Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Just Add Alcohol. Neknominations and the risk of rape.

It’s been near impossible to avoid the controversy surrounding the latest social media craze, ‘Neknominations’, which as far as I can tell is the digital equivalent of dropping a penny in someone else’s pint - unsporting behaviour by anyone’s standards.

You down a drink, nominate a few friends to do the same, and in typical one-upmanship style, chaos ensues.

In my native Ireland the social media trend has already been blamed for at least one death, doing absolute wonders for the international drinking reputation we’ve unwittingly created for ourselves, but this week an Irish High Court Judge drew the nation’s attention to another danger of Neknominations.

Mr Justice Paul Carney warned that “if this current internet drinking contest takes hold, it is going to result in a tsunami of homicide and rape prosecutions coming before this court.” Short of an empathic fist shake and a cry of “those pesky kids”, Carney’s statement is almost laughable. But there is a very serious and worrying undertone to what this High Court Judge is saying.

Mr Justice Carney made the statement as he sentenced a 38 year old man for a rape which took place in 2011. The man in question had reportedly consumed 6 or 7 pints before offering an acquaintance a lift home from a local nightclub. He pulled over in a woodland area and tried to kiss the woman, when she told him no he hit her in the chest, caught her by the throat and proceeded to rape her. The man said the woman had been telling him to stop and to get off her. He drove her home and told her not to tell anyone, but when the police arrived at his home the following day, he said he had been expecting them.

He admitted his guilt to the police there and then and shortly later to his wife. He pleaded guilty and in a statement made by his counsel we learnt that he had attended treatment for his drinking problem and had expressed “deep insight, concern and regret for what he did to the victim”.

There are no “good” outcomes to a rape trial, the best one can hope for is that a rapist will be found guilty and punished for their crime, and even, as it appears to be in this case, for the rapist to show remorse, but none of that will ever undo the rape, not for the victim.

In this case at least, the man has appeared to take complete responsibility for his crime, so why is it then that Mr Justice Paul Carney was so intent on relieving him of his guilt?

Not only did Carney reduce the 8 year sentence on consideration of the man’s early guilty plea (so it’s 5 years for committing rape and the extra 3 is for trying to get away it?) but he also took the opportunity to warn other young men of the dangers of drinking.

He said that Neknominations was a “male phenomenon” and that this latest case was just another in a long line in which young men with no previous convictions and from good families had taken a quantity of drink they were not used to and had ended up the following morning “facing responsibility for a homicide or a rape and it seems to be a lottery as to which it is going to be.”

Let us disregard for a moment Mr Justice Carney’s questionable choice of words (‘lottery’: a happening or process that appears to be determined by chance; or his earlier error, ‘tsunami’: a natural disaster) and think about the pretty picture that he’s painting here.

Take one perfectly good, honest, well bred young man, add alcohol, hey presto! Instant rapist. These poor young men wake up from a night painting the town red to discover through thumping headaches they have only gone and raped or murdered someone the night before, as though it were on the same page as pissing in a wardrobe or stealing a traffic cone. We all do stupid things when we’re drunk right? This dude had at least 6 pints of Bud, cut him some slack, yeah?

The assumption which Carney makes here when he talks about the ‘risk’ of rape is that all men are naturally rapists and powerless to resist under the influence of alcohol, or as we so often hear, at the sight of a short skirt.
Isn’t that funny?

In the case of a rape trial, often, one of the first questions the victim is asked, is whether she had been drinking.
Yes?
Her fault.

In this case, the perpetrator was asked if he had been drinking.
Yes?

It’s ok, it’s still someone’s else’s fault.

Good grief.

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