MYTH: Rape can’t take place in an ongoing relationship
It has not been so very long since women stopped promising to “love, honour and obey” their husbands. All of my friends replaced “obey” with “respect”. The idea that the man, whether joined in matrimony or co-habiting, in any way owns or commands his partner, is now seen as terribly old fashioned.
Changing the attitudes of men, their behaviour towards their partners is sometimes more difficult than swapping one word for another in a 30 minute ceremony that forms such a short part of the couple’s life together.
Obey – to obey a person is to hand over power to him, to accept his instruction, to do his bidding. It is sometimes difficult to understand how a woman can agree to subjecting themselves to their partner to such an extent that they accept emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Why don’t they walk away? Why did they get involved with him in the first place?
The answers are varied, but one point is often made – the men did not become abusers overnight. It is a slow insidious process, which systematically breaks the resistance of the woman. Survivors of such relationships often report that their partner was a good man, a good father.
At first, he was attentive, and caring. Then he showed signs of jealousy. We are programmed to see this as proof of his love, not a red flag of a possible abusive nature.
The woman is then gradually isolated from friends and family, often “for her own protection” because they upset her or demand too much of her, or because he wants to spend time with her alone.
Other so-called “red flags” of abusive tendencies are
– He gets serious fast, and is soon talking about long term future together. You feel rushed into the relationship
– He does things that make you financially dependent or obliged to him, such as paying off a loan
– He tries to control you, by restricting your time alone, by not allowing you to drive the car, by banning friends from visiting
– He is always right. He does not accept your point of view, and ridicules or belittles your opinion.
– He manipulates you into thinking that you are wrong/crazy/unreasonable. He tells you that he is trying to help you.
– He punishes you by withholding emotional or sexual intimacy, he sulks.
– He is quick to apologise, but does not change his behaviour.
– He calls you names, patronises you or ridicules you, even in front of others.
If you are in a new relationship and you recognise some of these red flags, then beware of any further escalation. There are men who seek women who have been in dysfunctional relationships – either their childhood or a previous boyfriend – and are easy prey.
Obviously, these traits are not found only in men, there are women who are manipulative and abusive too. For the purpose of this campaign, we are talking about abuse against women.
I believe that children should be taught about these red flags in school, during sex and health education so that both sexes can recognise abusive behaviour.
If a woman is able to recognise abusive tendencies in a man before she gets seriously involved, it could save her a lot of heartbreak and pain.
Women are not, and never will be, mere appendages of their men. Our bodies belong to us. We may enter into a relationship but we do not sign our bodies and minds over to the person we love.
Consent must be given every single time a couple have sex. Every time, not just once at the beginning of the month, the day, the hour. If a woman withdraws consent for any reason, then the man must stop. It is disrespectful to men to suggest that they are unable to stop, that they cannot control their urges. Many decent men can. Those who cannot are abusers, and rapists.
The arguments against this are well known. Women should not be able to change their minds on a whim. How should a man know if a woman has changed her mind? Should a man really ask each and every time he has intercourse, if she is happy to go ahead?
The answer is yes. He should ensure that the woman is willing and consents to sex, every time. If a woman changes her mind, then he must comply with her wishes. This is something that we should be teaching our children, particularly our boys.
Rape is rape is rape. It knows no qualification. There are no exceptions. In a long-term relationship, a woman has the right to say no any time that she does not want sexual relations.
Thankfully, the law in UK now recognises that fact, and it is a criminal offense. All we need now is for the women to be believed.