When it comes to rape and sexual assault, there are those who believe that society at large should be teaching perpetrators and potential perpetrators not to violate other people in that way. Ever. Not matter what. Full stop. Another camp agrees that rape is bad, but takes another tack: Let's help women — who are disproportionately affected by this tragedy — learn to fight back against attackers, how to avoid tantalizing their rapists in the first place, etc. And Indiana state Rep. Jim Lucas showed he falls on the second, more victim-blame-y side of things when he posted and then "apologized" for sharing a post about "how not to be a victim" recently.
Lucas' apology didn't turn out to be much of an apology at all, though, as he claimed that he had been "publicly excoriated" for his position and lamented that he had been attacked for his words. (Romper has reached out to the state representative's office for comment and is awaiting a response.)
The Republican lawmaker first ignited his Facebook comments section Monday when he shared his response to an Indianapolis Star profile of a victims' advocate who had been raped by a stranger at age 24 in August 1994. He had penned a handwritten note to the reporter encouraging her to do a follow-up, and posted a photo of it online. Here's what it said:
After reading your front page article in the Sunday Star about the tragedy of rape, it would be nice to see a follow up article about the thousands of Hoosier women that are taking steps & learning how not to be a victim.
The public response was swift and seeping with condemnation. "This letter does nothing but further the culture of rape by placing responsibility firmly on the rape victim," one person commented, adding that taking self-defense class was not a possibility for many victims of sexual assault, like children and disabled women, according to BuzzFeed News. "This is disgusting victim blaming," another commented. "There is a significant difference between individual risk reduction and prevention of rape a a public safety issue."
Others were supportive of Lucas' stance, with one writing that the representative was asking the paper to "celebrate women who control their destiny," according to the The Indianapolis Star.
"Somehow pointing out that a woman has a responsibility for her own safety is forbidden territory," opined another.
Lucas is a fervent advocate of gun ownership for self-defense, NBC News reported. He even initially defended his original post by offering to personally pay for women to take a firearms training and self-defense course in the comments section. Then, he took to Facebook again to share an explanation of his letter to the reporter — one that definitely doesn't read much like an apology at all.
And it was a doozy. In the lengthy post, Lucas first pushed back against "the level of hatred and number of adults who are so quick to assumption from plainly written words" and said that he had been "publicly excoriated over my recent attempt to bring light to this subject." He also recounted talking on the phone with Michelle Kuiper, the subject of the Indianapolis Star article:
We had an excellent conversation and both gained a greater understanding of our experiences in dealing with this issue. I explained to her that as a husband and father, I wanted the women in my life to be educated and trained in the dangers of the world and be able to protect themselves as best they could. She learned that I have been personally paying for dozens of women to take self defense classes to learn how to empower themselves and protect themselves.
I learned how common, everyday words can be so extremely sensitive to survivors of such horrible acts[.]
There's no "I'm sorry" in sight, or any indication that he really learned anything about why it's wrong to suggest that women (or anyone else) wouldn't get raped if they simply were better equipped to protect themselves. After all, "stranger rapes" such as Kuiper's make up less than 30 percent of such assaults, and the vast majority of victims know their rapists. As the current epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses shows, truly addressing rape in society means changing perpetrators' attitudes toward consent and removing stigma that plagues victims — which insisting that they should have had a gun does not do.