Wednesday, 1 December 2010

I just read this great article by Amelia Gentleman.

My own feelings about the impact of sexual assault are quite passionate, as I know at least three victims personally. When somebody gets mugged late at night, there's never any question of interrogating the victim- but when I spoke to victims of rape, they've tended to feel a pressure - that they might be judged.

One spoke about the episodes of post-traumatic stress that have affected her since the crime:

“I woke up about four hours outside London, next to train tracks,” she said. “I had no idea how I got there. I’d gone on this crazy rampage. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t know how to live, either. I’m now back on track, but I am disabled because these problems affect my ability to work – My life has been set back by at least three years.”

“At the moment it seems that unless somebody actually walks in when it’s happening, there’s not enough evidence in rape cases. But I have a new-found respect for the police. I met some really decent officers and I might even want to seek work with them in the future, which is something I never thought I’d say, to help other victims.”

The other girl had a bad experience with the police, feeling intimidated by them when she refused to make a formal statement:

She said: “"The kind of men that will rape you aren’t about to say ‘I’m going to rape you now’. Instead they say things like ‘I know you want to. You know you want to. You’re dressed like you want to. You move like you want to.’ They mess with your head. The main reason I didn’t report what happened was because of worrying about the impact on other people. And it’s hard to give an accurate police statement when you’ve blocked so much of it out. You know you’re going to be really grilled and you don’t want to talk about it. You just want to forget it."

The first concurred with this, having spoken to a lot of other victims:

“Generally, I find that when you report a rape, you’re treated as the guilty party. The Sapphire Unit, where I went, are different, adopting what you might call a doctor’s bedside manner, and they never wear uniforms. I found that having to talk about what happened –that brought on flashbacks – but I think it taught me to confront problems and avoid being a victim of life.”

Three years after the event, she is still grappling with post-traumatic stress and feels ‘really, incredibly angry’ because the Crown Prosecution Service rejected her case, on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to proceed.

“I would love to see this guy go to prison, but what really needs to change is the culture in which people feel it is OK to do this. Graffiti artists can go to prison for two years just for painting on walls, but a rapist can walk away after giving a life sentence to somebody else. It destroys that person. It affects everybody around them. It screws up their relationships."

I was haunted by this interview which increased my urge to campaign on the subject. But when getting into questions of 'culture' - again you're in a debate about the correct way to portray sex and different genders and quickly find yourself in a psychological bog, removed from the issue of our justice system.

Even so, I asked a friend if he thought violent porn was part of the problem.

"I really wouldn't know anything about porn," he said.

Google's opinion on this subject ranges from 'all men consume porn' to '8% of male internet users consume porn' with any number of hypotheses about the effects, good or bad… We don't know, basically, but judging from a tortured chorus on forums, people worry about it either way.

(by the way, I'm sure this isn't a *man problem*, because when we're talking about the corrosive judgement that victims worry about, that can be judgement from women just as much as from men. Moreover, men are abused, too, and that's rarely talked about).

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