14/10/16 Editors note: This piece was published in 2014 and refers to events surrounding that time. The accused was acquitted upon retrial

By Huma Munshi

1413289945_judy-finnigan-apologises-violent-rape-commentIn 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.

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6 thoughts on “The Myth of the Perfect Victim and the Acceptable Rape

  1. This article is annoying. Waking up with no recollection of the night before. In no pain. Carry on your life and notch it down to experience. The mental anguish came after the police and CPS pushed this. I would never have let them push this cases to ruin my daughter’s life like the whole sordid affair has this girls. You cannot equate this to having your hair pulled out, beaten, sustaining a prolonged violent attack where you suffer physically and then mentally every day after.

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  2. I would hardly say I seem awfully concerned; ‘he has served his sentence… after what crimes is it acceptable for the perpetrator to be reintegrated into society and what ones not?’ 5 words dedicated to him followed by a question concerning society as a whole. I reckon she will continue to cope as she has been doing for the last 5 years whilst he has been doing his time. This huge media furore has no doubt made her relive the horrendous experience. And to what aim? To deny a man who has shown contrition the right to move on with his life? To me, this campaign will have damaged both the criminal and the more importantly the survivor. Can I ask you, what should happen to Ched Evans? How should he be made to suffer more?

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    1. Shown contrition? For that to be the case he would have had to admit he did something wrong, which he has never done. He hasn’t served five years, he’s served 2, and as for what has happened to the victim… Had to change her identity, leave her home and been subjected to horrendous abuse. The victim will have to deal with this for the rest of her life while you seem to think this should be nothing but a speed bump in his. How would Mr Evans suffer by not playing professional football? Emotional trauma, loss of self worth, feelings of inadequacy? So what the victim has been going through since that night. Forgive me if I don’t shed any tears at the thought of the convicted rapist reaping what he’s sown.

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    2. Hi Stimpy, you have missed the point…she said that the rape didn’t cause bodily harm! Wrong Wrong WRONG on so many levels. Yet again the survivor is blamed. disgusted! 😦

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    3. That’s the point: he hasn’t shown any contrition. He denies it was rape. He is seeking to fight for his innocent. If he had a modicum of decency he would talk about consent and how he fucked up – he has not done any of that. How is his behaviour helping the survivor?

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  3. Yes I disagree with victim blaming and a rape is a rape is a rape. However, he has served his sentence… after what crimes is it acceptable for the perpetrator to be reintegrated into society and what ones not?

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