A recent article by Barbara Ellen in the Guardian's Comment is Free focused on Eamonn Holmes' clumsy interview with rape survivor Hannah Cant on an episode of This Morning. Ellen writes that Holmes repeatedly made references about the fact that Cant hadn't taken a taxi home and that the inference was that she should have done in order to avoid being raped.
At the end of the interview, Holmes offers some advice to Ms. Cant and says, "I hope you take taxis now, everywhere you go, coming home at night." Ellen, quite rightly, goes on to argue that, "taxi or not, it is never the victim's fault that a rapist strikes. Odd how, even now, rape victims are perceived as somehow enabling their own attacks, in a way that would seem ludicrous when applied to other crimes? "Why did you buy a nice car – when it could be stolen?" "Why were you wearing that expensive watch – you must have known you'd be mugged and knifed?"
And lo, the comments stream in. A great deal of them are, at best, depressing. Most of them rely on the all-too-common argument of, 'Don't get me wrong, I hate rape as much as anyone but, you have to admit that, while no one has the right to come into your house and steal your belongings if you leave your door wide open, you do make it more likely that someone will if you do.' Many of the comments defend Holmes and argue that he was simply offering some 'common sense' advice to Cant and other women.
These arguments are offensive, lazy and meaningless. We have got to get away from the ridiculous notion of rape as something that only happens at night, in dark alleys to tipsy women who are walking home on their own. Rape happens everywhere; it happens in broad daylight, in nice houses, at the office, at weddings, in bed, in front of other people. It happens in taxis too. And it does not happen because of anything that women do.
It is men who are most likely to be attacked (by other men) when walking home alone at night. Also, (why don't we know this by now?) most women who are raped know their attackers. So, knowing this, what 'advice' should we give to women? 'Don't, whatever you do, get to know any men'; 'don't go out in broad daylight'; 'don't go to work if there are men there'.
Women don't need advice about how to behave or act in order to 'avoid' being raped. This is because rape has nothing to do with a woman's behaviour and everything to do with the misogyny of the perpetrator.