Chrissie Hynde is ruffling feathers with comments she made about her sexual assault, but we shouldn’t be upset at her about it.
Instead, we should be aiming our anger at how heartbreakingly common Hynde’s reaction is: She blames herself for her sexual assault.
The Pretenders lead singer, in a recent interview with the Sunday Times, recounted her reaction to the incident in which a member of an Ohio biker gang took then-21-year-old Hynde to an abandoned home and threatened her with violence if she didn’t perform sexual acts.
“You can’t paint yourself into a corner and then say, ‘Whose brush is this?‘” Hynde, now 63, told the Times. “You have to take responsibility. I mean, I was naïve.”
She continued, “Technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing, and I take full responsibility,” Hynde said. “You can’t f*** about with people, especially people who wear ‘I Heart Rape’ and ‘On Your Knees’ badges… Those motorcycle gangs, that’s what they do.”
But it gets even worse than that.
“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,” Hynde said. “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 common sense. You know, if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him.”
Of course, victim blaming is a central idea in rape culture. The truth is that rape is only ever one person’s fault: the rapist’s. But ideas like Hynde’s — that the victim should have done more to deter the assault — are shockingly common, even if they’re wrong. Lucy Hastings, head of Victim Support, said as much to The Guardian.
“Victims of sexual violence should never feel or be made to feel that they were responsible for the appalling crime they suffered, regardless of circumstance or factors which may have made them particularly vulnerable,” Hastings said.