Compensation, Culpability And The Definitions of RapeHot on the heels of this week's news that the UK's by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority reduced the standard compensatory awards given to 15 rape victims by 25 percent because they had been drinking before their assaults comes the news that they're not going to do that anymore — or fix the situation for the women they originally did it to. But it's also ignited a bit of a furor in the UK over whether assault victims who supposedly make themselves more susceptible to assault by drinking share some portion of the culpability for that assault.Roger Graef argues in the Daily "Male" that the there needs to be some sort of less-unhappy medium found between women's right to drink themselves silly — and their right not to be assaulted — and the acknowledgment that drinking can make a person more vulnerable to predators. Actually, he doesn't so much "argue" as create a bulleted list of sometimes contradictory points about rights, perceptions, changing values, and the need to respect victims' rights. He also claims that many women who think they were date raped by men using date-rape drugs often "find" out that it was just too much alcohol because no drugs are detected in their systems afterwards, ignoring the fact that some date rape drugs can't be detected by the time you're coming to. It's actually kind of a messy, wishy-washy cop-out of an argument in which the headline ("Don't blind-drunk women who cry rape bear any responsibility for what happens to them?") is the most strident position taken in the entire piece. Yes, getting blind-drunk without being cognizant of the risks of doing so is foolish — for men and for women. But it doesn't make anyone any more culpable for being preyed upon by a criminal. Zoe Williams argues in The Guardian that being drunk, while it does make one more vulnerable to predatory criminal elements, does not lessen the culpability of the criminal or increase the culpability of the victim. She does, however, argue that the culture of alcohol and excessive drinking that she finds pervasive in society should be discussed and dealt with. The problem, as I see it, it thornier than either of them teased out. There are supposedly two kinds of sexual assaults going on, about which people feel very differently. One is acquaintance rape, or date rape, in which the assault is committed by someone known to the victim, with or without the addition or alcohol or drugs. The picture most people carry in their minds about this kind of assault — since it doesn't normally involve a weapon or a savage beating (though it can) — is of a man who, through some combination of brute strength and impairment of the victim, is able to sexually assault her. (Yes, men can be victims, but this is the general picture). The other type of assault is stranger rape, in which victim is assaulted by a perpetrator unknown to the victim, with or without the use of a weapon. In most people's minds, this is the stereotypical, old-school version of rape, a less common and perhaps more easily prosecutable version. Both parties are assuming that the women in the case of the CICA were victims of acquaintance rape, though reports have said Helen's attacker was a stranger. If you think about that for a second — are you more offended that Helen's compensation was reduced for being drunk while being raped by a stranger? And, if you were, did you then think to yourself that you're thinking about it wrong? Most people — even many feminists, like Camile Paglia — view date rape as separate and different from stranger rape, as something that women can protect themselves against and, by protecting themselves, prevent entirely. She says:
These girls say, "Well, I should be able to get drunk at a fraternity party and go upstairs to a guy's room without anything happening." And I say, "Oh, really? And when you drive your car to New York City, do you leave your keys on the hood?" My point is that if your car is stolen after you do something like that, yes, the police should pursue the thief and he should be punished. But at the same time, the police—-and I—-have the right to say to you, "You stupid idiot, what the hell were you thinking?"
It sounds like a vaguely convincing argument, only it's not. As I know too well, you don't have to be stinking drunk to be raped by an acquaintance, just physically weaker and unwilling or unable to commit to taking a beating in the hopes of leaving with only external bruises. Or you can be drunk, and still say no and mean it and still be too physically weak to get away. Or you could forget to watch your drink like a hawk and end up under the influence of more than alcohol. Or you can not know your tolerance well enough one night because you didn't eat enough. Or you could be drunk, passed out in your own apartment with the doors locked when someone breaks in and decides he won the criminal two-fer lottery: your vagina and your stuff. The kind of "man" (and I put that in quotes for good reason) who gets his rocks off by holding a woman down and forcing her, or sticking his dick in an unconscious person or having sex with someone he's first paralyzed with fear or physical pain isn't going to not rape someone because there aren't any drunk girls passed out upstairs at a frat party — because he's not doing it for sex or to just to get his rocks off, he's doing it because he has a fucked up power-trip of a mental idea of what sex is, and that idea is that rape is sex. And we can all be sober as judges, and wear jeans and turtlenecks and live by whatever set of rules someone decides means we didn't leave our collective keys on our collective hoods and those men will still decide to rape women because there is no motivational difference between date rapists and stranger rapists — it's just their modus operandi and how they choose to gain access to the women they intend to victimize that differs. So, Camille and Roger, just because I have one more orifice than a man doesn't mean I should have to spend the rest of my life protecting it from what some sick fucking rapist wants to stick into it. My body is not a car, and there are no keys to my vagina that I can inherently protect any more than I can protect the rest of my body against any other random act of violence. It is random, and a rapist is a rapist is a rapist, regardless of whether he uses a gun, a hand, a pill or a better alcohol tolerance level. And the sooner people recognize that I didn't "let" myself get assaulted by an acquaintance when I was sober any more than I "let" myself get assaulted by a stranger when I was drunk, the better. Payout Review In Drink-Related Rape Cases Ruled Out [The Guardian] Don't Blind-Drunk Women Who Cry Rape Bear Any Responsibility For What Happens To Them? [Daily Mail] Victimhood Isn't A Matter Of Degree For Others To Dictate [The Guardian] Date Rape Drugs [Women's Health] Rape Victims Awarded Less Compensation For Drinking Before Attack [Telegraph]