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14th Sep 2017

I spoke openly about being raped… and the response I got was just brutal

The true danger of what George Hook said.

Taryn de Vere

‘Why would u turn up to someone house half naked and drunk asking for trouble’.

This was one of the comments I received in response to my article on how victim blaming stopped me from reporting the rape I experienced (I hate calling it “my” rape as I do not want to own any part of it).

I was wearing a very short skirt when I arrived at my friend’s house, I remember what I was wearing so well. It was pale pink satin and tied at the waist. I remember it well because my clothing became a focal point in the days after the rape.

I’d heard: “What was she wearing?” as a response to rape over and over in my life. So it was one of the first thoughts I had when I was dissecting it all. Dissecting it, I might add, to see if I could find any fault in myself.

I think the human brain doesn’t work so well when we hear horrible things; our natural impulse is to search for meaning and that’s why we search for somewhere to lay blame when horrible things like rape occur. The issue, of course, is that some of that blame often falls on victims.

“Half naked,” is how the Facebook commenter chose to interpret my skirt. The statement is a hop, jump, and a skip away from “asking for it”. By choosing to wear that skirt in her eyes I was ‘half naked”.

The skirt, my drunkeness and my trust in my friend have lead this women to feel fine about commenting publicly that she believes I was “asking for trouble”.

Is it asking for trouble to wear a skirt? Is it asking for trouble to trust a friend? Is it asking for trouble to show up at a mate’s house at 3am looking for a bed because you’ve run out of money for a taxi and you live too far away to walk?

I was not asking for trouble. I was asking to be treated like a human, like a friend. I was not asking to be treated like an object and used for someone else’s violent sexual gratification.

Another commenter said: “I will teach my child to have more respect for herself and drink in more mature way.”

The thing is my drunkenness did not cause the rape. The rapist caused the rape. I suspect had I been fully sober that man would still have raped me. I don’t think sobriety or self respect would have stopped him from raping me.

“Stop raping me, I have self respect, and I am sober,” has worked for no woman ever. Plus all of these statements are deflecting from the real person at fault here: the rapist.

“No way am I ever blaming the victim,” said another woman… while blaming me for being raped. This person believes I shouldn’t have gone to my friend’s house while drunk. Does she believe no woman should ever trust any of her friends? Perhaps just male friends? Does she believe no woman should ever get drunk? Does she think that only drunk people get raped?

So many of the comments focused on my behaviour; so few on the rapist’s (again, I hate calling him “my” rapist, I don’t want to own any part of him). Where were all the questions about why so many women to experience sexual violence and what do we do to stop it? Where were the comments calling for mandatory consent classes for all children?

Twitter user Tony Kavanagh shared a story from when he was canvassing for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

“Once, when helping with a bucket collection for DRCC, a woman refused to donate, saying ‘they bring it on themselves’. She made a beeline for me when she saw the bucket, determined to make a point.”

As long as there are people with attitudes like those quoted here, there will be rapists on our streets. These attitudes stop people like me from reporting what happened to us and the men who raped us walk free suffering no consequences. Ideas are not just intangible things, they inform the way children are parented, the way that media reports and the way gardaí and judges respond to sexual crimes.

This is the true danger of what George Hook said. By virtue of his status and audience his comments legitimised the desire to blame the victim. While Hook has apologised, his many and vocal supporters have taken to Facebook and Twitter to insist his initial comments were right.

A typical comment from a Facebook user read: “I agreed with George Hook on the particular case he was shamed for speaking about, women should not go home or to a hotel with a man they don’t know.”

Victim blaming has a devastating affect on victims.

I was so distressed I felt like vomiting when I read some of the responses to my original piece. Aside from the trauma these views cause to victims they also literally contribute to more women being assaulted or raped.

Victim blaming views = less people reporting = more rapists on the streets/social acceptance of rapists = more rapes happening. It really is that simple.

There is a path out of sexual violence. It’s called teaching consent. Every child can be and should be taught what consent is and how it works. If a child can understand “yes” and “no” they can understand consent.

In Australia, consent and respect for body autonomy (our own and others) is being taught in pre-schools. It is not so hard to teach children about body autonomy and respecting their own and other people’s boundaries, I teach these things to my own children every day.

If you care about ending sexual violence, if you want to be a part of the solution I invite you do the same.