Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I'm glad I hadn't fetched my tea just there...

... for I most assuredly would have spat it all over my monitor. The Guardian reports that rape victims are having some of their compensation withheld if, before they were attacked, they had been drinking alcohol.

I'll break that down for those who don't quite understand this.

1) A woman goes out for a drink, or has a glass or two at home before going out.
2) A man, who statistically speaking has probably also been drinking*, attacks the woman.
3) If the man had indeed been under the influence it has for a long time been seen as a mitigating factor (by the public and thus, the juries as well as a few terrible judges) as his 'judgement was impaired' and he may have thought the woman was 'leading him on' when she wasn't. This can sometimes lead to reduced sentences despite the fact that whether he was drunk or not is hard to prove unless he was caught and breathalysed pretty quickly.
4) However, because the woman was drinking, instead of punishing the man for breaking the law and taking advantage of a women in a more vulnerable state than him, she is being punished for doing something that isn't against the law at all, in a public place where almost everyone else was doing the same thing as her and where there were no warnings that there was a rapist in the room.

Punishing the woman for having the audacity to hope that she wouldn't be raped is quite simply abhorrent. This is victim blaming, being thrust in the faces of women who are already traumatised enough by their ordeal as it is.

Helen, a beauty therapist who has not worked since the incident, said: "When I read the CICA letter I just had no words; I could not take it in. It felt like I was being punished for having the audacity to step up and say 'I don't think this should have happened to me.' It was like going back to the 70s, saying 'she was asking for it'. How else could you read the letter but as saying it's my fault I was raped?"

Helen told the CICA she had been drinking but did not say how much alcohol she consumed. The police submission said it was "possible" her behaviour had contributed to the incident, because she had drunk a "large amount" of alcohol.

Maybe I'm just reading a slightly ambiguous section wrongly, but sounds to me like the police are taking a few liberties here. She didn't disclose how much she'd had to drink- does that mean she gave an unspecific estimate of 'a lot' or did she just say she'd had something to drink and then someone else decided she'd had 'a lot' because, in some peoples' minds, drunk women are the only women who get raped? I can't tell from this. However, the police should know better than to say that being drunk makes a women a rape target. As we all should know by now, the likelihood of a woman being raped is dramatically increased by her proximity to a rapist. There aren't little disembodied penises that fly around targeting any woman with a glass of wine or a pint in her hand, no matter where she is.

In a second statement, issued later, the CICA said a mistake had been made in Helen's case and its policy was not to reduce awards to rape victims on the basis of alcohol consumption.

Oh, really. So how come 14 victims in the past year have had this very thing happen to them? Clearly there's something going on here. Hopefully, this won't be happening in the future but, cynic that I am, I don't think this is the last case of its kind that we'll be hearing. CICA may try to make amends, but they're a drop in the ocean. Attitudes still haven't changed in many places.

*In this study, for example, over half of the men who had attacked women had been under the influence.

1 comment:

  1. Good post, very well said. I'm nauseating that this attitude still exists...and with government sanction. Disgusting.