The stranger-victim narrative is important, yet I think we should pay a little more attention to the shocking number of cases in which the victim knows the rapist or perpetuator. Not only does my survey show it (although it’s a small sample of people), but there is a significant amount of research that proves that stranger-victim assaults are much less common. “Sexual assault is routinely depicted along the stranger-rape storyline, despite the fact that 73 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows” (Filipovic, 2009).
Some descriptions from my survey responses: “a very close family friend adult male,” “Sexually harassed and abused by partners,” “Boyfriend,” “my first real girlfriend,” “my first boyfriend,” “my mother’s boyfriend and his friend,” “my father”. I certainly can’t leave this one out: “He was my boyfriend at the time, so people told me it didn’t count.”
Who can we trust, then, if so many assaults happen in our own homes? In what spaces can we feel safe? Is there such thing as a safe space for women?
A Facebook post by feminist writer Jane Gilmore pretty much answers my question:
“Women, if you want to be safe, stay at home. Except that you are more likely to be killed at home by someone who claims they love you, so don’t stay at home. Make sure you don’t have a boyfriend because he’s the most likely person to kill you, but don’t go out without your boyfriend because you need someone to protect you. Don’t show too much skin or laugh too loud or dance too much but come on love give us a smile. Carry your keys and your phone at all times and make sure you run far enough to burn off all those calories but don’t do it in public and for gods sake don’t run in shorts, that’s just asking for trouble. Public transport is dangerous, but so are taxis and walking and driving on your own and did I mention that staying at home is really risky, so don’t do any of those things ok?
Men, just carry on as you were, this is not your problem ok?”