Today I came across this Rape Crisis Scotland campaign website via Women's Views on News.
Women are by far the most likely victims of sexual assault. The way they are treated by society at large and by the criminal justice system in particular is sickening. Erroneous beliefs pervade the general consciousness that allow perpetrators of sexual violence to partially excuse their actions or even exonerate themselves if their victim is not an elderly nun clad in iron knickers and feed the humiliation rape victims are often subjected to at every stage of their experience of trying to seek justice.
Did you know that if someone is raped and they were drunk at the time, they are entitled to less compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority? That sentencing guidelines in England and Wales say that the prison term for a rapist may be reduced if the victim engaged consensual sexual activity with the same person on the same occasion? So if you've had a few, and therefore in less of a fit state to give your informed consent, if you kiss your attacker before they rape you not only will they serve less time, you will be considered to have wilfully put yourself in a position where sex is inevitable and therefore are less deserving of compensation for the violence perpetrated against you. This is madness, and it has to stop.
The website is brilliant. It is an upsetting read at times, but presents ways in which we can all challenge beliefs and hegemonies that are long overdue a debunking. There are resources you can download to add your voice to their campaign and spread the message far and wide.
Thinking back to my earlier post, I would like to add an additional universal truth to the list based on the most heartbreaking thing I read on the website. There were many things that made me tearful, angry or just feel bleak - but this comment from a visitor to the site made me simultaneously furious with the whole of society and want to reach out and tell this person that things can get better and there are people who don't think that way:
I wish that I had known this all before. He told me that it wasn't rape because I was obviously aroused. They said I deserved it because I'd led him on. I blamed myself so much and for so long I let it happen again and again.So I'm adding "physiological signs of arousal =/= consent" to my list of truths. In the same way as rapists are not unstoppable animals with drives that cannot be denied, it is your mind that decides whether or not you wish to proceed with a sexual encounter and not your body, no matter how hard or wet or breathless you are. Your clothes cannot consent for you. Your third glass of wine cannot consent for you. Your marriage vows are not a blanket consent form. Your wandering hands or eager kisses right at this second have an indefinite cooling off period that your partner should always, always respect. If they do not, they are wrong and you have a right to be heard without prejudice.
So please, support the campaign. This Is Not An Invitation To Rape Me. Let's change some minds.