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Rapists Are Blaming Their Underage Victims — and Judges Are Taking Them Seriously

Apparently misogyny runs so deep in our society, it is even used against adolescent girls in the form of the so-called Lolita defense.

In the U.K., a 13-year-old girl and in Louisiana, 14-year-old Mary Doe (pseudonym) were both raped by adult men, and in both cases, the girls were blamed for "seducing" their attackers.

Underhanded tactics of defense lawyers, right? Wrong. The state's own lawyer for the prosecution of U.K. assailant Neil Wilson stated that "The girl was predatory and sexually experienced," a reference to the fact that she'd been sexually abused before she was raped by the 41-year-old-Wilson, a man found with images of child abuse and bestiality on his computer. The judge, Nigel Peters, nevertheless agreed with the prosecution, stating: "The girl was predatory, and egging you on," before handing Wilson a suspended sentence.

In the case of Mary Doe, now 20, lawyers stated that as a 14-year-old she "consented to rape" because her prison guard Angelo Vickers "could not have engaged in sexual relations within the walls of the detention center with (the victim) without cooperation from her." Clearly, she had a choice: it's not as though Vickers, as a guard, had power over her or control over her safety. An official from the detention center argued in favor of Vickers, stating that the girls at the detention center are "not little Miss Muffin". Never mind that the legal age of consent in Louisiana is 17, and that sexual abuse was apparently rampant at the center, where most girls felt they would never be protected from abuse if it were reported.

Similar cases of victim-blaming abound: Take the 2012 Steubenville case wherein a group of high school football players gang raped a teenage girl, mocked her in video texts, and then received the condolences of the media for their lost futures, or the Canadian case where a woman raped in a Manitoba bar was found blameworthy (according to the judge) for "wearing heels" and thus inviting the attack. Obviously she wanted it otherwise why leave the house in anything but sweatpants and sneakers, right?

What is it that causes men (and some women) to engage in blaming female victims of all ages for their own sexual assaults? And why is it so pervasive as to reach 11-year-olds?

Obviously the labeling of women as evil seductresses is older than the biblical Eve's transgression (or Pandora's box), but it seems that after over 2000 years, the idea still hasn't aged a day. The modernized version of this idea manifests itself in a whole litany of victim-blaming explanations for rape such as: they were stupid, slutty, or asking for it. The omnipresence of this type of misogyny has been the object of activism and greater media attention and is termed rape culture: the proliferation of the idea, through multiple channels of media, that sexual aggression by men is not just acceptable, but desirable, that no means yes, and that generally if a woman (or girl) is out in the world competing with men, flirting with men, and dressing provocatively, she's fair game and looking for sex.

The extension of this (barely) latent misogyny is victim-blaming in rape cases and, more extremely, the Lolita defense; blaming young girls for inviting their own sexual abuse. These appear a grotesque symptom and a reinforcement of this much larger societal problem, namely, that women are still viewed as the other. Women worldwide remain dehumanized as the objects of male desire, rather than as people — equally competent, competitive, valuable and human whether in sweatpants or stilettos.

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