SOME things bear repeating.
And then repeating and saying again. It's never the victim's fault. You would think, with sex crimes, that we'd be beyond the old myths about what women wear and how they conduct themselves and, predominantly, how much booze they consume when they're out on the gins.
Looks like we're not, though. White Ribbon Scotland, the campaign for men seeking to end violence against women, conducted a survey into the attitudes of Scots towards the topic. It found that one-quarter of young people aged 16 to 24 believe that a woman is partly responsible for being raped if she is drunk or dressed provocatively. These attitudes have moved on none from similar surveys carried out in 2008 by Rape Crisis Scotland and in 2007 by the Scottish Government and Amnesty International. What a letdown.
Clothing is the most ridiculous of these twin insults. It is not so baffling to comprehend that women wear small clothes yet do not welcome all attention. Like frogs and sweetlips fish, so too do humans use adornments to signal one another. In wildlife it is colours; for humans, clothing. However, the majority of men understand that a female dressed for a night out is art - to be admired but not touched. Those who cross the velvet rope around an exhibition are the miscreants; never the exhibit for being too alluring.
Secondly, how drunk is too drunk? How drunk do you have to be to "deserve it"? Three Chardonnays and you are unfortunate, four and you were asking for trouble? Alcohol makes everyone act like an idiot. That's a fact. And the fact is, a woman should be able to swim around naked in an Olympic-sized pool of the stuff without fear that, should the worst happen, she will be judged as part-perpetrator of her own assault. It is particularly odd when these beliefs surface in young people. Have you recently seen city centre streets at night? It is all young people, drunk as skunks and wearing little. Frankly, these days it is the temperate and teetotal who deviate from the norm. Young people should know better than to judge one another so.
Another side-effect of these false beliefs, another reason to grind them down until they are but grey dust and swept away, is the fact that it is now all but impossible to discuss personal safety without being damned as a victim blamer.
Discussion of risk is nigh on taboo. Joanna Lumley, earlier this year, suggested girls might like not to "look like trash" or "be sick down your front" because "somebody will take advantage of you" and was roundly lambasted for her advice. What she wanted, what she seemed to want, was for girls and women to take more care of themselves while out.
The sober are safer, generally, and Lumley is right, though her phrasing was off. But who's to tell young women not to drink the way their male counterparts drink? By all means, let them drink until they're sick, but ask them to stay with their friends and not wander off alone; make sure they know what they are drinking.
The world is a crazy, dangerous place. Accepting that fact and adjusting your behaviour to proactively make it a little bit safer is not victim blaming; it is sensible.
Sexual offenders are fully accountable for their attacks, no question. But while sections of society still cleave to these outmoded beliefs that certain women are deserving victims we will struggle to urge women to be agents in their own protection.
Belief that scanty cladding and boozing give a woman responsibility for her own attack makes these things morally equivalent to the crime of rape. That's so obviously wrong it needs no repeating. Or, at least, until the attutde is no more.
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