21 Jan Rapist is a shocking word
The final shot of Sussex Police’s new video shows an image of ‘Alex’ with the word rapist stamped across it. It’s a shocking image, not just because it’s unequivocal but also because of the use of the word rapist. He has clearly just committed rape, the video leaves us in no doubt, so why the shock?
The word rapist is so often absent from our discussions. We see ‘husband’, ‘friend’, ‘co-worker’, sometimes ‘assailant’ or ‘attacker’ or, more dangerously, ‘jilted lover’ or ‘normally mild mannered man’ but rarely ‘rapist’. People even say ‘Yes, that was rape but he’s not a rapist’. If someone steals a wallet, we don’t say that they are an office worker who has engaged in non-consensual borrowing, so why is this?
Is it because it focuses on a one-off act, suggesting it could have been a mistake or out of character? It places doubt as to whether or not they understood their actions and it helps us feel safer by always being able to believe that they are sorry and will never do it again. While I wholeheartedly believe in rehabilitation for those who acknowledge their guilt and feel true remorse, I also know that approximately 13% of those convicted of rape have previous convictions for sex offences. Repeat offending is common, and we can only assume that those who aren’t convicted are more likely to become serial rapists.
Every survivor and/or victim of sexual violence has the absolute right to name their own experience, the perpetrator(s) and how they describe themselves, but maybe if society named rapists as such we could make sure we place responsibility where it lies and be clear about the impact of their crime, we could move towards a situation where convicted rapists are given appropriate sentences, we could educate young people about the implications of their actions and we could even reduce sexual violence in the future.
Rapist is a shocking word, it should be it's a shocking and devastating crime, but we must start using it.
Rapist is a shocking word, it should be it’s a shocking and devastating crime, but we must start using it.
Author: Fabia Bates, Director, survivorsnetwork.org.uk