Last year Mikki Kendall wrote a fantastic article about why a woman’s clothes have nothing to do with whether or not she’s raped, but the fantasy persists.
In 1999, the Supreme Court of Appeals in Rome ruled that a woman wearing jeans couldn’t be raped, reasoning that a rapist couldn’t forcibly remove a pair of pants. Closer to home, in 2015 Queenslander Mitchell Peggie raped a 21-year-old woman. During the trial his victim was subjected to a gruelling cross-examination by the defence barrister, who asked if she had been “moaning and gasping with pleasure” during the rape, and grilled her about why she’d been wearing “sexy lingerie”, showing photos of her bra and underpants to the jury.
Last year a New Zealand school principal introduced a rule to increase the length of schoolgirls’ skirts, “to keep our girls safe, stop boys from getting ideas and create a good work environment for male staff”.
Why do people believe that it’s the responsibility of the girl to control the length of her skirt, rather than the responsibility of a man to control his violent impulses? As Kendall says, since 91 per cent of sexual assault victims are women, and six per cent of men are rapists, wouldn’t it make sense to change the behaviour of the smaller group?
In a 1991 interview with NME, late, great rocker Kurt Cobain said, “Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on Earth. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there.”
What’s really damning is that when I was describing to a friend the last time I was sexually assaulted, I started the story with, “I was just wearing gym clothes…” Halfway through the sentence I froze, realising that even I had bought into this bogus narrative.
And it really is bogus. A Federal Commission on Crime of Violence study found that just 4.4 per cent of all reported rapes involved “provocative behaviour” on the part of the victim. It also found that most convicted rapists could not remember what their victims were wearing.
But what’s really creepy are the following stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics:
- 12 per cent of us say that if a woman is sexually harassed, then ‘they should sort it out themselves’
- 12 per cent of us believe if a woman goes to a room alone with a man at a party it is her fault if she is raped
- 19 per cent of us believe that if she’s raped while affected by drugs/alcohol then she is responsible for it happening.
Earlier this year universities across the country have been accused of “actively covering up sexual assaults” in a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission. Just six student rapists have been expelled in the past five years despite more than 500 official complaints about sexual assault and harassment, and 145 specifically related to rape.
SlutWalk brings out some of the best placards I’ve ever since, but the one that’s really stuck with me was of a serious faced young woman wearing a baggy hoodie and jeans, staring directly into the camera. All her placard said was, “This is what I was wearing.”
She wasn’t asking for it, and neither are the hundreds of women behind her wearing lingerie and body paint. The point of the provocative garb that defines SlutWalk is that women should be free to dress however they want and be as sexy as they want to be, and that men can and must curb their desire to hurt others. Nobody, regardless of who they are and how they look, deserves to have their mind and body violated.