Raped and blamed

This week in the UK there’s been a story that keeps lingering.  A survey of 1000 men and women in London found that attitudes persist that women who are raped are to blame (to some extent) for the crime committed upon them.

Sad to say, but this doesn’t surprise me.  Not at all.

But as the media focused on this story over the week and talk shows brought on vapid commentators, the story reached new levels of disgust for me – and in particular a horrible piece on ITV’s This Morning.

Here was the panel.  Hosts, Holly Willoughby (whom I love from Xtra Factor) and silver-haired Phillip Schofield.   Ruth Hall from Women Against Rape and the vile Carole Malone.

Ruth Hall emphasised the points that you might expect as an anti-rape and victim’s rights campaigner and then Carole Malone successfully talked over her with the position that if a gal puts on a short skirt and and gets a snootful then really…what did she expect?  Not that any one deserves to be raped, but…well – what did she expect?

Actually, I think she should – in general – expect not to be raped.  But given that there is indeed evil in this world, she should expect that if she is raped that her case will be dealt with sensitively and swiftly and that the police and crown prosecutor’s office will work together to pursue justice.  And I think she should expect that people like Carole Malone will be treated with ridicule and not given soft-pedal support from vapid presenters like Phil Schofield.   I think she should also expect presenters like Holly Willoughby not to sit there with a shocked and horrified expression on her face – but to challenge cavemen like Phil.  Poor Holly, though – she clearly felt she couldn’t challenge him openly.  Maybe her contract on This Morning is only short term.

I think she should also expect for the old double-standard to be challenged:

1. She was drunk, she’s to blame for her own rape.

2. He’s not a rapist, he was drunk.  His judgement was impaired (plus, the hussy was wearing a short skirt). Diddums.

If that’s the logic, then the drunk driver who hits the drunk pedestrian should be given some counselling while the victim pays for the repair to his windscreen.  Even if our tipsy rambler stayed on the sidewalk.


In one sense, I do think victims sometimes have to take some responsibility for what happens to them.  My car got broken into when I once left a leather handbag on display. I kept it in the car in case I needed a handbag – it was empty – normally I kept it shoved up under the seat.  I failed to notice that it was partially visible.  The junkie who smashed my window to take the bag and a £4 flashlight from our glove box was apparently more observant that day.

I recognise that I had some preventative responsibility.  But at the same time, my lapse doesn’t in any way diminish the responsibility of the thief who broke into my car.  He (she? probably a he) was the only one who made the decision to smash my windows and steal from me.  I wasn’t the one who committed the crime.  And the punishment of the person who did it shouldn’t be reduced because I was silly.   My lesson has been learned. And I sure don’t need any scorn heaped upon me. I already paid the price for what I failed to do.

It’s the same with rape.  Sometimes there are things you can do to prevent looking like a likely target.  Even if you didn’t, it’s still not your fault if you were raped.  And it for sure doesn’t diminish the responsibility of the rapist in any legal or moral sense.

And sometimes you can take all precautions and still be raped.

3 responses to “Raped and blamed

  1. the takeway for me is that women pretend there are “rules” they can follow to help keep from getting raped in order to give themselves a sense of control over something they *can’t* control.

    the only way to not get raped, is to not be around a rapist. unfortunately they’re usually not wearing placards that say “rapist”.

    we should have the same expectations of safety for women as for men – we don’t tell men they shouldn’t drink too much or they might get raped. or they shouldn’t walk alone at night or they might get assaulted…but we tell women that *all the time*.

    statistically most rapes are committed by people they know – so should we then tell women they’re safer if they hang out with strangers?

    the problem with the “prevention” message is this: you *cannot* make women reponsible for “protecting themselves” without also implying that the corollary is then also true – namely, that if you *don’t* “protect yourself”, then you are somehow responsible if something happens. and that’s when it strays into victim-blaming.

    the idea that being cautious will keep you safe is an illusion that we women tend to perpetuate amongst ourselves. and THAT’s what i think shows up in the poll.

  2. Men are often the victims of crime. I know someone who recently had his iPhone stolen when he fell asleep on public transport. He probably had been drinking (I didn’t ask – I only assume). I would tell him – and he probably knows – that he took some risks that made him a more likely target of crime.

    If you don’t have double locks on your door you’re a more likely victim to be burgled. If you flash a lot of cash you’re more likely to be robbed.

    It’s also true that people who park on my street without a resident’s permit are more likely to have their car broken into – that’s because the criminals tend to target people who are visiting the local hospital.

    I don’t have problem with making people aware of that. What I do have a problem with is making them feel responsible for someone else’s actions. Or diminishing the responsibility of the person who ACTUALLY committed the crime. For most of these non-sexual crimes we accept these risk-mitigation ideas while still holding the criminal wholly responsible. It does seem like only with rape we take it that next step further and actually blame the victim and reduce the responsibility of the rapist.

    And sometimes you can take every reasonable precaution and your car is stil stolen, your house is still broken into. Or you may still be raped.

    And rapes happen when all those kind of ‘normal’ rules of prevention simply don’t apply.

    The other issue is that the rape prevention messages are usually just plain wrong. Skimpy outfits? That’s not what causes rape. Being drunk is not what causes rape. Assuming that people who engage in these kinds of behaviours are the only victims of rape is the dangerous illusion you refer to.

  3. It makes me mad. I was first approached by my attacker when I was clothed from head to foot pretty much, no leg showing. Not much on show at all really. But shock, horror, men can actually make out the shape of a woman even with her clothes on, I know it’s so hard to believe. He knew he wanted me and it didn’t make much different what I wore or didn’t wear and what I wanted.
    We did crime prevention at school, I remember stamping my postcode on my bike, perhaps we should all put a message on our bodies, “If I’m asking for sex I’ll use words, not your secret dress code.”


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