In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, sexual assault and its prevention have come to the front of the public conversation. #MeToo has been trending all over the globe since last weekend, and millions of women and femmes have taken to social media to share their harrowing experiences of sexual assault and harassment. While movements like this can provide solidarity and grim-yet-determined inspiration, some responses in the political sphere have made it clear we still have a long way to go.
NBC 5 reports that Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from the state’s 30th Congressional District, has angered many in her party after claiming that women have a “responsibility” to prevent their own sexual assault.
“I grew up in a time when it was as much the woman’s responsibility as it was a man’s — how you were dressed, what your behavior was,” Johnson said. “I’m from the old school that [believes] you can have behaviors that appear to be inviting. It can be interpreted as such. That’s the responsibility, I think, of the female. I think that males have a responsibility to be professional themselves.”
“Being professional” meaning… not assaulting, apparently.
When she was asked whether perhaps they stop discussing women’s “inviting” behaviors and pivot to the topic of power abuse, Johnson kept her heels firmly dug into the ground:
“I think we also need to start talking about the power that women have to control the situation. There’s law enforcement, you can refuse to cooperate with that kind of behavior. I think that many times, men get away with this because they are allowed to get away with it by the women.”
She then further blamed women for not coming forward with their experiences sooner. However, she released another statement on Thursday to in an attempt to clarify her response, though it’s effectively doing a 180 entirely. “I do not blame the victims of sexual assault for the actions of their assailants,” she said in the statement. “I do acknowledge that my comments regarding behavior and attire come from an old school perspective from the fact that criminals need to be held accountable for their actions.”
She added that she “will never condone those who feel they can abuse their positions to sexually assault and harass women,” and that she encourages victims to report their experiences “so that we can hold these criminals accountable.”
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