Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rape Blog

I have always steered away from blogging about rape as it is a pretty horrible topic.

In April a judge in the UK let a known paedophile off a sexual assault charge using the reason that the 13-year old girl had “seduced” the 24 year old man. This story was mentioned in my Twitter timeline but it was not until later on that evening when the link was retweeted and caused some heated responses on Twitter; that I read the article.

I have spent weeks writing down my ideas about this.

Rape/sexual assault victims were “asking for it”
I think that this is the one “excuse” that attackers or other people use as justification for why rape occurs. It actually makes me want to vomit. I always wonder how people can even use this as justification for the rape or sexual assault of anyone. It seems to apply to women that dress “provocatively” in particular clothing thus “asking” to be raped. Women get chastised for dressing suggestively; when perhaps they just want to dress up and feel nice. As women we are constantly bombarded with images of half-naked women and teenagers wearing the “latest” fashions; so why wouldn’t women want to follow fashion trends? Perhaps men also feel that to be fashionable they need to wear certain things; or look a certain way. Are children becoming over-sexualised in their dress sense? That is a whole other blog.

I remember when I was at university a male political student wrote an article basically insinuating that women that dressed provocatively were “asking for it”. It caused a huge uproar. I remember him well; as a person he made my stomach churn. He followed me off the bus one day. I am sure it was just a coincidence that we both got off at the same stop; but he followed me through a park and he was completely revolting. He made me feel extremely uncomfortable and this was before the article was even written.

Shouldn’t both men and women be allowed to wear what they want? It does not appear that way. Women are judged or portrayed as beguilingly and yet nothing seems to be said about the way men dress. Do men get chastised for dressing in skin tight t-shirts or skinny jeans?

Then there is the alcohol. It would appear that women who have a few drinks and flirt are inviting particular consequences, and if they are raped then it was their fault. Do intoxicated men ever get “told” that they were “asking” for it if they were drunk and are beaten, hurt or even murdered? However, it seems that if women get drunk and something happens then it is a whole other board game.

I am sorry but blaming a victim for being attacked because they were drunk is ridiculous and insulting. An attacker is essentially taking advantage of someone whose reactions are impaired by drugs or alcohol. If the attacker has also been drinking then they still have the ability to be able to “STOP”; just as an attacker that is sober can “STOP”. If you think that people cannot stop themselves from attacking another when they are drinking, then to me this is a little like blaming your past for doing horrible things in your “present”. Surely knowing ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ should prevail despite being drunk?

I do often wonder where people’s friends are when bad things happen. To hark back to the old saying “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt”. If you are partying and everyone is drinking at what point do you make sure that your friends all make it home safely so that no one is left behind, or left in a dangerous situation. Why as a society do some people (and friend’s) turn a blind eye to helping people that are obviously too drunk to be left alone.

When I was about 20 we went to a party at a public hall and there were a lot of underage drinkers there. When the police came people scattered thinking that it was a raid; well it was West Auckland. I was astonished that one guy’s mates left him in a semi-comatose state on the side of the road. Seriously, what the hell? We picked him up and made sure he was okay and then called his friends back to help him.

How about trying a different approach if you see someone that obviously needs help? Try and friend their friends or get in touch with friends/family, or even the police to make sure that they get home safely.

While I do not like the word Slut; perhaps check out some of the information on Slutwalk Aotearoa via Kiwiana’s blog.

Victims putting themselves in unnecessary risk
Time and time again I hear people say “oh if X had not walked down that dark or badly lit alley at 3am in the morning on their own then they would not have been attacked. How do these people respond when someone is attacked in their own home or in the middle of the day? Or when a person is raped at a party when there are people around.

So my question is, is that if we cannot be safe in our own homes then how can we expect to be safe on the street at night or in broad daylight. Attackers grab children/women/men off the street when they are going to work/school or even exercising.

When I was at University I refused to be scared and there were many times that I would walk through Albert Park with my Walkman on (yes this was pre-iPod) late at night after studying in the library. I also walked through the domain a lot around midnight during the week and on weekends. I would walk past the Winter Gardens and along past the hospital, over Grafton Bridge, onto K’Road and then down into town to the Crow Bar. I went a lot of places on my own and people probably thought that I “put myself at risk”.

I walked this route a lot at midnight especially Thursday-Saturday. The thing that makes me shake my head now is that one woman disappeared around this time and has never been found; another was brutally raped and murdered.

It makes me furious that people are not able to walk where they want/when they want without fear of something happening. I would love to be able to walk at night with my iPod on; but I wonder would I be safe if I walked down a darker street?

Actually, rather than write more about it I think that Boganette’s blog ‘Living in Fear’ sums it up.

Victims “seducing” their attacker and thus provoking ‘said’ attack
So the crux of the article about the Paedophile in the UK getting off was the fact that the judge felt that the victim had “seduced” her attacker. Seriously…I was gobsmacked; whether or not a young teen that is barely older than a child seduced a 24 year old man is not the point. In the end he is the adult. She is 11 years his junior and as an ADULT he should have made the decision to walk away.

I do not have children, but I was a child, then a teenager and I am now an adult. I know that changing from a child to a teenager was full on and totally hormonally charged. I was moody and as puberty hit I was probably like most teenagers and interested in sex. As my hormones bounced around and I struggled with understanding myself and my identity and I definitely exhibited the obsessiveness that teenagers often display. Just think of the crushes that you have had on band members or pop stars. We watched Tamara Drewe earlier this year and one of the young girls was 15 and completely obsessed with a band member. Her crush was so intense that she lost sight of rationality and did some scary things that had huge repercussions for the other characters.

I lost my virginity very early and some would probably label me as promiscuous or a seductress. I understand that teenagers can come across as far more mature for their age. I also understand that as a teenager I did pursue boys. But at the end of the day whatever young girls or boys do; if there is an adult involved they have to be the adult and walk away. At about 14 years old I slept with a guy that was probably in his 20’s. I lied to him and told him I was 16. When he found out the truth he was horrified; horrified that I was basically a child, that I had lied to him and that he had essentially committed a crime. Had he known the truth he would not have even pursued me.

At the end of the day rape is not a joke. It is a revolting abuse of control and power and absolutely damaging to victims. As a society victimising the victims is not the way to help at all. They have already been through enough. As a society we need to challenge “rape culture” by making it “not okay” for people to joke about rape or ‘excuse’ rape. We need to be looking after one another and trying to make New Zealand a safer place for everyone.

Note: a few other ideas for blogs came out as a result of this one. One is about victims and over-sexualisation of children.


  1. This is a very good blog, Vanessa, as it raises many sub-topics regarding rape, it's definitions and how it is perceived in society.
    These are important factors when viewing rape, individualising it with victims, broadening it as a 'behaviour' and the contrast between how a victim feels vs social depiction.
    The fashion/sexy clothes/asking for it is pretty last century, and I am surprised this is still taken as a possibility regarding rapist's behaviour and why people rape.
    Most psychologists and mental health professionals are sensibly advising that rape is fundamentally about power and control. They say most rapists feel they have a lack of power, choice and control in their lives and have often had a past of being dominated and feeling lack of empowerment.
    Quite frankly the sexy clothes card is archaic.
    However this is argument still considered as men are sexually visual creatures. And many other reasons I am sure.
    Clothes are an expression and extension of ourselves and in the 21st century we should be able to wear whatever we like and walk where we like at night. Agreed.
    Alcohol is a tricky one as well. We hope our friends will keep an eye on us. A drunk person's wits and reactions are a lot slower so regarding rape, they are an easier target.
    We must take a bit of responsibility with our drinking in public places however this does not condone raping an intoxicated person.
    Most rape occurs by someone you know, either a family member, family friends or friends. I might suggest then some cases blur into domestic abuse and violence.
    Thanks for sharing your story, Vanessa, as there were some personal details which humanised the blog and it shows you are expressive, empathetic and a darn good writer!
    Rape culture - very good term. Ignorance is not bliss. We all need to understand what rape really is all about, power and control.
    I look forward to your future blogs.

  2. Well written.

    I was sexually assaulted by people I thought were "friends" at a party. I couldn't understand why it had happened, so I blamed myself and to some extent still do. I don't even think these people realised what they did was wrong which sickens me.

  3. @Mel - as always thank you for your thoughts and comments.

    @Michaela - thank you for your comment. That's pretty terrible. Unfortunately, I think it's probably more common than we imagine. I think a lot of women blame themselves when we aren't the one's that should be taking responsibility. Huge hugs to you.

  4. Great post Ness. Well said. Thanks for linking :)

  5. Basically rape is against the victim's will. There's no getting around that. The perpetrator is responsible for their crime.
    You either have it in you to take advantage of a vulnerable person against their will or you don't (hopefully most people don't).
    Those ideas don't come from nowhere - otherwise every guy who's ever seen a drunk, scantily clad woman would be a rapist.
    I think as women (or even men) we can make responsible, safe decisions so our safety isn't compromised, but ultimately should something bad happen - it is the RAPIST'S FAULT. Not the victim's.

  6. Let's not forget that women can be rapists too. I was assaulted by two people, one of them was female. It's not just males.