Rape - is it our fault?

Anti-rape campaigns spend too much time trying to scare the wits out of women, while perpetrators are all but ignored, argues Dwysan Edwards

Dwysan Edwards, 2 May 2007

I walked along my university corridor last week and was drawn to a poster on the wall; it consisted of a woman with a beer in her hand looking a little worse for wear. Behind her an aggressive looking male towered above. The caption read: "Are you making yourself vulnerable?".

A university filled with young vibrant students pass this wall everyday, and see this poster. What message does this send to women? Again, we are being told to protect ourselves, to be careful, to watch out. Someone out there is out to get us. How much longer should women life in fear. More to the point, why are we still frightened to have a beer in the year 2007?

Isn't it about time that we saw more advertisements and campaigns aimed at the perpetrators of violence and more work done to prevent, predominantly men, growing up assuming they can have this control over women?

In addition, what message is this sending out to men? They are constantly portrayed as would be perpetrators of violence, with supposedly no control over their actions.

It's been said before, but it still frustrates the hell out of me that women are still being held responsible for the possibility they may be attacked. Does a woman drinking alcohol, maybe becoming drunk, make a man or for that matter another woman attack her? It incenses me that women are still being told to act appropriately in order to reduce the risks of being assaulted.

A short while ago on Sky News there was a report on three women who had been attacked in London. The report contained details of the exact times the women were walking (all, perhaps, could be considered 'dangerous' times - very early in the morning/late at night) and it actually reported that all the women wore skirts! What was their purpose in reporting the crime this way? I'd hoped we'd moved on from this but it doesn't seem the case. Women reading such reports will be faced with the dilemma, do they only go out when it's considered 'safe' and should they abandon skirts forever? Are women really to blame for being attacked by what they wear, how much they drink and what time they go out?

Women should dress appropriately, we should be careful about where we leave our drinks. We must make sure we get into a properly licensed cab. What about the actual perpetrators? What is happening to them?

It seems reckless to continue sending this incorrect message to society. Rape, assault and violence does not happen because of what someone is wearing, or whether they are at the wrong place at the wrong time. There is always a choice, perpetrators of violence choose to exercise that control of their victim. It is this behaviour, in my opinion, which should be receiving focus. There is finally work being done in schools to develop safe relationships and to examine the stereotypical gender beliefs still held, more needs to be done earlier one in order to stop this cycle of fear.

A lot has been said about how to prevent rape. Women are told they should learn self-defence. Women suffering domestic abuse are now told they should lock themselves in their houses in a safe room. Women should dress appropriately and not look provocative, we should be careful about where we leave our drinks. We must make sure we get into a properly licensed cab. What about the actual perpetrators? What is happening to them?

In my experience, not enough. Yes there are perpetrator programmes and anger management courses, however society as a whole has changed little. The patriarchal system still subtly exists to support the continued abuse of women.

Isn't it about time that we saw more advertisements and campaigns aimed at the perpetrators of violence and more work done to prevent, predominantly men, growing up assuming they can have this control over women? During 2004/5 there were 13,322 reported rapes of women to the police, two thirds of these don't go any further than the police stage (www.rapecrisis.org.uk/stats) . The worrying statistics of late is that its estimated for every rape that occurs only 1% are convicted because so little are reported in the first place and of that few only a minority go on to conviction.

So are women to blame? Of course not! There is never an excuse for violence.

Women need to fight back and continue to stand up for themselves. Be proud to call yourself a feminist. It means something different to so many women, however it unites us all and demands a quality of life that means we at least reserve the right to walk along the streets at what time we want, having had a drink if we want, and wearing whatever we damn well please!

About the author

Dwysan Edwards

Dwysan Edwards is a 35-year-old feminist and single mum, who works in a refuge. Mid-way through a degree in English and media, she is also a freelance interpreter for deaf people.

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