Rape-splaining: 10 Examples of Victim Blaming


TRIGGER WARNING: discussions of rape, abusive and offensive language.

The tragic case in December of 2012 of a 12-year-old girl raped at gunpoint by three teenage boys in Chicago sparked outrage and horror. This month, after Cook County prosecutors announced the boys will face charges as adults, many in the public have spoken out in support of the victim—but social media is unfortunately also rife with victim blaming and slut shaming.

This is “rape-splaining”—attempting to explain away cases of rape and assault. Rape-splaining is an all-too-common phenomenon that perpetuates a rape culture that excuses sexual misconduct.

Here’s a list of the top 10 examples of rape-splaining, as exemplified by comments made on blogs, social media sites and other forums. When you hear one of these excuses, don’t let it just pass: speak out.

1. The victim was asking for it.


2. Men get these biological urges to rape, they just can’t help themselves.


3. The victim might have made it up.


4. The victim is ruining the life of the rapist; the rapist had so many prospects.


5. The victim should not have been in that situation/known that person/lived in that neighborhood/walked down that street/gone to that  bar, etc., etc.


6. People of certain races/ages/classes/backgrounds are just more prone to violent behavior.


7.  The victim didn’t say no.


8. In cases of underage perpetrators: The rapist is only a child him/herself.


9. The victim should have known what he/she was getting him/herself into.


10. The victim’s parents should have taught him/her warning signs.


Photo from Flickr user ctrouper under license from Creative Commons 2.0



  1. Pam Foley says:

    This term, ‘rape-splaining’, deserves to be exposed to a wider audience. Discussion on this topic is sorely needed. Once again, MS leads the way!

  2. Dawn MxcInnes says:

    Comment 1. Rape occurs when someone forces someone else to have sex when they do not choose to .How can there be any consent to that. The only defense for a rape charge is to prove the person agreed to have sex . Her/his clothes do not speak for her/him , nor does her/his race , her/his social background or anything but her/mouth mouth. If she drank alcohol they gave her that is yet another crime against a
    Comment 2. This one kills me. We are supposed ,and argued , to be slaves to our hormones etc. I consider the comment to be a terrible insult to hundreds of males that I know. The guy who made that comment should disabuse himself of his delusion that his reaction is in anyway normal. He is a deviant male. One could go on but it’s too depressing but I will say those YOUNG MEN are old enough to know right from wrong and need to be taught that their pleasure is sick and certainly not worth ruining another human beings life. They are not the centre of the universe.

    • Exactly. This hormones bullshit is a cheap excuse. I am a 17 year old male myself. I see tons of attractive girls, but I do what most young men don’t do and that’s CONTROL my urges.

  3. The real issue with Steubenville is that we’re not raising our boys to understand what counts as rape, sexual assault, or battery. Of course they’re going to behave like this. We’re showing them in nearly every way possible that a woman’s sexuality is fair game. They were guilty, and the law should hold these boys accountable. But if you don’t like it, and you don’t like the idea of their “young lives” being “ruined”, then do your damn part and educate your sons on what rape is.

    • Agreed, anonya. I’m teaching my boys (13 and 11) what I call “explicit consent,” meaning that she must explicitly indicate that she wants sex and reserves the right to withdraw consent at any time regardless of circumstances. If the woman/girl is incapacitated in any way (drunk, passed out, wev) she is off limits.

      Do you folks think this covers all the bases?

      • Tracy Michelle says:

        I think you’re doing great with explaining this to your boys. I have two myself (ages 18 & 22) and taught them the same. I also taught them (which you may want to address with your boys, as well) that it’s also within their rights to withdraw consent at any time. Boys/men can and are raped. It happens more to women, but let’s also remember that it happens to males and teach our kids that if something like that happens to them – whether they are boys or girls – that they need to come forward and it’s not their fault in any way, shape or form.
        I’m glad you’re teaching your boys and wish more parents did the same.

  4. Maybe it’s just me.. but it kind of blows my mind that anyone should ever have to be TAUGHT that you should not have sex or attempt to have sex with someone that is sleeping or not consious…. I would think this would be one of those obvious things…..
    I went to a party years ago and a girl passed out on a couch. Some guy said he wanted to “get with that tonight”
    I said “umm..she’s passed out”
    He said “oh, it’s not a big deal”
    I think my brain almost exploded at that moment.. Not a big deal???????!
    I kept an eye on her the rest of the night so no one touched her.
    What is wrong with the males in this world that they have to be TAUGHT not to rape????
    I guess it just blows my mind that this is even confusing for some people in the first place…. *sigh*

  5. Prudence says:

    1) She could have been a loose drunk slut, but it’s still rape.
    2) Other people would have done the same thing in that situation? Sure, okay, but it’s still rape.
    3) If you’re drunk at a party, you’re impaired and hey, guess what, it’s still rape.
    4) The boy’s futures are gone– cause they raped a girl, yes. Legit reason to lose a future.
    5) Was drunk and should have been aware of their surroundings? Yes, it’s always nice to know if there are rapists in the room, alas, that still doesn’t mean there was consent, and that means it was rape.
    6) Maybe they did all grow up in single parent houses, but there are tons of rapists who came from every other kind of home: adopted, happy family, two dads, abusive parents. Still rape.
    7) If she didn’t say yes, it’s rape. He doesn’t have to read her mind, he shouldn’t touch her until she gives consent, and without it, guess what– it’s rape.
    8) They were apparently old enough to put their dick somewhere it didn’t belong, so they’re old enough to face the consequences. The emotional trauma for her doesn’t change if they’re 16 or 60, and hey, did I mention that they raped her?
    9) Going into someone’s home doesn’t give them a right to your body. Sure, she could have not gone and therefore wouldn’t have been raped, but she did go and hey– they raped her. They took liberties that were not theirs to take, and now they’re being punished. She shouldn’t have to ‘learn’ anything because she walked into a house, they should learn to keep their hands to their own fucking selves.
    10) Parents should definitely teach their children important lessons. But they still raped her, and that was a choice they made, not one their parent’s made.

    • Sohi Sotari says:

      I love this comment so much ! So true and deep !

    • This is the best comment I’ve ever seen on one of these stories. Exactly how many ways do we have to get that point across… It’s more than “no means no.” It’s “anything other than an explicit yes is no.”

    • I’m a playwright and I’d like to use this COMMENT in my documentary theatre play based on victim blaming re rape which is currently in development. Please respond.

    • NONONONONO. #8 is just NO.

      I’m sorry, but if we’re gonna call a 16 year old female rape victim a child, then a 16 year old male rapist is also a child. You don’t get to pick and choose.

      • Nononono.. she as 12. Though if she was 16 and “old enough to know better” it’s still rape and still not the victims fault.

        • I may be missing how #8 is blaming the victim. It seems to be saying that minors should be tried as minors, and get punishment, but also help to not do anything like this ever again.

          If it were me talking, though, I would put the fact that they should be punished a bit more explicitly, and I wouldn’t call “helping them not to do anything like this ever again” helping them “make something of their lives”. The “making something of their lives” part does bring to mind #4.

    • Prudence said it the best. Thank you Prudence!

  6. Elizabeth M. says:

    And now, sad to say, we can add the comments of tennis great Serena Williams to the list of examples of victim blaming. In talking to Rolling Stone (http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/serena-williams-the-great-one-20130618?page=4) about the Steubenville rape case, Serena said: “Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously, I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.” How in the world is being raped “lucky”?! And whether she’s a virgin or not is completely irrelevant. I’m horrified by Serena’s comments.

  7. The girl may be a victin, but she is still partially responsible. Just like when you leave your car with the keys attached and it gets stolen.
    At least half of those blog comments were legitimate.
    They weren’t blaming the girl for being a victim, but for being careless.
    I will teach my son not to rape and my daughter not to be raped.

    • There is no instance in which the victim is to blame. To do so would not only validate the rapist, but also enable future behavior. This would lead to an increase in sexual violence as a whole. I find it disturbing that you place responsibility on the victim; especially considering how this practice has lead to some chilling results. Victim blaming can also lead to less people reporting rapes as well. Victims feel that brushing the rape under the rug is preferable to the censure they would get from others. There is one last thing I would like to ask, how exactly will you ‘teach’ your daughter not to be raped? You can’t. There is nothing to be taught.

    • The problem is that car theft involves an object whereas rape involves my physical body, over which I am supposed to have agency and feel control. We add a psychological cost to the victim when we start talking about what they could’ve/should’ve done, while it’s easier for victims of property crime to remove themselves emotionally from the situation of the crime committed against them. So it is not just out of fighting rape culture, but also out of simple compassion that we catch ourselves and make sure to hold rapists, and not victims, accountable.
      Because, let’s face it, even when women do everything in their power to avoid rape, they still get raped. One in six women face an attempted or completed rape within their lifetime. That’s an awful lot of women. I’m willing to bet most of them did everything they could to not get raped.

  8. Not to compare rape to car theft, but rather to analogize one “risk” with another: when I had my car stolen, I blamed the thief, and rightfully so. But when I got my car back, all I could think about was what I could have done differently. Despite my anger, I treated the whole ordeal pragmatically, and decided to take personal responsibility. I didn’t blame myself, it just motivated me to take action and be more conscious of my belongings. I got a car alarm and always kept my laptop in the trunk. Obviously, there is still a chance it could get stolen. I could fly my car to the moon and there would still be a 0.00001% chance a thief would fly to the moon and steal it. It’s not the random, uncontrollable events I’m worried about; personal responsibility is controlling what you can. A woman has the right to walk in a dark alley alone, but I, too, have the right to walk in a dark forest alone. If I get eaten by a wolf, my last thought might be of the great risk I took. In the perfect world, I shouldn’t have to worry about such dangers, but to change the behavior of every single wolf would be a monumental task akin to changing the weather. It could be done, but not in our lifetime. I am a risk management professional, and I see taking personal action to secure oneself as a superior and empowering objective, and accepting that threats always exist in ALL aspects of life is realistic. Is there a flaw in my reasoning?

    • The flaw in your reasoning is that you’re in a defensive stance. That’s what victim-blaming is; it’s a person’s attempt to defend themselves from the pain of knowing that people are evil enough to rape each other. The flaw in your reasoning is that is that when you say “not in our lifetime” you’re implying that since the can’t or won’t end with your generation, or so you believe, there’s no point in even trying to get to a point where no one has to fear being raped. The flaw in your reasoning is that by continuing to emphasize that people should learn to be less trusting, rather than that people should learn to be less awful, you’re not acknowledging that there’s danger in the world, you’re facilitating that danger. You’re giving the wolves permission by showing them your fear and increasing their power by spreading that fear to others. You want some real reason, some pure logic? Just because the world is unfair and dangerous as it is doesn’t mean anyone should ever stop trying to make it fair and safe. You know what would make me feel personally secure and empowered? If everyone banded together and said “Fuck human nature. Fuck the way things are. We are humans. We decide what human nature is. We know how strong peer pressure can be. Let’s use it to make humans better, instead of much, much worse.” You’re risk management style is to treat symptoms of risk instead of coming up with an actual solution.

    • Because this is a burden we place unduly on women. Everyone needs to take care that their car not be stolen. Everyone takes care that their house not be broken into. Everyone takes precaution not to be a victim of identity theft.
      Asking women to ‘be more careful’ puts responsibility unduly on half the population to do more than their counterparts to prevent the crimes against them.

      When guys are raped, people don’t ask them what they were wearing. They don’t ask why they went to the person’s house who raped them. They don’t ask them why they were nice to that guy who raped them and ‘led him on.’
      When guys are raped, they get sympathy, unless they’re gay or transgendered (and therefore associated by the patriarchy with femininity and womanhood), at which point the victim blaming comes right out.

  9. Then I suggest you not go outside because there is a risk of being murdered….. What a stupid thing to say. No one is not saying to be careful – there are dangers everywhere (whether right or wrong) but no one – absolutely no one should be blaming the rape victim I mean come on. Rapists have something wrong with their brains (who else continues to have a boner whilst a girl is crying/unconscious/scared to death) which leads me to believe that if a person goes around to their friends house/on their way home/or anywhere for that matter and a mentally unstable person murders them then your saying its the murder victims fault for not being cautious!? What an idiot!

  10. Emaline Taylor says:

    This honestly makes me want to vomit. No body asks to be raped. I could care less if someone walks down the street butt naked, if they didn’t consent than its rape. Yeah sometimes people can be a little unaware of their situation but that doesn’t mean they wanted to be raped. I personally know people that were raped and they already blamed themselves even though they were not to blame. If you think Victim Blaming is wrong then you are an ignorant idiot.

  11. The fact that people are still blaming the victim is repulsive. This is why our society is so messed up, because we are always looking for ways to excuse our behavior. If a person decides to get drunk, that’s the choice they made, but that does not give any one the right to abuse that person. No matter the situation no one, absolutely no one should be put in the position of feeling guilty because they were assaulted. We really need to think about the values and morals we are teaching our kids, because some people are just plain ignorant. Males as well as Females, should be thought to respect others no matter what the situation is. Really think about it, we all have moms, sisters, aunts, cousins, brothers, dads, that believe it or not could be raped; so tell me something are we going to blame them for getting raped? are we going to tell our sister that because she wore shorts she deserved to get raped? are we going to tell our brother that because he was alone in the gym showers he deserved to be raped? are we going to have the ball to tell our mom that she should’ve been more careful walking back home from work, that way she wouldn’t have been raped? I don’t think so!!! I know that there’s people out there that cry wolf when it comes to rape, and people have been punished unfairly due to that, but don’t come and tell me that just because, she was sleeping, or got drunk, or that because she went to that house alone she deserved to be raped. No one and I will never get tried of saying this, SHOULD GO THROUGH THIS, it is something traumatic, and the fact that these victims have to deal with ignorant comments, coming from people who are so stupid to blame the victim, is not fair at all. Next time someone wants to blame a victim, think again because something like this can happen to any one, even if you are the purest of them all, you might get raped, and i’m pretty sure that if it were to happen to you, you wouldn’t like people pointing fingers and telling you that you deserved it because it was your fault for having a vagina.

  12. It’s hard to find educated people for this topic, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about!


  13. I have been raped when I was just 6 years by my cousin of 25 years. Nobody knows this story because I was and I am always ashamed about this story. I’m afraid of having sex again because it’s remember me all these days he did that to me. I’m so scared

  14. Dear Nana says. It’s not your fault! I blame myself too. Take back your self, take back your life! What happened does NOT define you. You deserve to have your own feelings and emotions. What you feel is shame. Shame that you should have done something to stop it. You did not know any better, you could not have stood up to yourself, you were too young to understand. Please do not blame yourself. Would you ever do what IT has done? Would you? NO! Because you know its wrong… stop blaming yourself and realize that there are sick people out there (maybe mentally ill), but you know what?! What happened to you does NOT define you. Go on with your bad self and show yourself that you care about you. Go on and have feelings for someone. If they are not patient then ditch them. You deserve better! You do not have to please anyone. It’s not easy but realize this, you are worth it! Much love to you! Hope you find the strength to overcome what has happened to you in your growing years. You CAN do it!

  15. MilkBag Ceo says:

    Like the guy said above….The fact any human male has to be taught not to rape is a problem in and of itself. Though I’d be remiss to say it shouldn’t be. Growing up I had girls that where friends in and out of my house, house parties, 10 guys and like 2 girls in one house all alone for hours. Yet not once was anyone raped. In fact it never even came up. All the girls at the time had no need to worry or even have the thought in their head. Though most of my friends all had the same idea, these girls that we are friends with, if any guy ever tried that shit we would all beat the living fuck out of them. Peer pressure is a control method, if used right, peers would control these situations. The fact that 3 separate boys all raped her is saying that somewhere their peers have said it is OK. My Father never once told me, hey son don’t rape girls. Any guys in school that had that mentality never made friends, never got invited to parties, never had peers who cared about them. Sounds hostile but it fucking worked. I knew it was wrong and I knew, if I ever let someone rape someone my Father would disown me, my friends would never talk to me, and my life would fall apart. Parents and kids all are to blame, but, NEVER the victim. Also if you’re a person who has been raped, I’ll gladly become your friend and talk to over internet or email or anything. You are not to blame and if everyone in your life failed you, by slut shaming, victim blaming bullshit, I will not fail you. I will have your back. I will believe you. Hell I love you just for being human and not a monster. Also those 3 boys deserve every last bit of prison for there life. You took her life, she will never know what her life would be had she not been raped. Now she has a totally different life, because you thought your self a man. Rapist deserve only one life, prison or death. No ifs ands or butts.

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