Being advised to take personal responsibility for your safety is not victim-blaming.
Thirteen months ago a judge in the UK, Lindsey Kushner QC, was castigated for stating the obvious, that “women were entitled to drink themselves into the ground, but their disinhibited behaviour could put them in danger.” (Source – BBC News Online – 11th March 2017)
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, a QC (Queen’s Counsel) herself, countered that, “the female judge’s warning that drunk women were putting themselves at greater risk of rape was victim-blaming.”
Judge Kushner hit back, “I do not think it wrong for a judge to beg women to take actions to protect themselves”. In my view the judge was right, although to some, they insist that this view instantly blames the victim and not perpetrator. This is not true. I am sure that many of us have drunk too much alcohol on occasions and have little recollection of some events that occurred the previous evening. I know that feeling well. In my case, it happened again recently as I come to the realisation that, as I advance in age, my capacity to consume large amounts of alcohol has seriously diminished. This is no bad thing.
(Judge Lindsey Kushner QC)
Let us get one thing straight; nobody, male or female, deserves to get attacked and/or raped or sexually assaulted. NO ALWAYS MEANS NO. There are NO excuses. The only person at fault here is the ATTACKER / RAPIST, NOT THE VICTIM.
The victim of the crime that Judge Kushner was commenting about, Megan Clark, 19 of Manchester, bravely waived her right to anonymity to back the comments made by the trial judge. She had been attacked by a man that she had met in a city-centre Burger King after getting drunk on beer and vodka during a night out. While nobody has the right to violate you in any way, we can all take common sense steps to reduce the chances of being taken advantage of in these circumstances. In a Utopian world, every woman will be able to dress and behave as they wish while every man will be a complete gentleman and would never ‘take advantage’ of someone who is vulnerable or not able to protect themselves due to a number of factors, eg. isolation, drunkenness, under the influence of illegal substances etc.
Reality check: WE DON’T LIVE IN UTOPIA – It doesn’t exist, and some predators will seek to use any weakness or vulnerability to take an advantage. While there are many more decent members of society, this type of predator exists in every town, city and village. They seek out women who have been separated from their peer group, appear extremely unsteady on their feet, walking home alone or distracted. It is difficult, when you do not possess your full coherent faculties, to assess whether the person approaching you and trying to engage, is someone genuinely looking out for you as a good samaritan or is seeking to take advantage of your vulnerability. In a state of heightened intoxication, it will be nigh on impossible to make a rational assessment of what is happening to you and that may lead to bad choices.
(Megan Clark, aged 19, Manchester – victim of a serious sexual assault in the city-centre)
Statistics: In the United Kingdom in 2015-16 there were 33,798 complaints of rape. Just 2,689 of those resulted in convictions. That is a mere 7.5% of reported rape crime. The majority were women.
Unfortunately, in Court, alleged victims can be subjected to humiliating questions about their clothing, sexual history and even whether the victim owns and/or uses sex toys. While defence lawyers have to represent their clients to the best of their ability, this verbal violence against a vulnerable victim can result in that victim reliving the terrors of the attack as if it was happening all over again.
In 2011 a Toronto (Canada) police officer became infamous for comments he made, while another officer was giving a talk to law students at the Toronto York University.
While a more senior officer was giving the talk, Officer Michael Sanguinetti interrupted him and was reported to have started by saying,
“You know, I think we are beating around the bush here. I have been told that I am not supposed to say this……”
Anyone who starts a sentence with that, or with, “I don’t mean any disrespect but..” MEANS EXACTLY THAT! They are telling you that they are about to disrespect you or tell you something that they shouldn’t and try to condone it with the faux apology prefix.
Sanguinetti said, “You know, I think we are beating around the bush here. I have been told that I am not supposed to say this, however, women should AVOID DRESSING LIKE SLUTS in order not to be victimised.”
During an interview, after the unfortunate officer opened his mouth, student leader Darshika Selvasivam said,
“Linking clothing to sexual assaults blames the victim while taking the onus away from the perpetrator”
Sanguinetti has since apologised for his comments and added that,
“assaulted women are not victims by choice. I made a comment which was poorly thought out and did not reflect the commitment of the Toronto Police Service to the victims of sexual assaults. Violent crimes, such as sexual assaults, can have a traumatising effect on their victims. My comment was hurtful in this respect.” (source – Mailonline.com 18.02.17)
Officer Sanguinetti became the catalyst for the movement known as the ‘SlutWalk’ which was born in Toronto on 3rd April, 2011 and spread throughout the world’s cities.
(photo taken at the first SlutWalk on 3rd April, 2011, in Toronto, Canada)
In a January 2017 report by the UK Fawcett Society, while researching ‘hostility and blame culture against women’, they found that over a third of people believed a victim is to blame if they are sexually assaulted.
The report surveyed over 8,000 people with the question:
“If a woman goes out late at night, wearing a short skirt, gets drunk and is then the victim of a sexual assault, is she totally or partly to blame?”
Results showed that 38% of men and 34% of women believed that a female victim is wholly or in part to blame for being sexually assaulted.
(source – The Independent – 08.02.17)
LET THAT SINK IN FOR A SECOND.
Should we not be teaching people that the right way to interact with others is to respect one’s personal space and sexual boundaries? There is a huge difference between a young man fluffing his lines and boundaries when shyly approaching a female with the intent to engage in innocent conversation than with a man, who persistently pesters a female, despite her rebuffing of his advances, and ignores all social etiquette, thus becoming a physical and sexual threat.
There are many trains of thought on the mechanics of the act of rape. One side suggest that it has nothing to do with sex and more to do with power, control and humiliation of another human being. The other suggestion is that it has to have something to do with sex, as the mere act of rape includes arousal, erection and penetration of another ie. the desire to have sex going back to our procreational roots from past millennia.
The one thing that we can be clear about is that the way that a person was dressed was not the reason that they were raped. Otherwise, how can one explain the pensioner, modestly clothed, being raped in her own home or the baby in a crib being sexually assaulted? This may be some sort of sick and perverted sexual desire but ultimately these predators have controlled, terrified and humiliated the victim and made them feel worthless.
A HIGH PERCENTAGE OF RAPE VICTIMS ARE KNOWN TO THEIR ATTACKER
On the website run by the Valley Crisis Center in Merced, California (www.valleycrisiscenter.org), there is a section titled, ‘Myths about sexual assault’. In it is quoted:
MYTH – Rape is about sex. People who rape, do it because they cannot control their sexual desire.
REALITY – Rape is not about sex. Rape is about having power and control over another person. Three out of five rapists are also in consenting sexual relationships. This myth takes the blame off the rapist and does not hold them accountable for their actions.
On the States of Jersey Police website (www.jersey.police.uk), if you ‘search’ under the word ‘rape’, they list the following, as types of sexual assault/rape:
Domestic rape / spousal rape – a spouse can still be convicted of raping their partner while in a relationship.
Date / Acquaintance rape – where non-consensual sex occurs during or after a date by someone known to the victim.
Stranger rape – the rape that strikes fear into the population, committed by a total stranger. It is the one type of rape that gets the biggest headlines in the papers.
Drug / alcohol assisted rape – either deliberate ‘spiking’ of drinks or an over-indulgence of alcohol on one or both parties, so that informed consent cannot be made due to the condition of the victim.
In 2014 Detective Sergeant (now Acting Inspector) Louise Clayson stated that:
“One of the most common myths surrounding rape is that it is an act committed randomly by a stranger who is lurking in the bushes or in a dark alley. Statistically however, most victims are raped by people they know. The stranger rape myth is based on our societal need to distance ourselves from rapists. It is much more comfortable for us to call them strangers than (accept) the darker truth of sexual violence; that the rapists are often people we trust – our friends, acquaintances or family.”
“To try and prevent rape, we need to be honest about the realities of it. Many of us have created a cloud of myth surrounding rape to protect ourselves from some uncomfortable truths. Throughout the year we will continue our work to challenge these age-old taboos and get people talking about the subject which, in the past, has been difficult to discuss.”
(source – DS L. Clayson – States of Jersey Police website)
Under the headline, ‘Rape Law change will have an impact on detection rates’, the Jersey Evening Post (JEP), 9th December 2017 edition, reported that the States of Jersey will have a new draft Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law presented for consideration this year, by current Home Affairs Minister, Deputy Kristina Moore.
This is intended to widen the definition of what can be considered ‘rape’ under the Law. The JEP stated:
“At present, rape is defined as penile penetration of the vagina. The proposed changes would mean that any forcible sexual act involving a penis, whether oral or anal penetration, would be classed as rape. Rape victims would also be able to give their evidence via a video link in court.” (source – Jersey Evening Post – 09.12.17)
The Law will also, for the first time, allow for males to be considered victims of rape and there will be clarification of the terms surrounding ‘consent’.
As a woman, there are many things that you can do, while you are planning and executing a night out, either on your own, or with friends, that will decrease the chances of falling pray to predatory people. While Jersey is a relatively safe place, one still has to have their wits about them.
In December last year, I wrote an article for the St. Saviour’s Parish magazine, La Cloche, in relation to staying safe during the party season over the Christmas period. Delving into ‘Xena’s handbook of awareness and safety tips’ I wrote:
• Keep your wits about you while on licensed premises – If you are being harassed or need assistance please do not hesitate to make a door security supervisor, or other member of staff, aware of your concerns. We are there to help you; keep your drink on you at all times, even if that means taking it to the toilet or leaving it in the care of a trusted friend while you are elsewhere. While instances of drink ‘spiking’ are rare, they do happen. Don’t feel obliged to accept drinks from a stranger just because they are offered, a polite refusal should not offend.
• Do not, under any circumstances accept what appears to be illicit substances from a third party – Currently, there are many drugs circulating the party scene, including Ecstasy, Amphetamines, Cocaine, Heroin and other opiates, Ketamine and so-called ‘Legal’ (now illegal) Highs. You will not know the strengths of these drugs as they vary greatly in purity and, in recent times, certain super strength ecstasy tablets have been responsible for multiple hospitalisations. Do not spend your Christmas hooked up to a drip on a hospital ward.
• Pace your drinking; if you know that you are going out for an evening, pace your intake of alcohol – Try drinking soft drinks in between your alcoholic ones and try to eat something before and during your night out. Getting a greasy kebab after you have left a pub or club might help to mop up some of the alcohol but it is better to have a drink on a full stomach rather than an empty one. Be aware that if you pre-load your alcohol before you go out, and then continue to drink when you are on licensed premises, you may not last very long before you are drunk and you are being asked to leave the premises by one of us. Pre-loading is the drinking of alcohol, often purchased from a supermarket at a cheaper rate, at home with friends before venturing into town.
• Always have your mobile phone fully charged and on your person at all times – Your phone can often be your lifeline in an emergency. You can make any emergency call (999 or 112) without having to first unlock your phone.
and a tip given, specifically for the Jersey population –
• Jersey Lifts – many of you will use, or have used, Jersey Lifts. I am not here to tell you not to use them as many people will attest to having successfully used drivers from this group. However, please remember that although the Law states that a driver can only take money that is reasonable as a contribution towards the vehicle’s petrol/maintenance (which Jersey Lifts states is approximately 60-70 pence per mile), it is blatantly obvious that the amounts asked or offered greatly exceed these guidelines, therefore, rendering the service illegal. Should a serious accident or sexual assault happen while you are a passenger in a Jersey Lifts vehicle, please be aware that the driver will not be insured for carrying passengers for ‘hire or reward’, will not be registered with the Driver and Vehicles Standards Department, will not be DBS checked (formerly CRB), will not hold a PSV licence as a professional driver, will not have had their vehicle checked for road worthiness and you will have no knowledge as to whether that person even has a driving licence.
(source – ‘Have a happy and safe Christmas party season’ – by Xena; La Cloche Parish magazine, St. Saviour, Jersey – Winter 2017 edition)
RAPE IS NOT THE SOLE DOMAIN OF MEN
The article writes about rape and its causes, with woman as the primary victim, but it is to be understood that men also can be raped and women can be the rapists. A woman can be the predator, either as a material part of male on male, or male on female rape by taking an active part in the assault by, for example, holding the victim down or helping to facilitate the primary rapist in some other way. The woman, in those circumstances, can be charged, as a principal defendant, with the offence of rape.
A woman can also be a rapist if she forces a male to have sex with her against his will. Many have asked me how it is possible that a man would feel sexually aroused if he were the subject of an horrific sexual assault. Unfortunately, we are not always in direct control of our bodily responses to certain stimuli (eg. adrenaline) and it is quite possible that a male can become aroused without wishing to. An example of this was a famous case from the nineteen-seventies when an American former beauty queen, Joyce McKinney, was involved in the abduction and serial rape, in the UK, of Mormon missionary (and her former boyfriend) Kirk Anderson.
Female ‘rapist’ Joyce McKinney (above) fled the UK for America before her case came to trial. With no extradition proceedings instituted by Britain, McKinney was sentenced, in absentia, to one year in prison. However, at the time there was no crime of rape committed, due to the victim’s gender and so the offence was the ‘indecent assault of a man.’
More recently, the Daily Express (on 3rd April 2018) had the front page headline, ‘Nun raped me and had my baby – torment of schoolboy victim.’
This was the reporting of the victim, seventy-six year old Edward Hayes, who has finally spoken out about being raped by a then twenty-seven year old nun when he was only twelve and a resident of a children’s home in England. The nun, Sister Mary Conleth, (birth name – Bessie Veronica Lawler) allegedly became pregnant by him and was sent back to Ireland in disgrace, while Edward was shipped out to another home.
(source – Daily Express – Nun raped me and had my baby – front page 3rd April 2018)
NO MEANS NO. Nobody has the right to invade your personal space unless you invite them into it. We are all entitled to wear any style of clothes that we choose, as long as we do not break any indecency laws. The clothes we wear should never be used as an excuse by a perpetrator or defence lawyer to suggest that we are open to be molested and are effectively ‘asking for it’.
A rapist will not care how you are dressed; that is not their objective. A large proportion of victims are attacked wearing modest, everyday clothing and are in a very wide age range, from young children to elderly pensioners.
You are in sole charge of your own body. A person’s percentage chance of being a rape victim is very small but by taking sensible steps to ensure your own personal safety, you are doing as much as you can to reduce the chances even further.
USEFUL CONTACTS IN JERSEY FOR VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT / RAPE
States of Jersey Police – Emergency telephone 999 (or 112). Landline: 612612. Police Headquarters, La Route du Fort, St. Helier, JERSEY, JE2 4HQ. Website: www.jersey.police.uk. Email: email@example.com.
SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) – Dewberry House – Telephone: (01534) 888222 – 6 Plaisance Terrace, La Route du Fort, St. Saviour. website: www.dewberryhouse.je. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The centre staff are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
J.A.A.R (Jersey Action Against Rape) – Telephone: (01534) 482800. Website: www.jaar.je. Email: email@example.com.
Jersey Samaritans – Telephone: 0845-7-90-90-90. No.30 Hue Street, St. Helier, Jersey. Website: www.samaritans.org. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.