November 21, 2005

Rape: do we deserve it?!

I hope I'm not the only person who's been shocked by the figures released this morning from a survey by Amnesty International.

This survey, of over 1000 British men and women, showed that a third thought that women who flirt with men have only themselves to blame if they are raped. A similar number thought that being drunk or wearing revealing clothing laid blame solely at the woman's door. I know that some women are not responsible: they get overly drunk and consequently make themselves vulnerable and act in a way that is inappropriate and may lead men on. But to say that mere flirting gives a man a right to force sexual intercourse on a woman is crazy! I, and all women I know, dress in clothes they think suit them so that they look attractive. But I object to being classifed as up for a shag just because I want to look good. Would the same people say that well-endowed women should expect to be a target for rapists just because they are stereotypically attractive?!

Scarily, the 12,000 cases of rape reported in the UK each year are speculated to only represent a fifth of the actual number of cases, and only six per cent of reported rapes actually led to a conviction. With statistics like that and potentially painful and lengthy trials leading up to the small number of convictions it's hardly surprising that the problem is not being dealt with. But if the general public opinion is such that women are automatically disbelieved when they report a rape, they are going to tend to keep quiet. Why, for apparently a third of people in this country, is it their instinct to blame the victim?


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  1. I haven't read the report etc. but when I heard it on the radio I was inclined to believe that the results have been, in some way, misinterpreted. This is usually the case with reports, of course.
    Is it possible that the question read something like: "Do you think that the behaviour of a later victim could have something to do with why they were targetted? eg. Drinking to excess or dressing provocatively"
    An answer "yes" to that question could then be re-interpreted: That person thinks that it's the woman's fault.
    This is, of course, a load of arse.

    21 Nov 2005, 11:12

  2. I completely agree, but the fact that surveys like this are published in such a way and possibly twisted by the media can have a profoundly negative effect on the victims of crimes like this. The survey may well be misrepresented but the general public will not know this and will tend to take it at face value.

    21 Nov 2005, 11:49

  3. I think that the tendency to assume that a crime (particularly one such as rape) is the victim's fault may be something to do with the fact that we don't really want to admit that crimes like that actually happen. It's also a bigger problem in todays society where promiscuity is much more common, and women do have one night stands. Even more of a problem when you consider how much people drink nowadays. The lines between rape and consensual drunken sex appeared to be blurred. Whilst it's v.v. important that we do catch rapists, it's also important that innocent people do not get accused of it. There have been a number of cases when consensual sex have been falsely labelled as rape because they wished to get revenge etc. It's like crying wolf, but with far-reaching consequences.

    21 Nov 2005, 12:18

  4. I agree that people crying wolf definitely don't help the situation, but that can't explain these awful stats. If they are correct, about 1% of actual rapists are convicted – how can that be possible in a supposedly developed country?! Those women who are brave enough to stand up against their attackers in court are often subjected to another harrowing ordeal when their entire personal lives are dragged up for all to see. Thoughtless promiscuity and drunken one night stands might not be a healthy lifestyle choice, but the number of sexual partners a woman has had should have absolutely no bearing on a rape case. Whether a rape victim has had one sexual partner or twenty, those were people she slept with consensually; the fact remains that someone forced sex upon her and for that she deserves justice.

    21 Nov 2005, 13:59

  5. Rape is always going to be difficult to convict people of because it has to be proven not only that sex took place but also that it was unwanted. With most crimes it's obvious that it's unwanted, but sex is far too popular for that to be assumed. People can't really be convicted when it's one person's word against another's. It's obviously not good that so few rapists are convicted, but it's hardly surprising.

    The suggestion that women are to blame for being raped is absurd. Making yourself a tempting target for a crime may be a stupid thing to do, but it doesn't make it your fault if it happens. I do think people take too little responsibility for their actions, particularly when drunk (if you choose drink then I think you're responsible for how you act when drunk), but that's no excuse for other people to take advantage of them.

    21 Nov 2005, 14:58

  6. These statistics are horrific.

    There is no excuse for rape. It is a horrible, vile crime that can only come from a sick mind.

    And being drunk is never an excuse for anything. If you can do something when drunk, you have considered doing it when sober.

    Wearing provocative clothing is not a signal for someone to be raped. It is a sign that someone is trying to be noticed.

    Can anyone see the irony in the sign he is holding?

    21 Nov 2005, 17:10

  7. Sarah B

    I actually spoke to a female student of our age several months ago on a night when some women were dressed up as sexy nurses or similar for a night at the union. I made some comment about their clothes and she said, "I know, women go out dressed like that and then wonder why they get attacked". I was appalled – the clothes a woman wears do not give anyone the right to have sex with her against her will and I am amazed that anyone in a supposedly civilised society can make this connection. Even if the survey has been interpreted in a misleading way, this one case alone shows that opinions like this do exist. Scary stuff!

    21 Nov 2005, 19:20

  8. Richard, while your sentiments wouldn't be denied by anybody, and the results of the survey are shocking (although, sadly, perhaps not that surprising), nothing's that black-and-white. As Anna says, accusations of rape can sometimes – very rarely – come from an extremely upset or embarrassed young woman following a drunken one-night stand, or a humiliatingly short-lived relationship, without thought of the implications or gravity of her accusation.

    As for the guy holding the sign, he has served seven years in prison – for a very nasty crime, but in the eyes of the law he has paid his debt to society. Should he be prohibited from seeking what many believe to be fair treatment, because of something he did when a lot of undergraduates at this university weren't even alive?

    21 Nov 2005, 20:04

  9. Simon, the man may have paid according to the law, but nothing will take away what he did to the person he attacked. Should he be persecuted for the rest of his life? No, I don't think so. But should he be allowed to stand up in the public eye the way he was initially supposed to? No, I don't think so. Yes, he's been through a terrible ordeal, but I think it's disrespectful to his victim (even after all this time) for him to be treated like some kind of celebrity or hero. Call me judgemental if you like, but I feel very strongly about people who commit rape (as I do about those who falsely accuse, just to balance my point).

    22 Nov 2005, 17:04

  10. Simon – I agree entirely with your comments about some cases being reported as rape, when it might not be the whole truth (infact i edited it out of my original version of the post).

    As for the victim of the london tube bombings, I agree with Vib, he has been through a terrible experience, but I don't feel that using him as a figurehead for the survivors would be accepted as a good idea by the many rape victims present in the country.
    If on the other hand he was becoming spokesperson for a group through obvious good deeds in the community then it would be more acceptable in general.

    22 Nov 2005, 17:19

  11. This is difficult. It depends on whether as a figurehead for the victims of the London bombings he should also be viewed as a role-model. It depends on whether his recent appearances can and should be viewed as completely separate from his crimes. There are plenty of celebrities out there who are in the public eye and are consequently seen to do all sorts of unsavoury (or worse) things (Gary Glitter comes to mind). Should we also ban them from our screens, newspapers and lives?

    It also depends on whether you believe that someone, as a result of serving a sentence, has absolved themselves of a crime. Although you'd never get him to give you a straight answer, it'd be interesting to know whether he has repented of the crime he committed. Thus you could make some judgement of whether or not he was an upstanding, law-abiding citizen now.

    I was having a long discussion about this last night, actually. The whole death penalty issue kinda hinges on your opinion on the mindset of those who commit heinous crimes. If you believe they are fundamentally evil/psychologically disturbed, you might agree with execution as you wouldn't think they were capable of repenting. However, if you believe that these people can be rehabilitated and can, indeed, realise that what they did was deeply wrong is there not a large argument for keeping things how they are?

    22 Nov 2005, 17:21

  12. Sam Hankins

    I agree with Colin. The consensus is obvioulsy that rape is a terrible violation. The question seems to be, here and in the comments, what constitutes rape. Clearly, in the Swansea case, if the alleged victim isn't sure if she gave consent or not, the suspect can't be convicted because there isn't proof that a crime even took place. The larger issue is whether a drunk woman has the capacity to offer consent or not. Of course, if the answer is no, she can't, then the man who has sex with her has to, somehow, be able to determine how drunk she is, whether she has the capacity for consent, whether the consent is freely given, whether she is sober enough to remember the consent the next day, etc. It is a preposterous degree of responsibility for the man in this situation. Naturally, if the women says "no" or "stop" at any point, and the guy doesn't relent, then a crime has taken place.

    24 Nov 2005, 18:30

  13. john culkin

    i think its too simple to discuss this in terms of whether a woman entices someone to rape her by dressing/acting in a certain way. Some women get raped, fact. They get raped (mostly by husbands/partners in truth – this is the main reason why most rapes go unreported), and it doesn't matter what they are wearing. The cases being discussed here are not as simple as that.

    The idea that some men think "oh, well she was dressed sexily, and a bit flirty, so i decided to have sex with her, cos she kinda looked like she wanted it" is a poor explanation for why these cases of dubious consent arise – its much more complex than that.

    If youve been in a club and found someone attractive, and had some drinks and a bit of a flirt, its natural for some people's minds to turn to the possibility of sex. In my experience, what sometimes follows is a kind of silent negotiation about how far you both want to go – little signals, which people inevitably read in different ways.

    I think its perfectly plausible for a person to mistakenly believe that another person wouldn't mind having a quick shag somewhere, and perfectly possible for a situation to develop to the brink of sex before either person really realises what theyre doing.

    Its also possible that it wont be until afterwards, in the stark post-sex sobriety for one or both person's chain of thought to go something like "man, i really reregret that – and i don't really remember saying yes to him – and it certainly doesn't seem like the thing i'd usually do – i feel like i've been taken advantage of – does that mean i've been raped?".

    Once someone feels like they've had advantage taken of them, the next step is to blame someone for taking advantage. But there may be no blame to aportion, and it would be wrong to convict a man just because he couldn't prove consent.

    24 Nov 2005, 18:35

  14. zeb

    It makes me ashamed to be British

    25 Nov 2005, 00:27

  15. henry

    I would like to see this discussion cross the gender divide to recognise that men can just as easily be taken advantage when they are under the influence of drugs. Why is it that a woman who wakes up in the morning and gasps in horror at the man next to her, deals with the reality that she has had sex with someone who she would not normally, and therefore projects the blame for her actions onto men. I am not talking about date rape and the use of unlawful coercion here, I am talking about 2 people who make the sober decision to get drunk and then regret the consequences of their actions. This is not rape, as any guy who has been taken advantage of will tell you, you made the decision to get drunk in the first place, so you have no right to expect that others who have made the same decision to get drunk will have more control over themselves than you do.
    Everyone might feel a little used after waking up with someone. That is not the fault of the other person and if it is the case that someone has gone out and got drunk and done things she or he would not normally then he or she must live with these consequences. Grow up, look after yourself. In cases where forcible rape etc have occurred, particularly by one party who is not drunk or drugged to the same degree, then there should be redress for the offender.
    Dont forget that women are every bit as agressive in bars and clubs as men are. let us get this biblical notion out of our heads that a woman submits for sex or is won or forced into it in any way. women have every bit as much control as men, and the extent to which feminists submit to this falacy of vinctimhood is the extent to which feminism is not succeeding. Women do not empower themselves in this way.

    25 Nov 2005, 05:18

  16. bq.Dont forget that women are every bit as agressive in bars and clubs as men are

    Hmm…That's a bit of a sweeping statement. I agree, nowadays it's just as common for a woman to come on to a man as it is for a man to come on to a woman. However I think it is still true that the different sexes view sex differently. Think about it-if a woman has sex, it can potentially have far reaching consequences. Also there is a big difference in sexual satisfaction-a man will normally get 'satisfaction' out of sex, while a woman may not.

    Society is such nowadays that woman are required to go out on on the pull-50 years ago that would be relatively unheard of. Most women that go out on the pull aren't really look for sex- I know it would never even occur to me to go out and sleep with a stranger..however, that doesn't necessarily stop me from using my sexuality to try and attract men.

    It's also the case that men are physcially stronger than women, and are more able to force sex.

    (I'm tired and my brain isn't being particulalry lucid btw)

    25 Nov 2005, 10:14

  17. I agree with Anna. Yes, some women can be incredibly forceful in social situations. We have this fundamental problem: women want to be treated as equals but we are physically weaker. You cannot say that a woman has as much control as a man in potential rape situation as, in most cases, the women is weaker than the man. It's a physiological truism that cannot be ignored.

    The problems are, where do you place the responsibility for the decision to engage in a sexual act, and how do you come to a verdict on a case that essentially consists of one person's word against another's? Interestingly, noone has suggested that as the stronger sex, and being, according to stereotypes, more aggressive and more likely to want one night stands, should we not assume that the initiation of sexual activity usually comes from the man?

    I will just say, at this point that in the case of the rape argument, and indeed generally, I'm really not a raging feminist I can see that in some, if not many, cases, women do not behave in a sensible manner, and that in some cases men are accused wrongly I am just exploring all aspects of the discussion. Also, as I have said many times before, the views I express here are not necessarily all my own (please particularly bear this in mind in the case of the last sentence of the paragraph above). I mere enjoy the act of debate and want to explore a subject fully.

    25 Nov 2005, 10:48

  18. Here's my suggestion..

    If you doubt the woman's ability to consent-suggest she goes on top.

    Problem solved.

    25 Nov 2005, 11:08

  19. I have a suggestion..

    If in doubt of the woman's ability to consent..suggest she goes on top.

    Problem solved.

    25 Nov 2005, 11:20

  20. Sarah Nicholson

    OK, this is what happens when I google my own name. I find people writing blogs on subjects I find interesting…

    I wanted to comment on what Sarah said about women, force and physical strength. The thing about rape is that it's more about power than about sex. Even though women are weaker, it's perfectly possible for a woman to rape (or take advantage of) a man. A man's body will respond to sexual stimulation even when it's unwanted (just like a woman's body will).

    The biggest problem is probably social attitudes. As long as people think it's OK to have sex without the other person's full consent, there will seem to be grey areas. I think if everyone agreed that forced sex is wrong it would happen less often.

    12 Dec 2005, 12:02

  21. Wow, that's very cool – a comment from a namesake! Hello there, and thank you for your comment!

    13 Dec 2005, 16:10


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