Abby Lee on the need for change

// 29 December 2007

I read this post by Abby Lee over at Girl with a one-track mind a few days ago, but owing to the devastatingly honest nature of this blog, I wanted to ensure that when writing about it I did it justice. I just hope I do that.

When Lee was 17 she was raped by a 24-year-old man. She’d had a teenage crush on Jim for a few weeks, so she knew her rapist. Had spoken to him. Trusted him in the same way as we all trust those we feel we know pretty well. When he asked her to go back to his “for a smoke” she thought it would be just that. She hoped for a kiss, nothing more. She was 17, had no reason to believe he would force himself inside her, and through tears make her do things she protested against. At 17 I would have acted the same way. At 17 if told I was going back to someone’s place “for a smoke,” I would have assumed it was just that. At 24 I would still have to fight my natural tendency to believe what I’m told in order to question the motives of my would-be host. Lee did nothing wrong.

Jim was and probably still is a pathetic, selfish and spiteful individual who took advantage, not only of a young girl but also of the situation. He took Lee out of her familiar surroundings, and put her in a position where she had no option but to endure being raped throughout the night. She was 20 miles away from her home. It was late at night/the early hours of the morning. She was made to feel like a tease; that in protesting too much she would be frigid. What was she supposed to do? She was violated so forcefully throughout the night that her vagina bled, and the next morning she was told to just leave. She was told as she was raped that she’d wanted it. That if she didn’t she wouldn’t have gone back to his place. She was made to feel that it was her fault. She was just 17.

There’s no doubt that Lee was raped. It was three years before she was able to speak about her ordeal to anybody, and to realise that she had in fact been assaulted and violated in the most heinous way. It’s easy to believe that if you know your attacker, that if you have had any interaction with him, or indeed if you are married to him, that in some way you are responsible for what has happened to you; that in some way it’s not actually rape, but it is, and what Lee has bravely demonstrated is the need for the discussion of such instances more openly, to expose the ignorant bastards (John Redwood anyone?) who think that this is an acceptable way to treat women, and who are not able to understand that rape is rape regardless – drawing a distinction between “types of rape” dilutes the severity of the crime itself!

Redwood has been rightly criticised for his stupid, ill-informed and hugely offensive comments that stranger rape should be considered a more significant crime than rape that happens within the confines of a relationship, or between people who know each other. In making these uneducated quips on his blog, what Redwood did was perpetuate the idea that date rape is nothing more than a “disagreement between lovers” – that it is in fact not rape at all, but rather an inconvenience; an unfortunate side affect of a bad choice. But RAPE IS RAPE whether you know your attacker or not, and what Lee has courageously done is illustrate the extent to which women are made to feel that they are responsible for their own hurt and pain during a sexual attack precisely owing to the ignorant statements perpetuated by empty vessels like Redwood, who are clearly out of touch with what is actually happening around them; who clearly are unable to look outside themselves and empathise with others. Does having had a crush on Jim mean Lee was responsible for her own rape? NO, but if Redwood and his ilk are given airtime this sort of lunacy would be considered. What are we supposed to do when those people entrusted to ensuring our safety have no idea what they are doing? How irresponsible of Redwood!

The comments on Lee’s blog are honest and touching, and show how this is an issue that affects a larger percentage of the female population than the media would have us believe. They also illustrate the need for more support and more education in school, in the workplace, and anywhere where it is going to have an impact, to let young girls and women alike realise that we are never NEVER to blame. That we can discuss this without shame. That we should discuss this to shame those who think this is acceptable. This is an unfortunate legacy left by generations of women who were made to feel like sluts and whores as they were mercilessly fucked against their will; generations of women who were told it was their fault, that they asked for it, that they have to keep quiet as sex is something that we are traditionally only supposed to indulge in for the purposes of male pleasure. Surely then, men taking what “we owe them” can’t be seen as doing a wrong? How ludicrous!

Lee has also written an article over at The Guardian recently on the issue of male sexuality, arguing that more emphasis needs to be placed on the sexual gratification attained by women, rather than our sexual pleasure being something defined by male sexual experience and enjoyment:

“There is an argument that women being able to freely express their sexuality can be seen as empowering to other women. I myself do not dispute this and I believe it important to challenge pervading sexist double standards about male versus female sexuality with open and honest debate about sex. But reading about this young woman [a woman who, when asked how she was having been “roasted” at Manchester United’s Christmas party, answered “They said I was a great shag”] leaves me uncomfortable and makes me wonder just how empowered she is. Not because she chose to have group sex, but due to the fact that she was describing the viewpoint of the men rather than her own. Having society’s permissiveness to be sexually promiscuous without judgement is one thing, but if a woman’s sexuality is still defined by, and considered less important than, the male experience, how can this be deemed sexually liberating or empowering?”

Both pieces are definitely worth a read, and highlight the amount of work that needs to be done before we are seen as more than fuck toys for generations of young men who are working tirelessly to ensure that the status quo remains such. No, not all men think this way. Most would probably be disgusted by what is nothing more than overt misogyny, but those who do endorse this idea are pushing us to the point where we will be able to trust no man.

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