Did Chrissie Hynde Really Blame Rape Victims?

Let’s make one thing clear – rape is a disgusting thing. When it comes to sex, everyone has the right to say whether they want it or not, and if they say anything but yes, they also have the right to be heard and listened to. If consent is not expressly given, it should not happen.

Portrait of a surprised young man wearing eyeglasses

However, we will often hear in the media about victim blaming, where people basically say “if the victim hadn’t been in that place/dressed like that/been drunk, this wouldn’t have happened”, as though that somehow justifies what happened. They say that you should be more careful to make sure you aren’t the victim of rape, and statements like that spread like wildfire on social media, with little notes added to say how ridiculous those comments are.

The latest person to find themselves in the firing line for her comments on rape and responsibility is Chrissie Hynde, the Pretenders singer, who spoke about her time with an Ohio motorcycle gang in an interview with the Sunday Times and just who is to blame when rape happens. As you can imagine, the world has reacted in a big way, accusing her of victim blaming and shaming those out there who have been raped.

What is victim blaming?

Victim blaming and shaming comes in a variety of different forms. Someone will usually make a comment that makes out the incident would never have happened if the victim had behaved or dressed differently, and that they were really “asking for it” if they acted the way that they did.

For women, the biggest criticism they face is the way they dress. There is this ridiculous belief that dressing up nicely, putting on high heels, and wearing make-up makes you more likely to be raped. For some reason, women are made to feel ashamed for looking nice, as this is simply “asking for it” and “provoking” the rapist into doing what we don’t want them to do. It seems that we should all walk around in large robes to hide any hint of skin. It is even worse for men. There is a mentality that men can’t be raped, because apparently all men want sex. That isn’t the case, and when it does happen to men, they are made out to feel weak for not being able to stop it.

Another huge shaming that victims face is whether alcohol was involved. If the victim was drunk, they are said to have put themselves in a position of vulnerability, and so it is their own fault. If they didn’t want to be raped and wanted to be able to stop what was happening, then they wouldn’t drink. So not only are we supposed to completely cover our bodies, we are also supposed to never drink in our lives in case some scumbag decides they want to rape us.

Usually those who take to social media to shame victims are taken down a peg or two, as they are often told exactly why their thoughts on the matter are ridiculous. They are told that only “yes” means “yes” when it comes to sex, and that wearing a short skirt and being drunk isn’t an invitation to fuck them. Consent is definitely the word on everyone’s lips at the moment, and when someone seems to misunderstand that they face the weight of social media and the entire internet coming down on them hard.

What Chrissie Hynde said

Chrissie Hynde has come under fire recently for the comments she made in an interview with the Sunday Times, when she touched on the subject of rape. At first, she is simply speaking about her own experiences with an Ohio motorcycle gang, and what she says is pretty tough to read.

“Technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing and I take full responsibility. You can’t fuck about with people, especially people who wear “I Heart Rape” and “On Your Knees” badge.”

She goes on to say that she was naïve about her situation, and when pressed about if the gang actually took advantage of her vulnerable and naïve she was, she said that “if you play with fire you get burnt. It’s not any secret, is it?”

It must have taken a lot for her to open up about what happened to her, and to hear that she puts the blame entirely on herself is hard to read. However, her later comments in the interview are what have caused such an uproar on social media and in the newspapers, as she seems to be placing the blame onto victims.

Is it victim shaming?

In the interview she starts by saying that “you can’t paint yourself into a corner and then say whose brush is this? You have to take responsibility.” This could be thinking of her own experiences when she was with the motorcycle gang, but she goes on to explain that “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… If I’m walking around in my underwear and I’m drunk? Who else’s fault can it be?”

It goes into “she deserves it because of the way she is dressed” territory, as she says that dressing and being provocative is “enticing someone who’s already unhinged” and that it is “just common sense” not to do that.

“You know, if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him” gets a little too close to victim blaming for my liking. It seems that, if you don’t want to be raped, you need to stop drinking, stop wearing pretty clothes, and stop going anywhere in case you are raped by someone.

However, possibly the worst part is that she ends the statement by saying “I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial am I?” We think she might have realised now by the way her name has spread across social media and the news that, actually, it is a pretty controversial thing to say.

Why has she said it?

Okay, so it is pretty shocking to hear, but there are plenty of theories about why she has said this in the first place. For a start, in her experience she feels that she was responsible for what happened to her with the motorcycle gang, and that might be altering the way she feels about the situation.

However, Lucy Hastings, the director of the British charity Victim Support, says that victims “should not blame themselves or be blamed for failing to prevent an attack – often they will have been targeted by predatory offenders who are responsible for their actions” and that “it is critical that nothing deters victims of sexual violence from coming forward”.

So, while many are feeling frustrated that she has come out saying these things, there are some out there trying to understand it. Sarah Green, the director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, points out that “it is very common for victims to blame themselves because there is a deep victim blaming attitude in our society”, and that could be why Chrissie Hynde feels the way she does.

Journalist Hadley Freeman has said that “many people seem furious with Chrissie Hynde, and I get why, but I feel pity for her. Imagine blaming y/self for sthg so awful for so long.” So is it simply that her experiences have clouded her judgement, or does she genuinely believe that?

Victim blaming or being cautious?

As with anything like this, there are two sides to the argument. Many are feeling very angry, as they see Chrissie Hynde’s words as putting the blame entirely on the victim, but is that what she is doing or is she simply advising others to be more cautious?

There are plenty out there who feel that she is just trying to give people the best advice so that they don’t end up in the same situation she did. They are saying that she is simply hoping to make women more aware of the danger that they put themselves in and to make themselves less of a target.

They point out that victim blaming is something entirely different. They believe that victim blaming is saying that rape is never the fault of the rapist, and that the victim is always to blame, no matter what. If they weren’t so weak, dressed so seductively, so drunk, then it wouldn’t happen to them. Is this the case, or is Chrissie Hynde getting a little too close to the line between victim blaming and being practical?

What do you think about this? You can let us know what you think by leaving a comment in the box below or by joining the discussion on the forum. Has she simply been misunderstood, or has she taken things too far?

Lara Mills
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Lara Mills

Lara Mills is a writer who has four years of sex industry expertise behind her. Since she entered the adult industry, she has worked on the Escort Advertising forums, before moving into her current role three years ago.

Since then she has gained a fine reputation with her blogs on sex advice, sexual health and amusing news stories from around the globe. She is also a campaigner for the rights of sex workers from all over the world.

In her spare time, Lara keeps herself active by going running, and is something of a film buff. She also loves to go travelling.
Lara Mills
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One thought on “Did Chrissie Hynde Really Blame Rape Victims?”

  1. They are treating her like they treat sexy workers. She had become a double victim, because now not only is she a victim of rape, but now she is a victim, because she can’t possibly know what she is saying or live with the reality.

    She is simply saying that she put herself in a vulnerable situation and as a consequence she paid the price. Of course they shouldn’t have raped her and she didn’t ask for it, but she realises in retrospect that it may not have happened if she had not put herself in that position and she was certainly testing the boundaries if nothing else.

    She is actually giving sound advice, especially to those that are young and not yet streetwise. Play safe, don’t push the limits and stick with your friends. You can’t trust people you don’t know, so don’t give them an inch and protect yourself the best you can. There is a reason why young girls sneak their sexy clothes out the house and get changed in the loos. They know their parents wouldn’t approve and that is because their parents don’t want them getting into trouble.

    Would I walk home late at night on my own? No I wouldn’t and for the very same reason, regardless of what I was wearing.

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