Sexual Assault: My View
Alexandra D’Sa on why the safety of the city of Exeter has been called into question of late.
Early last December, an unidentified assailant sexually assaulted a woman in her 20s on Streatham Campus.
In 2010/11 there was more than one case of naked men chasing female students around the town.
There are several paths around the university, which are off-handedly referred to as ‘Rape Alley’.
So unfortunately it came as no surprise when a 26 year old male was arrested for sexually assaulting women on the High Street in February.
One of these assaults was on an Exeter University student whose "private parts" he attempted to grope.
Later he approached another group of girls and “got one around the neck and tried to drag her to the ground.”
The press, and Judge Phillip Wassall who presided over the case, have perhaps drawn too much attention to the fact that the first victim was a Chinese student.
Now I am decidedly unsure about what bearing this has on the case. Would it have made a difference if the woman were Nigerian? Or Irish?
My question is, why pay the slightest bit of attention to race when this is not a racially aggravated, but sexually aggravated attack?
Hobbs stated that he got into an argument with his girlfriend prior to the assaults, and had been drinking. A lot. Apparently he gets “stupid” when he’s drunk. I do suppose Mr. Hobbs is using “stupid” synonymously with “criminally dangerous”.
Furthermore, if he knowingly gets “stupid” when he is drunk, I have a novel solution. Do. Not. Get. Drunk.
But one must look at why the infamy of these sexual attacks is on the rise in Exeter. As it is, 80% of women do not report sexual assault (according to a recent survey). So how many more cases are there that we do not know about?
1 in 10 women will be raped in their lifetime. Over a third of women will be subject to sexual assault. What is unique about Exeter perhaps, is that these cases have been reported, and are high profile.
So what do we do? Well firstly I would caution women never to go out alone at night. As it is, the women who were assaulted by Shane Hobbs were in groups, and that didn’t stop him. But it does significantly lower your risk of being attacked.
Secondly, I believe there should be an installation of blue lights around campus, which are designed for people who feel under threat to pick up the provided phone and immediately be directed to a response team. It’s been a huge success in America and I believe should be implemented around the UK. Talk to your Gender Equality Rep or a SABB or University official about making this happen. I certainly will.
Further, do not EVER blame the victim. The incident that inspired SlutWalk 2011 was a police officer suggesting that women “should avoid dressing like sluts” and then they would remain safe. I’d hazard a guess that women would remain safe if certain men stopped thinking that their dicks had some superior claim to every vagina on earth.
The only thing we can do to these attackers directly, the only thing we can do to target potential attackers, is to let them know that this is not OK. How? Shane Hobbs received a 16 month sentence, which I speculate means more like 12. Is that really enough for sexual assault when the victim will be affected for the rest of her life?
And what about the ‘lad’ culture that fuels sexual promiscuity and conquests of females…do we need to take a closer look at that? It may be ‘banter’, but it’s banter that results in these sometimes drunken, not always consensual, violent sexual acts.