Our view: Victim-blaming is not taking responsibility

KS Editors

Saturday night was Kent Halloween, the night when students from Kent State and other northeast Ohio universities flock to downtown Kent dressed in costume, or lack thereof. Halloween is the time for fun fall festivities, as well as creative costumes and disguises – and it’s college, so both are bound to happen.

Halloween should not, however, be a time for sexism and sexual assaults to permeate our culture in obvious ways. It’s understandable that costumes take on suggestive themes. People’s inhibitions tend to be more lenient. But those are not excuses for sexual assaults to occur or for outright or subtle sexism to exist. Those are not excuses for someone to take advantage of another person, regardless of gender. 

Kent Halloween goers knew ahead of time that police officers would show up in force to monitor the Halloween brouhaha. Outside the physical presence of the officers, the popular Chief David Oliver of the Brimfield Police Department gave advice to partygoers on the department’s Facebook page, including: 

  • “If you are dressed like a princess, act like one. Belle would NEVER be smooching with The Incredible Hulk, in a police holding cell.”
  • Ladies, be careful of your alcohol intake and those around you. We see lots of victims who cannot defend themselves in these situations. Men, be gentlemen and do not try to smooch those who are passed out or too intoxicated to make a sound decision.”

This is certainly great advice, which hints that responsibility rests not just with the girls but also with the guys. But unfortunately, this also carries subtle hints of sexism.

Sexual assault should not be focused on the clothes the victim was wearing at the time. Sexual assault should not be focused on the gender of the perpetrator or the victim. Sexual assault should be focused on the real issue: taking moral and physical responsibility of our actions, as perpetrators, victims and especially bystanders. We feel the conversation related to sexism and sexual assaults needs to change in our culture. Victim blaming doesn’t solve anything. Just because an individual is of a certain gender should not automatically place them in the role of victim. And just because individuals choose to dress or act a certain way on a certain day — or any day, for that matter — is not an excuse to take advantage of them.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the The Kent Stater editorial board, whose names are listed above.