Dear Chrissie Hynde,

I am so sorry you were raped by those criminal men. No matter what you were wearing, no matter why you went to the fictitious party, you did not deserve to be raped. I hope that, some day, somehow, you find healing.

Now that’s done, I have to take exception to your comments, which were victim blaming in extremis.

You 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. You know, if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him.”

Being modestly dressed means nothing. Being lairy also means nothing. I have been modestly dressed and not been raped, I have been as lairy as it is humanly possible to be, dressed in almost nothing and being provocative and not been raped. That is because on those occasions I wasn’t in the company of a rapist.

In fact, the first time I was raped, I was modestly dressed and with a trusted family friend. Does this mean that I should tell women not to dress modestly and not to accept lifts from trusted friends? No, of course it doesn’t, so what about your situation gives you the right to give women such poor advice?

Rape is always the fault of the rapist. Always. There are no exceptions to this simple rule. Criminals, and make no mistake, rapists are criminals, choose crime. Rape isn’t a crime of necessity, it’s not a parent feeding their starving child or a person getting much needed medication for a loved one, it’s a crime of violence. A crime of control. A hate crime.

You went on to say:

If you’re wearing something that says ‘Come and f*** me’, you’d better be good on your feet … I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial am I?”

This view that men can’t stop themselves raping women who are in some way asking for it sets a ridiculously low bar for men. It tells them that they can’t be expected to control their animal instincts. It tells men that they are incapable of behaving like human beings, and that society will excuse them for raping women because women deserve it.

I think men are better than that. I think they are more than capable of controlling themselves. I think they are able to call out rape myths for what they are. I think they are capable of empathy and know when women haven’t consented to what they’re doing, I think they are then able to stop doing whatever it is they are doing without sulking.

We have to stop peddling rape myths like these. They do a huge disservice to the vast majority of men who aren’t violent criminals. They do an even greater disservice to those women who have, through no fault of their own, become the victims of violent criminals. They are magical thinking, designed to betray society into ‘othering’ victims of the crime of rape by making assumptions about those victim’s levels of blame for the crime perpetrated against them and thereby keep themselves safe from harm. It sets up a narrative whereby society looks on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ victims of rape, and treats them accordingly. 

‘Good’ victims dressed demurely, fought fiercely, were sober, were dragged into a dark alley, didn’t know their attackers, were virgins and a raft of other ‘nice’ women things. ‘Bad’ victims were raped by someone they’d been flirting with, dressed provocatively, acting provocatively, had slept around or even had slept with a single person, were drunk or had taken drugs, the list of what women do to ‘get themselves raped’ seems endless.

You are wrong, Chrissie, I understand and empathise with your reasoning, we all try and find explanations for the awful things that have been done to us, but you are wrong.

To put it simply, there should be nothing a woman can do that leads us to assume that rape is a reasonable result of that behaviour