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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Victim Blaming & MoranGate - What can we take from it?

[Trigger Warning: Rape, Victim Blaming]
Yesterday evening, I logged into Twitter for the first time in a few days. I'm usually a fairly active Twitterer with a modest little following of roughly 270 like minded feminists. When I logged on I became aware of a veritable shitstorm ensuing. Caitlin Moran, high profile feminist and public figure, was at the centre of it. After a few minutes finding out what had happened, I ascertained that Moran had been interviewed by a member of the Australian press. During this interview, she said the following:          
"It’s on that basis that I don’t wear high heels – other than I can’t walk in them – because when I’m lying in bed at night with my husband, I know there’s a woman coming who I could rape and murder, because I can hear her coming up the street in high heels, clack-clack -clack.  And I can hear she’s on her own, I can hear what speed she’s coming at, I could plan where to stand to grab her or an ambush. And every time I hear her I think, “Fuck, you’re just alerting every fucking nutter to where you are now". And [that it's a concern]that’s not right."

Moran stands accused of victim blaming – why should women change their behaviour, their route home or their shoes? Surely if a woman is raped on her way home the fault lies with the rapist, not with the woman. What she is wearing on her feet is immaterial. To me this is indicative of a wider rape culture in which women are held accountable for their own rapes. All too often you hear women being described as “asking for it” - no wonder conviction rates for reported rapes are so low. No wonder the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported. I was recently alerted to the story that a judge in Wales convicted a 49 year old man of raping a teenager while she was drunk and high. During sentencing, the judge is reported to have said, "on 16 April last year she let herself down badly. She consumed far too much alcohol and took drugs but she also had the misfortune of meeting you". Why is the fact that she had been drinking and taking drugs relevant? Is this some sort of justification? Of course behaving in such a way is not advised but frankly the fact that she was raped by this man is by far the most abhorrent part of this story. Even during the sentencing of her rapist the victim is shamed for her behaviour. This is victim blaming. The fact she was drunk and high is immaterial. No means no.

Another example that has been flagged to me is that of the alleged rape of a drunk teenager by members of a high school football team in Steubenville, Ohio – I say alleged because another blogger has been sued for defamation by one of the families of the accused. The assault was photographed by onlookers and posted on Instagram. Steubenville is a town very intensely in to their football, with the football stars being held in very high esteem by the community. The (alleged) victim was shamed. Apparently she should have just kept quiet and not made a fuss - she’s shamed the football team and sent their reputation in to disrepute. No, I’m sorry. She hasn’t. The (alleged) rapists did that when they repeatedly sexually assaulted her, took her from party to party against her will while she was too drunk to protest and even urinated on her. Allegedly. 

It’s due to comments like Moran's, stories like those coming out of Steubenville and the behaviour like that of the judge in question that victim blaming has become such a normal part of society. I’ll be honest with you blogosphere: I used to quite like a bit of Moran. I read "How to Be a Woman" religiously. I would probably credit it with getting me engaged with feminism in the first place. However, this rape culture has got to stop. What a woman is wearing does not matter – a short skirt is not an open invitation. If she has passed out from excessive alcohol consumption and cannot protest it does not constitute consent. The emphasis on stopping rape should be on stopping rapists – not on encouraging women to adjust their behaviour or outfits. Blame the rapists not the victims. Change this hideous rape culture. Stop victim blaming.

By Laura Martin

P.S: To sign the petition calling for the judge in question to retract their statement regarding the victim, please follow this link.

For more information on the case, click here.

The full Moran interview can be found here.

For more from me, follow @nitramarual on Twitter! And follow @RHUL_Fem_Soc whilst you’re at it!

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