When I read that Chrissie Hynde had been sexually assaulted aged 21 and took ‘full responsibility’for it, I was deeply saddened, but not surprised.
In a Sunday Times interview, Chrissie argued: “if you play with fire, you get burnt,” which she followed up with, “If I’m walking around in my underwear and I’m drunk? Who else’s fault can it be?”
Chrissie, 63, tried to justify her meaning by saying being ‘lairy and ‘provocative’ would be like, ‘enticing someone who’s already unhinged.’
For me, those were harsh words. I was raped in my late teens, and I know what it’s like to constantly question and second guess yourself and your experiences. How could that have happened to me? Did it really happen? Surely I could have avoided it somehow? Was it really rape, when I knew the person? Now I know that it was, and I know I couldn’t have avoided it. But it’s taken me over a decade to stop blaming myself for what happened.
“You know, if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him,”Chrissie also added. For this she’s been accused of victim blaming but while I don’t necessarily think this is the case, my feelings about rape are clear – rape is only ever the fault of the rapist, regardless of where the victim is or what they’re wearing. I despair that this point still has to be made.
My attack didn’t happen down a dark alleyway, but in somebody’s spare room in broad daylight. I don’t think he really considered what he was doing – he just believed, in the moment, that his desires were more important than mine. I doubt that he was thinking about raping me before it happened, because he wasn’t thinking about me at all.
Chrissy’s also highlighting the idea that rapists are strangers, that their victims can ‘run away from’. Before, I believed the same, that their bad intentions would be written all over their face. I thought I was in the most danger when I was alone at night, or on a badly lit street. But according to statistics from charity Rape Crisis, in 90% of rape cases the offence is committed by someone the victim knows.
But at the end of the day, those who think Chrissie is victim blaming are missing the point. She’s self-blaming, something which victims do all the time –and it contributes to the reason why most never report their assault.
If you’ve been through what I have, or something similar, please don’t listen to Hynde. As women, we’re constantly being told that it’s our responsibility to stay safe and protect ourselves from danger. There’s a myth that it’s possible to avoid attack by not going to particular places or behaving a certain way, and Hynde echoes this message. But we have to stop talking about how not to get raped, and start asking questions about why rape happens if anything is going to change.
If you’ve been affected by the issues in this article, visit rapecrisis.org.uk