Silence Does NOT Equal Consent
Philippa Willitts // 26 April 2010
Jack Tweed and Anthony Davis have been found not guilty of raping a teenage girl.
While this verdict has now been passed, and I therefore cannot suggest that either of them are guilty, I do want to challenge the idea that a woman not saying no means that you are able to just fuck them.
In Davis’s testimony, it turns out that
The court heard that in the police interview Mr Davis said he saw his friend having sex with the woman against a window and that “she didn’t protest it”.
“She didn’t say ‘stop’. She didn’t say anything to suggest she didn’t want it to happen,” he added.
“She didn’t say anything at all.”
“I just got closer and closer. She didn’t say anything.”
It is never ok for a man to presume that he can fuck a woman based on the fact that she is being fucked by someone else, and that when he approaches she doesn’t say anything.
Hugo Schwyzer says, “The opposite of rape is not consent. The opposite of rape is enthusiasm”, and there is a lot of truth in that.
Davis went on to say
“If a girl had been assaulted or raped, she would have come out of that room traumatised.
“She would have been screaming, surely someone would have heard something.”
This is a common misconception, and one which contributes to the low conviction rates of rapists in this country. That rape victims behave in a certain way. If she is not screaming and crying, if she doesn’t instantly call the police, then she can’t have really been raped.
Women cope in whatever way they can in order to survive. This can include denial and withdrawal as much as anger and seeking justice. There is a lot of shame for rape survivors, and a lot of self-questioning, which can mean that women do not immediately tell people – least of all the police, who don’t have a great reputation for sensitivity in these situations – what has happened. This does not mean it did not happen!
I can’t comment on Tweed and Davis being found not guilty. But I am using some details of their testimony to challenge some commonly-used assumptions about women’s reactions to male violence, which apply in many rape cases we see.