Rape is wrong, right?

by John Darvall

I have had busy couple of weeks, covering many different topics too on my BBC programme but one topic has struck a chord with my listeners more than any other.


On the phone in element of Thursdays programme we discussed the ‘this is not an excuse’ campaign launched in Bristol. The four different hard-hitting billboard posters throughout the city follows the success of the campaign in Scotland, based on a Rape Crisis message. It provoked the expected response but we also heard all sides of the issue. And we heard from victims too who we could not put to air, but I hope we helped. We took calls from victims of rape who have never reported the crime committed against them.

Rape is wrong. The posters are hard-hitting and if you have yet to see them I would urge you to take a look at thisisnotanexcuse.org.uk. Please take a long, hard, thought-provoking look. Then consider the message.

It is quite simple. There is no excuse for rape. None. It is a crime, it is about power, subjugation, it has no place in any society and the only person to blame is the perpetrator. Simple. But no, it’s not simple. If only it was really that simple. To make it that simple is wrong.

There should be NO doubt that ANY victim of rape, be they a woman or man (40 men got raped in the West in the last year as well as 420 women) be guilty. But is the perpetrator of this crime wholly and totally guilty for his or her actions? Yes, women can rape too. Is every rapist just guilty and it is for them alone to stand and fall by their horrendous crime and accept that they alone are the singular instigator and mastermind? Or are we all, in some way, guilty for an over sexualized society where sex sells everything, breasts and bums are on show in daily newspapers and porn is a couple of clicks away on any PC or tablet? Is it really acceptable to dress in a way that celebrates being attractive as nothing more than ‘get it here’ sex? To answer that last question is to go out in any of our towns or cities in the West on a Saturday night and reach your own conclusion.

Rape is about power and it is not about sex. But sex is the route to this power. You should be able to wear what you want, where you want without fear of attack or worse. And ‘no’ should mean ‘no’. Rape is not a feminist issue, a police matter or a poster campaign. It is about all of us and the blackest part of our today.

Most rapes are silent, not violent and between those who know each other. Only 15% of all rapes are ever reported. This has to be about more than just the shame and the intimacy of being the victim of the most violating of crimes. It must be about how we judge sex, all sex has become and what it means from our daily newspapers, TV, social media through to easily accessible porn. The message is that if you have sex, you must have wanted it, because we all do. That is the how the sexual message is sold. And the not reporting of the crime of rape is the consequence because the victim thinks it is their fault. It isn’t.

Rape is unacceptable. Any victim should feel that she or he can report the crime, be treated fairly and respectfully through the due process of criminal law and that the outcome reflects the nature of the crime. The only bit of this we have got right so far is that rape is unacceptable. The rest is slow work in progress.

This says more about our society today than many other things.