Dear NYPD: shaming women does not prevent rape

I had to do a double take and read several times the first few paragraphs of this Wall Street Journal article. In an effort to combat a recent rash of sexual assaults and rapes in the South Slope area, some NYPD officers have taken it upon themselves to warm women that what they wear will make them an easy target for crime, according to the article.

Lauren, a South Slope resident, was walking home three blocks from the gym on Monday when she was stopped.

The 25-year-old, who did not want her last name to be used, was wearing shorts and a T-shirt when she claims a police officer asked if she would stop and talk to him. He also stopped two other women wearing dresses.

According to Lauren, the officer asked if they knew what was going on in the neighborhood. When they answered in the affirmative, he asked if they knew what the guy was looking for.

“He pointed at my outfit and said, ‘Don’t you think your shorts are a little short?'” she recalled. “He pointed at their dresses and said they were showing a lot of skin.”

He said that such clothing could make the suspect think he had “easy access,” said Lauren.

She said the officer explained that “you’re exactly the kind of girl this guy is targeting.”

Of course, the NYPD backed up its tactics by stating “officers are simply pointing out that as part of the pattern involving one or more men that the assailant(s) have targeted women wearing skirts.”

Oh, look. Women are still being blamed for sexual assault–not the actual perp and his sick mind.

It always seems like the fight against blaming and shaming women when it comes to sexual assault and rape takes one step forward and two steps back. While activists continue to make great strides in making rape a problem of both genders, there are still a vocal few who continue to partake in douche baggery, such as this NYPD officer.

I find it a bit troubling these officers would even think it’s acceptable to shift the focus from catching the assailant to what women are supposedly doing to draw attention to themselves by potential would-be rapists. Of course, rape culture allows these officers to believe that women are the only ones who can prevent sexual assault and rape.

Rape culture blames and shames women into believing they must have done something–anything–to bring the unfortunate incident of sexual assault and rape upon their person. Rape culture tricks women into believing that wearing so-called skimpy clothing, copious amounts of makeup, high heels and a fleeting personality will cue rapists into believing we are easy–and, of course, that we are begging for it.

Rape is the only crime in which the victim has to prove she did everything in her power to prevent and ward off rape. Would these officers be so quick to shame and blame child victims of incest? Would we tell children not to dress in a sexy manner so they won’t arouse the suspected neighborhood pedophile? If we wouldn’t dare lay blame at the feet of children, then why in the hell do we continue to shame and blame adult women for being raped?

Rape culture has indoctrinated people into believing that rapists choose the sluttiest looking women to take advantage of; not that rape is about control and exerting power and domination over a victim. These lackluster NYPD officers and their tactics of blaming potential and actual victims is nonetheless an easy way out of community policing. Instead of focusing their efforts with providing women with self-defense courses, tips on how to remain safe and sketches of potential assailants, these officers take the condescending, patronizing, daddy-will-take-care-of-you route and give lessons on how women should dress. In other words, these officers infantilizes women and reduces them to little girls who need to be disciplined by officers.

Shifting the focus on catching the would-be assailant onto women’s behaviors is nothing short of the continued policing of women’s bodies and actions by men and society. Despite women making monumental strides in many facets of society, men–as well as some women–still feel they have the authority to control and dictate how women should and shouldn’t present themselves when out in public.

The tactics employed by NYPD reinforce rape culture’s assertion that rapists aren’t the problem, but women, their bodies, their style of dress and their manners are the culprit behind why men rape, assault, abuse and kill women.