Firstly, if you think that there is a “fine line between victim blaming and common sense,” that’s a problem in and of itself. There is no fine line. Talking to women about rape and responsibility shouldn’t be any kind of sticky situation because it’s as simple as this: there’s not a single iota of a bit of a percent of fault that a woman bears when she is raped. It is never the victim’s fault. Ever.
This is one of the most problematic parts about this whole thing. Cautioning a woman on what she can or should do to promote her personal safety has no place in a conversation about stopping or preventing rape, because there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. Suggesting that a woman can somehow avoid being raped implies that she can also invite it or create an opportunity for it to happen, which is completely untrue. Women don’t provoke rape, nor can they prevent it. There is no amount of precaution she can take, no amount of clothing she can wear to stop it. Rape isn’t what happens when a man gets a little hot in the pants after seeing some cleavage. Rape isn’t a response to the sight of a woman’s bare shoulders in a tube top on a warm day. Rape isn’t a risk a woman should run if she flirts with someone at a bar and dares to go home alone rather than with him. Rape is not sex. It’s a crime founded on power, violence and control, and a man who will rape a woman will rape regardless of what she does, where she is, or what she has on. Women in hijab and burqas get raped, too. That is common sense.
Since men are the predominant cause of rape, that’s where the change has to come from: men. When I started college, I remember a campus-wide assembly in the first week where we, collectively, were informed about date rape and what goes on at parties and all that. The message that was given, to male and female alike, was: “Girls, don’t leave your drink unattended. Girls, don’t get so drunk you can’t take care of yourself. Girls, don’t go alone.” Never was it said, “Boys, don’t rape anyone.” And what a perfect time it would have been to say it. But it’s never said. Any pushback against the idea that it should be said is…weird. And suspect.