It is very difficult to understand why many men will rape women. Often people that they know too.
It is even more frustrating to fathom how so many people place the emphasis of rape prevention on women.
This is my attempt to address some of this. Through my strongest tool. Dialogue.
Perceptions on Rape and Blame
ICM, commissioned by Amnesty International in 2010, interviewed a random sample of 1,095 adults aged 18+ by telephone.
They were given a series of scenarios and asked to indicate whether they believed a woman was totally responsible, partially responsible or not at all responsible for being raped.
If the woman was drunk, 4pc said she was totally responsible and 26pc said she was partially responsible.
If the woman behaved in a flirtatious manner, 6pc said she was totally responsible and 28pc said she was partially responsible.
If the woman failed to say “no” clearly to the man, 8pc said she was totally responsible and 29pc said she was partially responsible.
If the woman was wearing sexy or revealing clothing, 6pc said she was totally responsible and 20pc said she was partially responsible.
If it is known that the woman has many sexual partners, 8pc said she was totally responsible and 14pc said she was partially responsible.
If she is alone and walking in a dangerous or deserted area, 5pc said she was totally responsible and 17pc said she was partially responsible.
The mind boggles how much people still blame the victim of rape. Especially when the woman knows the attacker. This Global Health Forum report is an indicator of how societies and cultures approach this issue.
Last December in India following the brutal gang rape of a woman on the bus people were taken aback by some of the commentary shifting the blame from the rapist to everything or anyone else
Religious and other communities around the globe have suggested the onus of rape prevention is focused on the way a woman dresses or walks or drinks. Police campaigns have told women not to get into cabs on their own or have told them not to drink. All these may appear sensible in context but in insolation can end up blaming victims who are already trying to deal with violation of their person. Even celebrated feminists like Caitlin Moran have gotten caught up in victim blaming.
How Not To Rape A Woman
Whilst I understand that rape is not just limited to a man raping a woman it is by far the most recorded and or reported form of rape. Given as I mentioned that so much emphasis as mentioned before has been focused on women ‘taking responsibility’ I would like to add my voice to the army of people who have advised men how not to rape a woman.
1. Recognise that all women are people with feelings. Respect them. Simple.
2. No means no. If your sexual partner says no then leave it. Better safe than sorry.
3. Tell your other male friends that rape is not acceptable.
4. Think about the way you talk about rape. Seriously analyse how humour treats the subject and how it aligns with your own values.
5. Understand that a woman drinking alcohol, or wearing whatever she feels comfortable that you may perceive as sexy, is not a pass to force sexual advances on.
6. Ask your female friends what they consider acceptable or unacceptable behaviour
Thing is this it’s so much more than a list of rules. It is a huge responsibility and cultural shift. As a man it is important for me to talk to younger (and older men) about perceptions and boundaries. Understanding what the limits are around behaviour and not being afraid to challenge those who think there is no problem with forced rape. Using platforms like blogs, video and other social media to get the conversation going and challenging perceptions around rape. It is about jumping in online commentary where bigots can be challenged with sensible and reasoned argument that rape prevention is not some feminist agenda to demasculate and undermine men.
It is about talking to a generation of youth who are also exposed to certain forms of online pornography that promote physical violence as some kind of turn on. Discussing how they perceive imagery and media that primarily objectifies women. It is also about talking to young ladies about what conversations they can have with their male friends so they can be more aware of what their boundaries are. It is about not being afraid to debate and challenge religious leaders who tow a line that a woman dressing in a certain way is responsible for any negative comments that come their way. It is about recognising that it is a tough and steep hill to climb. Domestic violence and sexual assault are not going to stop overnight, but powerful voices and continuous conversation about how we can tackle this is a lot better than being silent and in that sense, complicit.