Bravo to BBC3 for its documentary, I Never Said Yes, about the rape epidemic in the UK. Presenter Pips Taylor met survivors of rape who’d been through ordeals that would leave many people’s jaws agape. Unspeakable horrors and brutalities levelled by men is the new reality for a third of girls and women. The programme tells it like it is. After establishing the statistics on rape (15,934 reports of rape last year, only 1,058 convictions. And that’s from the teeny minority who do report) and blasting the some common myths, (most rapes are committed by acquaintances or in relationships, only 1 in 8 rapes is stranger rape), the presenter explored why the hell the British Justice System allows rapists to get off, whilst leaving hundreds and thousands of girls and women with completely shattered lives. Rape is the same as murder – it destroys the self – except you’re left to live. The interviews in the programme communicated that. Flaws within the CPS, who rarely bring a case to court as most cases don’t have 100% evidence (rape is usually committed behind closed doors doncha know) were exposed. Pips Taylor flagged up important points – that victims don’t get a lawyer (as they do in the US), and a defence lawyer saying ‘sometimes a family man might make just one mistake’ is, hel-lo?, not on. A rapist is a rapist. Many of them are do-gooders in society. They’re dads, husbands, boyfriends, friend’s brothers, fit men, rich men, famous men, they’re every man.
The title of the show must be applauded. By talking to some blokes at a youth project, Pips flagged up the excuse of mixed messages that men use. These were nice lads but their words were clueless and indicative of the long haul ahead to change attitudes. Look, if a woman is drunk, asleep, crying or on drugs, just don’t try and have sex. It’s simple: just ‘ask’ her if she wants to have sex. Ask her if she’s OK. Enough of this blaming women’s signals for not being clear. Crucially, the programme addressed the issue of shame. Ultimately, the jury decide and they lay the shame on the victim, reflecting society’s normalised sexism that places the blame on women. She put herself in the room, she wore a sexy top, she was drunk, she shouldn’t have got in the cab, she shouldn’t have given him a blow job. The usual outrageous accusations levelled at women, instead of focusing on the frightening violence that men do with impunity.
With a new controller at BBC3, it looks like the channel is addressing the crap that happens to young people in an intelligent, level way. I hope this means less gratuitous treatments of subjects like the ‘sex industry’. The sexism of pop culture and the normalisation of porn in children’s lives was addressed in a non-voyeuristic way with clips from one of the most misogynist videos ever made, Tip Drill. The message that rape is about power was communicated well in a meeting with the progressive Somerset police. The programme was brilliant but one thing would’ve made it brilliant with stars for me – further exploration of the culture of masculinity. Rape is a man’s issue. We need more focus on the question, What has happened to men’s humanity? How about: Part 2: What the fuck is wrong with men?
Truth About Rape busts the myths and helps survivors.
The London based Amina Scheme gives survivors support from women who’ve been through it too.
The Havens help girls and women who’ve experienced all forms of sexual violence, with no obligation to report to the police. I’m afraid they only exist in London.