A Scary Incident

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Well it’s pretty well known now that my four babies carry a personal alarm with them everywhere, and have had safety awareness drummed into them from an early age.

We had an incident last month. Quite a scary one in fact.

My second daughter Jemima was travelling home from college on her regular 4.45pm train, when two young men got on the train and approached her.  One sat on her lap, and the other filmed the entire episode on his phone, along with Snaps to friends.

They were aggressive, and threatened to rape her, grabbing her phone and telling her boyfriend they were ‘taking his girl’ with them.

During the ten minute train ride, they touched her body, barricaded her in so she couldn’t escape, and made sexual, degrading comments and threats. A terrifying experience for a 16 year old!

There were a few other passengers on the carriage, and nobody did anything.

We were lucky. Jemima managed to jump over one of the man’s legs and make a dash for the doors as they opened.

It was only hours later, after making a police statement, and a hot bath, that we even remembered the rape alarm she had attached to her bag.  Unbelievable!

Would it have helped? Who knows. Studies have shown a safety alarm is more likely to deter an assailant than to attract help. Thankfully it didn’t matter this time that we hadn’t used it. But it has shown us that anything can happen at any time, and I don’t think we’ll be forgetting it again in the near future!

 

Does Rape Culture Exist?

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According to Wikipedia, ‘Rape culture is a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalised due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.  Behaviours commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, trivialising rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence, or some combination of these.’

But does it really exist, or is it just some propaganda invented by extreme feminists in a bit to shame men as a whole?

The statistics certainly seem to show a lack of understanding when it comes to consent.

A survey for Amnesty found 37% of respondents thought a woman was responsible for being raped if she didn’t say “no” clearly enough.

One in 20 men said they would try to have sex with someone who was asleep, according to a shocking 2010 survey of young people aged between 18 and 25 by the Havens, the specialist London-based sexual assault referral centres. A significant proportion also seemed confused about what constitutes rape: only 77% of young men agreed that having sex with someone who has said no was rape. While in 2009, a study for the NSPCC found a third of girls aged between 13 and 17 who were in relationships had experienced unwanted sexual acts, and one in 16 had been raped.

I think it’s important to realise that just because you aren’t a rapist, doesn’t mean you aren’t contributing to society’s attitudes towards rape, whether you agree that a ‘rape culture’ as such exists or not?

We laugh off rape jokes like ‘No means yes; yes means anal’ as harmless fun. Nobody actually got hurt, right?  But are we trivialising rape and endangering women?

We slut-shame. I watched an episode of ‘Love Island’ last summer, with my teenage daughters, and found it interesting that one of the participants was anxious to get her point across that she wasn’t a ‘slag’ in this modern age, and that she had had a fair few sexual partners, and why shouldn’t she? Nobody bats an eyelid when it’s a guy. More interesting was despite her repeating her empowering message a few times, and my daughters all agreeing, 20 minutes later watching the same episode, they were shouting at the tv about another female contestant who had moved on to her third guy in as many days, using the very insults we had all just condemned.

Later as the programme drew to its dramatic conclusion, ensued a fair few remarks on the women’s choice of attire,

‘She looks like a slag with her tits out like that. What does she expect?’ and so on. We’ve all contributed to rape culture by calling someone else’s dress “slutty.” We’re validating the people who say that women “ask for it” when they wear revealing clothing or have many sexual partners. Rape is rape regardless of your choice of clothing, or of how much consensual sex you have participated in.

Christin Bowman, a PhD candidate for critical social-personality psychology at CUNY, says we contribute to rape culture “when we create school dress codes for teenagers because apparently the natural female form is ‘distracting’ for male students and teachers.”
Apparently, women must present themselves in a way that caters to the male gaze.

Another way we contribute to a rape culture is body-shaming, and in my own experience, women are the biggest culprits. We put each other down instead of building each other up. We judge each other harshly;

‘Her bum looks too big in that’, ‘she has no tits’, she’s too fat to be squeezed into that dress’.

These kinds of proclamations promote the idea that, again, women’s bodies are there to be judged and consumed. And once a woman is seen as an object (particularly a sex object), it is much easier to commit violence against her.

We victim-blame. When women are being raped and assaulted, government, police and public figures say ‘women, change your behaviours… do something different’. Don’t go out alone, don’t go out after dark, don’t wear earphones, dress in this way.

Why are women supposed to change their lives and their behaviours for sex offenders? Shouldn’t we be telling rapists not to rape? The only thing that causes rape is rapists. Not how much women have had to drink, not what they are wearing, and not if they are walking alone.

Victims aren’t reporting rapes because they are worried that they might not be believed, that they might be blamed, that they may be dragged through the mud, that a conviction might result in a six month jail term out of a possible 14 years (Brock Turner).

Our society is not a friendly place for victims of rape. And until we dismantle rape culture and make it one, rape will continue and rapists will get away with it.