At the moment in India, attitudes towards rape and its victims have been dragged unceremoniously into the public forum after the death of a young woman who was gang-raped on a bus. There’s plenty of discussion and philosophising about it in all corners of the internet, and not without a somewhat sanctimonious air of moral superiority from some quarters in the first world.
But, sadly, such problems are not confined to poorer parts of the world. Granted, they are undoubtedly worse there, magnified and amplified by an absence of routine human rights and properly enforced criminal laws. But before we in the UK get on our high horse, it’s worth remembering that we aren’t speaking from a perfect position.
“…women should take responsibility for “protecting” themselves from sexual assault because sexual assault is just a fact of life.”
Take the above photo, for example. It depicts, so far as I can tell, a public information poster from Thames Valley Police. I have been unable to verify it, but equally have seen nothing to cast doubt on it, and it feels genuine.
At first glance it’s just a warning for parents not to give their children alcohol. Very noble, and hard to disagree with. But looking closer, the message is a lot closer to “if you give your daughter alcohol, she will get raped”. And from there, the obvious corollary is “a girl gets raped because she’s drunk”.
Erm…no. She gets raped because someone rapes her.
In fact, there is only one person to blame for rape, and that is the rapist. Enlightened though we may consider ourselves, our society still contains the same latent prejudices which until recently made rape a fact of life on the streets of India.
It’s doubly worrying to see these attitudes shown by the police. My local police. Rape prosecution and conviction rates in the UK are still woefully low, with many cases going unreported. I can’t help but feel that messages like this will only damage the faith of victims in the police.
I wonder what our newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner thinks of this?