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Friday, 27 July 2012

Alcohol <- This is not an invitation for rape

TW: Discussion of Rape/Sexual assault
A response to: Vagenda - ""Don't get Raped" - An important message?" by Oli Rushby
I came across this Vagenda blogpost on the society’s Facebook page and it angered me to the extent of writing a response. It’s not often I’ll disagree with content published by Vagenda and of course everyone’s opinion is going to differ however I was baffled at the sheer ignorance this writer had displayed. The blog was written to defend a campaign run by West Mercia Police, “Safe night out”, which had come under fire by the F-word and many feminists on Twitter for victim blaming.

Vagenda make a fair point when stating that whilst campaigns should focus on stopping morons from raping people, whilst we live in a society in which these idiots do go around raping - it’s a good idea to give women “tips” on how to avoid finding themselves in a situation where they are at more of a risk. Although of course the massive problem with this is that if it was that easy to avoid getting raped, nobody would get raped! The bottom line is (and the argument that the F-word and those on twitter fronted) if the Police spent more time targeting and convicting those committing sexual offences then the rates of sexual assault crimes would decrease, we all know the current conviction rate of rape in this country is dire. Women should be able to go out with their friends and have a drink without having to take precautionary measures to avoid tosspots who seem to think because a woman is drunk it’s OK to rape her.
My biggest issue with the Vagenda article is that it claims West Mercia Police can’t be accused of simply victim blaming because whilst it seems the tagline puts “the onus of responsibility on the woman who has been raped” it actually doesn’t, because there is also a poster aimed at men... The poster aimed at men is absolutely appalling. It pictures a group of men having a drink together at the top and at the bottom it pictures a man in a police cell with his head in his hands, with the tagline “Don’t let a night full of promise, turn into a morning full of regret”. Yes, in a very loose sense this poster is saying “Don’t rape” - which is what I’d like to see from an anti-rape campaign however the way in which this poster is designed and the way in which the campaign focuses on sensible drinking, to me is suggesting that if a man goes out and gets really drunk, he’s putting himself in a position in which he may commit a sexual assault... Is this not blaming alcohol for the crime? Using intoxication as an excuse? I’m a 21 year old man and in my time I’ve had nights where I’ve been pretty drunk yet never have I felt whilst being so drunk that it’d be a fab idea to rape someone and I’m sure there are many men out there who will echo that.
“Don’t Rape” campaigns should stick quite simply to that message - “Don’t Rape”, because there are absolutely no excuses for committing a sexual assault. Our Students’ Union and Society ran a campaign last year in which stickers reading “This is not an invitation to rape me” were attached to the cups in which drinks are served in the Students’ Union. The campaign was really successful with positive feedback and I believe it’s creative but simple ideas like this that will really help to tackle the problem of men thinking it’s OK to sexually assault someone who’s drunk.  Even more recently the society passed a motion within the Students’ Union General Meeting to apply for accreditation to become a Zero-Tolerance Union, a campaign initiated by NUS Women’s Campaign to show that Students’ Unions will not tolerate any form of sexual harassment within their establishments after a survey conducted in 2010 revealed a shocking 68% of women were subjected to sexual harassment during their time at university or college. Are these not better steps towards preventing sexual assaults than the seemingly thoughtless campaign by West Mercia Police?
It would seem the issue with the article posted on Vagenda was a knee-jerk reaction to feminist criticism of the “Safe Night Out” campaign. A reaction which does not seem to consider that the campaign run by West Mercia Police seems to be suggesting alcohol is an excuse for a man to sexually assault a woman. Vagenda seem to be jumping the gun a little, almost “Oh, it can’t be victim blaming, there’s a poster aimed at men too” without even considering the actual message the male-aimed poster conveys, which is basically “Don’t get too drunk on a night out, you might rape someone”. If I want to get really drunk on a night out, I will. Will I rape someone? No, because I’m not a dickhead.

1 comment:

  1. I think it is entirely reasonable to speak to women on ways to stay safe, but I am worried that there needs to be a much bigger focus on men and all sorts of sexually aggressive male behaviour up to and including rape. e.g. Nobody seems to tell young people that groping a woman in a club is a criminal act under the Sexual Offences Act. It's a fine idea to remind men of their responsbilities to act like civilised beings, but single poster telling men not to rape seems ludicrously inadequate in addressing the commonplace broad range of sexist behaviour that goes on in clubs and bars.


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