‘If You Play With Fire You Get Burnt’ Feeds Rape Victim Mentality, Times May Change But Headspace May Not [Opinion]

There has been a great deal of discussion in recent years about whether a victim of rape should be blamed for the rape itself. This discussion gained further fire over the last few days as Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders came out and suggested that victims of rape are potentially at fault for what happens to them.

“If I’m walking around in my underwear and I’m drunk? Who else’s fault can it be?” Hynde said. “If I’m walking around and I’m very modestly dressed and I’m keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I’d say that’s his fault. But if I’m being very lairy and putting it about and being provocative, then you are enticing someone who’s already unhinged — don’t do that. Come on! That’s just common sense.”

At 21, the rocker was raped by members of a motorcycle gang who had promised to take her to a party. Instead, she was forced to perform sexual acts. This revelation has led to a range of responses to Hynde’s admission of being a rape victim.

The societal view on rape and victims of rape seems to have changed over time. In the 21st century, the view that the victim would be at fault for the crime has been virtually negated, as it should be; the rape victim does not go into any situation thinking, “If I dress like this, I am going to invite someone to rape me.” People — men and women alike — will dress as they see fit, regardless of the pressures to conform to what families and societies as a whole want. Hynde is now 63, which puts the crime that befell her some 42 years in the past. Beliefs about what constituted or even invited rape were quite different 40-years ago, as they were 20-years ago.

I was young and incredibly naive in my 20s. It was the early 90s, I was in the early stages of dating a rather muscular man, and, as he later told me, he “had needs.” There was no weapon involved, but I was incredibly intimidated by his size and did not think it would do me any good to fight back. No one would believe what had happened, I had convinced myself, and maybe I should have been happy that he wanted me. It was also a very quiet incident — no way was it rape and I could not have been a victim.

The thing was, I had been raped. It was just easier at that time to convince myself a range of other things other than I had been the victim of a sexual crime. While I do not know Chrissie Hynde at all, it is possible that she was dealing with a similar mindset when she went through her rape and its aftermath. We are all shaped by the incidents that occur in our pasts. Hynde is no exception to this, and what happened to her both made her a victim and helped shape who she ultimately became, like it or not.

It takes a lot of reframing, patience, and hard work in general to try and recover from being a rape victim. If Hynde was a victim of societal expectations when it came to admissions of rape, as many may have been when she was in her 20s, it should be no surprise that she believes firmly that victims can potentially feed into their own trauma. Lucy Hastings, head of the charity Victim Support, notes,”Victims of sexual violence should never feel or be made to feel that they were responsible for the appalling crime they suffered, regardless of circumstances or factors which may have made them particularly vulnerable.”

Victim mentality or not, there is something to be said for going through a trauma and having to cope with prevailing societal norms at the time. Dealing with rape and its aftermath is no different; a victim has to come to terms with what he or she feels in spite of whether or not society will put the blame on the victim, whether in part or in full.

[Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images]