The silence in the court-room was a remarkable contrast to the constant chatter and bustle that had enveloped me outside in the huge glass atrium. The air was dry and as I made my way up the steps to the witness box, the click-clicking of my heels echoed around the room, puncturing the quiet with a nervous, staccato tattoo. “I knew I shouldn’t have worn these bloody shoes.” I thought to myself as every eye in the room started to fix upon me, making me instantly forget everything I’d been summoned there to recall. I grabbed the glass of water set down in front of me and gulped it all back, immediately regretting that I hadn’t left myself any for later. It was May and the temperature in that airless room was uncomfortably high; made worse in part, by the huge number of people who had turned out to follow the case. I scanned the room, trying to locate the man on trial. The man I was here to give evidence against, but the crowd just blurred into one huge indistinguishable mass as the advocate for the prosecution asked me to confirm my name and date of birth for the court.
“Take us back to the night of August 18th will you. Where were you when you first encountered the defendant?”
I don’t know if any of you have ever had to give evidence in a court case before, but even the most calm, confident and collected of us can go to pieces when faced with the wrath of a brutal cross-examining. I’d been walked through the testimony I was about to give, multiple times. My original statement had been corroborated, verified and since committed almost entirely to memory, ready for this moment. But under the intense scrutiny of everyone in that room, I started to doubt my own memory and felt so much pressure to get everything I told them, 100% accurate. But to put things into better perspective, I guess we need to go back nine months to where the story really begins.
I first met Sean Finn in a nightclub, on a Saturday night whilst out drinking with a group of friends who worked at the same hotel as me. It was summer, the height of the tourist season and we all worked incredibly hard to keep the wheels turning in every department of the hotel. I worked on reception when I wasn’t doing the night audit; a job I loved because I got to work alone for the most part, through the wee small hours of the night. The people I was out with worked in reception, in housekeeping, in the restaurant, in bars, in the health club, in the kitchens or as porters. Our shifts were long and often tested our patience to the maximum, but there was a real sense of camaraderie between us all and come the evenings and weekends, we played hard too; letting off steam with drinking, dancing and regular all-nighters.
The night in question, we had descended on the nightclub within the hotel premises en-masse, ready to make the most of whatever happy-hour prices and drinks promotions were on offer. There were rounds of shots, interspersed with chaotic invasions of the dance floor any time a really terrible, cheesy song was played and a general sense of happy, fun times. We’d chosen a table adjacent to the dance floor, from which to place our drinks, and beneath which all the women had piled their handbags, all claiming the table as ours. We stood around the table in a relaxed group, with some people talking to one another and some addressing the group as a whole. It was friendly. It was relaxed. It was just like every other Saturday night out in our surrogate family. None of us had a care in the world. We just wanted to get drunk, dance and shoot the shit with one another.
I initially noticed Sean when he sidled over to our group and started to laugh in the right place at what were essentially ‘in-jokes’ among the group, that wouldn’t normally register with anyone else. He looked a bit lonely, like someone who had come out alone and who just wanted to find a group of people to tag along with. That sort of thing happened a lot to us whenever we went out. As a rather large, loud and rowdy group, we probably drew quite a bit of attention from lookers-on and because of this often found that our numbers by the end of the night, had been bolstered by a couple of stragglers just along for the ride. This was never a problem. We were a friendly bunch. Our backgrounds were staggeringly different, comprising people from all over Europe and both sides of the Northern Irish sectarian divide. We weren’t big on focusing on our differences, choosing instead to celebrate them and concentrate entirely on each other because we liked them, respected them and thought that they would good people.
So when this guy started to look as though he wanted in on the group dynamic, I tried to be as welcoming as possible, asking him who he was, where he came from and whether or not he had a girlfriend/boyfriend. He told me that his name was Sean, he was 27 years old, single and originally came from Wexford in Ireland. We exchanged pleasantries and I told him that my ex boyfriend had lived in Wexford for a year or so and told me it was a really beautiful place. He offered to buy me a drink, which I accepted and he came back from the bar with two bottles of Blue Wkd for me, explaining that they were currently running a 2-4-1 offer on them, so I was getting a bonus bottle. Brilliant. Free booze. What wasn’t to like? I thanked him and we talked some more, him asking me who all my friends were and whether or not they would mind him tagging along with us. I briefly introduced him to everyone, pointing out their names to him and let him know that we hadn’t really made any plans to do much, other than get pretty hammered here, before heading off to get a burger or something from the chippy along the promenade.
He asked me if I wanted another drink. I told him that it was my turn to get the round in, but he produced a huge wad of cash from his inside pocket, muttering something about having had a good afternoon at the bookies. “Okay, if you’re sure. I’ll have a rum and coke please. Thank you.” I accepted and while he was at the bar, my friend Paul said “Looks like you’ve pulled there Bex!” before laughing. I explained to him that I had no idea who this Sean guy was, but he seemed a bit lonely, weird but harmless enough, so I said he could tag along. Sean returned from the bar with two bottles of Budweiser for himself and two glasses for me, each containing a large rum and coke. Again he said something about it being a 2-4-1 thing on at the bar, so I thought no more about it.
At some point I started to get a bit of a strange vibe about the guy. He asked me I had a boyfriend. I said no, that I’d split up with my last boyfriend about 3 months ago and was happily single, just playing the field. He asked me if I lived alone, to which I said no and that I lived in a shared house with about four other people. Then he asked me if he would be able to crash at my house at the end of the night, to save him having to fork out for a taxi home. I told him I didn’t mean to appear rude, but I didn’t really know him and wasn’t in the habit of letting strange guys stay over at my house. “I bet you’ve taken one or two of these guys here home with you before, haven’t you?” he asked while nodding towards the rest of the group. I explained to him that while it was none of his business, I hadn’t actually slept with any of the guys in my social circle, but yes, one or two of them had crashed at my house on the sofa, after a night on the beer. “Well let me buy you another drink and see if I can change your mind about that then, hey?” he asked. “Mate, you can buy me all the drinks you like, but I can assure you that I won’t be changing my mind on the subject anytime soon!” I retorted. He seemed to take this as some kind of challenge and once more made the trip to and from the bar, returning with a handful of various drinks, most of which were intended for me.
At the time I was a much more social drinker. I had a pretty high tolerance for alcohol and would often drink other people under the table, just to win…another free drink – go figure! I’d lost count of the number of times this Sean guy had bought me drinks, but I wasn’t drunk, just slightly inebriated. I had that Reddy-Brek glow in my stomach, but was still fully aware of everything that was going on around me. “That guy is properly into you, y’know?” said Paul who had been keeping an eye on the interaction between Sean and I. “You think?” I replied. “I’m not leading him on or anything. I’ve told him I’m not interested and when he asked to stay at my house I told him it wasn’t going to happen, but I think he took that as some sort of challenge because he’s seriously trying to ply me with booze!” Paul glanced over at the bar, where Sean was once again ordering a variety of different drinks before turning to me to say “Look. If you start to feel uncomfortable in any way, just let me know. If you want to come and stand over here next to me, just say so. And if you want me to walk you home, that’s no problem. Just say the word.”
I thanked him and turned back to where this Sean guy was standing with an assortment of bottles and glasses containing who-knew-what in varying amounts. He had to move forwards to place some of the onto the edge of the table and as he stepped closer, the spotlight overhead shone directly onto his face, giving me the first good look at him I’d had since he appeared. We all know the old adage that ‘You should never judge a book by its cover’, but there was just something about the way this guy looked that set me a little on edge. His smile looked more like a snarl and there was something about his eyes that didn’t seem right. I immediately regretted thinking about him that way and silently reprimanded myself for being so shallow. So the guy looked a bit funny. So what? Who was I to judge the guy for the way he looked. But I couldn’t stem the growing sense of unease that was starting to form like a knot in my stomach.
“How’s your drink? Are you drunk yet? Because I could really do with a place to crash tonight. I’ll sleep on your sofa – if that’s what you want?” he smirked, to which I quite simply said “It’s gonna take a lot more alcohol and a complete u-turn in sense of judgement, for me to even consider agreeing to letting you in my house.” “Well, we’ll see about that” he said before raising his glass, saying cheers and throwing back the entire contents.
“Would you say that the defendant was trying to get you drunk intentionally?” asked the advocate.
“Objection, calls for speculation.” came the retort from the defense advocate.
“Apologies your honour, let me rephrase the question. How did you feel about been bought so much alcohol by the defendant?”
“To be honest, I could see that the guy was absolutely gagging for it. He wanted to get me drunk so that he could get me to allow him to come home with me.”
“And you weren’t interested in that?”
“No. I made it abundantly clear that he could buy me all the booze he wanted, but I really wasn’t interested in him and it wasn’t going to happen.”
“And did he get the message, that you weren’t interested?”
“Yes. I mean, I mean I’d have to think so. I told him so, plenty of times.”
“Yet he still continued to hang around and ingratiate himself both with you and the rest of the group?”
“Yes. He started telling me that he thought I was great. Really funny and smart and pretty.”
“But you weren’t interested in his advances?”
“No. Not at all. I actually found him kinda creepy. But we were in a public place and I was surrounded by friends, so I wasn’t particularly worried.”
The night was starting to come to an end. The club were were at was about to close, so it must have been about 3.00am. By now Sean had chatted to a few other members of our group, having made some allusion to his being friendly with some mutual acquaintances that one guy had. Whatever he’d said gave some kind of credence to his decision to impress himself upon our group and whilst no one there seemed to particularly like the guy, none of us wanted to just tell him to fuck off. He was just another lonely dude, looking for some people to hang out with. So when we left the club and headed to a guest house where some of the group were staying, it wasn’t a big deal to see him tagging along too.
The guest house was kind of like a hotel, for long-stay guests and it housed quite a few people who had moved over to take jobs in the hotel we all worked for. The owner was an amazingly kind and understanding guy who we’d gotten to know quite well over time. He would often leave the bar open for all hours, letting us run up tabs that we would settle on pay-day later in the month. He and I got along especially well because he, like I, had a penchant for a good single malt. Any time he got a new, interesting or obscure bottle in, he’d bring me up to the bar for a sample snifter on the house. Rob was an absolute natural in the hospitality trade. He had a big heart, huge personality and physically imposing status. He would go out of his way to make people happy – but fuck with him and let him down and…well, let’s just say he didn’t suffer fools gladly. That night, when we all piled into the hotel bar after the nightclub closed, he was there keeping us all well-lubricated with alcohol until the sun started to creep up over the horizon.
Sean had taken a seat next to me in the bar, briefly, trying once more to get me to let him come home and sleep on my couch. He kept promising over and over again that he wouldn’t overstep the mark, wouldn’t try it on with me and wouldn’t be a bother if I’d just let him get his head down to sleep somewhere for the night. He offered to walk me home when I started to say something about being tired and when he found out that I liked a decent Scotch, presented me with two large single malts. I was really creeped out by him at this point, so sensing a vibe that I really didn’t like, I called my friend Paul over and asked him to sit and talk with me a while.
I was slightly drunk by this point, but not to the point of being stupid or reckless or falling-down all over the place. I told Paul that I didn’t have a very good feeling about this guy and that he really didn’t seem to want to take no for an answer on the whole ‘sleeping on my sofa’ thing. He replied that he too didn’t like the guy and had been trying to keep an eye on me, the whole time I’d been cornered by him. I asked him to stay close to me and if he didn’t mind, would he also walk me home in a bit. I’m not a naturally panicky person and I’m pretty good at handling myself, should a situation arise. But I’m also not stupid. I don’t make a habit of getting myself into the kind of situation, which requires me to be able to ‘handle’ myself appropriately.
I thanked Paul for understanding, gave him a quick hug and then saw Sean sit down in a seat across from us, having just returned from the toilet. He’d seen me hugging Paul – who was nothing more than a platonic friend who I trusted – and could barely contain the glare of disgust that was creeping across his face. He was starting to look angry. Paul got up to go to the bar and Sean took this opportunity to lean over and ask me “Is he your boyfriend? I thought you said you didn’t have a boyfriend? You looked pretty close there a minute ago!” His tone was accusatory and his facial expression was set firm. “Paul’s a good friend” I told him. “He’s just looking out for me and I was thanking him for being so thoughtful.” But it didn’t seem to placate him at all.
“Would you say that you were in the habit of inviting strange men back to your house?”
“No. Not at all. My landlady is a former nun and she doesn’t allow for us to bring back guests to the house.”
“But you did tell the defendant that you had allowed a couple of your friends to ‘crash’ at your place on occasion?”
“Yes, but they were people my landlady had met and was familiar with. She knew them and didn’t mind them sleeping on the sofa occasionally, if it was a late night or if the weather was particularly bad out.”
“So you wouldn’t have really been in a position to invite the defendant back, even if you’d wanted to?”
“No. I would have been risking eviction if I broke the rules and I wasn’t about to do that for some guy I barely knew and didn’t particularly like.”
“No further questions your honour, although I reserve the right to recall the witness at a later date.”
The group at the guest house had grown larger as some of the other residents returning from their later shifts, arrived to join us for a night-cap before heading to bed. There was a pleasant buzz of chatter and someone had put some 80’s music on that was playing gently in the background. Rob had opened up the partition doors which separated the bar room from the TV room, to make more space for our expanding group. At one point I needed to visit the bathroom and it was only when I tried to navigate my way up the fairly steep stairs, that I realised how drunk I really way. Seeing my reflection in the mirror, I laughed to myself. I had dark smudges of make-up below my eyes, which were starting to look a little bleary and bloodshot. I did a quick repair job on my face, spritzed myself with some perfume, rearranged my hair and made my way back down to the happy throng. If walking up the stairs had been difficult, descending was a task of Herculean effort. I gripped onto the bannister, doing all I could to stop my top half from toppling forward, faster than my high-heeled feet could keep up.
At the bottom of the stairs, just as I was congratulating myself on not tumbling down, Sean appeared. He looked angry. He was also drunk. At this point the combination of his thick accent and the effects of alcohol, meant that I couldn’t really understand everything he was saying. But it was nasty and accusatory. Words like bitch, fucking slut and tease were in there, along with him declaring that all he’d wanted was somewhere to crash for the night. A bit more mumbling and he told me I was full of myself and shouldn’t treat people that way. I was past caring though at this point; way beyond giving a shit about politeness or coming across like a gigantic bitch. So I said something about him being a weirdo and stupid for thinking he could buy his way into my bed with drinks, before pushing past him and rejoining the group in the bar.
The next hour or so passed by in a sort of haze. I know I switched to drinking coke because I knew that if I carried on drinking alcohol, I’d throw up. Bit by bit, the numbers in our group dwindled. Some went upstairs to their room to sleep it off, others left the building and headed home to crash. I didn’t see much more of Sean, except for when he started to kiss a woman I didn’t recognise, at the far end of the TV room. “Thank fuck for that!” I thought to myself. “Now he’ll leave me alone”.
“How did it make you feel to see the defendant kissing another woman?”
“I was really relieved. I figured he’d finally gotten the message and switched his attention to someone who was happy to reciprocate.”
The defense advocate moved closer to me, glanced over his shoulder at the onlooking crowd for full theatrical effect.
“Really? Are you sure you weren’t jealous to see a gentleman who had previously been paying you a lot of attention, now being affectionate with another woman?”
“What?? NO! Not. At. All. I didn’t like him. I had no interest in him. I felt sorry for him at first, but then he just became creepy and annoying. I was glad he’d found someone else to bother.”
“You say that he was creepy and annoying, but you were more than happy to accept all the drinks he was buying you, weren’t you?”
“Well, yes. If he was stupid enough to want to keep splashing the cash, buying me drinks when I had made it abundantly clear – on multiple occasions – that I wasn’t interested and wasn’t going to allow him to come home with me, then far be it from be to stop him.”
“And did it ever occur to you, that by letting the defendant shower you with all that drink and attention, that you might be leading him on?”
“No. Not at all. Like I said, I told him repeatedly that I wasn’t interested and he couldn’t come home to stay at my house. I never once gave him the impression that I wanted anything more from him.”
“No further questions your honour.”
Bacon sandwiches. I’m not sure who mentioned them first, but as soon as the words were uttered, we all realised how hungry we all were and Rob scurried off to the kitchen to make us all breakfast. Our numbers had now dwindled to about 5 or 6 of us, all huddled around a single table in the bar, starting to look and feel the worse for wear. We devoured our breakfasts in a comfortable silence, before thanking Rob for taking such good care of us. Outside the sun was up, but a miserable mist and drizzle was obscuring most of it from sight. Someone said they could really do with some fresh air. Why didn’t we all take a wander outside and have stroll along the beach? Clear our heads and stretch our legs, before retiring to our respective abodes. As we grabbed our bags and belongings I noticed a jacket left lying across the back of a chair in the living room. I recognised it as the one that the creepy guy Sean had been wearing earlier. I hadn’t brought a coat with me when I’d gone out the night before – typical girl – so I told Rob that I was going to wear Sean’s jacket home. I’d take it into work with me on Monday and he could collect it from the cloakroom. We walked along the promenade, some of us venturing onto the beach, for about 15 minutes; but we soon realised that none of us really had the energy to stay out much longer.
All I could think of by now was my bed. Warm and comfortable and quiet, I had the whole day and night off and planned to hide away under my duvet until the effects of the previous night wore off. So when Paul walked me to my front door, hugged me goodbye and headed back off to his own house, I had no idea that only a few hours later I would be wide awake and giving a statement to the police, trying to piece together what had happened.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking. You’re thinking that I’d called the police. You’re probably thinking that I was the one who was reporting a crime. A crime that had happened to me. But you’d be wrong. This IS the story of a girl who got raped by a guy she met on a night out drinking. But that girl wasn’t me. Yes I was called to testify and yes what I said helped to send Sean Flynn to prison. But I wasn’t the victim of the crime, merely a witness for the prosecution.
What happened when Sean Flynn left the guest house with the girl he’d been kissing, was pretty horrific. I didn’t know the girl; she was over here on a brief visit, to attend a wedding. But she knew some of the people in my group of friends. At some point in the early hours of Sunday morning, she had agreed to go back to his house, which was about a five minute taxi journey away from the guest house. I don’t know why she agreed to do this. It seems odd that he would have been so insistent upon needing a place to stay for the night when he lived so close by. But for whatever reason, she chose to accompany Sean Flynn back to his home. A decision she will regret for the rest of her life.
At his house, she’d sat on the sofa kissing him, but then refused to go any further. She decided she wanted to go home. But Sean Flynn got a knife from his kitchen and forced her to perform a sex act on him at knifepoint. He raped her at knifepoint, forced her to perform a sex act on her again, at knifepoint, then held her over the kitchen table and tried to anally rape her, but when he was unsuccessful, raped her again, vaginally. Still at knifepoint. At some point he stopped suddenly and she was able to gather her clothes and escape, before calling her friend and then calling the police.
The police had asked all of us present that night to come and be questioned; to give statements where applicable. I was asked to stay and make a long, fairly detailed statement because a/ I had a better memory of what had happened that evening than the rest of us and b/ Sean Flynn had spent a large part of the evening focusing his attention on me. They wanted to know everything he’d said to me. At one point I started to think that the whole thing was my fault. That I’d enraged this guy by refusing to allow him to stay at my house. That by taking all those free drinks from him, I’d added fuel to the fire and sent him off temper flared, ready to explode at whatever female was unlucky enough to be in his line of sight. Maybe if I’d just told him no, gently and been a bit nicer to him? Maybe if I’d just said no to all his offers of drinks? Maybe if I’d made more of an effort to include him in our group?
But I know that I can’t be held responsible for what happened that night. Sure I might have pissed the guy off, but what I soon came to realise was that I had also stopped myself from possibly being raped instead.
There’s a lot of talk these days about how we live in a rape culture; as though society has somehow become so accepting and laissez faire to the notion of rape, that it’s become somewhat acceptable. Society is accused of being default rape apologists and victim blamers, when in reality there isn’t another crime that elicits such revulsion, anger, distress and sympathy from the rest of society. The term victim blaming is brandished like a weapon, towards anyone who dares to try and suggest that a person who was raped, might possibly have avoided getting raped, by employing a different set of behaviours or making alternative decisions. We’re told that the victim is never to blame. The perpetrator is to blame! Which of course is true, the perpetrator is ultimately the person to blame for carrying out the act of rape. But why can’t we also consider a level of personal responsibility enacted by someone who then may or may not go on to become a victim?
The notion of victim blaming is kind of implicit in every crime prevention initiative rolled out by police, town councils and neighbourhood watch schemes, the world over. Secure you home. Lock your doors. Don’t leave valuables on view in your car. Never leave you luggage unattended. Don’t let your kids go on the internet unsupervised. Always make sure you keep your antivirus software up to date. Never give out your password or PIN to people online. Don’t have the contents of your purse on display. But try to suggest that a person can avoid getting into a situation where they’re in danger of being raped? Well, then you’re a victim blamer. A rape apologist.
That night when I met Sean Flynn, I didn’t like him. But that could have just been my own personal preference. He wasn’t my type. I wasn’t interested. Maybe I did sense that there was something a little off with him; maybe I’m remembering that more with the benefit of hindsight. Who knows. But one thing is for sure. Whatever I did that night, I certainly didn’t end up getting raped. I’ve been around. I’ve heard the stories about girls who led guys on and found that they ended up going further than they intended. I had in the past found myself in similar awkward positions. So I promised myself that in order to stay safe, then there were some simple rules I ought to follow.
I always stuck to the group when out drinking. I didn’t accept invitations back to the houses of people I didn’t know, unless I was sure that sex was or wasn’t on the cards and both parties were happy with that. I didn’t lead guys on. I never pretended to be more interested in a guy than I really was. I always made sure that I had someone who would walk me home if I needed them to. I only ever called a taxi from the one firm I knew well and used exclusively. I always told my friends if I was going somewhere and let them know when to expect me back. I listened to my gut and if my instinct told me that someone was a bit off, I made sure that I wouldn’t end up in any situation I couldn’t control. Basically, I just did what I thought was sensible, in order to keep myself safe.
And it worked. What happened to that girl, that night, in Sean Flynn’s house was despicable. I can only imagine how scared she was and how disgusted and devastated she felt afterwards. But there’s this part of me that wanted to ask her why the hell did she kiss him, go with him in a taxi to his house and start kissing him again on the sofa, if she didn’t really want to do anything further with him? Why did she go willingly to his house and then seem so shocked and surprised that he was expecting sex? Yes, I know we’re all supposed to be 100% up on the new rules of affirmative consent, where a person can pull away, say no and change their mind at any moment during an intimate moment, but let’s try and keep things grounded in the real world for a moment; not the pages of a gender studies textbook.
When it comes to the art of sex and seduction, it’s often what isn’t said that means more that what IS said. Yes that probably sounds pretty confusing to someone who has just been forced to sit through some mandatory consent training at their university, but some of us who grew up before the SJW feminist crowd hijacked sex and turned it into an act of invasion, know all about those silent cues; those cheesy shorthand phrases like “come in for coffee” which everyone knows has nothing to do with you showing off your new Nespresso machine. Expecting people to give their affirmative consent, every time you go to kiss a different part of their body, or if you switch from regular old missionary to doggy-style, might sound perfectly acceptable to those who haven’t gotten laid since Lara Croft’s arse had the curvature of a Rubik’s Cube; but to those of us who actually managed to navigate our way through the strange and wonderful world of sexual relationships without college issued instruction manuals, the whole idea seems bizarre and not in the least bit conducive to a good shag.
I know that a lot of the people behind these affirmative consent doctrines mean well. They’re trying to simplify the kinda complex minefield of sexual relations, to the point where there really cannot ever be any doubt as to what each individual’s intent and desires are. On paper it sounds perfectly reasonable. Logical. Rational even. But learning to navigate that strange and slightly confusing path to sexual encounters is actually part of the fun; and in many ways, it’s how we get to learn about the real expectations around consent and seduction. By listening to and paying attention to how the other person is responding. It’s intuitive, it’s unspoken and it can’t be taught in a book. It’s something you learn by just making sure that you made the right decisions that led you to where you are in the first place and by slowly, tentatively fumbling your way until you finally find your feet and figure out the steps to this intimate dance.
Will you get it wrong sometimes? Hell yes. You’ll probably end up embarrassed from time to time when you misread the signals and have to back off. There are times when you’ll wish that there really was a bloody guidebook that could teach you the ways in which to always get it right. But there isn’t one. It’s an experience that has to be learned by doing it. Some people will try to suggest that all affirmative consent training does is provide young people with the knowledge they need to get to that place where they can begin to learn the ropes, only with a distinct understanding of what it means to have given consent to begin that dance in the first place. But if you’ve gotten to college without a basic understanding of what the word ‘no’ means, then I don’t know how you’re planning on navigating your way through your new life away from home for what is probably the first time. Sure, the latest craze for safe spaces and protesting any time a lecturer hurt someone’s feels will help to accommodate your general sense of entitlement for a while. But even the most ‘progressive’ of institutions that aim to wipe your arse for you the minute you start to matriculate, will eventually prove too much for your delicate little soul.
Telling students that they need to be educated on what the word no means, is ridiculous. Constantly having to give your affirmative consent whilst in the throes of passion is a total bloody mood killer. And if you think these courses are going to alter the minds of those who have a psychological predisposition to commit crimes like rape, then you’re an idiot. “Teach men not to rape!” is a ridiculous statement for anyone in the 21st century western word to make. Not only is rape a non-gendered issue, but the majority of men, believe it or not, aren’t actually rapists. Most men are appalled at the idea. (Noel Plum makes a really excellent case against the notion of us living in a rape culture where rape has become less repugnant to society and I suggest you go watch it here.) You aren’t changing the minds of rapists who have deep seated psychological issues, with your consent training classes. You’re just creating a generation of young adults who are terrified of sex and completely lost when it comes to being able to really read the signals a potential sexual partner is giving them in the heat of the moment.
So what CAN you do, to decrease the chances of someone being raped? Well it’s pretty simple really. Rape exists. It has always existed and it will continue to exist. You will never be able to prevent any incidences of rape from ever happening. But you can take a few basic steps to allow yourself to employ a degree of personal responsibility and reduce your chances of getting raped. Don’t go home with someone who you don’t really know and trust. Don’t leave your drinks unattended when you go out. Stay in groups wherever you can. Use familiar taxi firms with registered drivers and let other people know where you’re going. Avoid walking home alone in the dark, through deserted areas. Be honest and upfront about what you want and don’t give someone mixed signals. If your gut is telling you that something isn’t right about someone, trust it. It’s not worth the potential fall-out should you ignore what your instincts are telling you.
Basically, just use common sense. Don’t allow yourself to get into a situation where your intent can really be questioned in the first place and you won’t have to spend your evening going “yes I consent to that” every time your partner switches things up a bit. Of course you do always have the right to pull away and change your mind at the last minute, but if you find yourself in habit of doing that on more than one occasion, maybe you ought to take a good hard look at yourself and try to figure out why you keep getting into that situation.
Anyway, that’s just my take on the whole rape culture and victim blaming bullshit that’s making the rounds at the moment. I’m pretty sure that this is going to get a whole lot of negative attention from people who want to tell me that “Everyone has the right to change their minds!” or “The victim is never to blame!” But before you tweet me something like that, just think back to the true story I’ve just told you. Think about who got home safe and sound and who ended up being examined by a police surgeon after being held against their will and repeatedly raped. And then decide whose example you think is a better one to follow.
Thanks for reading.