TW: Discussion of rape, blame culture and victim blaming
Earlier today, a good friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook while I was on the bus home. The messaged contained a link to this article in the Independent. I struggled, with my shitty mobile internet, to open the link; when I did manage I immediately regretted it. The compulsion to swear uncontrollably at my phone became to much and I started almost convulsing with rage. The poor man next to me! I don’t blame him for starting to shuffle away. Unluckily for him, he is my long term partner; I grabbed him, shoving the phone in his face. “Read this!” I hissed. “We’re moving to a fucking commune babe, I can’t deal with this shit any more!” He read it and sighed. “Horrible babe but please stop swearing. We’re on public transport at 3.30 pm.” Sighing, I conceded and vented my obscenities on Twitter. The article in question tells of a Swiss tourist being gang raped in front of her husband in a rural area of India. Six men were arrested. The police inspector claimed that the victim – the woman who was attacked by up to 8 men in an area she knew little about, while her husband was tied up and forced to watched – was partially responsible for the attack. Why? Because she should never have been camping in the area. It was tempting fate.
Let’s just stop and let that sink in for a second. Tourist on cycling holiday with her husband. Heading for Taj Mahal but stops and camps en route. Camp is attacked by up to 8 men. She is gang raped and robbed, her husband tied up and forced to watch. She is told she must share responsibility because she was camping in the wrong place. It was bound to happen; she was tempting fate. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!
This is victim blaming to a hideous degree. The victim is held partially responsible for her own attack – as if it’s her fault that 8 men attacked her and forcibly had sex with her against her will. There is outrage of course, completely justifiably, but let’s not pretend this a problem exclusive to India. Yes, I’m going to talk about Steubenville.
For those of you who have been living under a rock recently – or depend on the BBC for your news, as I notice this story was not really covered – two young men have just been jailed for the rape of a 16 year old girl in Steubenville, Ohio. This poor young woman was repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted while she was too drunk to protest, taken from party to party like some sort of play thing and even urinated on. Steubenville is a town with a thriving football team – the rapists were successful young athletes. When the victim pressed charges she became the victim of a character assassination. Apparently it was her own fault: she was drunk, she was a “slut”, she was asking for it. She never actually said no. She received death threats for bringing the town and their footballing legacy in to disrepute. This poor, scared young woman who had had terrible things done to her against her will then had to deal with some of the worst victim blaming I have ever seen. Even after her attackers were convicted: CNN covered the story, claiming that it was a tragic loss of two promising young athletes who’s careers had been destroyed by the conviction. No CNN. Their careers were destroyed when they had sex with a young woman repeatedly against her will while she was too drunk to protest.
I don’t care if she was drunk. I don’t care if she was wearing a short skirt. I don’t care if she had a history of sexual promiscuity. No means no. If a woman is too drunk to say no, DO NOT ASSUME IT IS A YES. A short skirt is not an invitation. No matter HOW the woman is dressed, no matter what she is drinking, rape is NEVER the victims fault – unless you assume that all men are led purely by their balls and are incapable of controlling their urges, which of course is not true. The fault lies solely with the rapist. Even if she seemed up for it but changed her mind. Even if she’s walking alone at night. I’m not going to list all the times when rape is unacceptable because RAPE IS ALWAYS UNACCEPTABLE. It is ALWAYS the rapists fault. Now for fucks sake get your heads around that CNN because I don’t think my nerves can take a repeat of this. Oh, and let’s not pretend that victim blaming and blame culture is a problem exclusive to India. Let’s get off our privileged pedestals stop gasping in abject horror at the inhumane actions of these exotic others on the other side of the world. Don’t flatter yourself. Wake up. This sort of thing happens everywhere; right under our noses. It’s unacceptable.