In response to the story about the Howard University student who was denied a rape kit after being allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted at a house party, some troll decided that this particular rape doesn’t matter because the victim was wearing stiletto heels on the night of her assault:

You know god-damned well a woman today on a weekend night looks and acts like a prostitute. (tramp stamp/tongue ring/stiletto heels . . . This article is about a woman who wasn’t even sure if she was raped. She thinks she was, but she doesn’t know. The Doctor, who has important things to do, made the decision to turn this woman away. That is his prerogative. I don’t blame him. Imagine if you will, a young woman coming into your clinic, drunk to the gills, stiletto heels, a pound of make-up, dressed like a prostitute, and expecting a rape kit. Too bad! . . . If she is shitfaced and wearing a slut uniform (tramp stamp/tongue ring/nipple piercing/one pound of make-up/stiletto heels) then whatever happens to her is her responsibility.

Well, there are a lot of problems with this statement, but let’s focus on one: The victim in this case was almost certainly not wearing stiletto heels that night. Depressingly, that’s a matter of public record now, because defense attorneys in the case found it relevant to ask what was on this woman’s feet. From a deposition taken of Hannah’s friend, Amanda, who was present at the party (and its aftermath):

Attorney: Do you remember what [Hannah] was wearing at the party?

Amanda: No. No, not at all.

Attorney: Do you remember if she was wearing high heels?

Amanda: It was probably one of the times—-I would say she was probably wearing boots.

This is the general script for rape apologists:

1. Isolate a detail about the rape victim—-it could be her appearance, her attire, her level of intoxication, her upbringing, her sexual history, or her presence at a particular party—-really, anything will do.

2. Decide that that particular detail designates her as a less-than-perfect rape victim.

3. Assert that this rape doesn’t matter because the victim was asking for it / wasn’t taking charge of her own safety / is lying / doesn’t deserve any of the limited amount of the sympathy we extend to “real” victims of rape.

This troll has reversed that script. First, decide that you don’t care about the rape. Then, assume that the rape victim must conform to one of the accepted cultural markers of an “imperfect” victim (short skirt / stiletto heels / sexually promiscuous / had been drinking / has a piercing / in a bad neighborhood / has a tattoo—-on the lower back! / wears make-up / and good luck if you’re transgender).

Thomas MacAulay Millar, commenting on the story, wrote:

What is clear from this thread and others is that there is a very real pro-rape lobby. They talk the language of disbelieving, but when push comes to shove . . . these trolls really do understand that women get raped when they are most vulnerable—-but they are in favor of it. Whether they are actually men who hate women, or are women who hate other women, we can’t know. There are a number of possible motives for these sentiments. But they’re not really in denial—-that’s a facade they drop when pressed. In fact, they’re just pro-rape. They think it ought to be open-season for predators on certain women in certain circumstances.

What this troll demonstrates is that those cultural markers—-the circumstances that make rape A-OK for rape apologists—-are arbitrary, and they can always be shifted to excuse more rapes.  Even if the rape victim is a 15-year-old girl raped again and again on her own school campus during the homecoming dance, there is always something apologists can use against her. And even if all women everywhere cover up, stay sober, don’t go to parties, always wear pants, remain un-pierced and un-inked, don’t wear makeup, always wear flats, never leave the house without a man, and stop living our lives freely, the rape apologists will find a new set of criteria that will make us responsible for our rapes anyway. The shifting of blame will continue as long as rape continues. It’s not that rape apologists despise women who were stiletto heels. It’s that they despise women. That’s what needs to change. Not our shoes.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery