Why Doesn’t EVERYBODY Take Rape Seriously?

Feminist art

Blurred Lines.

“20 minutes of action.”

Brock Turner and a father’s words in defence of the fact that his son raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

There, in those words, the answer to the question.

Children learn by example and parents serve as mirrors, there staring back at us, our actions and words. The parental role is all-encompassing, just providing for their health and welfare is not enough. We also have a moral obligation to teach them the value of equality and respect. Sadly for the victim, in this case, it was ‘like father like son’. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

The Grey Area.

There isn’t one, RAPE is RAPE, fact.

The legal definition of rape reads “forcible penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth by the penis without consent”. 

I disagree with this. I do not believe that rape requires penetration when a person sexually violates another person that is rape. If you have any doubts, please listen to the narration of the Emily Doe’s harrowing impact statement. Whilst Brock Turner did not penetrate her with his penis, there can be NO doubt he raped his victim.

When it comes to sexual violence, there is a reluctance in calling it out. We hear terms such as indecent assault, sexual misconduct or inappropriate behaviour. Or the gutter press favourite of describing rapists as ‘having sex’ with their victims. Or 20 minutes of action. The use of minimising language and euphemistic terms reduce the validity and severity of the crimes.

I quote the eloquent and phenomenally brave James Rhodes, Classic Pianist and author of Instrumental, himself a survivor of childhood rape. “Abuse; its abuse when you shout at a traffic warden for getting a ticket. This is child rape, let’s call it what it is.” If you have not read Instrumental, I implore you to do so. His words will stay with me for an eternity. Instrumental is a benchmark in autobiographical writing and should be compulsory reading for every rapist and rape apologist.

The Fall.

I blame the Bible. We can thank a few undoubtedly, sexually repressed and frustrated blokes somewhere (with one or two probably had received a knockback at some point) who decided to vent their frustrations by writing a book. Every story requires a baddie, a protagonist. So, they gave us Eve and sealed our fate. Testaments that were to influence billions, Genesis devastatingly established the status quo of male dominance and female subservience.

Misogyny and sexism as old as time itself. It is EVERYWHERE, usually blatant, but it can also be subtle. The dad, when asked if he took sugar in his tea, replied: “no idea, ask your mum” (true story). A boy pulled your hair or pushed you over in school, he did that because he “likes you”. Wolf whistle, take it as a compliment. Fuck, if I got a pound for every time a bloke told me to “smile” I’d be the Imelda Marcos of the sports shoe world. It is so ingrained and commonplace that we just accept and overlook it.

Sexist patriarchy has permeated nearly every aspect of our society. The sexual objectification of women, the patriarchy’s common thread, weaving its way through the generations.  And day in, day out the media continue to peddle this archaic mindset.  Across the pond, terrifyingly, it’s as if the Republicans are taking notes from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. With Oklahoma Representative Justin Humphrey stating recently that women are not people once they get pregnant, just “hosts”. And let’s not forget that the President of the United States is a sexual predator.

National Treasures.

There was outrage from certain sections of society when the No More Page Three campaign was successful, its defenders hailed Page 3 a national institution. A pair of tits, a national institution? Fuck off! They’re not Dame Vera Lynn. This outrage is the perfect example of objectification and ownership. How dare they! Those breasts belonged to the nation! Across the country, women rejoiced and men deprived of a daily side dish of tits wept into their Full English.

Sex sells and the female body or its parts are an advertising company’s wet dream. Advertisers exploit sexuality and encourage us to think of sex as a commodity. These images reinforce stereotypes of women as sex objects and in turn, are a contributing factor in cultural attitudes regarding sexual violence. Whilst certainly not exclusive, global fashion brands such as Tom Ford, Dolce and Gabbana and Yves Saint Laurent are exemplary in using near-pornographic imagery.  Images that reference depictions of rape, sexual violence, and paedophilia, Yves Saint Laurent’s latest campaign banned (yet again).

The Facts Speak For Themselves.

I have only quoted two statistics, the in-depth statistics on sexual violence are staggering. The figures clearly indicate a worrying increase in sexual offences.

While figures for many crimes in Scotland are going down, for sexual offences they continue to rise. Sexual crimes have been on a long-term upward trend since 1974, and have increased each consecutive year since 2008-09. Sexual crimes are at the highest level seen since 1971, the first year for which comparable crime groups are available.  (Source: Recorded Crime in Scotland 2015-16)

In England & Wales, the number of sexual offences (64,205) recorded in 2013/14 was the highest recorded by the police since 2002/03. This figure showed a 20% increase compared with the previous year and within this, the number of offences of rape increased by 26% to 20,745 incidents, while the number of other sexual offences increased by 17% to 43,460 incidents (Source: ONS Crime Statistics Chapter 1: Violent Crime & Sexual Offences – Overview, Appendix table A4, Year Ending September 2014)

The Reason for Rape? Rapists.

The apologists would have us believe Rape Culture is a myth, a fabrication created by angry feminists. One only needs to check out @EverydaySexism  Daily, women document their experiences of sexism, harassment, and assault. Rape Culture is NOT a myth. The correlation between an increase in sexual offences and sexual objectification cannot be a coincidence.

1 in 5 women between the ages of 16 and 59 have experienced some form of sexual violence. If you have been fortunate enough not to, a penny to a pound all of you will have experienced some form of sexism.

I am one of the one in five. Age six or seven on route home from school, cornered in an alleyway by four older boys. In my first long-term relationship, I experienced both physical and sexual violence. Far too many workplace experiences. That knot in the pit of your stomach as you walk past a building site. That date scenario, where you know you don’t want to do whatever ‘it’ is but you do it anyway; intuition kicks in with a dose of self-preservation. Discussing this with my female friends, ALL of them had more than one negative experience.

Not Asking For It.

Aristotle wrote “Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society”

People are complacent. Rape is just a word, no one looks past it. People still laugh at rape jokes. We continually re-enforce gender stereotypes, boys will be boys after all; hypocritically teach double standards and slut-shame. A rise in sexting, cyberbullying and revenge porn. Turning a blind eye to the worrying increase in peer-to-peer sexual harassment and violence. Ignoring the glaring lack of sex education in schools and that Universities and College’s put profit before the victims of campus rape. The dangers of online grooming. We glibly give our children mobile phones with the technology to access a plethora of adult material. The ease with which they can view pornography is shocking; much of this pornography is hard-core, extreme and violent.

We have a Criminal Justice System that continually fails the victims of rape and sexual assault; the shockingly low conviction rates. That there is still a debate surrounding consent and the vile culture of victim-blaming. That society continues to peddle the myth that it is a woman’s responsibility not to get raped. The victim was drunk, the predator’s get out of jail free card. The shockingly low conviction rates for rape and sexual assault.

Blurred Lines.

So let’s stop reinforcing gender stereotypes and muddying the waters with mixed messages. Boys will be boys, he’s a stud, she’s a slut kind of thing. Talk honestly and without embarrassment to your children about sex. Tell your daughter regardless of what society says, she is as valid as any man. Discuss her entitlement to a healthy, happy sex life and that her sole purpose in life to NOT to pleasure a man. Discuss consent with your son, make sure he is clear on the fact that NO means NO. Make him read Emily Doe’s impact statement. Empower your daughter, give her the confidence to say NO. Be aware of toxic masculinity, teach your son it’s okay to express his emotions, that kindness is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Time to call it out, if something offends you, say so. Don’t laugh nervously or avoid the confrontation. By doing nothing, you are complicit. Next time you hear a rape joke, instead of explaining why you don’t find funny, ask them to explain why they do?

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