the fault of the victim. Ever. No matter what clothes Melissa was wearing or what friends she was with, no matter what badly-lit route home she walked, no matter how many drinks she had, what happened to her is not her fault. The conversation should instead be, “what could Melissa’s attacker have done differently to have avoided sexually assaulting her in the first place?” Or, “what could society as a whole do to ensure that sexual assault stops being such a frequent occurrence?”

Because frequent is the key word. Far too frequent. One in five women will be raped at some point in their life, according to the National Sexual Violence Research Center. NSRC also reports that rape is the most under-reported crime with an estimated 63 percent of sexual assaults not being called in to police. It’s not at all a leap to say that victim-blaming and rape culture contribute to the feeling a victim gets that they should stay quiet about it. Because possibly even worse than not being believed, is being blamed.

While Eigenberger reports in a later post that she while she’s “disappointed” the assignment was given, she still loves and supports her daughter’s school — she just wants answers as to why this assignment was given in the first place.

Frankly, so do we.

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