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Victim blaming in the Standard today

January 16, 2014
Busily reporting

A man was assaulted in Worcester Park last night.

There was a fight outside takeaway restaurant Nefis Kebabs late last night when an angry father of a teenage boy went after the man he claimed to have attacked his son earlier in the night.

The father retaliated forcefully, punching the man repeatedly in the head and drawing blood. He knocked the man into the road and the man fell onto his back and lay there for several moments until the police arrived. They arrived soon afterwards to break up the scuffle. The assaulted man was wearing a brown bomber jacket, a white T-shirt and jeans.

All of that actually happened, but this isn’t an existing news item. It could be, with a bit more detail and a few quotes about how Shocked and Appalled and Shaken Up everyone was, but for one part that doesn’t quite fit. Can you guess what it is?

That’s right, it’s the clothes. What a delightful irrelevance, to know how a man was dressed when he was attacked. It doesn’t serve to help people be on the look out for him, because no one’s looking for him. It doesn’t add “colour” to the story, because it’s dull. You’d have to be the most trivial columnist in the world to think that the clothes of a shabby drunkard who attacks teenagers on the street deserve a mention in written copy.

The only type of person who could possibly glean any insight from a piece of pointless information like that is someone who judges a person, and thus their situation, by their clothes. “He must have deserved it. Wearing a bomber jacket! He was just asking for a smack.”

Which brings me onto what I really want to talk about, which is not common assault, but rape. There is a high profile rape court case going on right now concerning the soap actor William Roach (laughably, the judge had to remind the court that they were trying the actor, not the character – you can just imagine someone going: “But Ken would never do a thing like that…!”). The incident occurred many years ago, but still the London Evening Standard felt the need to mention that the alleged victim was “wearing a skirt, T-shirt and socks.”

Why would you need to know this? The only reason you would need to know is if you are of the opinion that whether or not a rape has occurred or was deserved is dependent on the behaviour of the victim, including what clothes she was wearing. Alleged victim. It hasn’t been conclusively proved that Loach did anything (nor is it likely to be, after such a long time), but that’s besides the point.

In a day and age when we are starting to accept that victim blaming is a vile part of our culture and occurs too often, to the extent where the courts are undergoing reforms to change their line of questioning so as to avoid it, it is very disheartening to see a major London paper blithely adopt the old familiar stance of paying too much attention to the victim’s behaviour and not enough to the perpetrator’s.

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From → Media Analysis

3 Comments
  1. She could have been naked so what. Rape is rape, no means no. Period no loop holes, no exceptions. No matter that a woman wears or doesn’t she never deserves to be or is asking to be raped. NEVER! Read my post Inside my rape the post is here: http://aghostdancer.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/inside-me-deeply-part-5-inside-my-rape/

    The victim is often revictimized by the very legal system that is supposed to protect them. By society and the stigma of rape. people need to grow up and get back to personal responsability. IF this man raped her he should be punished even if she was laying naked playing with herself. IF she said no or he forced himself on her it is RAPE plain and simple.

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