Let’s just look at the facts here, shall we? This child was 13, and had been abused by a 41 year old man. The lawyer for the prosecution – yes, you read right, this wasn’t the defendants lawyer, referred to her as “predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced”. In giving the defendant a sentance which is now up for review due to its leniacy, the judge decided to take into account the fact that the girl was “egging him on”.
I’m not entirely sure which world I’ve stepped into when I read comments like that, but I’m damned sure it’s not one I like. as I’ve said before, I’ve been a victim of childhood abuse, so I’m very well aware that I project my junk when I read things like this. But there are so many inherant problems with these comments, I’m not sure where to start.
Legally, a child of 13 cannot consent to sex. If this young person is sexually experienced therefore, she has been a victim of abuse. I’ve heard people, and often it’s people who aren’t victims, talk about victims almost as if they’re selfish for not reporting. “What if he turns around and does it to someone else?” Well, here’s the thing. The reason sexual abuse of all kinds goes so unreported is because of this culture of victim blaming. To open up about the most shameful and difficult things in your life, and then to be doubted and insulted, is the most profoundly degrading experience possible.
It also really shows men in a horrid light. I have a son. He’s 2, and he’s adorable. But it seems to me that the message this gives to all young men is that it’s ok to abuse, to take what you want. Because you’re weak, and she was egging oyou on. Or she was dressed like a slut. Or because, poor dear, men are simply made like that. It’s bollocks. Men aren’t made like that – like women, they’re far better. Being a real man isn’t about being governed by hormones.
I don’t know what the answer is, to be honest. I know there are suggestions for lawyers nad judges to be better trained in matters of sexual abuse, which will help. But until we tackle the underlying issues, I’m not sure how it will stop. How do we educate our young men and women that no really does mean no? That a young women is not playing hard to get – and equally important, for young women, that they are not to blame? How do we switch from a victim to a perpetrator based model of justice?