This is what we were shouting at the 500-strong march through Brighton town center on Saturday 17th of November, where people of all genders, races and ages took to the street to remind the people of Brighton that women have every right to walk the streets at night safely, without fear of harassment, assault or danger. We paraded through our town shouting, singing and making some very strange noises to make sure we were heard, and heard we were – it was quite amusing seeing bewildered faces hanging out the windows of the houses above us. We seemed to change the course of one couple’s night when the man stuck two fingers up at us and the woman’s face turned into a cloud of thunder. Not the smartest move on your first date, pal.
The negative reactions that we received, whilst hugely outnumbered by public support, left me speechless. This myth that woman cannot and must not walk home at night or in the early hours, and that they are placing themselves in danger by doing so is so pervasively harmful that I want to scream. When 80% of rapes are committed by known men, how is the enduring image of a rapist a man jumping out of a bush? (Source: RapeCrisis) This myth is harmful for all men and all women. As RapeCrisis further observe: ‘The rules imposed on women’s behavior allow rapists to shift the responsibility for rape onto women wherever possible, so that most of the perpetrators who rape are seen as victims of malicious allegations, carelessness or stupidity’. These rules inform and distort society’s perception of rape as a crime. By placing the responsibility of rape in the victim’s hands, men are portrayed incredibly negatively and rape is incorrectly portrayed as a sexual act rather than a violent one. A woman cannot guarantee her safety simply by remaining at home – ironically, statistics show this is where she is most at risk of rape. We will not end sexual violence against women by isolating them in the domestic sphere – we will end sexual violence by educating everyone in society that sexual violence is unacceptable and that perpetrators of this crime will be punished.
If I walk down a quiet road late at night or in the morning, I am not placing myself in a situation where I am likely to get raped. I am simply walking home, and no more can be said of it. I do not have to avoid rape, in the street, in a bar, or in my bedroom. I am in control of my own sexuality, and can withdraw consent at any time, as can my sexual partner. As one sign clearly stated – the difference between sex and rape? Consent. Until this very straightforward fact is national consensus, we will continue to unite and to reclaim the night.
– Juliette Cule