Sian SamuelWriter, activist and rape survivorFriday 30 Nov 2018 8:17 am
Louisa Lyttons portrayal of a rape survivor in last nights episode of EastEnders was so relatable and emotional it was difficult not to feel uneasy as I watched her character Ruby Allen walk into The Queen Vic with a panicked look in her eye that I know Ive had myself many times before.
Rape survivor is a term I myself also identify with. After a first date, my wishes to go home were ignored when a man I assumed was safe choose to ignore me when I told him repeatedly no.
Even if you couldnt relate to Ruby, you may have been able to see yourself in one of the friends, neighbours and coworkers who surrounded her when she spoke about her rape, and much like in the real world, a debate ensued.
There was a montage of, does it really count and, not consenting is different, it isnt rape filling every silence. All this noise was a harsh reminder that as women our bodies are not, and may not ever be truly ours. If rape to so many people is not really rape, then what is this trauma, what is this thing that one in three women and girls around the world have confronted? What are we all debating really? The definition of rape, or whether or not a womans experience should be trusted?
When the accused is set on defending their freedom, and the judge and jury are not present, who else is there for us to believe? Somehow its never the woman.
Its been proved that only a tiny percentage of rape accusations are false, so why is it we still dont believe victims? Its hard to comprehend that the unspoken answer is: Because shes a woman. We are believed until the words coming out our mouth are damaging to a man – then women become confused liars, looking to ruin his life like its a sport.
Likewise, innocent until proven guilty – a phrase meant to be used only when referring to the criminal justice system – is now used to protect rapists from judgement. Its a way for the people around them to defend why they stand by their side in support. But innocent until proven guilty doesnt mean a man should be treated as though nothing happened, because the vast majority of the time, something did happen.
Id never defend a rapist the crowd roars. Of course, its easy to hate a dark alley attacker. But not so easy to judge the majority of rapes, which are committed by friends, boyfriends, first dates, uncles, co-workers, nightclub flings.
Were not permitted to hate these rapists, because they are the normal guys, the ones with good jobs and loving families. If we admit to ourselves that they did wrong, that theyre predators, the world becomes a much scarier place. To accept this reality means we can no longer ignore that sexual assault is everywhere and it becomes hard to not feel guilty for our complacency, knowing that those one in three women arent being raped by one in thousands of men. A victim should above anyone be entitled to the support and trust we only seem to reserve for the accused.
The words spoken by Linda, played by Kellie Bright, were those that struck me the most. She encapsulated the support system you find in other rape survivors, who understand the isolation and fear better than anyone.
You know in your heart if what happened was right or wrong, she says. It doesnt matter whether or not the accused agrees on their version of right or wrong – ignorance isnt innocence.
Consent wont always be confirmed with a yes or a no, but that doesnt make it hard to determine. If someone isnt enthusiastic about sexual contact, we should assume its because they dont want to engage in it. A woman should never be to blame for a man who cant tell the difference.
It will always be a lot easier to tell a man to protect himself from rape accusations than it is to tell a woman to protect herself from being raped. In case you havent noticed, were never not trying to avoid it.
It is about time we stopped trying to redefine rape to protect the potential perpetrators we know, claiming they are misunderstandings. Rape is rape – yet people seem to hate the word more than they hate those who commit it.
As Ruby said, its a brave new world. No one should ever be at fault for ostensibly ruining a life by reporting the crime committed against them. We should be on hers and the side of any person who comes forward, because never forget, you know these people too.