I don't blame Duffy for staying silent – victim blaming stops many women from speaking out about rape

Sarah Arnold
Duffy performs on 20 March 2009 in Hong Kong: Victor Fraile/Getty Images

This week has been a rather monumental one for the #MeToo movement. Firstly, Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of rape. Then, Duffy comes out of nowhere and details the reason for her absence was due to trauma from being drugged, raped and held captive over a number of days.

That was such a difficult post for Duffy to make, and there’s no doubt she wondered if she should publically state what she suffered. It was horrifying to read it. But it’s not in any way surprising she took so long to come forward and speak about it.

Even in the era when people in their millions used the #MeToo hashtag, it’s still difficult to speak about past traumas for fear of not being believed. Rape and sexual assault can often be a “he said, she said” scenario and “innocent until proven guilty” is applied freely to perpetrators.

Take the Weinstein case. When the first allegations of sexual misconduct came to the fore, many in the industry remained silent, or stated they’d never noticed his behaviour. Women were blamed for using him to enhance their career prospects.

Then there’s his lawyer Donna Rotunno. She’s been the one cross-examining those who suffered at the hands of Weinstein. When she was asked if she had ever been a victim herself, she responded: “I have not. Because I never put myself in that position.”

It’s that victim blaming that keeps people from speaking out. The shame of a sexual assault is enough without other women saying there’s things they could have done to prevent it. The facts are that there is one cause of rape and that is rapists themselves.

And when victims do speak up, you’ll find that their words aren’t taken seriously. At the end of the day it took 80 alleged victims of Weinstein to obtain the two convictions on what were ultimately the lesser charges.

It doesn’t appear court systems are set up for women to be believed. When a rape case goes to court, the onus is on the victim to prove they didn’t give consent. It’s not on the alleged attacker to prove consent is given.

Obtaining consent and respecting women still isn’t at the fore of relationships and sex education at school. It should be.

Another issue with the judicial system is that rape must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Maybe there is a case for having these offences decided on the balance of probability instead?

The trauma these women have had to go through in the judicial system holds women back from sharing their experiences.

A year after 2018’s “rugby rape trial” in Belfast, reported rapes in Northern Ireland were down 9 per cent. Is this because women aren’t being attacked anymore? Maybe. But the perception that a woman might still not be believed despite having their underwear and previous sexual history explored in minute detail in court, could also be a reason why less victims are coming forward.

I don’t blame Duffy for hiding away for so long. She suffered one of the worst things that can ever happen to a woman. She was violated, held captive and to talk openly about this is so brave.

But when the response from one news organisation runs with the headline of Duffy’s “tale”, and then implies the validity of her claim should be questioned because she didn’t include specifics in her post, doesn’t encourage women (and it is mostly women) to come forward and share their experiences.

We need to believe women when they share this trauma. Duffy was showing such courage by stepping forward and explaining her absence. Duffy should be praised for the stand she has taken. She’s a woman who has remarkable talent and she’s hidden that away for too long.

It’s the Weinsteins of this world we need to be holding to account. We should all question their motives. They need to be the ones who are afraid.

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