The Victim Blame Game

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Can a 13-year old really decide to have consentual sex?

On the heels of Serena Williams’ insensitive comments blaming the sexual assault victim in the Steubenville, OH rape case comes another public attack of victims… this time from a defense attorney in Madison County, IN. A 17-year old male plead guilty this week to molesting three teenage girls, one of whom was 13-years old at the time and for whom doctors plan to induce labor today to deliver her molester’s child.

One can argue both sides of the probation penalty for the molester, but to add insult to injury, the defense attorney’s comments to the Indianapolis Star have outraged many, including Toby Stark, executive director for Chaucie’s Place Child Advocacy Center in Carmel, IN. According to the Indianapolis Star, Defense Attorney Zaki Ali “argued during the hearing that the victims — although younger than the age of consent under Indiana law — had consented to sex with his client.”

Ali added, ”This case should be a lesson for all children: The decisions you make as teens and preteens can affect you for the rest of your life.”

I think we can all agree that with actions come consequences, some that can last a lifetime. However, to lump these sexual abuse victims in with a now convicted child molester stands as yet another example of society placing blame on the shoulders of victims. This time, blame was assigned to one 13- and two 12-year old victims, whom I would argue (and all U.S. state, Canadian and Central American laws support) are not yet of an age to make an informed, consentual decision about having sex.

I welcome Toby as my first guest blogger. She addresses this issue by sharing an open letter to Mr. Ali about his remarks in this very sad case:

Dear Zaki Ali (attorney for convicted 17 year-old child molester in Elwood, IN):

Did I read correctly? Did I actually read that you were blaming the 12 and 13 year old children for their sexual molestation at the hands of a 17 year old male? Did I really read your words as, “This case should be a lesson for all children: The decisions you make as teens and preteens can affect you for the rest of your life.” AND YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THE CHILD VICTIMS, NOT THE PERPETRATOR?!?!

Mr. Ali, I dare you to look these children in the eye and say that; to look the hundreds of children who were sexually victimized by Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky in the eye and say that; every child we read about almost daily who is sexually abused by a teacher, coach, family friend…look them in the eye and say that.

Child sexual abuse is never, ever the victim’s fault. Never. Child sexual abuse, by definition, is the coercion of a child to engage in sexual activity. The World Health Organization reminds us that, “Child sexual abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society.”

Blaming the victim is totally and completely unacceptable, and society…our society…our community should not accept it. Everyone is entitled to a fair trial, but to blame the victim?!? Oh no, Mr. Ali, we will not accept that as a defense. One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by their 18th birthday…these children will not accept that as a defense. Ninety percent of these children are abused by someone they know, love and trust…their protectors will not accept this as a defense.

Please take the time to educate yourself on this epidemic, Mr. Ali, and never, ever blame the victim again.

Sincerely,
Toby Stark, Executive Director, Chaucie’s Place

Each of us can help stop this epidemic by making a collective, unified stand to support victims of sexual assault and abuse rather than using language that makes them feel like they did something wrong. Blame should instead by placed squarely at the feet of sexual predators and offenders… right where it belongs.

ABOUT CHAUCIE’S PLACE:
Chaucie’s Place is a nonprofit Child Advocacy Center, located in Carmel, IN that focuses on child sexual abuse prevention. To learn how you can help, visit Chaucie’s Place at chauciesplace.org.

ABOUT GINGER:
An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger’s life mission is to raise awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse. To learn more, see gingerkadlec.com.

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