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Sun Times Editorial Victim Blames Rape Survivor

A recent editorial by Chicago Sun-Times journalist Mary Mitchell has shown that, despite our best efforts, stereotypes continue to exist about survivors of sexual violence.

Ms. Mitchell writes about a recent case in which a woman who was hired as a sex worker was  held at gunpoint and raped. The perpetrator is being held and charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault. In Mitchell’s article she states that “It’s tough to see this unidentified prostitute as a victim. And because this incident is being charged as a criminal sexual assault — when it’s actually more like theft of services — it minimizes the act of rape.” What minimizes the act of rape is not cases like these, but the fact that we continue to live in a rape culture where the Madonna/whore complex is alive and well. The belief that there are individuals who are victims and those who are not, or that some are deemed “un-rapeable”, creates additional barriers for survivors of sexual violence. Unlike Mitchell, we at Mujeres Latinas en Acción know that there is no such thing as a “perfect victim”. We know that nobody deserves to be raped, no matter your background or your occupation. 

One of the things I have learned in the 18 years that I have worked in the sexual violence field is that oftentimes, victim blaming is as traumatizing as the rape itself. This article is a glaring example of the ways in which society places the onus on the rape victim, instead of the perpetrator. In order to stop attacks on victims and put an end to rape culture we need to shift the way we talk about sexual violence. The conversation needs to shift its focus onto the behavior of the perpetrator, the lack of consent, use of weapon, and the need for survivor justice. Articles such as these further fuel the idea that there are people that do not deserve the support and outrage that any survivor of a crime deserves.

Lastly, Ms. Mitchell ends her article with the opinion that “For law enforcement to put what happened to a Backpage.com prostitute on a par with rape victims like Schuster is an insult.” What I believe is an insult is that Ms. Mitchell chooses to take it upon herself to decide who is a victim and who is not.

-Maritza Reyes, Sexual Assault Program Director, Mujeres Latinas en Accion

Update: The Chicago Sun Times has published responses to the editorial. To add your voice to the conversation, check out the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation's Action Alert for ways to get involved. 

September 14, 2015 | 3:52 PM