Shia LaBeouf's rape claim: Would we say to a woman 'Oh sure, why didn’t you fight them off?'

The actor's claim is a test for the feminist cause

Grace Dent@gracedent
Monday 01 December 2014 20:08
Shia LaBeouf made the claims during an interview last week
Shia LaBeouf made the claims during an interview last week

The alleged rape of Shia LaBeouf by a woman during his art installation #IAMSORRY is an enormous test of morals and self-imposed standards for a vociferous windbag feminist like myself.

Until now, LaBeouf’s behaviour has been erratic, attention-seeking and at times infuriating. Yet if anyone cited these things as relevant to me while announcing an alleged rape of a woman, I’d be incandescent.

When investigating rape, I would argue, all that should really matter is that specific moment and the actions of the perpetrator, not the victim. LaBeouf insists that he was seriously sexually assaulted. “Oh sure, why didn’t you fight her off?” I think, only to realise that this would be one of the first questions any defence lawyer would spring on a victim. All notions of the victim’s shock, or the perpetrator’s subtle coercion, or any unwise snap decision by the victim to be “polite” would be painted as consent.

To mock or reject out of hand LaBeouf’s claim is to make a backwards step with regard to sexual equality. We cannot expect that the rape of women is approached with sensitivity, respect and with intricate attention to the nuanced behaviours that led to it, but then reject LaBeouf outright as “It doesn’t sound quite right”.

I was not in the room at the #IAMSORRY exhibition so I can’t speak of doubtless truth, but LaBeouf seems upset by the incident, so as a woman who wants equality it’s my duty to say: “I believe you.”

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