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Agony aunt faces backlash for telling rape victim to be ‘grateful he wore a condom’

Agony aunt faces backlash for telling rape victim to be ‘grateful he wore a condom’
Teenage, one of Singapore’s top magazines, has been accused of encouraging victim-blaming. (Photo: Facebook)

A top teen magazine in Singapore is being fiercely criticised over the advice that the agony aunt of its ‘Dear Kelly’ section gave to a rape victim. Kelly Chopard, who writes an advice column for Teenage magazine, told a reader who wrote to her about an alleged sexual assault her behaviour gave the idea that she was “like a girl who had been around” and should be “grateful he wore a condom”.

The controversy erupted when the magazine published a reader’s letter in the ‘Dear Kelly’ column under the title ‘Raped after lying to my mum’. The girl revealed that her date had raped her after she had drunk alcohol for the first time. In response Chopard wrote: “You gave the idea that everything was OK, you accepted wine, then there was the dancing, kissing. You can’t blame him for thinking a sexual connection was all right. Frankly, I understand why the guy misunderstood.”

Chopard’s comments have angered many of the magazine’s readers who have accused the writer and the magazine of promoting a culture of victim-blaming. They also say that the way she addressed the topic was insensitive and completely unprofessional.

Teenage magazine took to their Facebook page in defense of their columnist and wrote:

Hi everyone,

For those who aren’t too familiar with Teenage, the Dear Kelly advice column has always been an open space for troubled teenagers to share their stories and in turn, receive Kelly’s tough love, and no-nonsense advice. She is a qualified professional who has many years of experience counselling youths. We treat each story very seriously.

Here, we address the letter titled “Raped After Lying To Mum”. Many of you have raised concerns that Kelly’s response swayed towards victim-blaming and condonation of rape. It is to be stated that Teenage does not condone rape or victim-shaming in any way.

Before we share Kelly’s response on the matter, we would like to deeply apologise. Kelly’s reply was largely focused on helping vulnerable girls understand the need to not place themselves in risky situations despite knowing the possible consequences. In no way does this mean that they deserve to be blamed. It simply means that they have to know how to protect themselves in a society where the definition of consent is still unclear to many.

We did not have the intention of playing a role in victim-blaming or to lead to the impression that we think that rape is acceptable. It is not.

Amidst everything, we are glad that this issue was highlighted because this invites discussion about an important issue. Amongst the heated comments that we have received, we are glad to see that they all carry the same message: that rape victims should never be blamed. This discussion is overdue. Our society has to talk about consent. About how ‘No’ means ‘No’. About how the gesture of pushing away someone else’s advances should not be confused as playing hard to get, amongst other indications of unwillingness. For girls, to recognise situations that they could avoid or at the very least, be wary of. For guys to know that intimacy should never be forced – especially if the other party is inebriated. This is an important conversation to be continued.

We would like to make amends. By continuously speaking out and raising awareness about youth issues that have long been swept under the rug. Starting with this.

We sincerely apologise. As we learn from this, we can only hope that the teenagers who are reading this can take away the true lesson of this entire experience. Firstly, to be aware of dangerous situations, to be aware of and understand consent and what it truly means. Secondly, to always handle such issues with sensitivity, tact and social awareness. Moving forward, we will continue to place the well-being of youth above all else. Once again, we deeply apologise for all the distress we have caused.

The Teenage Team