“If she didn’t want to be raped, she shouldn’t have dressed like such a slut.” Sound familiar? That’s the typical blame-the-victim response, as if there are certain instances in which a crime is justified. This sort of reaction distracts from the issue at hand and suggests that the victim is actually to blame.
Around midnight on February 15, in Gresham, Oregon (Gresham was also in the news recently when Sweet Cakes refused to bake a cake for a lesbian couple), a young gay man, Adam Salnardi, was at Vance Park, reportedly to meet another man for some sort of sexual encounter. Little did Salnardi know, he had been tricked by teenagers (a 19-year-old, three 16-year-olds, and a 14-year-old), who had lured him there to beat and rob him. They punched and kicked him, called him derogatory names, stole his shoes, and even pulled a gun on him (read more here).
After looking at the comments in response to some of the news stories about this, I’ve seen a common theme: We shouldn’t feel bad for this young man because he was at a park so late at night and because he was meeting someone for sex. One such comment read: “Anyone foolish enough to go meet a stranger in a park after midnight might deserve what he got.”
Something that struck me about the story is that, as KOMO News reported, Salnardi said “it was his first time meeting a stranger for such a date.” Maybe it was his first time, but there’s also a good possibility that the victim anticipated the reaction of others and thought he would be judged less harshly if he said he hadn’t done it before. After all, when I knew only the basics of this story, I knew the young man would be judged for meeting up for sex, his victimization devalued because, apparently, the rest of us are either virgins or are married to our one and only sexual partner. And we’ve all only had sex when accompanied by love.
How have we become so judgmental, cruel, and heartless?
I realize we live in a dangerous and unkind world, a world where we cannot leave our doors unlocked for fear of being robbed or worse, where our cars are broken into if we leave valuables out for thieves to see, where women can’t walk alone at night because they’ll be attacked and raped. But have we become so callous and cynical that we can’t feel pain, sorrow, sadness (anything!) when a person has been hurt? Because that’s what happened here: A person was attacked and made to fear for his life, something most of us never have to face in our lives. His sexual orientation and the circumstances surrounding the attack do not matter. He is a person; and he did not deserve what happened. No one deserves to be violated in that way.
And if you think they do, I ask you to think of a time when you have done something others wouldn’t approve of (we all have) and consider how you would feel if you had been beaten and robbed only to be told by others that you shouldn’t be complaining because you put yourself in that situation.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andrea Free is a freelance writer and co-creator of the Facebook page Gay Marriage Oregon and creator of the website for Oregon Marriage Equality. She has an MA in English from Bowling Green State University as well as a graduate certificate in International Scientific and Technical Communication. She completed her undergraduate work at Oregon State University, majoring in Liberal Studies with minors in writing and anthropology. As a gay rights advocate, she hopes to write articles that will inspire others to create a positive change.