This is a statement that I would have thought was self-evident: the act of rape, in and of itself, is an act of violence. It can be accompanied by other forms of violence: from punching, hitting, kicking, attempted strangulation and murder, but rape itself is an act of violence. Rape is the violation of a woman's (or child, or man's) body. It is the forced insertion of a penis into a bodily orifice without consent (as defined under law in England and Wales).
Current media discussions surrounding the release of former Sheffield United player Ched Evans from prison after serving only two years of a five year sentence for the rape of a 19-year-old woman seem obsessed with the theory that there is a hierarchy of rape. Judy Finnigan's crass statement on Loose Women is perhaps the most representative of this theory:
He's served his time. The rape - and I'm not by any means minimising any kind of rape - but the rape was not violent. He didn't cause any bodily harm to the person
But, Finnigan is by no means alone - something which is patently obvious from those lining up to defend her. Clare Carlisle has used the phrase "I do not know enough about what happened in that hotel room." Sarah Vine has called for nuance in the discussion around the rape perpetrated by Evans and his potential return to Sheffield United. Both of these are equally offensive as we do know what happened: Ched Evans chose to rape a 19-year-old woman who was incapable of consent. Evans was convicted of rape and there is absolutely no moral ambiguity about this. The theory that there is "nuance" in rape only helps one person: the rapist.
The obsession with the theory that rape itself doesn't cause bodily harm is so very dangerous. Rape, without other forms of physical violence, causes bodily harm and this is without addressing the possibility of vaginal tearing, damage to the anus and sexually transmitted diseases. Having a penis forced inside you is painful and frightening. It causes physical, psychological and emotional trauma. The emotional and psychological trauma can have physical effects like depression, self-harm and suicidal behaviour. Post-traumatic stress disorder is not unusual in rape victims. There is no nuance or hierarchy of "more acceptable forms of rape". There is just rape.
All Finnigan has shown is that far too many people are invested in the "stranger who drags you into the bushes and rapes you at knifepoint for being out late/ wearing a short skirt/ drinking alcohol" narrative; a narrative which does not represent the majority of rape committed. The vast majority of rape in the UK, as it is worldwide, is perpetrated by men known to the victim.
Women are raped daily by men who supposedly love them; after all it is only recently that rape in marriage was made illegal. They are raped by acquaintances, brothers, fathers, employers and the man who lives next door. These men choose to rape. They aren't confused about consent - they know perfectly well that they are committing rape. They just believe they are entitled to rape anyone they want whenever they want.
This is why the words of Finnigan, Carlisle and Vine are so dangerous: they have elided Evans' responsibility for the crime he chose to commit, as well as completely erasing the victim from her own life. These articles, which serve to defend Evan's belief that what he did was no more serious than a small child stealing a sweetie from the corner shop, ignored the fact that the victim has been subject to such extensive public harassment that she has been forced to leave home and change her name in order to be safe. The laws on protecting the anonymity of rape victims for this very reason were deliberately flouted by hundreds of people - but, only 12 were convicted.
We don't need a nuanced discussion of rape, nor do we need to discuss Evan's ability to play football as if it somehow erases the crime he committed (although, updates from the Oscar Pistorius trial suggest that being an athlete is more important than shooting an unarmed woman four times until she dies). We need to be clear that Ched Evans is a convicted rapist because he committed rape. He didn't "cheat" on his girlfriend - as the narrative preferred by his sister Kylie and girlfriend Natasha Massey insists - Evans committed a serious criminal offence of sexual violence. And, one Evans has yet to admit guilt too.
We need journalists and media pundits to undergo mandatory training in victim awareness, trauma, and sexual and domestic violence and abuse.
Rape is a crime of violence.Suggest a correction