21/01/2014

Rape Is An Offenders Problem

NB: Please note that this article is discussing rape crime against women alone; that is not to say that it does not acknowledge that men and boys are also at risk of being raped, but this article is specifically targeting rape against women.

The allegation that Lord Rennard was involved in sexually harassing a number of Liberal Democrat women has attracted much attention. Whether the allegations are true or false, are actually irrelevant at this moment in time. What currently matters is the way society has responded to the accusations. Namely, how Michael White told Stella Creasy and other women over twitter to “cope with it”, on the grounds that Barbara Castle would have spent her time fighting for equal pay and child benefits.
In an article for the Guardian, White appeared to be deeming sexual harassment and abuse as tiny issues. He defended this by arguing that things have improved vastly for women in the past century. What, so because things are better than they used to be, we are supposed to suffer sexual harassment, abuse and rape and not fight it because “things have improved”? I found it revolting.


Sexual harassment and rape will be present in our patriarchal society until the end of time unless attitudes change, and people begin to acknowledge the severity of these issues.
Rape is not a joke, it is not funny, and it is a complete violation of someone else’s body. It is one of the most serious crimes, yet only one in around every 100 reports of rape lead to a conviction. Given that only a very small percentage of the 85,000 alleged rapes per year are reported, one in 100 is a shocking statistic. What predominantly happens in cases of rape that do actually get taken to court, is that the offender will perhaps be given a verbal caution and then be added to the sex offenders list.
A survey done by a third party research group ‘The Havens’ found that one in four men claimed that it was not rape even if a woman had said “no”. I would like to pose, what part of “NO” can be interpreted as “YES” – what part of the brain decides to translate a clear “NO” as yes? Where is this translator that is telling men that they know whether a woman wants to have sex with them, more than the woman does?  
Another harrowing problem in this problem of society are the defences of rape. For example when people imply that a person could expect to be the victim of rape due to the fact that they might have been wearing provocative clothing; “she was dressed like a slag”, does not mean that a woman is willing to have her right to sexuality breached so that a rapist can get five minutes of sadistic pleasure. This is where we find that the issues of sexual harassment and rape are rooted deep down in society’s gender attitudes.
A woman should be able to wear whatever the hell she likes when she goes out, just as a man could. It is a pitiful “excuse” for a crime of such catastrophe. It’s sexist, and utterly pathetic. When a man argues that a woman shouldn’t be dressed in a provocative way if she does not want to be raped, it is almost as if he is saying that men are instinctive predators, who simply cannot help themselves but rape a woman in a short skirt – and it’s HER fault. So not only does “NO” mean “YES” now, but wearing provocative clothing translates as “I want rape right now”. This is completely farcical.
If a woman wearing a short skirt really does have that effect on a man, then society needs to address the problem; perhaps by founding a programme that teaches rapists to control their sexual desires and realise that it is unacceptable to ruin somebody’s life in the name of power. Any sane person should be able to control their desires, and as autonomous beings, take responsibility for their actions. It is completely inexplicable that a woman should be blamed for being raped.
It is not the responsibility of a woman to dress modestly to prevent being attacked. It is the offender’s responsibility to ‘resist these evil temptresses’. It gives out the wrong message – it means that teenage girls grow up believing that if they are sexually abused, it is THEIR fault. They are taught, as a result of societies excellent lessons, that they are responsible for making a man want to rape them. How is it fair that young girls have to grow up believing this?

If you dispute my allegations that people think women are responsible for being raped due to wearing provocative clothing, please have a read of this, this and this. I expect that you will also be shocked to find that 17% of 1,800 respondents believed rape happens because men are unable to control their need for sex, and that nearly 15% believed a rape victim's dress or state of sobriety influenced rape.

Obviously I'm not blind to the fact that there are a number of women who have accused a man of false rape. This tends to happen when a woman feels embarrassed of her actions, and it has even been known to happen in cases of high profile celebrity men being accused of rape, with an ulterior motive of perhaps getting compensation. This behaviour is not condoned - it is unjust and clearly distressing. I'm also not blind to the fact that men are also victims of rape, and this is equally as harrowing, and wrong.
Back to Michael White, twitter users were outraged at his comment that women should “cope” with sexual harassment, reducing such a serious problem to something as simple as stress. How can a man, tell a woman, how to deal with sexual harassment, abuse, or rape?
Does Michael White know what it is like to be looked at as if you are an object of sexual gratification? Does White know what a clammy hand on the knee from a man who is in control of your career, feels like? Does he know what it’s like to be walking home in the winter, in the dark and in the cold, and to be beeped at by lorry drivers the whole way home? Does he know how vulnerable and scared that can make a fourteen year old girl feel for instance? Does he know what it’s like to be walking to the shop and hear a shout of “great tits love”, as a young girl is just trying to buy some milk? Does he know what it’s like to be dancing for a girl to be in a night club with her friends, to turn around and find someone is groping her, and to go home and think that it was her fault? Does he know what it’s like to be pressured into sending an explicit photograph; has he been told to do that on the grounds that “if you loved me you would”? Because, it’s my bet, that he doesn’t know how any of those situations involving sexual harassment feel.
But a whole generation of young girls do. A whole generation of women working in male dominated industries do. We will get on with it, we will “cope” – but not by staying silent. So yes, Michael White, perhaps Barbara Castle might be more prepared to spend her time battling for equal pay – but is there any satisfaction in equal pay when you’re being ogled, sexually evaluated, or harassed as you go to your male dominated work place every single day?

4 comments:

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  3. Bravo Anna, excellent article. I was recently talking with a male friend who said he thought that "everyday sexism" was a myth created by radical feminists. I then proceeded to recount a number of situations in which I had personally experienced it - things like having my are groped in a club, boobs squeezed in a busy pub, or being pinned against the wall by some random guy whom I told to f-off after he made a lewd comment, etc. My friend replied, Oh, well, that's different. That's actually assault and you should report that kind of thing to the police." It was only when I referred him to the website everydaysexism.com, where he started to read some of the hundreds of real anecdotes (mostly from women), that he began to realize that some of what he considered to be these more 'serious crimes' were actually pretty commonplace - this IS the kind of everyday sexism that women have to "cope with", let alone the inappropriate comments, the filthy looks, the attitude that women who dress in a certain way are "asking for it", etc. I think I convinced my friend that it is very much NOT a myth.

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  4. Does literacy rate of a country play any role in number of rape cases?

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