Manchester police: Stop telling us how to avoid rape, and start catching rapists

The victim blaming has to stop

I’ve just started my third year of university. Over the past few years I’ve had to pull my fair share of late-night library sessions to meet deadlines. In all this time, I’ve not once been scared of walking back home alone… until now.

Since the start of the semester, two female students have been sexually assaulted on campus: one by an unlicensed taxi driver, the other by a stranger she encountered on her walk home.

These girls probably weren’t scared of going home alone either, and why should they be? Why should women have to live their lives in fear of being sexually assaulted by men?

A girl was raped in an alley off Whitby Road last week

From a young age, most girls are warned against being alone late at night due to the dangers of them being attacked, and as sound as such warnings are, this is where our issues begin.

At school, I remember being given various talks on personal safety however, I cannot recall a single teaching hour being dedicated to issues surrounding consent.

We were given assemblies on making sure we didn’t get too drunk at house parties, but at no point did my teachers mention to the boys that they shouldn’t take advantage of girls in a vulnerable position.

We were effectively always taught that the onus fell on us to make sure that we didn’t get sexually assaulted, essentially sending the message that if we did, it would be our own fault for not being careful enough.

Whitby Road, near the scene of the incident

Currently, out of every 100 rapes that take place in the UK, only 16 will be reported to the police, of which four will lead to an arrest, three will go to trial and only one will lead in conviction.

The shockingly low report rates are reflective of a society which makes women feel ashamed for being raped.

We need to move away from a culture of victim blaming and begin to explicitly teach boys that women are not objects that exist for their sexual pleasure, that what a girl wears isn’t an invitation, and that consent is compulsory, because until that happens, men will continue to believe that they are entitled to a woman’s body by virtue of being a man.

Women should feel empowered to speak out against harassment, but this won’t happen until we move away from a culture whereby men think they’re paying women a compliment when they cat-call them and grope them. So instead of telling women to live in fear of being sexually assaulted, maybe we should be telling men to respect them enough not to sexually assault them.