Monday, 9 March 2009

I just don't understand

A government survey released today has found that one in five of us believe it is OK for a man to slap his wife or girlfriend. The study also found that ten per cent think it is all right to hit a lover who is flirting with another man and half of those questioned think a woman is at least partly to blame for being raped if she does not clearly say 'no'.

20% believe it is acceptable to hit a woman.
50% believe that a woman is 'at least partly to blame for being raped'. Fifty percent. Half the country. It is absolutely heartbreaking if this is even half true.

It was once reported that a quarter of all women would be a victim of assault, rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. These are our sisters, our mothers, our best friends, our daughters, our grandmothers, our aunties, our nieces, our cousins, the friendly girl who serves you your coffee at Starbucks, our colleagues, they are half the world and yet it is seen as OK for them to be hit, raped and assaulted. I presume that everyone surveyed knows and loves a woman somewhere.
I don't get it.

In our ever sophisticated and technological society, domestic violence and rape are the last taboos. It is somehow seen that women are always asking for it or have always brought it on themselves. That they are responsible for someone else's actions.

It is often said that when men sleep around then they are labelled 'a lad', 'a stud', 'a ladies' man'. A woman in the same situation? 'A whore', 'a slag', 'a tart', 'a slut'. Why do we allow this double standard? I used to think it was just a certain sect of society that perpetuated this myth but it isn't. It is people I know, people I love, people who may not know or understand the damage they are doing by vocalising their opinion because, perhaps, they are intelligent, have never felt threatened physically or sexually and just haven't thought of it in that way. But by thrusting their views into society they are picked up and repeated, they give the message that it is OK.

Rape is complex, it is a murky territory - a land of tiny skirts and girls who drink too much, with lots of myths and half-myths, and rarely more than the main two witnesses.

The taboo is reflected in the number of rapes reported. In 2004 the number of rapes reported totalled 13,976 (incidentally, in the same year a survey revealed that only 4% of people believed that more than 10,000 people were raped a year). It is estimated that this number only accounts for 15% of rapes that year. So, in actuality, it is thought that 93,174 people were raped in 2004. Nearly 100,000. Out of the reported rapes, so 13,976, only 5.6% resulted in a conviction.

So, lets recap, approximately 93,174 people raped, 13,976 reported and 783 convictions.

Why don't women report their rape or assault. It comes down to the taboo issue again. Can you really blame them when 50% of society believes that they are at least partially responsible?

Just think about the courage it takes to go to someone and say you have been raped. The courage it takes when you feel violated and vulnerable and humilated and dirty and the thought that must niggle in your head that you may not even be believed.

But what I don't understand is why people are so unwilling to believe that rape has occurred. Why is the woman mistrusted? Why is everything so weighted against her? Why don't we want to believe it?

I once read in a newspaper that three female members of the Welsh Assembly had said in a questionnaire that they had been raped and never reported it.

The quote that accompanied the article was provided by a survivor - because that they are, not victims - when asked why, she replied,

'We don't want to believe that there are so many men who would go ahead and have sex without consent. Even when it isn't hard to prove rape, we are much more inclined to blame the victim than to admit that men and boys we know are doing it.'

And her final quote makes me want to cry forever.

'We want to believe that we live in a civilised society'.

Please, if you know, explain this to me beacuse I just don't understand.

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