Until it has happened to you, you cannot possibly understand the real violation that rape is. In that moment, it stripes you of your power and your agency. Despite the fact that feminists and womanists have worked hard to push the message that no always means no, it seems that a percentage of British citizens still believe that depending upon the circumstances, that women are responsible for their own rape.
The results of an online survey entitled, “Wake Up To Rape”, recorded the responses of 1,061 people aged 18 to 50, comprising 712 women and 349 men. Though it is often suggested by womanists and feminists that we live in a rape culture, the stark revelations of the respondents leaves no doubt that much work still needs to be done.
Of the women who believed some victims should take responsibility, 71% thought a person should accept responsibility when getting into bed with someone, compared with 57% of men.
One-third blamed victims who had dressed provocatively or gone back to the attacker's house for a drink.
The survey also found more than one in 10 people were unsure whether they would report being raped to the police, and 2% said they would definitely not do so.
The main reasons were being too embarrassed or ashamed (55%), wanting to forget it had happened (41%) and not wanting to go to court (38%).
No matter how many times this has been said, a woman is never responsible for her own rape. These arguments absolve the rapists of responsibility and construct men as mindless machines, incapable of controlling their behaviour. Who decides when a skirt becomes to short or when a top shows to much cleavage? All this kind of argument does is set up a framework in which it can be understood that some women do not have the right to physical autonomy and are thereby unrapeable bodies.
We see this kind of thinking continually reproduced because we have a fixation with the idea that rape is only a terrible thing when it happens to supposedly innocent and pure virgins. This construction is a manner of social discipline that punishes women for existing in this world.
Do we blame people who are murdered for dying? Do we blame people who get taken in by confidence men for being scammed? The tendency to blame women for being raped is to force women to restrict our behaviour. The fear of rape is instilled in the mind of a girl at a very early age. Just interacting with the world is enough to cause women to constantly be aware of the potential threat. We learn to park our cars next to street lights, not travel at night unless it is in groups, always have someone aware of our whereabouts, and take defence classes. How many women will stiffen and quicken their pace if they become aware of a man walking behind them? How many places do we avoid simply because of the fear of rape?
Victim blaming punishes women for being women while absolving rapists. It creates fear in other women which leads to an even greater likelihood that they will not report an assault to the authorities. We are all endangered when rapists are allowed to go free and yet the potential danger is viewed as secondary to promote the discipline of women. Being born with a vagina should not make one a lifelong victim of fear and shame. No should mean no and until we can accept that, patriarchy will continue to exist with unregulated hegemony.