Sexual Violence: a brief follow up

28Jul10

Earlier on, while I was waiting to “work” (in reality me and some folk who use one of the day services in Dundee were cutting glass for a stained glass window project) I had the chance to sit down with the papers. For one reason and another I haven’t actually sat down with a newspaper in months. Anyway, as I flicked through I saw an article on a man who has been convicted of rape 20 years after the event following a routine DNA test.

The point of this entry isn’t to debate the ethics of DNA databases and so on (although I will state for the record I’m against them) but rather to highlight the fact that this article appeared in the Scottish version of the free newspaper The Metro on the same page as another article about a new Scottish police drive against hate crimes. The second article focussed on crimes perpetrated against people due to their race, sexual orientation, minority status and so on. I should say that the only reason that I’m not linking to the original Metro articles is because their online presence doesn’t seem to cover these stories.

It is obvious that the editorial decision to place these two articles together displays an awareness of the connection between rape and hate crimes yet at the same time the reality of this connection is disavowed. Hate crimes are listed as being perpetrated on people because of their ‘race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity’. As such a hate crime is clearly the victimisation of individuals or group based on their membership of or identification with a given social group. If you search hate-crime on something as unscholarly as Wikipedia, or have half a brain in your noggin, you’ll notice that there is something missing from the above list. In fact there are at least three classifications missing from those the newspapers think of as victims of hate-crime. We could easily include considerations of class and mental health but for the purposes of this post, dealing with the specifics of the arrangement of these articles, the most important term would be sex or gender.

Its curious that rape and hate-crime should be positioned side-by-side, the borders of their place in the lay-out touching, without the one being placed as part of the other. What happens when rape is discussed as in relation to hate-crime but not itself a hate-crime? I’m not suggesting the newspaper’s editorial staff deliberately equivocated here to produce a specific effect, merely that they reproduced it. The effect is that rape is not seen as a hate crime- that is, violent sexual assault, the complete dehumanisation and traumatisation of a woman’s being, is not seen as something that is motivated by hate and this ends up occluding the misogynist impulse that lies behind most, if not all, sexual violence against women.

It also means that the police don’t have to include rape in their figures when it comes to the statistical analysis of how successful their campaign against hate crimes is, and therefore they don’t have to admit the structural failure of the police-legal system to combat it. It also means that attitudes don’t seem to join the dots…rape remains exceptional, somehow of a different order that we can’t subsume or even grasp. Except of course that rape is all-too-common, which means that all too many can grasp it. I also feel that in keeping rape as this absolutely negative ‘special case’ transgressive of all other violences we just isolate the victims further and continue to reproduce a paternalism: the brave and enlightened male must come to the poor woman’s defence as what has happened to her is of another order entirely.

I suspect some would say that rape should be kept as a separate category over and above that of hate crime…but lets not mix things up. Hate crime is a category pure and simple, its a formalistic- if emotive- way of talking whereas rape is an act. By calling rape a hate crime we don’t end up somehow lessening its horrific reality, my suspicion is that its by not recognising that rape is motivated by a deep seated hatred that we lessen it.

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2 Responses to “Sexual Violence: a brief follow up”

  1. and this is what im putting to the centre as a campaign…funny how we run similar…

    • 2 dronemodule

      We’ve always run similar…just sometimes I’ve gone off into a world of nonsense. As with the facing up to the violence I’ve been inside I’m taking real, pragmatic steps to alter this tendency.


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