Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Why @SarahVine Is Wrong About Rape & Saying So Is Not “Monstering”

(cross-posted from Incarnationalrelational)

I am all for nuance in debate and discussion – nuance can and should serve to provide richer and deeper understandings when exploring an idea, a situation, a problem. Nuance is good.

In the last couple of days there has been much reaction to Judy Finnigan’s comments about the footballer Ched Evans case on the ITV show Loose Women. After serving 2 years of a 5 year sentence, Evans is about to be released, and the suggestion that he might return to Sheffield United to resume his footballing career has met with a great deal of anger.

Finnigan suggested that Evan’s crime might not be considered as serious because “…he didn’t cause any bodily harm to the person. It was unpleasant, in a hotel room I believe, and she had far too much to drink. That is reprehensible, but he has been convicted and he has served his time. When he comes out, what are we supposed to do, just actually to refuse to let him do his job even though he’s already been punished?”

There was, inevitably, a good deal of anger at these remarks and Finnigan later apologised. Enter stage left Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail today, who was (to summarise) insisting that Finnigan was right, that she wasn’t defending Evans; it was all about feminist ideologues dismissing ‘nuance’ in the debate; that those who disagree and speak up for the victims ‘monster’ people like Judy Finnigan and Sarah Vine, and that this ‘wasn’t very sisterly’ of them.   Um.

There is so much wrong with this article which is – as @EVB_Now rightly pointed out this morning – so destructive, that it is hard to know where to begin.  But let’s start with the Sarah Vine confusing rape myths with ‘nuance’, because she clearly does not grasp why the myths which are perpetuated in this article are not about providing richer and deeper understandings, but perpetuate the very things which keep the emphasis on the victims behaviour.

Radhika Sanghani in the Telegraph yesterday covered the very rape myths which both Judy Finnigan, and Sarah Vine in defence of her, perpetuated with their comments and article. What I particularly want to address is why these myths continue, and these myths – which so effectively keep the focus on the behaviour of the victim – continue to dominate the narrative because of peoples failure to take in to account the effect on the victim.

Whether it is Sarah Vine, or Richard Dawkins, or various people with large media platforms insisting that some rapes are worse because more physical violence might be used, or because it was a stranger, or because ‘she was drunk and it just got out of hand…’ – these ideas are treated as reasonable (or as giving the debate ‘logic’ or ‘nuance’) because the impact on the victim is not taken in to account. 

One of the most damaging myths about rape is about how a victim is supposed to behave. This not only makes it harder for victims like the woman raped by Ched Evans, who was vilified, attacked and ‘outed’ on social media, but once again warps the understanding about the impact on the victim and makes it one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute.

In the context of these, and similar issues, a nuanced discussion would consider why society finds it so difficult to consider the victim (an issue almost unique to crimes involving rape and sexual assault). A nuanced discussion would look more deeply at why we find it easier to critique the behaviour of the victim that what we can, as a society, do to change how we raise our boys and why men rape. A nuanced discussion would look at this, at much more besides, in a more honest and raw way.

To state all this, to say that Judy Finnigan and Sarah Vine are both absolutely wrong, and to challenge what they say because it can and should be challenged, is not to ‘monster’ anyone. (And nor is ‘un-sisterly’ –  that was a particularly manipulative thing for Sarah Vine to say.)



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5 thoughts on “Why @SarahVine Is Wrong About Rape & Saying So Is Not “Monstering”

  • Helen Crittenden says:

    This is another example of the split in female unity.

    Disagreement with the absolutist anti-victimisation view comes from a generation of older women, teenagers before the 1990’s at least, who were brought up to believe that for men continual sexual arousal leads to a ‘point of no return’, a message taught to them by their fathers because they wanted to protect their daughters, and these daughters, now adults themselves, still spout those views. Of course we know today that no man ever reaches a point of no return, even if we as women find ourselves experiencing such intensity of agony in need of an orgasm that we understand full well what point of no return means for a woman. Those fathers would have approved of Sarah Vine’s comment that women need to accept ownership of their behaviour.

    A generation of older women, who grew up through their teenage years to understand that tauting a young man sexually through her dress and behaviour, and maybe even inviting him to share her bed, and then saying no led to being labelled a prick-tease, an insult far worse than to be labelled a slut who at least had the honour of seeing through what she had started.

    These are the women like Judy Finnegan and Sarah Vine. Check out the ages of the other women who speak like Finnigan and Vine – such as the judge who said when young women stopped getting utterly drunk rape claims would fall – she was 66. Finnegan is in her 60’s. Vine in her 50’s. And of the others, they too are pretty much all in their 50’s or older, a few maybe in their 40’s. They are trying to pass on the messages of moral behaviour of their generation to today’s generations. Fear not however, these ARE the older generation. As they die off so will their message. Freedom to behave without consequence will reign in due course.

  • Michael Weipert says:

    Have you noticed how empty vessels make most noise. I’d go further empty well off vessels who are cossetted and distant from reality make ‘sound and fury signifying….’ well you get the gist. Please keep writing, informing, educating,and chipping away at these often rather sad people who for the sake of attention make comments unworthy of humanity.

  • […] is why the words of Finnigan, Carlisle and Vine are so dangerous: they have elided Evans’ responsibility for the crime he chose to commit, as […]

  • I am one of those older women and I have never subscribed to the idea that men have a ‘point of no return’. I reject the oft- promulgated view that women are the guardians of, and responsible for, male sexuality. Aged fifteen I rejected in class, the idea that it is always a womens role to modify her own sexual responses so she can keep an eye on the mans so as to maintain his boundaries alongside her own. It is sexist. It nourishes rape culture.

    Ir might be more common among older women, I don’t know. But I find this a facile excuse. It seems to be prevalent among a certain kind of woman- one who is often found to be lacking in empathy all round.

  • Helen says:

    Finnigan and Vine both said some unfortunate things. The moral climate into which they were born and grew up – the post war through to the late 1970’s – was vastly different to the moral climate of today. Living in sin, illegitemacy, single motherhood, were all shameful states to be in. Thankfully things have changed. But that said is it possible to try and inject some understanding to the position these women are coming from (even though it’s inevitable that not all women of their age will share their views). Verbally attacking them is not going to change their minds – sure they may make public apologies but like anything under attack their most probable internal response is to retrench their views. Rather than them all being unempathic, is it possible to consider that they and others daring to speak out are doing so because they care about what is happening to the wider moral temperature of society? Just as older generations have done throughout history.