Tag Archives: violence against women

Violence against women – the global crisis

A series of papers published in the Lancet have revealed shocking statistics surrounding rates of rape in the UK. 1 in 10 women in the recent study admitted to being forced into having sex against their will. 1.4% of men also admitted to being forced into having sex against their will.

While these figures are shockingly high, I thought it would be interesting to place them in a global context. The last two countries that I have lived in, the occupied Palestinian territories and Uganda, help to highlight the truly global nature of this crisis.

Just yesterday I was reading in the Ugandan Observer that:

“Six in ten Ugandan women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and 34 per cent of all Ugandan women have experienced physical violence in the past 12 months…

The 2006 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey shows that at least 24 per cent of women report that their first sexual encounter was against their will and at least 15 per cent of the women have experienced violence during pregnancy.”

To reiterate – 1 in 4 women’s first sexual encounter was against their will.

When I read out this quote to a Ugandan (who, by chance was female) she simply responded saying, “I can believe that to be true”.

In the occupied Palestine territories the situation was, if anything, even worse.

Sexual violence is a chronically understudied phenomena in the oPt, so statistics are few and far between. But, a few months ago I read this report on the Al-Monitor that reported:

“The Bureau of Statistics report indicated that Palestinian women face many forms of violence, with 76.4% of Gazan women being subjected to emotional violence, 34.8% to physical violence, 14.9% to sexual violence, 78.9% to social violence and 88.3% to economic violence.”

While I was in the West Bank gender based violence (let alone rape) was near to impossible to talk about. One Palestinian who I got to know quite well responded to me talking about the problem of violence against women in the UK by simply saying, “We don’t have these problems here”. I think he might have believed that as well!

Anyway, I choose these two countries for no reason other than my recent residency in them. Similar shocking statistics can be drawn from all over the world.

It’s a depressing context in which to look at these UK statistics but I feel it to be an important one.

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Good men need to speak out and say that good men also rape

Did you know that one in three people “believe that women who behave flirtatiously are at least partially responsible if they are raped”?

Shocking isn’t it?

One in three people think that when a man puts his penis inside a woman without her consent, she is at least partially responsible for this action.

How on earth did we get to a stage where so many men and women can think this?

These views, despicable as they are, didn’t just materialise though. People are not born with an inherent predisposition to blaming the victim for their own rape. These attitudes are crafted, moulded and evolved in the culture that you grow up in.

When, as is the case for majority of Brits, you are raised in what many refer to as a ‘rape culture’ it is hardly a surprise that some men develop a warped understanding of sex and gender.

UK’s ‘rape culture’

Laura Baites writing in the Independent describes the term ‘rape culture’ saying:

“[it is] a widespread trend towards articles, websites and events that sexualise, objectify and dehumanise female[s]… I am talking about entire websites where across hundreds of articles about women not a single female name appears; they are replaced with “wenches”, “hoes”, “clunge”, “skank”, “sloppy seconds”, “pussy”, “tramp”, “chick”, “bird”, “milf”, “slut” and “gash”…. It is an atmosphere in which victims are silenced and perpetrators encouraged to see crimes as merely ‘banter’ – just part of ‘being a lad’.”

Although this is a powerful description of what many perceive to be ‘rape culture’ it clearly does not go far enough.  Baites description focuses in on a juvenile concept of ‘banter’ that is predominantly found lurking in student unions and intoxicated pub crawls. It paints it as something that you and I – good upstanding citizens as we are – would not be part of.

This definition not only allows us to look down our noses at the issue but to also keep it arms length. It fails to understand that the UK’s rape culture has permeated our football stands as much as it has our theatres. It has permeated our local boozers as much as our cheese and wine parties.

The more you look, the more you begin to see just how far it has spread. The husband, normally after a couple of glasses of wine, talking over his wife at a dinner party, the school teacher who turns a blind eye because “boys will be boys”, or the dustman who laughs out loud when a female colleague joins him for her first day at work. They are all, in their own way, contributing to the UK’s rape culture.

Good men rape

Just as we – good upstanding citizens – go to extraordinary lengths to separate ourselves from the “lad” behavior that perpetuates this culture, so we don’t even consider that the actual act of rape can be part of our lives.

As one friend eloquently said to me recently, “you have to be a fucking cunt to rape someone.” He couldn’t see the irony.

Sadly, we know that the sentiment of his feeling, which is shared by most, is flagrantly not true.

Laurie Penny in a moving and powerful article writes about the night that she was raped saying:

“The man who raped me wasn’t a bad guy. He was in his early 30s, a well-liked and well-respected…fun-loving, chap who was friends with a number of strong women I admired. I was 19. I admired him too.”

Rape is something that has become so endemic across the UK, that statistically speaking it becomes axiomatic that ‘ordinary guys’ rape.  Not hooded thugs down back alleys, social misfits in park bushes or creepy men hanging around street corners – but, statistically speaking, someone you know and trust.

While it is easier to write rape off as something that only ‘evil men’ do, it moves us no closer to tackling the problem.

We have to speak out and say it loud and clear, that good men rape.

With equal clarity and determination though, we have to draw to people’s attention the men who are standing up against rape, sexual violence and the underlying ‘rape culture’ that perpetuates and excuses this behaviour.

The White Ribbon Project is just one of many platforms that are collecting and empowering men to take action.

This is not just a women’s issue

There are a lot of strong wonderful men who fight sexism in whatever its form it takes. Equally though, there are also good men who struggle with not being able to live up to their own feminist expectations.

The role of everyone, men and women alike, has to be to support these men in their efforts to tackle the rape culture that has grown into our society like weeds in a cracked pavement.

Those writing on and tackling a rape culture have to do more than just criticise boys/men. They have to inspire a new generation of men into questioning and challenging so much that they have grown up with.

It is no easy task but the endemic nature of this problem means we have to tackle it.

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