Widgets Magazine


Herries responds to Bloomberg piece

Recently an article appeared in Bloomberg entitled “Hook-Up Culture at Harvard, Stanford Wanes Amid Assault Alarm.” The piece has since been edited to better, but not entirely, reflect my views. In the original, I was both quoted and paraphrased from an interview I had with the author. The interview request stemmed from two op-eds I wrote for The Stanford Daily between 2012 and 2013. I feel grossly misrepresented by the original Bloomberg article. The position I was assigned in the piece was, from my perspective, stitched together from different parts of the conversation I had with the reporter, without adequately including the earlier articles I had written. Those two articles can be found in The Daily’s archive. Their titles are “Victim Blaming Problem” and “Victim Blaming.”

In the latter, I came to the following conclusion about victim blaming: “I’m tempted to say that victim blaming is universally wrong, not only because it is an attempt to limit the freedom of the victim but also because it’s an attempt to take blame away from the perpetrator. In reality, only the perpetrator can prevent a crime from happening; crime is the criminal’s decision. We try to use victims as extenuating circumstances to lessen, or at least explain, an offense.” This quote better represents my view on the subject of victim blaming and are my own written words.

It’s clear from this that the author was incorrect to imply that I endorse victim blaming. While I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt and do not see any perfidy on his end, I do see a potential series of steps that created this miscommunication.

First, the quote of the bicycle. In an earlier piece, I state how victim blaming is a problem we see with all crimes, not just sexual assault. At no point did I compare women to bicycles, as I have been accused of doing. I simply made the jump to say that victim blaming is a pervasive problem in society for most crimes, which negatively affects the victims of those crimes as well. Understanding how ingrained victim blaming is in our culture can ultimately help us combat it.

My point, which I tried to convey in the interview, was that people often conflate an assumption of risk with an assumption of responsibility.

If I leave my bike unlocked, I have assumed a risk. I am by no means, however, responsible if it gets stolen. The criminal is responsible for the crime of theft. Likewise, if someone chooses to walk alone at night, there is, statistically, a greater risk of something bad happening than if the same person had walked in a group. However, the person is, in my view, not responsible for anything bad that happens, such as a theft or assault.

I came to this view during my time as a resident assistant. On the one hand, I wanted to offer my residents tips about partying safely. On the other hand, I did not want them to fall into a victim blaming trap for not taking those tips into consideration. Therefore, I told them to stay safe, i.e. not assume undue risk, with the caveat that blaming a victim is never acceptable. Crime is always the criminal’s fault. I know there are bad people out there, even at Stanford. My hope is that I will see a society in which I don’t have to offer safety tips to my residents, but that is not the society we live in presently.

The Bloomberg piece only captured the first part of my view, about not assuming undue risk. It did not highlight the caveat I offer, that responsibility never rests with the victim, but only with the perpetrator.

I want a culture that minimizes risk while still realizing that only a criminal is responsible for crime. By citing half of my opinion, the author represented me as someone who believes victims are responsible for their own safety. This sentiment is not true, and it is not mine. Some, for good reason, would say that offering safety tips is wrong in the first place, because it seems like victim blaming. That is an understandable view, but I care about the safety of my residents and friends. Therefore, I feel I can talk about safe behavior, while still reinforcing the idea that victim blaming is wrong. If the conversation is approached deftly, I do not think pro-safety and anti-victim-blaming views are mutually exclusive. In fact, I think it is practical. While that is a productive debate to have, it is separate from the misrepresentation of my views in the Bloomberg piece. Fortunately, my views on the subject have already been written down for everyone to see, and are on The Daily’s website. Those articles are my own words, and include nuances understandably absent from the Bloomberg piece.

Other articles have been written condemning me, but they merely responded to the Bloomberg article. My hope is that this column can illuminate my actual ideas so those authors can either edit their pieces or write new articles highlighting my views. What grieves me most about the misrepresentation I experienced in Bloomberg is not simply the defamation of my character, but the unfair portrait it painted of Stanford. Therefore, I hope this article makes the rounds in the Stanford community, so I can show where I truly stand, and further confront the issue.


Contact Chris Herries at herriesc@stanford.edu.

About Chris Herries

Chris Herries is a sophomore majoring in Latin. His interests include rugby, crossfit, weiqi, and public service. Please shoot him an email if you have an issues with his articles.
  • randyalbin

    there’s some kind of a conflict here. oh well, maybe bloomberg got it right. go forward from here. not everything that is printed is worth paying much attention to

  • Lililli

    It is clear you were grossly misrepresented. Thanks for clarifying your views, which are spot on.

  • Grateful Reader

    Thanks for responding without getting defensive! This clarifies a lot and I’m glad you wrote it!

  • ohboy

    it’s kinda hard to say “maybe bloomberg got it right” when one is a truncated quote the reporter chose and the other is the author’s own words, from both before and after the interview. just sayin

  • Guest123

    Thank you for this update, I think you are incredibly thoughtful about these issues, and I hope that many, many people see this update.

  • stanford 16

    I don’t even know you, but I saw the piece and some Stanford students attacking you on Facebook. Seemed insanely fucked up that people wouldn’t listen to your story (your “friends”/fellow students), and instead just go with what they wanted to hear…Very odd and strange that we wouldn’t look for the best in our classmates, even more so when they have a very logical and reasonable explanation supported by actual evidence as opposed to a stitched together piece where it was very clear to me that your part of the article had a very specific agenda. The whole article seemed incredibly contrived to be honest. I think that in trying to show the complexity of the issue, they chose to over simplify everyone’s positions in order to show “different” perspectives. It’s unfortunate that they chose you to be the representation of ignorance at elite schools. I sent an email to the Bloomberg editors, so I’m glad they at least did something to the article, but I haven’t read the new version.

  • Herries

    Thank you. We need to target the Guardian, Jezebel and .Mic right now.

  • Thanks

    As a member of the Stanford community, I really appreciate this clarification and the maturity with which you’ve responded. I was alarmed by original quote in the Bloomberg article, but your cogent, measured explanation is one that I can get behind.

  • Herries
  • Melissa

    Its too bad the other one went somewhat viral. Your best bet here is to claim misrepresentation and ask the quote be completely retracted, then offer that retraction as evidence to all of the other main stories that responded to your quote.

  • Malena

    Butt hurt feminists will misquote, misrepresent and completely outright lie in order to create stories of misogyny that don’t even exist. Seriously, who victim-blames these days? As Chris said, if you increase your statistics of any crime, you are partially responsible for becoming a target (nothing new about this. it’s just math).
    However, just because you’re partially responsible and part of the blame is on you, that doesn’t mean anybody is angry at you personally. It’s just an obvious logic.

    If you do anything that increases your chances of winning the lottery, are you not partially responsible for winning it? Are we now saying if you put a lot of effort on studying for an exam, because you simply increase your chances of getting an A+, since ultimately the teacher is the one to decide your grade, you’re not to blame for your A+ and hard effort? Or to blame for your F?

    When did we become completely illogical and unreasonable in favor of outrightly stupid political correctness?

  • kasi

    You are very young and uninformed. Victim blaming happens every single day.

  • kasi

    In fact, Malena, please print and keep a copy of your views about victim blaming. Keep them when you’re in the workforce, when you have children, little girls, etc. and then maybe you’ll have learned about empathy and the real world. I feel sad for you:(