Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Not Ever - a campaign to challenge assumptions about rape

“Rape seems to be the only crime where it's seen as ok to put the victim on trial.”

That quote is from Natasha on the front page of the Not Ever campaign website run by Rape Crisis Scotland.

I'm not sure that I entirely agree with her. It seems to me that our culture is very good at blaming women for virtually everything, not least when they are the victims of any sort of violence, but I wholeheartedly support this campaign. It seeks to get the message across that there is no justification for rape, and no women ever asks to be raped regardless of what she's wearing, or how much she's had to drink or where she happens to be at any time of day or night.

I find it quite depressing in some ways that things haven't changed in the quarter of a century since I became an adult. We were arguing about this sort of stuff then. This campaign is a direct response to research from which revealed that a significant minority of people - a fifth to a quarter - are willing to blame the woman for being complicit in her own rape.

If a man passes out because he's had too much to drink, and someone steals his wallet, nobody would ever think of blaming the man. He is seen as a victim of crime. Yet if a woman is raped while she's drunk, she's expected to share the blame somehow. That is absolutely crazy. The rapist who forces himself on a woman who is not capable of consenting is the criminal here.

Nobody would ever suggest that because certain sportsmen look rather good in shorts, or because male popstars were singing with their tops off that anyone has the right to violently sexually assault them.

The Not Ever site also outlines the changes in the law in Scotland coming into force later this year which broadens the scope of rape to include many forms of sexual violence. This also means that victims of same sex sexual violence will also have recourse to the rape law. Although the Not Ever campaign specifically highlights the prejudices surrounding women who are raped by men, we shouldn't forget the particular additional pressures people face in these circumstances.

The campaign has the now inevitable Facebook page and Twitter account. If you agree with me, please sign up to both. Rape is wrong in every single circumstance. End of story.

Ultimately if perceptions change, then we might get more people reporting rape and the conviction rate may rise from the currently shocking 3%. The research suggested that only 13% would maybe report a rape to the Police and two thirds of people would not even tell their partners. Until then, we will have the unacceptable situation where one in five adults report that they have been made to have sex against their will.

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