Tag Archives: rape

Why Women Shouldn’t Take Precautions Against Rape

 

First published on The Fifth Column on 24/11/15.

If you’re a female in the UK- and if you identified as or were labelled as female when you were growing up- you’ll have been told something like this:

“Don’t go out at night, it’s dangerous.”

“Don’t go for a walk alone, you never know who is around.”

“Try to fit in your exercise earlier or you’re putting yourself at risk.”

Regardless of whether your parents and family friends explicitly mentioned sexual assault or not, chances are you received far more warnings about the risks of going out alone, staying out late, drinking and contact with the opposite sex than your male siblings, cousins and friends. It might not always be obvious, but the subtext is that all of these things, including flirting or wearing ‘provocative’ clothing, could potentially lead to sexual assault. Women are indoctrinated from childhood to fit their lives around a constant threat of male violence. Women are taught to accept that we can’t do what we want, go where we like, step outside our home on a whim. We have to plan our journeys so that we’re never alone for a second on a night out; or if we are, we have to strategise an alternative brighter, busier route. Even in daylight women are told to hike in ‘safe’ places. Freedom is not for us. Nor is the right to feel safe or enjoy the environment.

Parents and educators seem to spend far more time telling daughters not to get raped than telling sons not to rape. This is actually amazingly stupid, as the only person who can 100% prevent rape is the rapist. As a society we focus on the woman. If schools and families spent as much energy on boys, we might actually have less rape; some rapists honestly don’t understand that what they are doing is rape because nobody has ever effectively discussed consent with them. The MOD appears to have embraced this view with its first-ever military rape prevention campaign of posters aimed at perpetrators.

Men are also at risk of sexual assault and even more at risk of murder than women. But they don’t go through life scurrying from safe place to bright patch to busy spot. They can own the world. I’m not saying that men never worry about their safety; my male friends actually do. But they don’t let it overwhelm their lives and dictate their movements. And when a man is sexually assaulted or even murdered, he usually isn’t victim blamed. Nobody claims that a male murder victim was “asking for it” by wearing “aggressive clothing” or “violent tattoos”, or that he shouldn’t have been out alone at night because it’s “just asking for trouble.” Nobody pens articles on college-age men “taking risks” and how alcohol leads to men becoming victims. People don’t say “well, if he didn’t want to fight he shouldn’t have answered back.”

tellmeiasked4it

Image source: juvenilejusticeblog.web.unc.edu

That’s the thing, right there. Rape is impossible to prevent. You could live in fear for decades and then get assaulted by a friend, colleague, classmate or partner. Even a teacher, neighbour or family friend. Or you could get assaulted by a stranger no matter how carefully you plan; sexual attacks do occur when victims are in groups, in daylight, when youths are accompanied by parents, and even when there are many witnesses. And if you are sexually assaulted, nobody will appreciate the missed opportunities, the anxieties and time wasted over all the years you spent avoiding rape. You can be victim-blamed or even disbelieved by police, press, friends and family. You’ll be criticised for letting your classmate into your flat, for drinking, for “leading him on”, for what you were wearing, for not taking a cab, for staying out after your friend went home with a headache, for not screaming for help, for letting him walk you home. For being a female sexual assault victim.

So why bother? The question is: is it all worth it? Are all the years of self-repression and fear that you have to go through as the price of being female, while your brothers are free, worth avoiding a rape (assuming you even manage to succeed in avoiding it?) As long as you aren’t abducted and kept as a sex slave, sexual assaults are usually over fairly quickly. Avoiding it doesn’t seem like a fair exchange for decades of restraint. Of course sexual assaults can leave lasting adverse psychological effects- but not for everyone. And constant fear of violence is also bad for your mental health. Quite apart from the stress itself, it reinforces the idea that you are vulnerable and a second-class citizen; men can go where they fancy without thinking about it but you can’t.

I’m not criticising women, men, agender or intersex people who choose to take precautions or use rape-drug detecting nail polish or wear anti-rape underwear. These products have quite rightly been criticised for their potential to increase victim blaming, but if they make you feel safer, by all means buy them. I too take alternative routes if it’s dark and I’m alone. I’m also more aware of who else is around me at these times, especially if they’re male.

My point is that as a gender we’ve been brainwashed into accepting that male violence will always and forever impinge on our freedom in a way that as a nation we would never allow terrorism to. After news of ISIS’ plans to carry out terror attacks in the UK we were told to attend the threatened events and carry on as normal. By contrast police tend to warn women to stay away from an area where a rape has occurred and encourage them not to go out alone or late. Whether you agree with bombing the ‘Islamic State’ or not, today’s news has proved once again that politicians are not worried about provoking terrorists, but women are frequently given the message that they can avoid rape by not provoking a rapist. In fact the SlutWalks originated from just such a comment by a police officer.

Why should we be limited because of what men do? Surely they are the ones who should be punished with restricted movement. We may not be able to stop ourselves from taking the safe road home right away. But with the realisation that we’ve been taught to live in fear and organise our lives around men’s violence, we can slowly, surely, start to free ourselves.

Undercover Police Spies Committed Rape

In Scots law, pretending to be someone else or lying about your identity to get sex is rape. Which means that undercover police having relationships and families with the activists they were spying on was rape. (It may also constitute lying about the purpose of the sex act, which is also rape under Scots law, though this point may be harder to argue.)

In the US, undercover police posing as clients have sex with sex workers then immediately arrest them for prostitution (which sadly is a crime in most states). Sex worker activists say this is rape. It is rape. The police don’t pay for the services. And they’re lying about their identity. And if this is rape, then UK police officers having sex with activists was rape.

But what makes the UK police even more reprehensible than the US police is the fact that they had long term relationships and even children with their victims-meaning that the psychological damage to the victims and children when they discovered that their “missing”, long searched for partners and fathers had never existed was far greater.

Using sex to get information is of course nothing new. It was done in WW2 by British intelligence. They sent women to sleep with German soldiers and listen to their pillow talk (if I remember correctly what I read in a book about spies aged 14…yes I was an ubergeek and yes I really should’ve studied international relations at uni). But these were just one night stands and so far less unethical and emotionally damaging than 2-6 year long relationships. There would’ve been much less lying about identity involved as the duration of contact was so short, and therefore the pretence might not be enough to constitute pretending to be someone else or lying about their identity under Scots Law*. The pretence basically involved nothing more than a fake name (if that) and not mentioning being a British operative. I don’t think this should be classed as rape, otherwise lying about your name or job on a one night stand would make us all rapists. We should have the right to maintain our privacy and sometimes we may have good reasons for withholding our names and occupations. But by contrast, police spies pretended for years to share activists’ political beliefs and ambitions. They cultivated fake personas and fictional pasts, even accompanying their “girlfriends” on holidays and family outings.

I’m not saying police forces definitely ordered their officers to have sex with the activists, or that the officers necessarily meant to use sex to get access or information-perhaps it was personal attraction. But it was still rape. If it was casual sex used against terrorists I personally wouldn’t have a single problem with it. Why? Because we use sex for ulterior and covert motives pretty frequently. Sleeping with your boss to get a promotion. Using sex to lure someone into a more serious relationship. To get favours. To get someone on your side. Teens might use it to boost their popularity. Even using sex to get access or information might occassionally have its uses in civilian life. We don’t think of any of this as rape. Even pretending to like someone to get sex isn’t seen as rape and I don’t think it should be. So if civilians aren’t committing rape by using casual sex for ulterior motives, why can’t the state use it against terrorists or foreign agents (who, unlike civilians, have likely been warned against such tactics and have actually signed up for a life of being screwed with by the state/other states). Of course, police should avoid even using casual sex on civilians. But using long-term relationships means tricking someone into having sex with you and into loving you- or, rather, into loving a nonexistent person. It means having children who love a nonexistent parent (at least until deployment ends and they disappear).

Of course, rape wasn’t the only crime being committed here. The undercover operations may have resulted in wrongful convictions and Scotland Yard spied on Stephen Lawrence’s family. As the public investigation progresses, we’ll learn more.

The big question is whether Mark Kennedy and the other police officers were told to have relationships with the activists-meaning it is UK police policy to commit rape-or whether these undercover officers acted of their own accord, which would mean it was just their personal misconduct. The media tends to assume that the police formed relationships to get information but as yet it’s unclear if this is true. The officers might simply have been attracted to the activists or wanted to keep them emotionally dependent on them for personal gratification instead of policing-related reasons.

 

 

*The law in question came into effect in 2009 so even if it did constitute rape under current law, it wouldn’t have been legally recognised as rape at the time. And it would’ve fallen under the jurisdiction of French, German and possibly English law.

Sex workers are #notyourrescueproject: Rape by anti-trafficking NGOs & stigma by feminists

First published on my Cliterati column on 1/2/14.

 

“If we want anything from outside like sweets, chewing gum or magazines or phone credit we have to give hand job or blow job to security,” reveals Molli Desi Devadasi. But she’s not talking about a prison. Molli, now a UK-based sex worker, was “rescued” by an anti-prostitution NGO while employed as a sex worker in India. She tweets the truth of what happens in these NGO-run rescue centres, and her revelations inspired the Twitter hashtag #notyourrescueproject which gained publicity recently.

“[I]f you want telephone credit you must suck NGO worker…often the women NGO workers call us bad names and tell us we are bad,” says Molli. Molli was “rescued” while visiting friends; when the police raided, she was taken along with them. Raids can involve beatings and sex workers’ collectives are trying to protect the rights of sex working women. Molli cannot reveal which NGO detained her as the NGO could come and find her, which she says would be dangerous for her.

But how do the detained girls manage to escape? “You can escape by bribing security during festival times to let you out so you can disappear in puja crowds and because all NGO bosses have holidays so no one will know exactly when you escape. NGO will then say you did not escape but your family collected you. You can agree to pay someone to pretend to be your auntie to collect you from NGO for money but all money has to be paid back with interest from sex work. You can complete sewing training and agree to marry but really you agree with one boy to give his family the NGO sewing machine and then you run away. You can jump from window but this is dangerous. Sometimes NGO boss will sell you to miscreant and then you have to pay back even more money…Sometimes after foreign visit the NGO will let you go once they have the foreign money and if their is no court case or FIR registered about you.” Molli escaped by hiding her phone, getting phone credit by sex and calling friends who gave money to security so they would let her out.

So the NGOs rape the sex working women and extort money from anyone trying to rescue them from detention. This begs the question of just how these NGOs got their hands on the girls in the first place. “When you are under safe custody order they give you to a rescue centre or you go into the prison so you can be kept as witness, so the original reason for rescue centre is actually to keep you to be witness. Now rescue centre says it wants to give you moral life so it trains you to sew, except we all know how to sew already ! Sometimes they have sewing machine training but often the machines are broken. There are bars on all windows and often we are not allowed to go in garden in case we escape. We have no lawyers so the NGO has complete power over us. At night we are locked inside and sometimes the night watch is drunk so if there was fire we would all die.” The detainees of this Mumbai rescue centre were also raped, “terrorised” and kept in unhygienic conditions.

This problem of “rescue” is global. Dr Laura Agustin, author of Sex At The Margins: Migration, Labour Markets And The Rescue Industry (she also has this blog), coined the term ‘rescue industry’ to describe the issue. There’s a lot of money to be made with sex workers’ bodies. The Irish anti-prostitution org Ruhama Agency is funded 14.4 million euros per year by the taxpayer (not counting funding from two other Government departments and of course public donations) despite helping just 241 women in its busiest year. The fact that the Ruhama Agency ran the infamous Magdalen laundries in which ‘fallen women’ were abused for years is obviously just a minor detail when you’re, like, rescuing women from ‘exploitation’. The rescue industry is lucrative, especially for larger organisations with an international reach; many are funded by US conservative Christian organisations.

“People who want to ‘rescue’ sex workers don’t fully understand, or are even interested in understanding why someone would choose sexwork as work,” says MxLaudanum, a genderfluid sex worker in the UK who works as a woman. “They have a hard time even acknowledging sexwork AS work, and feel that for someone to be a sexworker, that they must have fallen on very hard times. Whilst that might well be the case for some of us, it isn’t for all of us. Even in the former, sexwork grants freedom to many, gives the opportunity to get people out of financial dire straits, and often once they’re established, give them a really healthy financial status…it’s an added bonus to a ‘vanilla’ job, and for some it’s a full time thing.” And that reason, says Laudanum, “is nobody’s business but a sexworker’s own.”

Just to be clear, sex workers are not arguing that there are no negative points to sex work. Supporting sex workers’ rights doesn’t mean supporting the sex industry. Soldiers aren’t against world peace, Snowden wasn’t in love with his job at the NSA, and the kid behind the counter in McDonald’s isn’t a cheerleader for the catering industry. Sex workers want to be safe. That’s pretty much it. They campaign not for legalisation, but for decriminalisation and specifically for the New Zealand model of decriminalisation to keep them safe.

So rescue might be a waste of time, but is rescue really that bad for Western sex workers? “[A] sexworker’s life could be utterly destroyed…You’re taking away their money, their network of friends, family and clients, their self esteem, their status as a wage earning person, their ability to pay tax (yes, sexworkers pay tax, I do!), their ability to feed their family,” Laudanum alleges. And what would happen to her if she was rescued? “I would personally have no other income, because I am disabled in an invisible sense, and I am also a full time carer for a person who also cannot work. If someone were to ‘rescue’ me, they would take away my entire life’s stability.”

UK law defines people who migrate to the UK to find work in the sex industry as “trafficked” – even though they spent their own money to come here of their own free will. This wildly skews trafficking statistics as every migrant sex worker is classed as a trafficked person. As Laudanum says, “Many ‘rescuers’ like to assume that foreign sexworkers MUST have been abused and trafficked, and pay even less attention to them than white western sexworkers. The same can be said within other margins, for example transwomen, disabled people.” Just before the London Olympics, there was a spate of raids by police in the name of rescing victims of sex trafficking- despite the fact that police knew that there was little risk of sex trafficking, and as it happened sex trafficking did not explode because of the Olympics. Even the massive anti-trafficking operations Pentameter One and Two failed to find a single trafficking victim. But rescue in the UK is nothing compared to what happens elsewhere, where “rescued” women are detained against their will by rescue organisations and raped, as Molli reveals on Twitter. “I spoke on phone to rescue centre Girls in Kolkata and they say ‘Please let us go free’…the police finger all girls for best pussy,” she tweeted. Ms Laudanum’s view is that “when the people you’re supposed to be rescuing are raped, beaten and mentally tortured by the organisations you hired to strongarm them into submission, something is very wrong.”

But aren’t a lot of anti-prostitution women feminists? They feel that the sex and adult industries bolster the patriarchy by objectifying women. But Laudanum doesn’t think it’s as simple as that. “ANYONE who behaves the way anti-sexwork prohibitionists do towards sexworkers, is categorically NOT a feminist. The whole point of being a feminist (amongst MANY things), is to first and foremost defend and support a woman’s right to do what she pleases with her body, mind, and voice…If I want to sell sexual services, I will do so. If I want to fight for my right to sell my labour, I will…The anti-sexwork movement isn’t just non feminist, it’s MISOGYNISTIC.”

Sex working people of all genders face a lot of stigmatisation and marginalisation because of their careers. Molli reveals that “Sex work girls are treated different from orphan or other children as we are considered very bad influence.” Laudanum says “Our existence as happy, consensual and productive sexworkers, is denied…We highlight cases of abuse, harrassment and murder, and it is somehow our own fault because we are sexworkers…We have organisations who fight with us against the hatred of anti-sexwork prohibitionists, but you can be sure they’re not government funded.”

Outing is frequently used against sex workers. Journalist Eamon Dillon used covert surveillance equipment to secretly record a woman and outed her on YouTube as a sex worker, calling her “Scary Poppins”. Why? Because she had two other jobs as a babysitter and a cleaner, and he wanted to frame her as being dangerous to children just because one of her jobs happens to be sex work. Sex worker activist and editor of the Harlots Parlour blog Laura Lee was driven out of her town after being outed on social media. A child molester was accepted by the same community. Teacher Melissa Petro was fired for sex work in her past, while sex worker activist and designer Douglas Fox was outed in the press and found that the owner of the rag was on the panel when he complained. “One of the biggest fears many sexworkers have, is being outed if they’re working secretly,” explains Ms Laudanum. “We can lose everything, even our lives…Brianna Gardner, a twenty-two year old American woman of colour, was shot in the head in Chicago. Paige Clay, a twenty-three year old American transgender woman of colour, also shot in the head. Eva Maree, a twenty-seven year old Swedish woman, stabbed to death. Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Annette Nicholls, Paula Clennell.”

“It is heartbreaking to learn that one of the biggest issues sexworkers face, is white middle class feminism,” MxLaudanum claims. With some aspects of feminism endangering them (the European Women’s Lobby want the harmful Nordic Model to be made Europe-wide, and many feminists support and campaign for the Nordic model and criminalisation) it’s no wonder that some sex working women and sex worker allies don’t want to identify as feminist (though some do). “If a woman is working as a sexworker, she can’t POSSIBLY enjoy it, and must need someone to come and rescue her from it…when the world listens to white middle class feminism the most, of whom routinely ignore ALL NON sexworker feminist margins, just exactly where do you think that leaves sexworker feminist margins?”

 

So, fellow non-sex workers, what can we do to actually support sex workers, instead of endangering them with our “help”?

“Listen to us, take us seriously, understand that we’re human beings, recognise that we are sexworkers for many reasons. Start here: http://www.nswp.org/ 

Don’t ban rape porn- ban rape apologism!

Our government wants porn filters. Some feminists want to ban porn, especially “rape porn”. But what’s the point of getting rid of pornography if we don’t get rid of the real issue: rape culture? Rape apologism and victim blaming is rife in the media. Mainstream horror novels like Stephen King’s Carrie suggest that rape victims enjoy the rape (without pointing out that this is merely a biological response) or incite it; popular cartoons like Family Guy celebrate rapists (the character Glenn Quagmire) and even feminists give ‘advice’ to women and tell women how not to get raped instead of blaming the rapist. Let’s not get started on song lyrics, parenting books and the way news stories of sexual attacks are reported. Slut shaming is taught to children and young people by films, women’s magazines and so-called ‘progressive’ teen shows like Glee.

Rape culture is more dangerous than porn. It corrupts young people into thinking that rape is acceptable, that the victim wants it and that everybody does it. It teaches victims and survivors to feel shame and guilt, to blame themselves. The stereotypes may also make children and young people feel that if they aren’t completely shattered and traumatised by a sexual attack, they must have wanted it or it wasn’t rape.

This is especially damaging to young people and children who are confused and who aren’t receiving a good standard of sex education. Sure, some rapists are evil serial offenders who can’t change their spots and know exactly what they’re doing. But preteen and teen offenders may be simply confused. The heteronormativity, cisnormativity and vanilla-priveleging sex education in schools can mean that queer or kinky pupils aren’t aware that consent applies to their activities, too- or even that what they’re doing is sexual.

So imagine that a preteen or teen who has committed a sexual assault is reading a feminist column that blames victims for drinking or wearing revealing clothing. Even if s/he’s starting to feel guilty about the attack and wonder if s/he’s done something wrong, the article will reassure him or her that no, the victim was asking for it. What rape apologism tells rapists is that they shouldn’t regret their actions. It wasn’t your fault, she was drunk. Okay, you raped her- so what? She’s a slut anyway! Don’t feel bad, look at what she was wearing; she was totally asking for it. She was out late at night, what did she expect would happen? She agreed to be alone with you- she wanted it. She knew what she was doing. She’s an idiot. She’s been around the block, what difference does it make? She’s easy. She’s a slut. A whore…

Rape apologism encourages young, confused and misguided rapists to go on raping by providing excuses for them and misleading them to think that it’s acceptable. It provides a safe world for older, evil rapists to do anything they want while authorities and communities blame the victims. It stops victims of all genders from speaking up or reporting assaults because they think it’s their fault.It leads to people not believing sexual assault victims when they do report attacks. And it leads to tragic, sometimes fatal bullying of sexual assault victims of all genders. Rape culture tends to focus on blaming female victims of male attackers, but it’s likely that victim blaming affects male and genderqueer victims too, and trivialises sexual assaults perpetrated by people of all genders.

So don’t focus on the dangers of porn. Let’s ban rape apologism. It’s even more insidious when it’s feminists who are making the world safe for rapists. Feminists are meant to fight rape culture and stand with all women, stand up for all women. Worryingly, when men see that feminists are blaming victims too, it might encourage them to blame victims; after all it must be okay for men to victim blame if feminists are doing it! These are high profile feminists with platforms the rest of us can only dream of, and they use their priveleges to blame other women and bolster the patriarchy. These women aren’t feminists. They’re the real handmaidens of patriarchy. It’s not porn that corrupts our children, it’s people teaching them that it’s okay to commit rape, that they can’t help it because of their gender. It’s people telling them that it’s their fault they were raped and that they could’ve prevented it from happening any more than you can prevent being beaten up. It’s time to ban this sick filth.

Media turns gang rape into a joke – because victim was a man

A few days ago a news story popped up in my Twitter feed. It was the shocking report of how a 19 year old was lured into a car by four much older women on the pretense of giving him a ride home. Instead, the gang drove him to a secluded spot where all four of them sexually assaulted him before stranding him and fleeing the scene in their car. By anyone’s standards, this premeditated abduction and sexual assault makes disturbing reading. But columnist Rosie DiManno doesn’t think so.

DiManno turned the story into a joke, calling the sexual assault a “bizarre anomaly” and describing the rapists as “not cougars on the prowl”, mocking their weight as if taking the piss out of another woman’s appearance in accordance with dominant ideas of beauty is what matters here. The tagline (probably created by a subeditor) reads “Enquiring minds are eager to know what the heck befell a young man who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a group of women in downtown Toronto.” Because of course a man can’t be raped – everyone knows men are so sexual that they’re up for it 24/7. DiManno writes “one man’s sexual assault is another man’s sexual fantasy come true” and “Sexual assault, you say? Lucky guy others say, nudge-nudge, a fivesome and didn’t even have to pay for it” These are comments that a paper would never dare make about a female assault victim. DiManno is also discrediting the victim’s story, suggesting he’d consented and so it wasn’t assault at all.

But DiManno isn’t done yet. “[T]he inference to be drawn [is] that perhaps the victim pondered his options for a while, perchance needed some coaxing to report,” she claims – obviously ignorant of the fact that the majority of sexual assaults go unreported. DiMannio also speculates about how serious the assault was and notes that the victim wasn’t stabbed, as if that’s somehow relevant to the fact that these rapists sexually assaulted someone and all men in their community are in danger from these women.

DiManno’s hilariously witty movie-referencing conclusion:

These clubbing vamps are a bizarre anomaly, pack hunters in their getaway SUV — Thelma and Louise and Tiffany and Debi, four white chicks who may have gang-groped or otherwise molested a teenager because they didn’t have the balls to pick on, or pick up, a man their own age.

Wanted: Bad girls in black minidresses and stilettos, approach with caution.

No, Rosie DiManno. They’re not fictional heroines. They’re rapists who committed a planned sexual assault of a teenager not because they “didn’t have the guts to pick up a man their own age”, but because they’re RAPISTS.

So it seems that although female rape victims are sometimes not believed or are bullied for reporting sexual assault (like Rehtaeh, Audrie Potts and Amanda Todd) it can be tough getting people to take you seriously if you’re a male victim too. Gender stereotypes work against both sexes. A story about men gang raping a woman wouldn’t be “reported” in this tongue-in-cheek way. And it definitely wouldn’t end in a lighthearted description of the rapists’ clothing and say “approach with caution” – it would probably stress that all women were in danger. Maybe even inappropriately suggest that women modify their behaviour or give up their freedoms to go where they please until the rapists are caught. And it definitely wouldn’t call gang rapists “bad boys”.

There’s nothing funny about this. These women premeditated their attack. It was well-planned: they ganged up so they would be able to control their victim. They picked on a young boy instead of an experienced, less naive man. They used lies to abduct him instead of physical strength. They didn’t assault him until they were in a secluded spot. They took a car to make a quick getaway.

And since men don’t usually think they’ll be victims of sexual assault and counselling services are usually aimed at female victims, it might actually be worse for male victims than female ones.

I just hope the victim never reads this story. And I hope women who are thinking about rape don’t read it because this story only encourages sexual assault. Rape: just another wild night, a cool anecdote you can dig out at parties or use to impress your friends.

This article is a cruel gender-reversed parralel to the media’s sympathy for rapists which characterized the Steubenville case.

And it’s not like giving women the freedom to assault men without censure will benefit women. Treating it as a joke while treating sexual assault of women seriously harks back to the age when female purity was valued and tied to honour while men were free to do as they wished. This article isn’t female supremacy. It’s just a re-branded version of the patriarchal idea that while the integrity of women’s bodies matters, men’s don’t.

 

Chief Police officers said UK forces should adopt the Merseyside model in 2010

The Merseyside police have been working with sex workers’ organisations to catch violent offenders, not arresting street sex workers (outdoor sex work is a minor crime – ‘soliciting’ for the sex worker and ‘kerb crawling’ for the sex purchaser – while indoor sex work is legal) until they have offered them help to exit the sex industry but the sex worker has continued with sex work, and have declared all crimes against sex workers hate crimes. This has resulted a 67% conviction rate for rape, while the national average rate is 6.5%. So, basically what this model consists of is 1) treating such crimes as hate crimes and 2) creating effective partnerships with sex worker organisations (including using exiting strategies in place of arrest).

 

This push for the Merseyside model to be implemented across all police forces in the UK should be easy and uncontroversial – because the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO) Guidelines on Policing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation Strategy already state that all forces should do what is “currently done by Merseyside Police, to deal with violent and sexual crimes / incidents on sex workers in the same vein as a ‘Hate Crime / Incident’” (ACPO Guidelines on Policing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation Strategy p8). So, it looks like 1) has already been endorsed by ACPO.

 

ACPO supports the work of the UK Network of Sex Worker Projects, especially in relation to the ongoing development and enhancement of ‘Ugly Mugs’ schemes.” (ACPO Guidelines on Policing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation Strategy p6).The guidelines also state that “This strategy supports partner organizations and projects offering support services to sex workers” (ACPO Guidelines on Policing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation Strategy p5) and ACPO believes that the strategy’s objectives “ objectives will only be achieved through working in partnership with other agencies, organisations and individuals” (ACPO Guidelines on Policing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation Strategy p6). Police are also instructed that they should only arrest street sex workers “[O]nly as part of a staged approach that includes warnings, police engagement with local support projects, voluntary engagements with projects, existing diversionary mechanisms and Engagement & Support

Orders (ESOs)”. So 2) appears to be supported by ACPO as well.

 

These guidelines were written in 2010, and updated in 2011. So why haven’t other police forces taken these guidelines on board?

 

It’s a mystery, but it’s good news for us – because it means that, instead of convincing the police that the Merseyside model is something they should be doing, we just have to get them to do what they already agree they should be doing.

 

 

 

The ACPO Guidelines: http://www.acpo.police.uk/documents/crime/2011/20111102%20CBA%20Policing%20Prostitution%20and%20%20Sexual%20Exploitation%20Strategy_Website_October%202011.pdf

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)

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