Dear Kelly: my questions to your victim shaming response on Teenage Magazine

November 11, 2016

Dear Kelly, I was appalled when I read your response to the letter "Raped After Lying To Mum" on Teenage Magazine. I was so disgusted I couldn't finish the letter. Admittedly, I haven't been following Teenage since 2013 but I was an avid supporter of Teenage, and your column, when I was a teenager. I know how damaging it must have been for that poor girl to read your response, blaming and shaming her for something that was beyond her control because I was once a highly impressionable teenager who put trust in your words.

Unfortunately, I don't have the credentials and experiences you do to back my words. Heck, I'm not even a psychology graduate but I am definitely more than qualified to speak because I have been a victim of sexual abuse, and I am furious beyond words with your response.

There's no way around this. The moment you blame a victim for something that happened beyond her control, it is victim shaming. And it's terribly disheartening to know that the editor of Teenage Magazine actually approved of this response,. It's even worse knowing that if this saga didn't happen, the victim might live her entire life thinking it's her fault she trusted someone.

Then people wonder why so many cases of rape went unreported. Because when someone reports it, s/he is met with doubts, responses like this, and the blame is on the victim. Stop shaming victims into silence because the world needs to speak up on this.
Dear Kelly, I have so many questions.

Why should this girl feel ashamed for something that happened beyond her control? Yes, she lied to her mom but the boy she naively trusted betrayed her trust. Why, Kelly, should girls taught to act prim and proper so guys will think of them as virgins? Are you implying that virgins wouldn't get raped? If that's the case, I'll need some statistics on your end to back up that claim. 

How is staying over at anyone's house an invitation for sex? How does that even begin imply that a girl, in your words, "has been around"? So what if a girl has slept with other guys? So what if she isn't a virgin? It's 21st century, why is slut-shaming still a thing? I want to know why you think it even matters whether the guy in question thinks she's a virgin or not.

As a woman yourself, I hope you can give me an answer I've been desperately seeking: how is a guy sleeping around any different from a girl sleeping around? Maybe I'm nitpicking a little here, but I hate the part you mentioned about "parents being protective of their daughters" — guys can get raped too, in case you weren't aware.

Dear Kelly, may I just check with you what do you think can happen when a pair of platonic friends stay over? What was the "expectations" you mentioned? Sex? Because when I say dinner, I expect dinner. When I say drink, I expect drinking and nothing else. When I say sleepover, I expect actual sleeping.

If a girl is drunk, she deserves to be raped? If she's wearing short skirts, she deserves to be raped? And you think she should be grateful her rapist wore a condom? No, he should be grateful she was foolish enough to not report the matter to the authorities immediately — and she totally should.

Rape is rape, and it is neither tolerable nor acceptable in any circumstances. 

If anything, Kelly, your official response made me sicker. You got the whole point wrong; we're not livid about the strict tone adopted. We're disgusted by your mindset. Our society has progressed, but your narrow-minded self is left in the 1950s.

Tough love? No nonsense advice? 
Oh, please.

One of my favourite ad campaigns ever shows it best: if you have to use force, it is rape.

Just because she's at your house doesn't mean her body should be at your mercy.
If she's not sober enough to give you permission, you have none.
If she doesn't remember saying yes, it's a no.


In case anyone isn't Singaporean or lives under a rock, this is what I'm responding to:

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  1. I actually read this issue and felt the same way. I'm so glad you brought this up, I wondered if everything she mentioned is supposed to be the norm or accepted. Thank you so very much :)

    1. It hurts me to think that teenagers are reading her column, questioning if this is society's norm, because it definitely ISN'T and people need to know that!