At what point does this start becoming a men’s issue?

I only ask, because I'm wondering how many men woke up to the Today programme to hear that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) had been reducing rape victims compensation if they had been consuming alcohol before the event and felt so strongly that this was an outrage that they had to do something about it? If a blogger they might choose to blog about it, or perhaps, a man might start up a conversation about it with other men or women, say, after Georgia and the Olympic Games had been dealt with? I'm only aware of one male blogger to do this so far this afternoon, but if I have missed others then please let me know.

Because we all know that the only person responsible for a rape is the rapist, right? And because of the legal definition of rape, whilst both men and women can be victims of rape, only men can be the perpetrators of rape. So to my mind, this places the responsibility for rape and doing something about its frequency firmly with men. So, why the silence? Why the assumption that women either don't need or don't want the vast majority of the male population who abhor rape to have any public opinion about it at all. Silence is not the same thing as condemnation.

Well, that's me angry enough, even when using my habitual 'people are fundamentally good' approach to the problem. But actually, I'm much crosser than that because I don't even think that we've settled, as a society, that the only person that is responsible for a rape is the rapist. Clearly not, as can be evidenced by the actions of CICA up until recently. Oh yes, Bridget Prentice can say it is not her "view that a victim of rape is not in any way culpable due to alcohol consumption. It is never an individual's fault if he/she gets raped; regardless of how much he/she has drunk". But you don't have to go much further to find that CICA following a misogynist policy of sending out letters suggesting that the victims "excessive consumption of alcohol was a contributing factor in the incident,".

That, I would venture, is prima facie evidence that the change in culture required, although starting at the top, like it should, hasn't got very far down and through state and quasi-governmental institutions, let alone into being a norm of society. And, as we know from that infamous Amnesty international Poll from a few years ago that identified that 30% of people believe a woman wholly or partly to blame for her rape if she had been drinking.

I admit that cultural change in organisations, where most of my experience lies, is not the same as cultural change in a whole organisation but there are I am sure not too much that is different in the way of approach. Firstly, and thank goodness this is in place, we have to define what is and isn't culturally acceptable in the law. That is a very good start. But you not only have to define your acceptable culture or behavioural norm but you have to a) las a leader embody it and b) communicate it to the whole organisation or community.

Now, one hopes that those in government do embody this, at least in their own personal behaviour but if they don't then they must go (and in fact be prosecuted). But at the moment the government is failing to embody it in it's organisation as can be seen by CICA.

Secondly it has to communicate to the community that it wants to influence what is acceptable and not acceptable and I see no evidence of that. Cultural change starts at the top but it is peer pressure that finishes the job off; just look at the way drink driving was socially acceptable 30 years go despite being illegal but today the drink drive is a pariah in most communities.

There are many organisations, including Amnesty International, The Fawcett Society and Reclaim the Night which campaign on a women's right to be free from rape and violence. The picture, by the way, is of me and my Mum on the Reclaim the Streets march last November. It was our first ever protest march!

But, empowered though I feel about those marches and organisations their protests will never be enough to effect a change in the culture of a whole society. Yes, us liberal progressive types will pick up on it eventually (perhaps, but with 50,000 rapes a year, the chances are that some of them are undertaken by men who consider themselves liberal progressives) but the majority without any overwhelming peer pressure will continue to see rape as a problem for women that frankly, most of them bring upon themselves. Easily avoidable if only women changed their behaviour.

One amazing organisation that recognises that it is peer pressure that can make the difference to cultural change is the White Ribbon Campaign an organisation upon whom I've blogged before. It is a male run campaign that seeks to go into universities and sports club and use peer pressure to educate men about the unacceptability of being violent towards women, whether sexual or not.

But we cannot leave it just to the White Ribbon Campaign.

If the government was serious about reducing the number of rapes, of increasing the conviction rate of rapists and increasing the number of women coming forward to report rapes it would do something concrete about it. Cultural change doesn't just take place by osmosis; it doesn't just start from the grass roots. It is not rocket science either, the Government can do something about it.

The could start with a well funded educative campaign, with billboards, newspaper ,posters in pubs and clubs and television adverts backed up with classroom material and workshops in universities. We put this effort and funding campaigns on getting people to change their behaviour around drink driving, take their sat nav with them when parking their car and even the consumption of salt! Why is it so ridiculous to put it into campaign that would place the responsibility for doing something about rape not with women but with the men? When are we as a society going to make rape a men's issue?


Andrew said...
12 Aug 2008, 17:08:00

Tim Worstall has also had something to say about it, although from a slightly different viewpoint.

Julian H said...
12 Aug 2008, 17:23:00

When the Doha talks collapsed a couple of weeks ago there was barely a word typed about it in the LD 'sphere.

From either men or women.

Wit and wisdom said...
12 Aug 2008, 17:32:00

I resent this. Just because I didn't post on it doesn't mean I don't take rape seriously. I don't post on a number of things but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in them.

I also can't see how an advertising campaign is going to reduce rape, which tends to be a crime committed in private with no witnesses.

I'm sure the people who commit rape know its wrong, just as those who drink and drive do. It's a good idea to try to reduce it and to change attitudes but I struggle to see how the government can be blamed for this.

Jennie said...
12 Aug 2008, 19:31:00

Lots of men don't post on this because they think they will get jumped on for talking about a women's isuue. Stupid but true.

I am drnk smthat's as much sense as you're going to ger out of me.

Alex Wilcock said...
12 Aug 2008, 21:46:00

Hi Jo

Excellent article with some good positive suggestions, and thanks for the link. I should point out, though, that you’re the only woman I’ve found who’s posted on this so far today, too. I’m afraid going by Lib Dem Blogs, we have exact gender balance :(

There’s one thing I have to take issue with you on, though – sticking to “the legal definition of rape”. If someone’s raped by something other than a penis, it’s still rape, and should be treated as such. If it looks like rape and feels like rape, it’s rape.

I notice Tim Worstall (thanks, Andrew) makes much the same point as me, incidentally, though with a much more equivocal conclusion. And good tangent, Julian; I’m afraid I wasn’t blogging much when the Doha talks collapsed, but I remember ringing Richard at work to say “The world’s going down the drain, then”. But at least an elephant blogged about related elements.

Neil Stockley said...
12 Aug 2008, 21:57:00

Wit and wisdom,

Why is it relevant that "rape . . . tends to be a crime committed in private, with no witnesses" (assuming that statement is correct).

You acknowledge that "it's a good idea to try to reduce [rape] and change attitudes". How do you suggest that should be done?

Wit and wisdom said...
12 Aug 2008, 22:05:00

Neil, if I knew that I'd be doing something about it.

It is relevant that this crime is committed in private because this is part of the reason why the conviction rate is so low - because it is often one person's word against another.

The point in the original post was that more 'education' is needed on this subject but my rather negative conclusion is that this is likely to have only a limited effect.

Anonymous said...
13 Aug 2008, 00:21:00

Would you be running this national campaign highlighting that rape is an evil crime to the presumably 0.001% of British men that do not know this, before or after the campaigns against murder and genocide, presumably to avert the risk that someone inadvertantly commits these crimes through ignorance and insufficient peer pressure?

Alternatively what's wrong the traditional method of nice long sentences for rapists and publicity around their convictions though the national media.

Whose behaviour are you trying to influence here, and how Jo? This is a really ill-considered thoughtless piece of heart-on-sleeve populism.

'Look at me, I care more than you do...'

Hywel said...
13 Aug 2008, 00:59:00

Rape can only be committed by a male (though technically I suppose it could be committed by a post operative female to male transexual who hadn't legally changed their gender). There is however a parallel offence of assault be penetration.

Furthermore as a philosophical rather than legal concept rape as in intercourse without consent can be as equally committed by a woman on a man.

There has been the sort of advertising campaign you suggest in the last few years - it was done in the aftermath of the comming into effect of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 with the changes to the law on consent.

And FWIW I've posted on this subject before

Jo Christie-Smith said...
13 Aug 2008, 09:56:00

Julian H,

Well, yes, I'm sorry about that; did you post on Doha?

With my feminist International relations hat on, of course, a collapse in trade talks has significant implication for some of the poorest women in the world and the collapse may well have as different impact on their lives than it does from their husbands, brothers, father and sons.

However, I think that we can all agree that none of prioritise the right things at times.

I have in fact been pleasantly surprised that 3 men to my knowledge (or at least the first four pages of the Google result yesterday) have blogged on this topic and that a whole pile more have come on here to comment on my piece, even if they have come on to put me back in my box!

I consider myself admonished on the lack of priority I have place on Doha.

But should I really keep my mouth shut on my disappointment around men's silence on rape just because we all of us, men and women are equally as silent on the Doha trade talks collapse?

Neil Stockley said...
13 Aug 2008, 10:00:00

To wit and wisdom

One reason is that the UK conviction rate for rape is so low is that the police (by their own admission)too often don't take alleged victims seriously enough.

A survey in 2005 for Amnesty highlighted the prejudices rape victims still face if they do not fit the model of a "perfect victim".

A Sussex University study earlier this year found that society's continuing acceptance of myths and false beliefs about rape were an important problem in securing convictions - especially as biased views can be held by the key players in the criminal justice system.

Surely this backs up the case for some form of education, training and information (e.g., for police officers, prosecutors, judges and juries)?


Jo Christie-Smith said...
13 Aug 2008, 10:23:00

"I resent this. Just because I didn't post on it doesn't mean I don't take rape seriously. I don't post on a number of things but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in them".
Sure, like all of us, you prioritise what you blog on. but this is such a gendered issue (in that it is a crime committed by men mainly on women) that looking to see how the different sexes prioritise it is worth some analysis, I think.
"I also can't see how an advertising campaign is going to reduce rape, which tends to be a crime committed in private with no witnesses".
I've been staring at this sentence for sometime now and I'm afraid I can't see how you can say that advertising won't work because the rapist take advantage of the fact there are no witnesses when committing their crime.
"I'm sure the people who commit rape know its wrong,"
No, I think I have put some clear evidence in my blog for the fact that many of those committing rape may not be thinking they are doing anything 'wrong'. They may not even realise that what they are doing is illegal as they may not realise that an absent of dissent is not the same thing as consent.
"just as those who drink and drive do"
They do now but back in the 70's and 80's drink driving, whilst illegal, was not considered especially wrong, like to many Daily Mail readers today there is nothing particularly wrong with speeding. However in the late 80's, early 90’s there was a concerted campaign to make drink driving a taboo activity. It worked; we now have fewer drink drivers. The law did not change but the opinion of drivers’ peers did and that was what stopped people drink driving.
"It's a good idea to try to reduce it and to change attitudes"
Well, at least we agree on something!
"but I struggle to see how the government can be blamed for this"
Because they have the money and the power and if you look back at my post to see hoe how I explained cultural change works, you will note that communication is key. Effective communication takes skills and resources. There are obviously competing priorities for those resources and I guess, although I didn’t say it on my blog the need to educate people around the fact that the only person who is responsible for rape is the rapist and that if the victim is drunk that makes them partly culpable, isn’t far enough up the priority list.
This is after all a crime we are talking about, not needless interference in people's private lives. It is parliament that creates laws but government and its agencies (e.g. the Police, the Home Office) that implements them and upholds them.

Jo Christie-Smith said...
13 Aug 2008, 10:32:00


And I guess that is where I was going with my blog title: that this is a men's issue!

Take all the current activity on teenage knife crime. Now demographically not all, but a lot of the knife crime is being committed by young (very young) black men in London. we don't then turn around and ask the victims to be the only ones to worry about it. No, we say that we have to get the black community in London involved and in particular we need to work with young black men to try and stop them from committing these crimes and murders. It is an issue for all Londoners but it is also seen, rightly, to be an issue that young balck men have to help resolve. if you look at a lot of the work being done, it's about making sure that there are role models for these young men telling them that knife crime is wrong.

I guess I am asking in a challenging way, I admit, for men to be role models for those other men who committ rape by setting a cultural norm. you can't do that by being silent on the subject.

And that is why I always link to the White Ribbon Campaign on these posts as that is a really good example of how men, who would never dream of raping someone, can have an impact on those that do not realise it is not acceptable to penetrate another human being without consent.

Is it stupid? Well, I think the assumption that they have nothing to say is erroneous and those that have posted on it I have gone and thanked!

Jo Christie-Smith said...
13 Aug 2008, 10:43:00


Ah, I was looking at the blogosphere as a whole and along with Andrew's link to Tim Worstall I found another guy who had posted about it.

But, even if we did just limit ourselves to analysing gender balance in posting on the item, if just you and me posted on it, then a far higher proportion of women bloggers posted on it then male bloggers!!

Mark Valladares has posted on the topic of my post mow, but I'm not counting that!

On the topic of rape..yeah, I did think about rape being something that could be self-identified (specifically, I was thinking about what happened to that poor Egyptian blogger when in police custody) but then I went and looked up the legal definition of rape and it does require a fact, in the very brief time I spent looking at these things I noticed that the law in Scotland is even more gendered and rape can only be committed on a woman..which I think is wrong, wrong wrong.

And whilst I wouldn't want to suggest that serious sexual assault, which of course can be perpetrated by both men and women, can not be a terrible ordeal
I do think there is something fundamentally different about being violated by,how shall I put this? By another human being, which a woman just can't do.

That said, I didn't want to get to much into the details about what constitutes rape and so went back to the legal definition, which is what was being dealt with in the original news piece.

I also don't think when it comes to criminal proceeding you can self-identify the crime that has been committed against you. The law has to be objective and self identifying, by its very nature, is subjective.

Jo Christie-Smith said...
13 Aug 2008, 10:59:00


I'm going to take your comments in reverse order:

"This is a really ill-considered thoughtless piece of heart-on-sleeve populism".

'Look at me, I care more than you do...'

Well, I do think actions speak louder than words but I'd settle for a few more words on the subject from a few more men on the blogosphere and more action from the government.

Am I being populist? Oh, I wish!

"Whose behaviour are you trying to influence here, and how Jo?"

Anybody who reads my bog but if you want me to narrow it down, then I would say: men. This is because I believe that it is men and not women who have the means to influence the other men who think it's socially acceptable to have sex with someone without their positive consent. I would say rape (of a women & most rapes are of women)is a fundamentally misogynistic act and would therefore assume they might take peer pressure better from a man not a woman.

I many not be massively successful but it's better than not saying anything! That's not going to change anything!

"Alternatively what's wrong the traditional method of nice long sentences for rapists and publicity around their convictions though the national media".

Er,...because it doesn't work.

"Would you be running this national campaign highlighting that rape is an evil crime to the presumably 0.001% of British men that do not know this, before or after the campaigns against murder and genocide, presumably to avert the risk that someone inadvertently commits these crimes through ignorance and insufficient peer pressure?"

Raping someone because you think it's socially acceptable or because you think they were wearing a short skirt of drunk is not the same thing as inadvertently committing a crime.

As I pointed out in my post, a 2005 Amnesty International Poll had 30% of the population believing that a woman was wholly or partly culpable for her rape if she had been drinking. That infers that the rapist is partly or wholly not culpable for their actions. That is not 0.001% of British men.

There will always be competition for priorities, recognising that is not a reason not to bother.

And lastly, if you are so right and I am so wrong, why are you posting anonymously? Are you ashamed of your views?

Jo Christie-Smith said...
13 Aug 2008, 11:11:00

Hello Hywel,

Thanks for dropping by!

You did put a great comment on some of the issues surrounding rape and the conviction rates, but it was on a open thread on the David Davis by election and I guess unless you were particularly interested in that by-election (which I wasn't or at least I figured the result was a forgone conclusion) one would never have known!

But, your point is valid!

I think the position of transgendered people is dealt with in the law but from my very brief reading of it, it treatment is not without issues. I'm not sure I'd be convinced on the definitions if I were from the transgendered community.

Rape on a philosophical level? Hmmmm, I think I'd prefer to deal with it on the practical level for the time being. Especially as evidence is that overwhelmingly (once outside of the prison system) both rape and sexual assault are committed by men on women. And it is the reality that I am trying to deal with.

Victims may all deal with a crime differently, I realise that a man may find serious sexual assault by a women just as terrible as a woman may find being raped by a man but that is in the end a subjective matter for the individual and not an area for legal definition. And as I said to Alex, I do think there is a difference between rape and sexual assault; they are different crimes.

Re the ad campaign in 2003...I think the issue probably needs more resources. Multi channel followed up by teaching and workshops in schools, sports clubs and universities. Look at the White Ribbon Campaign to see the sort of things that they do. I think more funding for organisations like this could be the way forward.

Jo Christie-Smith said...
13 Aug 2008, 11:13:00

Ha! I meant to say that to Anon that I wish to influence anyone who reads my blog! not my bog!!!!????111

Anonymous said...
13 Aug 2008, 13:39:00

On your culpability point Jo, evidently the only sensible position is that the rapist is wholley culpable for the rape.

That though is a different question to whether the rape victim's behaviour puts them at risk. I suspect many polls on the matter confuse those two.

Very few people I think would agree anymore that wearing short skirts, flirting or being married are reasonable excuses for rape, even though those views were held in the recent past.

But they might entirely consistently believe that getting lagered on a Friday night, clambering into the back seat of an unlicenced mini-cab on your own etc. is risky behaviour to be discouraged for your own protection. Indeed that particular case was the subject of a recent publicity campaign led by the almost entirely male LTDA.

What is most striking about the case in the news recently is how much consensus they has been that the authority was foolish and wrong to discriminate based on circumstance, and even more foolish to contest it. That to me suggests attitudes in general in this country are in a good place and getting better.

Where you might have a point is in specific communities or areas, with high levels of rape, might benefit from a campaign. But as things stand you appear to be calling for an untargeted national campaign, which strikes me as rather pointless, expensive and unlikely to prevent many rapes.

A campaign targeted on young men particularly those from low-income communities, with low intelligence, based largely on date rape and rape within relationships would be likely to be most effective. Readers of blogs conversely are perhaps a group least likely to engage in rape, I'd be surprised if many of them have even met a woman, particularly the Tories.

Where you further may have a point though is that statistics on rapists are hard to come by, whereas there are plenty of statistics about rape victims. Clearly you can't have a campaign aimed at discouraging rapists without decent profiling.

Jo Christie-Smith said...
13 Aug 2008, 14:14:00

aNon @13:39

"That though is a different question to whether the rape victim's behaviour puts them at risk".

Do we make the 'at risk' distinction around someone who has been burgled because they live on the ground floor? After all, they chose to live on hte ground floor.

Getting into minicabs isn't a crime.

And anyway, when do you draw the line at risky behaviour? Should I not go out of dark after night?

No, this is the whole point of the Reclaim the Night marches and campaign. One of my favourite chants is:

'Whatever I wear, where ever I go,
yes means yes and no means no'.

Why should we make women accommodate the behaviour of rapists? It weakens the requirements for positive consent required.

However, I like your very valid point about all the data we have being on the victim and not the rapists.

We need to do more work on this and if we did then it might be more cost effective to target a campaign; I have to say I have no ideas whether bloggers as a group are more or less likely to commit rape. How would I know? But I don't think that I ever suggested that bloggers did, but those with the ability to fud and put together communication campaigns might read blogs....

Anonymous said...
13 Aug 2008, 17:20:00

"Do we make the 'at risk' distinction around someone who has been burgled because they live on the ground floor? "

In terms of the criminal law no and nor should we, in terms of insurance premiums yes.

That you're asking this question suggests to me you don't understand the point I was making, that people have different attitudes to what is fair in respect of the fair treatment by the law and fair in respect of managing your own risk due to the simple reality that whatever the law is there are still crimes and bad people out there determined to commit them.

"Getting into minicabs isn't a crime."

Of course it isn't. The point the Licensed taxi drivers were making were that your risk of rape was significantly higher if you use unlicenced minicabs. Just as your risk of mugging is higher if you walk down a dark alley in shouting loudly into your blingy mobile phone.

"Why should we make women accommodate the behaviour of rapists?"

No one is forcing women accomodate the behaviour of rapists, simply pointing out, as in every other walk of life, that there are things you can do that minimise your risk of being a victim of crime.

Warning women for example about the dangers of illegal minicabs is no different to warning residents to lock their front doors or not leave valuable items on display in their cars.

No one is going to force you to do it, and if you do take precuations it's no guarantee it won't happen, it just makes it less likely.

The flipside of the 'she was asking for it' ignorance of elderly judges is the somewhat utopian zero personal responsibility attitude you appear to be asking women to advocate in regard to their own safety.

There is a limit to what society and government can do to protect you if you take no responsibility for protecting yourself.

"I have to say I have no ideas whether bloggers as a group are more or less likely to commit rape. How would I know? "

Well you could, like I did look at the statistics that are out there on rape victims that show that

- 92% of rapes are committed by someone you know not a stranger and 66% are current or former intimates.
- Most of those assaults happen in your own home
- women earning under £10k are 3 times more likely to be raped than those earning over £20k
- women between 16-19 are the most vulnerable group being the victims of rape 4 times more than any other age group with 20-24 the next most vulnerable

Clear that doesn't tell you the exact profile of rapist, but it rather strongly implies the bulk of rapes like other crimes against the person are conducted by young men with low incomes against people they know, usually their current or ex-girlfriends.

Jennie said...
14 Aug 2008, 01:23:00

PC Bloggs is a girl, though...

Anonymous said...
28 Sep 2008, 20:37:00

it has been 4 years since i have even spoken. but i just have to tonight, maybe it is a build up. who knows. i was raped by 3 men in doha. it was probably my fault as i was drinking. but this is not a men or a womans issue. it is about the people involved. the people that did it, the people that had it done to them. it is simple. it should never be don, but has been. move on, not every thing in life is fair, keep taking steps.

i dont need feed back, but just to feed the chatter...take strength in being who you are regardless of the wind that blow against can alway walk against it.

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