“She was asking for it” in Swarthmore’s own handbook
My friend alerted me to a section in the study abroad guide given out at our school where under culture shock is this anecdote:
“A few years ago, a female student attending a home stay program in Italy complained to her program staff that she had been sexually harassed by her host brother. She subsequently described the matter to me, and the host brother’s behavior toward her certainly went far beyond the normal friendly hugging and bussing that is commonplace in Italian households. But, if her manner of dress and comportment with her host family resembled her dress and comportment while with me, and I was assured by the program staff that it did so closely, then by the accepted standards of her host culture, she was asking for it. She had been specifically and repeatedly advised about this by her program staff, but chose to ignore the advice.”‘
This is so offensive. The fact that in our own guide to study abroad we are espousing that women who dress as a certain way are “asking for it” is really a problem. To disregard her experience with sexual misconduct as something she deserved for her behavior is beyond inappropriate. To continue this type of shaming of survivors of sexual misconduct and/or assault is unacceptable, especially come from our institution. It is even more inappropriate when the writer shares that he and the host school had both discussed the way this woman dressed and had collectively (without her voice) decided that she deserved it and it was no longer an issue.
I’m really deeply offended by this and think anyone in the Swarthmore community who is equally annoyed/offended/frustrated should e-mail Karen Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org or a dean you feel comfortable with to report this part of the guide.
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Tags: sexism, sexual violence