Elected officials should know better than to blame the victim of a sex crime.
While it’s a common tactic of abusers, it’s something no one expected of Republican Florida state Rep. Kathleen Passidomo.
During debate over a bill that would legislate a dress code for Florida students, Passidomo blamed the alleged gang raping of an 11-year-old in Cleveland, Texas on the way the young girl was dressed.
“There was an article about an 11 year old girl who was gangraped in Texas by 18 young men because she was dressed like a 21-year-old prostitute,” Passidomo declared.
“And her parents let her attend school like that. And I think it’s incumbent upon us to create some areas where students can be safe in school and show up in proper attire so what happened in Texas doesn’t happen to our students,” she added.
Broward/Palm Beach New Times‘ Brandon Thorp was shocked.
“Whoa!” he wrote. “As a genus, politicians aren’t the brightest wicks in the candelabra, but they usually possess sufficient self-awareness to shield the public from the horrorshows of their minds. Blaming the rape of an 11-year-old girl on her parents’ sense of fashion — and to do so out loud — smacks of rank amateurism.”
At a civc meeting in Cleveland following the crime, local residents there had also placed blame on the girl.
“Many who attended the meeting said they supported the group of men and boys who have been charged in the case,” The Associated Press reported. “Supporters didn’t claim that the men and boys did not have sex with the young girl; instead they blamed the girl for the way she dressed or claimed she must have lied about her age — accusations that have drawn strong responses from those who note an 11-year-old cannot consent to sex and that it doesn’t matter how she was dressed.”
Even a New York Times article on the alleged rape was widely criticized for lack of balance.
“[Residents] said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s,” the Times reported.
“These elements, creating an impression of concern for the perpetrators and an impression of a provocative victim, led many readers to interpret the subtext of the story to be: she had it coming,” Times public editor Arthur Brisbane noted several days later.
“We live in a society that continues to blame and shame victims of sexual assault,” Kelly Boros, communications manager of the Houston Area Women’s Center, told El Gato Media Network.
“It is disheartening but not surprising to see rape myths perpetuated in the news; sometimes subtly and sometimes blatantly.”