May 1, 2014

Is Mayor Denson Blaming Victims of Sexual Assault?

Nancy web.jpg

The Junior League sponsored a last-minute forum Tuesday night for Mayor Nancy Denson and challenger Tim Denson. 

In light of this week's Flagpole cover story and President Barack Obama's recommendations to stem the growing number of sexual assaults on college campuses, someone asked a question about preventing sexual assaults in Athens. Nancy sent what could be considered some mixed messages.

Tim Denson, whose platform includes forming a Sexual Assault Prevention Task Force, started off. Citing the Obama Administration's figure that only 12 percent of sexual assaults are reported, that means there were about 130 assaults on campus in 2013, he said.

"When this was brought up the previous three debates, my opponent said it wasn't a high priority," he said. 

(Actually, what Nancy said was that she's confident police and advocacy groups are doing everything they can, but considering UGA police made no arrests for 16 sexual offenses last year, there maaaay be some room for improvement.)

Nancy denied ever saying that and pointed to the fact that she has preserved 18 law enforcement positions in her proposed budget that otherwise would fall prey to federal cuts, as well as her support for Project Safe (which is really all about domestic violence, but hey, great).

"I wish I knew the answer to get guys to behave themselves and girls to behave themselves so we don't have problems," she said.

Nancy said she sets a good example as mayor for young women by not going downtown and getting drunk.

"A lot of girls don't know what's appropriate," she said. It all comes down to education, starting with "good touch, bad touch" stuff they teach in kindergarten. Women should be taught to respect themselves and men to respect women, she said.

"I don't know all the answers, either," Tim said during his rebuttal. "That's why we create a task force."

He went on to question whether Nancy was blaming the victim, which she called "absurd" because she's the mother of four three daughters. Women are never to blame for being assaulted, she said, but sometimes they're in no condition to say "no."

"Demand respect and conduct yourself in a way that you can demand that respect," she said.

UPDATE: Here's the unedited exchange, posted on YouTube by Tim's campaign.

Drinking is often a factor in sexual assaults, but to be clear, because apparently it's not: Women have the right not to be raped, period, whether or not they're acting in a manner the mayor would consider appropriate.

As Devon Sanger of The Cottage said of the notion that sexual assault victims could've avoided rape by not drinking or going out to bars or parties: "Really, that is victim-blaming. That is the definition of it. It gives people an illusion of control, like this could’ve been avoided.”