I woke up today to news that a convicted rapist had been given 6 months in prison because any more would have ruined his promising career as an athlete. I saw online media use a yearbook photo and list his athletic credentials, his father say that ’20 minutes of action’ does not equal rape – and a harrowing, tear-inducing testimony from the victim of her ordeal.
I woke up today to my own memories flooding back, and women around the world enraged at the treatment of this woman who had gone through so much already. And still people are absolutely positive rape culture doesn’t exist. That the sentence of 6 months was ‘too harsh’, the suggested/possible 14 years was too long for a ‘misdemeanour’. That this 20 minutes of some 20+ years should not alter his life so drastically.
Well, fuck you.
[trigger/content warning below for talking about rape]
Because that 20 minutes has horrifically altered the victim’s life. That 20 minutes outside by bins that she doesn’t remember, but was awful enough that one of the witnesses was crying. That the rapist ran away from.
It shouldn’t be a case of women protecting other women (generalisation, but for the sake of argument here), asking people to see how they’d feel if it was their daughter, sister, mother, close female relative, in the shoes of the victim. It shouldn’t be a case of ‘she had a blood-alcohol level 3 times the limit’ / was wearing a short skirt / was asking for it / enjoyed it / led him on, while the rapist is portrayed as a promising athlete, someone who has had their character destroyed because of 20 minutes, a misunderstanding, a mistake.
It shouldn’t be a case of women or girls constantly having to check themselves, constantly having to reassess their clothing choices, constantly having to make sure that they don’t look too appealing, because someone might make a mistake, might take 20 minutes out of their day to create a misunderstanding that ends in ‘character defamation’ on one end, and a life destroyed on the other.
Rape is the cruelest form of torture.
It takes an act that allows access to a level of physical intimacy, and pisses all over it. It is the repeated violation of personal space. It is a wound left to fester, because the feeling of uncleanliness, the feeling of being used, the feeling that someone took something, never truly goes away. It haunts. It stays with you and rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times.
It shouldn’t be a case that the rapist was ‘going through a tough time’. Many people go through tough times and don’t sexually assault others. It shouldn’t be a case of how thoroughly you can poke holes in the victim’s testimony, how thoroughly you can discredit their experience to help save face of a rapist, how thoroughly you can wring the victim through the proverbial washer to make sure that the doubt isn’t just in the mind of the jury but in the victim’s own.
How you, the victim, are purposefully ruining the life of this person you don’t know, because of one 20 minute incident.
“The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly and we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error.”
It doesn’t start in the courtroom, though, and neither does it end there. It starts by teaching daughters that if a boy teases them it means he likes them. It starts by reinforcing the idea cat-calling is an expression of desire – a compliment. It starts by saying that fashion choices greatly increase your chances of helping someone make a 20 minute mistake. It starts by victims feeling silenced because they’re damaged goods.
There will never be as much fear in a male at night as their is a woman. The considerations women go through on a daily basis: can I get home from this place ok – is it too far? What time will it finish?; I like this outfit and I feel fab in it, but do I feel safe in it’; can I run in these shoes; am I being too nice, will this be taken as flirting?; do I cross the street now to avoid that group so it’ll seem less weird even though I’m doing it to avoid them?.
And yet, all that is remembered is what they were wearing, how many past relationships they had, how much they had to drink.
I saw a fabulous instagram comment earlier that summed it all up: women have a history, while men have potential.
And until that changes, until society starts teaching us that rape is wrong through and through, and that there are no excuses, mistakes, or misunderstandings around violating someone – rather than how not to attract attention, and with a voice louder than women are currently screaming it at – then we are living in a culture that suggests rape is wrong through trial and error.
A 6 month sentence with probation out of a possible 14 years and a requested 6, just because the rapist comes from a good family, has a good background and no prior offences, is outrageous. It’s disgusting. As is blaming the incident on alcohol and promiscuity.