There was a time in America's past when a woman who was assaulted by a man had to weigh her fervent desire to see her attacker punished against the unpleasant likelihood that society would view her very negatively merely for having been the victim of such a crime. The loathsome phrase that she was somehow "asking for it" covered all manner of her potential transgressions, from having somehow encouraged the man by her clothing, appearance, or manner to having acquiesced in the behavior, only to cry "rape!" when the deed was done. The victim of rape was often victimized twice: once by the actual attack, and then again by having every shred of her reputation unfairly torn from her by those who were quick to judge her as having been somehow complicit in her own victimization.
Although this attitude is still sometimes to be found in American society, our awareness of the reality of this particular crime, its devastating effects on its victims, and increased sympathy for women who have been the victims of rape have grown considerably over the last century or so. While rape counselors and victims themselves will agree that there are certain risk factors a woman can--and should--avoid (such as being alone with men they barely know, drinking to excess or using illegal drugs, and so on) the actual attack is not a woman's fault, despite any circumstances. Rape is an ugly crime, no matter how it happens.
Which is why Americans should be completely outraged at this.
Look at the facts: a nineteen-year-old woman in Saudi Arabia is being punished with 200 lashes and six months in jail because she was raped! Technically, the punishment is being handed down to her for the crime of being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the attack; it was actually increased because her lawyer went to the media to raise awareness of the situation. The woman's attackers--yes, attackers, plural; there are six of them--have been sentenced to between two and nine years in prison. Her lawyer has had his license to practice law revoked because he tried to challenge the verdict in this case.
In Saudi Arabia a woman can be held criminally responsible for her own rape merely for not following Wahhabism, a strict form of Islam which tries to interpret the Koran literally, and which forbids women to associate with men other than relatives, to drive, and to appear in public without being veiled from head to toe. To the Saudi government, this young victim of a hideous and terrible attack was asking for it--because she got into a car being driven by someone she wasn't related to, a man, naturally, because women in Saudi Arabia aren't allowed to drive cars. That act, to the government of Saudi Arabia, is tantamount to giving men the permission to abuse and mistreat you; and while the men are also being punished for violating public morality standards their initial punishment was a mere one to five years in jail. Even with the new "tougher" punishments for the men the outrageous injustice involved in sentencing a rape victim to be beaten and imprisoned for daring to challenge the idea that she should be punished at all is an offense against every notion of human decency and human kindness.
Instead, the American policy of appeasing Saudi Arabia seems to extend to such matters as pressuring U.S. servicewomen to abide by Wahhabist rules and making sure that only male FAA employees would be on duty when the crown prince visited Crawford, Texas. We seem all too willing to overlook Saudi assaults on human dignity, Saudi incidents involving religious oppression, and Saudi ties to terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.
In the fight to make sure that Islamofacism doesn't overwhelm the United States of America, we should remember all these mixed signals we're giving to Saudi Arabia: our appeasement, our willingness to overlook their human rights violations, our tendency to pretend that our two countries' world views aren't as radically different as they are. We should understand that if Saudi-funded terrorism does indeed begin to flourish in our country, that as far as the Saudis are concerned, we were asking for it.