Do you know someone who was raped?

I come from a very ordinary conservative background. I never had any unpleasant experiences myself, or even been exposed to a phantom flasher. No one has ever groped me, or overstepped the line sexually with me in any way whatsoever.

I have never thought of men as sexual predators.

Neither have I thought of liberating myself from men, but that is probably because my mother was a liberated career woman herself. Already liberated, she passed the idea on to me that men and women were equal. I never lived in a world of downtrodden women.

Maybe, when you have lived that kind of life, the current surge of #metoo, seems strange. Where have I been all my life? Not living in the real world?

However, not so long ago, my husband and I found out that one of our children, as a teenager, had a very cruel experience when she was thirteen. She never said a word to us, but her very much elder brother, sorted the culprit out. Now in her forties, she has laid a molestation charge, but it’s an Interpol investigation as it happened in a foreign country.

Also, on thought, I remember a friend of mine, living in the flat above mine, was raped when we were young. It was so unexpected, she didn’t even shout out. She was paralysed by disbelief. And SHE felt ashamed for ‘allowing’ it.

In the old days, women just got on with life. Your friends and family emotionally supported you. Rape was just a thing that happened.

But I read this blog today. It moved me to post about it here. It’s about the current Irish Rape court case.  I think the post is worth reading in its entirety….I have only offered a small section

How can we ask women to report rape after Belfast?

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The worst outcome for a rape complainant is that she is not believed. During the Belfast trial, a narrative was created that a the victim had participated in a drunken threesome and then cried rape afterwards because she was worried that “it would be talked about on social media.” The idea that any woman would subject themselves to what is entailed in making a rape complaint, simply because she regretted how she had sex or who it was with, would be laughable if it weren’t so disturbing.

When a woman makes a complaint to police she will usually spend hours or a day (or more than a day) literally recounting her story over and over again; following this she may be brought to a sexual assault treatment unit where trained healthcare professionals will collect forensic evidence and do a head to toe exam collecting samples from under her nails and her hair and her mouth. They will examine her genitals and take photographs. She will likely have to tell her story again to the healthcare practitioners so they know which photos to take. She will not be allowed tea or coffee in case it interferes with evidence in her mouth. Depending on where she lives, she might have to travel for 3-4 hours to get to this unit because her local hospital won’t have one. If there’s a risk of head injuries, you’ll be sent to the Beaumont first, but that has implications for evidence collection of course. If the police believe her, they may send her story to the DPP. They also might not believe her. They also might prosecute her for false reporting. They might laugh at her and snigger it was her own fault.

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Of course false report convictions are rare much the same way that false reports of rape are rare, but the fear of not being believed and the consequences that follow are a shadow over every victim’s decision on whether or not to report. They are rare, because women do not put themselves through the trauma of reporting because of what it entails, and the glaringly obvious fact that largely, she will not be believed.

In the best case scenario, if the victim is believed by the Gardaí she must tell her story over and over and over and over again; then if she is believed by the DPP and then after having repeated her story over and over again, a case will be taken. Following this she will listen while her credibility is systematically picked apart by the defence counsel. She will see her knickers passed around the court. Her own credibility will be on trial. They will discuss what she likes and what sex acts she would engage in. The papers will discuss the colour of her labia in print. People on the internet will speculate on where she was in her menstrual cycle and whether the vaginal lacerations she has were from rape or not. Her text messages to friends about being raped will become a matter of public record. A newspaper will write a story in which they wonder whether the blood was from internal bleeding from vaginal injuries or from her period as the defence counsel suggested. In some cases fear of retaliation from the perpetrators will be a worry, whether that retaliation manifests as a physical threat or a threat to make life difficult, or the retaliation might manifest as the forces of privilege in society standing together to paint you as a liar. Anonymous or not, she will be stigmatised and the minutiae of every move she makes will be under scrutiny. Some of the jury will believe that if a woman was drinking, she was asking for it, and other myths, like the style of clothes being an invitation to have grope. Men who barely know the alphabet, let alone the intricacies of criminal law will call for her to be put on trial. They will call for her to be named and shamed. They say this because a lot of society thinks that if you cannot secure a conviction in a rape trial, the victim complainant has been proven to be a liar. Rape trials always mean the victim is on trial as much as the defendants. In the Belfast case, people know who the complainant is, there is no need to name her. Men will share that information. The Belfast verdict in many quarters has been seen as a victory for men. Women will simply return to secret Facebook groups and chats and informal conversations in which the words, “be careful of him” are uttered.

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Feminist Ire, finishes her blog with the words

I know an awful lot of victims of rape. So do you. But I have never known anyone that has seen their rapist prosecuted. There are people who are friends of friends but it is truly remarkable that given the scale of it, convictions are rare.

I think the world is very different now, to when I was young. It wasn’t right then, to  keep quiet and carry on. But that is the way things were handled – big brothers, or fathers, took revenge. Your community stood by you.

But things are not right now, in the present, either. There are rape claims, false claims, genuine claims. Women dress in scantier clothing than we did. There is a much freer attitude to sex- thanks to the pill – especially for women. Furthermore the use of drugs, alcohol, and freely available porn further complicates the situation. And the press use different language now.

And then there is Social Media. People are speaking out.

With all our modern technology, we are still unable to know if people are speaking the truth – or not. What a shame it all is.

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