Chrissie Hynde: Rape victims must take responsibility

63-year-old rock veteran and frontwoman of The Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde has landed herself in water for making a series out outlandish, ignorant and frankly offensive comments related to rape and rape victims. In a new interview with the Sunday Times, Hynde reflected upon her own experience of being gang raped at age 21, claiming that she takes full responsibility the incident, she recalled how she willingly spent time with a motorcycle gang, who then threatened her with violence if she didn’t perform sexual acts.

“Technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing, and I take full responsibility,” she said.

I’m sorry. What?

She went on to essentially speak for all women and rape victims, claiming that intoxicated or provocatively-dressed women were to blame for being attacked. “If I’m walking around in my underwear and I’m drunk? Who else’s fault can it be?” she questioned. She described the decision as “common sense.”

“If you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him.”

Chriss Hynde is a much-loved, proudly female figure in rock history with an impressive string of important musical and cultural contributions to her name. But HOLY SHIT. No matter how seasoned or respected you are, advocating slut shaming, and telling women that they need to dress in a certain way, or else they’re asking to be raped, is despicable.

It’s beliefs like these that encourage rape culture, that convince men that what they’re doing is outside their own judgement, and that they’re not acting wrongfully or immorally. It’s one of the most offensive, ridiculous things I’ve heard a woman in the music industry say in a long, long time.

Of course, women’s groups and many other organisations have quickly lashed out against the ludicrous statements.

Lucy Hastings, director of Victim Support, said, “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.”

Columnist Holly Baxter also said, “This persistent belief that men are naturally inclined towards rape and that women have to dress or act or behave accordingly . . . is one that prevents so many assaults from being reported or prosecuted every year.”

Blaming the victim (both self-blame and passing judgement onto others) is simply not right. In recent months we’ve taken a real look at rape and sexual assault within the music industry – be it misogyny in everyday exchanges, assault at music festivals or the plea for a world where a woman can dance without being hassled. But the issue obviously travels far further than music, and it’s beliefs like Hynde’s which have continued to purport this as a normal and acceptable way of thinking.

While self-blame can be a common and, at times understandable route for victims to go down, it is a destructive and fundamentally, objectively, incorrect way to think about this kind of situation. As The Guardian points out, it’s sad that Hynde has spent more than four decades experiencing this self-blame and shame. Of course, she is permitted to behave and think in any way she desires, but this is not the way that we are supposed to think about rape and victimisation.

To suggest that women must dress in a certain way to avoid rape is both outdated and derogatory. To suggest that women are responsible for an attack, is not only hugely offensive, but simply wrong. Countless women do feel this way. So many women feel that they are the reason they were attacked. But it’s not. It never is.

For more, read our recent investigation into misogyny in the Australian music industry.