In a recent interview in The Sunday Times to promote her new memoir, Chrissie Hynde discussed her experiences with rape. She was gang raped by a biker gang at the age of 21, who had promised to take her to a party but instead abused her in an abandoned house. While her experience is obviously horrific, her statements on how she felt about her own assault were quite controversial. She claimed that it’s simply “what they [motorcycle gangs] do” and went on to say that it’s the rape victim/survivor’s fault if they get raped.
“If I’m walking around and I’m very modestly dressed and I’m keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I’d say that’s his fault. But if I’m being very lairy and putting it about and being provocative, then you are enticing someone who’s already unhinged— don’t do that. Come on! That’s just common sense.”
As someone who grew up listening to The Pretenders and a rape survivor, I found her statement to be extremely upsetting. Her views on rape are quite surprising and unexpected from someone who holds so much power as a woman in the music industry. She is one of the first female rock stars and has always been outspoken about not letting sexism stop her from achieving success. Hearing someone like Chrissie Hynde, who is a very prominent female figure in the music industry, blame rape victims and survivors is not only disturbing and angering, but also heartbreaking. Even if it has been more than forty years since she was violently raped, she still blames herself for it. This goes to show how much rape culture is ingrained in our society. While I am offended by her views on rape, I also recognize what she’s saying as a rape survivor.
Many survivors of sexual assault and rape tend to have the same mentality as Hynde’s. Rape isn’t limited to women and anyone can experience it. However, women are constantly told that it is our fault if we are raped. We are judged for it, rather than reminded that it is not our fault. After experiencing sexual assault, I was asked what I was wearing and if I was sure it simply wasn’t something I regretted. As disturbing as it is to hear her say she feels guilty for her own rape, I can understand why she would feel that way. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had been repeatedly told that if she hadn’t been alone or if she was dressed modestly, she wouldn’t have experienced rape.
It doesn’t matter if you’re walking around buck naked or if you’re covered from head to toe. That will not prevent rape. It doesn’t matter if the rape was violent or not, nor if it was someone the victim knew or a stranger. It is never a rape victim’s fault. While it may be seen as progress in our society to see so many people outraged by her statements, the idea that women deserve rape and are at fault for it is still present. We need to do more to make sure that no survivors ever feel like it is their fault.
Lucy Hastings, the director of the charity Victim Support, said it best in reply to Chrissie Hynde’s comments, “Victims of sexual violence should never feel or be made to feel that they were responsible for the appalling crime they suffered – regardless of circumstances or factors which may have made them particularly vulnerable.”