I’m going to be upfront about this – I am experiencing an online form of performance anxiety. My blog, up until Monday evening, was bimbling along with an average of perhaps around 13 views per day. I was pretty happy with that to be honest. I’m happy when ONE person reads it. Since posting the Consent/Tea blog, I’m currently averaging around 30,000 views per day, my twitter hasn’t stopped buzzing and my mum messages me every hour to ask me how many hits my blog has had. (She’s a blogger too, so of course she taught me everything I know.) All week the question has been bouncing around: what the hell are you going to write next Sunday. I usually write about something that’s been on my mind in the week before, but this week the only thing that’s really been on my mind is, well, last week’s blog.
The comments and messages I have received have been overwhelmingly positive – with people taking the metaphor and extending it in ways that never even occurred to me. My favourites including “If they ask for Earl Grey, and you only have Assam, don’t give them Assam until you’ve checked that’s ok” and “if they ask for soy don’t give them dairy milk and afterwards go HAHA it was really cow milk all along, gotcha lolz”.
There were two distinct types of feedback that struck me most – for very different reasons.
Feedback type 1
I received a higher number of questions than I would have liked that asked a variation on a theme of “What if they say they want tea, and you drink tea with them, and later they say they never really wanted the tea and then RUIN YOUR LIFE. This happens a lot!” This, ladies, gentlemen, dinosaurs and others, is a TEA MYTH.
Actually, let’s move away from this tea analogy, because I don’t want anyone to get muddled here. Rape Myths are beliefs about rape which are often widely accepted but wrong and/or distorted which actively prevent genuine justice or appropriate support for victims. There are many rape myths – all very damaging and I think all of them featured at one point or another in the comments section, but none more so than the ‘false rape accusation’ one.
It can be tricky to discuss this particular rape myth – because – and this is important – false accusations of rape are very serious, and they can ruin someone’s life. When I say that false rape accusations are part of a rape myth I am IN NO WAY suggesting that 1 – they don’t happen (they do) or 2 – they don’t matter (they do). The issue is one of equivalence.
To illustrate my point I am going to use this risk assessment model ‘borrowed’ from a project manager friend of mine.
This model is often used when establishing what resources an organisation needs to put into a particular aspect of their work, and is a useful way of discussing difficult issues. If something appears in the top right it will need more resource/focus than something that appears in the bottom right. Something in the bottom right should not get more time/attention/money than something in the top right. If it’s in the bottom left then you might want to think about forgetting it entirely.
So, let’s add some badly drawn MSPaint wotsits to this model about the topic in hand.
The Crown Prosecution Service’s report of 2013 found that in the period of study there were 5651 prosecutions for rape, and 35 prosecutions for making false rape accusation (prosecuted as either ‘perverting the course of justice’ or ‘wasting police time’.) That means for every 1 false rape allegation there were around 160 actual rapes. I don’t call that even remotely equivalent.
False rape accusations are extremely rare, and even those accusations themselves are often complex. Sometimes numbers that make up ‘false rape allegation’ statistics aren’t even, well, false at all. So to bring up the risks of false allegations in a discussion about consent is not only misleading and disingenuous, it’s downright dangerous.
Feedback type 2
These were harder to read, but infinitely more valuable.
I received a number of messages from people telling me of things that had happened to them in the past, and how they’d blamed themselves, or never quite dealt with the feelings, or never quite been able to move on. They said that my post had made them cry, or laugh, or just feel believed or understood. Some said that they’d used my post to talk to their children about consent. A few said that my post had given them a sense of release from their past, a way of dealing with their past experiences, a sense of understanding that what happened to them wasn’t their fault. One said they wanted to tell me “what a difference you made today”.
To have people say they enjoyed your words, to see them shared over and over and to see people going YES, THIS was bewildering and wonderful and strange. But those messages telling me that I didn’t just write something funny or clever but that my words actually had real impact for people; to know that my brain ramblings have affected people, touched people and even helped them is an extraordinary feeling, and one I will treasure, even if no one ever reads this blog again*.
My life has also been changed by this experience; in that I will never be able to answer the question “fancy a cuppa?” without smirking.
*But I hope they do.
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