Recently, the column “Dear Amy” in the Chicago Tribune responded to a question from a survivor of sexual assault. Upon receiving a great deal of negative comments about her response to the column (as you can read on their site), “Dear Amy” printed another column responding to her original response. You can read the original column titled “Rape question a matter of consent” by clicking here and her second column titled “Response to rape victim was too harsh” by clicking here.
In both cases, many experts and educators are agreeing “Dear Amy” failed to provide the right response to resolve the errors in the initial column. In fact, you will see lots of people are leaving comments reflecting even more disappointment in the 2nd column. To help insure this error does not occur again and potentially harm more survivors, we highly encourage you to email the Editors at the Chicago Tribune. You will find their email addresses listed here. If you would like an example of a response, scroll down in this email to find the email we sent the Chicago Tribune earlier today.
UPDATE on Wednesday, Dec 9th:
After sending an email to the Editors of the Chicago Tribune less than 2 hours ago, we are happy to see a quick response back. The response, however, only leaves us more concerned. The “Standards Editor” first emailed me letting me know “Dear Amy” wrote a 2nd column. Read my FULL email which was originally sent to the Chicago Tribune below and you will see I was writing about her SECOND column. When we let the “Standards Editor” know this fact, she answers with, “I missed the reference to both columns. I’ll be glad to share your note with Amy, however.” You’ll share my note with “DEAR AMY”? My note is not for “Dear Amy” – my note was for you, the Editorial Staff who is suppose to stop errors such as this column from being printed.
Please keep contacting the Editorial Staff to help them realize how important this discussion is!
Here is the initial email we sent the Chicago Tribune earlier today:
You are a well established and respected paper throughout the country. For that reason, I was disappointed by what recently transpired in one of your columns.
Your writer for the “Dear Amy” section recently given dangerous and potentially long-term damaging advice to a survivor of sexual assault. She failed to explain a basic concept of legal consent in the United States. An intoxicated individual cannot give consent to sexual activity. After all, a person who is not “of sound mind” cannot give consent. This legal reference can be found on most sexual assault crisis centers’ websites. The columnist references RAINN’s website for one sentence and then jumps to her own conclusions when she wrote:
“Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse — or an alibi. The key question is still: Did you consent or not? Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the sex is nonconsensual, it is rape.”
The survivor could NOT consent BECAUSE she WAS intoxicated and clearly states that point in her comments. The statement “Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse — or an alibi” is what you tell the rapist (not the survivor)! The rapist cannot say because the survivor was drunk, passed out, or under the influence of drugs, the rapist had permission.
After her first posting was so erroneous in the advice given, many educators and professionals around the country were hoping her response to the initial article would be a complete apology and a commitment to learning MORE about an issue before responding. After all, she gave legally inaccurate information that could lead to psychology damage to many survivors. Imagine a survivor reading the column and saying to him/her self, “Maybe it was my fault. After all, I was drunk”?
Many of us were hoping your columnist would be do some extensive research on the issue and have some experts double-check her planned response (to insure she was being both legally and psychologically accurate to her readers). Instead, she speaks of her own daughters and her “personal” viewpoint.
ADVICE articles addressing sexual assault deserve much more than the ADVICE columnists personal viewpoints. They deserve research and accuracy. Yes, we all understand “Dear Amy” is not a legal advice column or a counseling service. At the same time, it is the newspaper’s job to EDIT their writers to insure accuracy and the SAFETY of the general public based on the writer’s comments.
To see the Chicago Tribune being held up as a poor example of journalism by educators around the country is sad. On listservs, educators are sharing how they are using this poor example of a newspaper’s decision to print a column – to show victim blaming and how it exists throughout our culture.
PLEASE have “Dear Amy” completely retract both of her columns referring to this reader and have a guest expert write an insightful and accurate response to the original question.
Founder of The Date Safe Project, Inc.
Author of “May I Kiss You?” and “Help! My Teen Is Dating”
“Providing parents, educators, students, and our military Real Solutions to Tough Conversations on dating, intimacy, and sexual assault.”
VISIT http://www.DateSafeProject.org to join caring individuals and organizations in bringing The Date Safe Project’s “Can I Kiss You?” program to your community.