Wednesday, 2 January 2013

I'm done being polite on victim blaming

Trigger warning
This post talks about rape, victim blaming and includes a triggering image of a dramatised assault

I’ve tried to write calm, informed and thoughtful posts on victim blaming anti rape ads. I’ve critiqued calmly and politely journalists who have made victim blaming comments. I’ve done this because when I have let the anger out, let my sheer, utterly despairing rage and anger out, I’ve been accused of being hysterical and irrational. Emotional. 

Well, I don’t care any more. I am angry and I am emotional. That doesn’t make me irrational by the way. It just is my only valid response to a culture that tells me every single fucking day that women and girls are responsible for the violence committed against them. 

Today, Stavvers tweeted an anti drink/rape campaign from Thames Valley Police. This is after a police officer tweeted a warning to girls not to get too drunk and become a victim on NYE. This is after a campaign on domestic abuse warned women not to be a victim this Christmas. This is after year after year of the same conversation as to why it is not ok to tell women not to be victims when we don’t tell men not to rape.

Here’s the poster:

The line is:
Her mum bought her the cider

The image shows a girl being attacked by a man. Her face is pixelated but you can still tell she looks distressed. 

The copy then proceeds to explain the law on buying minors alcohol.

This poster is not ok. In the first place, it is not ok to use women’s bodies to give a message about drinking laws. It is not ok to use a triggering image of a girl being assaulted. It is not ok to portray a girl being assaulted and then explain that image by talking about alcohol. 

If a mother buys her daughter a cider, and then a man chooses to commit rape, then the only person at fault is the man who chooses to rape. Women drinking alcohol does not cause rape. The presence of a rapist causes rape. 

According to the most reliable statistics from the BCS, 80,000 women are raped each year in the UK. None of these rapes were caused by a mother buying her daughter cider. Every single one of those rapes was caused by a rapist. 

I have had enough! I have had enough where every day women and girls are told not to live their lives because of the actions of some violent men. Of course, I am not advocating buying alcohol for minors – which is a TOTALLY separate issue – but I am advocating that we stop framing rape as something caused by the behaviour of women and girls. 

It simply wouldn’t happen the other way around, would it? You wouldn’t see a picture of a young man in the dock being read a rape sentence, with the line ‘His dad bought him the cider’.

Telling women not to get raped does nothing, absolutely nothing to reduce the number of rapes. It is the most lazy, the most stupid, the most sexist way to campaign on reducing this crime. All it requires is a poster propping up rape culture. It doesn’t require better sex education, it doesn’t require better understanding of consent (which might actually involve campaigns aimed at men!), it doesn’t require improved and sustained training for the police and CPS to better handle rape cases, it doesn’t require better funding for rape crisis. All of those things can and will have an impact on reducing the number of rapes. 

But another triggering image alongside a message blaming women? I can promise you that will have no impact on ending rape. Instead it just enforces rape culture where rape is seen as some kind of natural hazard that women should take steps, life-restricting steps, to avoid. 

I had a quick look on the thread beneath Emer O’Toole’s (problematic) piece on rape in India. So many male commenters filled the thread with outrage at the implication that rape isn’t taken seriously in the UK. They missed the point. On the surface of course rape is taken seriously. One of the reasons it IS taken seriously by men like Keir Starmer is thanks to the tireless work of feminist campaigners. Of course no-one outside of Unilad is going to say they’re pro rape! (Unilad wrote an article in Jan 2012 about because the rape reporting rate is so low, it offers “pretty good odds”). But what this Thames Valley poster, and all the posters before it, what the 2005 Amnesty survey showed, what Galloway’s comments and Savile-gate and the Sapphire scandal and Rochdale and Assange and Ched Evans and all of it shows is that on a day-to-day, cultural level, we don’t really take rape seriously. We know it’s bad, but we still make excuses for it, we still try and minimise it, we still refuse to face the fact that some men choose to rape. Instead we demand to know how women cause rape. 

I don’t know how much more of it I can take. 2012 was a master class in victim blaming. There were of course great steps – for example the above-mentioned Starmer’s commitment to making sure VAWG is taken more seriously. But conversation after conversation around rape still seems to centre around ‘yes…but…she did do X’. 

Throughout the year, I’ve heard women say in relation to some of the VAWG media headlines: ‘that happened to me’. They say that, as the overwhelming cultural narrative tries to deny the fact that these crimes are rape at all. I don’t think Thames Valley have even considered the possibility of a girl seeing that poster and saying ‘that happened to me’. And how that poster would make her feel. How that poster might make her feel she or her mum was to blame. How that poster might stop her reporting a terrible crime. And perhaps the person who perpetrated that crime might see the poster, and think it exonerates his actions. 

Did they think about that?

Rape Crisis Number: 0808 802 9999


e.f. bartlam said...

I'm actually of a mind that says take precaution. You can't control or predict the behavior of wicked people but, you can control your own behavior. In a perfect world an individual could get drunk and wander home without incident but, considering the world we live in...better to be cautious when you can.

That said, there should be no blame for the victims. Our house was burglarized. After the fact, the poleese tell us that robbers in the area are stealing from houses with big windows that allowed them to see what they wanted. I can assure that as we were hanging the new curtains we were not blaming ourselves.

Anyway, I say all that to say this...that is dumbest ad I've ever seen. You are right to be steamed over this one. If the girl had walked into a lamp post, fine.

She's being assaulted for kitten's sake. It would be like somebody walking up in the middle of the attack and telling the girl, "you shouldn't have had that last cider." Nonsense!

I'm with you on this one. This is beyond reminding people to be sensible. How about an ad with our man there in front of judge offering up the fact that his victim had six instead of five pints?

Nicola said...

OMG! That is the most horrendous poster I have literally ever seen. More than one person surely must have been involved in it from being an idea in someone's head to adorning our streets... HOW? HOW did this get approved????????!!!!! Sooooooooooooooooooooooo depressing. (But thanks for highlighting).

gaptoothmusic said...

Couldn't agree more. I was at a party on NYE where I met a woman who identified herself as a feminist. She started talking about Caitlin Moran, and saying how much she liked her book, so I agreed but asked whether she had heard about some of Moran's subsequent comments, such as the rape/high heels one, which she hadn't. I explained it, and she said, "Yes, but I can see the argument, because you wouldn't go out at night in a short skirt and heels, would you?"

When even feminists are repeating this crap, it makes you want to despair...

Wigan Pixie said...

It feels to me that we're all being brainwashed into believing that rape only happens to 'silly drunken young women' and they wash over the fact that sober women get raped, girls walking too and from school get raped, elderly women get raped, boys and men also get raped.

Rape also happens at any time of day or night, not just when the pubs close.

It's time people concentrate on making everyone understand that someone who rapes a drunken women is every bit as bad as someone who brakes into a frail old lady's house and rapes her. Or attacks a young girl coming home from school. Rape is rape. There is no difference in my eyes and there should also be a minimum harsh jail term for rapists too of 15 years or more. No excuses of 'she was drunk' or 'she led me on'. Rape needs to be recognised for the vile crime that it is. Victims need support not blame.

The Authorette said...

Not just victim blaming, this last year has been hell for feminism all round! Or maybe I am just more aware of it now. But between the victim blaming, the crazy rape/pregnancy stories, the failure to secure women bishops, failure to secure gay marriage, binders full of women and abortion rights arguments, I am starting to become terrified of ending up living in a Gileadean-style society where I am nothing more than a walking womb! Or vagina, where rape is concerned. So yes, let's be angry because clearly being calm doesn't get anyone listened to!

Ursula said...

Yes but she is in possession of an orifice. Trigger in this comment. My mum told me about a woman next to her in the maternity ward who was re submitted five days after giving birth because her stitches had been burst open by her husband's rape. One woman, she recalls, asked the doctor to close it altogether, and he said, it wouldn't stop him. Not good.

You simply can't predict how a rapist will behave no matter what precautions you take.

I agree that this is the most awful poster I've ever seen and is right out of the Jeremy Kyle approach to sexuality.

And Caitlin Moran has a lot to answer for.

Ursula said...

"You can't control or predict the behavior of wicked people but, you can control your own behavior. In a perfect world an individual could get drunk and wander home without incident but, considering the world we live in...better to be cautious when you can."

Utter rubbish. Tell that to the latest rape victim in India.
With a male partner - tick
Wearing suitable clothing - tick
Travelling on public transport - tick.

Explain your reasoning please! I'd like to know.


Wonderful so Thames Valley Police too are misogynistically claiming mothers are to blame because mothers supposedly buy their daughters cider and therefore women not the male perpetrators are responsible for male sexual violence being committed against women and girls.

Where is the evidence that mothers routinely purchase cider for their daughters? Another male supremacist red herring of course which conveniently deflects attention away from male accountability.

Males make the choice to commit male sexual violence against women and girls, rather than males supposedly becoming overwhelmed by a sexual desire to rape women/girls.

The law is clear - the issue is whether or not a crime has been committed not whether or not a victim is 'partially/wholly responsible' for supposedly causing the male perpetrator to commit a crime against women/girls.

During the New Year celebrations it was reported a teen boy had jumped from a bridge into a river and nowhere did malestream media hold this teen boy accountable for his stupidity. Instead malestream media portrayed the incident as a 'tragedy!' Whenever male on male violence is reported it is always reported factually without any suggestion the male victim was partially or wholly to blame for provoking/causing the male perpetrator to assault him. But we women have no rights because no matter what we do if a male decides to commit violence against us we are always to blame - never the male perpetrators.

As usual males must never ever be held accountable for their choice/decision to commit male sexual violence against women and girls. Instead women and girls and particularly mothers continue to be demonised and blamed for men's endemic sexual violence being committed against women and girls.

The fact is that no matter what precautions any woman/girl takes if a male decides to commit sexual violence against her person he will and the male perpetrator knows he will not be held accountable for his actions. Male perpetrators know they will not be held accountable because our male supremacist system always blames women for not preventing male violence being committed against them.

This is the reality of living in a Rape Culture because even the misogynistic Thames Valley Police are promoting women blaming and excusing male accountability.

irresponsibility said...

Sweet lord above. What a horrific poster. The seemingly ineradicable social impulse to make women responsible for rape - an impulse that exists in women as well as men - has baffled and infuriated me for years. As I wrote on my blog Irresponsibility a couple of years back the ONLY effective rape prevention tactic is preventing MEN from raping.

e.f. bartlam said...


I'm not suggesting that all attacks, robberies, etc can be avoided by taking precaution. I'm certainly not saying that people who don't take precaution deserved to be attacked. Nobody deserves to be attacked. No one bears blame for being attacked, full stop.

Let me try it this way. I spend a lot of time in Memphis, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana. Both cities are lovely, full of character and charm. They can also be very dangerous.

If you were traveling to New Orleans and I said to you, Ursula try to avoid X, Y and Z. If you can't avoid X, Y and Z keep you're head up in those places. Would advice be offensive to you?

Of course, if something happened while you were there, warned or not, the only person to be blamed would be the perpetrator.

I'd mention how my friend Bonnie takes precaution in New Orleans but, that would probably really get me in trouble :).

The only reason I mentioned any of that was to point that even I see this ad as pointless, stupid and offensive. There's nothing constructive in this warning. Quite the opposite.