On a number of occasions, I have been presented with the following analogy: if you leave your front door unlocked, you are partly to blame if your house is robbed. Therefore, if you are drunk, you are partly to blame if you are raped. Needless to say, this not only baffled me but – I don’t exaggerate here – it chipped away at the already damaged view that I have of humanity. I’m not sure what angers me more: the careless comparison of a woman’s body to an unlocked house door, or the conclusion of the statement itself. Likening a human body to property is like comparing the loss of an iPhone to the loss of a dear relative: it is ignorant and entirely lacks empathy. And deducing that fault lies with a lack of attentiveness to detail, well that’s just silly. If you get burgled, it was the burglar who did it. It was their actions, not yours, which resulted in the final outcome. What a dire world we live in if we, as human beings, cannot understand these basic morals.
Understanding a crime – particular one shrouded by controversy – can be deemed a difficult task given the diversity of opinions that are often exhibited towards the crime in the public sphere. Arguably, therefore, understanding a crime involving a celebrity figure is additionally difficult as such cases can amplify both the amount and polarity of views that a crime can induce. Several of these cases have been in the limelight lately, with the conviction of Oscar Pistorius as the most recent. So, when one public figure, Judy Finnigan, of This Morning and Richard and Judy fame, remarked on another public figure, Ched Evans, this caused a whirlwind media frenzy and catalysed a much larger discussion on rape.
Ched Evans, a former footballer for Sheffield United, was convicted of rape in 2012. Although he maintains that he is innocent, a petition signed by over 150,000 people urged his former club not to allow him to rejoin. Finnigan, making her debut on Loose Women, said the following: ‘The rape and I am not, please, by any means minimising any kind of rape – but the rape was not violent. He didn’t cause any bodily harm to the person.’
The comments made by Judy Finnigan on Ched Evans’s possible return to football are just the most recent in a string of remarks which have publicly undermined the occurrence of certain ‘types’ of rape. Finnigan said that Evans had ‘served his time. He’s served two years’ and that the woman in question had ‘had far too much to drink.’ She later apologised ‘unreservedly’ for any offence that she may have caused ‘as a result of the wording [she] used.’
I am not going to discuss Ched Evans. So much has already been said with regards to whether or not he should be allowed to return to his football career. I am more interested in talking about the undermining of rape itself. Although she overtly stated that she is not ‘by any means minimising any kind of rape’, Finnigan manages to do just that. I wish to state that the proportionality of many responses to these comments have been grossly inappropriate and have entirely missed the real issue at hand. However, some have hit the nail on the head: the narrative of undermining occurrences of rape and victim-blaming must come to an end.
This was not the first time such comments were made about the occurrence of rape and, unfortunately, it probably will not be the last. Last year, CNN journalist Poppy Harlow became the centre of a controversy after a report on the conviction of two high school football players for the rape of a sixteen-year old in Steubenville, Ohio. Harlow said it was ‘incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures – star football players; very good students – literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart.’ The victim in question was incapacitated by alcohol at the same and, during this ordeal, was carried from party to party by her assaulters. Although she was unresponsive, members of the high school football team digitally penetrated her and there were reports that she was urinated on.
‘She should have known better’, ‘she should have been more careful’, ‘she was partly to blame’ are not appropriate responses to rape. They are unhelpful in establishing the crux of the problem at hand and, importantly, these statements are simply untrue. They do not add to the debate, they simply distract from the real reasons why rape occurs. Rape Crisis deconstructs some of the common myths about rape. Just to summarise, rape is an act of violence. It is not anyone’s responsibility to avoid being raped. It is our collective responsibility, however, that society shifts this responsibility to where it truly belongs: with the perpetrator.
The extent to which rape can be considered tragic should not be determined by circumstance or brutality. The World Health Organisation defines rape as “…physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration– even if slight – of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.” In England and Wales alone, 22,116 rapes were reported to the police in the last year. Indeed, there should not be an extent to which rape should be measured. It is always wrong. As is the case with murder, or assault, the perpetrator is the one who committed the crime and should be prosecuted, not the victim.
Rape is rape. If the rape was non-violent, it is still rape. If the rape occurred in a marriage, it is still rape. If the victim was drunk, it is still rape. This underlying rhetoric of victim-blaming needs to stop. Instead of propagating the narrative that places the blame of the occurrence of rape on the woman, we need to start perpetuating the truth: the rapist committed the crime. Crime is difficult to understand, yes. But some things are simple. Rape is rape.