Earlier this week Newstalk offered an apology for comments made by George Hook on his show last Friday.
Hook himself offered an apology for the rape comments he made acknowledging, “it was unacceptable to suggest in any way that blame could be attributed to victims of rape.”
For those of you living outside of Ireland, George Hook has been a broadcaster (among other things) in my home country for many years. Hook’s controversial antics often attract as much praise as they do criticism, however many agreed that his comments this week crossed a line.
The Newstalk presenter was discussing a case in which a 19-year-old girl had accused a member of the British Olympic swimming team of raping her. She claims she had consensual sex with his friend before the accused entered the room and raped her.
Hook took it upon himself to look “deeper into the story.”
“Why does a girl who just meets a fella in a bar go back to a hotel room? She’s only just barely met him, she has no idea of his health conditions, she has no idea who he is, she has no idea of what dangers he might pose, but modern day social activity means that she goes back with him, then is SURPRISED when someone comes into the room and rapes her.”
Hook goes on to assure us all that he doesn’t believe she should be raped, and she is entitled to say no, “but is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?”
Seemingly referring to the fact that the girl passed out at one stage during the night due to consuming too much alcohol, and that she went home with a stranger, Hook’s question is why is no one blaming the rape victim?
Well it’s in the name George: rape victim.
How many times must we, the general public, have this conversation? It happens in your home, it happens amongst friends, it happens in the classroom, in your local, on your airwaves. Constantly, over and over again, we discuss and debate whether or not we think victims of one of the most horrific crimes known to man should be guilted, shamed and blamed by the rest of the world.
And for what? What does this achieve? Those who are well-meaning argue that girls (and isn’t it always girls?) need to know the risks so as to better protect themselves. Aside from the fact that only having one drink and never going home with a lad is not the ultimate protection from rape, the problem with this train of thought is that it inherently places blame on the person who is the victim of a crime.
Of course we all should exert a sense of personal responsibility in both our everyday lives and on a night-out, but what is bizarre about putting blame on a victim of rape is that for a rape to occur, a rapist has to commit a criminal offence. We do not shame people for being victims of a murder, of a robbery, of stalking, of identity theft. I am sure if we were to analyse victims in the same way in which we analyse rape victims we could find ways to blame victims of these crimes too. Why do we only feel the need to blame rape victims?
The answer might be found in what bothered me most about Hook’s comments, something that isn’t being as discussed as much – the underlying sexism at play. I am very hesitant to use terms such as sexist or misogynistic lightly, because when these words are thrown around lightly I believe it only hurts the cause. In this instance, I think they are valid.
Aside from the fact that Hook referred to personal responsibility only in relation to women (“There is personal responsibility, because it’s your daughter and it’s my daughter..”), I was particularly bothered by how Hook seemed to outright insinuate the girl was in the wrong for having sex with a man she “barely” met.
Regardless of how you feel about people having casual sex with strangers, stand back for a minute and ask yourself if you have ever heard, or could imagine, somebody saying the following;
“Why does a guy who just meets a lady in a bar go back to a hotel room? He’s only just barely met her, he has no idea of her health conditions, he has no idea who she is, he has no idea of what dangers she might pose, but modern day social activity means that he goes back with her, then is SURPRISED when someone comes into the room and rapes him.”
Eoghan McDermott, a presenter at 2fm, was commenting on the situation on his personal twitter account and said the “suggestion that women are complicit or culpable in their own rape by being sexually confident is fucking grim and dangerous.”
And that is the crux of it all. It’s not just about rape, it’s not just about drinking to excess or having someone take advantage of you, it’s about finding a way to blame women for engaging in, and enjoying, casual sex.