Richard Littlejohn on rape

I’ve been observing – with some disgust – the arguments about rape this week and I was wondering if the level of debate could get any worse. Then I realised that Richard Littlejohn had decided to make this topic the focus of his column this morning.

Yes, Richard Littlejohn, the man who insisted that the five women murdered in Ipswich be referred to only as ‘prostitutes’ and that we needn’t mourn the death of these ‘disgusting, drug-addled street whores’ who were ‘no great loss’ as they ‘weren’t going to discover a cure for cancer or embark on missionary work in Darfur’. And anyway, said Richard, ‘death by strangulation [was] an occupational hazard’ for the five women murdered, so what were we all getting upset about?

Yes, Richard women-hating Littlejohn – the man who sees in the twice-weekly collection of wheelie-bins the very end of civilisation – has had to step in because he feels the ‘The confected, hysterical reaction to his remarks was frankly typical of the debasement of political debate in this country’.

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, the man whose greatest satirical tool is to miss-spell words and to imagine what any given modern event would be like if it involved the characters of Dad’s Army is stepping in to rescue the level of debate.

You are probably thinking: ‘This isn’t going to go well, is it?’ And you’re right.

You see the trouble with Ricard is that he is so incapable of understanding any given topic that in order to ‘win’ any sort of argument he has to set-up a completely false starting point. He does this by arguing something that no-one has been talking about – at all – all week:

Last Tuesday night, two British charity workers were attacked and raped repeatedly by a gang of six masked men on the Caribbean island of St Lucia.

The women — aged 24 and 31 — were overpowered and subjected to a horrifying and prolonged sexual assault.

Their nightmare ordeal took place on a remote stretch of beach in the north-east of the island, where they were working on a wildlife conservation project.

No one would dream of suggesting that because they were camping on an isolated beauty spot overnight they were asking to be attacked.

Six men have now been charged with gang rape. If convicted they can expect — and will thoroughly deserve — harsh, exemplary punishment.

But let’s imagine for a moment that one of these unfortunate women had met a man in a Tiki Bar on St Lucia, got off her head on rum punch and invited him back to her hotel room for a drunken tumble.

The following morning, through her hungover haze, she was consumed by self-loathing. Would she be entitled to cry ‘rape’? [Emphasis is mine]

There we have it, somehow Richard Littlejohn has stepped into a semantic debate that focuses on the idea that rape can involve different degrees of violence and therefore attract different degrees of punishment (with the counter-argument that all rape is equal because rape is inherently violent; so, irrespective of whether the rapist hits the victim or not, the crime is the same because the act of rape is a far greater act of violence than hitting someone) by talking about women who ‘cry “rape”‘ after having a consensual one-night stand.

And, it’s worth pointing out, that once more Richard makes it perfectly clear he is just making it up with his classic ‘imagine if…’.

Why is it that whenever rape is discussed certain people – normally barrel-scraping misogynist hacks like Richard – always want to discuss false accusations of rape. We all understand that this is a serious issue, Richard, but it adds nothing to the debate about the conviction and prosecution of rapists – unless of course you just want to imply that unless the rape is completely unequivocal as in your first example, then we should just assume the women regrets a one-night stand and is ‘crying rape’.

Richard – having as usual got his caveats out of the way right at the start of his piece – then gets going:

There’s a world of difference between a violent sexual assault at the hands of a complete stranger, or gang of strangers, and a subsequently regretted, alcohol-induced one-night stand.

That’s not how the self-appointed Boadiceas of feminism see it. To them ‘rape is rape’, regardless of the circumstances, even if the woman was so sloshed she can’t remember whether or not she consented.

These vengeful viragos insist that ‘rape is a life sentence’ in every case. No, it isn’t. In many instances, it isn’t even rape.

There is a world of difference between rape and consensual albeit drunken sex, the trouble is Richard no-one is arguing otherwise. You have, as usual purposefully missed the point entirely. The next two sentences accuse the ‘self-appointed Boadiceas of feminism’ (you see you have to be a proper hardcore feminist to think that rape is a bad thing) of doing something they are not. They’re not defending women who falsely accuse someone of rape, probably because these people do a huge amount of damage to the cases of the real victims of rape (it doesn’t help that they receive a disproportionate media coverage either).

Let me make it absolutely clear for Richard: this week a debate erupted because it seemed as if the justice minister implied that rape could involve various degrees of violence and thus deserved varying degrees of punishment. The people who took offence at this tried to point out that rape is rape, irrespective of whether the attacker is violent in other ways towards his victim. The point being made is that rape is in itself the ultimate expression of physical violence and dominance, it doesn’t need to be accompanied by other forms of violence to attract the label of a violent crime.

I just get the impression that some people really see some kind of distinction between rape and violence. I think the confusion stems from the fact that ordinarily sex is a pleasurable and painless act so when a rape occurs the mind is able to make the fallacious argument that if no other violence occurred during the rape then it can’t have really been a violent act because the body is not normally harmed by sex. I genuinely think that this is the way some people subconsciously see rape. If the attacker doesn’t stamp on your face afterwards it’s seen as little more than inconvenient sex.

The sad thing is that this was never a discussion about consent, it was a discussion that stemmed once more around the idea that even in clear cases of rape (where the attacker confesses for example) there can be varying degrees of rape depending on the other violence associated with the case. Rather than engage in this debate Richard Littlejohn instead accuses women of crying rape simply because they regret casual encounters and then suggests that the only people to take offence are a bunch of hardy feminists who come out screaming to defend such women.

Even when he tries to get involved in a real, current debate he still has to completely invent a different debate to suit his own distorted agenda. In Richard’s world there are two types of rape: the first is the clear, violent gang rape of ‘innocent’ women, the next is just a bunch of drunken women screaming rape. It must be so nice living in a world of such clear distinctions.

This is the two types of ‘rape’ that Littlejohn puts into opposition:

I’ve no doubt that the victims of the most violent attacks, such as the poor woman who upbraided Ken Clarke on the wireless this week, carry their trauma with them for the rest of their days.

But, equally, many women who have had a brief sexual encounter of which they are ashamed simply shrug it off and get on with their lives. They don’t scream ‘rape’, they chalk it up to experience and vow to go easy on the chardonnay in future.

So, unless you are a rape victim who suffered a ‘most violent attack’ you’ll probably get over it just fine. On the other hand, if it wasn’t a really violent act then you’re were probably just drunk and feel a bit ashamed so you’ll just cry rape for the hell of it.

In conclusion:

  • Richard Littlejohn thinks that only women suffer or get upset by rape
  • Even when he tries to engage with a real debate, Richard must instead invent his own version because otherwise things are just too complex for him
  • If you weren’t brutally gang-raped, you’re probably just making it up (and you were almost definitely drunk as well)
  • No matter how hysterical or depressing a debate becomes, Richard can still easily drag it down another few notches
  • Richard Littlejohn is still the most cowardly little man in the whole of tabloid-land.

Features and Distortions in the Daily Mail

In 2007 Susan George was held hostage, violently raped twice and was hours away from what police described as ‘certain death’. However, her determination and mental strength allowed her to beg her attacker for over half an hour to drive her to a 24-hour garage in the early hours of the morning for one last packet of cigarettes. At the garage she whispered to the attendant that the man in her car and raped her twice and was going to kill her. To her eternal gratitude the garage attendant phoned the Police who managed to intercept Susan’s car just minutes before she completed her journey home.

In the resulting court case Susan waived her right to anonymity and when the attacker – Michael Thomas – was named three other woman came forward and eventually Thomas was convicted of 19 offences over a 21 year period and sentenced to a minimum jail term of 16 years. All of this was covered by the Daily Mail back in 2009.

Susan George – even before the court case had been concluded – had decided that she would do all in her power to encourage the victims of rape to come forward, so that serial rapists could no longer get away with multiple offences. She embarked on a counselling course at her local college and successfully completed it – just. This is when she was sent to me for academic support as she wanted to continue in college and pursue a degree, in order to do so she needed to improve her essay writing – substantially. Over the last year and a half I have mentored Susan and have been part of her extremely busy life: she counsels victims of crisis and trauma, works closely with Gwent Police to ensure they improve their services to deal sensitively and appropriately with the victims of rape and she has lobbied politicians across Wales and the UK for more funding for rape crisis centres and better education in schools regarding rape. All the while she regularly made time to come and see me to go over grammar, referencing, research skills and we painstakingly rewrote draft after draft until she became a very capable academic writer.

Susan is quite simply an inspiration, how she finds the time and energy to pursue all of her projects I simply do not know; how she manages to pursue them all with plenty of smiles and laughter along the way is simply brilliant. Her academic achievements in spite of all of the barriers that she faced – the long hours of being on call for victims of crisis, the ongoing counselling that she still receives as a result of her personal trauma, her college work, her campaigning and her volunteer work with local charities – led me to nominate Susan for a NIACE Dysgu Cymru Inspire Adult Learner Award. She duly won the award for Further Education Learner of the Year, which was thoroughly deserved and was in many ways a huge step in Susan moving from being labelled a victim to becoming labelled a ‘winner’ and in many ways an ‘activist’.

Leading up to the awards and in the weeks following (in fact it is still ongoing) Susan was contacted by a wide range of newspapers, magazines and TV channels inviting her to appear on programmes, to sell her story and so forth (she was even asked by a certain magazine: ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’, to which she replied ‘No’; ‘Shame’, replied the magazine: ‘Your story would be worth a lot more if it had that kind of happy ending’). She was also contacted by the Daily Mail, who wanted to write a feature on her. This is where my ears really perked up, how would the Daily Mail treat Susan, a person I hold in great esteem?

Well, let me fill you in.

Firstly, Susan – as above – has already been in the Daily Mail as a news story, she has also already had her story told in a national magazine (she gave the fee to charity) in an attempt to encourage other victims of rape to come forward. She therefore suggested – when contacted by the same photographer who had done her magazine photos – that she really liked the photos used previously, so could the Daily Mail use one of those? No, was the answer from the photographer; because the Daily Mail has strict rules for the photography of women that he must abide by. For starters, Susan was not allowed to wear trousers – because, according to the Daily Mail, only men are supposed to wear the trousers (I get echos of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple here). No, the Daily Mail wanted a victim of an horrifically violent sexual assault to wear a skirt.

Susan hasn’t worn a skirt since the incident and considers white, long-sleeved shirts as ‘underwear’ – she wears them underneath all clothes, all the time; as if they are a second skin. Yet the photographer was insistent that the Daily Mail would not accept his photos unless Susan was pictured in a skirt. In the end the photographer ended up dressing Susan completely, picking a very conservative, prim and proper grey skirt along with a conservative striped shirt. He positioned Susan rigidly, made her cross her hands in a certain way and she was not allowed to smile. When Susan failed to produce any shoes that were ‘suitable’ in the eyes of the photographer, he popped out and bought two pairs and gave Susan a choice between them. Her make-up was applied by a make-up artist and with the strict instructions on posture, facial expression and hand positioning the photo was finally taken.

The end result is that Susan George in the Daily Mail looks unrecognisable from the Susan that I, and everyone around her knows. She appears as if she is a mannequin, completely passive and seems to highlight that she is still very much the victim. Gone is her sense of fun, her amazing ability to make the absolute most of life; irrespective of what it has thrown at her. Here she is not pictured as an award-winner, as an example of how human spirit can conquer adversity, she is merely pictured as the Daily Mail wants all women to be: docile, conservative and ultimately passive. Needless to say, she hates the photo and cringes at the unknown person staring lifelessly back at her.

The article is pretty accurate (although they get her age wrong by 4 years and Michael Thomas never ran his own haulage firm, he merely worked for one – he is portrayed as ‘wealthy’ though, continuing the Mail obsession with personal wealth as some kind of personality trait) but I find a lot of things wrong with it.

My major issue is that even though Susan has achieved so much since the rape and wants to achieve so much more, the article is simply interested in retelling the rape ‘story’. As the writer of the piece makes clear, she is here to tell ‘Susan’s dreadful story’ not to write about how many positive things have been achieved since. The article is a classic piece of Daily Mail voyeurism, preferring to focus on the intrusive, forensic detail of horrific events, rather than address any wider issues or outcomes. Indeed, the retelling of the ‘dreadful story’ takes up so much space that only one paragraph – just 25 words – is dedicated to what Susan has achieved since.

Whilst I can understand the value of forensic detail if it is being used to shock people into thinking about an issue more deeply, the Daily Mail makes no attempt to do anything of the sort. The necessity for the Daily Mail to portray any given event in clear black and white terms prevents any worthwhile points being extracted from the experience that the reader has just been put through. The article concludes with anger from Susan directed at the justice system for the jail sentence given to Michael Thomas (a classic Daily Mail complaint that they make at the end of any article that details sentencing), when perhaps it might have been far more insightful and proactive if they instead spent some time considering why none of the previous victims came forward at the time when they were raped.

No consideration is given to what made Susan different is not just that she did come forward, but that she waived her right to anonymity: she spoke out for herself and for others. Susan may not be satisfied with the minimum length of time Michael will serve, but that is not the area in which she is now most actively working. The area she is most interested in is why rape victims are so reluctanct to come forward. She has questioned the role of the Police, the media (with their tendency to imply the women is normally to blame) and society’s attitude to rape – a society in which often more shame seems to be burdened by the victim and their family than that of the perpetrator. None of these issues, none of the things which really matter to Susan and the whole point in her having any kind of public profile, were raised in this article. Instead it ended with typical Daily Mail rhetorical scaremongering:

‘The reality is that he could be out in eight years, which is a joke. How many years’ torment has he put us all through already?

‘I’ve had three – so, with the others, that makes at least six, nine, 12 years of hell. And that’s only the victims we know about. How many others might there be?’

The amazing thing about the article is that winning the Further Education Adult Learner of the Year award was not even mentioned by the Daily Mail, nor any other of her achievements. Because the Daily Mail treats rape so simplistically they couldn’t possibly mention Susan’s close work with the Police to ensure that any rape victim that comes forward is treated with the utmost dignity, respect and above all belief. Because of their need for fear and horror they could only end with the possibility of other victims, not the possibility that Susan, in spite of everything she has been through, has actually survived not just to be the lifeless mannequin in the photo, but an energetic activist making a real difference to the world around her.

Susan’s is an incredible story, but it will never be a story that the Daily Mail can tell because it does not comfortably fit with the media narratives it tries so hard to create. Susan’s story is not about one woman’s acceptance of victimhood, nor is it (much as a certain magazine wished) the story of a woman whose life had to be salvaged by returning to the arms of a man, a nice one, a different one. Susan has become the one thing that the traditional media hates: an activist.

Daily Mail and Rape

I have been neglecting this site somewhat recently because I am helping build a website for rape victims. The purpose of the website is to try and shatter some of the popular myths or misconceptions about rape, and to empower more women or men to come forward and pursue the prosecution of the perpetrator. Throughout my discussions with rape victims the one point that can never be repeated enough is that no-one, no matter what they were doing, what they were wearing, whether they had been drinking or whatever any other circumstance agrees to be raped. The rape or sexual assault is purely the decision of the attacker, not the victim. No one is ever ‘asking for it’ or ‘encouraging it’.

However, in the time I have been reading the Daily Mail print edition and website I have seen numerous examples of how the Daily Mail tries to link the behaviour and promiscuity of the victim to the assault, as if really, the victim was to blame for causing the rape. It doesn’t help either that when a person is falsely accused that it gets far more publicity than a case that is successfully prosecuted, but it serves a purpose for the Daily Mail, it makes out that most rape victims are probably lying, and that somehow they are either mistaken or they are outright liars.

The trouble is that sometimes famous people – like Katie Price for example – claim to have been raped and it allows all of these misconceptions to be aired with spite because people feel that they know the sort of person Katie Price is, and they can then make a judgement about whether they believe she is the ‘type’ of woman to be a rape victim, or whether in fact her celebrity persona actually deserves rape in some way. The Daily Mail has certainly been responsible for some articles which imply that rape is caused by the behaviour of the victim: ‘I WAS raped,’ claims Katie Price, as she offers to take on allcomers at lover’s tacky cage-fight event.

The message here is clear, the subordinating conjunction ‘as’ nicely links the idea that a rape victim at a tacky event offering to ‘take on allcomers’, implies that she’s some kind of slut and probably asked for it? Forgive me if I’m reading too much into this headline, but I’ve been on the Mail website for long enough to know that very rarely do they accidentally create implications. The first lines of the article are bullet pointed to question the validity of the rape claim: ‘Price strips to underwear in front of 2,000 crowd; Former friend backs rape claims’. Clearly, the kind of person that strips to her underwear in front of thousands isn’t the kind of person who should be making rape claims – even if they are backed up by ‘friend’.

The point is that no matter what your opinion of Jordan that should have no bearing on how you feel about her as an alleged rape victim. You may think that she is a slut, a promiscuous airhead with no morals and many other things, this still has no bearing on any rape that may have taken place. Should we only support rape victims if they are sober, demure and innocent and forsake all those that don’t live like saints because we don’t like the way they behave so they probably deserved or encouraged it?

No matter what a person does in life they still maintain the right to control their own bodies, and what access other people have to that body. No matter what behaviours a person has exhibited in the past they always maintain the fundamental right to say no to anything that they do not want to do. If a sexual assault takes place after the word ‘no’ is uttered, then rape has occured, end of, no discussion – and no, you’re not allowed to question what the victim was wearing, that is all irrelevant.

Sadly, there are a lot of comments on the above article that accuse Jordan of making it up, seeking attention or generally trying to raise her profile:

Thought she said a couple of days ago that she was not going to mention the ‘rape’ again and wanted to get out of the limelight. That’ll be the day! I had to smile when I read that the alleged rapist made her ‘burst into tears’. I don’t think the man has been born yet that can do that.- Hilary, Staffs, 21/9/2009 15:44

Click to rate Rating 81

A woman who has been raped does NOT dress or act like this vile woman.- James, Plymouth, 21/9/2009 16:49

Click to rate Rating 82

Sadly, when rape gets reported by the tabloid media it becomes sensationalised gossip with people trying to guess who did it, or whether a rape really took place. The end result is that the real victims of rape (and I’m not even entering the debate over whether Jordan is a victim or not) are less likely to be believed if they do come forward, and, should they come forward, they have to deal with all the myths and misconceptions that surround tabloid reports of rape. This makes them not only the victim of rape, but also the victim of a society that doesn’t like to deal with the root causes of violent sexual assault and instead prefers to believe that somehow the rape victim has brought it upon them through their actions. The victim is blamed, whilst the perpetrator’s only crime is to have failed to interpret mixed messages correctly.

Jan Moir: I’m thinking she’s a piece of shit

I don’t think I’ve written anything about Jan Moir before, which is surprising considering what a giant turd she is. Her byline in the print edition reads: ‘Are you thinking what she’s thinking?’, to which – if the answer is yes – you’d want to rip your brain out through your nose and kick it very hard into traffic. She is, quite simply, typical of the women-hating, smug, patronising no-nothing that populates the Mail writing team. Today’s article has particularly pissed me off because I happen to be working on an online project on rape counselling and the issues she misunderstands today are precisely the sort of thing the website is being set up to correct.

Her article title, frankly, is a disgrace and makes me want to punch my computer screen: JAN MOIR: ‘What on earth was strangled Stacey’s mother doing letting a monster waltz into the heart of her family?‘. I’m not sure where to start with this, I guess firstly we should consider that ‘Stacey’s mother’ has just had a daughter possibly raped before being strangled to death, shortly followed by a man she loved and trusted for 18 months commit suicide. Naturally Jan Moir thinks that Stacey’s mother should be feeling even more miserable as somehow she is to blame for all this – for letting the ‘monster waltz into the heart of her family’.

This is one of the myths that surrounds any kind of sexual assault: that somehow because a sexual attacker is labelled a ‘monster’ they must somehow look and act like one – therefore, how could a person let someone who looks and acts like a monster into their home? The truth is the majority of sex attacks are carried out by people you know, often intimately. Sex attackers do not have leers, scars or tattoos stating the risks involved in being with them, they appear to society the same as we all do.

As in this case Darren Walker appeared to be the perfect family man, as Jan writes:

He was such a lovely family guy. We never dreamed he would do anything like this,’ said Miss Lawrence. ‘We are struggling to come to terms with the fact that he was not the man we thought he was.’
Oh, Roxanne. I don’t want to add to your grief. You have lost your little girl and are torturing yourself because you know her last moments on earth were painful and frightening.

That is a terrible burden for any mother to bear. Added to this, your partner of almost 18 months, a man you had planned to marry and whom you allowed – perhaps even encouraged – your children to call ‘Dad’ is dead.

So you are not just mourning the loss of your daughter and your partner. You are mourning the loss of the partner you thought you had.

That’s a relief, Jan Moir doesn’t ‘want to add your grief’, hold on though, what’s this we get to the part where Jan Moir relishes in sticking the knife in with unfounded accusations:

This is all utterly dreadful. Yet a big part of me can’t help but wonder: for God’s sake, Roxanne, what on earth were you thinking?
Without a moment’s doubt or suspicion, Roxanne Lawrence let a monster waltz right into the heart of her family life.

The implication that there was no ‘moment’s doubt or suspicion’ is basically accusing Roxanne Lawrence of being a bad mother, of it all actually being her fault. This is typical of the sexual assault scenario portrayed in tabloid newspapers, somehow the victim is to blame for not realising that the person was a sex attacker. If a boyfriend rapes you, it is your fault for being with him – ‘couldn’t you tell he was a monster? You silly girl!’. If a man enters your family for 18 months and seems perfectly nice, but then strangles your daughter you still somehow should have known he was really a beast all along – you silly girl.

This attitude of blaming the female victims of sex crime is a regular part of the Daily Mail ethos, and what makes it worse is that it so frequently comes from the mouth of female columnists. Here this entire column is dedicated to slagging of the victim of crime, whilst the perpetrator only merits a throwaway label. Somehow we are supposed to believe that sex crimes wouldn’t really happen unless women are silly enough to get close to people. Journalists just cannot admit that life is a little bit more complicated than good and bad, black and white. They cannot comprehend that sex attackers are often suave, charming and utterly convincing; to journalists they are always monsters with cloven hooves and horns, consequently anyone who falls victim to them deserve everything they get for being so stupid.

However, the problem with Jan Moir is that she even acknowledges the difficulty of spotting that Darren Walker was intent on assaulting and killing her daughter, but still turns round and lays the blame solely at the feet of the family (complete with ‘broken Britain’ overtones):

It is not stranger-danger children should be worried most about. It is what is going through the heads of their principal carers.
The truth is, at least 80 per cent of abusers are not strangers, but individuals who are known to the family.

This is a familiar dilemma to everyone – to social services, the police and the courts – except, it seems, these vulnerable women taken in by such sexual opportunists.

They fall for the ruses of men like Darren Walker, who are plausible, cunning, organised and intelligent, who pay attention to the mothers, all the while disguising their feelings for the boy or girl who is the true focus of their lust.

The contradictions here are staggering: one minute, everyone is admitting that people known to a family (which implies a level of trust / friendship); the next, stupid women don’t appreciate that people they know are actually intent on assaulting their family. The actual point contradicts because social services, police and courts are actually pointing out just how hard it is to protect your family against attackers who are able to convincingly become part of them. Even Jan Moir admits that people like Darren Walker are ‘plausible, cunning, organised and intelligent’, which seems to explain precisely why women are ‘taken in by such sexual opportunists’ and why Jan Moir should be ashamed of herself for blaming the victim in this case.

Just to make it absolutely clear that the family is to blame Jan Moir adds:

poor Stacey Lawrence. She was a popular girl who loved animals and dreamed her little girl dreams of being a zookeeper.
Yet her life ended because no one close to her was paying attention to what was really going on in the family home.

Yes, although as Jan Moir admits sexual predators are intelligent, normal, cunning and utterly convincing it is clearly the family’s fault for ‘not paying attention’.

Jan Moir, a question, just what the fuck are you thinking?

I hope Jan Moir owns a dog, a bloody big dog, and that one day after years of domestic bliss the dog turns one day and bites her fucking face off. Just so I can laugh at her for letting a monstrous animal into her house for all those years, and how I can call her stupid to fall for its puppyish charms and companionship when all along it just wanted to eat her chubby face. Perhaps then her family would be accused of ‘not paying attention’ and the dog would escape censure.