Please, let's stop victim-blaming (for the umpteenth time)

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Last Thursday saw Glasgow's fourth city centre sex attack since Christmas. Local police, who have mounted extra patrols in an attempt to solve the cases, have said that they believe 'different gangs' are responsible for the attacks, which have included serious sexual assault and two rapes. It must be a really difficult and worrying time for city residents. What sort of statement about it all would you make, if you were a Member of the Scottish Parliament? Choices are as follows:

a) "Somebody should be asking her what she was doing in Renfrew Lane."
b) "The police say there’s a lot of drunken carry-ons that result in rape allegations which are subsequently dropped, put it that way."
c) "It’s an area where a lot of the hookers take their clients. Now that may not have happened in this case. But you know ... what was happening? There’s always a lot more to these city-centre rapes than meets the eye."

Well, it appears that Conservative MSP Bill Aitken plumped for d) All of the above. When challenged about these comments he denied even making them - until he realised a transcript of the conversation existed. And as if he hadn't already taken issue with the victim being in a certain area of the city, accused her of making everything up and insinuated that she was a prostitute, he went on to claim that there is a difference between the rape of a woman who works as a prostitute and the rape of a woman who doesn't.

According to the Herald, Aitken is "convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee – which helps formulates rape law". These remarks, coming from a person in his position, are beyond ignorant, insensitive and truly horrible.

Sandra Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland said:

"His attitude is completely out of step with what the law says and what we should be thinking as a society. For far too long there’s been the attitude if you are involved in prostitution you cannot be a victim of rape. Women who are raped need support, not a climate that’s asking blaming questions about what they were doing."

And people wonder why women are hesitant to report sex attacks. Part of the answer is probably in the fact that even the people who have a say over rape laws spout this sort of unpleasantness as standard reaction to an attack. Aitken has since apologised to the victim and her family, stressing that "Rape, in every case, is an abhorrent violation and must always be prosecuted with the full vigour of the law".

Except he didn't say that to start with, did he? And it's really shameful that those in positions of such power are endorsing views which will do nothing to help current public perception of women who report rape and sexual assault. As long as this continues, women will be scared to speak out and people will carry on believing that a prostitute cannot be raped or assaulted.


sianandcrookedrib said...

well said hannah.
i've commented about this on the f word but suffice to say, i agree with every word you say!

Lily and the valley said...

I agree with everything you've said. I live in Glasgow and you're right-it is scary sometimes. What's even more terrifying is the thought that if I were to be raped complete strangers would speculate on possible reasons that I was to blame.

Wise mommy said...

well said hannah.
I strongly agree with what you have said.


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