I was about 16 years old, already interested in politics and current affairs. I read newspaper articles, debated politics in school and with friends. I had read about rape, I knew what it meant but one day I realised something new about this awful crime. When Mumsnet asked me to blog about their rape campaign, I thought back to that moment of realisation.
For us, two sheltered and slightly naive young girls, it was incomprehensible that someone would see a woman being attacked and walk away. It was then that I realised that, as terrible as rape is, there were things that could make the rape worse.
The woman might not be believed.
The woman might be attacked by her partner and it might be seen as “just a domestic”.
The woman could be told that she was to blame. Her skirt was too short, she had drunk too much, she had walked home alone, she hailed an unregistered taxi, she had not fulfilled her wifely duties…
These and other Rape Myths are being highlighted this week. The campaign, organised by Mumsnet, and supported by leading rape charities aims to draw attention to some of the misconceptions that surround rape:
MYTH: Women are most likely to be raped by a stranger, outside, in dark alleyways.
MYTH: Women provoke rape by their appearance or their behaviour
MYTH: If a woman didn’t struggle, wasn’t injured, or didn’t report immediately - she wasn’t raped.
MYTH: Women who get drunk or take drugs shouldn’t be surprised if they are raped or sexually assaulted.
MYTH: Women often lie about rape; police officers and jurors should bear this in mind.
MYTH: It’s not rape if a woman has consented to some sexual intimacy, or has previously had sex with many partners.MYTH: Rape can’t take place in an ongoing relationship.
MYTH: Some rapes aren’t ‘serious rapes’.
This week I will be joining Mumsnet in highlighting the way in which rape survivors are being failed. When I was researching this piece, I asked Mumsnet users who had been raped what was worse – the rape or not being believed. Of course, this is too simplistic. There are no absolutes, as every woman has had a different experience but the general response was that that the attack itself was a terrible thing, but the way in which the aftermath was dealt with makes a huge difference to the emotional recovery of the woman.
Several women said that it was like a continuing, or a further violation, when they were not believed. It is a betrayal by friends and relatives, by the police and the justice system who we expect to stand for us.
Is rape the worst thing that can happen to a woman, as I thought when I was 16 years old? Again, this is a very subjective question, there is no right and wrong answer as every woman will respond based on her own experiences. As an adult, I know that there are many things worse than being raped. Several of the women I asked responded that they did not wish to see the rape as “ruining” their life – of course the rape affected them in many ways, but they were determined not to let one violent act define the rest of their life.
Some of the respondents had not told anyone about the rape, simply because they did not think they would be believed. The fear of not being believed led them to hide the attack and the emotional aftermath from their friends and families. Why is this? Why is rape one of the most under-reported crimes? If someone steals your purse, you would go to the police, you would tell friends and family. But then, it is unlikely that the police or your friends would say, “Hmm, I see you used your purse right before it got stolen. And you use your purse in different shops, and often take it out of your bag. Are you sure that you didn’t lead the person who took your purse on, made him think that he could have it”.
Why are the reports of rape so low? Not because it doesn’t happen, but because women are too ashamed, too fearful of not being believed.
This week it is time to say WE BELIEVE YOU.
We believe you, we support you, we demand better treatment for you.
Please join me in making some noise.
Pass the information about the Mumsnet WE BELIEVE YOU Campaign on to your friends.
Blog it. Tweet it. Facebook it.
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