Kansas City Star pulls column criticized as victim blaming

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The Kansas City Star's publisher has apologized for printing an opinion piece that suggested women can reduce the risk of getting raped by not drinking too much and that many readers felt amounted to victim blaming.

In the apology posted late Saturday on the paper's website and included in its Sunday print edition, Publisher Tony Berg wrote that the newspaper should not have published the piece by Laura Herrick, a teacher and author and one of the guest contributors to the newspaper's "Midwest Voices" column.

Berg wrote that while he appreciated the point that Herrick "was trying to make about responsibility," the newspaper removed her piece from its website because of the "indisputable facts" that rape "is a violent act in which the victim loses control," and "if a person is incapacitated and someone takes advantage of them sexually, the law considers that rape or sexual assault and the victim is blameless."

"But as an older brother to two sisters, I believe when a person is sexually assaulted, it's not their fault. Period," Berg said.

"I apologize that the column was published and assure you we are putting even more measures in place to ensure this doesn't happen in the future," Berg wrote.

In her column titled "Women can take action to prevent rapes," which was posted online Friday and included in the Star's Saturday edition, Herrick reminded men that "`no means no' (and if someone is too drunk to say no, then no is implied)." She went on to write that she thinks women should take responsibility for their bodies by not becoming so drunk that they don't know what's happening.

"And if you wake up the morning after doing the `walk of shame,' don't yell rape if you regret your actions of the night before. Accept your role in what happened, learn from the experience and move on," Herrick wrote.

She later wrote: "When men drink, their decision-making abilities are also limited. If a woman was too drunk to know what she was doing and should be excused for what happened, then why are men not allowed to be too drunk to make good decisions?"

Some readers took issue with the column on social media, saying it blamed the victims. "For real, (at)KCStar?! How about instead we spend our energy teaching men not to rape. HOW DOES THIS GET PUBLISHED?" @anoutlawlife said on Twitter.

A phone number listed under Herrick's name did not appear to be working Sunday. But she told KCTV she doesn't understand why her piece was removed from the website since it expressed an opinion.

She said she stands by the piece and that she wasn't blaming rape victims. Herrick said she pointed out at the beginning of the piece that rape is wrong, but said there are ways women can protect themselves.