Feminism

We BelieveYou – Mumsnet Rape Campaign

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.

 

 

 

It happened on a normal suburban street
My friend J was babysitting for a young couple who lived nearby. They had gone out for the evening and left J in charge of their two children. Late that evening, J phoned me.”Hi, it is J. Something really awful just happened. You know I was babysitting for Steve and Paula? Well, they had a silly argument on the way home and she made him stop the car. She got out and said that she would rather walk home. She was angry and was a bit tipsy. She walked down Crantham Street, you know just down from the park? It is a good neighbourhood, a nice area. Suddenly a man jumped out of a bush and grabbed her. She was screaming for help as he tried to drag her into a garden. Then a door opened across the street. A woman came to the door and looked out. Paula screamed for her to help, to call the police. Then the woman’s husband came out. He said, “Come away in, Jessie. This does not concern us”. Can you believe that? They went back into the house and ignored her cries for help”.Paula was “lucky” – one of the other inhabitants of the street came to her aid, and called the police. 

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.

#webelieveyou

 

This is a blog hop. If you would like to take part, please add your post below.

 

7 Comments

  • daz

    Rape is a horrible crime and no amount of resource should be spared addressing both the causes and the aftermath. Sentencing needs to be sterner and those myths need to be publicly advertised by government and with vigour.

    I would like to see better funded rape crisis centres and after-care facilities for victims of rape,as a society we need to do more…much much more.

    But I do have one reservation albeit a big one.

    It has to be proved in a court and the default position of the court cannot be that “They believe”.The default position has to come from the organisation that gathers the evidence and that’s the police force and further down the line the CPS. Police forces have to rigorously prosecute rapists collating evidence and chase that conviction legally and without prejudice…but it can be done if those protocols are in place.

    I can’t think of any sane person who would want rapists to get away with rape and go unpunished.

    • Lynn

      Believing the woman does not mean that the legal situation changes. Of course the accused is innocent until proven guilty. The belief has to come from the police, and the general public – the willingness to accept the account of the woman, to remember that women generally do not lightly accuse a man of rape – it is not exactly a fun thing to go through. I know that juries are told about rape myths and instructed on how to view the case openly, without reservations.

      • Bored Person

        Accused Rapists are innocent until proven guilty…
        UNTIL they are offered anonymity until proven guilty… then they are all guilty… or guilty enough.
        You have no idea how many decades that put Victims Advocacy behind.

        Hell, I cannot think of a single crime that should FORCE any party to reveal themselves unless they want to.
        I mean, if I get charged with murdering my wife (which I absolutely did not do,) are proven innocent and set free… guess what the INTERNET is going to say about me?

        “Bored Person” WIFE MURDER HELD IN TRIAL!
        “Bored Person” BRUTALLY BEAT HIS WIFE TO DEATH!
        “Bored Person” CRAZED MURDER!

        Innocent until proven guilty my ass! It is guilty until proven innocent without Anonymity for all parties involved.

        So when men see women claiming “No woman lies, these rapist scum need to be known!” it is obviously a motion of vengeance, not protection. Even people who admit that being accused of rape (even if outstanding evidence clears you) has caused several suicides feel that those deaths are justified in the VENGEANCE gained against the real rapists.

  • bored

    There are many myths within your “Myths”

    Simple case-in-point:
    A man passes drunk (intentionally) out in an alley and wakes up to find himself robbed.
    Does his having been drunk EXCUSE the Robbery, no.
    Did he increase his likelihood of being robbed by drinking to excess, YES.

    Similarly,
    A man insults another man’s mother… the latter man eventually punches him.
    Does the insults EXCUSE the Battery charge? No (I think it might… but we’ll just say no.)
    Did the insults PROVOKE the Battery? YES!

    Let’s take a… prostitute why not. Let’s also give her a goal to arouse men to the point of “NEEDING” sex.
    Now, while NONE of this EXCUSES rape… would it really be that surprising if she was raped?

    With the VAST MAJORITY of rapes not even being related to how much skin was being revealed, or how hard the woman was flirting… WHY THE HELL are people trying to justify this and associate it with Victims Advocacy?

    Where are the movements pushing mandatory Rape-Ed in schools for those as young as 12 years old? Where are the movements to make Sex-Ed an actual COURSE rather than a presentation that interrupts class? Where are the movements that charge “party hosts” with “accessory to rape” for not providing a safe environment? Where are movements that… ACTUALLY talk about rape?

    But what is wanted is “Women reserve the right to be viewed as sextoys while restricting sex to whomever she chooses.”

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