*Spoilers are included*
The rape scene in last week’s Game of Thrones started a nationwide conversation about the depiction of rape on television. It was shocking as Cersei was tearfully forced into sex by her brother, next to the cold corpse of her dead son, whilst racked with sobs.
It is positive that everyone recognised that for what it is- a woman being violently robbed of her freedom to say no, and that the majority of people were disgusted by the scene. However, the public and our society don’t always have such a sympathetic view towards rape victims.
We sympathise with the male perpetrators, whose ‘lives are ruined’ by the accusations and many want to grant the men anonymity, another step towards how we protect the accused over the victim. In a crime with a high level of perpetration (one in four women will be sexually assaulted in their life) and a low level of prosecution- only fifteen percent of victims go to the police, and out of those who do, less than half get prosecuted. The statistics showed that just one major sex crime in 38 leads to a conviction for the offence. Despite this, we still question the women about whether they were drunk, and what they were wearing at the time. Thirteen year olds have been told by judges that what they were wearing ‘provoked’ their attacker, and young women raped on nights out have been blamed because they were drunk and less able to fight an attacker off.
In a way, we still have a view of rape as a punishment for wayward women. It’s been used as a tool of terror in wars, a form of domestic violence and control and a way to ‘cure’ lesbians of their homosexuality. Even in our culture, this is reflected when people wrote online that they were happy to see the ‘bitch’ Cersei get her comeuppance. The punishment rape of female villains is also even used in children’s fiction, with critics of Harry Potter pointing out the allusions towards the alleged rape of Professor Umbridge.
When we say that women who go out in short skirts and get drunk ‘had it coming’ and blame them for the fact that they got raped, we are punishing them for not conforming to our societal standards for how women should act. There can be no other reason when the vast majority of rapes happen to women wearing their everyday clothes, by men known to them, whilst they are sober. Twitter user @steenfox did an expreriment where she asked women to tell her what they were wearing when they were raped and hundreds responded- it was galling. The majority of women were wearing jeans, tracksuit bottoms, or heartbreakingly, their childhood pajamas. Through a veil of false concern, we snidely tell women that it was their fault for being attacked, their fault for being too loud, too drunk, and for wearing clothes that were too revealing. We punish them by not bringing their attackers to justice and delegitimising their struggle.
It’s all very well being sympathetic towards Cersei, and it’s encouraging that not everyone watched with vengeful glee when the weeping mother was taken against her will; but we need to bring this sympathy into our everyday life. We need to be as sympathetic towards the real victims of rape as we are towards fictional characters- we owe them that. Until we start protecting the victims of rape instead of the perpetrators, we are failing them. After all, there would still be rape without miniskirts and alcohol, but there would be no rape without the rapists.