Steubenville rape Anonymous protest

Steubenville - Two Cents From Across the Pond

Examining the cultural attitudes that led to the cover-up of rapists Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond.

Rape case in Scotland

A Rape Case in Scotland

Diary detailing a rape case - from the first interaction with the police to trial.

rape survivor Sarah Scott

Meeting Kenny MacAskill

Introducing Scotland's new rape task force and the first meeting of the Rape and Sexual Crime External Advisory Group.

Violent Pornography and Sexual Violence

In July, at the High Court in Glasgow, 33-year old Przemyslaw Rogowski was jailed for 12-years for repeatedly assaulting and raping two of his previous partners over an eight-year period. During the trial, it was revealed that he had re-enacted scenes from violent "rape pornography" he had downloaded. His internet searches included: rape, rape torture and rape videos. 

The advent of the internet has revolutionised the way we access and transmit information. This has been used for tremendous amounts of good. For example, charity fundraising and awareness, free access to educational tools and allowing journalists and citizens to report and communicate during civil unrest (e.g. the Arab Spring). Information is easily accessible and essentially anonymous. Anyone can share anything they wish and anyone can find anything their heart desires at the mere click of a button. The internet can also be used for the bad, the frivolous and the lurid: one of the most shared and accessed resources on the internet is pornography.

"Rape porn"
Research by the Internet Filter Review has shown that around one-quarter of search engine requests are of a pornographic nature. There are over 420 million pages of pornography on the world wide web. Pornography is out there and it's in high demand. 

With the availability of pornography comes desensitisation. In the context of pornography, desensitisation occurs after repeated exposure to sexual stimuli. The brain then normalises the imagery and it no longer delivers the intended result: arousal -- emotionally and physically. As arousal is decreased the consumer seeks more extreme imagery to sate his desire. Like a drug addict seeking harder drugs as the high isn't the same -- or intense -- anymore.

The internet and pornography providers are happy to oblige. There is a cesspool of strange and disturbing pornography out there: incest, rape, child, animal, violent. You name it, it's online. And there is an audience. 

Violent pornography, specifically rape pornography, generally depicts men in a display of power and control over women. It can be real or simulated.

It's important to note that when I say "rape pornography" I don't make a distinction between "physically violent" rape and rape in general. Rape in itself is a violent act; with or without the actual or implied threat of physical violence.

Fantasy or reality?
Proponents of rape pornography argue that it's "just fantasy". They defend it citing a lack of research linking watching rape porn and committing actual rape. They defend their rights to watch women being violated. They argue it's not real. But that's not true -- it is real and it is having an impact on women's lives.

It's naive -- and dangerous -- to believe that linking sexually violent, misogynistic and aggressive imagery to sexual arousal doesn't harm women.

If we erase history perhaps it is nothing more than fantasy, but we can't do that. Against a cultural backdrop of patriarchy (where women are abused, beaten, raped, denied rights and equality, objectified, silenced and earn less) it is more than fantasy -- it is reality. It is a reality for 1 in 5 women who will be raped in their lives. It is a reality for the two women a week who are murdered by current or ex partners. It is reality for the 1 in 7 women who will be raped by their husbands. It is a reality for the 1 in 20 children who have experienced sexual abuse. It is a reality for the women and children who fall prey to sexually motivated murderers. It is reality and it's happening every day.

I am not declaring that viewing rape pornography will necessarily make men rape, but its mere presence contributes to a culture in which violence against women is acceptable; a culture in which women are denigrated, objectified and discriminated against. It normalises violence against women. 

Rape porn normalises rape in the eyes of rapists; it validates rape. It provides rapists with an archetype. One-third of rapists used rape porn as part of their deliberate pre-offence preparations. Findings show that there is a correlation between viewing extreme pornography and a self-reported likelihood to commit rape. 

In 1986, before the arrival of widely-available internet access, the US Attorney General published the Meese Report (the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography). Section 5.2.1, which examined sexually violent material, stated:
…[C]linical and experimental research … [has] focused particularly on sexually violent material, [and] the conclusions have been virtually unanimous. In both clinical and experimental settings, exposure to sexually violent materials h as indicated an increase in the likelihood of aggression. More specifically, the research, … shows a causal relationship between exposure to material of this type and aggressive behaviour towards women.

…The assumption that increased aggressive behaviour towards women is causally related, for an aggregate population, to increased sexual violence is significantly supported by the clinical evidence, as well as by much of the less scientific evidence. This is not to say that all people with heightened levels of aggression will commit acts of sexual violence. But it is to say that over a sufficiently large number of cases we are confident in asserting that an increase in aggressive behaviour directed at women will cause an increase in the level of sexual violence directed at women.

Since the clinical and experimental evidence supports the conclusion that there is a causal relationship between exposure to sexually violent materials and an increase in aggressive behaviour directed towards women, and since we believe that an increase in aggressive behaviour towards women will in a population increase the incidence of sexual violence in that population, we have reached the conclusion unanimously and confidently, that the available evidence strongly supports the hypothesis that substantial exposure to sexually violent materials as described here bears a causal relationship to antisocial acts of sexual violence and, for some subgroups, possibly to unlawful acts of sexual violence.

Perhaps the most pivotal reason that rape porn is dangerous isn't whether is causes rape, but whether it depicts rape. Pornography is no longer confined to the big time porno studios; it is made and uploaded anonymously. It is almost impossible to determine whether rape pornography is simulated or real, whether the woman was consenting or not, whether or not it was an actual rape. 

Evidence also suggests that exposure to rape pornography decreases empathy to survivors of rape and sexual assault. Rape pornography has been demonstrated, time and time again, to increase the acceptance of rape myths -- that women enjoy (and desire) being sexually violated, assaulted and coerced. 

Real life cases
In May of this year, Mark Bridger was convicted of abducting and murdering five-year old April Jones. It was revealed his computer contained images of dead children and simulated child pornography which depicted a girl gagged and raped. When he was arrested he was watching a rape scene from the remake of the movie The Last House on the Left. He had recorded the scene on a loop. 

Tia Rigg raped and murdered by uncle John Maden
In May of 2011, John Maden was convicted of raping and murdering his 12-year old niece, Tia Rigg. Maden had an "obsessive interest" in rape, child and torture pornography and literature. He re-enacted scenes from violent pornography on Tia. 

In June of 2007, Graham Coutts was convicted of the strangulation murder of 31-year old school teacher Jane Longhurst. Court testimony revealed he had an obsession with violent pornography -- especially that which depicted strangulation, rape and necrophilia. On the day before he murdered Jane he viewed a collection of pornographic images which depicted asphyxiation. In response to her death Jane's mother, Liz Longhurst, has campaigned tirelessly to have sites which depict violent pornography shut down.

In October of 2011, Vincent Tabak was convicted of the strangulation murder of 25-year old architect Joanna Yeates. A search of his computer determined that on the day he murdered Joanna, and the in the weeks after, he had accessed violent pornography depicting rape and specifically strangulation.

As of March 2011, the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 criminalised the possession of extreme pornographic material, which is defines as "obscene and pornographic images which explicitly and realistically depict":
  • an act which takes or threatens a person's life
  • an act which results or is likely to result in a person's severe injury
  • rape or other non-consensual penetrative sexual activity
  • sexual activity involving (directly or indirectly) a human corpse
  • an act which involves sexual activity between a person and an animal (or the carcass of an animal)
The maximum penalty is three-years imprisonment.

Until last month, pornography depicting rape was legal to own in England & Wales. David Cameron, following a petition, declared he was going to close the loophole and make rape pornography illegal.

My opinion
I am of the -- perhaps unpopular -- opinion that all pornography is wrong, objectifying, sexist and damaging. I absolutely support the criminalisation of all pornography that depicts sexually violent imagery. I find myself wondering who would want, or could, get aroused by watching rape -- whether it is real or depicted. I can't comprehend the argument that a "normal" person who respects women can get off to images of women being brutalised. Call me narrow minded, but that just doesn't make sense to me. I don't buy the anti-censorship argument either. It is not about censoring people, it's about protecting people. It's about protecting women from male sexual violence.

Obviously making it illegal throughout the rest of the UK won't eradicate it. I know this, but it is a step in the right direction. It's sending a clear message that eroticising rape is unacceptable in society. It's one step in the fight to eradicate violence against women. 

Further reading/references:
Malamuth, N. M. (1985) 'The Effects of Aggressive Pornography on Beliefs in Rape Myths: Individual Differences' Journal of Research in Personality

Children, Schools and Preventing Sexual Violence

Recently the government has focused on funding prevention programmes when it comes to tackling sexual violence. Part of this bothers me because it's almost like saying that it's 'too late' for women who have already fallen prey to sexual violence at the hands of men. It's brushing them off as damaged -- it's brushing me off as damaged.

Funding for support and counselling services for survivors is imperative. Without adequate support survivors face greater risks of substance abuse and other addictions, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, suicidal ideation, suicide, self-harm and a whole host of other mental health issues. It creates a downward spiral of despair from which there is no escape. The after-effects of sexual violence are vast and devastating. I understand that the country is in financial dire straits and it needs to save money, but by not supporting survivors it is preventing them from being self-sufficient, productive members of society. With the correct help many survivors with mental health problems could heal and return to work, for example.

Sexual violence costs our economy a lot of money: it's estimated that one rape costs the British government £76,000 and violence against women as a whole costs a massive £40bn a year. That money isn't just spent on investigating and prosecuting, it's also spent on support for the survivor -- be that from the NHS or a charitable counselling organisation.

Although I believe that government backing for support services is vital, prevention is also extremely important. There is some controversy over how effective prevention methods can be. Too often prevention campaigns target potential victims -- don't walk alone, get a taxi, don't get a taxi, watch your drink, don't wear anything that shows anything beyond your ankles. This kind of awareness is redundant, insulting, dated and quite frankly absolutely pointless. Sobriety doesn't prevent rape, covering every inch of your skin in clothing doesn't prevent rape and blaming women doesn't prevent rape. The only common denominator in every single case of sexual violence is the presence of a perpetrator.  

It might seem futile to ask a rapist not to rape and perhaps it is in some cases. There are campaigns that target rapists and they do work but we really need to reach predators before they become predisposed to sexual violence -- before they get a taste for it. We need to talk to our sons, brothers, nephews and grandsons. We need to address young boys.

Before we can speak to young men we need to understand why we live in a culture that normalises rape -- a culture that promotes violence against women. We need to take a step back from sexual abuse and view the bigger picture -- misogyny and patriarchy. Patriarchy is an ancient social construct that is to blame for the inequality women face in society today and it is to blame for rape. 

Patriarchal social structures were defined by Allan G Johnson in The Gender Knot as:
  • Male dominated -- which doesn't mean that all men are powerful or all women are powerless--only that the most powerful roles in most sectors of society are held predominantly by men, and the least powerful roles are held predominantly by women
  • Organised around an obsession with control, with men elevated in the social structure because of their presumed ability to exert control (whether rationally or through violence or the threat of violence) and women devalued for their supposed lack of control--women are assumed to need men's supervision, protection, or control
  • Male identified:  aspects of society and personal attributes that are highly valued are associated with men, while devalued attributes and social activities are associated with women.  There is a sense of threat to the social structure of patriarchies when these gendered associations are destabilised--and the response in patriarchy is to increase the level of control, often by exerting control over women (as well as groups who are devalued by virtue of race, ethnicity, sexuality, or class). 
  • Male centred:  It is taken for granted that the centre of attention is the natural place for men and boys, and that women should occupy the margins.  Public attention is focused on men.  (To test this, take a look at any daily newspaper; what do you find on the front page about men? What about women?)
From birth children are exposed to misogyny and assigned patriarchal roles based on their sex: through the casual sexism of their elders, mother vs father -- dad is the breadwinner and mother is the homemaker, the everyday accepted sexual objectification of women, the lack of female role models in children's literature and entertainment -- e.g. the 'damsel in distress' trope, domestic abuse, toys that portray women as weak and men as strong -- Action Man vs Barbie, female is negative and an insult -- e.g. 'you throw like a girl'. The list is endless.

It only gets worse as children mature and reach puberty and sexual maturation. In today's world pornography is highly accessible to young children. Exposure to even 'soft' pornography is confusing and damaging at such an impressionable age. Natasha Walter, a feminist author, cites a Canadian study in her book Living Dolls which showed that 90% of boys aged 13 and 14 had viewed internet pornography.  Viewing pornography can be harmful for mature individuals but it is particularly detrimental to children and teenagers. It portrays a warped view of what sex is and it places women and men in assigned, patriarchal roles that show men in control and women as mere sexual objects. She laments:
For an increasing number of young people, pornography is no longer something that goes alongside sex but something that precedes sex. Before they have touched another person sexually or entered into any kind of sexual relationship, many children have seen hundreds of adult strangers having sex.

The massive colonisation of teenagers’ erotic life by commercial pornographic materials is something that it is hard to feel sanguine about. By expanding so much in a world that is still so unequal, pornography has often reinforced and reflected the inequalities around us.

This means that men are still encouraged, through most pornographic materials, to see women as objects, and women are still encouraged much of the time to concentrate on their sexual allure rather than their imagination or pleasure. No wonder we have seen the rise of the idea that erotic experience will necessarily involve, for women, a performance in which they will be judged visually.

A 2011 BBC survey, conducted by TNS, of 18-24 year-old men showed that one-fifth of men worried that pornography was influencing their behaviour. Two-thirds of respondents to a White Ribbon Scotland survey of 16-24 year-olds believe that sexual images can create harmful attitudes towards women.

It then gets even more confusing and dangerous when we figure in that children are exposed to 'torture pornography' and 'rape pornography' -- providing their malleable minds a blueprint for how to rape.

We are alarmed but not shocked when we learn of young boys subjecting girls to sexual violence. We accept it, begrudgingly, and placate ourselves with the soothing, familiar utterance, "my son would never do that". But every rapist is someone's son, every survivor and victim is someone's daughter.

In 1920 in Wales, 14-year old Harold Jones murdered and sexually assaulted two young girls, the youngest just eight-years old. He was said to be disinterested by the romantic advances of willing girls and was only excited by absolute control.  

More recently in 2012, America was horrified by the story of 13-year old Noah Crooks. He murdered his mother, Gretchen Crooks, after his attempt to rape her failed.  He claimed he was motivated by his mother taking away his Call of Duty video game. 

These stories, however horrifying, are not rare

Another common -- and equally disturbing -- occurrence is teenage gang rape. With the notoriety of Steubenville, the Reetah Parsons case and the Audrie Pott case, society is finally accepting that is has a serious problem. But it is not a recent phenomenon and it is not only hiding behind the white picket fences of suburbia. Teenage gang rape is often the bullet used to seek revenge on rival gang members -- female relatives and girlfriends of rivals are often targeted. Female gang members who have 'stepped out of line' are also subjected to brutal gang rapes as punishment and to keep them silent. 

Schools are sadly breeding grounds for sexual violence and misogyny. In the United Kingdom one-third of girls have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school. The World Health Organisation has said that globally schools serve as the most common setting for sexual harassment and coercion.

In North Wales in August 2013 it was reported that a 14-year old boy sexually assaulted his teacher. He barricaded her in a room and subjected her to a sexual assault while laughing. The boy has two previous convictions for sexual assaults and was on bail for a third when the attack took place. He has been sentenced to three years in a juvenile detention centre.

It's not just a predisposition to sexual violence that is ingrained at an early age: attitudes to sexual violence and prejudices against victims are also established. According to the End Violence Against Women Coalition, half of boys believe that it is acceptable to sometimes hit a woman or force her to have sex. A recent survey conducted by White Ribbon Scotland showed that a quarter of people believe that a survivor is partly to blame if she was drunk or dressed 'provocatively' -- echoing earlier findings from the Scottish Government, The Havens and Amnesty International. The study also showed that one-third think that it is the responsibility of a domestic abuse victim to walk away. One-sixth believe that a rapist is a man who can't control his sexual urges. Callum Hendry, co-ordinator of White Ribbon Scotland, stated that this idea is absolving men of responsibility and placing blame on survivors for 'tempting' rapists. Rape is not a loss of control and power -- it is the act of taking control and abusing power.  Similarly, four-fifths of people believed that alcohol and drugs caused men to be abusive towards their partners, a belief further exonerating the perpetrator of blame.

Misogyny is the cornerstone of patriarchy. By ingraining a deep, internal -- even subconscious -- hatred of women in boys, men as a class can continue stand at the top of the hierarchy; giving them the control to subordinate women and deny them their fundamental human rights. In order to prevent sexual violence we need to intervene at an early stage. So what is the solution? There is no clear definitive answer but there are steps we can take -- at home, in schools and at a societal level:

Society and home
Society and parents need to challenge how they view men and women's roles - at home, the workplace and in everyday life. Parents need to address the idea of what traditionally defines masculinity and femininity as wrong and harmful. Children need to be exposed to a wide range of positive male and female role models who do not conform to patriarchal sex roles. Parents need to monitor the language they use that may enforce negative sex-based stereotypes in children's young, impressionable minds -- children are not born sexist; it is learned behaviour.

Children's access to outside, negative stimuli like pornographic and sexually degrading and objectifying imagery needs to be eliminated. It's impossible to police the internet but it is possible for parents to decide what their children are and are not exposed to.  Parents need to limit their children's access to sexist and objectifying material but society as a whole needs to work to eradicate it entirely; not just brush it under the carpet.  The presence of demeaning material like Page Three in The Sun newspaper normalises sexual objectification and in turn embeds sexist views. It's not a case of censorship -- it's a case of society viewing women as equal human beings whose value is not determined by the size of their breasts. The National Union of Teachers states that not only does Page Three have a negative impact on the self-esteem of young girls, it has a detrimental effect on young boys and their views of women.

Parents need to dispel the fear of discussing sex with their children. Parents need to discuss rape with
their children and teach them that consent is their human right.  Parents need to eliminate the culture of silence around sexual violence and teach their sons not to rape or stand idly by in the face of sexual inequality. 

Sex education needs to be revitalised and it needs to start earlier. Currently, sex education tends to focus on pregnancy, puberty and sexually transmitted diseases -- it doesn't sufficiently teach children about enthusiastic consent, healthy sexual relationships and respecting the bodily autonomy of others.

There is insufficient information (and plenty of misinformation) provided to young people about what rape actually is.  Young people are incessantly lectured about 'stranger danger', which is important, but disproportionate when most rapes and sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the survivor -- a father, brother, friend, partner. Rape is portrayed as a physically violent act which occurs between two strangers in a dark alley way when that is simply not what it is. Only 13% of rapes in Scotland are classified as stranger rapes, most people are raped in their own home and in 90% of cases no weapon is used or implied. Children need to be taught that rape is simply sex without consent and it is a crime; there should be no ambiguity. There is too much focus on what young women and girls can do to prevent becoming victims and not enough focus on teaching boys not to become rapists; which in turn infuses victim-blaming attitudes. Enthusiastic consent needs to be taught in schools - we need to teach young people to look for a yes (including non-verbal cues and body language), not simply the presence of a no.  We need schools to teach young people what the repercussions of rape are for the survivor and the perpetrator -- including custodial punishments, post-traumatic stress disorder and what life as a convicted sex offender entails.

The culture of impunity in regards to sexual bullying, sexual harassment and casual sexism must be eradicated. Schools need to take reports of unwanted sexual attention seriously -- perpetrators need to be punished. Teachers need to be taught how to deal with and detect sexism and sexual bullying in classrooms and beyond. To prevent it from occurring in the first instance sexual equality needs to become part of the school's ethos -- sex-based stereotypes and their impact need to be discussed with children. Schools need to make children want to care about sexual inequality -- young people need to be impelled to want to fight sexism, sexual abuse and sexual bullying. Schools need to be a safe space for everyone - children, adults, girls and boys.

Some of these suggestions are already implemented in some schools but there is no uniformity -- rape awareness and sexual equality need to be taught at an early stage in a consistent manner if we are ever to eliminate violence against women. 

On a positive note, Rape Crisis Scotland has recently secured funding from The Big Lottery to recruit eight workers throughout the country to develop 'local strategic approaches to sexual violence prevention, and to deliver interventions to young people around healthy sexual relationships '.

What do you think we should do to prevent sexual violence?

Further reading:

Scotland's Rape Task Force and Meeting Kenny MacAskill

Sarah Scott and Justice Minister Kenny MacAskillIn June I was invited to talk to Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill in Aberdeen about rape, its impact and what more can be done to fight sexual violence in Scotland.

Mr MacAskill was in Aberdeen to attend a meeting of the Rape and Sexual Crime External Advisory Group. The meeting came on the head of Scotland introducing one single police force - Police Scotland.

Police Scotland has created a new national, specialist Rape Task Force. It is led by DCS Gill Imery and has bases in Glasgow and Aberdeen. The task force forms part of the country's Specialist Crime Division and consists of a review team and an investigative team. Through increased communication from all agencies and increased, specialist expertise it hopes to detect, punish and prevent sexual violence in Scotland. Police Scotland also hope that this will also lead to more consistent, high standards so that all survivors of this heinous crime will be given the same level of care.

I met with Mr MacAskill, the media and some police officers from the task force at RASANE (Aberdeen's rape and abuse counselling and advocacy service). I was apprehensive because it's always daunting meeting people in senior positions. I'm always wondering what I can really tell them. What do I know? I'm just one person. The other reason I was feeling rather unsure was because I thought that this might just be a PR exercise for Mr MacAskill. Those fears quickly vanished. He appeared to really, really care about what I had to say. I explained why funding for RASANE and other services is so vital following his decision last year to cut funding to counselling services to focus on prevention. We also discussed the importance of aftercare when a survivor makes the decision to report rape. I put forward that I believe survivors should be given a dedicated advocate or counsellor whose only interests are those of the survivor - who can explain what's going, comfort her and generally just be there because the time between reporting, finding out if the Procurator Fiscal will prosecute and trial is lonely and terrifying for even the most hardened person. Overall I tried to stress just how important it was for all agencies to work together - cohesively.

I also addressed, referencing my own case, what the defence are allowed to ask in court. My attacker's advocate brought up my mental health history from years previous. It had no bearing on what happened to me in the early hours of December 16th 2010 yet he was allowed to badger me on this. He was allowed to ask if I had self harmed before and I had to answer his questions. The judge didn't intervene. No one did. Although the Sexual Offences Act (2009) Scotland addressed what the defence can ask a survivor at trial it didn't address this. My mental health records were only brought up to tarnish me in the eyes of the jury because his advocate knew that the public is prejudiced against mental health problems. This didn't just happen to me - this is happening to many women whose cases make it as far as court. Survivors' histories of postpartum depression, anxiety, self-harm and bipolar disorder are being used to discredit them in the eyes of the jury.  Mr MacAskill appeared genuinely concerned so I hope that he listened and makes changes to address this loophole.

Overall I was pleased with how the meeting went. He listened and addressed my concerns. Whether this translates into real change is yet to be seen but it's encouraging that he is listening to our voices.

Daily Record - Brave victim Sarah helps to make Police Scotland's sex crime policy more female friendly

Evening Express - Survivor tells of brutal attack

Police Scotland - National rape advisory group meets in Aberdeen

Steubenville - Two Cents From Across the Pond

The cover-up, trial and subsequent conviction of Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond for raping and humiliating a young, drunk girl in the USA has been reported widely. Everyone has an opinion and I do too. I'd like to add my two cents.

I'm not shocked like most of the world.

What happened in Steubenville is not a unique event. It was not an anomaly. The attitudes of the young men involved in this case are not rare. The attitudes of the adults involved in this situation are, sadly,  not rare.

Steubenville is happening every day. All over the world. 

Young, drunk women are being assaulted and it's seen as a some kind of joke - it's not real rape. These women are held responsible for what happened to them. They are blamed - not only by their attackers and peers (studies show that around a quarter of people in Scotland believe that a woman is responsible for her assault if she was drunk or wearing a short skirt) but by systems (law enforcement, schools) that are meant to protect them. 

Let's start at the beginning though: Sex without consent is rape. It's as simple as that. The law is very clear on that matter. The changes made to the Sex Offences Act (2009) in Scotland specifically outline that if one's ability to consent is impaired - including through alcohol - then it is rape. 

For some reason some people find that hard to understand - the law doesn't say a drunken, consenting, albeit regretted, one-night stand is rape. It says sex with someone who is incapacitated through alcohol is rape. It surely isn't that hard to tell the difference? If she is lying in a pile of vomit, unable to stand up, unconscious, asleep etc... then do not have sex with her. If she doesn't or cannot consent then do not have sex with her. Simple? I think so.

We need to look further though - why do young men think that this kind of behaviour is acceptable? Why are they proud to rape young women? Why do give the camera a thumbs up as they pose for pictures while raping an vomiting, intoxicated girl? Henry Rollins wrote a blog entry specifically about the Steubenville case which I found interesting, he poses important questions.

What made these young people think that that what they did was ok? What was in their upbringing, the information and morals instilled in them that allowed them to do what they did, minute after minute, laughing, joking, documenting it and then calling it a night and going home? Out of all the people who were witness to what happened, why wasn't there someone putting a stop to it?

The answer? Two words: rape culture.

We live in a culture that accepts misogyny and rape; a culture that promotes it, encourages it and rewards it.

That's basically it. That's why this happened.

Of course self-aware individuals acknowledging that fact isn't enough to stop this from happening.

We each need to question ourselves, our thoughts, our preconceptions and prejudices.

We need to teach young men, from an early age, to respect a woman's bodily autonomy.

We need to teach young men about enthusiastic consent.

We need to teach young men that rape and sexual assault is a crime, no matter how you frame it.

We need to challenge misogynistic behaviour.

We need to challenge rape culture.

We need to raise our children to stand up to rape and misogyny, not sit by idly.

We need to let people know that rape is rape. That there is no middle ground. Rape, all rape, is an act of violence and power. All rape, no matter who the fuck the survivor is, is a crime. Rape is real.

We need to educate people about the statistics. We need to let people know that false accusations of rape are incredibly rare and they are no more abundant than false reports of any other crime. We need to let people know that one in four women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime.

We need to teach people about the trauma - physically and mentally - that rape causes.

We need to teach people that there is not one reaction to being raped.

We need to stop teaching our daughters how not to get raped and start teaching our sons not to rape.

We need schools to address these issues.

We need to teach our children empathy and basic human decency.

We need to teach our children about how to support a survivor of sexual violence.

We need to hold rapists accountable for their actions.

We need to hold those who let rape happen accountable.

We need to stop thinking that talent mitigates rape.

We need to challenge our society that sees women as sex objects.

We need to actually talk to our children. We need to stop being scared of talking to our children about sex and rape because it's a little bit embarrassing - we need to address these issues. We need to stop assuming that they will be addressed in the class room because they are not. We need to stop rape.

Until we do this, and do it properly, women will continue to be raped. Steubenville will happen again, again, again and again.

We should not forget about this case just because two of the boys were convicted. We all need to channel that outrage and shock into changing the world so that it doesn't happen again, but when it does, the perpetrators are held to account and the survivors are supported.

Let's stop this from happening. Let's raise our children to support, not berate, those brave enough to report sexual assault. Let's not let men and boys get away with it. Let's not let any more young women suffer. Let's not let any more young women take their lives due to rape, the community's reaction and the authorities inability to do anything about it.

ETA: Although I say children above because I'm talking about Steubenville,  we need to educate our family, our friends, our colleagues, our peers - everyone. Rape obviously isn't only accepted, perpetrated and condoned by teenagers - if we go back to Steubenville you'll know that many of the adults in the case failed the survivor completely. We all need to stand up to rape. 

Frances Andrade's Suicide and the Re-victimisation of Rape Survivors in the Witness Box

 I can't stop reading about Frances Andrade's suicide.

It's so sad but I can entirely understand why she chose to end her life.

I try not to talk or think about this part of my life, but I remember vividly even now -- almost two years later -- how fucking horrible it was giving evidence against my attacker. For hours and hours I had to stand in a room full of strangers, alone, as a man who did not know me was allowed to tear my character to shreds, tell the court my private business, call me a liar over and over again and there was nothing I nor anyone else could do to end it. Add to that the trauma of being just feet away from the man who only five months earlier had assaulted me, beat me, raped me. I can still remember his ugly, smarmy face as I told the court how he tore me open and left me bleeding on the floor. But I couldn't just walk away when this man accused me of heinous things -- of lying, of liking it, of asking for this -- I wasn't allowed to. No-one stood up in that crowded court room and said 'stop'. I lost my temper when he questioned me on something private from when I was a young teenager and the judge called a recess. I remember asking his QC how he could do this to people, but he didn't answer me. I wasn't going to come back. I told them I refused to come back, but I was told there would be a warrant for my arrest if I didn't. That day was one of the worst days of my life. I felt like I was being raped again -- this time with an audience.

Something needs to change. It has to. The way things are just now isn't right, it isn't fair. Survivors of rape and sexual assault are treated like criminals in the witness box. Defence lawyers are allowed to dig up and lambast your most personal details that are irrelevant to the fact you were a victim of this fucking horrible crime. The system is traumatising and re-victimising survivors and it's putting survivors off of reporting. It's making survivors kill themselves. Honestly, if I wasn't in a psychiatric hospital for the duration of the trial I may have taken the same path as Frances.

Frances' case has strengthened my belief that survivors should have their own lawyer to represent solely their interests. Rape Crisis Scotland have been campaigning this for a long time. The prosecutor, despite their best intentions, isn't there for the survivor. They represent the public. Experiences of survivors giving evidence, reporting figures and conviction rates all show that when it comes to trial a survivor's interests are not represented. They are simply a witness, they are an exhibit, they don't matter. As long as they answer all the questions thrown at them the court doesn't give a fuck what happens afterwards. Their life, their autonomy, their wellbeing doesn't matter to the court. The court doesn't care. All the court cares about is the process.

Survivors need someone in court to represent them and to be there for them. A lawyer for the survivor could stand up when the questioning turns to abuse and bullying. A lawyer could oppose the introduction of irrelevant and private medical records and psychiatric records. If anything bittersweet can come of Frances' death I hope it is that. I hope the court opens its eyes. I hope it listens to our voices, our cries, our pleas. A survivor who is cited to give evidence may, if she's lucky, get a tour of the court room and get to meet the prosecutor for a few minutes before she testifies. That is pretty much it. Survivors aren't prepared for questioning, the process and the law whereas a defendant has months to prepare and discuss the case with their lawyer -- they are told what they should and shouldn't answer, say, wear. Survivors go in there not knowing, vulnerable, exposed and alone. It's wrong.

Women are being raped on a staggering level and the court system is abetting it. It's allowing it.

A guilty verdict shouldn't be an anomaly.

Survivors' private lives shouldn't be exposed and castigated.

Survivors shouldn't have to weigh the pros and cons of reporting their attackers.

The court fed Frances those pills, they forced them down her throat.

Of course I understand that there is a balance -- due process must take place and the validity of the survivor's testimony must be questioned so the jury can make an informed decision -- but too often, as I have stated, that balance isn't right. The lawyers for the defence don't merely question the evidence, they question the character of the survivor on a scale unseen in survivors and victims of other kinds of crimes. Quite frankly it is bullying.

Frances' rapists will now spend a few years in prison for abusing her, get out half way through their sentence for 'good behaviour' and continue living their lives as if this never happened. Her family is now destroyed. Her children are left without a mother, her husband without his wife. Of course they should have been punished but is it even worth it? I don't believe in God, an afterlife or any other spiritual bullshit but I hope Frances is at peace now. It leaves me with the question that I always ask myself - how do those who re-victimise rape survivors in court sleep at night?

Nightclubs - Culture That Promotes, Condones and Accepts Sexual Violence

Increasingly I am encountering women who refuse to go to nightclubs because of their fear of sexual harassment and assault.

Many nightclubs are promoted as highly sexualised environments, but that's not the only problem for many women: it's the fact that these establishments condone unwanted sexual contact as 'no big deal'. Nightclubs act as if women are in a perpetual state of consent when it comes to sexual contact.
A young man kept touching my ass, I politely asked him to stop.
Let's look at that, why should I have to ask someone to stop touching me sexually? Shouldn't he be asking me?
He didn't stop and kept pursuing me. I got very annoyed and told him to leave me alone.
Clearly, again, demonstrated that I was not consenting to this sexual contact.
He then put his hand right up my skirt.
Again, I said no. He continued. Clear sexual assault.
I was understandably upset and disgusted, so I immediately turned around and slapped him as everything else hadn't worked. He punched me in the face. The staff didn't get involved, even though they saw what was going (and they were told). The only thing that caused him to leave me alone was a male friend assaulting him.

This is not uncommon. I have been groped countless times. Every night young women are going to nightclubs to enjoy themselves only to be subjected to unwanted sexual contact. There is a culture of acceptance towards sexual assault in nightclub. Women are told to expect it and expected not to complain, but if you do complain then you're deemed a prude or a bitch. Staff rarely take women's complaints seriously, unless the men display severe violence. I never once gave him any indication that I wanted this behaviour to continue but that didn't matter. It's like I said before -- women are assumed to be in a perpetual state of consent, even when they say no. 

Nightclubs continue to rely on sex to promote their nights: the names of the clubs and the nights, young women baring their bodies to sell liquor, pornified promotion and much more. The nightclubs imply that their female clientele are 'fair game' to men. They advertise us as sexual objects.
Using female sexuality to sell alcohol -
It's hard to go to a nightclub these days without seeing a woman wearing little more than a thong and bra selling shots of cheap spirits. It's unethical and wrong to link alcohol and sex for a start and it's degrading to all women.

Pornified, sexist promotion -
Similarly, the promotion of many club nights relies on sexual imagery that resembles an ad for sex services or a strip club rather than a nightclub. You will often see some half naked woman wearing a costume or sucking a lollypop on the fliers for nightclubs.

The promotion of many nightclubs is becoming similar to lap dancing clubs. They advertise the venue as a place for men to look at half naked women who will give them alcohol (ya think bottle girls are half naked because it's warm in there? Nah so they can be ogled at) and they promote the idea that men can go to the club to 'choose' a drunk woman to go home with.  The result? The place ends up full of creeps with hard-ons groping women.

'Ladies free' promotions only further put women in danger, because they imply that we are objects used to get men to enter the club therefore they are entitled to us. It's not done as a gift to all their female customers, it's a cheap ploy to encourage more men to come inside and take their pick of the females. (Side note: feminism demands equality, which means men and women are equal. I don't want special treatment. Also, is it even legal to allow women to enter for free and not men?)

Women who go to nightclubs are told to watch their drinks in case they are spiked, told not to wear revealing clothing if they don't want to be groped, told to stay with their friends in a group and many other methods to stay safe. The truth is these nightclubs could alter their model to make nightclubs safer for women. People do not tell men not to grope women and not to spike their drinks. I have seen posters warning women in nightclub bathrooms but where are the posters telling men to not sexually assault their fellow club-goers?

Women are constantly being sexually assaulted in nightclubs and not taken seriously by the staff who are meant to ensure the safety of all customers. Our cries are dismissed as not serious, just a laugh or (my most hated word) banter. Because it's not rape or not physically violent it's being dismissed despite the fact it is a crime.

 It's as if upon entering a nightclub we agree to give up our right to personal space.

Well, here is a little PSA:

Just because I am wearing a short skirt does not mean that I want you to touch me.

Just because I am drunk does not mean I want you to touch me.

Just because I am female and have a vagina does not mean I want you to touch me.

I am here tonight to have fun with my friends, not to be casually sexually harassed and assaulted by you.

Just because I am dancing provocatively is not an invitation for you to feel me up.

Don't do it.

Leave me alone.

I am not an object for your satisfaction.

My breasts and ass are not public property.

Slapping my ass is not a compliment, it's assault. It's a violation of my body.

Just because I am female does not mean you have a right to harass me or touch me.


Women, we need to stand up. We need to stand up to the perpetrators who do this to us and let them know that we won't accept it. We need to stand up to the establishments that condone sexual harassment and assault and let them know that we won't stand idly by.

Some people are probably reading this and thinking that it is not a big deal, but it is. No woman should expect to be assaulted -- ever.

Let me pose a hypothetical: if this kind of assault was common place in say... a doctor's office, would you dismiss it? If women were continiously sexually assaulted and harassed while sitting in the waiting room would you condone it? No? Well why is it acceptable in a nightclub?

I've talked about sexual harassment and groping but that's not all that happens at clubs. They are breeding grounds for sexual predators to hunt for prey: they will spike women's drinks, some women have been dragged in to bathrooms only to be raped, some have been raped upon leaving the club. It's a crime that escalates. It may start with a man groping a woman but often that's not where it ends.

Nightclubs as they currently stand promote RAPE CULTURE.

If you're still skeptical here are some links:
Rugby star Danny Care arrested for nightclub sexual assault
Footballer Marlon King jailed for nightclub assault
CCTV appeal after nightclub sexual assault
Glasgow nightclub's sexist, degrading, dangerous promotion
Oxford - You come to expect inappropriate touching
Lip - I did not report unwanted sexual contact
USA - Woman wants groping to be felony
Hollaback LDN - Nightclubs

Nightclub etiquette for guys - hints to ensure you don't commit a sex crime
  • Don't grab a woman's ass or breasts unless she invites you to. I don't care how nice her ass is, it's not yours
  • If a woman does not want to dance with you then accept that. Don't force yourself upon her, it's not going to make her change her mind
  • Don't spike women's drinks. Pretty self explanatory
  • Don't subject female patrons to sexually explicit slurs
  • If a woman rejects you don't physically assault her
  • Just because a woman is wearing a short skirt doesn't mean she wants to have sex with you.
  • Just because you buy a woman a drink does not mean you are entitled to her body.
  • Grabbing a woman sexually without her consent is a crime, it's not banter. Remember that.
  • No woman wants a stranger's boner to be pushed up against her back.
  • If a woman is drunk then don't take advantage of that by sexually assaulting her. Women who are incapacitated by drugs or alcohol are not able to consent. (see Sex Offences Act (Scotland) 2009)
  • Interested in a girl? Try making conversation with her, say hello, ask her name. Try not to be a total pervert.

Aberdeen Rape Crisis Centre Facing Closure - Press Statement

Sadly, Aberdeenshire's only support centre for survivors of sexual assault and rape is facing closure.

RAS has lost 50 percent of its government funding and may not be able to continue to offer its vital and important services to survivors across Aberdeen and the shire if it does not raise £50,000.

 RAS opened in 1993 and has helped countless survivors who use both their phone and one-to-one counselling services. They are based in Aberdeen and Fraserburgh. Not only do they offer services for survivors but they also do important work to challenge prejudices and false ideas about rape.

Sarah Scott - rape survivor and previous service user (media free to quote):
After being raped in 2010 in Aberdeen I suffered terribly - I became depressed, anxious and suicidal. I began self harming and I eventually attempted suicide twice and was then admitted as an inpatient to Cornhill psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

The psychological impact survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence face is tremendous. RAS helped me immeasurably in my recovery. They offered something that I couldn't get from friends, family, police, the Procurator Fiscal or the NHS - impartial, professional, tailored counselling for survivors of rape that helped me deal with issues that were consuming my life. Only because of them am I here today speaking out, they helped me find my voice. It saddens me deeply that they may face closure and I am very disappointed that the government has decided to cut their funding. There isn't an equivalent service for survivors in Aberdeenshire - I fear if they do have to close many survivors will end up suffering in silence and many future survivors may not report their assaults due to the fear of not receiving the appropriate support. I truly cannot emphasise enough how important RAS is to survivors in Aberdeenshire and how amazing the work they do is. 

For the government to state they are focusing their efforts on prevention is deeply offensive to us whose attacks sadly weren't prevented. Are survivors in Aberdeenshire simply meant to deal with it alone?

I urge those who can to dig deep in their pockets to keep this vital service alive and I hope that the government reconsider their decision to cut funding as survivors of perhaps the most heinous crime we face in society will suffer. It's a tragedy.

Dawn Brown, the centre's director stated:
The loss of funding will directly impact on the service being able to operate as without the additional funds the charity will be forced to close before the end of the year. RAS was the only Scottish centre who lost existing funding from the Violence Against Women Fund. The government has been extremely short sighted in cutting this funding as without the service, women in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire will lose a vital avenue of support to help them recover from their ordeal.

DC Cammy Preston of Grampian Police has also added:
Throughout the last three years I have worked with RAS I have become increasingly aware of the excellent work they provide in terms of support for survivors of serious sexual crime. Being a survivor of a serious sexual offence has a significant long term effect on an individual. They can often develop relationship problems, drug or alcohol dependency or deep rooted varying psychological problems and the support provided to them by organisations such as RAS cannot be underestimated. 

RAS has been very supportive of the work done by Grampian Police to support survivors and the trust built up over years of working together has only strengthened the service we are able to provide as they become more confident not only in seeking support but also in reporting crime. 

The strong working relationships formed between Grampian Police and RAS has allowed both organisations to improve the services and support we are able to offer survivors beyond what we could have achieved working in isolation. From a Policing perspective feedback from RAS, Rape Crisis Scotland, and indeed survivors of serious sexual crimes, has allowed Grampian Police to further enhance its victim care approach.

Please click here to donate to RAS to help them continue their important work.


Sarah I'm a rape survivor-turned-activist trying to use my experiences to help other women. I'm in my early 20's, live in the north-east of Scotland, vegan, a feminist and most importantly, I am mama to Jacob - my beautiful six-year old son who has autism.