The empowerment of standing shoulder to shoulder with individuals who passionately stand against sexual crimes against women, rape culture and victim blaming is immeasurable. In late February of this year, around 2,500 members of the Manchester community marched to reclaim women’s right to walk the streets without fear of being attacked or victimised as a result of their gender. This march took its inspiration from the 1977 Leeds demonstration which challenged the public’s response to their rape crisis and the police’s failure to act. Their victim blaming rhetoric has been consistent since then. After a series of sexual assaults on students in Manchester, the police just told women ‘to take precautions and try and protect themselves from similar incidents in the future.’ This march represents a response to the public and police’s blasé attitude towards women’s safety.
Unfortunately 40 years have passed since Leeds first raised this issue and we still see bigoted, ignorant responses even by our own students. A recent article in The Mancunion stated ‘we do not live in a rape culture.’ Despite claiming he is a proponent of equality, this young male challenges the definition of rape and apparently proves his claim with outdated statistics. His patronising and unfounded claim disregards the current public feeling towards sexual assault and the realities of sexual victimisation of individuals. The disturbing sentiment of the public is particularly evident in light of legal cases of Ched Evans and Adam Johnson. The first case was dismissed due to lack of evidence, not lack of guilt. But the reaction against the women on social media who were brave enough to challenge these privileged men through a system which inherently blames victims, was disgusting. Social media gave men a platform to state these women should be raped for lying in court and ruining the men’s careers. This demonstrates the desensitisation of rape in our society and sexual related threats continue to oppress women further. Rape culture in Britain undeniably exists.
Ignorant responses by our peers continue to shock, as these may be the people we would trust with our safety. Accusing Reclaim the Night of not representing male victims sums up the ignorance surrounding the topic. Reclaim the Night is against any form of sexual assault. However, women on a daily basis face the struggle against the patriarchy and rape culture which consistently blames them for the crimes made against them whilst also mindlessly threatening further assault. It is vital to continue marches such as Reclaim the Night and support charities helping victims to challenge views such as this, until the rape culture is quashed and women are truly equal to men.