Thoughts on rape reporting
Posted by caitlinate on October 14, 2009
There’s a story up on The Age about the horrific rape of an Australia woman in Edinburgh. I’m attaching a massive TRIGGER WARNING to this article and this story. If you think reading somewhat graphic details about rape is a bad idea for you then be careful following the link to this story. It’s here.
Briefly: an Australian woman living in Edinburgh was raped multiple times by two strangers who were also physically violent in other ways. There’s a couple of reasons I want to mention this article.
First is that Fairfax has finally managed to write an article about rape that isn’t horribly offensive. (I checked outside and the apocalypse hasn’t come so I’m not really sure what is going on.) Sure, the title (‘Australian woman’s eight-hour rape ordeal’) is a bit jarring and they mention the nationality of the perpetrators, a possibly unnecessary descriptor. But, for the most part, it’s a simple and well written piece of reportage on an horrific and devastating crime.
Second is, why?
The article states that the “rape was reported as one of the worst to ever occur in Edinburgh.” This makes me wonder if she’d instead been raped by her partner who was claiming she had consented, would the reporting be as straight forward and clear? Or would they write “pretty bad but not the worst” and would we be back to the inverted comma’s of ‘rape’? I understand that there are different levels of brutality and different forms of trauma, some worse than others. But I try really hard to not buy into the sliding scale of rape. Disqualifying a persons experience of rape as ‘less’ than that of someone else is very dangerous territory. One of the cruelest things about rape, that I think a lot of people don’t understand, is that it often can’t be measured by the form of the original attack, it’s the long term emotional consequences that are the true terror. Obviously, the rape itself impacts on those long term consequences but not in a definitive definable way.
I know I sound awfully cynical here but to get to the point: is the reason the article is written so clearly due to the crime itself being so brutal and horrific? There is no way anyone could cast aspersions on the survivor after reading in detail about what happened to her. Additionally, the survivor was able to give lengthy and detailed statements to the police about her attack as well as appearing in court. Is the reporting on this woman’s experience fair, balanced and reasoned because what happened to her is – beyond a shadow of doubt – awful and because she was able to tell us exactly how awful it was?