One of the greatest factors holding survivors of sexual trauma back from reporting and voicing their stories is the fear of judgment. Oftentimes, female victims of sexual assault are blamed for their accusers’ behavior. “Well, what were you wearing?” It all comes with the insinuation that if a woman was dressed a certain way or acts in a less societally-approved manner that she may have deserved the crimes that came to her, that these circumstances were within her control.
Women are never, ever asking to be sexually assaulted, harassed or violated. Their clothing, their promiscuity, their age, none of it dictates the borders of consent. No matter what the situation is, what they’re wearing or otherwise, no means no. Though this seems like common sense for many, it appears that Donna Karan missed the memo.
The fashion designer recently spoke to the Daily Mail about the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, a powerful movie exec exposed for years of routine sexual assault and harassment. Where many celebs have spoken out about their own complacency and taken accountability for any roles they may have played in remaining silent against the rumors or vocalized standing with the victims, Donna Karan did the opposite and reaffirmed the fears of many survivors.
The 65-year-old fashion designer began by talking about herself and her charity work.
“I think we have to look at ourselves,” Karan said. “Obviously, the treatment of women all over the world is something that has always had to be identified. Certainly in the country of Haiti where I work, in Africa, in the developing world, it’s been a hard time for women.”
Somehow it got even worse, just in case that self-congratulatory style of victim-shaming wasn’t bad enough.
“To see it here in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?
And what are we throwing out to our children today about how to dance and how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show?”
She went on to call Weinstein and his wife “wonderful people.”
Later, Karan said her comments, which were also recorded on video, were “taken out of context.” The damage had already been done.
As it does, Twitter got to work.
Hey Donna Karan…. Here's a new slogan for your new DKNY collection: "Are We Asking for It?" pic.twitter.com/xDy1tafkua
— Lauren Werner 🗽 (@LaurenWern) October 10, 2017
Donna Karan, a man should be able to control himself regardless of what a woman wears, RAPE/ASSUALT IS NOT THE VICTIMS FAULT. Shame on you.
— Steph (@stephi1978) October 10, 2017
I wish Donna Karan would stop hurting women and stick to designing clothes for size 0 models with eating disorders
— Matt Oswalt (@MattOswaltVA) October 10, 2017
Donna Karan trying to profit off women’s sexuality while simultaneously condemning it makes her… basically like all of America.
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) October 10, 2017
Donna Karan should be ashamed, blaming women for their abuse by Harvey Weinstein. How are you a woman & treat other women so horribly? #Sick
— Amelia Sweeney (@adisasterreally) October 10, 2017
— JoMiRo (@JMRowling) October 10, 2017
Not only does Donna Karan defend Harvey Weinstein, she leads defense with “I work in Haiti and in Africa.” So? https://t.co/fogrZ8ekHZ
— Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick) October 10, 2017
If I owned any Donna Karan, I would burn it.
— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) October 10, 2017
In Memoriam: Donna Karan’s Career 1984-2017
And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind pic.twitter.com/Sj43jRiy4Z
— Chuck Groundhog (@only_si_chuck) October 10, 2017
The problem here is that as deplorable as her comments were, Donna Karan isn’t the only one. She is only one person perpetuating rape culture, an institutional and societal problem that paints sexual assault victims as guilty and untrustworthy. Progress is evident in the way that so many celebrities have stepped forward to stand with victims, but these comments represent a troubling portion of the population who will continue to ask survivors those same questions that hold them back from sharing their stories.