Republican Indiana state Rep. Jim Lucas apologized Saturday after sharing a Facebook post that critics said blamed rape victims for their own attacks.
On Monday, Lucas shared a photo of a handwritten letter he penned on official state stationery which urged an IndyStar reporter, who had recently profiled a woman who'd been raped, to write a follow-up story on women “taking steps & learning how not to be a victim.”
The letter said:
After reading your front page article in the Sunday Star about the tragedy of rape, it would be nice to see a follow up article about the thousands of Hoosier women that are taking steps & learning how not to be a victim.
The post led to massive backlash against the lawmaker, as critics viewed it as the co-opting of a story about sexual assault to further Lucas's belief in gun ownership for self defense.
People said the letter placed "responsibility firmly on the rape victim."
"I am all for the second amendment, but I should not have to carry a gun with me 24/7 just so I don't get raped," said one person.
"Why aren't we teaching people just not to rape or sexually assault?" asked another.
But on Saturday he apologized for the letter in a long Facebook post in which he said he had "learned how common, everyday words can be so extremely sensitive to survivors of such horrible acts" after speaking to the woman the IndyStar story was about.
Even so, he doubled down on criticizing his denouncers, saying he'd been "publicly excoriated" and that "instead of listening to my explanation and accepting it, so many people choose to attack me for being insensitive and accuse me of victim blaming."
"People are demanding that we educate boys and men about respecting women and teach them that rape is bad, yet this episode shows how those who do try to discuss this sensitive issue can have their words twisted and get attacked," he said. "Is there any wonder people don't want to discuss this issue and it remains off limits?"
Lucas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Here is his full response:
I am absolutely amazed at the level of hatred and number of adults who are so quick to assumption from plainly written words. I recently wrote a reply to an IndyStar article that was about rape and suggested another possible consideration for a story highlighting another approach to dealing with this evil tragedy.
It is an evil, horrible crime committed against innocent people and can literally ruin lives.
It is something that every moral and reasonable human being can agree is evil and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
It is something that is very difficult to publicly discuss due to it's life-changing and emotionally devastating consequences.
Yet, talking about it and teaching about it is something that so many are demanding be done.
I have been publicly excoriated over my recent attempt to bring light to this subject, educate people on the subject and what they can do to empower themselves to mitigate their chances of being violently assaulted. I used the word "victim", which has been used for centuries and has a plainly worded dictionary definition and was used in the headline of the IndyStar, yet I was branded as "victim blaming".
It went downhill from there.
I was contacted by my legislative staff that the subject of the IndyStar story had contacted me and would like to talk. I called her and we spoke for over an hour, both discussing our views on this issue.
We had an excellent conversation and both gained a greater understanding of our experiences in dealing with this issue. I explained to her that as a husband and father, I wanted the women in my life to be educated and trained in the dangers of the world and be able to protect themselves as best they could. She learned that I have been personally paying for dozens of women to take self defense classes to learn how to empower themselves and protect themselves.
I learned how common, everyday words can be so extremely sensitive to survivors of such horrible acts.
We both grew and gained from this.
However, there are so many that would rather just hate for what I wrote.
What I wrote was, and still is intended to shed light on this issue and offer an avenue for people to help prevent and defend themselves against it.
Instead of listening to my explanation and accepting it, so many people choose to attack me for being insensitive and accuse me of victim blaming.
If my words appeared insensitive, it was certainly unintentional.
However, for we as a society to educate people on this sensitive issue, we MUST quit tearing people apart and attacking them over twisted and unintentional words.
People are demanding that we educate boys and men about respecting women and teach them that rape is bad, yet this episode shows how those who do try to discuss this sensitive issue can have their words twisted and get attacked.
Is there any wonder people don't want to discuss this issue and it remains off limits?
This is not the first time Lucas has been criticized for a Facebook post that seemed to advocate violence against women.
Julia Reinstein is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Julia Reinstein at email@example.com.
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