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November 16, 2006

Entering dangerous territory

Today's discussion point is rape. I have to be careful here, because one wrong word or bungled phrase could land me in serious trouble with all sorts of angry women. God forbid I should end a sentence with a preposition.

This article from the Beeb got me thinking, or (more specifically) this quote did:

The government said: "Rape is never the victim's fault."

OK. Fair enough. But let's try and remember that shades of grey exist in every scenario. It's very difficult to have a sensible debate about these sorts of issues without women's groups jumping all over. The BBC links to Women Against Rape, who I'm sure are very nice. They do rather dent their credibility in my eyes with their webpage however, which contains such gems as:

One in six women has been raped.

I really can't believe that to be true. Still, I'm male, so what would I know?

I'd like to suggest, just quietly, that sometimes rape may be the victim's fault. Let's go back to the BBC page:

The study - thought to be the first of its size into drug rape - involved the Metropolitan, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire, Northumbria and Lancashire police forces as well as the Walsall area of the West Midlands Police.

The findings also revealed 119 of the 120 alleged victims admitted they had been drinking alcohol and forensic tests discovered evidence of alcohol in 52% of cases.

"In most cases, the alleged victims had consumed alcohol voluntarily and, in some cases, to dangerous levels," an Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) spokesman said.

And Det Ch Supt Dave Gee, co-author of the report, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that 48% of victims said they had taken a combination of recreational drugs and prescribed medication, in addition to alcohol.

When I go out for a night's drinking, I am very much aware that drinking to excess causes all sorts of carnage. I've had my share of drink-related injuries. I've gazed in confusion at peculiar cuts and grazes discovered the next morning. Nowadays I try to make sure that I retain some level of coherence - it's useful for health and sanity. It's quite clear, however, that many people, including women, just don't.

It's not difficult to imagine a group of friends going out for a night out, and consuming enough quantities of enough things that they really don't know what they're doing, what they have done, or what they are about to do. It's not difficult to imagine that some of the male members of the group might take an interest in some of the scantily-clad female members. It's not difficult to imagine that all sorts of things might ensue.

The question is almost one of consent. The woman protests that she said "no." The man protests that she didn't. Neither of them can really remember. One has to remember what has led them to be in that situation. Most blokes would probably suggest that once they were undressed with a girl then she'd pretty much given consent. She's spent the night leading him on while dressed in a revealing top. Most women would probably still like to reserve the final decision for themselves until the final moment.

If this is too late - if the bloke is psychologically fixed onto one course of action - it's hard to imagine he'll be easy to stop. But is this entirely his fault? I'd suggest that it isn't quite as simple as the first quote:

Rape is never the victim's fault.

Maybe legally rape isn't the victim's fault - but often she's got herself in that situation. Perhaps a few less shots of Vodka would have saved all sorts of problems.

In a way, this ties in with my discussion last week of fundamentalism within Christianity. I think women's organisations do themselves more harm than good when they make statements like the one above. There are shades of grey in everything, and black and white statements which refuse to admit compromise undermine everything they stand for.

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