Over at the F-Word is a post that I was absolutely horrified to see on a feminist blog (h/t gauntlet), and while there are many already speaking out in the comments, I feel strongly compelled to say something myself.
According to the post, UK celebrity Katie Price has spoken out about being raped prior to her last marriage, which was to a man who is currently making a movie that glamorizes rape. That makes it seem like a prime time to speak out. She has also apparently said that her rapist was someone who is famous, but refuses to name him and says she never will.
The response by Abby at the F-Word, titled Katie Price: Why She Should Name Her Rapist, includes the following:
While, understandably, it must be extremely difficult for rape victims to speak about their experiences, Price is a TV personality who has made the transition from glamour model to mainstream celebrity owing to her outspoken and confident public persona and her determination to speak her mind, all marketed as part of her independence and business acumen. Therefore her silence is, in itself, a strong statement.
The vast majority of women who are attacked neither speak about their experiences, nor report them to the authorities. The reasons for this are manifold, but include fear that they will not be believed, that their personal lives will be subject to the basest scrutiny and judgement, and that there will be aspersions cast upon their morality. It is a physical and emotional trauma that a lot of women suffer in silence, worried that they will be seen as the cause of their own abuse. While Price now feels able to speak about what happened to her, making the claim in a national publication, maintaining the anonymity of her attacker is not only inconsistent, but also downright irresponsible. It perpetuates the idea that rape is part of the male privilege, positioning guilty men above puishment, and suggests that female victims should consider their attacks something that they must just quietly accept.
Stating that her rapist was a celebrity was probably a decision worth thinking twice about, for her own sake — in that it would, and has, only increased public scrutiny and speculation. Such as that up above. But who among us, in speaking out, has not underestimated the hatefulness of people and thus accidentally made things more difficult on themselves? Who here has not found that in speaking out, there are more people than you could have imagined who are eager to make it as difficult as possible, anyway?
Katie Price has not done something particularly different from what I have; she has only done it while people know her name. I have spoken about being raped, and while I have never been particularly specific about the details, I have constantly mentioned that my rapist was also my boyfriend at the time. For those who have known me for many years, that is more than enough information for them to know his name. For him, were he to find me, it is also almost certainly more than enough. And that makes it enough period.
I have not given his name. I will not ever give his name publicly. And no amount of victim-blaming bullshit is going to change that.
Why? Because I value my safety. Because I value my mental health. Because I value myself.
Because printing his name would make it a million times easier for him to find me. Because it would make it easy for his friends to google his name and find me, too. Because it would open me up to extraordinary harassment by someone who through his very narrow definition of rape, which he undoubtedly uses to maintain his belief that he’s a decent person, almost certainly believes with all his heart that he did not rape me. It would open me up to charges of false accusations, to questions about why I have not pressed charges and statements about what a liar I am because I haven’t. It would back me into a corner, because while not pressing charges makes me a liar, pressing charges means setting up an impossible case on the grounds of something that happened many years ago with no witnesses, for a crime that rarely results in conviction, anyway (something that is especially true in the UK). Because it could potentially open me up to charges of libel. I will not name him because I deserve — no, because I have the goddamn right — to not spend every second of my life looking over my shoulder, afraid of just when he will appear.
And I imagine that if not every one of these things is true for Katie Price, a significant majority are. Her choices, right now, are being called an irresponsible coward by feminists and an attention-seeker by the media, or being sued for libel by her rapist and being called a liar by every single person under the sun.
What a brilliant fucking set of options, right?
Katie Price has already done more than a vast majority of celebrities who are also rape survivors will ever, ever do. The media reaction has undoubtedly only ensured that even fewer will. That is enough. That is more than enough, and it is brave. And she didn’t owe it to me. She didn’t owe it to you. She didn’t owe it to anybody, and she certainly doesn’t owe us more now.
Her refusal to name her rapist doesn’t send the message that rapists deserve to go without punishment — the court system does a fine job of that, and would only reinforce the message were she to do what people are trying to guilt her into doing. It doesn’t reinforce male privilege — it puts a tiny dent in it by speaking out about rape at all, and a tiny dent is sadly the most that any of us can do.
Her decision to not name her rapist does not speak of a right for men to be protected, it speaks of a right for women to deserve protection. It speaks of her belief that she has a right not only to set personal limits in a world that believes women are public property, but also and more importantly, to safety. It’s a refusal to relinquish that right in the face of victim-blaming and misogyny, even out of unexpected quarters.
I’ve said it over and over again, but I clearly cannot say it enough times. Women have a right to safety. And I would have expected feminists of all people to understand that.