An advice columnist for a Singapore-based magazine called Teenage is under scrutiny for telling a sexual assault survivor that she should be “grateful” that her attacker wore a condom.
According to Jezebel, the anonymous teen wrote to Kelly Chopard’s “Dear Kelly” advice column, detailing what happened to her when she went to have dinner at a male friend’s house whose parents were on vacation.
The girl said she drank alcohol with her male counterpart and he started, “cuddling and kissing and undressing me.” She said she became so inebriated that she eventually blacked out. She woke up the next morning in bed with him and he allegedly said, “Wow! I didn’t know you were a virgin, honey!”
Chopard’s response was insensitive, to say the least. "Unfortunately, you gave every indication you were a willing player in his unfolding seduction plan... I don't blame him for thinking you were not a virgin. You acted like a girl who has been around," the column said.
She also told the girl that she was “naïve” and asserted that, “You are expected to know what happens when a girl agrees to stay over at a guy’s house when only the two of them are in residence.”
“You can be grateful that he wore a condom,” she added.
Chopard rightfully received a wave of backlash after the magazine published her column.
so so enraged at this teenage magazine/dear kelly column issue. what a horrible message to send to young, impressionable teenagers.— nabz (@nabilahef) November 11, 2016
Omg that Teenage Dear Kelly shenanigans is making me so angry wtf. How can you.— Beryl Leong ♥ (倩) (@BerylPenniman) November 11, 2016
Teenage Magazine calls itself the number 1 youth magazine in Singapore but it clearly supports victim blaming. Despicable. (#1) pic.twitter.com/hlSeW4YD9K— Ѧαяιαииɛ (@leilalucks) November 11, 2016
On Friday, she posted a half-hearted “apology” that is just as crass as her original statements.
“Please believe me when I say I am profoundly sorry for teenagers who are vulnerable and often ‘naïve’ as I stressed, more than once, in my response in this case,” she wrote. “I stated, ‘Your total naivety led you to believe you were having a sleepover with a best buddy. I totally believe you had no idea that he had sex on his mind. It is most unfortunate for you.’”
My response takes into consideration our many readers who seek direction so they will not find themselves in a similar situation. I have to adopt a particular tone so as to make sure the writer does not engage in such risky behaviour [sic] again, and this is also aimed at warning readers of the consequences they face should they engage in risky behaviour [sic].”
The magazine published its own separate apology on Facebook, but defended Chopard’s response in it.
“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.”
The entire magazine needs a reality check. It’s clear that their philosophy is not conducive to helping teens — particularly teenage girls — navigate through life.
The ideology Chopard used to justify her comments is nothing short of victim blaming.
Perhaps the teen was “naïve," as most teenagers are (because they’re kids, for crying out loud). Instead of disparaging her for her gullibility, Chopard should have rejected the notion that it’s okay for males to exploit a girl’s innocence by manipulating her into such a situation.
Chopard should have stressed the importance of consent so that boundaries are clearly set and neither party has to question the other person’s “intentions,” or feign ignorance upon learning that their sexual advances were unwanted.
There are countless points of advice Chopard could have offered that would have been a million times better, and more helpful, than what she actually wrote.
The fact that the magazine supported the damaging message she sent indicates that she isn’t likely to face any consequences and thus will be free to continue spewing her nonsense to other impressionable teens.
Let’s hope that the backlash Chopard is receiving from readers spreads far and wide enough so teens throughout Singapore and beyond will refrain from reading her column, or at least err on the side of caution if they do read it.
Banner Image Credit: Twitter, @ellaisabella13