Thursday, 10 December 2009

nobody is awake to talk me through this

I was surfing randomly - as I do, and I came across a USA agony aunt page from a couple of weeks ago called Ask Amy.  Ask Amy is syndicated and appears in news papers all over the country, but her advice in the Chicago Tribune has people up in arms.

Read here

In summary a girl wrote in asking if she had been raped.  She was drunk at a party in a fraternity house (read drunk college boys' accomodation) and accompanied a guy to his room where she told him that she didn't want to have sex repeatedly.  He acknowledged this, but then proceeded to have sex anyway and she attributes her alcohol induced impaired judgement for being unable to realise what was happening before it happened.

Amy replies indicates that she believes that the girl has been raped.  But she doesn't state it explicitly.  What she does emphasise is the girls poor judgement in being drunk in a frat house and going to the guy's room.

Now Amy is not particularly supportive, comforting or even empathetic.  You know the kind of qualities that you'd hope to find in someone that pedals advice for a living. 

But my gut feeling is that she is right.

What is troubling me is that I have recently been made aware that agreeing with Amy makes me a "rape apologist", I am in fact "criminalising the victim".

In my head it seems so simple.  Two separate but conchordant (did I make that word up?) ideas existing simultaneously and offering no contradiction.

Idea 1

A victim of rape is not to blame for being raped.  Yes even the girl, drunk to the point of incoherency, clambering into the back of an unlicensed mini cab alone at 4am (put your judgements aside now), it is not her fault.  The blame for rape lies solely with the perpetrator's inability to hear and comprehend that "no means no", their need for power and control, their complete disregard for the autonomy of another human being.

Idea 2

There are things that you can do to to decrease your risk of being raped

This is the idea that has Chicagoans up in arms, because it seems that if there are things that can be done to minimise your risk, and you choose not to do those things, then by not doing them you have increased your risk, henceforth, ergo and thus some of the blame rests with you.



Look, a woman has the right to and should be able to parade down the high street in a bikini at 3am without being raped.  That doesn't make it an intelligent thing to do because that is not the utopia in which we live.  We live in a society where rape happens, unfortunately with increasing regularity.  Women (and men) PEOPLE should be taught that nobody has the right to lay hands on them if they don't desire it.  But they should also be taught that excessive alcohol drinking lowers their inhibitions and makes them less in control of themselves, that dark alleys have the potential to hold numerous predators, and that sometimes your body can be saying yes even when your mouth is saying no*.

Ahh that last one was hard to type - but be real - it happens - and should be addressed.

So are these ideas more contradictory than they seem? Am I missing something really obvious?

*Seriously though, if you hear a "no", you better get up and go home, whatever else may be happening, protect yourself from being the guy in this scenario.

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