Are you an unnamed conspirator?

Cmdr. Hillary Darby

Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Officer

According to a CNN Poll, 38 percent of men and 37 percent of women said that a raped woman is partly to blame if she dresses provocatively. Recognized subject-matter expert on sexual assault Anne Munch states the prevalent cultural attitudes and biases form what is known as the “unnamed conspirator,” the internal voice that judges sexual assault differently than any other crime.

Think for a moment. Have you ever heard (or said) “He/she should never had that much to drink? No wonder they were assaulted at the party. I can’t believe he/she was wearing that! They were asking for all of that attention; what did you expect would happen?”

In reality, the only person that can truly prevent a sexual assault is the offender. Wearing tight clothes, drinking alcohol, staying out late— none of these “cause” a sexual assault to occur. Did the alcohol “cause” the offender to perpetrate a sexual assault? No, it was a CHOICE. What clothes did the offender wear that created the desire to perpetrate a crime? How ridiculous does this sound—but we discuss the victim’s selection of clothing as if it wields some strange exotic power. The offender made a CHOICE to take advantage of someone weaker than they were. If the victim had been sick, drugged, or exhausted would the outcome have been different? Probably not.

There is a time and a place to discuss situational awareness and precautions that reduce one’s risk of becoming a victim of ANY crime— but they are not “causal factors” of the crime. We should not shy away from risk management because the majority of our service members are good people that sometimes make bad, irrevocable judgment calls that change the course of many lives.

As service members, we are raised in a culture of accountability and responsibility. It is a good thing to hold ourselves to a higher standard—the American public certainly does.

Sexual assault can only be prevented when an offender chooses differently. In the meantime, “Step Up, and Step In” to do the right thing. Remember, none of us are bystanders!

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Category: News