Saturday, 15 March 2014

I am NOT a statistic

91% of rapes are committed by people known to the victim.
'Only' 9% of rapes are committed by strangers.

One of the weirdest concepts for me is that I am on both sides of this statistic that Nottingham Rape Crisis Centre tweets quite frequently. And, possibly odder than that, both make me bristle equally.

91%? Are we not outraged by this figure, that so many men in our lives are taking advantage and abusing us in the most horrific way imaginable? 91%, so my case is nothing unusual, nothing special, I'm just another woman, another number, another nameless, faceless victim?

I hate that 91% statistic, because it trivialises what I've experienced, what hundreds and thousands of women have experienced, and it reduces us all to a "one size fits all". Organisations like NRCC spend so much time and money trying to educate people that we are all different, that our reactions and stories are unique, that this universal statement feels like it's undermining that.

On the other hand is the 9% comment. Because it's aiming to dispel the myths that all rapes are committed by strangers, aiming to reassure those women who think "I must be over-reacting; it's just rough sex", but it does far more than that. It takes an already isolating situation, where a woman can feel like no-one could possibly understand, and reinforces that. Been raped by a stranger? Then you're a freak, you're alone.

There's also the "97% of callers to our helpline knew their attacker" tweet, which is even more uncomfortable than the previous one. I think I was so distressed that I laughed and jeered, "Well, aren't I ******* special, then?!" at my computer screen.

And despite this, I applaud NRCC's work to raise awareness of the truth behind rape. I love that they're breaking taboos, talking about difficult subjects and getting discussions going. I just wish there was a way to do it that didn't dehumanise the brave and passionate women that they work with.

Occasionally, I get a little embarrassed that these tweets elicit such an emotional reaction. After all, I'm quite capable of switching off, removing myself from attachment from the statistics, of working alongside people on difficult topics and advocating. 

Then I remember that my emotions are what make me human. Yes, they're all over the place, unpredictable and sometimes a little disproportional, but they're mine. MINE.

And where does that leave me? Because now I feel a little guilty about my feelings, and unable to raise the questions or challenge the wording, but then I'm pleased that I reacted because it's a reminder that I'm human (and proves that these tweets actually have an impact!) and still indignant that people are being swept under the carpet.

Actually, it leaves me silent. I've been watching this for several months now, not quite sure how to phrase my discomfort, until I saw a brave woman stand up and challenge today. And I'm grateful for it. Incredibly so.

I think what I'm trying to say is that rape makes me angry. It makes me absolutely furious. I don't care whether it's a stranger, husband, friend, someone I met in the pub... because it is a man who has committed a completely unforgivable act of sexual and psychological violence. 

Yes, we need to know the statistics and strong, emotional reactions to them mean that they are taking effect, but for every statistic, can we look at the human impact? For every number, can we have a reminder that every single woman is unique, important and loved? And can we please, please get rid of "only" and language that reduces us to some sort of caged animal, a curiosity in the corner?

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