On Irma Kurtz, rape and drunken women
If you leave a window of your house open when you go out, then come home to find you’ve been burgled, whose fault is it?
What if property is stolen from your car after you left it unlocked – who is to blame for the theft?
If you get roaring drunk on a night out, fall asleep on the bus home and end up at the terminus to find your wallet’s been nicked from your pocket – who is the culpable party?
In all such cases, haven’t you been a bit of an idiot?
Idiot, maybe, criminal, no. We all do idiotic things occasionally because to be human is to be forgetful sometimes, to be careless sometimes. We shouldn’t have to think carefully about every single thing we do. If everyone treated others as they would want to be treated themselves, we’d all be able to leave our homes and cars unlocked; we’d be able to go out and get plastered without fear of some blaggard robbing us. But we can’t because, even though most of us wouldn’t dream of stealing someone else’s personal property or kicking someone’s head in, unfortunately not everyone is like most of us.
Because of the existence of people who aren’t like us — people with no conscience or empathy, people who think nothing of causing hurt or hardship to their fellow human beings — we all have to be a bit careful if we want to avoid becoming their victims. But when we fail, when we forget to lock the door or have too much to drink and consequently suffer from someone else’s unscrupulous behaviour — it doesn’t make their unscrupulous behaviour our fault…does it? The fact that we didn’t do everything we could have done to protect our homes and selves doesn’t make us “responsible” for the burglary or robbery someone else committed against us. And pointing out that we should do this or not do that if we want to avoid becoming victims in future is not “victim-blaming”…is it?
For some people it is, apparently, and I find it absolutely baffling.
Here’s a rather inconvenient fact: getting very drunk on a night out makes one more vulnerable to personal crime — to being pick-pocketed, to being mugged, to being beaten up, to being sexually assaulted, to being raped. I know about some of this from bitter personal experience. I know a lot more of it from having spent many years working full-time for Victim Support, helping countless men and women who’d become victims of violent crimes — including sexual assault — while they were more than half-cut. This isn’t to suggest that most people who are victimised in this way are drunk at the time. Most of the victims I saw weren’t. I’m simply saying that drunkenness was definitely a factor in some of those cases. They were attacked because they were vulnerable; they were vulnerable because they were drunk. End of.
Cosmopolitan magazine agony aunt, Irma Kurtz, while being interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour yesterday morning, pointed out that we are all responsible for ourselves and that drunkenness “tears away” a woman’s ability to defend herself against rape. Nobody, as far as I know, disputes that — I mean, what is there to dispute? But it seems that quite a few people take exception to it being said out loud.
According to reports in today’s papers – including the Daily Fail – Lisa Longstaff, of Women Against Rape, called Kurz’ comments,
totally irresponsible…It is time commentators stopped blaming victims and put the responsibility on those who do the crime – rapists.
Oh, for fuck’s sake! How does pointing out that getting blind drunk makes us more vulnerable to rape equate to saying that the responsibility for rape doesn’t lie with the rapists?
And how about this, from a site misnamed ‘Ending victimisation and blame‘.
If you accept safety advice of this type for women, you are saying “It’s OK if he rapes the other woman”. The woman who wasn’t as sensible, the woman who didn’t make the ‘right’ choices, the woman who didn’t defend herself, the intoxicated woman, the vulnerable woman, that other woman.
Say what? Accepting the kind of advice your mother would give you about being careful about how much you drink so as not to be more vulnerable is effectively saying that raping someone else is OK?? This has to be the daftest and, frankly, the most offensive comment I’ve read on the topic.
Other things Kurtz now finds herself accused of include, “telling women not to drink with men” (no, she didn’t) and, predictably, that “all men are potential rapists” (yawn). Some objectors put Kurtz’ comments in the same category as those made by old white blokes in horsehair wigs who’ve notoriously blamed women for wearing short skirts and hitchhiking, while others have confined themselves to simply calling her a “total fucking bitch” and similar.
What madness is this? Kurtz said nothing about what women wear or do apart from drinking and she stated quite clearly that rape is a vicious crime that is not the victim’s fault — so how come all these critics seem to think she said the opposite?
There is only ONE factor that determines whether a woman will be raped, and that is if she meets a rapist.
That was said by one commenter in the Mail and it was echoed by several others. It’s nonsense. Meeting a man who doesn’t give a shit and would rape you if he could, doesn’t mean he will — unless you’re so fricking legless you can’t get away from him or fight him off.
That, in effect, is all Irma Kurtz is saying and it’s true – so for crying out loud, bitches, give the woman a break!