In what is easily the most disgusting news you will read all week, Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins has pleaded guilty to numerous counts of sexual violence, including attempted rape of a baby. His guilty plea means that thankfully, no jury will have to be subjected to the full sickening details of what he did, but the damage has been done to his victims.
It is notable that until his guilty plea, Watkins “furiously denied” the allegations. This is hardly a surprising to anyone familiar with rape culture. The most common lie about rape is denial that it happened. This lie is readily lapped up and believed: a Facebook page titled “Ian Watkins is innocent” has over 200 “likes”, and the only evidence these people had to go on was Watkins’s word that he didn’t do it. Even when a man has been convicted of rape, we still see a denial of guilt, as was the case when footballer Ched Evans was convicted.
I wrote before about how there was nothing remarkable in the allegations against paedophile and rapist Jimmy Savile, nor in the cover-up surrounding the episode. While what Ian Watkins did was horrifying, the same is true. At its core, what we have is a powerful man abusing his power over the weak and vulnerable. Indeed, it has been suggested that he used his position as a celebrity to gain access to children. Powerful men rape and abuse, and they lie about it. It’s the same story with a different cast.
Public reaction has attempted to elide this structural violence, and pretend that the culture which allows people like Watkins to abuse does not exist. Some make jokes about what happened, as though rape of a baby is a laughing matter. Others claim their childhood has been ruined because a beloved pop figure has been revealed to be a paedophile. But the only childhoods ruined by Watkins were of the children he abused.
Many have tried to derail this talk of rape culture by pointing out that the other two defendants in the Watkins case were women, as though that somehow magically dilutes the main point: that powerful men rape, and then lie about it. It is worth noting here that experts suggest that it is unlikely the women would have abused children without Watkins persuading them to do it through grooming.
The Watkins story shows a particularly extreme manifestation of rape culture, but things like this happen every day, and will continue to happen. The whole system needs uprooting, as we see people decrying Watkins yet continuing to perpetuate other myths that make it easier for rapists to get away with it. It chills me to the bone that in the future we will see more cases like this. This is why we must fight rape culture, for every current and past victim.