Drunk sluts get raped: Police and internet commenters in consensus

West Mercia police apologised for their video and poster campaign which urged women not to drink too much on nights out in order to not “leave yourself vulnerable to regretful sex or even rape.” The force also released a video featuring a female rape victim. During the video the victim says she wishes to make others aware of the dangers of drinking too much, which she believes played a part in her attack. Her account ends with her saying that she has now learnt to drink less and stay in control.

Another poster aimed at men only says they “could” be breaking the law if someone hasn’t given them consent for sex. Police chiefs were forced to apologise after anti-rape campaigners expressed outrage. Jocelyn Anderson, chief officer at Worcestershire Rape and Sexual Assault Support Centre (WRSASC), said: “There is no could be about it – that’s rape – and to put regretful sex and rape together is appalling…the poster put the blame on to alcohol and women who are raped, suggesting if they didn’t drink they could avoid rape.”

Let’s unpack that a little more. The police are putting all of the blame and responsibility for rape onto the victim, instead of telling men not to rape or to watch how much they drink in case they rape. This is a clear case of victim-blaming. They also seem to think that only women can be victims of rape and that only men can be the perpetrators – an opinion which flies in the face of reality. The campaign appears to posit that most rapes are perpetrated by strangers, when actually most are committed by someone known to the victim. The police also seem to believe that rape usually occurs outside at night or that women going home from a night out are especially vulnerable. In actual fact, women are far more likely to be attacked in their own home by their partner, an acquaintance, friend or family member than outdoors by a stranger.

The phrase “a night full of regrets” seems to be putting the blame on the victim yet again, saying she has something to regret or maybe regrets ‘causing’ the rape. Words like fear, distress, horror or pain seem more apt than mere ‘regret’ – a word often used to signify that the regretter has done something wrong and so regrets their actions.

In addition, drinking doesn’t make you more vulnerable to rape. It might make you less able to physically fight back against an attacker (because your motor reflexes and hand-eye coordination would be affected) but this applies to your ability to defend against bullying, physical assault and murder as well as rape. And drink would only affect your ability to fight against rape if your attacker used physical violence – if they’re using a knife, blackmail, coercion or misrepresentation (lying about their intentions up until the last moment when they assault you) then drinking isn’t going to affect the outcome. And, given that we all are born with varying degrees of physical strentgh, agility and coordination, and that some of us learn martial arts, whether or not you’ve been drinking may actually not make that much of a difference as your genetics, fitness, health, diet and any martial arts skills. Personality attributes such as fearlessness and determination are important, too. Or anything lying around that you can use as a weapon. Or what you’re wearing (punching someone while wearing large rings can hurt, a brooch pin could be used as a weapon, while high heels could limit your running speed). Or your ability to trick the rapist and run away. Or your use of tactics in a physical fight. Or your height relative to the rapist’s. Or sheer blind luck. Or…

Furthermore, regretful sex and rape couldn’t be further apart from each other. I would add another category, coercive sex, which is ‘morally’ rape but not legally punishable. Regretful sex is just sex that you later regret – maybe he’s fatter than you usually go for, or ugly, or now won’t stop following you around, or says he loves you…there’s no connection to rape. Confusing the two lessens the stigma of rape and portrays women as making bad choices and being vulnerable to being hurt emotionally by consensual sex.

Lastly, rape is always the rapist’s fault. Not alcohol’s – not even if the rapist was drunk. All alcohol does is lower your inhibitions; it doesn’t turn you into a rapist or a different person. Rape isn’t like murder. With murder, there can be provocation and mitigating circumstances. You can plead it was self-defence or manslaughter. Not so with rape. Rape is either rape or it’s not. That is how the law sees it. You can’t be provoked to rape. You can’t rape in self-defence.  If coercion falls short of rape, it isn’t rape and the victim has to deal with it without legal redress.

And as always with any rape story, the commenters draw analogies between commodities and the female body, blaming victims for wearing revealing clothing or not being careful enough ot to get raped. This view is disturbing. It sees sex as something women have that men get. It places all the blame for sexual assault on women. It sees the female body as a precious commodity that any ‘good’ woman would guard jealously. The links between such attitudes and slut shaming, sexual double standards, strict gender roles and male sexual dominance are obvious. And instead of telling men not to rape, the comments are focused on telling women how not to get raped. Read these comments and you might as well have journeyed back in time before the 1970’s feminism, before women’s roles in WW2, before women got the vote. When we were sexual objects, divided into the virgins and the whores, when going out of your kitchen was controversial and dangerous.

References:

A. Myhill and J. Allen

, (2002)

Rape and Sexual Assault of Women: Findings from the British Crime Survey, Home Office Research Findings No. 159 (Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110218135832/http://rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs2/r159.pdf) (Site accessed: 04/01/2012)

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/west-mercia-police-sorry-for-appalling-rape-poster-campaign-in-worcestershire.html?fb_action_ids=10151182024343895%2C10151253464861329%2C10151253463921329%2C379757512099176%2C4579375403599&fb_action_types=news.reads&fb_ref=type%3Aread%2Cuser%3A5nrw2KLYbYQPc1yrKPIvwbdP4zc%2Ctype%3Aread%2Cuser%3AtvqI_3cCNXWCxyT-gWVg4otdX9A&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%7B%2210151182024343895%22%3A10150998840297637%2C%2210151253464861329%22%3A110593662432195%2C%2210151253463921329%22%3A430215853694560%2C%22379757512099176%22%3A411123028941267%2C%224579375403599%22%3A157182174426788%7D&action_type_map=%7B%2210151182024343895%22%3A%22news.reads%22%2C%2210151253464861329%22%3A%22news.reads%22%2C%2210151253463921329%22%3A%22news.reads%22%2C%22379757512099176%22%3A%22news.reads%22%2C%224579375403599%22%3A%22news.reads%22%7D&action_ref_map=%7B%2210151182024343895%22%3A%22type%3Aread%2Cuser%3A5nrw2KLYbYQPc1yrKPIvwbdP4zc%22%2C%2210151253464861329%22%3A%22type%3Aread%2Cuser%3AtvqI_3cCNXWCxyT-gWVg4otdX9A%22%2C%2210151253463921329%22%3A%22type%3Aread%2Cuser%3AtvqI_3cCNXWCxyT-gWVg4otdX9A%22%7D&code=AQBy5n8phZuTyjGjaL1komwODPnapwstlqT_sAi_kxvnxsQe5zLjO9EhoM-GW8oV-XNNGpABYtLpTvIvwBsmAOoRAvsKvYUDTJz1rx6ilnWFUt2aTYG876i_P1_oQHi9fNCH7g4iyDLn-5eQFFdPrBMwWX7-6hdW-SRbzK1K9S_TjlOJhKs7nejBtOxsrQODlOSRae1xDKuaghzT2LdPuuXl#_=

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7 thoughts on “Drunk sluts get raped: Police and internet commenters in consensus

  1. ceceliahubbartt October 31, 2012 at 8:40 pm Reply

    Fantastic job on this. I find it so ridiculous how all measures to stop rape are up to the women in the eyes of so many people.

  2. Theophania Elliott October 31, 2012 at 8:45 pm Reply

    OK, I’m a born hole-picker but…

    It would make logical sense to campaign for rapists not to rape, or for men to drink less in case they end up raping someone ‘accidentally’ (!), but who has the most at stake here? Most rapists get away with it, often because the victim is too ashamed or shocked to report it. Sounds like a good gig to me – get your jollies, and you don’t even have to pay. Why would a campaign to discourage potential rapists have any impact – especially since, as you say, alcohol doesn’t change who you are. If you’re a potential rapist drunk, you’re a potential rapist sober.

    The victim has the most to lose, so the victim is most likely to take notice of a campaign against rape. Yes, rape is always the fault of the rapist, but there are other factors in play, too. If I were a rapist, then which victim – whether my potential victim is known to me or not – would I rather pick? The girl who looks aware of her surroundings and in command of herself enough to give me a good kick in the ‘nads before running off to call the police, or the other girl who’s so drunk she can hardly stand up?

    Yes, it is wrong to blame the victim, yes it is wrong to equate sex you later regret with rape. (Actually, this works both ways: innocent men have been accused of rape by women who had consented and later regretted it.)

    (Also, if getting less drunk makes you less likely to wake up in the morning with massive embarrassment and, worse, potentially with an STD and/or pregnant, then hooray for drinking less. But that is a completely different campaign.)

    But there is such a thing as making yourself an easy victim. It’s the same with ‘burglar-proofing’ your house – nobody should have their house burgled. Burglary is always the burglar’s fault. But it’s still advisable to lock your doors and windows and maybe fit a burglar alarm. Because if your house doesn’t look like an easy target, burglars are less likely to make the effort, or if they try they may not be able to get in.

    On a population, policy-making level, it doesn’t matter whether a woman is sober or completely trolleyed. It’s still rape and it’s still wrong.

    But on an individual, personal-safety, don’t-let-the-victim-be-you level, it make sense to stay sober enough to be able to put knee to testicles if necessary. It is wrong to give women the idea that since they OUGHT to be safe, that they ARE safe. We have to deal with reality. And the reality is, if someone is going to be a victim tonight, you want to take steps for it to be NOT YOU. At its coldest, it’s like saving yourself from a rabid bear: you don’t have to move faster than the bear, you just have to move faster than the guy with you. You can’t control how strong you are (up to a point) or how good a fighter you are, or whether there are weapons in easy reach, but you CAN control whether or not you can best make use of the abilities that you do have to get away from an attacker.

    It would be nice it that wasn’t necessary, but it would be nice if we didn’t have to lock our doors, either.

    • Slutocrat November 1, 2012 at 4:13 pm Reply

      I dunno if I should reply to this, (I don’t usually debate on the ‘netz) so I’ll leave it up to you, Theophania: would you like to hear my response?

      • Theophania Elliott November 1, 2012 at 4:22 pm

        Of course. The soul of good debate is being able to hear someone else’s point of view and acknowledge when they’ve put their finger on a weakness in your argument. If one doesn’t want one’s words debated, one should keep them nice and safe on the inside of one’s skull!

  3. Slutocrat November 4, 2012 at 12:36 am Reply

    I like your style 🙂 The number of times I’ve been sworn at for replying to comments on articles…Well, here goes:

    The rapist also has a lot to lose – going to jail. And making girls take notice of warnings not to get raped – well, we don’t have many campaigns to tell us not to get murdered. Also, girls might take notice but these campaigns are of little use since most rape victims are raped by someone they know or in their own home. In addition, it is not necessarily true that a rapist will choose a drunk girl over a sober one. Rapists hate women and want them to suffer so a sober girl would suffer more and be more aware of it. Also, rapists choose victims based on whether they have a ponytail (so they can grab you and pull you) and whether you’re wearing loose clothes or clothes with zips that can be easily ripped off. They may also choose a woman who is walking alone or one who looks like a hated figure in therapist’s life, such as his mother or ex. Some rapists, especially recidivists and serial rapists, have a particular appearance they go for – colour of hair, hair length, age, body type, etc. So whether or not you are drunk may not affect his choice.

    Your analysis assumes that a rapist plans to rape, as indeed many do. But a rapist who doesn’t plan it might not fit the bear analogy that well; he might already be alone with a woman in her home or his when he attacks. Similarly, if you’re attacked by your partner or someone you know, that doesn’t fit well with the bear analogy.

    Besides, if it’s a choice between never being able to drink much in my entire life because of my sex, I’d choose to be raped and be done with it so I can enjoy drinking. Or become a man. Avoiding a few minutes/seconds of rape is not worth a lifetime of restriction.

    Not drinking isn’t a very good way to prevent rape. Wearing a tampon or chastity belt, learning a martial art or carrying a weapon or rape alarm would work better. Though I would never do any of these or tell anyone to, as it puts the onus on the woman. And it assumes penetration is the cause of distress, whereas actually the rapist’s intent causes distress.

    The burglary analogy is extremely common, and likens a woman’s body to a valuable commodity to be guarded. It puts the onus on women to protect their ‘worth’.

    From the point of view of the police, if Woman A isn’t raped, Woman B will be raped (if a rapist goes out looking for a victim, as indeed some do). So if Woman A doesn’t drink and escapes, it may be good for her but bad for Woman B. From a third party’s point of view, it makes no difference – SOMEONE is going to be raped.

    Also, we ARE safe, because women are more likely to be raped by partners, acquaintances, friends and family than a stranger. So we’re safer out at night than in our own homes or friends’ homes. Strangers in balaclavas jumping out from behind hedges are actually rare, because people aren’t that bad, and also it’s quite hard to get away with. Raping your girlfriend, wife, date or stepdaughter is much safer because they’re less likely to report it and more likely to feel shame that they somehow caused the rape. Or even not think of it as rape. Or forgive you.

    • Theophania Elliott November 17, 2012 at 6:54 pm Reply

      Taking it from the top:
      1. The rapist does have a lot to lose – if he gets caught. Most rapists don’t.

      2. Regarding drunk women: see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/met-police-hunt-rapists-who-target-victims-on-dating-sites-8323322.html?origin=internalSearch (although I acknowledge that being drunk is not a major risk factor).

      3. I think your comment about preferring to be ‘raped and be done with it’ rather than choosing to limit your drinking must be the result of a moment’s slip of the fingers; of course you would not wish to belittle the ordeal of a raped woman in any way, or deny that many women who have been raped suffer long-term pyschological and/or physical effects. Unless, of course, you are unfortunately suffering from a serious alcohol addiction and you believe that the effects of reducing your consumption would be more serious than the after-effects of rape.

      4. Regarding preventing rape, I am not aware of any rape-prevention strategy aimed at men that works. Rape-prevention strategies, or harm-reduction strategies, aimed at women, however, do work. It is not ‘putting the onus on the woman’ – it is giving women the information they need to have a better chance of keeping themselves safe. If they choose not to follow the advice, then that is their choice. But they should be given the choice.

      5. Everyone’s body is their own possession, and they have the right to defend it from use by others. That is at the heart of the labour market – the employer pays the employee for the labour of their body. Equally, it is at the heart of the outrage against slavery: a person’s body is their own and no-one has the right to use it against their will. If you have nothing else, at least you have your own body.

      6. If somebody is going to be raped – if a rapist is looking for a victim – I don’t want that victim to be me. Call be a bitch (many have done so) but I am going to protect myself. If that means he picks someone else, then so be it. Better if he goes home disappointed (or gets struck by lightning) but the only person I can look out for is me – and anyone I happen to be with. I’m not going to sacrifice myself.

      7. Even if rape by a partner is more common, then rape by strangers should still be targeted. Even one less rape is a victory. You take your victories where you find them.

      8. Saying that ‘you are safer at night than in your own home’ also appears to be a slip-of-the-fingers, as I am sure that you are not intending to imply that every man is a potential rapist. The safety of the home depends on the home. I control my home. I cannot control the pub down the road. My husband is not a potential rapist; I think I would have seen signs of it in the nearly ten years I have known him. My home is therefore safe (at least with respect to rape by my partner). I would be surprised if many instances of partner-rape occurred in isolation from other instances of domestic violence or other abuse. A man’s belief that it is OK to rape a woman is part of an overall attitude to women. It’s very easy to overlook that kind of attitude, especially if the man hides it well, but the longer you know someone, the harder it is for them to hide their real nature. It’s also hard to leave someone if you are financially or emotionally dependent on them, or if you have kids in common. So it’s easy to close your eyes to the warning signs because the alternative – trying to make a new life and support yourself (and your kids) on your own – is even scarier. I know this.

      10. You might want to read: http://www.wdvf.org.uk/RapeHO.pdf (Rape and sexual assault of women: findings from the British Crime Survery) and http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/jhamlin/3925/4925HomeComputer/Rape%20myths/10-Year%20Update.pdf (A ten-year update of “Review and Critique of Empirical Studies of Rape Avoidance). One interesting thing is that the psychological impact of rape seems to be reduced in women who fought back, regardless of whether they were successful in preventing rape or not.

      Sorry for the delay in reply… It’s been a busy week!

      • Slutocrat November 18, 2012 at 7:47 pm

        I didn’t notice the delay – I’m very busy too! In fact I’m too busy even to reply right now and will give a full reply later, but just wanted to note that when I say I’d rather be raped and have it over with instead of curbing my enjoyment/natural behaviour unril the day I die, just because of my gender or because of rapists, I was speaking only for myself and not rape survivors/rape victims.

        And in response to your point about long-term psychological consequences, that is often but not always true. Though extreme levels of trauma are commonplace, I do know rape victims who suffered very little psychological consequences after rape; a family member was back in class the morning after the rape (and the rapist was in her class.) Even in the news for example I remember a couple weeks ago reading about a student who got a good grade in her degree after being raped and having to testify in court during her course and exam season.

        A full reply is on its way! 🙂

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