100% of Rape Cases are the Fault of the Rapist
(TRIGGER WARNING for rape and sexual assault)
In Scotland, there’s no denying that we like a gid bevy. We’re the home of the distillery, the blutered hugmanay and the ‘pre-game’; Buckfast has become synonymous with the Glasgow flat party; and late licenses are par for the course. Like it or loathe it, getting boozed is a solid part of Scottish culture. With that, of course, comes a downside – there’s a reason that the SNP government have been so ardent in their campaign for a minimum price on a unit of alcohol; that Scotrail have had to ban drinking on their trains after 9pm; and that the number of alcohol-related deaths have more than doubled in the last three decades.
However, whilst we Scots might be gradually wisening up to the fact that there might just be a little devil in the drink after all, let us not get carried away and let us be very clear – whilst it might have many downsides, alcohol does NOT cause rape.
I’m fucking infuriated by the constant stream of shite I have to read about the “relationship” between alcohol and rape and sexual assault and to read this week the comments made by Alison DiRollo – the VERY individual appointed earlier this year to head up the Scottish Crown Office’s sex crimes unit – makes me want to feverishly scratch my own eyes out just so I never have to see this reckless drivel ever again. What DiRollo has declared, in her infinite wisdom, is that young people who drink too much leave themselves open to rapists and that drinking to excess is a “hallmark” of too many rape cases. She told The Scotsman that alcohol “leaves them [young people] extremely vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation.”
Come on. Really. It’s hardly “news” that alcohol can leave people vulnerable to exploitation. I’ve been there – I’ve had my bag nicked when I was so off my face in a club that I evidently thought it was safe to leave all my essential belongings on a chair whilst I danced; I’ve had a wasted lassie get right up in my face and threaten to batter the living daylights out of me because I drunkenly bumped into her boyfriend in a pub; I’ve been ripped off by dozens of taxi drivers; I’ve had my drink spiked. Yes, I made myself more “vulnerable” by getting drunk. Like lots of things, alcohol can leave you open to exploitation and potential harm. It can impair your senses, your judgments, and your inhibitions. There’s no denying that fact.
In all aspects of life it makes sense to take some precautions. Unless you’re a total radge, then we all tend to take some steps to eliminate certain risks from our lives. In terms of my own personal safety, I tend to avoid walking home alone at night in badly lit areas where there are fewer people, I wouldn’t be likely to ever take a lift from someone I don’t know, and I always text the pal I was out with when I’m home. I do these things not because I think I should have to, but because I accept to a degree that the world is imperfect and full of flawed people, nasty things happen and people get hurt. I’d love to live in a world where I don’t need to take these precautions but I accept that I do have to take them in order to avoid some of the possibility of coming to harm. This seems somewhat reasonable, for want of a better word.
What I *don’t* think is reasonable, what I find so offensive, so abhorrent, is the fucking incessant focus of ‘risk elimination’ being the responsibility of the rape victim and the idea that if a woman partakes in perfectly legitimate lifestyle choices then she plays some active part in any violence and/or degradation that she is subsequently subjected to. It’s relentless, we see it almost constantly – from the roots of Slutwalk (wear little – get assaulted) to the unbelievable anti-rape ‘campaign’ from West Mercia police and of course, lest we forget, the then convener of the Scottish Parliament justice committee Bill “Bawjaws” Aitken positively guffawing about what on *earth* a women might be doing alone on Renfrew Street at night prior to being gang raped (read: “she’s clearly a prostitute/mental for being out alone, ergo surely she wants to be sexually violated”).
It’s been argued and highlighted a million times but let’s just reiterate again, for Alison Di Rollo’s sake and that of anyone who’s stupid enough to consider her “advice” to be anything other than arbitrary – it is quite one thing to acknowledge precautionary advice about certain risk-taking which might increase vulnerability, but it is quite another to give centre stage to a woman’s lifestyle choices (whether that’s what she wears, whether or not she’s a sex worker, whether or not she decides to get shitfaced on a night out) as reasons to why sexual violence occurs. To do so is nothing but out and out victim blaming which ultimately, and quite overtly, detracts from the real issues at hand.
Rape and sexual assault are almost exclusively gendered acts of violence. They are symptomatic of a patriarchal culture in which male entitlement and male control are accepted norms and acceptance of female sexuality faces widespread confusion at best and disgust at worst. I can’t believe I actually have to spell this out on a regular basis to people I otherwise consider rational and educated human beings. As the Scotsman article reports, in 2011-12 there were 1,274 cases of rape and attempted rape recorded by police, up 13% on the previous year. Being drunk increases your vulnerability yes, but it doesn’t cause rape – rapists do and if the WOMAN who is in charge of the prosecution of sexual violence cases thinks that asking women to refrain from going on a bender is the most urgent matter to highlight in the tackling of rape and our societal attitudes around rape, then we are facing one serious fucking problem. The Scotsman reports that Di Rollo also “stressed” that she doesn’t “detract from the responsibility or culpability of any accused man who takes advantage”. Well do you know what pal? You just detracted and you detracted good.
It is sexist and disgusting and wrong that the widespread response – both politically and in mainstream society – to knife crime is ardent campaigning for minimum six-month mandatory custodial sentencing, whilst the response to victims of rape is to blame and question their lifestyles (just for the record – I’m not in favour of willy-nilly custodial sentencing but I’m making a point, alreet?) When will we stop blaming women for the shit, the degradation, the violence they face? When we will finally decide that women should get to freely engage in legal, legitimate choices such as getting drunk and wearing a low cut top, without the fear of possibly being blamed for anything that might subsequently happen to them? Certainly not whilst those in pivotal positions of power such as Alison Di Rollo keep spouting this destructive, sexist bullshit.
I too lose patience with endlessly pointing out that rapists are responsible for rape. End of. But then I also lose patience with the endless patriarchal sexism we seem to think is still acceptable.