Excuses made for perpetrators

There can never be an excuse for rape or sexual abuse. But society provides these readily for perpetrators by making us believe that there are some circumstances in which a woman must share 'responsibility' for rape. This is a completely false paradigm as the lack of consent means no responsibility can ever be shared.

Communication - 'she didn't make it clear enough' is often an excuse made for rapists. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 makes this absolutely clear - consent is not the absence of a 'no', it is when someone reasonably believes that another person has freely chosen to engage in sexual contact with them. Women do not have to articulate a clear 'no', and the reasons this may happen are multiple - they may be afraid, incapacitated, or may have been groomed by the perpetrator.

Alcohol - many rape survivors find that they are judged and blamed for having consumed alcohol at the time the offence was committed. Sometimes perpetrators deliberately intoxicate the victim, but even when someone has drunk voluntarily, they still have a right to bodily autonomy and must clearly consent to any sexual activity. Sexual contact should be mutual and enjoyable: if someone is pursuing sex with someone too drunk to give valid consent, this is rape. The law says that someone can be unable to consent long before they have reached unconsciousness.

Previous sexual history - the law now places restrictions on the ability of lawyers to question on sexual history in rape cases, for the exact reason that it is prejudicial. Many women raped by a previous intimate partner find this used against them, but there is no reason that giving consent once means it should be or would be given again on another occasion. In any kind of sexual relationship, consent must be clear on each occasion. Furthermore, previously having a lot of sexual partners has absolutely no impact on a rape survivor's account of the incident in question.

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