State lawmaker responds to accusations of sexual assault ‘victim-blaming’

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- An Indiana lawmaker is defending comments which some have said amount to blaming victims of sexual assault for what happened.

State Representative Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) wrote a letter to an Indianapolis Star reporter earlier this week in which he urged the paper to write a story about Hoosier women who are learning “how not to be a victim.”

Lucas’s letter was in response to an article, written by the same reporter earlier in the week, which profiled a sexual assault survivor.

He said his intention with the letter was to help women empower themselves to stay protected.

“For years, I’ve been involved in helping women empower themselves and learn how to protect themselves,” said Lucas.

Lucas denies he was victim-blaming, with many online showing support and opposition.

“I used the exact same wording of ‘victim’ that the Indianapolis Star used in their headline, and all of a sudden I get accused of victim blaming and nothing could be further from the truth,” said Lucas.

But some sexual assault experts say he should have chosen different words.

“And that is why I think some people were really upset by the wording in Jim Lucas’s letter,” said Dr. Mahri Irvine, of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault, “he was implying that potential victims are somehow actually able to do something that could completely prevent someone from attacking them.”

She believes Lucas was expressing a sentiment known as “risk reduction.”

“It’s great to engage in risk reduction, like self-defense classes or carrying a gun around,” said Irvine, “but that’s absolutely no guarantee that someone will be protected from being a victim.”

Lucas seems to agree with that, but maintains the best defense is good preparation.

“The only thing you can do is to educate yourself and prepare to defend against it and even then, bad things still happen,” said Lucas.

Twice before, Lucas has faced criticism from sharing Facebook memes which some say were offensive.

“This being the third time, I’ve just come to accept it’s going to happen and I’m not going to slow down,” said Lucas, “you know I’m going to be more sensitive of how I phrase things.”