Serena Williams Apologizes for Blaming the Steubenville Rape Victim

serena williamsI've always seen champion tennis player Serena Williams as a symbol of powerful womanhood. That's why I was so disappointed by the remarks she made about the Steubenville rape in a recent Rolling Stone interview. It kind of sounded like Serena was blaming the Steubenville rape victim for putting herself in a dangerous situation -- even though Serena prefaces her comments with "I'm not blaming the girl ..." As journalist Jamil Smith said via Twitter, "if 'I'm not blaming the girl, but' exits your mouth, stop there. There is no 'but.'" Here's what Serena said.

Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don't know. I'm not blaming the girl, but if you're a 16-year-old and you're drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don't take drinks from other people. She's 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn't remember? It could have been much worse. She's lucky. Obviously, I don't know, maybe she wasn't a virgin, but she shouldn't have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that's different.

Oof. What's tough about what Serena says is that I agree with some of what she says. It's dangerous for teens to drink, and I think we all know that when a teen girl gets drunk around boys, she's putting herself in danger. BUT for the 100th time, why aren't we also talking about teen boys getting drunk and becoming a danger to others? Couldn't we also say the boys' parents should teach them not to get drunk, not to get girls drunk, not to violate girls at all, drunk or not?

We need to change the conversation, because blaming rape victims and making it entirely a girl's responsibility to prevent rape is unrealistic. It's not working. Serena was in a position to do that, and she missed that opportunity.

More than that, though, I want Serena to have the Steubenville victim's back. She needs it.

Well, apparently I'm not the only person who feels this way. After Serena's interview got out, there was a shitstorm of comments from people who were disappointed in the way she expressed her opinion. And Serena, who on the court delivers killer defense, is actually backing down on this one. In a blog post this morning, Serena apologized for her remarks.

"What was written -- what I supposedly said -- is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame," Serena writes. She says she's called the rape victim's family to apologize for her words. And then she throws her full support behind the girl, with all the power and force we know Serena has.

I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields -- anything I could do to support women I have done. My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent sixteen year old child.

Beautiful -- it takes a big woman to apologize for something she said, and I love how Serena put this. She gets it, and she has the rape victim's back. And she makes all women stronger with this statement.

Which do you agree with more, Serena's original statement or her apology?


Image via Rob Young/Flickr

feminism, in the news, sex crime, women's issues, tennis


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Paws84 Paws84

Serena's original statement. The media lies all the time. Either not printing all the words that she said, or trying to imply that she meant something else just to get a story. Serena's right....there are consequences for getting drunk with a group of boys. You know damn well what all could happen if you put yourself in that kind of situation. That being said, the boys still deserved more of a punishment than what they got.

nonmember avatar krelia

We are always against blame on the victim and this was a tragic event. Serena said nothing wrong, young girls need to be educated on the dangers of drinking themselves silly at events like this.

nonmember avatar kaerae

If women had each others' backs half as much as men do, we'd be running the world. Men don't hold us down, we push each other down.

nonmember avatar ClassyGurl

Okay, you are not going to be able to prevent every rape, abuse, attack that might happen to a young lady (or man for that matter) but what you CAN do is teach them how dangerous it is. There is nothing wrong with making the obvious, obvious. She was not blaming the girl, as she said. Young ladies need to learn how to protect themselves, respect themselves & stay OUT of certain situations.

nonmember avatar Cman

Serena did not say anything wrong. Everyone is responsible for their own actions. You want to get hurt put yourself in danger.

nonmember avatar 4gals

What about the boys? As stated in the article. Why are we not talking about the boys. Boys need to learn to keep themselves 'safe'. They need to learn to control their drinking so that they don't go around raping girls. I think we've let the boys off the hook for way too long. Teach our boys not to drink to the point where they don't know how to behave properly. And teach them how to behave properly sober as well!

LadyM... LadyMinni

I'm not blaming the victim, but maybe she should have had more sense than to go out and get black-out drunk with people she didn't know. She didn't deserve to get raped, but she shouldn't have been out drinking. Those boys ought to be in jail for a very long time for what they did to her, but she shouldn't have willingly put herself in a dangerous situation. And you know what the second-worst part of it all is? There are so many, so it's hard to choose, but I have to go with the fact that her parents said this sort of party behavior was normal for her. Third worst is that she never would have known what had happened if it hadn't been posted on the internet. Has it happened to her before? How many other girls did those boys rape, without them ever knowing?

Nelli... NellieAthome

Serena is not sorry for what she said - she is only sorry because there was a backlash against her after she said it.  This statement "What was written – what I supposedly said – is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame." is by no means an apology - And yes, her whole statement was nothing but an insinuation that the girl was as much to blame for the rape as the boys were.

Serena respects Serena, and her sister Venus, but not much of anyone else.

nonmember avatar CrazyGirl

I would like to talk to some of Serena's teenage friends and find out some background, party info. Wonder what we would hear?
But more important, there are girls that have gotten in this position in the past and at other parties. And the boys at those parties who were just as drunk, never tried to do anything to them!! THAT'S the true problem here! Yes, the kids need to make better decisions on drinking. But remember, they're kids. BUT! Those boys didn't make 'childish' decisions. They raped her. That's something that needs to be addressed in the way the boys are being raised these days. And the way we are presenting what it means to be a man.

Anne Miranda

I wouldn't say she's blaming the victim, more like bringing up a good point about how girls need to look after and defend themselves better. Drinking yourself senseless is not smart, especially when it leaves you in a vulnerable position around people you can't trust. Sure, there's never a valid excuse for rape, but a lot of it is preventable. If anything, we need to educate girls and women on how to make smarter decisions and to stand up for themselves-- basically not allowing themselves to become victims in the first place. For that matter, we also need to start educating boys as well on how to treat people with more respect and that there ARE consequences for this type of behavior. But that definitely won't stop all the rapists and criminals in the world, which is why women absolutely need to learn how to defend themselves (and look out for each other too). 

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