Raped? No, you know him!

// 18 December 2007

Only a small percentage of women who are raped report the attack to the authorities. Of those crimes that are reported, very few rape cases end in conviction. This has been a controversial issue lately, with the general consensus being that more needs to be done to erase the stigma attached to rape cases, and re-educate people to believe that a woman is never responsible for being forcibly violated in the most intimate way, no matter what she is wearing.

The remarks of John Redwood, former Cabinet Minister and now a senior Tory party advisor, have therefore been met with the disdain they deserve. In an article published in the Daily Mail this week, Redwood is reported to have written on his blog:

“They [Labour] decided to set date rape alongside stranger rape. None of us want men to rape women, but there is a difference between a man using unreasonable force to assault a woman on the street, and a disagreement between two lovers over whether there was consent on one particular occasion. Labour’s doctrine of equivalence has led to jury scepticism about many rape claims, in situations where it is the man’s word against the woman’s and where they had agreed to spend the evening or night together.”

So, essentially, what Redwood is saying is that if a man and a woman know each other, then a woman cannot legitimately claim she has been raped? If a woman agrees to go out with a man on a date, or indeed anywhere, then if he rapes her, she can’t complain? That’s the risk she consented to take. No jury in the land will take her seriously, because obviously in agreeing to go to the cinema she’s more or less tattooed the words “fuck me hard” on her most intimate parts? What? What? What? What is Redwood talking about? These were ignorant comments made by somebody who obviously lacks the capacity to empathise with anyone in a situation he has not experienced. He claims, “none of us want men to rape women” – what a weak statement. What he should be saying is that men should NOT rape women. That men who rape women will be punished. That these punishments will be tough. That women will be provided with the support desperately needed to encourage those of us who are attacked to come forward. He doesn’t say any of this, but instead puts forward the argument of the 17-year-old horny stud, who, disgruntled at the fact his girl holds out after the school dance, fucks her anyway, claiming that he did it because she teased him, and he thought that’s what she wanted.

This has been discussed over at Feministing, but what I would like to add is that in making such a bold statement Redwood is unfairly dismissing the heartache and pain experienced by a number of women who have been raped or sexually assaulted by male friends or their partners. This is a complicated issue, and while I understand that it needs to be established in some instances whether a woman has been forced to have intercourse, or whether she simply regrets the experience the next day, (although any rape claim should be treated seriously until evidence suggests otherwise) this is not what Redwood is saying at all.

When you are close to somebody, then surely the fact they would take advantage of their position to rape a woman is nothing short of disgusting, and the gravity of the issue should not be diluted by claiming it’s nothing more than a “disagreement between two lovers.” If a man wants to have sex with his female partner, she doesn’t want to, but he has sex with her anyway, then is that nothing more than a “disagreement between two lovers” or rape? Of course it’s rape, and just because it’s taking place within the confines of a relationship does not lessen the fact that it is a heinous crime.

Women can be and are raped by male friends and partners. It does happen, but it is precisely the attitude Redwood is promoting that stops women from reporting such incidents. Women think that because they know their attacker that it’s not real, but rape isn’t something performed only by strangers. I remember reading an article a few months ago in a women’s glossy magazine (I can’t remember exactly which one), but it was a feature on rape by male friends. Each woman commenting had been attacked by a close male companion, although because they had a platonic relationship, they did not feel able to come forward and report them, instead questioning their own actions – concerned they may have done something to incite their attack. What Redwood fails to understand is that some men use their closeness to women to get sexual gratification, happy with the knowledge that their relationship with them will absolve them of any responsibility for their actions. This is sinister, but unfortunately a sad fact.

If this is the sort of attitude being perpetuated by a Tory party advisor, let’s just hope Cameron et al do not find themselves triumphant following the next election.

I would like to thank The F Word reader Helen for kindly drawing my attention to this article.

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