Veteran feminist Susan Brownmiller says rape and domestic violence victims are to blame

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Penelope Travers

Author Susan Brownmiller has been a vocal feminist since the launch of her groundbreaking Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape in 1975, in which she said, “Rape is a crime not of lust, but of violence and power.”

Yet she has now angered women - and men - the world over by claiming rape and domestic violence victims are to blame for their assault.

She made the controversial remarks during an interview with The Cut, where she was asked about rape activism on college campuses, to which she said women shouldn't be drinking in the first place.

“They think they can drink as much as men, which is crazy because they can't drink as much as men. I find the position 'Don't blame us, we're survivors' to be appalling,” she told the interviewer.

Susan Brownmiller

"It is a little late, after you are both undressed, to say 'I don’t want this.'"

She added, “Didn’t you see the warning signs? Who do you expect to do your fighting for you? It is a little late, after you are both undressed, to say 'I don’t want this.'”

And in a shocking echo to Chrissy Hynde's comments, Brownmiller questioned whether women who dress a certain way are really victims.

She said, “The slut marches bothered me, too, when they said you can wear whatever you want. Well sure, but you look like a hooker. They say, 'That doesn't matter,' but it matters to the man who wants to rape.”

Susan Brownmiller

Susan Brownmiller sparked outrage with her comments

Brownmiller pursued the argument even further, suggesting domestic violence victims shouldn't be seen as survivors.

“Well, I take a hard line with victims of domestic violence, too. I feel it is my place as a feminist to say, 'Get out, get out, get out of this relationship.' 

“They feel that we should respect their opinions and beliefs because they are survivors. If they can’t get out because they don’t want to reduce their living circumstances, or they don’t want to go, or they are passive people, then I am supposed to respect that. But I don’t. My feeling is 'Get out'.”

Susan Brownmiller

Brownmiller has sparked outrage with her comments

Brownmiller has sparked outrage among equality campaigners and charities who support victims of rape. 

Heather Harvey, research and development manager at Eaves Charity, responded to the comments, “Rape is about power and abuse and is always the choice of the perpetrator. We live in a society that has discriminatory and double standards about women, women’s sexuality and what is acceptable and normal behaviour for women.

“Many of us internalize and regurgitate the stereotypes that blame women. We like to think we can find ways to prevent rape and that rape happens to other people for something we wouldn’t do so we’d never be that victim which leads to blaming the victim.

“The prevention of rape is not about the behaviour of women but purely about the behaviour and choices of the rapist. If society seriously wants to see an end to rape – it needs to stop scrutinizing the victims and start scrutinizing the perpetrators.”

Images: Rex Features, Getty Images

If you feel passionate about women's issues, we will be discussing a whole range at Stylist Live, our four-day festival of talks and workshops. "Talk Feminism with Gemma Cairney and Friends" will be held at 10.30am on Saturday 17th October and at 12.15 on the same day, No More Page 3's Lucy-Anne Holmes and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez will be discussing online feminist activism. Get your tickets to both talks here

Stylist Live is a four-day festival of cocktails, culture, catwalks and conversation hosted by Edith Bowman and Dawn O’Porter on Thursday 15 – Sunday 18 October 2015.

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Penelope Travers

Penny Travers is a freelance writer covering anything from beauty and fashion to travel and lifestyle. She has a penchant for cheese, karaoke and shoes. Not necessarily in that order.

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