The Sun tweeted a photo of the young woman with the text: “Woman ‘drank six Jagerbombs in ten minutes on the night she was raped and murdered.’”
This “woman’s” name was India Chipchase.
She was 20 years old. She was a student at Northampton College and a part-time bartender. She had a boyfriend. She leaves behind a loving father, mother, brother and two younger sisters.
She was raped and killed, and a 51-year-old bookkeeper named Edward Tenniswood is now on trial for her murder. Chipchase’s body was found under a sheet on a mattress in Tenniswood’s home the day after she went missing. The post-mortem exam found that she had been strangled to death. The blood under her fingernails suggests that she fought hard for her life.
All of this matters. You know what doesn’t matter? That she was drinking.
By simply sharing how much Chipcase had to drink the night of her death, The Sun is not only complicit in victim-blaming, but also reinforces a culture that excuses rape when alcohol is involved.
We hear over and over again stories of women being sexually assaulted behind dumpsters, gang-raped by football players, repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped while behind bars; their dead bodies turning up in garbage bags by the side of the road like forgotten trash.
And all too often, people point to what the victim was doing before she was kidnapped, assaulted, raped and/or murdered.
She was traveling alone. She was drinking. She had a criminal record. She was his girlfriend. She had substance abuse issues. She enjoyed kissing him before that night. She had “drank six Jägerbombs in 10 minutes.”
The offending tweet was among several others tweeted by The Sun that included emerging details about the case. But it shouldn't have been. It doesn’t matter what she was wearing, who she was dating, how much she had drank ― rape is rape and murder is still murder.
A drug addict who was high on heroin when she was raped, doesn’t make her assault any less of a rape. If a woman is sexually assaulted while unconscious from drinking too much, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t sexually assaulted. Drinking or doing drugs or wearing revealing clothing or flirting doesn’t somehow invalidate or cancel out or nullify rape.
The perfect victim does not exist. And when we seek her out, we undermine every person who’s ever been sexually assaulted.
Victim-blaming in our culture is rampant and insidious. And statements like The Sun’s only perpetuate a culture that condones it.