Sunday, 22 May 2011

SlutWalk - Why I am Walking

SlutWalk isn't a feminist issue. Rape isn't a feminist issue. Rape is everyone's issue. SlutWalk is about highlighting that it is never the fault of the victim and only ever the fault of the rapist.

Rape doesn't define who I am. But it does constitute a big part of who I have become. It has changed the way I view the world and almost everything about me; it has changed my family relationships, it has deeply impacted the relationships with my friends, it affects the way I handle stress at work. It's changed how I trust (now I distrust). I move house like it's a hobby, in search of somewhere to feel safe. I've overcome depression but it's a constant cloud hanging over me. I worry about when the next panic attack will creep up on me, whether tonight I will sleep, whether tonight he'll come back, whether I will wake in fear. Rape is part of my life, every day.

I am walking because I was raped. But that is not the only reason I am walking. I am walking because two thirds of people who answered a survey would say I am to blame for my rape. I was drinking. Perhaps I was drugged, I will never know. I am incredibly angry when I read that 64% of people say I should take responsibility for my rape. The only person to blame is the man who raped me.

Society teaches those two thirds of people that it was my fault. Society teaches people that if you take precautions you'll stay safe; society lets women kid themselves that 'it won't happen to me'. Rapists are the bogey-man; they aren't the internet date, the colleague, the boyfriend, the husband. Victims stay silent because talking about rape makes people uncomfortable; it's taboo. And victims stay silent because when they do talk about it, even 'friends' might say 'well, if you didn't report it straight away you couldn't have been raped' (no longer a friend).

But rape is happening all the time. It's happening every day. On average, there are 326 rapes EVERY DAY in this country. Of these, only 2,021 result in convictions, a 2% conviction rate. Women have a 1 in 24 risk of being raped in their adult life. (For men it is 1 in 200).

(A note on the figures. The Stern Report claims a 58% conviction rate, which is based on the number of people prosecuted for rape. But the Stern Report also acknowledges that as few as 11% of rapes are even reported; using figures from within the Stern Report the facts are that if you report a rape, there is a 15% conviction rate, but that of all rapes, 98% of rapists walk away. The Stern Report calls these discrepancies in reporting the statistics, the 'attrition' rate. The Stern Report also recommends that the reporting of statistics should be reviewed).

I am walking because I was raped, and because I am angry. I am angry with what my life has become. I am so angry with the lack of justice, the hundreds and thousands of rapists who walk away. I am angry with media which perpetuates the urban myth that men might be in constant risk of being accused of rape and the idea that it is men who need protecting from vengeful women: when it comes to an accusation of rape, the accuser is the presumed liar.

I am angry because the survivors of rape are victimised again and again. If we report it (I did) we are forced to re-live it in horrendous detail several times over. Our hopes are raised that perhaps a successful prosecution might provide closure (because at the time we think closure is possible). And we feel violated again when the CPS decides not to prosecute after all and he simply walks away. We are victimised when we stay silent and tell our work colleagues that we've got the flu, or a migraine, and that's why we're not at work – not that last night he came back in our nightmares and the idea of leaving the house is too overwhelming. We are victimised when the doctor tells us that if we've done our therapy, we shouldn't still be suffering. We are victimised when we are called victims.

We are not victims. We were victims, for a moment in time. Now, we are survivors. The one positive thing I can take from the experience is that I have survived, I have had the strength to survive and I am a survivor. And that is why I am walking.