Listening to Between Ourselves this week I followed with horror the stories of two women who had been raped. Although most rapes are apparently conducted by rapists who know their victims, on the programme, both women had been raped by strangers. The stories were terrible in different ways. One of the women was violently raped by a man who was known to her friends and who offered to walk her home from a night club. The other woman was taken advantage of by a man who had sex with her against her clearly stated will in a dark corner of a hotel at a party. Again, this man was known to friends of the victim. In both cases the women were drunk and in the second case the woman was raped while she was physically incapable of putting up a fight.
Although both victims bitterly regret getting so drunk that their judgment/physical capabilities were impaired, they both articulated that woman should have "the right" to go out and have a good time in what ever way they choose. They maintain that raping someone is a choice and rapists can choose not to rape. I agree with them on both points, but sadly feel they are being unrealistic.
Second point first: Committing any crime is a choice. I agree, criminals make choices to commit crimes. Pointing out the blindingly obvious is not going to stop rapists from choosing to rape if they get the opportunity. In an ideal world, there would be no rapists. In our world, surely the real issue is making sure the rapists who clearly exist do not get the opportunity to exercise their choice? First point second: I wonder if either of these women leaves her doors unlocked, her purse unattended, or the keys in the car? I doubt it. It would be great if they felt they could do so but I am certain they do not. I am certain they take preventative measures to avoid being burgled as, with regret, do I.
Today, I consider staying relatively sober and relatively modestly dressed as preventative measures against rape just like locking my front door is a preventative measure against burglary. I have not always taken precautions against rape and I have been lucky: At a university frat party I passed out stone cold due to too much vodka and when I came to several hours later I was on the floor of the loo with my coat over me and my hand bag and shoes next to me. A year later, at a different frat house, a girl was gang raped while she was unconscious. Believe me, I count my blessings most days.
The problem is that a lot of women react with hostility if you suggest that part of a rape prevention plan should be relative modesty and relative sobriety. Suggesting either seems to be tantamount to asking them to wear a bin liner and stay home and scrub the loo. The "asked" inevitably think the "asker" is some kind of unliberated desperate square who is on the side of the potential rapists and who believes women wearing short skirts are "asking for it" and I resent that.
As women (and men) of course we have the "right" to go out, get pretty naked, get hammered, and dance on tables whilst snogging the bouncer if we want to. We also have the "right" to leave our doors unlocked but I bet that most of us don't. I wish it were different, I really do, but until it is different I will continue to advocate that a little modesty and a little sobriety are the best preventative measures we have got.