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He was asking for it”

I’d like you, if you don’t mind, to join me in a thought experiment.

Consider for a moment, a man: he might be young or old, it doesn’t really matter. Tall or short, dark-haired or fair, dark skin or light; none of this matters.

All that matters is one thing: he is feeling vulnerable as he walks home tonight. He does not project confidence as he walks the dark city streets.

Perhaps he has been drinking: a swift pint or two after work. Not enough to give him artificial confidence, but enough to lower his vigilance, to make him less cautious than he should be.  Perhaps not, though.

He doesn’t notice the guys in the shadows; or he does, but doesn’t register the danger. Or again, maybe he feels fear: but he’s got to get home, and there’s no other way.

Whichever it is, he tries to hurry past them, but the blows begin to fall. He tries to run, but they grab him and hit again. He crumples to the ground and rolls against a wall to get some protection. As the kicks start, he slips into unconsciousness.

Or again, imagine a child, at school. He or she, their gender doesn’t matter this time is one of the smaller, weaker ones in the class; or just isn’t as physically confident or brave as some of their classmates. Maybe this is the child of the man above; maybe not.

Bullying happens, of course: and this time it happens to the child we are talking about. Their life becomes hell. And it’s hard to find anyone to talk to about it. Parents don’t understand how bad it is. Teachers maybe don’t want to admit it’s happening.

Maybe they’ll find help from Childline, or similar. Maybe not.

What these stories have in common should be obvious: both protagonists were the victims of violent crimes.

Now, would you say – would anyone say – that these imaginary, but all too true, characters were in any way responsible for their suffering?

Of course not. No decent person – no-one with even the most basic shred of empathy and human decency – could blame the victim for the crime they suffered.

Yet blame the victim is apparently what one third of British people are prepared to do when the victim is a woman, and the violent crime is rape.

We’ve got a long way to go.

The discussion on swisstone‘s journal suggests that the figures could be interpreted differently, and more importantly, that the questions could have been better phrased.  But nonetheless, it is a chilling result.