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.
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.