Eamonn Holmes, victim blaming…no wonder students are scared

// 27 October 2011

In the light of Pippa’s great blog earlier in the week (and her stardom in the Daily Mail!) I wanted to share a conversation I had with my second-year undergraduates today.

As part of their journalism studies, I sent them out around campus to find their own stories to research and write, and a group of young women came back with a story about the lack of lighting on campus.

450px-Street_Lighting,_Horncastle_-_geograph.org.uk_-_563386.jpg

I asked them what kind of quotes they’d got – they told me the females they’d spoken to didn’t feel safe in the dark if they were alone; the males they’d spoken to said they felt safe on campus, but wouldn’t let their girlfriends walk around by themselves (at this point smoke came out of my ears, I think).

So I asked them whether they felt safe on campus in the dark. They all said they didn’t.

And so I asked them why. There have been no incidents of women being attacked on campus during their time there, nor in the area. And as they thought about it, one said, “I think it’s because we’re told that we ought to feel unsafe in the dark by ourselves. The media, and everything.”

Quite so.

Comments From You

Jennifer Drew // Posted 27 October 2011 at 11:20 pm

Yet we women are constantly told by malestream media that they just ‘report the news’ and do not engage in propaganda or misinformation! This proves once again how effective the media is in maintaining and repeating male-centric lies concerning women’s safety. Neither must we ignore fact malestream media is a very powerful and effective tool of male supremacist system.

Remember women never, ever venture out after dark alone because according to the malestream media ‘the bogey man will get you.’ Men and boys needn’t worry because the streets belong to them and that’s why malestream media never blames them when another male or males physically assaults them. After all can’t have malestream media telling men and boys ‘don’t venture out into the public sphere after dark because you’ll be blamed for provoking a male into attacking you. Oh and by the way what were you males doing out after dark all alone without a female protector? You were asking for trouble and you alone are to blame not the male or males who attacked you!’

MaryPyne // Posted 28 October 2011 at 11:25 am

Jennifer, in fact males *do* get told not to venture out after dark (or worse, see below) – if they have a disability.

My teenage (i.e. strapping, not a tiny child) son with HF autism was regularly attacked in the street and park in broad daylight. The response when we tried to find out if there was anything we could do?

“Why do you let him out?”

Yep, apparently, he had no right to step outside his front door whilst being socially odd.

Heard similar reponses re gay men – “don’t go around holding hands, then”.

It goes deeper than a simple male/female dichotomy.

Amy // Posted 28 October 2011 at 5:59 pm

I do not usually read this blog and was not even aware of it until I read the daily mail article today in which it was mentioned. However after reading the daily mail and subseqeuntly this post I felt strongly compelled to make a comment. In agreement with the previous commentor I feel very strongly regarding the subject of the way in which the media reports on the safety of women and rape cases. My attention was first drawn to this subject when undertaking an undergraduate psychology course studying the reproduction of knowledge in the media – my attention became focused on the article below:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-319696/Rape-peril-binge-drinking.html

I’m aware this article is now a few years old, but I’m sure you will understand my anger at the audacity of the daily mail to even comment on eamon holmes when they’ve previously been publishing artiticles such as these. With media commentry continuing along these lines, I fear it will be a long time before women are really treated as blameless victims of such horrific crimes.

Dan F // Posted 29 October 2011 at 11:21 pm

This is less about victim blaming and more to do with the sensationalist tabloid media telling people that they should be terrified of going out in the dark because there are muggers, rapists and murderous everywhere who will get you!

sianandcrookedrib // Posted 31 October 2011 at 9:32 am

Dan F – it is and it isn’t. it isn’t just tabloids telling women not to go out after dark. it’s the police, it’s safety campaigns, it’s family and friends and colleagues – we are always being told how to ‘avoid’ rape and campaigns rarely tell rapists to not rape. This leads to victim blaming and in turn impacts on the horribly low conviction rate.

Chelsy // Posted 31 October 2011 at 12:48 pm

I think the message that is put across to women regarding ‘safety at night’, is simply there as a way to inform women of the potential dangers that do infact occur on a regular basis, and is certianly not a message that is intended to place the responsibilty of avoiding rape on women themselves. If a parent tells their child not to roam the streets alone at night, does this mean that if the child does exactly this, and something were to happen to them, that it’s the childs fault? Of course not. Messages and cases regarding women staying safe on the streets at night portrayed by the media, or anyone for that matter are simply informing women that yes, rape does happen; although the rapist – man or woman – is soley to blame for their actions, be careful, take precautions, because through no fault of your own, unfortunately, you are a target. Similarly to the way men walking alone at night are targets for mugging and unprovoked attacks, which are also frequently portrayed in the media.

Cycleboy // Posted 31 October 2011 at 4:23 pm

Not read the Daily Mail’s article so can’t comment. However, our perceptions of danger are very weird, as I can testify:

When touring NZ I went into an isolated youth hostel. A neighbour checked me in then left. There were only 2 rooms and I put my bags in the bunk room, which evidently had one other occupant, and went out for a walk.

On my return the other occupant was there, a young woman who remarked that she’d not been able to lock the front door the previous night and had felt nervous. She said she felt safer now that I’d arrived. She was sharing not only a house but a bedroom with a bloke she didn’t know from Adam, and she felt safe. Go figure.

spicy // Posted 31 October 2011 at 6:33 pm

@ Chelsy: if your theory were true, then we would see regular media stories warning women not to spend time at home since this is where most women experience sexual violence but we don’t. 54% of rapes are committed by current or former male partners (and these are the rapes most likely to result in physical injury) yet guess how many news stories on rape there have been in the UK media in the past 12 months that involve rape by a man known to the woman?

Zero.

Statistically, alone at night on the streets is the safest place for women to be so all this media ‘advice’ is wrong and simply scare-mongering – paradoxically leading women to spend more time in environments where their risk is increased.

Paul Southworth // Posted 31 October 2011 at 8:21 pm

I completely agree. Just the other day I had a flick through a Cosmo magazine lying round the house and came across an article on how women can reduce their risk of being targeted by serial killers. There certainly seems to be a portion of the media that wants to keep women scared.

Cycleboy // Posted 1 November 2011 at 11:04 am

Just to play devil’s advocate for a moment, it could be that the low incidence of stranger attack is precisely because women are avoiding dark alleyways and unlit areas.

sianandcrookedrib // Posted 1 November 2011 at 2:24 pm

Chelsy you say:

‘If a parent tells their child not to roam the streets alone at night, does this mean that if the child does exactly this, and something were to happen to them, that it’s the childs fault? Of course not.’

But this isn’t the case with women. Women are told ‘why didn’t you get a cab?’. If we are attacked in a cab we are told ‘why did you get a cab on your own’…and on it goes. We live in rape culture, and in a rape culture every action a woman takes can and is used against her to excuse the attacker and blame the woman. That’s why this safety advice matters – precisely because it IS used to blame women.

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