The recent jailing of Ched Evans has brought the worst out in many people, and Twitter has given them the perfect platform to air their views. The #justiceforched hashtag has, in particular, seen some very familiar rape myths put forward.
Most of the people dismissing the case against Evans are doing so on the basis that the victim was a ‘moneygrabber’. I’m not sure where they think this money is coming from however. She has not waived her right to anonymity, and has not sold her story to anyone. There’s no indication that she ever intended to. There’s no payout coming her way anytime soon as a result of being raped.
Confusingly for many the other defendant in the case, Clayton MacDonald, was acquitted. Some cannot seem to grasp the idea that she could have consented to sex with one man without consenting to him calling his friends to come over and have sex with her too. Similarly I’ve seen tweets along the lines of ‘obviously what ched evans did was wrong, but I don’t think the girl is entirely innocent, so many girls beg it off footballers its unreal’ (grammar is the tweeter’s own). So, since loads of women want to sleep with footballers this woman should, what? Have wanted it? Have expected it? Count herself lucky that not one, but two footballers slept with her whether she wanted it or not?
Some writers have picked up on these tweets and referred to ‘rape culture’ but even on sites like The Guardian’s Comment is Free, the mere phrase ‘rape culture’ has been dismissed in the comments. There’s a refusal to accept that just because some ‘idiots’ on Twitter are making these comments that there is a ‘culture’ at play - but I honestly don’t see how you can argue it’s any other way. The sheer volume of tweets in support of Evans speaks of nothing else. The hatred towards the woman who accused him is tangible, not least because she was tracked down and named online, and subsequently accidentally named on Sky News. Her legal right to anonymity has been trampled on by the very people who accuse her of being fame-hungry and publicity seeking. The hypocrisy is staggering and there’s a clear trend towards people refusing to believe that having sex with a woman too drunk to consent is rape.
Similarly many of the tweeters saying she should have been responsible for her own actions in getting drunk are the self-professed ‘lads’ - the same types who frequent sites like Unilad that actively encourage preying on drunk and vulnerable young students. If you perpetuate a lad culture where the aim of an evening is to get a girl drunk so you can have sex with her, then don’t be surprised if she passes the level where she can consent to sex with you and you’re later accused of rape. It’s not because she’s a slag/whore/bitch. It’s because that’s what you’ve done.
A large number of tweets have also accused the woman of merely regretting having sex with these men and therefore accused them of rape. She would have been subjected to lengthy questioning by police, a physical exam, the stress of testifying in court, cross-examination by the defence and at all stages had her version of the night queried while everyone wonders how drunk she was, how had she behaved and could she be trusted. All that just because she regretted having sex? Really? Surely just trying to put it out of mind would’ve been a lot easier. And people wonder why so few women do report rape. They’re not believed when they do and they’re vilified if there is a successful conviction.
Nita Dowell, senior crown prosecutor in Wales, said “It is a myth that being vulnerable through alcohol consumption means that a victim is somehow responsible for being raped. The law is clear: being vulnerable through drink or drugs does not imply consent”. It’s about time this message go through to young men.
Image above is from Rape Crisis Scotland’s campaign working to end sexual violence and can be found on their website.
Don’t drink too much, you can’t guarantee your safety.
Watch out for your friends.
Don’t let friends get too drunk and make sure they get home safely, alone.
As a woman, these are messages I’ve been hearing since I was young. At Christmas we’re reminded that it’s our responsibility not to be raped and to keep ourselves safe by not drinking too much. The media constantly reinforces the idea that a woman who was drunk was in some way responsible for being raped (if in fact it was rape at all). Earlier this year Alison Saunders, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service commented that
If a girl goes out and gets drunk and falls over … they are almost demonised in the media, and if they then become a victim, you can see how juries would bring their preconceptions to bear.
It’s no wonder then more than a quarter of people (30%) say that a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was drunk.
Men however are expected to drink. It’s only a bit of fun. They’re legends if they can drink vast amounts of alcohol and stay standing. Any ill behaviour is just ‘boys being boys’. Rowdiness is part of the package. A rape case in the courts this week however showed exactly why the ‘don’t drink too much’ messages are being aimed at the wrong people.
Yesterday Zack Thompson was jailed for six year for raping a 17 year old woman. For two and a half years he stuck to the defence that he had been sleepwalking - he didn’t deny having done it, but he said he couldn’t remember it. He had however, drunk 7 or 8 pints of lager that evening. When investigating his sleepwalking defence an expert in the field found that
Thompson’s memory loss began around half an hour before he went to bed, and concluded his memory loss was highly likely to have been the result of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and not sleepwalking.
When the sleepwalking defence was disproved he then claimed insanity, which was also disproved. Eventually he admitted to rape.
In a recent case in Ireland another man admitted raping a woman under after having
drank 13 cans of beer, three pints, six shots, three double vodkas and smoked a cannabis joint before the incident.
In this case the Judge, Justice Paul Carney said
it was the “experience of the court” that a young man taking the amount of drink that he had, along with a cannabis joint, could wake up the next morning unaware that he had committed homicide or rape.
Interestingly, in the Irish Times report on the case, they still made sure to point out that the victim “had drunk a large amount and went to sleep in one of the bedrooms at about 3.30am.”
So why is it that women are still the ones being told not to drink too much? The consistent message sent is that if they do, they won’t be able to consent to sex and are at risk of being raped. Surely the message should be to men. Don’t drink so much that you cannot control your behaviour or gain consent. Don’t drink so much that you can’t remember what you’ve done.
When the Reclaim the Night marches were relaunched in the UK it was largely a response to women being told not to go out at night as they were at risk of being attacked by the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’. But if a man was the perpetrator and women the victims, why weren’t men being told to stay at home? Reclaim the Night followed.
Whenever I’ve seen these kinds of issues raised before the response from many men is that all men are not rapists so why do they need to be told not to behave like one. And yet, it’s perfectly fine to tell all women to modify their behaviour because some men are rapists. In the Irish case the man convicted was genuinely remorseful and told the court “I’m sorry, I’m not a bastard. I have feelings”. He wouldn’t see himself as ‘a rapist’ and probably would’ve raised objections at being targeted by anti-rape messages before this happened.
Drinking to excess isn’t good for any of us. Drinking to the extent that you don’t know what you’re doing or can’t remember it the next morning is just not healthy and a lot more needs to be done to tackle drinking culture generally in our society. But targeting women in these campaigns is misguided. Women are constantly told to protect themselves but we now need to tell men to control themselves instead. If you are at risk of behaving violently when drunk then you’re the one who needs to drink less - not us.
The following post involves discussion of rape culture, victim-blaming and quotes that are offensive. Some of this may be triggering.
For feminists and activists one of the most frustrating but important areas to address is rape culture. Frustrating, because it’s so pervasive but so intangible. It’s difficult to know where to start in terms of tackling it.
As if we needed further proof that it was the case, this week Alison Saunders of the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that how jurors see women and victims of rape is often influenced by rape culture and the media’s portrayal of victims. While steps are being taken to address it Ms Saunders concedes that many jurors “still subscribe to the myths and stereoptypes that we have all had a go at busting”. In other words jurors look at the victim’s behaviour - was she drunk, what was she wearing, did she flirt with him, did she go home with him… the list goes on. As most rape victims know their attackers, jurors focus on ways she may have lead him or the warning signs she should have seen.
This culture is reinforced in many ways. We would all advocate people looking after their safety and wellbeing but the annual Christmas ads reminding women not to drink too much, or get in dodgy cabs endorse the view that if something then happens to her, it’s her fault for putting herself in that situation. Young men aren’t taught what rape is. Men are never reminded to not drink to the point where they don’t recognise consent.
In a recent case in Ireland a man admitted rape and said
"I’m sorry, I’m not a bastard. I have feelings". He said he drank 13 cans of beer, three pints, six shots, three double vodkas and smoked a cannabis joint before the incident.
In fact, his drunken behaviour was taken into account when being sentenced.
Mr Justice Paul Carney said it was the “experience of the court” that a young man taking the amount of drink that he had, along with a cannabis joint, could wake up the next morning unaware that he had committed homicide or rape.
However, the Irish Times website makes sure the reader is in no doubt that the woman, the woman who had been raped, had drunk ‘large amounts’. As always, a judgement is being cast on her character.
It was this kind of reporting that was raised recently at the Leveson Inquiry. If you weren’t lucky enough to be able to hear the evidence as it was given, I would strongly encourage anyone to read the full hearing transcripts online. As part of their evidence Marai Larasi from End Violence Against Women raised a Daily Mail report about six footballers who were jailed for gang raping 12-year-old girls. The rape was described by the Mail Online as an ‘orgy’ and the victims as ‘Lolitas’. The clear implication is that the girls - not women, girls - invited the rape. It was their behaviour that had allowed the rape to happen. This article was problematic in placing some blame on the girls, but also in sensationalising what happened to them. It’s no longer a rape, it’s an orgy, something exciting and sexy. This just feeds opinions already in the media about the sexiness of youth and girls and the abdication of responsibility on the part of men who rape. What does reading this teach young men? What does it teach women about their behaviour and value?
I like to try and be optimistic. I believe that things can change. Just today a friend reminded me that she’s hoping to change the world two people at a time by teaching her 2-year-old son and soon-to-be-born second child how to treat people with respect. It’s hard to know how to address rape culture in our society. You’d like to think that the media can change but tabloids love a sensational story. Today, my heart probably sank lower than it’s been in a while with the storm that erupted around University Lad’s site unilad.com. The site’s now gone down, with an attempt at an apology on the holding page but the rape ‘jokes’ and violence against women discussed on the site was appalling. The example which provoked the storm ended
And 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*
*Uni Lad does not condone rape without saying ‘surprise’.
Much of the site seemed to centre around ‘lads’ telling tales of their conquests, but the references to rape just being ‘surprise sex’ or a ‘struggle snuggle’ and the attitudes towards drunk or vulnerable women were a constant. This, if it needs saying, is the next generation of educated, young men. These are university students, a few years from entering our workplaces. These are the young men that the current generation of young women are meeting in bars, online, in class. It would be nice to dismiss the site as small but their Facebook page is ‘liked’ by over 69,000 people - a staggering number - and the apology statement quickly attracted over 280 comments, most in support of the site and dismissing rape jokes as ‘banter’ and ‘lads talk’.
This is rape culture in action. This is a showcase for attitudes towards women and rape amongst educated, young men in the UK.
Still, I have to believe it can change. The reaction to the vile nature of the stories on Unilad gave me hope that the people who were disgusted by it far outweighed the people who support it. Plus, in drawing attention to their site and forcing them to take it down for a while maybe, just maybe, some of these men will rethink their comments.
Rape culture is something that urgently needs addressing in our society, but maybe by continuing to talk about it and call it out, we can change it.