What if rape was responded to like terrorism, and terrorism was responded to like rape?
As someone who specialises in the psychology of victim blaming in sexual violence, I have found the responses and media coverage to terrorism quite perplexing. In this article, I am going to compare and contrast rape and terrorism – and then show what would happen if rape was responded to as terrorism and what would happen if terrorism was responded to like a rape.
When a woman is raped, she is highly likely to be blamed by everyone from her own family to the support services supposedly helping her. She is also very likely to blame herself – either because she has been told it was her fault, or because she has grown up in a patriarchy that has taught her that rape is a trivial issue that women bring upon themselves, lie about and overreact to.
She hears victim blaming messages like:
“You should have known that would happen”
“What did you expect was going to happen?”
“Why didn’t you just leave him?”
“Why did you leave your friends on a night out, that’s stupid.”
“But what were you wearing?”
“You have to take responsibility for walking home alone.”
“You shouldn’t get into a taxi alone next time.”
“You should always get a lift from a trusted friend.”
“Don’t get too drunk this festive season, you need to keep yourself safe.”
Trust me when I say that the list goes on and on and on and fucking on.
(I dealt with a case of a rape of a 16 year old girl once where she was head butted 10 times in the face and the defence barrister actually defended the rapist by trying to convince the jury that all of her injuries were self inflicted for attention – I have quite literally seen it all. Victim blaming is the name of the game.)
So, when a woman gets raped, everyone is very sure who the problem is. The problem is the woman. The woman must change. The woman must adapt. The woman must take responsibility. The woman must see what’s coming her way. The woman must defend herself better. The woman must make herself completely undesirable and unnoticeable so sex-crazed-men don’t accidentally rape her (#fuckoff).
The man who raped her is completely erased from his own crime. The woman becomes the perp and the victim – she brought this on herself. She is under scrutiny. Her sex life is investigated. Her background. Her ethnicity. Her class. Her life. Her experiences. Her job. Her education. She is on trial, make no mistake. She is on trial.
If anyone actually reports on the rapist, he gets a lovely write up about liking swimming and being a great guy – and the huge impact the rape allegation is having on him.
The police do not rush to arrest anyone. The government does not ‘find’ millions in defence money to protect women. Officials don’t hold emergency meetings about the amount of women being killed and raped every day.
But what about the terrorism narratives?
What happens when a guy goes into a tube station and plants a bomb? What happens when a guy detonates a bomb at a concert? What happens when a guy drives into a crowd of innocents? How is it spoken about and what is the media coverage like?
“We will not change our way of life!”
“We are not afraid of you!”
“You can’t control us!”
“They just want us to stop going out and stop having fun! We will not stop!”
“The world will keep going and we will not be deterred!”
“We cannot let this attack on innocent people change our way of life – we must act, dress, think and behave as normal!”
“I’m still coming in the tube every single day – I’m not scared. They can’t stop me!”
“I still go to gigs – I won’t change my behaviours because of their sick crimes.”
So, when a terrorist attack occurs, there is no victim blaming of the innocent victims. No one tells them to do something different or asks them why they were walking down that path when the car hit them. No one tells them to stop going to work on the tube incase it is bombed again. No one tells them all to take self defence classes and wear bomb proof clothing. No one tells them to stay home and hide. No one tells the victims that they wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place if they didn’t like Ariana Grande so much. Think about it.
The perp is absolutely vilified, in minutes of the crime happening (and don’t get me wrong, I see the intersection here with race and class) – but just look at the difference in motivation and reporting when a guy commits a terrorist attack or mass murder versus when a man rapes a number of women. He has every bad thing he ever did reported about him. The press raid his Facebook and talk to all of his family and friends to piece together how he could commit such a sick act as to harm innocent humans. The police swoop in fast as fuck and it’s ‘all systems go’.
People call for the death sentence and better prevention approaches. People have huge meetings about how to keep innocent people safe in cities and at events.
So what if a rape was reported like terrorism?
“Good Evening. This is the 6 o’clock news. First, this breaking story. This week thousands of innocent women were brutally raped and abused all over the UK. Women who were just going about their day, going to work, looking after their children, exercising and sleeping in their beds – all targeted and attacked. The PM Theresa May has given a statement today committing millions of pounds in resources to stop the abuse and murder of women at the hands of men and has convened an emergency meeting with top officials to understand what went wrong. She finished her speech by saying that women must be able to go about their daily lives without fear of violence and death. Women should not have to change the way they live to stay safe. The public and celebrities from all over the world shared their hurt and condolences on social media. The families are all receiving the very best support at this difficult time. We will be following this story all week, as more and more women are named as victims of rape and male violence – stay with us for live updates throughout the night.”
And what if terrorism was reported like a rape?
(You could argue here, there wouldn’t be a report. But for arguments sake, let’s pretend the media actually does report rape…)
“Good evening. This is the six o’clock news and tonight we have a number of headlines including the return of Garden Force, the latest from Donald Trump, a report on terrorism and we go live to the BAFTAs.
A new report on terrorism has shown that at least 3 people per week are being murdered by terrorists and thousands per year, possibly in the region of 700,000, are being attacked by terrorists. Experts have been commenting on the new report with many saying that terrorism is a lot better than it used to be and the stats are only going up because people feel more confident to report it to the police thanks to the brilliant work of police forces to raise awareness of terrorism. A new charity which specialises in terrorism prevention has given a list of terrorist-proofing strategies to vulnerable potential victims and research has been commissioned into exploring what vulnerabilities lead to people being attacked by terrorists. One expert explained that people can stay safe by rarely leaving their house, working from home, never using public transport, never going abroad, always wearing bullet proof vests and never going to large public events of any kind. Pro-terrorist groups have started a campaign called #notallterrorists to put pressure on the anti-terrorist groups to stop talking about terrorism.
And next up, Garden Force is set to return to our screens next year!”
I won’t stop until the rape and murder of women is responded to and reported like terrorism.
I won’t stop until victim blaming of women and girls is seen as ridiculous as blaming innocent victims of a terror attack.
Written by Jessica Eaton