If you haven’t read this piece already, you should now: Gang-rape woman arrested during trial, following overdose.
The linked piece concerns a woman who was gang-raped by three men and who had to stand in front of them in court and identify them. She was later arrested for not turning up to court again. Unsurprisingly, she self-harmed because she couldn’t cope with what was happening to her. The three accused men have since been acquitted. After the victim’s arrest, Mr Justice Carney said: ‘If she has to spend a long time in prison herself waiting for a re-trial that’s her fault.’ Yes, really. A spokesperson for the Rape Crises Centre (Ellen O’Malley) criticised the trial process, ‘As making the complainants “feel they are the ones on trial and not the accused”.’ O’Malley went on to say, ‘This system in our opinion is very imbalanced and needs radical reform. As a result Ireland has one of the highest attrition rates for rape and sexual assault cases in Europe.’
But it’s not on its own. The clear up rates for rape and sexual assault cases in England and Wales are equally low. The attrition to which O’Malley refers starts right after the attack takes place when women are too frightened to report it, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone. If they do report it, it may not be recorded and pursued by the police as a offence that can be tried. And that’s before anything even. reaches a courthouse where the horrific tales of victim-blaming, brutal cross-examination, and even threats from the crowd and blatant intimidation, are numerous. O’Malley is right when she says that rape victims too often feel that they are the people on trial. Clear-up rates for rape cases in England and Wales hover around the 5% mark. That means that there is only a 5% chance of a rapist being convicted for his crime.
Anyone who has been on the feminist blogosphere this week has heard about uniLad. This is a site that is run by male students (“affectionately” known as “LADs”) and seems to be something of a “tip” site for getting laid. Except it’s not. Observe this little beauty:
‘If the girl you’ve taken for a drink… won’t “spread for your head”, think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rape cases go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds.’
It doesn’t take a brainiac to figure out that that very sentence alone trivialises, normalises, and even condones rape. If the comments from the LADs are anything to go by, they’re on board with getting a bit of rape in when the opportunity is presented. When uniLad was challenged about its attitudes, it huffed for a while, then it got defensive, then it issued a sorry excuse for an apology (“We’re sorry that you were offended, but if you weren’t so sensitive” etc.), and then it started threatening women. One particular LAD threatened to murder and rape a woman for questioning uniLad’s content. It didn’t get much better from there. They’re still telling us that we’re being too sensitive, that we’re all stupid hairy-legged lesbian feminists, that we need a good dicking, that it’s just a joke, that we shouldn’t be in the kitchen if we can’t stand the heat (though, ironically, that’s exactly where we should be), and that it’s just boys being boys. You’ve heard it all before.
But what’s the big deal, I hear you ask. It’s just a JOKE!
A woman taking an overdose and running away so that she didn’t have to face a trial of her attackers is the big deal. We, and by that, I mean women, walk around in fear of being raped (even though I live in a “safe area”, I will not leave my house before sunrise in the mornings, just in case), we see images of sexual objectification around us all the time, we’re encouraged to measure our entire worth on how fuckable we are, we’re expected to believe, and are frequently told, that our bodies are open property for men (and that being whistled at in the street, for example, is a compliment), we have police officers telling us that we wouldn’t get raped if we didn’t dress like sluts, and we have sites like uniLad telling the chaps go get out there and take what they want whether women like it or not. That’s rape culture. In rape culture, women are not even considered to be human beings; we’re not even afforded that simple right to exist in safety and without fear of attack. Rape is not even considered an attack; it comes with the territory of being a woman, it is par for the course, and it is very likely to be our fault anyway.
Don’t tell me that rape culture doesn’t exist. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be a woman in Ireland today scared out of her wits, washing down handfuls of pills with vodka, and dreading the day that she runs into the three men who raped her, and there wouldn’t be a website which maintains that it’s all just a great big laugh.