Personal responsibility is a two way street
Along with many members of the AU community, I was stunned and shocked by Alex Knepper’s column on Monday. That shock continued long into the week as Knepper-esque comments peppered the comments section on Thursday’s articles New sexual assault policies considered and Rape survivor shares her personal stories. The comments, perhaps more so than Knepper’s article, were just awful. For example, in a direct response to the rape survivor’s testimony, one reader left the following comment:
“You brought this on yourself. I do not feel sorry for you one bit. Hopefully you learned something from your mistake. But as evidenced by it happening to you again, I guess you didn’t. It will probably happen to you again and again until you learn some self-responsibility.”
Sidenote: The Eagle is obviously learning its lesson because this comment was deleted/censored (and shortly reposted, but that’s beside the point).
After reading Knepper’s article and comments such as the one above, and getting over the anger, shock, and disappointment that followed, I’ve come to the following conclusion: it’s not necessarily what they’re saying, but rather how they’re saying it.
It is absolutely appropriate to call for personal responsibility; individuals should always be responsible and cautious, especially when consuming or surrounded by those who are consuming alcohol. However, there is a way to call for personal responsibility without appearing to be, or in fact being, a rape apologist. Similarly, the ‘personal responsibility’ argument is a two way street—something I think both ‘sides’ in this column debate fail to recognize.
A call for personal responsibility does not mean a call for survivors to take sole responsibility for their assault; assault is never the survivor’s fault. However, just as you should not have to take responsibility for your assault if you were walking alone in a dark alley, or if you were wearing provocative clothing, or if you have a promiscuous past, you should not have to take responsibility or be blamed for your own assault if you were intoxicated—the survivor can and, in some cases, should take responsibility for these actions or behaviors, but in the end they did not assault themselves, the perpetrator did. This individual must take responsibility as well.
Drunk or sober, you are responsible for what you DO not what is DONE TO you; you only have control over your actions, not the actions of others. So call for personal responsibility, please, but do not imply that if a survivor was intoxicated that their assault occurred is a direct result of their actions.
Posted in The F Word