Last night I watched a documentary on BBC iPlayer called The Unspeakable Crime: Rape. I highly recommend you watch it, as I found it quite challenging and it changed my perspective. To open in a new tab click here.
The film mainly focuses on one woman in particular. It was certain elements of her story which challenged me and I wanted to share that.
Be warned, the following contains adult content which some may find disturbing
It’s New Year’s Day, and Juliet is sent by police to St Mary’s, a sexual assault referral centre. She is asked to tell her story to camera; the footage may later be used in court.
The story starts with her at home. She’s getting ready to go out for the night and to get in the mood for a night of partying, has a glass of wine. One becomes two and so on until the bottle is dry. Juliet heads out to the pub to meet a friend, but she’s not there. She sits down at the bar and orders a bottle to share and waits for her to arrive. She never shows up.
Juliet finishes her second bottle and decides to go home. At this point her memory starts to fail. She remembers being led by the hand, but then another blank spot.
Juliet’s next memory starts with a man’s penis in her mouth. She doesn’t know who the guy is and she wants him to stop, but he’s got a hand on her head and isn’t done yet. She thinks about biting down, but he warns her that she’d regret it. Once done, he leaves her in the alleyway and she goes to tell the police, who refer her here.
The program then moves on to show the hunt for the assailant, and we see CCTV footage of Juliet that night. They find good shots of her going into the pub alone and sitting there by herself. Once her wine is finished, the barman refuses to serve her anymore and she’s escorted out. She’s so drunk at this point she collapses at several points and can barely walk.
It’s at this point that I started to lose sympathy. When she told her story I had felt really sorry for her, as what happened was horrific and traumatic (not an overstatement!). When I saw her inebriated, I thought to myself, well she’s clearly not being careful and my compassion lessened.
The film later interviews some of the lawyers handling her case. They say that it’s sad that because a girl likes to drink, wears short skirts and high heels that they are less likely to see a conviction. The fact of the matter is that the violation was still that: rape.
This hit me hard, as I had been thinking along those lines. The victim’s state had made me reassess the perpetrator and go someway to justifying the crime. I felt sick; what had I just done?
The fact of the matter is that rapists will target the vulnerable. That making yourself exposed, whether it is sensible to do so or not, is legitimately a risky thing to do is thinking from the Pit. The victim is never responsible for the actions of their attacker and to ever think like that is evil.
That moment changed me, and I’m so grateful for that. Why I did it is not clear; did I want to find fault in poor Juliet or was I trying to make sense of a world where people chose to be a rapist?
Being a virgin, I really do not understand the appeal sex has. Of course I have some sexual desire, but the choice to not have sex is relatively easy one when the experience is unknown. So I really struggle to understand why there are so many who do this.
And it is many, not just a few. In Britain, it is estimated that someone is raped once every six minutes. That is not a situation which affects a minority, but a major issue.
The more I saw the aftercare that’s necessary for victims, the more I wanted to stop it ever happening. The question is how? The problem is widespread, spreading across generations and throughout the country.
I have one thought looping on repeat; why was this not talked about in school? We were told to avoid unsafe sex and drug use (though to what effect is debatable) but never was rape mentioned. The only reason I can guess is that it may be a sensitive area for someone in that class, but I think it still needed to be said, at least to the guys.
I’m starting to get angry at the lack of teaching on it. Why weren’t we told that sex is a precious thing and should never be forced? Why didn’t the teachers tell us that the media’s treatment of women was unjust and out of order?
And what can/should I do about all this?
If you’ve reacted in a similar way, I strongly suggest you watch this documentary. This only touches the surface of the issues covered in the program and if you want to be a part of the change, being informed about the extent and nature of the problem is a good place to start.