News & Politics

Kasich Right on Sexual Assault: Encouraging Prudence Is Not 'Blaming the Victim'

Phoebe Price at the Amber Rose Slut Walk on Pershing Square in Los Angeles, California on October 3, 2015. Credit: David Edwards/MediaPunch/IPX

John Kasich got himself in hot water over the weekend for comments made at a town hall meeting held at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. He was asked by a first-year student about sexual assault on campus. His answer included advice about avoiding high-risk environments. From CNN:

“… Don’t go to parties where there’s a lot of alcohol. OK? Don’t do that,” Kasich said as the audience applauded.

Kasich’s answer to her question about how to keep campuses safe went directly to what happens after an assault, but other than avoiding parties with alcohol, he did not address how campuses can and should reduce sexual assault in the first place.

The Democratic National Committee suggested Kasich’s comments were “blaming victims of sexual and domestic violence.”

Was it? The advice Kasich offered could have come from any father addressing his daughter. A father offering such advice would not do so to blame her in the event of an assault, but to avoid the occurrence in the first place.

To the extent that people ever truly “blame the victim,” they present the victim’s behavior as an excuse for the assailant’s behavior. The attacker couldn’t help himself, the argument might go, he was enticed. Certainly, blaming the victim for the assault in that way is wrong.

That said, there is this thing called prudence, and it’s kind of a big deal. If you walk down a dark alley alone and unarmed at 3 a.m., you increase your risk of victimization. We all know that. That does not justify an assault under those circumstances. But it should factor into our decision regarding whether to enter that alley in the first place. That’s what Kasich spoke to, and it’s sound advice.

The “don’t blame the victim” crowd has done more harm than good, pretending that any acknowledgement of prudence rationalizes assault. The effort is taken to its most ridiculous and irresponsible extreme by so-called “slut walking.” They preach that women hold no responsibility to make prudent choices, a position which places women at greater risk. Sure, a woman should be able to wear what she wants, drink what she likes, and go wherever she pleases without being assaulted. She should be able to. But that ideal does not magically mitigate the risk. We should also be able to leave our doors unlocked all the time. That doesn’t make it smart to do so.