Earlier in the month, I was unlucky enough to be eating lunch at work just in time to catch a conversation on Loose Women (a popular chat show in the UK) about the release of serial rapist John Worboys, which was, sadly unsurprisingly, utterly rife with victim blaming. Kelly Brooks brought up the usual ‘it wouldn’t happen if you weren’t drunk’ bullshit and managed to show off her immense privilege by assuming that anyone stranded out at night could just call up a family member and get a lift. While this may seem sensible on the surface, not everybody has someone they can call and even if they do, how likely is it that, late at night with no warning, someone will be able AND willing to just get up and go out at the drop of a hat? Do Kelly Brooks’ relatives never sleep?
But where I really took umbrage was with Kaye Adams reply that, “you’ve got to start from a position of trust.” Excuse me? We should just trust that people (OK, men) won’t attack us until they actually do? This comment was in response to story about a man who was convicted of drugging and assaulting twelve women and is suspected to have at least 93 more victims. But sure, Adams, we’ll just go about our lives assuming that we will never meet one of these men. Because approximately 105 women assaulted by one man isn’t enough to make us think we should be just a little bit suspicious.
Isn’t that number terrifying? 1 man, 105 women. 105 women who climbed in a cab thinking they were safe and ended up having their entire lives changed. 105 women who were friendly enough to accept a celebratory drink and in return were assaulted. 105 women who started from a position of trust and regretted it. Were those women wrong to do so? No. We all know that most men, most taxi drivers, most friendly people are innocent. It is reasonable to assume no ill intent. But is it reasonable to go on national television and tell millions of viewers that we should always trust men until AFTER they’ve attacked us? Somehow, I don’t think so.
This isn’t the only story to come to light recently about these things. A twitter thread about a woman responding to a man’s chit chat and ending up having him follow her and grab her went viral this month. Her story resonated with so many women; the comments both on twitter and on the screenshots circulating on Facebook were full of women telling similar, scary stories. I am willing to bet many women reading this will have their own stories. Predictably there were also a lot of people in the #notallmen camp and people rushing to point out she was a porn star and therefore apparently incapable of experiencing harassment or violence. One wonderful specimen came out with the line ‘rude people get raped too.’ Like, thanks for that dude. Great insight. That was absolutely the point, well done. It was nothing to do with the fact that she started from a place of a trust and found that man violating that trust. It was nothing to do the fact that it is easier and safer to ignore all strange men to avoid encountering the ones who will assault us than it is to be nice to everyone.
Now, not to brag, but I am a nice person. I’m friendly to the staff in shops when they help me, I chat to lonely customers at my own job rather than rushing on to the next sale, I am so nice to the staff in a restaurant where I regularly eat that they have gave me a free meal as Christmas present! But when I am alone in public I have developed a habit of keeping a totally blank expression on my face so that when men talk to me I look like I can’t hear them. The fact they don’t just not get a reply but don’t get any kind of reaction usually makes them move on. I am painfully aware that if a man really wanted to assault me he could do it anyway but if this weeds out the ones who don’t just go straight in for the attack (to which, as a disabled woman, I would be incredibly vulnerable) then I will happily employ it. I don’t want strangers asking if I live nearby, if I have a boyfriend, what happened to my leg, what clubs I’d recommend, where I work, where I’m going or how I get my hair that colour. I owe nobody my time, politeness or trust. And neither do you, no matter what Kaye Adams says.