Victim-blaming and “yes means yes”

Ok, this one comes with a trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault, and a rant warning because I’m not going to be particularly diplomatic or reserved with this post.

I work in a big, corporate organisation. Most of the time, politics is not on the work discussion agenda, but current affairs (which of course are political) are a constant topic of conversation, particularly with the people I work most closely with.

Over the last few days, there are have been more and more comments made about the Lovett rape case (I won’t provide many links as I haven’t been following the case at all closely). Apparently, he was acquitted yesterday. I know nothing of the evidence, or happenings of the case; I have completely disengaged from keeping up to speed with footballers accused of sexual assault or rape in Australia for mental health reasons. I have absolutely no opinion about whether or not Lovett should or should not have been found guilty in this case, and, actually, that is irrelevant to this blog post.

The discussions I’ve had thrown at me in relation to this case are so so heart-breakingly frustrating, and infruriating. Women I work with have expressed their support for Lovett because apparently, women shouldn’t put themselves in a situation where this could happen to them. Classic victim-blaming. I have also heard another woman say that her husband thinks Lovett deserved to be acquitted – since when did deserve become a factor in our justice system? Another comment was made about a friend who manages a club where “all the same girls always go and get drunk and hang off footballers and then get upset when this happens”. Very reminisce of Spida Everitt’s “cup of milo” bullshit in October last year.

Yes, all classic, text book victim-blaming. Did I expect more of my workplace? Well, kinda. As an Employer of Choice for Women, and an organisation which promotes safe workplaces and has strong policies against sexual harassment in the workplace. I don’t hear anyone saying, well you were working with that man, so what did you think was going to happen? Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone employed here uphold such feminist values, and it doesn’t mean that my workplace is to blame. I feel that we have enough employees in Melbourne office for it to be a fairly representative sample of (white, middle- and upper-class) Melbourne more generally, and of course, this view is not unheard of in the general population, far from it. And that is the problem.

Despite my gentle, working-relationship-preserving challenges to such abhorrent, crappy attitudes, I am left with people who genuinely believe that women deserve to be raped in certain circumstances. The whole episode has highlighted a fundamentally important thing to me – “yes means yes” has to be central to overcoming this disgusting rape culture supporting attitude. Many people have said this before of course. But, once consent is taken to be the presence of “yes” rather than an absence of “no”, by everyone, then we can get rid of ideas like, “she was asking for it”. Because, unless she said yes, there was no asking. Simple.

The getting to that society part? Yeah, not so simple.

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