Sexual Violence in the news

// 2 July 2008

Further to this Jill Saward has written this piece on why she’s standing for the by-election. Needless to say, it being a Comment is Free piece so far she’s been described as “pathetic” (robertdaniel), told to “grow up” (GoingGoingGordon), that her writing is “spurious” (RoadRiverandRail), that women reporting rape are all liars (comment detailed but quoted in another one), that women shouldn’t make this a gender/feminist issue (tangerinedream), that talking about rape is “sneaky” (Kvasnik) and that her campaign is “absolute bollocks” (funwithwhips). Lovely.

Meanwhile, cashing in on women’s fears of violence, Fiona Bruce and Jacqui Hames from Crimewatch have written another “women it’s all you fault” book. Although Bruce and Hames deny wanting to make women feel more vulnerable their strategy is:

neither woman wants to increase the general level of fear in the female population. Savvy! tries to reassure as well as warn, pointing out that the stuff of nightmares – the sex attacker lurking in the shadows near the lonely path or the burglar-attacker breaking in at night – will remain just that for the vast majority of women.

From Telegraph

They fail to mention that for women who are raped the shadow-lurking or burgling rapist is a figment of the imagination – because most women are raped by a person or persons they know. So why do I call this women-blaming, take this little snippet:

“Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol will raise you to the top of the potential victim stakes,” says Hames. “You’re not in full control; your awareness is impaired; you are vulnerable – and you look it.”

From Telegraph

Now I am all for everyone, woman, man and child, taking sensible and reasonable precautions with their safety, but to talk of their being “victim stakes” which makes it a matter of “odds” and “calculations” is, frankly, rather obscene to my mind. But there is no discussion of what constitutes excessive – a man preparing to rape knows that a woman who has ingested any alcohol will be subject to quizzing from the Police about her capacity to consent and memory of doing so (I speak from experience after being clobbered by a brick and sexually assaulted – I was asked whether the two glasses of wine I’d had impaired my memory (no that was the concussion) and whether I might have consent).

In the meantime, and to remind ourselves that sexual violence is just a UK concern, there is a biographical piece over here on Medicine Sans Frontiers nurses working with sexual violence survivors in Liberia.

Singer says the cases of an adult male raping a young girl are the majority of cases there. “Approximately 87% of our patients are under the age of 19 — 9% are under 5 years of age,” she says. “Eighty-five percent of the alleged perpetrators are someone who is known to the victim. It is also notable that when the age of the perpetrator is known, 29% are also under the age of 18.”


Comments From You

Anne Onne // Posted 2 July 2008 at 12:14 pm

Drinking may lower your awareness and physical ability, but most women aren’t exactly Rocky-esque towering pillars of muscle. It’s fairly unlikely that many women would be able to take on a burly bloke who really wanted to overpower them, even with a bit of training. *

I could never drink, never go out alone, take all their precautions, and still get dragged into a hedge by the archetypal dark alley rapist. That doesn’t change. And the dark alley rapist isn’t the rapist most rape victims have experienced, though he is the one women are taught to fear most. Statistically, women are much more likely to be raped by someone they know and trust, sober as well as drunk.

That’s why this book is useless. Most rapists aren’t the type they describe, and the type they describe would be able to drag most women off, sober or drunk. Not to mention that with ‘date rape’ women don’t need to be very drunk to pass out.

* Which isn’t to say women shouldn’t resist, if they feel it’s right for the situation. But they shouldn’t be blamed for not being able to. Women shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for not being able to fend off an attacker that is bigger and stronger than them, sober or drunk. And I think this rhetoric adds to that ‘do everything or it’s your fault’ focus.

Rape happens because men choose to rape women. That’s what we should all remember and try to change.

Torygirl // Posted 2 July 2008 at 8:54 pm

Men don’t only choose to rape women.

Men and women can inflict sexual violence upon someone of either sex.

I feel strongly, though, that all rape is a feminist issue as almost all work that has happened to get rape recognised for what it is has come from feminists.

We really do have to unite to stop the backslide because it seems that talking about rape and addressing rape properly has become uncool as the same rate that rampant misogyny is again becoming cool.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 3 July 2008 at 6:36 pm

Constantly blaming women and holding them accountable is a deliberate tactic designed to hide male accountability. Men who commit rape choose to do so and unfortunately men as a group benefit because the fear of rape ensures that women are kept in a subordinate role.

It is men’s and boys’ behaviour and beliefs we should be focusing on and challenging. No man or boy has the right to demand or expect sexual access to any woman or girl. But there patriarchy does not want the focus placed on male behaviour and attitudes far better to blame women for men committing rape. Note, 99.9999% of rapists are male NOT FEMALE and it was male rapists who raped Liberian women and girls not ‘individuals or people’ but males.

Alcohol does not cause rape what causes rape is a male/males’ decision to refuse to see the woman/girl as an autonomous human being whose sexuality belongs to her not to males. We must challenge the embedded belief that males innately have the right and privilege of sexual access to any woman or girl and if a woman/girl reports a man/boy has raped her we must not presume the woman/girl is lying. Rape is used to keep women subordinate to men. Most male rapists know the women/girls they sexually attack and most male rapists are not deranged monsters. They are normal respectable men who consider women and girls to be their sexual property.

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