Twitter user @Steenfox—real name Christine Fox—was still reeling Wednesday evening from an earlier online debate with a follower who insisted that women's revealing attire could be a contributing factor to sexual assault.
"I was trying to make him understand that it absolutely does not make a difference, and that the responsibility does not lie on women," she told The Root.
So she asked her twitter followers to report what they'd been wearing, if they'd been sexually assaulted:
The response was overwhelming. Within two hours, Fox says, she had received several hundred replies, pouring in faster than she could retweet them. ...
@steenfox I was wearing a Grumpy Carebear Tshirt, with jean shorts...it was a male relative...(okay to RT)
@steenfox Assaulted twice. At age 15: jean capris, loose red baby tee, flip flops. At age 18: jeans, university t-shirt, sneakers. Can RT.
@steenfox I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, baggy jeans and a cap advertising the Beatles. You can RT
@steenfox I was wearing a brown Garanimals-type shirt w/green frogs on it, a brown fringe jacket, Wranglers and B. Brown loafers. 6. OKRT
@steenfox The first time? I was 8. I had on a sweater and jeans. The 2nd, work clothes: dress pants and a button up blouse
@steenfox 1st of multiple times by the same family member was at 7...wearing pajamas. 2nd time I was 12...sweatpants and tee...youth pastor
@steenfox 10 wearing pjs molested by a "family friend"....16 wearing jeans, black hoody, and nikes
@steenfox Terry bicolor short set. It was my favorite. I had matching jellies. There were two of them. The oldest was 12. I was 6. RT away.
@steenfox 8yrs old at after school tutoring sessions so in school uniform - below-the-knee short sleeved dress. You can RT
"I really hope that this opens people's minds that what you are wearing has absolutely nothing to do with whether you are assaulted," said Fox.
Note that those are just a small fraction of the tweets she received, even in the first two hours. As Kay Steiger at TPM puts it:
This serves to simultaneously destroy two myths about rape, first that it is rare and that you probably don't know anyone who has suffered assault -- too many of the tweets related clothing that they were wearing as children and that the perpetrators were relatives or family friends. The second is that what a victim is wearing matters at all. This is one of the hardest things for many who haven't been victimized to understand about rape: it isn't about sex; it's about power.___
This isn't the same thing, but it's not too far off, either:
A woman on YouTube must withstand the kinds of threats and vile, degrading personal attacks that a man just doesn't face. It must be frightening, but also incredibly depressing. Heck, I get depressed just reading the comments Rebecca Watson gets (and those aren't the worst of what she has to put up with, not by a long shot).
As a man, I need to recognize what women go through. I've never in my entire life worried about the possibility of being raped. I'm a big guy, and here in Lincoln, I've felt free to go anywhere at any time of the day or night, without ever worrying about my personal safety.
Sure, men are victims of crime, too, but I don't have to worry that all my doors are locked and my windows won't open far enough to let an intruder get in - not while I'm home, certainly. (When I bought this house, from a single woman, the windows had all been blocked from opening more than a few inches. Hey, that was just a prudent safety measure for her.)
It makes me angry that women do have to worry about these things. But it makes me angrier that women who are victims have to face accusations that they were at fault. That's ridiculous! It's not just that what you're wearing has nothing to do with rape. It's even more than that. The victim is never at fault here! It's the rapist who's entirely to blame.
I don't care if you walk down the street naked, at midnight. It's not your fault if you're attacked. I don't care if you had too much to drink. I've had too much to drink on occasion, and I've never had to worry about sexual assault. A woman shouldn't have to go through life worrying not just about strangers, but even about casual friends and acquaintances.
When men commit crimes, it's their fault. Don't get me wrong, it's not my fault, because I don't do things like that. But it is my fault if I fail to recognized the problems women face, just because they're women.