A New Generation

Diary

Another day, another terribly expressed opinion about rape. I wonder what would happen if legitimate rape convictions were as frequent as the unhelpful, misogynistic and hurtful things that are said about rape victims, eh?

Yesterday was no exception. With the efforts of Lib Dem councillor Philip Drury, who thinks that what a woman looks like has anything to do with her being raped, and that it’s okay to comment on rape victims’ appearance in the first place. Under a photograph of alleged rape victim, 21-year-old Serena Bowes, the leader of East Hampshire District Council commented on Facebook, ‘Not sure anyone would even want to think about it looking at her lol.’

It should not need saying (I still can’t believe we’re still having to say it), but here it is again: What a woman wears, does not wear, says, does, or looks like, is NOT the cause of rape. A man choosing to rape a woman is the cause of rape.

Around 100,000 people are raped in the UK every year. Of these, less than a quarter will go to the police, thinking it’s “too embarrassing” or “too trivial”. Of these 100,000, around 3,000 prosecutions are brought, and almost 1,100 convictions are secured. That’s just over 1% of accused rapists. Police say they have seen a drastic increase in the number of women reporting rape since the coverage of former Sheffield United footballer Ched Evans’ case. If you don’t know about this case, here’s the short of it; In April 2012, the then 23-year-old was found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel in May 2011. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but was released in October 2014, after serving just half of his sentence.

Tired old myths about women crying rape to ruin men, or of women bringing it on themselves by looking or behaving a certain way need to disappear – fast. The sooner everyone sees rape for what it is – a vicious, cruel, violent crime that’s about taking away a woman’s power and choice – the better.

Most of us remember PSHE classes as a welcome break from double math. A video about not taking drugs, setting fire to your house or crossing railway tracks, and maybe 30 awkward minutes on condoms. But when delivered properly by trained teachers, these classes deliver so much more.

The world is a helluva complicated place, and before you even come face-to-face with issues such as anxiety, sexual consent, body image, everyday sexism, trolling, revenge porn, depression, sexuality, respect in relationships (I could go on!) I think it makes sense for schools to talk about them and give advice and information on where to get help should any of them arise in your life.

Currently PSHE isn’t even statutory in all state-funded schools. Yes, some do a great job but others don’t – and that’s not fair. Nearly half of 14- 18-year-olds say that sex and relationships education, “Doesn’t really cover what they need to know about sex” and the NSPCC has warned that thousands of teenage girls suffer sexual assault by boys and don’t even question it because they accept abuse as part of relationships. Could it be that rape, the ignorance and judgment of it, starts at school? Could teaching children and young adults about relationships and sex start the fight to change the way everyone talk about and recognises rape? What if PSHE was to be made a statutory part of the curriculum in all state-funded schools? Britain does not want another generation of judgmental idiots telling woman it was their fault that a man took away her power, disrespected her voice and violated and abused her body.

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