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Emily Yoffe, Like Most Misinformed People, Won’t Get It. Maybe Ever.

Emily Yoffe is frustrated by the backlash against her well-intentioned but ill-considered original Slate piece from last week, but apparently emboldened by the support she’s received from other well intentioned and ill-informed supporters.

Yoffe, like many others, sees a reduction in drinking (on college campuses especially) as the key to reducing sexual assaults against women. Indeed, the answer seems startlingly clear to Ms. Yoffe, as if she’s sounding an alarm that those around her infuriatingly cannot hear:

Women! Stop drinking! You’re making yourselves vulnerable!

It seems so obvious. A woman (or a man for that matter) who decides, for whatever reckless, juvenile, or ill-advised reasons, to drink to excess, is making herself/himself vulnerable in a cruel and unpredictable world. That’s the seemingly clear-as-glass conclusion at which Yoffe and many like her have arrived.

My perspective is that of a former special victims prosecutor, so I suppose I must ask myself: Haven’t I seen countless cases in which objectively “bad” victim behavior (like heavy drinking) “led to victims being raped?”

Here’s the naked truth: I have worked with victims- male and female- who were raped during or after behavior that might have been judged unwise. But I have never seen a victim who was raped because of that behavior. I’ve only seen victims who were raped for the one, single, incontrovertible reason that all victims are raped:

Because someone chose to rape them. 

This is where Yoffe gets lost. Granted, it’s a subtle distinction and one I also had to absorb over time. It was a brilliant and irreverent PhD psychologist (Nikki Vallerie) who finally clued me in to a simple and profound truth: There is no vulnerability without danger.

A woman can skip through a big city park at midnight in a G-string made of sewn-together $100 bills. She will not be vulnerable- in other words, she won’t be at risk for the slightest victimization of any kind- even a criticism of her clothing choice- unless someone in her environment means to victimize her.

Let that sink in. No one is at risk, regardless of what they do or don’t do, if no one around them means them harm.

But the Yoffe’s of the world believe they’ve figured it all out and claim victory when it comes to policing bad or reckless behavior, believing the key to preventing most- if not all- sexual violence means the prevention of such behavior because of the “dangerous world” we all inhabit.

Indeed, the world is a dangerous place. But here are two critical areas where Yoffe and her ilk fail in their analysis and admonitions.

1. Women (and men) can be (and are) sexually victimized in the most “innocent” of circumstances, i.e., a day-time study group, a church function, an alcohol-free event or movie date. So warnings against “late night, drunken date rape” only protect victims from one type of rape- and could actually expose them to further harm as they’ll be unprepared for any other scenario other than what they’ve been warned against.

2. Rapists thrive on and celebrate- whether or not they do so consciously- the very rules of “wise and protective behavior” that Yoffe and her compatriots have so fervently and self-righteously promulgated.

The reasons are simple, and devastating.

First, as I alluded to before, a laundry list of things not to do will simply clear the path for the rapist who will rape after church, on a simple, alcohol-free DVD movie date, after a study session, or pretty much whenever he can isolate a victim who believes she (or he) has protected her/himself in every imaginable way from harm.

Second, the man who chooses to a rape a person who has “broken” a finger-wagging protective rule that society soberly approves of, knows full well that he’ll most likely never be accused of that crime.

Why? Because, thanks to the self-satisfying proclamations of the Yoffes of the world, his victim broke a rule and “got herself raped.”

Therefore, and as he well knows, she might not even be believed if she does report. But she’ll definitely be blamed even if she is. That will most likely keep her quiet. And so it goes.

Want to stop rape? Focus on rapists.



  1. beauxlieux says:

    One issue in this debate is what question are we trying to answer: how to reduce rape on campus or what to tell young woman going off to college. Yoffe was conflating the two questions. Yoffe’s critics are answering the first question. I agree with the analysis of the first question, but how would you answer the second question? What advice would you give a woman going off to college?

  2. Very good question- thank you. The advice I would give would be extremely simple- be aware of your circumstances at all times, develop friendships so that you can look out for your friends (and vice-versa) and trust pretty much no one where your personal security is concerned.

    Life is risk, and there is no way to minimize it to zero. We could all protect ourselves from rape by being permanently cloistered, but that’s hardly a solution. Calculated risks are a part of life; we just have to make them as wisely as we can. I would talk to a loved one (and I have) about going into a college, military or other young-adult environment about the dangers of binge-drinking. But I would not phrase it terms of “don’t do this, and you’ll be safe” or “don’t do this or else.” There are many reasons that heavy drinking should be avoided- increased vulnerability to those who would commit crime is just one of them. I am not against frank discussions about the dangers of drinking to excess and I am all for all us taking some measure of responsibility for our personal safety. But what has to stop is the constant pressure on potential victims to somehow ‘solve the problem’ by acting differently. It’s a subtle distinction- yes, we should care for ourselves and for each other. But no, we should not blame ourselves or each other when/if we slip in terms of “smart behavior” and someone chooses to harm us. I hope this makes sense- again, great question and thanks for stopping by.

  3. k fischer says:


    There will always be the animals who will have their way no matter how much someone has to drink. It does not matter how sober you are, if you are smaller than they are, then they will attempt to force themselves upon you when they decide to.

    However, advising someone to not binge drink, so that they have all their faculties to escape, call for help, fight them off, dial 911 seems like a good idea. I think you can do that without blaming them if they are raped after binge drinking. Whether it moves forward the cause to eradicate rape is a moot point. You will never do that. Rapists are born every day.

    But, I think that a large part of cases that I see in the young adult environs like college or the military involve a person who states they were too drunk to consent. I don’t see the harm in advising others not to binge drink particularly in that environment. That doesn’t mean that if someone binge drinks, then they are at fault if someone rapes them while they are passed out. But, there are many situations where mistakes of fact are made.

    But, I also have seen a few mistakes of fact with regards to alcohol and ability to consent. Take for instance, the Ohio University student who was having oral sex performed on her. She later complained that she was sexually assaulted. I’ve seen the video. She did not appear to be sexually assaulted. But, lets say she did not remember anything from that night. How is that guy supposed to know that because she looked like she was enjoying it. She was pushing his head into her vagina. Her eyes were open. She was smiling. She appeared to be alert. She was thrusting her hips. He was surrounded by a group of people none of whom mentioned anything remotely close to sexual assault, the way the drunk boy did in the Steubenville football rape video. Nowithstanding being surrounded by a bunch of people and alert, she didn’t cry out. Yet, she claims that she was assaulted.

    Perhaps, she truly does not remember. If so, can you really blame the guy here? (notwithstanding that this was a disgusting public sex act) I would imagine that had both of those individuals not drank, there likely would be no assault allegation.

    And suppose she remembers everything that occurred, she engaged in consensual oral sodomy with this man in public, then he is actually a victim of a false allegation. So, should we not blame him for engaging in acts that are fertile ground for a false allegation? I think not. My advice to him as his attorney would be, “If a woman lets you go down on her in public, then she is probably the psycho kind of chick who will falsely accuse you of rape. Stay away from women like that.”

    Apply a victim blaming scenario to a father who drives around with his infant son in the front seat of his Mini-Cooper, no car seat, no nothing. If he’s at a stop light and gets rear-ended by a mother driving a GMC Yukon because she is texting her friend and the infant goes through the windshield and dies, does the Dad get to say, “Well, it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t have my infant strapped into a car seat. She should not have been texting while driving!” Would it be inappropriate to tell other parents to strap their toddlers in a car seat before they drives with his son out of fear that we will be “victim-blaming?”

    I see the utility in that advice, just as I see the utility in advising young adults not to binge drink. Predators prey on the weakest of the herd, and sexual predators know that alcohol creates their next prey. While it won’t stop a jump out of the bushes or break into your house rapist, it will stop the alcohol facilitated rapist.

  4. Vic says:

    Roger, the problem I see here is that Emily wasn’t blaming victims of rape for drinking heavily. Emily was offering up some pretty sound advice to young ladies off to college who want to avoid putting themselves in harms way. Hers was no more victim blaming than the thousands of self defense experts who tell woman to walk tall as muggers dont want to mug someone who presents the ability to defend themselves.

    What’s even worse is, your article among many, seem to contradict the notion that college campus are the most dangerous place on earth for young woman. If, and I say strongly, IF, the fact that one in five woman are subjected to some kind of sexual assault on a college campus, and this threat is a real threat, than for sure, Emily’s advice is spot on. To change the intention of Emily’s advice to suit the confirmation bias of those who dont want to blame victims, is to do no service to either Emily or the victims.

    If I had a daughter I would most assuredly try to get her to understand that while she cannot control the intentions of really bad people, OR, more realistically, will NEVER be able to get really bad people to understand that they shouldnt be really bad, she CAN control how vulnerable she makes herself to those really bad people.

    If the activists are correct, which it appears you think they are, then Emily’s advice to young ladies will save them from becoming the one in five statistic that rape activists are so sure are accurate. To suggest that we need to focus on the rapist, and not educate our daughters about the risks of being around said rapists, and in a drunken MORE vulnerable state, doesn’t seem like an opinion that is grounded in the harsh realities that the activists actually want us to believe are true.

    Activists want us to believe that white men of wealth, frat boys, are systematically, and brutally, raping young girls all over the country. If that is indeed true, you think offering the advice to not get drunk around them is bad advice???

    Sorry, if these malicious sociopaths exist in the numbers suggested by the activists, then Emily’s advice is not denial, or apologetic, of the rape epidemic, it is precisely what you and the others should be advising as well.

    You say focus on the rapist. OK, let’s say this makes any sense, as it pertains to Emilys article. For argument sake, there is an army of young rapists in the world who will stop at nothing to take what they want from young girls. Until we defeat this army of madmen, should young girls be encouraged to make themselves more vulnerable, and less safe, by hanging around them, drinking to the point of passing out?

    Good advice is advice that is reflective of reality, not fantasy. If your reality is correct, than you should be supporting Emily, not condemning her for looking out for the safety of our daughters.

  5. Your conflicted view of this current “hot-button” radical, third-wave feminist exaggeration is NOT helpful. “Rape” is a very violent undertaking. It requires hate, brutality and physical restraint of the victim. It leaves very obvious reminders on the victims person and psyche which can be observed by even the uninformed. This is NOT what these nutty campus radicals are getting their underwear in a knot over because if it was, it would be a police matter! What these wackos are solely interested in is the POWER to intimidate the innocent men who would no more rape a young woman than kill their mothers. You must remember that radical feminism was created, as the antithesis of Christianity, by dysfunctional, non-Christian women in the late 1960s and early 1970s and it was later controlled by lesbians, who hate white, Christian men for what they stand for and wouldn’t stand for, more than their forebearers. These young, “rape crisis” campus females are being used by the hateful feminists today, just as the baby boomers were used 50 years ago (sexual revolution, abortion, career vs. family, etc.) to unjustifiably malign Christian young men, and maintain the political power base they have deceitfully acquired.

  6. You are BEYOND ignorant, not only about today’s women’s irresponsible sexual behavior, but about men’s too! There has NEVER been a time in history when young, beautiful, desirable women, or for that matter, any woman, did not need the protection of their fathers against both their OWN sexual desires (read Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Jane Austin) and/or that of their young men! NOTHING has changed during the last 10,000 years except radical, second-wave feminism’s despicable determination that neither now require chaperoning. There in lies the PCBS by which young people are condemned to become victims of the sexual liberation begun by the frustrated, difficult, miserable non-Christian female founders of the Sexual Revolution during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Until the parameters of young people’s ardor are again wrapped within the sheltering protection of the tenets of Christian behavior and chaperoned by the adults who love those young people, this sad, life-altering scenario of sexual irresponsibility will continued unchecked. It is NOT the young people’s fault! It is the adults who have failed to keep them safe!!!!

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