The rapist in our midst

A few thoughts on the recent news about the alleged rapes at Latitude, and the shock and surprise people seem to be feeling in light of such atrocious acts occurring at a ‘family festival’.

I’ll tell you what shocks and surprises me, the fact that this is the first time I’ve seen so much coverage of rape at a festival – is it because it’s the middle class, family friendly, granola-munching Latitude that’s got us so upset? Is it par for the course that rapes occur ad infinitum at Glastonbury, say, or Reading or Leeds? You know, where other people go – the young boisterous men who supposedly made Latitude feel, this year, ‘very laddish’? Because we’d expect it at those places, but we wouldn’t expect it at Latitude, would we. I highly doubt that Glastonbury has been rape-free since it started, in the same way it’s not crime, drug and alcohol free. We turn our eyes from one of the most horrific violations that can happen to anyone, day in day out – we do not have the right to get on our high horses now because it’s happened in our Guardian-reading midst.

I’m grateful to hear that festival organisers are ‘devasted’ by the reports, as am I, but let me be plain – rapes occur in any context, at any time, in any country, amongst all backgrounds, with all levels of security in place. Let’s stop being mock aghast at the reports from Latitude and ask ourselves how we’ve managed to bring a generation of men and women up to think that rape is as mainstream as the music acts they’ll see on the main stage.

So what do we do? Well, if you are a woman, don’t go anywhere alone:
It is fair to say that in the future we will be making much more high profile the issues of being alone at night, particularly if you are a girl – definitely”

That was Melvin Benn, CEO of Festival Republic. I appreciate this has been difficult for him, and he needed to make some kind of response. In his words, practical action will prevail. Because rape is a matter of circumstance, not one of society, apparently. Rapes will stop if women act according to a set of safety dos and don’ts, apparently. That’s like trying to stop suicides by banning handguns – they’ll still happen.

I believe that rape will stop when rapists stop raping. And that’s a behaviour issue that will only respond to education on the topic and the right kind of social stimulus. The media has a massive part to play in this, and what a week this has been for women who have been victims of abuse – from Mel Gibson’s slur against the mother of his child stating she deserved to be ‘raped by a gang of niggers’, to Raoul Moat’s Facebook posts left by – forgive me – morons who believe that his battered ex-girlfriend deserved what she got because she should have kept her legs together. I’m sorry, but walking back to your tent at the end of a gig with a friend isn’t going to stop this kind of repetitive, corrosive and damaging problem happening. Be vigilant, yes, but know that it is a sticking plaster on the gaping wound. It’s marginal prevention over cure.

I do not want to be part of a society where we ask women to curtail their relative freedoms so that they do not get raped. We do not need another reason to be discriminated against.

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