I just wanted to post a quick heads up encouraging you to check out one of my stories in the latest issue of Cosmopolitan.
Given the role that mainstream media plays in shaping our perceptions of what sexual assault looks like - and given the high proportion of the population who think it’s only “real” rape if it’s committed by a stranger (always a man!) in a dark alleyway, and there is no prior interaction between rapist and survivor - I am really glad that Cosmo decided to tackle this issue with no ifs, buts or excuses. I’m also grateful that I was given the opportunity to write it, given the amount of time I’ve spent thinking and reading about consent over the past few years.
A couple of excerpts from the article:
Much of the time, when we talk about rape, we draw upon one of a couple of familiar stories. There’s stranger rape, committed by anonymous criminals in alleyways. Then there are alleged “misunderstandings”, in which one person – usually a man – has sex with another thinking that they consent.
However, a new study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) has shown that most sexual assaults don’t fit either of these narratives. For one, the vast majority of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim – a friend, work colleague, family member or even a boyfriend. Nor are perpetrators easily identifiable creeps or misfits: the women interviewed for the AIFS study described their rapists variously as charming, talkative and engaging.
This kind of behaviour is not uncommon, says Quadara. “Some men would send follow-up text messages asking their victim out again. In other instances, particularly drink-spiking or drugging, the perpetrator told them that they were wild, that they were up for it. They imposed their version of events on the victim/survivor.” And, often, it works. Just as it took Erica some time to register what had happened to her as rape, Jenny was scared to report her attack. “Because I was taking him back to the room, I didn’t feel like I could report it. So, I never reported it,” says Jenny.
“Survivors sometimes think, ‘Am I confused here?’” says Quadara. “Maybe he has absolutely no idea. In many instances, they give their attackers the benefit of the doubt until they’re in serious emotional or physical distress.” However, while a flirty phone call or text message could be interpreted to suggest a genuine misunderstanding, Quadara says this is not the case. “When you get into the detail of these stories, how they progressed from one step to the next, you see a very deliberate unfolding of behaviour designed to get someone into a vulnerable position,” she says.
A big thank you also to the Australian Institute of Family Studies’ Antonia Quadara and writer/researcher/campaigner Nina Funnell for their expertise and help with the piece. You can read the whole thing in the current edition of Australian Cosmopolitan, with Leighton Meester on the cover.
Related: Guest post: Being ‘Hip’, Notes on Sexual Assault in the London Art World
Kyle, Jackie, Matthew Johns and the most innocent of victims
“But women don’t rape!” Sexual pressure, rejection and the male sex drive discourse