A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Rape Culture, Slut-Shaming Killed Audrie, Rehtaeh, and Felicia

Yesterday, the arrests of three Northern California teens placed another young girl’s suicide firmly in the “Rape Culture Kills” column. Also yesterday, during a discussion about Rehtaeh Parsons, a friend made me aware of a story I hadn’t heard before. Suddenly my week is filled with three girls done to death by a culture that shamed and blamed them for their rapes. Each of them has a name and a story, and I want to do my part to make them known.

Audrie Pott

Audrie Pott

Audrie Pott, 15
Audrie hanged herself in 2012 after posting “worst day ever” on Facebook. She left family and friends without a clue as to why. Her family launched their own investigation and came to the conclusion that “there is no doubt in our minds that the victim, then only 15 years old, was savagely assaulted by her fellow high school students while she lay on a bed completely unconscious.” (Family Attorney Robert Allard)

Audrie’s family has established the Audrie Pott Foundation, whose mission is “to positively impact the lives of children and teens by providing Art and Music scholarships to Students in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

felicia

Felicia Garcia

Felicia Garcia, 15

Before she jumped in front of a subway train on October 24, 2012, Felicia Garcia tweeted, “I can’t, I’m done, I give up.” Witnesses say she asked about the train’s arrival time, and when it pulled in, she said, “Finally, it’s here.” Those were her last words.

Following a weekend party during which Felicia allegedly had sex with members of the high school football team, football players and other classmates harassed and bullied her, calling her names and knocking her books out of her arms in the school hallway. By Wednesday, she’d had all she could take. She ended her life at the same platform where a year previously, a classmate had done the same.

Retaeh Parsons

Retaeh Parsons

Rehtaeh Parsons, 17

Another Jane Doe, Rehtaeh Parsons was gang-raped at a friend’s home after drinking, and her rapists felt so confident their social circle would approve that they distributed photos of the event. They were right–Rehtaeh was the victim of a harassment campaign that only ended when she hanged herself in her family’s bathroom.

From CBC:

“She was never left alone. Her friends turned against her, people harassed her, boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking asking her to have sex with them since she had had sex with their friends. It just never stopped,” said [her mother].

I’m not really the praying type, on most days, but today I’m holding a prayer in my heart for these girls and asking myself this: What can we do to prevent more of these slut-shaming suicides? How can we create a safe place for these girls to come and talk to women who have been there? Because we simply must.

I’ll leave you with wise words from Sarah Sloan McLeod, the artist formerly known as Astrorice, who had this to say about slut-shaming when she was only 13:


Updates:

Rehtaeh Parsons Rape Case Solved By Anonymous in Less Than 2 Hours Despite “No Evidence” – Policymic

Justice for Rehtaeh: Demand an independent inquiry into the police investigation – Change.org


Related:

#SAAM Facts: Arm Yourself

A Brief History (the Bad Parts version)

Always Aware

I Am Jane Doe

Letter from Another Jane Doe

Bree’s Story


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.

32 responses

  1. Pingback: Things He Says: A Womanifesto for Thing She Says | Things He Says

  2. Pingback: The Shame Game | beckytamara

  3. The baby has been thrown out with the bath water. These are al tragic stories but as an old duffer I find thirteen year olds posting opinion pieces in which they claim that premarital sex with unlimited partners is somehow the new normal. When someone says something to the effect that women who “enjoy” or have “lots of” sex are treated poorly, it isn’t stating whether this is with one or many partners. My mother liked sex….with my dad. That’s not the same as someone having sex with various and a sundry people in a short time period. Is this teens advice(though well intentioned) good for the year old. Im no prude but the idea of these over sexualized kids running around having sex because they’ve “taken precautions” and it’s ” no one else’s business,” is shameless. I don’t need to add that biological pressures create a little arms race between females. The same thing can be said for boys. If you think there is a double standard, I’d agree, but men are also pitted against a double standard. I used to teach jrhs social science. As I got older, (and uglier) I began to get more complaints from parents of girls accusing me of ogling their daughters or having designs on them. Nothing could have been further from the truth. My career was ended after I couldn’t take it anymore. These children used the same basic vehicle that these unfortunate “slut shamed” girls were crushed with: the importance we place on young women’s sexuality. It’s at the center of all of this. It’s biologically driven. As negative as shame is, I don’t know how anyone can really know pride if they also don’t have a sense of shame and boundaries. As long as the potent dynamic of attraction exists between the sexes, in my opinion, attempting to make the world better by ridding society of shame is wrong headed.

    April 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    • Barry Bliss

      1) “….the idea of these over sexualized kids running around having sex…”
      What does over sexualized mean?
      I’m serious.
      Does it mean having sex too much (which is certainly possible)?

      2) If it means having sex too much, there is no necessary correlation between that and a young woman having sex with different men at different times.

      3) If/When some young women did indeed wrong you, that speaks for those particular women, but not necessarily any group per se.

      4) None of this has anything to do with rape issues.
      One young woman wears a tiny bikini while cutting the grass every week and has sex with a different man every other day.
      Another young woman wears long skirts, has one partner, and they have yet to go all the way.
      Both young women should be completely safe and the rape of either one would be a horror.

      Bottom line is that rape is bullshit — no exceptions–no excuses–no blame for the victim.

      It’s our karmic obligation to be kind and respectful to all people–regardless of their personal choices.

      April 28, 2013 at 12:37 am

      • What Barry said.

        April 28, 2013 at 6:34 am

      • Martine

        I think it is safe to say that if people are calling you a slut, you might be oversexualized. I agree. People WILL, and SHOULD judge you by your actions. And the only person that can be blamed for a suicide is the person committing it.

        January 16, 2016 at 3:16 am

        • You seem nice.

          January 26, 2016 at 12:57 pm

  4. Rape is wrong. It happens to me, and I’m a man. I wish I could’ve helped these girls survive.

    April 16, 2013 at 6:09 pm

  5. Reblogged this on Life Through the Eyes of a "Cat".

    April 14, 2013 at 10:57 pm

  6. I am a man.
    I don’t like the term slut-shaming, but that’s just a semantic thing I suppose.

    Real men do not rape or abuse others.
    Real men get their shit together and deal with others as equals.

    All of us men need to be there for younger people and if they do get raped we need to remind them that it wasn’t their fault and that all of the shame resides with the rapist.

    If I were of a more violent nature I’d say maybe us men need to beat the shit out of other men that abuse women, but perhaps it’s enough to stand up for the women and to disengage in all areas from the abusers.
    Don’t call them to fix the plumbing, don’t say hi to them in the store, refuse to perform in the club they own, refuse to eat in the restaurant they own, etc.

    Real men kick ass and dig real women that do the same.

    April 13, 2013 at 3:01 am

    • Thanks so much, Barry. It’s so damned important for men to speak out in every possible venue, and I’m grateful to you for doing so. Thanks for reading and fighting the good fight.

      April 15, 2013 at 7:08 am

  7. Julia Jasmine Sta Romana

    I’m glad that you shared these girls stories. We should really put it out there that these girls are not nameless statistics. These are real girls with friends and families. These are real people that heartless bullies have pushed to the point that they felt that suicide is the only way to stop the pain.

    I was bullied a lot in high school and in some degree, slut-shamed. The irony of it all was that I was a very shy teenager back then. And the reason why some guys thought it was okay to slut shame me was because they saw me talking to an entire guys basketball team from a different school when they visited my high school for a game. They didn’t even bother to ask me why I talked to them. Assumed that I was a slut outright because they couldn’t understand why I would talk to them but I barely to talk to my guy classmates. They never knew that most of the guys in that team were kids that I grew up in my neighborhood and I’ve been friends with them for years.

    And the infuriating thing is that the guys who slut-shamed me in high school never apologized for it. That just said I should let bygones be bygones and I was just being overly sensitive in high school. They say that we should all try to be friends now that we’re older. I have no problems forgiving them or even trying to forgive them. But the fact that they think that what they did was okay, the fact that they think that it’s just part of adolescence, the fact that they would also probably tolerate it with their own kids sickens me. I have a daughter. I don’t want her to go through with what I went through. I don’t want her to be friends with people who’s parents think it’s okay to slut-shame girls because they don’t fit in their morality mold.

    April 12, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    • Oh, don’t you just love it when someone who wrongs you tells you that you ought to get over it? I went through slut-shaming and bullying in school, and I heard something similar from an old boyfriend years later. Grrr.

      I’m glad your daughter has you to teach her that this shit will not stand.

      April 15, 2013 at 7:07 am

  8. I am so glad I didn’t grow up in the age of social media. I can’t even imagine how bad it must be for kids now. It used to be you could go home and be safe (well, safer) – not anymore. Technology follows you wherever you go.

    I want to take these girls and scoop them up and feed them cookies and give them a talk about how amazing they are and how worthwhile and how none of this will matter in a few years. This makes me shaky with fury.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    • Yeah, when I was in school, the worst thing you had to worry about was the rumor mill and the occasional crank phone call. And that was bad enough.

      I feel your feels. I want to do the same. Cookies and all.

      April 15, 2013 at 7:04 am

  9. This is so sad. It makes me so angry that so many teens have to go through this. All because peoole refuse to educate themselves and talk about these issues. It sucks even more because in this day and age your information can be spread in the manner of seconds. I wish there was some way to filter these pictures and videos and stop them from being able to be published.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    • It’s a terrible, dark use of social media, to be sure. And yet, without it, Steubenville would very likely never have come to light. What I want to know is how we reach these girls before they choose suicide. I want to create a national campaign of awareness that teaches girls that they have options no matter what–that they are not at fault, and that they are survivors.

      April 15, 2013 at 7:03 am

  10. I love your blog. I feel your insight has all of the right intentions. You are spot on, in my humble opinion. Thank you for being the voice for these young girls. To those girls: I am so sorry we let this happen.

    We need to be the advocates. What can I do? I mean REALLY do? I’m ready to work for this cause. Have you read How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran? It seems like you would get her humor. Great book for any woman, old-timer feminists or newbie.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    • Thank you! Yes, those are the questions I’m asking myself. I’m thinking about setting up some kind of e-summit where we can discuss all this live. What do you think?

      I haven’t read HTBAW, but I have a copy on my stack. :)

      April 15, 2013 at 7:01 am

      • I think an e-summit sounds like a perfect start. See how many will show up… If that is successful I think the energy of being in a room with like-minded people would be mind-blowing. Please keep me, and everyone posted! I’d like to offer my services to help. I’m good with organization and paperwork. In other words, I’m a total Type A nerd. Keep up the great posts! Thanks for turning me on to The Belle Jar!

        April 15, 2013 at 8:28 am

  11. i see a lot of shaming where I work, sometimes for things as innocent as cleavage. sometimes I want to die because of it, too. especially when other women join in.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    • true but....

      Rape is always wrong!!

      As for all you women speaking as if you re not equal.

      You women are enabling the hypocrisy. Men shun “sluts” and WON T date them or take them seriously.

      However ,there s nothing preventing women from avoiding “players”.You women hold the power!!

      You act like a follower and you will be treated like one. Regardless of gender.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      • I’m not sure what you’re reading, but I don’t see anyone speaking as if they are “not equal.” Different? Yes. Men and women are different, and our experiences of the world also tend to be different.

        “Men shun ‘sluts’ and WON T date them or take them seriously.”

        “Slut” is a term of judgment–in this case, your judgment of a woman who has more sex than you think she ought to (because, unlike men, women cannot have sex whenever they want, if I’m understanding this argument correctly). If you think that it matters that “men shun sluts” to anyone but men who “shun sluts,” you may be misinformed. Most self-respecting women do not stop to check the list of things men do and do not “shun” before they walk out into the world and live their lives. And those lives include choosing where, when, and with whom to engage in sex. Just like men do!

        April 15, 2013 at 6:59 am

    • Women shaming other women is one of the saddest things I face on a daily basis. It sucks the life right out of me.

      April 15, 2013 at 6:53 am

  12. Denisse

    I am so very sorry that this happened to these young girls, but I feel that you aren’t going in the right direction by saying that we should prevent “slut-shaming suicides” by creating a safe environment “for these girls..” Maybe I’m a confused feminist, but I feel that the issue that we should be discussing with our teenagers is promiscuity. Your solution seems to be to create an environment where girls (and boys, I presume) can be promiscuous and not judged for their behavior. I just don’t think that’s the solution. Why do we, as feminists, have to see sex as empowering? It’s just not the truth, not in the world we live in. Our young girls are listening to popular music that screams at them that they are “bitches” and “ho’s”, and we want to (also) tell them that they should not be shamed for having sex? Our world, the actual world we live in, not the world we wish to create through feminism, is at odds with the idea that sex is empowering for women. It just is. And as long as this is true, women and girls will continue to be shamed for behaving in t he promiscuous way that men do. That’s the bottom line.

    April 12, 2013 at 11:08 am

    • i think sex CAN be empowering, for both sexes. Just because the bottom line states that women can’t be promiscuous but men can doesn’t mean we should morally accept that. “Just the way it is” has been used as an excuse for poor cultural behavior many times.

      If the world is at odds with female sexual empowerment, let us not indulge its mistaken assumption. It is the world that must change, not women and their chosen sexual habits.

      Your argument about pop music doesn’t make sense to me.Young black children grow up listening to music blasting “n***r” and still demand equality and respect. Of course, many feel at odds with the use of the n-word in music, but it has had no visible effect on the overwhelming desire within the entire black community for the continued effort to improve race relations.

      Having lots of sex does not a poor feminist make. If a girl wishes to be promiscuous, despite what your personal opinion of that behavior is, she should be allowed the same room for safe exploration as the boys. THAT is my bottom line.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    • I don’t think anyone should be shamed for having sex. I think parents should help guide their children so children can grown into young adults who make decisions based on self-love and not peer pressure. I certainly didn’t “shame” my daughter for having sex when I thought it was “too soon” or she wasn’t “ready,” but I did talk to her about it (before and after) and tell her what I thought and listened to her thoughts and feelings as well. I felt good about this approach. I’ve never felt good about shaming people, least of all my children (though I do communicate my disappointment and disagreement when appropriate).

      After my rape when I was 12, I became promiscuous. My mother had no idea, but my schoolmates shamed me. Trust me–it didn’t help. And when my mom realized what was going on, she didn’t shame me, either. She showed me love and she took me to get some counseling to work my shit out.

      I can’t imagine shaming a child ever being the right thing to do, but then, we all have different approaches to parenting.

      April 15, 2013 at 6:52 am

  13. This has got to end. It doesn’t stop for teens in school. Organized religion, business, social organizations. And in this country. Whether we chose to say “yes” or “no” – a rape, a reputation. And the women that spread the rumors and support the culture have to be held accountable also.
    It has got to stop.
    In India, the bride that is burned in the kitchen – a mother-in-law sets the fire.
    In China, who places the value on the male child?
    How are the men going to be raised to be accountable in this country if the women are not let off the hook. I realize this is a bit off the topic but I am sure there were plenty of girls who fanned the flames and did nothing to stand up for these young women.
    I see it all the time. Why am I the one who is the only one to say “shut the f*** up.”? or “Somebody, DO something.” (rant over.)

    April 12, 2013 at 9:48 am

    • There are so many girls participating in this. I saw a photo of a protest supporting Rehtaeh’s rapists, and yes, girls were among them. How do we reach them?

      April 15, 2013 at 6:46 am

      • Oh, I wish I knew. I’m kinda worn down right now and need to recharge. I hold to accountability and education for both boys and girls, men and women. That is the bottom line…and giving voice to the victims. Part of the education.

        April 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm

  14. If it weren’t for Twitter no one would know of these rapes and suicides. The media is ignoring what is going on.
    Sadly the exact same thing has been happening in the military for decades. Women are gang raped, some in the military some civilians, are taped and passed around and nothing is done.
    Women in the military are often dishonorably discharged for Mental illness and some kill themselves.
    These same rapist go out in the world and become the authorities that ignore rape.

    http://www.theusmarinesrape.com/MarshmallowHead.html

    April 12, 2013 at 9:04 am

    • Yeah, this just makes me so sad and sick. Thank you for the link.

      April 15, 2013 at 6:45 am

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