Rape Culture: A Revenant of Old Times

Rape culture is no stranger to most students, with 62% of all students and graduates in the UK having experienced sexual violence according to The Guardian.

Unfortunately, I doubt this will surprise many readers, especially those having read the recently trending article on a rape case in Dublin. In the aforementioned case, Elizabeth O’Connell SC said in defense of the accused rapist: “You have to look at the way she [the defendant] was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.” The fact that this was even seen as a credible defense in the courtroom, let alone by the senior counsel (the lawyer in charge of the case), is beyond senseless, it is downright dangerous. Especially since, frustratingly, this argument seems to have convinced the jury and the defendant in the case was found ‘not guilty’ of rape.

This is hardly the first time a court has conducted itself controversially in a rape trial; back in 2015 the defendant in a rape crisis was barely involved in her own trial, which also came back with a not guilty verdict. This may be why only 10% of students have reported their sexual assault to the authorities and why only 6% reported sexual violence to their university. This may also be the reason that 56% feel that their assault “wasn’t serious enough” to report. Because it doesn’t seem to matter what she was doing, what she feels, or even what she did on the night – all that matters is “what was she wearing?”.

This is not limited to students; the apathy and stigma towards rape victims has also coalesced in mainstream society. In a major study of over 1000 people 80% of people said they had not reported their rape to the police  and more than half saying that the legal system and society in general was unfair to those who reported rape. This is not overly surprising when one examines the court cases above. Unfortunately, this seems indicative of the further corruption of rape culture within our society.
When this is seen on university campuses, with Yale students chantingNo means Yes, Yes means Anal”, when the fraternity that instigated the incident is again accused of harassment and inappropriate behaviour without major consequences, when lawyers are happy to use a woman’s underwear as an argument that she must have wanted sex and it convinces a jury… that is rape culture.

King’s College and other universities, however, are making strides towards progress in this arena. For example the workers at the Bush House Health Centre have recently been given specialised training to enable them to handle victims of sexual assault. The Havens, three sexual assault refferal centres, have been provided by King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust, to help victims of sexual assault recover. However, as the above statistics prove, there is still much to be done, and while we have taken strides towards minimising rape culture, I fear the biggest steps are yet to be taken.