Friday, June 02, 2006

When is Rape not Really Rape?

I went to a training session on children (usually age ten and up) who sexually offend. I am still reeling from what I heard while I was there. It is too long winded to go into all of it but the woman delivering the lecture began by giving an "example", see what you think.

Several young lads and a girl get together one evening and end up buying alcohol, getting very drunk, going back to someone's house and having sex with the girl. Next morning the girl reports that she has been raped by these boys.

Our trainer then went on to ask "Should these boys be criminalised for making one bad decision?" and said "there but for the grace of god go any of my own boys". The trainer went on to suggest that there should be a way of contextualising an incident like this because being labeled a sex offender can have damaging impact on young boys who simply made a stupid choice.

I could not believe what I was hearing. I interrupted and asked about the victim. How do we "contextualise" her experience? Unwilling participant in a childhood mistake? Facilitator in a rite of passage? Should her assault be ignored in favour of not branding the perpetrators as rapists? I did not get the answer I wanted. Of course the victim will be consulted and her feelings taken into account. If she feels that she was raped then that will be addressed. The whole situation must be addressed "holistically". This is such bullshit. Rape is rape. How dare she suggest that it should be treated as a mistake, a simple error of judgment.

I wanted to say that if she thinks her sons are the kind who might get drunk and gang rape a young girl then she ought to be ashamed. Bring up your sons better, stop making excuses. I wanted to stand up and shout that this was intolerable. That if we were talking about the gang rape of a young boy then the reaction would be different. I wanted to take over the training and begin again from a feminist perspective and tell all my stunned looking colleagues the truth about rape. I wanted to shake the trainer until she woke up.

I didn't do any of these things. I did say that rape should never be tolerated or excused away. I said that I was unhappy with the phrase "bad decision". In the face of all my co-trainees and their obvious discomfort at my questioning, I bailed.

I should have done better.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Choosing my Words Carefully

For a couple of days now I have been pondering my choice of terminology when it comes to articulating what I feel about abortion. I have a fabulous baseball shirt from Outspoken Clothing that reads "Against Abortion? Don't Have One!" It means (to me at least) that if you are anti-abortion you don't need to have one, but don't be stepping on my rights to have one. I thought it was clear. Turns out it isn't. This weekend two women have approached me and lauded my blatant and powerful anti-abortion stance. To my horror they have misinterpreted my slogan, and if they have then how many others have done the same thing but said nothing?

I had to explain (and I did it kindly) that in fact I am pro-choice. I am firmly and unequivocally in favour of every woman's right to decide what happens to her body. This was not well received! Spitting vitriol, these women walked away. I considered what I had said to them about my beliefs and felt dissatisfied.

In fact, I am pro-abortion. I used to say that I wasn't pro abortion; I balked at what that might imply. It almost suggested to me that I might be found rampaging through the streets looking for pregnant women in order to satisfy my lust for termination. "Pro-choice" seemed a sanitized version of what I was expressing; as a label, it was also a target in debates with anti-choice apologists. Many times I have defended myself with the words "Actually, I am Pro-Choice. It doesn't mean the same thing as being pro -abortion!" Well, now I think it does.

During this weekend's marathon thinking session I have felt increasingly that I can't say that I am pro-choice if I am not prepared to say that I am also pro-abortion. I have decided that I can't shy away from what this means or what impression it might engender in others. To that end, I am going to change my vocabulary and use pro-abortion rather than pro-choice. I am also going to shift focus when I talk about the "right to lifers". They are anti-choice, anti-freedom and anti-woman; let's label them as such instead of letting them hide behind the romanticized and evocative phrase "pro-life". Lets make them uncomfortable. Lets tell it like it is.

Monday, May 29, 2006

My Daughter Drives....

She passed her test! Yay! No more splashing out 20 quid a week for driving lessons. No more getting up really early to take her to work or college. I feel released. I feel redundant. She has her freedom and her own little car. She took off this morning to go out with her mates, leaving me here staring wistfully up the street as her car disappeared round the corner....She is moving on; I shall miss her.