Teenage is a Singapore-based magazine for young people.
Last week, people began sharing an excerpt from the November issue of the magazine, in which the publication's advice columnist appears to victim-blame a young woman asking for advice.
In the "Dear Kelly" letter, titled "Raped After Lying to Mum," an anonymous reader asks for advice after being pressured into sex with a man.
Kelly, the advice columnist, replies by suggesting that the reader was complicit in her rape and acted "like a girl who has been around."
The article received immediate backlash, with people from around the world tweeting excerpts from the piece and writing open letters to the magazine.
In response to the backlash, Kelly Chopard, the writer behind the feature, issued a statement through the magazine in which she said she did not intend to victim-blame, but rather "attempt to point out that one’s actions have consequences."
I sincerely apologize if my response to “Raped after lying to mum” came across as harsh and “blaming the victim”. Please believe me when I say I am profoundly sorry for teenagers who are vulnerable and often “naïve” as I stressed, more than once, in my response in this case. I stated, “Your total naivety led you to believe you were having a sleepover with a best buddy. I totally believe you had no idea that he had sex on his mind. It is most unfortunate for you”.
My response takes into consideration our many readers who seek direction so they will not find themselves in a similar situation. I have to adopt a particular tone so as to make sure the writer does not engage in such risky behavior again, and this is also aimed at warning readers of the consequences they face should they engage in risky behavior.
Throughout my response I never blamed her. I said she was “naïve”. My focus was for her, and our readers, to learn that certain actions have consequences and I wanted to stress, “… never lie to your parents”. I pointed out the dangers of no one knowing where she was, even saying how worried her mum and the best friend would have been if they tried to phone her and got no response because she was under the influence of liquor and “he would not have answered it”.
I was focusing on the danger this girl put herself in. I focused on helping her see that her behavior sent the wrong message to the guy. She honestly stated that the guy never lied to her. “… He said his parents were going away and asked me to stay over, I said yes”. She admitted she knew they have no maid.
I wanted everyone to know the danger of sending the wrong signals. He definitely got the wrong signals. When she arrived she says, “He grabbed me and kissed me”. I said she should have left but stated, “However, I believe you didn’t have a clue what he had in store for you”. Again there is no blaming her.
Again, I stated this because I know she was hurting but I have to put across the point that such behavior obviously gave the guy the wrong idea as he knew she knew, “there was not going to be adult supervision or even anyone else present”. This point is important for the girl, as well as readers, so they get guidelines on how to behave so they don’t send the wrong signals. I try to write in such a way as to stress that care must always be taken so as not to find oneself in a venerable position.
There is no intention of “victim blaming”, just an attempt to point out that one’s actions have consequences and the sad fact, for me who really cares for everyone writing in, is that many young people today take risks and put themselves in precarious situations resulting in unhappy outcomes.
No one can be more sorry for this girl than I. I believe what hurt most was his casual dismissal of her but I was careful NOT to dwell on this so as not to cause her further pain. I tried not to highlight what was going through the guy’s mind. I was careful to downplay his point-of-view so as to spare her additional pain.
I genuinely care for my readers and over the years we have built a warm caring relationship, but I never underplay the seriousness of certain actions that could have negative consequences.
At the end of each issue of the Dear Kelly column is this statement: “Teenage DOES NOT condone pre-marital sex. Also included is a list of relevant associations, with contact details, should anyone seek counseling.
I try my best to help those who need a listening ear and I am gravely sorry that this response has garnered a negative response. I sincerely apologize if my response has upset readers but I hope, after reading this explanation, you will understand where I am coming from. My readers know they mean a lot to me.