In Defence of Rape

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Words by Billie Jenkins

Mario Marcello is the pseudonym of an anonymous Oxford graduate, whom last week took to the internet to voice experiences of her treatment in the aftermath of being raped. Her reflection on events was motivated by the recent public statement of retiring judge Mary Jane Mowat, who used her hour of retirement to express the view that ’rape conviction statistics will not improve until women stop getting so drunk’, to which a thousand woman cried back ’perhaps what would be better for rape conviction statistics would be if female victims were not treated with such cynicism by jurors, prosecution authorities were not so aggressive with them, and ultimately – that the rape did not happen at all.’. No matter how you look at it, Mowat’s statement moves blame onto the women who are attacked, the fault may lie 100% with the offender in one sense, but the women have are at fault in another sense, undermining their own trauma by not experiencing it through the eyes of a perfect witness. It rings the same unpleasant tune as the old-fashioned argument often repeated when domestic violence escalates, ’but she knows what he’s like’. It’s so thoroughly uncomprehending of the contexts, often complicated contexts, people can exist within.

Marcello was raped after a game of poker and drinking in her own bed, by a man who was a mutual friend. The police officers who came to deal with her assault suggested she drink less in future, as if the trauma of the experience could be contained to this single event if she adapted her own behaviour. As if the individual rape wasn’t a specific, stand alone event that one would never expect to be repeated. She goes on to say their summary of rape within the university context was ’just something that happens’. A chilling assessment of crime that is as emotionally as it is physically violent, more so when spoken by those who are supposed to protect you.

Marcello’s story is unique, yet it repeats things we’ve heard time and time before, not least the emotionally unsympathetic way prosecution cases are brought together, and the stigma victims suffer
if they were assaulted under intoxication. What marks this instance of speaking out as particularly significant is the comments which Marcello received in response to her bold discussion.

“Oxford students are supposed to be intelligent, what this girl did was stupid.”
“Typical inflammatory nonsense put about by a young lady who cannot even use her real name.”
“If i ever voluntarily got myself so intoxicated and then subsequently got raped, I would partly blame myself.”
“Maybe she should put it down as a ’lesson learned’ and move over wiser”
“I can moan that I want to leave my front door open and not get burgled but I wouldn’t put myself in that position”
“If you’re drunk and passed out then who knows what happened? She could have dreamed the whole thing.”

These genuine comments responding to the post illustrate exactly the problem facing rape conviction statistics. These represent the shocking yet prevalent attitudes to rape that interfere with the ability for women who do not exist at all times as the perfect witness their right to justice, and threatens the security of women in the future. There is a clear relationship between the vulnerability intoxication can imply and the predatory nature of rape, and it is a sad and dangerous fact of our current system that these attitudes allow perpetrators to escape justice, or even exploit such biases.

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