Nick Ross, you are dangerous and misguided

Rape is rape. There are no mitigating circumstances or shades of grey

Share

Of women I have known who have been raped or sexually assaulted – and it’s chilling to write “women” in the plural – not a single one has reported the attack to the police. The reasons are complex. Fear of a protracted legal process in a  country with a shockingly low rape conviction rate. Not wanting to re-live the  experience, or face the attacker ever again. But there is also something else – perhaps the most disturbing reason of all: a sense of shame, of guilt, of somehow inviting the violence  perpetrated against them, and that they were not therefore raped at all.

And that’s why former Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross’s reappearance from obscurity to reveal himself as an ill-informed victim-blaming buffoon is so unwelcome. In extracts from his book published by the Mail on Sunday today, Ross compares some rape survivors to “foolish” people who have laptops stolen after leaving them on the back seat of their cars. “We would laugh at a bank that stored sacks of cash by the front door,” he writes. “Half of all women who have penetrative sex unwillingly do not think they were raped,” and that was particularly true when they were drunk or on drugs.

When this sort of dangerous nonsense gets sprayed into the mainstream, it’s important that we hear from women above all else, and particularly those who feel able to talk about their own experiences of rape. But other men have to speak out, too: not only to show that not all men think like Ross, but also to help  undermine the culture that makes rape as  horribly pervasive as it still is.

Dangerous

Let’s be clear about this. Rape is rape. There are no mitigating circumstances or shades of grey. Either someone has sex with another person’s consent, or they have sex without their consent. It does not matter how many or few clothes a woman chooses to wear, or if she has downed eight cocktails, or smoked a few joints, or snorted lines of coke. It is irrelevant whether a woman is apparently flirtatious, or has gone on a date with a man, or has snogged them. Being married is no excuse either, something the law only recognised in 1991. “No means no,” and that really is that.

I don’t use the word flippantly when I describe interventions like Ross’s as dangerous. They help discourage women who have been raped from coming forward, allowing perpetrators to escape justice. They stop women who do report rape from being taken seriously. They help promote feelings of guilt and shame among rape survivors. And they help normalise rape among men: to give a rationale to the idea that women are somehow fair game in certain circumstances.

This poison gets aired too often. Last year, West Mercia Police published a poster in support of its “Safe Night Out” campaign that suggested that rape survivors were responsible if they drunk too much. It showed a woman smiling in a nightclub, and then lying, dishevelled on the floor, with the warning “Don’t leave yourself more vulnerable to regretful sex or even rape. Drink sensibly and get home safely.” The problem isn’t, apparently, men who rape. Instead, women have to change their behaviour to stop tempting them. Even some who regard themselves as progressive-minded fatally compromise themselves on rape. Last year, I met with cries of betrayal after suggesting Julian Assange should face accusations of rape. A few of his supporters suggested I was an MI5 agent; but many of them indulged in attempts to smear the accusers and belittle the allegations.

Blurring stereotypes

All of these attitudes are the legacy of thousands of years of male domination. It’s only in the last century that this domination has faced a systematic assault and dismantling: after all, a century ago women were still battling for just the right to vote. “Trying to level the genders is purely idiotic,” director Roman Polanksi – a man who raped a 13-year-old child – said at the Cannes Film Festival at the weekend. It is happening, however “idiotic” he thinks it is. It’s not just women who have been changed by feminism: men have been transformed too.

What it is to be a man isn’t static: it changes through the ages. Men in Britain are now less likely to treat women as subordinates, let alone as their chattel. Many have close female friends. They spend more time with their children. They do more housework. They talk about their feelings more. They tend to their appearance more, blurring old gender stereotypes.

There’s still a long way to go, of course. Statistics about rape and domestic violence are evidence of an often brutal male domination that continues. It is estimated that a million women face domestic violence a year; 400,000 women are sexually assaulted, and 80,000 women are raped. The objectification of women – from the Sun’s Page 3 to sexist jokes – help promote the idea that women exist for men’s sexual gratification.

When the likes of Ross make these idiotic pronouncements, it’s tempting to dismiss them as just that and move on. But the possible consequences are genuinely damaging. I hope men will join women in condemning them, too. We have to challenge a culture that allows some men to think they can get away with rape. That means standing with women – and speaking out as loudly as we can.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Engineer-(Support, ITIL, Software Vendor)

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Engineer-(Support, S...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Service Delivery and Support Manager

£55000 - £75000 per annum + excellent benefits: Harrington Starr: Service Deli...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Turkey and Qatar must step up the fight against Isis

Benedict Greening
 

Should America pay Isis ransom money to free hostages like James Foley?

Kim Sengupta
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home