14/10/16 Editors note: This piece was published in 2014 and refers to events surrounding that time. The accused was acquitted upon retrial
In one fail sweep Judy Finnigan has laid bare the prejudice and ignorance faced by rape survivors. Speaking on ITV’s Loose Women programme on the case of convicted rapist, Ched Evans, Judy noted that because there wasn’t violence during the rape and the woman was drunk at the time, it didn’t cause “bodily harm.” Therefore, the footballer having served his sentence should be allowed to return to play in his team, Sheffield United.
Let us unpick for a moment Judy’s conclusions based on her logic.
Without any physical sign of violence, a rape has not caused the victim “bodily harm.” Testimony from survivors and victims would lay bare the ignorance behind this statement. Not fighting back does not negate the violence inflicted or the long-term trauma of being violated. A woman might not physically fight back for a number of reasons: the perpetrator is physically much stronger; fear and terror may paralyse a woman; the victim may believe the perpetrator may be less violent if she does not struggle; or in the case of the 19 year old woman Ched Evans raped: his victim was passed out.
Moreover given that an overwhelming number of rapes are perpetrated by someone known to the victim, the stereotype of the “acceptable rape”, which is violent and perpetrated in a dark alley, is not the reality for many survivors.
A drunk victim does not experience “bodily harm”. This victim blaming myth must be smashed. Judy Finnigan is not the first one to minimise the criminal act of rape and the physical violation by suggesting that a drunken victim is a lesser victim. Last year, former Crimewatch presenter, Nick Ross faced a ‘storm of criticism on Twitter after he appeared to claim that rape victims were partly responsible if they were drunk or provocatively dressed, and domestic violence against women was exaggerated.’ Is a rape victim more deserving of sympathy if she doesn’t get drunk in a hotel room? She doesn’t go out late at night? She doesn’t wear that outfit that was short or revealing? Where does this list end?
This rhetoric plays into the notion that there is the perfect victim. It adds to the shame heaped upon them for being ‘negligent’ in safeguarding their bodies as if somehow they allowed themselves to be raped, or worse, invited the violence upon themselves. It is bullshit because there is no perfect victim. A woman is more likely to be raped in her home by her partner or a friend than by a stranger. Rape Crisis England and Wales note that “85% of survivors / victims know their attacker prior to the rape or assault and that often this violence is perpetrated by a partner or ex-partner.”
Why are these exacting standards not thrust upon men? Why are they not shamed for raping a woman and videoing that rape as if it were some badge of honour, like Ched Evans did? These double standards are a sign of barely concealed misogyny.
Ched Evans has been punished for his crime and must not continue to suffer. Unlike Ched Evans’ imprisonment for five years, we will not know how long the victim will have to bear the consequences of the rape. But we do know that for many rape survivors, there are long term emotional and psychological consequences.
Survivors of rape are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, feelings of severe anxiety and stress, depression, flashbacks including memories of rape as if it is taking place again, borderline personality disorder, sleep disorders, eating disorders, dissociative identity disorder, guilt, distrust of others, anger, feeling powerless knowing that the rapist robbed them of control over their bodies.
It is a damn shame that the views of Judy Finnigan and the like are given space in the mainstream media. However it does make clear that much more needs to be done to counteract the rhetoric which feeds into the misogyny women experience.
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Huma Munshi is a writer and poet. She is passionate about addressing inequality through her writing. She writes about feminism, tackling honour based violence, forced marriage, mental illness, culture and activism, She is a regular contributor for the F-Word, Open Democracy and Time to Change. You can follow her on twitter at @Huma101. She sees writing as a mechanism to overcome trauma and connect with others.