Guest Post: No, Katie Price is not obliged to name her rapist.

// 18 September 2009

Reader Anji Capes responds to Abby’s post on Katie Price.

Katie Price (the former glamour model more commonly known as Jordan) has stated that she is one of the estimated one in four women in this country who has been a victim of rape. She spoke publicly of it for the first time earlier this month in OK! magazine but has taken the decision not to name her rapist. I was disappointed this morning when an article appeared on The F Word by Abby O’Reilly covering Price’s decision. O’Reilly argues that Price ought to name her rapist publicly, and states that the decision not to do so is “downright irresponsible”.

I believe it is just plain wrong to tell a rape victim what she ‘should’ do about her rape, to dictate to her how she ‘should’ be dealing with it. I am surprised that people who consider themselves feminists are implying that a victim of sexual assault owes it to the world to publicly name her attacker or to report the attack to the police. Apparently because she is a celebrity and someone who is in the public eye, she has an obligation to do what we want her to. What happened to supporting victims and/or survivors by giving them what they need?

Instead of berating someone for not doing what we consider to be the ‘right’ thing we should be concentrating on changing society and the legal avenues which make it so difficult for rape victims to name their rapists and pursue criminal charges. Of course all women should be able to report rape to the police, and to reveal their attackers. In a society which treated rape with the seriousness it deserves, I don’t doubt that many, many more women would. But not all of them – and regardless of their relative anonymity or celebrity status, the wishes and decisions of those who choose not to should be respected as the right decisions for them.

We know that only 6% of rapes which are reported manage to get convictions. Is it so surprising then, that a rape victim – any rape victim – would choose to be one of the 95% of rape victims who do not report the crime to the police? Especially considering several years have passed since Price’s rape happened, the chances of being taken seriously and there being evidence enough to gain a conviction are so small as to be negligible. Alongside that is the fact that going to trial would mean reliving an extremely upsetting experience.

Price knows what (most of) the world thinks of her; most of the news articles I’ve read on this talk of her rape in such terms that make it clear they do not believe her, that this is some sort of publicity stunt. She is already seen in a poor light by the majority of major media and the general public which hangs on its every word. What would she achieve by publicly naming her attacker?

Naming him would lead to a trial in which she would have to relive her rape, a trial which as we already know she is unlikely to ‘win’. And when she lost, the whole nation would then jump around saying “I told you so” and brand her a liar – imagine the effect that will have on her and her family. Not to mention, it would be just another reinforcement of that tired old trope that “women always lie about rape” (actually false rape allegations are statistically no more common than false allegations of any other crime). It must have been bloody hard for Price to talk about her rape in public, and she should be applauded for her bravery.

O’Reilly’s piece implies that as a public figure, Price has some sort of duty to become a figurehead for rape survivors, to show women who have been raped how it should be done. I don’t think this is fair. All women who have survived rape should be supported in dealing with their experience in whatever way they feel to be most appropriate for them, with no conditions or quid pro quos, and so should Katie Price. None of us have the right to tell her what she ‘should’ be doing, and I think it’s time we gave the support she needs at this difficult time without resorting to making declarations about what she ‘should’ do.

Comments From You

Ruth Moss // Posted 18 September 2009 at 9:31 pm

Well said Anji. I’m glad the f word put up this rebuttal of yours, but to be honest, I have no idea why the original article was deemed acceptable for a feminist web site in the first place.

I realise the f word authors are independent of each other, but surely it could have been marked as offensive and removed pretty quickly?

And it’s not the first time the author of that article has come up with woman-blaming sentiments like that before.

Polly // Posted 18 September 2009 at 9:39 pm

Thanks Anji. We need to be clear that no rape victim has a *duty* to press charges – there’s a 94% chance there will be no conviction on average, which goes up to 100%, let’s face it, in a case like this.

And can anyone think of a celebrity who’s been accused of rape and convicted, or even charged in most cases? The last I can think of is Mike Tyson, who was of course in the USA and it was many years ago.

There is an automatic assumption, it seems, that it is somehow impossible for someone famous to also be a sex offender. Gary Glitter has now been recognised as a paedophile thanks to his convictions overseas, but when he was originally accused and found not guilty of raping a young girl in the UK the woman who made the accusation was vilified by a large section of the press, despite the fact he’d just been convicted for downloading child pornography. And look at the efforts to rehabilitate Chris Langham, or Pete Townshend, both convicted of downloading child porn.

Racheal // Posted 18 September 2009 at 9:45 pm

I want no emotional involvement in any celebrity’s life because it seems to be unachievable and unquestionable. I would hate to think that this story is going to unfold in the media and the pain will be innevitable. I wish her the best but do not condone the way katie’s story unfolded 4 many reasons i cannot explain coz they are not ‘valid’.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 18 September 2009 at 10:09 pm

Absolutely correct it is far more important to challenge the multiple ways our patriarchal society justifies, condones, minimalises and excuses male sexual violence against women.

Just in case anyone is not aware 95% men charged with rape are acquitted and only 5.6% men are convicted. Primarily because these men admit the charges.

It is not individual female rape survivors’ responsibility to attempt to challenge or change our women-hating society, rather we should instead focus our efforts on rebutting and demanding radical legal and societal changes.

Given the legal system does not allow a female rape survivor to rebut defence counsel attempts to discredit her but does allow defendants to produce character witnesses this in itself reinforces widespread belief ‘women who cry rape are all liars.’ This is only one bias and there are many more starting the moment a male commits rape and/or sexual assault against a female.

Irrespective of whether or not a woman/girl tells another human being she all too commonly believes she must have done something to cause the man/men to rape her. Or, she will attempt to minimalise the man’s/men’s violence committed against her. Either way such perspectives are not hers but rather what she has learned, because men apparently must never be held accountable or responsible for their actions and behaviour inflicted on women.

So instead of focusing on Ms. Price’s actions – learn about the multiple ways our society excuses and justifies male violence against women. Read Carnal Knowledge by Sue Lees because this a good introduction to the innumerable ways women are blamed and held accountable for men’s sexual violence committed against them.

This would be a start but it is not the end, it would be the beginning of challenging ingrained rape myths and misogynistic perceptions that all women are inherent liars.

At the same time we must respect and support all female rape survivors and not judge them. Our male supremacist society does that already in droves – which is why rape myths and claims false allegations concerning rape are at least 40% or higher. Despite constant rebuttals and evidence refuting such claims, far too many men and a good few women continue to believe them.

It is far easier to adhere to male-dominant perceptions of what does and does not supposedly constitute male sexual violence against women rather than listen and not judge women’s experiences of male violence committed against them.

I do not blame Abby O’Reilly for writing such an article rather I blame the insidious ways our male-dominant society naturalises and normalises male violence against women. We all live within a male supremacist so it should not surprise us that many, many women whilst not accepting many rape myths and lies concerning women survivors of male sexual violence, do however often

fall into the trap of blaming women rape survivors because they supposedly do not do what we consider to be ‘the appropriate and right course of action.’

blame women rape survivors if they do

Such beliefs serve to reinforce male-centered and male-dominant notions of what supposedly constitutes a supposedly ‘real female rape survivor.’

This neatly serves to divert attention away from holding male sexual predators accountable for their actions and also diverts attention away from how and why so many men claim ‘but I’m not a rapist because I know she wanted it, or she led me on, or she wore provocative clothing etc.’

Note I do not say all men are rapists but we all live in a society which condones, justifies, excuses and minimalises male sexual violence against women. This cannot be said too often and it needs to be said repeatedly because facing reality means challenging dominant notions of male sexuality and masculinity.

SnowdropExplodes // Posted 19 September 2009 at 1:41 am

Absolutely.

Not to mention, since the reports today were that he is some form of celebrity, then it can be almost guaranteed that naming him publicly before the trial would jeopardise the possibility of there even being a trial – the inevitable media hoopla that would follow would almost certainly prejudice the chances of finding an unbiased jury (Does anyone remember “Knock knock. Who’s there? OJ. OJ who? Right, you’re on the jury!”?)

depresso // Posted 19 September 2009 at 10:45 am

Thank you Anji. If there’s one thing that this tabloid media storm has shown, it’s that the need to fight the rape myths is as strong as ever, and that ‘should’ (and ‘ought’) really needs to be ripped from the dictionary and banished from the vocabulary!

Anna // Posted 19 September 2009 at 11:15 am

Thank you – clearly articulated, excellently written. I found Abby’s article saddening in that she showed how hard it is for a woman to gain a conviction, and be believed – why would Katie Price be any different? The vast majority of my friends (bar one male) thinks it’s either made up for press sympathy or worse – and this is so common – that Price exists in some sort of ‘unrapable’ territory because of her work as a glamour model. Because she sells pictures of her chest she can’t say no. This scares me. This also makes me believe Price even more, because if my friends think like that it’s a good chance other people think like that. And that makes them more likely to rape.

If she named her attacker, and it wasn’t proven in court, isn’t it possible for a libel suit? Anyway. I don’t know, I just thoroughly disagreed with Abby. I think Price should be free to deal with it as she pleases – and if I were her I certainly wouldn’t want to name my attacker.

Mary // Posted 19 September 2009 at 11:19 am

Naming him would lead to a trial in which she would have to relive her rape, a trial which as we already know she is unlikely to ‘win’.

I am pessimistic to think that, no, it wouldn’t. What it would lead to is the press doing, “My Side of the Story” interviews with the guy, in which he slags her off and calls her a liar and a fantasist, and opinion columns in which journalists of both sexes talk about the necessity of preserving accused rapists’ anonymity and the terrible ordeal that men who are falsely accused of rape go through. But I don’t think it would get anywhere near court.

Becky // Posted 20 September 2009 at 1:06 am

Thank you. I was completely APPALLED to read that on a “feminist” site.

Laura // Posted 20 September 2009 at 2:23 pm

Hi Ruth,

When controversial pieces go up we can choose to take them down or leave them up there so discussion can continue. Whatever we decide, we get criticised: if we leave it up there we’re seen to be condoning what has been called offensive, if we take it down we’re seen to be ‘covering up’ what happened. There were already a lot of comments (in moderation) left on the piece when I read and disagreed with it, and the decision was taken to air these comments and let the discussion take place rather than take the piece down.

earwicga // Posted 20 September 2009 at 5:12 pm

Hi Laura,

I can see what you are saying with regard to Abby’s post, which I must said I found utterly offensive.

I have derived a lot of positives from feminist websites I have been looking at recently, while beginning to deal with a rape that occured 22 years ago – I was very surprised and upset to find Abby’s post on here, and can’t imagine the effect it would have on somebody who has been recently raped.

I for one would like the Abby’s post to be removed, despite the fact there are good and worthy comments following it.

Charlotte // Posted 20 September 2009 at 5:40 pm

I’m really glad you wrote this, Anji. I came on The F Word to see if anything had been written about Katie Price, because I had written a post and I was hoping to find other sensible feminist perspectives – I was horrified to see the other post on The F Word!

Well done!

Kristin // Posted 20 September 2009 at 5:53 pm

I don’t think people should blame Abby too much. As someone pointed out, hatred of women is so ingrained that sometimes even feminists can get caught up in victim blaming. Probably because we wish so desperately that things could change, and get so fed up with how every little step forward is often followed by a giant one back.

This is a bit of an aside, but A.A. Gill has written a vitriolic diatribe about British women in the Sunday Times today. ‘Bin bags’ and ‘unhumpable hell’ are just a couple of his insults. And the comments…! Daily Mail, eat your heart out. It just illustrates even more that if a lot of men still feel it’s okay to express these attitudes, it’s the smallest of steps to thinking it’s okay to assault, rape and blame women.

And another aside-aside! Doesn’t The Times want any British women readers? Just wondered.

saranga // Posted 20 September 2009 at 8:23 pm

Hear hear Anji.

I was horrified to read Abby’s article and some of the comments in support of it. However I am pleased it went up because the topic needs to be discussed, and i am pleased your article has been posted in response.

Lisa V // Posted 20 September 2009 at 10:04 pm

I don’t think it is Katie’s “responsibility to attempt to challenge or change our women-hating society”. However not reporting her attacker leaves him free to go on to rape others. As hard as it is to report crimes such as these I do feel it is important that women are still encouraged to do so.

Claire // Posted 21 September 2009 at 12:48 am

I have to say that I am very glad that it was not removed, and have appreciated the debate that ensued. I found it very interesting and enlightening, raising several important points that I would not have considered myself.

Sometimes people will say things that are not-so-feminist. I don’t think that it’s right to shut down discussion – that way nobody learns anything. I may not have agreed with the post to begin with, but now I feel much better able to articulate *why*.

Not all feminists will hold the same views (and not all know as much about feminism), and personally I love this website the most when debate is generated, as I feel I learn more. Respectful, articulate debate is a wonderful thing and I’d hate to see it shut down. If I ever posted something inadvertently unfeminist I’d love to have counter-points explained. Besides, those things would be more symptomatic of the culture we live in, and having those problems pointed out is not a bad thing.

thebeardedlady // Posted 21 September 2009 at 11:12 am

I am one of those who found Abby’s article offensive and also upsetting — I am used to hearing such arguments everywhere I look and go, but didn’t expect to come across them here. However, I agree with those who appreciated having the article left up. It’s better to have the debate and maybe learn something from it. We can’t just censor views we don’t like – better to engage with them and challenge ourselves to articulate why they are wrong.

But it has changed the way I think about this website and it no longer seems like the same place. Where are rape survivors meant to go now for unquestioning support? Virtually nobody believes women who say they’ve been raped, and the only places on the internet that feel ‘safe’ in that respect are feminist sites like this one — but to me, this one is no longer safe because of that article.

I also agree with the person who said let’s not blame Abby too much. It’s all too easy to make her the focus and to make her a scapegoat, but that’s unfair. It’s up to her now to deal with the effects and the impact of her post.

Anna // Posted 21 September 2009 at 12:26 pm

lisa – it doesn’t make a difference whether she goes to the police or not, chances of a conviction are very slim anyway and in a case such as this sadly negligible. Ms Price is doing nothing by ‘leaving him to go free’ – it’s society that does that and the rapist is entirely responsible for his own actions, not Ms Price.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 21 September 2009 at 12:29 pm

Thanks for the comments everyone.

As you know this blog is collaborative (i.e. a collective of several regular bloggers, with occasional guest post stints). Making decisions and organising things in a collective – as I’m sure many of you will know – can be very difficult sometimes. Trying to work out the best thing to do amongst a large group of people is hard and involves a lot of discussion, made more difficult by the fact that on the internet there is a lot of pressure for action to be taken almost immediately, as well as the fact that not all of us are around at the same time since we have jobs and other things to do.

Anyway, we all care very deeply about readers’ reactions and please be assured that any comments are being considered and taken on board by everyone. Thank you for all the constructive criticism.

Ruth Moss // Posted 21 September 2009 at 6:02 pm

Thanks Laura, I can see where you’re coming from.

I wonder if, in light of this post, we could have Anji writing for the F word more often?

Jacinta // Posted 22 September 2009 at 10:13 am

Yeah, I have been pretty disgusted by much of what I’ve read, also friends’ Facebook statuses have been pretty horrifying. I have unsubscribed from Popbitch, I wrote a blog about unsubscribing & that & someone wrote hey, don’t you realize it’s a lie…I’ve been pretty upset. I’ve always been a big fan of Jordan! But here’s this nice piece in the Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/20/katie-price-barbara-ellen-comment

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