The furore following Ched Evans' rape conviction further confirms the mountain of research churned out by leading intellectuals, research councils, rights groups and other authoritative figures, that rape is not taken seriously in the UK. The results of previous research on the subject will have reached interested parties, but few uninterested parties. Now it's trending on twitter. The vitriol reserved for rape victims, endemic in our society, is now plastered all over the social media site for all to see and judge. Indeed, some tweeters' unbridled hatred has driven them to commit the criminal offence of naming the teenage victim. The topic of rape is now appealing to the masses and reaching even the darkest corners of sexist society, including the football field. Given the potential audience, it's imperative that the facts are reified and ignorance dispelled.
The tweets in question were predictably base, and largely mimicked the content of Sheffield United footballer Connor Brown's recently removed tweet which referred to the teenage rape victim as a 'slag' and a liar, equating female promiscuity with dishonesty and immorality. Not to be dismissed as a few wrongly guided 'football hooligans', such misnomers pervade all sectors of our society, it is common practice for defence lawyers to acquire the permission of judges to trawl through rape victims' sexual history in a court of law, insinuating that having had sex in the past renders you a liar or somehow responsible for being raped. A victim's sexual history has a massive effect on the likelihood of conviction. If the accused and the victim have had sexual intercourse before, the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) is unlikely to even allow the case to be tried and a jury is less likely to convict if it gets that far. This is particularly alarming, given that you are more likely to be raped by your partner than anybody else. The pervasiveness of such negative attitudes towards rape victims evidences the rape culture harbored in the UK.
Rape culture is fostered in societies where attitudes encourage, condone, tolerate or excuse male sexual aggression. Our society is saturated with rape culture, from police targets which encourage police to 'no crime' reported rapes, to 1 in 5 of the population surveyed believing that if a woman acts flirtatiously, she should accept responsibility should she then be raped. But rape culture does not simply refer to apathy surrounding the act of rape itself, it is created, bolstered and maintained by more familiar concepts, such as the casual objectification and dehumanisation of women in multifarious ways in common everyday use.
With the lowest conviction rate for rape in Europe, the UK needs to address the issue of rape. Tackling rape culture is no mean feat. Hopefully to most readers, the more extreme misogyny referred to throughout this article will be alien and seem an obstacle out of reach when it comes to personally challenging such behaviour. It is perhaps with the more familiar, common sexisms which the majority use unthinkingly, we should start with. It is this casual sexism which bolsters and perpetuates the rape of women, children and men on a routine basis and sees their attackers walk free.
Follow Kerry Ann Akers on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CCPS_London