#IBelieveHer; What #Steubenville Has Reminded Us About Rape Culture

“I would truly like to apologize. No pictures should have been sent out, let alone been taken.”

The words of Trent Mays, his supposed apology for raping 16 year old Jane Doe. The words that prove a tweet I sent last night wasn’t clutching at straws. In a fit  of fury over an offline conversation, I tweeted last night about the lengths people go to in order to defend a man’s right to rape; we saw it through Ched Evans’ support last year, through the Mike Tyson tours, which saw those supporting the tours claim Tyson had been set up. And now, we hear it from the mouth of the rapist himself… His remorse isn’t linked to the fact he raped Jane Doe. For one simple reason. We keep telling men they have a right to rape.

“But rape’s illegal!,” I hear some of you cry. You must be new, here… We lie to our women, we tell them rape is a criminal offence. Yet we see sympathy aligned with the men who rape women. 5,000 likes for a page in support of rapist Ched Evans, a grand total of 0 days in jail for rapist Roman Polanski, and a report on the rarity of false accusations twisted into an article about how men suffer from false accusations by BBC. I could go on, but fear I’d be here all night, just listing cases where rape has not only been minimised, but legalised too. Trent Mays didn’t apologise for raping Jane Doe, because he felt it was his right.

“But he was jailed!,” you argue. You really are new to these parts. Seriously. I’ll get you a map.  Figures from Rape Crisis and the British Crime Survey puts unreported rapes at 90%. In other words, men who rape have a 90% of their victim not going to the police. Why’s that, you ask? Take a look at the Saville cover up, the naming and bullying of the survivor in the Evans case, the rape myths women have forced down their throats at every time. As soon as we’re old enough to walk, we’re warned against “stranger danger”, yet it’s not strangers we need to fear, it’s the men sleeping in our beds, who think rape is their right.

And what really burns, is how ingrained rape culture is. We accuse the survivors of lying, despite knowing the rate for false accusations is low – 2%. We accuse the survivors of lying, choosing to believe the accused by default, on the basis of their sex. We try to blame survivors, by referring to their clothing, how much they drunk, whether they flirted with their rapist. We talk about rape, discussing it in terms of “sex”, when it’s not. It’s men’s violence against women, using penetration. To the survivors of rape, it feels nothing like sex. To those who campaign against rape, it looks nothing like sex. But we compare it to sex to discredit the survivors, and make excuses for the men who rape them. When we compare rape to sex, we try to imply confusion in the rapists mind. Yet they know they’re committing violence at the time. They know it’s rape, and we have to stop giving them a defence.

But with Steubenville, as in the Ched Evans case, it hasn’t ended with the verdict. The abuse continues, as the media empathises with the rapists, forgetting of the survivor. The first article I saw regarding the Steubenville verdict hosted a photo of Richmond crying into his mother’s shoulder – a move which aims at garnering sympathy for the rapists. The survivors pain is not as important as that of the men who raped her. If it was, the media wouldn’t sympathise with their “ruined futures”. They made the choice to ruin their futures when they made the choice to rape. And further more, social media allows the further abuse of the survivor – PublicShaming.Tumblr.Com has collected a sample of the worst of social media’s response to Steubenville.

Isn’t it time we stopped pretending rape has already been outlawed, and truly remove men’s right to rape?

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#iBelieveHer Rape Myths 101: AKA Why Granting Anonymity To Rape Defendants Harms Survivors And Conviction Rates *Trigger Warning*

Rape Myth: If the woman accusing rape gets anonymity, surely the defendant should, too? 

There’s a variation of the above question, which suggests that the woman pressing charges should also be named. This argument was flung around the internet shortly after Ched Evans’ conviction. Today, I saw this argument doing the rounds again.

In 2010, around the time of the general elections, the issue of anonymity for defendants of rape charges was heavily debated in parliament. This is the issue I’ll be discussing. The other is just… well… stupid. Despite what the rape apologists would prefer, the claimant is not the one on trial.

In order to put forward this blog post, I’ve been reading the House Of Commons debate from June 7, 2010. In the opening speech, Clare Flint raised the issue that every 34 minutes, a rape is reported to the police in the UK. Flint carried on to raise the issue that only one in twenty reported rapes ends in a conviction. That’s around 5%. (*Note: A further 5 – 7% end in a related conviction, but not a conviction for rape)

Between Flint and Meg Munn, both of Labour, the issue was raised that many rape survivors do not report, but may later come forward upon learning that their rapist has attacked someone else. Flint brought to light the case of Jon Worboys, and raised the fact that the publicity from his case saw a further 85 survivors of his attack come forward, thus securing his conviction. Indeed, the blanket of anonymity is a dangerous one, especially in the case of such an under-reported crime.

But by focusing on granting anonymity to rape defendants, those in favour of such a move suggest that they believe women who report their rapes are unreliable, a myth that serves to discredit rape survivors, and one which prevents many survivors from reporting. I’ve yet to hear a call for anonymity for those accused of murder, or child abuse. Only rape, it seems, is forgivable enough for the perpetrator to be hidden away. Despite the infamous myth about women consistently lying about rape, research has continually proven that the rate for false rape allegations remains at around the same as the rate for false allegations of other crimes. But when’s the last time you accused a mugging victim of lying?

#IBelieveHer Rape Myths 101: AKA Not My Nigel! *Trigger Warning*

Rape Myth: But he wouldn’t rape anyone, he’s a nice guy/footballer/the head of wikileaks…

And then, God created rape myths. Well, actually… the patriarchy did, but they like to think of themselves as God, anyway.

We insist on disbelieving rape survivors. When “I Believe Her” was launched, it was in the midst of a backlash against a rape survivor; a backlash which has yet to die down. It wasn’t long until the admin noticed the same defences of Ched Evans’ being recycled. We’d heard them a million times before. “He wouldn’t rape anyone, he’s a nice guy”. “He wouldn’t rape anyone, he’s a footballer”, and so forth.

There’s a problem with this defence. Most women are raped by someone they know. A lot are in relationships with their rapists, some are just friends or work with their rapist. The patriarchy would rather people believed that rapists are mentally ill men, who lurk down alleyways whilst waiting for a target; that we could spot a potential rapist just by looking at them. We can’t.

By claiming rapists fall into certain categories, we send a message out to rape survivors. “You better make sure your rapist falls into these categories, else we won’t believe you.” Effectively, rapists who don’t fall into the boundaries that the patriarchy sets out are given a free card to do whatever they choose. After all, if society’s telling us it’s only stupid, ugly, mentally unwell men who rape, who will believe a woman who is raped by a man society has deemed is none of those things? Women are told to keep out for the patriarchal construct of a rapist, yet berated for judging men who meet these criteria. We’re told there’s an ugly, mentally unwell man waiting on every corner to attack us. The truth is that the rapists are our partners, climbing into bed with us and refusing to take no for an answer. Our rapists are men who society deems successful, gorgeous men, or the friend we’ve trusted for most of our life. They’re the men taking advantage of how drunk we are in a nightclub, or working us into a position where we can’t consent.

We can’t afford to live our lives afraid, but at the same time, we open our eyes to the truth, and it burns. Every rapist is someone’s son. In some cases they’re someone’s brother, someone’s uncle, someone’s idol. Some run a multi-national corporation, and some are talented football players. We need to teach our sons to avoid raping women, so that the onus lifts off our shoulders. Women are asked to prevent rape, yet the rapists are excused at every turn. This is why believing survivors is so important. We need the message that rapists aren’t the “other” out there. But we need rapists to pay for their crimes. A 6% attrition  rate is one that leaves rapists laughing, it leaves women with the feeling that they’re not believed. It’s time to crack down on rape. It’s time to tell survivors “We believe you.” And it’s time to challenge people who claim a woman must have been lying about being raped because her rapist is a “nice guy”. Challenge them with three simple, but powerful words. I Believe Her. It’s something every survivor deserves.

#IBelieveHer Rape Myths 101: AKA My Nan Can’t Remember Her Son, Thus I’m Fatherless *Trigger Warning*

So, I’ve decided that I’ll be countering my latest bout of insomnia with some lovely rape myth busting, seeing as twitter users @JusticeForChed and @FreeChedwyn  have been tweeting rape myths all over the #IBelieveHer tag. Lovely. I mean, the I Believe Her tag, and subsequent Facebook page have been responsible for a lot of survivors speaking out about their own rapes. Myself included. So, to see “yada yada, Ched Evans is our hero and Assange is innocent” over such a tag is more than a little upsetting.

Anyway, I’ll be debunking a rape myth a day for the forseeable future. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but yeah… I don’t fancy letting bullshit rape myths stand unchallenged.

Rape Myth: She doesn’t remember, it can’t have happened… <insert Ched is innocent style quip here> 

My nan is 94, with senile dementia. Last time my father visited her, she had to ask a nurse who he was, to which, she replied “I don’t remember having a son.” At that point, my father ceased to exist, and was wiped from all history.

Last week, someone was murdered. The murder victim doesn’t remember it. Thus, the crime never happened.

Yeah… Neither scenario above works, do they? That’s because, if you’re reading this (and you’re not Team Rape Apologists) you probably possess that little thing called logic. Right? Therefore, to say a rape didn’t happen because the survivor doesn’t remember it happening is evading logic.

Let me tell you a little story. In 2005, I was less than a year into a relationship with the man who would later become Mini-Dragon’s father, Dom. One evening, we headed out to our local rock-themed pub. Now, being a heavy drinker, Dom could pack a few drinks before feeling anything. I’d known him to last a fair few shorts before even beginning to feel anything. This evening, he was in a slow drinking mood, taking about 45 minutes to nurse a double vodka and lemonade; something I’d seen him knock back many a time before. As I finished my drink, I headed up to the bar, and ordered two identical looking drinks; he was on the vodka and lemonade, I was on the schnapps and lemonade. After less than two sips of his drink, Dom began complaining of “not feeling right”. Eventually, he decided to head outside to try and clear his head. It didn’t work. Even now, he doesn’t remember the events of that evening, and maintains the idea his drink was spiked. I believe him on that. But what scares me is, should anything have happened to him, or had it been my drink spiked, and something had happened to me, the event wouldn’t have been remembered. If it had been my drink spiked, and I’d been subsequently raped, the rape apologists would have been telling me “if you can’t remember, how can you say you were raped”

Here’s the thing. There are a few reasons someone may forget a rape. Having your drink spiked is one. Taking drugs, getting drunk, repressing memories, are others. None of which mean that the rape didn’t occur. All it means is that, for whatever reason, the survivors memory of the attack is unavailable. If a woman is in a position where, after intercourse has taken place, (intercourse was confirmed by Evans himself) then it stands to reason she was either in no position to consent in the first place, or what happened to her was traumatic enough that she subconsciously chose to forget the event. Neither of those scenarios suggest the woman in question was in any state to consent. In fact, to me, they suggest the complete opposite.

I Believe Her. I always will.