Myth or Fact: “She Asked for It”

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Myth: If a woman is raped, she probably asked for it in some way.

Fact: Only the perpetrator is responsible for the decision to violate someone. 

This myth restricts women’s behavior and places blame on survivors rather than perpetrators. Women and those who identify as female are often expected to dress or behave in certain ways and to follow strict but contradictory rules to protect themselves from harm. This myth perpetuates the double standard that reinforces an expectation of male aggressiveness and the perceived responsibility of women to avoid any behavior that could be seen as provocative.

This myth also helps distance non-survivors from survivors. By insisting that a survivor played some role, others can alleviate their own fear of assault by assuming that certain behaviors will protect them from a similar circumstance. For example, if you believe women are partially responsible for being assaulted if they were drinking, then you can take comfort in the idea that you are not at risk if you don’t drink too much. Or if you believe women are partially responsible for being assaulted if they were dressed provocatively, then you can take comfort in the idea that you are not at risk if you dress more modestly.

But offenders select their victims not based on the way they dress, but rather on their perceived vulnerability. Rapists target people who seem vulnerable to assault and who seem less likely to report them.

Asking potential victims to be responsible for protecting themselves from victimization is a form of oppression. Only perpetrators are responsible for their behavior, and they should be held accountable. Even if you believe that women should adhere to certain behavioral standards – how they dress, how much they drink, who they spend time with, etc. – the consequences of not meeting these standards should never be rape. No one “asks” to be raped, and no one deserves to be raped. There is never an excuse, an invitation, or a justification for sexual violence. Bottom line.

myth 3

This post is part of a series on Myths & Facts about Sexual Violence:

Myth #1: “He Didn’t Mean To”
Myth #2: “She Lied”
Myth #3: “She Asked For It”
– Myth #4: “It Wasn’t Really Rape”


Consent Under the Influence?

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Alcohol and sex are commonly tied to one another. We see it intermingled in headlines, advertisements, and rape myths. Media saturates seduction with booze everywhere you turn, but why is drunk sex considered a socially acceptable thing?

rape-time-to-stopI want to start an honest conversation about drinking and sex. I don’t want to say that drunken sex is always wrong and, most importantly, I do not want to victim blame. There is absolutely no question that affirmative consent should always be clear, constant, and coherent. If someone is intoxicated, they cannot give legal consent to a number of things, not just sex. After all, even in Vegas, you have to be sober to get married. Entering into any contractual agreement while incapacitated is usually voidable in the eyes of the law. This is because drinking is proven to decrease cognitive ability and awareness of risk. If you proposition someone while they are drunk, you are entering into dangerous territory, because this person may not be capable of assessing the situation.

Unfortunately, this is not common sense for many people. Many assume that if a person is not completely passed out, then they are accountable for their actions. In reality, the scientific evidence shows a wide spectrum of behaviors when someone is incapacitated. The appearance of being “blackout drunk” can be very different from one person to the next. Therefore, that “drunken escapade” may actually be rape. Read more


The Red Zone

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red zoneThe first six to ten weeks of the semester are referred to as the “red zone” for sexual assault, meaning that a large percentage of sexual assault on college campuses happens during this time. Understanding the inherent risks of your new environment can dramatically reduce the potential for dangerous situations to arise. It is important to be educated about what sexual assault is and the best ways to prevent harm to yourself or those around you.

Know the facts about consent and interpersonal violence. Consent is a verbal, sober, continuous, and positive yes. If they have to be convinced, it is not consent. If they are not sober, it is not consent. Consent is freely given and freely withdrawn. This means that consent one time or for one act does not mean consent for every time or for every act.

Be an advocate for others. If you are not seeking ways to be a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. Do your best to watch out for potentially dangerous situations and intervene when possible, keeping in mind that there are resources for help available at all hours of the day and night.

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Affirmative Consent Legislation Proposed in NC

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Get excited y’all because NORTH CAROLINA IS CONSIDERING AFFIRMATIVE CONSENT LEGISLATION!!! Currently, California is the only state that has passed an affirmative consent law, but, as you can see on this map from affirmativeconsent.com, 14 more states – including North Carolina – are currently considering similar laws. At the end of last month, North Carolina State Senators Floyd McKissick (D; Durham, Granville) and Jeff Tarte (R; Mecklenburg) submitted an Affirmative Consent Standards Bill to the N.C. State Legislature, which is very similar to the one in California.

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One Line: Consent

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Despite what Robin Thicke has to say, we know that there’s only one line: consent.

Consent is the voluntary, informed, mutual, honest, and verbal agreement exchanged amongst individuals. The only way to know if another individual has given consent is if they explicitly say so. Consent cannot be given if coercion, manipulation, threats, intimidation, pressure, or alcohol or drugs have been involved. Asking for and obtaining consent shows that you have respect for both yourself and your partner.

Speaking of consent, come out to Local 506 on Saturday, November 22, for ONE LINE: Consent Dance Party. We’ll celebrate consent at a fun dance party with Lady DJs Fifi Hi-Hi, Playplay, and Queen Plz.

And in other consent-themed news, check out this awesome campaign from UNC students, Sex Equality Consent. They asked students what consent means and why it matters. Here are a few answers! Check out their Facebook page for more.

Consent, Liz

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Happy Consensual Halloween!

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Costumes Are Not ConsentCarved pumpkins line walkways, candy corn is everywhere, and fake cobwebs are hanging from my neighbor’s porch: it’s almost Halloween. We’ve already posted about the difficulty of finding a women’s costume that isn’t restricted to a “Sexy [Noun].” Hopefully you’ve settled on a costume that makes you feel great, whether that means channeling Diana Ross or Darth Vader. Halloween is a holiday when you can try out a different identity, play around with your appearance, and have fun being someone else. However, it’s important to remember that all the rules on consent and sexual harassment don’t change just because it’s October 31.

Slut-shaming and victim-blaming are two tactics often used to excuse people who commit sexual assaults, especially when alcohol is involved. Myths about rape perpetuate the idea that sexual assault survivors are responsible for their own assaults because they were dressed in a “sexy” way, because they drank alcohol, or because they didn’t fight back. This victim-blaming can be exacerbated on a night where women are not only encouraged but expected to be scantily clad. In a society in which one in four college women are raped, a “Sexy Nurse” costume should not be used as an excuse for sexual assault.

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“Mommy, What’s Rape?”

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"What's Rape?" How to Answer This Tough QuestionWhether your child hears the word rape in the news, reads it on the internet, or sees it on one of our materials, there are age-appropriate ways to talk to your child when he or she asks about it.

However, even before this comes up in conversation, there are a few things parents can put into practice with children and teens that will help set the stage for this discussion.

1. We want kids to know that their private parts are for them and off limits to others, but we also want them to know what they are and be comfortable talking about them. Using the anatomically correct terms of vagina, vulva, and penis can promote positive body image, self-confidence, and parent-child communication. Conversely, using euphemisms to describe private parts can promote the ideas of shame, discomfort, and embarrassment about bodies. And in the event of inappropriate touch, being able to use anatomically correct words helps the child be specific when reporting to parents or police.
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There Is Only One Line: Consent

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After spending some time abroad, I returned home to find that Robin Thicke’s summer hit Blurred Lines was a widespread phenomenon, gracing the radio waves of top 40 stations across the nation. With a catchy tune, nice beat, and memorable lines, more than once I caught myself singing along without quite considering the words I was saying – until law students from Auckland University remade the song into a feminist anthem (warning: adult content).

Adelaide Dunn, Olivia Lubbock, and Zoe Ellwood tag-team to unveil the damage inflicted by the overtly misogynistic lines normalizing sexual advances despite “blurred lines” of consent, with self-assured men chanting, “I know you want it, but you’re a good girl.”

You Know You Want It

As reported in the New Zealand Herald article “Law Students Blur the Lines in Online Hit,” Thicke has responded to allegations of misogyny by noting “the song was about breaking taboos.” Yet Dunn, Lubbock, and Ellwood retorted that the “attitude of the whole thing came across as being quite arrogant, especially with the issue of consent.”

Project Unbreakable (from whom we’ve re-printed pictures in this blog post) is an organization founded to help sexual assault survivors in their healing process by photographing themselves with quotes taken from their abusers in order to break the silence and shame surrounding their victimization. Some of these photographs were recently published in conjunction with the University of Minnesota’s The Society Pages in an article titled “From the Mouths of Rapists: The Lyrics of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines.” The parallels to Thicke’s lyrics are unmistakable. Echoing the lyrics, survivors were pictured with phrases such as, “I know you want it,” “Good Girl,” “We both know you don’t really mean it when you say no,” and “Thank you for making me feel like a Man.”

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Living in a Rape Culture: A Primer

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Being introduced to the concept of rape culture changed everything. It changed my understanding of television, music, jokes, laws, and even language. When asked to write a primer for rape culture, I assumed it would be a simple task. Surely, I had been using the term for years, since taking a Women’s Studies 101 course at UNC. It took the better part of a week, however, to even start this overwhelming blog post.

It feels difficult to define something as pervasive as rape culture, but essentially it is a set of attitudes and practices that normalize, tolerate, and even condone sexual violence. We hear messages supporting rape culture everywhere, from television and music to casual comments and jokes from friends. These everyday messages have a deep-rooted impact on society.

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