Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tory MSP: Rape Survivor Has Herself to Blame

I think this will be my first post commenting on Scottish politics, but I thought this very relevant to bring to people's attention as the Scottish election is coming up in May.

The F Word UK reports how Bill Aitken, MSP has implied that a woman who was raped on Renfrew Lane here in Glasgow might have been a hooker because
“Somebody should be asking her what she was doing in Renfrew Lane. Did she go there with somebody? … Now, Renfrew Lane is known as a place where things happen, put it that way.”
This is a completely outrageous statement! What does the woman's line of work have anything to do with rape? Can she not be raped because she allegedly sells sex? If it is true, and the woman is a sex worker, it doesn't matter. Sex workers deserve the same access to rights and protection as people who are teachers or bus drivers or politicians or unemployed or whatever. They are people, and they have rights. The views of people like Bill Aitken are downright dangerous to the well-being of these people and feed into a wider stigmatisation of sex workers where it is seen to be acceptable to rape, abuse and treat them however one likes.

Furthermore, what is really problematic, apart from the obvious victim blaming that the F Word UK have already pointed out, is his view of who can and cannot be raped. Not only is there an implicit assumption that sex workers can't be raped because they voluntarily (although, not always voluntarily as Bill Aitken should know) sell sexual services, is the obvious moral assumptions on the part of Aitken. By stating that the woman a) was in the wrong part of the town at the wrong time of night, she must b) be a sex worker or something like it, he is stating that only certain women can be raped. In his view, it seems, a virtuous woman would not be seen in Renfrew Lane or thereabouts at certain points of the day; thus, this woman must be morally inferior or corrupt in some kind of way. (That sex workers should be morally inferior or corrupt is, to begin with, a stupid assumption). In Bill Aitken's world, good people do not get raped. This, in itself, gives rise to very interesting questions on how he would take it if someone he viewed as "good" actually was raped. Either they must be inherently evil or the rape would not have taken place; or they have not been raped and are either exaggerating some sort of consensual sex or they are lying, which would make them liars instead. This is such a backward way of thinking it does not belong in the 21st century.

What is even more outrageous is that this man sits on the justice committee that helped formulate the policy on rape! This man, who wants to blame the rape survivors for putting themselves at risk of rape, is actually forming policies on the matter. I suspect it shall not be long until he issues another statement saying that the most efficient way to prohibit rape is to put all women (because in Aitken's world, I suspect only women can be raped) in a cage and throw the key away. After all, in that case women cannot walk on the streets where they might get raped. But we have to remember that we cannot put this cage in someone's home, because as Aitken might know (but have forgotten) the majority of rapes happen in the home or by someone already familiar to the survivor. Uh oh, would not this make it even worse for women who are now caged up for the familiar men (in worlds like Aitken's, men are perpetrators and women are victims) to use at their whim?

I suppose, then, that Aitken has come up with the golden middle-way in this scenario. Because women cannot safely be protected, in the case of rape, we shall just blame them. Because we all know that women incite men to sexual violence, and especially sex workers who flaunt their genitalia and their sexuality. Because as we all know also, if you have agreed to sex one time, your consent is indefinite - the person is yours for the taking.

What Bill Aitken is managing to do through his statements is placing the responsibility of rape onto the survivors and every single potential victim. He is also implying that if you are raped, you are a slut, and therefore you provoked the act of rape.

People like these should not be close to power. Other people that should not be close to power are people like Annabel Goldie, leader of Scottish Conservatives, who refused to condemn Aitken for his statements. It is people like these who make the streets less safe because they feed into a culture where the responsibility lies with the victim, and the perpetrator walks free from it. It is not outright encouraging of rape, but it is pretty damn near.


  1. I'm on the opposite side of the Atlantic, so I'm not too keen on Scottish politics. I did want to compliment you for calling this apologist out. I only wish that more people spoke out when such ridiculous statements appear in public.

    Great job.

  2. Thank you, James!

    I wish, too, that people would. Unfortunately I think some people don't even realise this as rape apologia, they just see it as making sense, what Aitken said. Victim blaming is such a big part of the culture that it's scary how even people in power positions can say it and sometimes even get away with it! Obviously, Aitken had to apologise later on, but there is a lot of victim blaming and rape apologia going on in the current Assange case, but because the man's organisation is so beloved a surprisingly little amount of people point it out.

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