An uncomfortable truth: many rapists might be beyond educating
GIVE ME A BREAK:I’M GOING to go out on a limb here and be totally politically incorrect on the rape issue. It’s an issue I care about, because I know how traumatic it is to be raped and I find it infuriating that so many men seem to be getting away with rape in social situations where both the victim and alleged perpetrator know one another and have both been drunk, writes KATE HOLMQUIST
Because that’s what most rapes that go to court are: so-called “date rapes” – a demeaning term, I know – where the alleged perpetrator may even be an ex-boyfriend, partner or even husband. Often, the woman doesn’t realise for days or weeks that she has been raped, unless she has supportive friends and family to validate her feelings.
As one woman working in the area told me, a woman may go to a party with a boyfriend and leave with someone else who she knows, such as a previous boyfriend. This man then wrongly takes the fact that she left the party with him as consent to sex. Maybe there have even been kisses and cuddles that turn to something the woman doesn’t want – penetrative sex – when it’s too late for her to avoid it.
The next morning, she may not remember fully what happened if, like 65 per cent of victims, she was intoxicated at the time. This is why in two out of three cases brought to the DPP, the case cannot be pursued in the courts. If her recall of what has undoubtedly been a traumatic event is not crystal clear, because she was drinking, then the case will ultimately fail.
The Rape Crisis Network Ireland and Stacey Scriver, one of the authors of the report, believe that to prevent such rapes happening there needs to be an education programme for young men. However, I have serious doubts about how effective such an education programme would be. We have so many education programmes about everything from alcohol abuse to safe driving to healthy eating and smoking, but we still have many accidents due to alcohol abuse and fast driving, our obesity rate is still one of the highest in Europe and people continue to blank the warning signs about smoking.
When it comes to the male sex drive and some men continuing to believe that they can have sex with a woman regardless of her wishes, I’m not so sure an education programme would work. The majority of caring and respectful men would never rape anybody. The minority who do, perhaps raping women serially in social situations, could be beyond hope.
When I asked feminists about the prospect of an education programme for young women, along the lines of “going out, getting drunk and going home with a guy you hooked up with at the party can be a danger to your health”, the notion was immediately dismissed. And I can understand why.
When a woman is raped by a man she knows, and especially when she’s been drinking, her first instinct is to blame herself and question her judgment. “I should have known that he would rape me”, in other words. Yet how could she have known? We like to think that the men we like and trust are not rapists. The reality is, though, that you can be married and sleeping in the same bed with someone you thought was the man of your dreams, but when he forces intercourse on you, that’s still rape.
So any education programme that focuses on women’s behaviour would be compounding the pain that women feel, by making them feel guilty and responsible for something that they didn’t want and didn’t do. The next step could be making women wear black from head-to-toe and then stoning them if they’re unfortunate enough to be raped.
And yet, each of us lives in a bubble of coping and values that has little to do with political correctness. We have to warn our daughters about the world they live in, where rape is a constant threat. All women live with this fear, even if its pushed so far to the back of their minds that they cannot consciously acknowledge it. It would seem to make sense to tell your daughters that going out and drinking to the extent that your judgment is impaired will put them at an increased risk of rape. Men who are drinking with them in those situations also have their judgment impaired. In fact, I’m told, getting drunk so that they won’t have to answer for their behaviour is part of their modus operandi.
So if I were to call myself a card-carrying feminist, I would advise young women to go out and party and have a good time because there will be no consequences. However, the laddish culture that young Irish women are a part of is a very tough place, where there are all too many men who will all too readily show how little respect they have for women. The safest way, it would seem, would be to stick with the girls and don’t go alone with men. Save that pleasure for the times when you and he are both sober and able to get to know one another. He may still rape you, stone cold sober, but you’ll be lessening your risk. It sounds old-fashioned I know, but that’s the world we live in.