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"I really wish that when rape was in the news, it was because some perpetrator was getting an appropriate sentence for this appalling crime. Unfortunately, rape in the news generally means anything but - and this week is more of the same.

Watch the news on TV, listen to the reports on radio or read about Wikipedia's Julian Assange on the press and you could easily miss the fact that this man is accused of two counts of Rape in Sweden. His crimes are virtually obscured by all the other aspects of the situation and the experiences of the women involved are negated by what is judged as important in this case. When is rape seen as important? That's not difficult to ascertain when you read all the stories that do make it into our media; Maybe the best way to guarantee that a rape is seen as important is if the rapist is a stranger. This allows people to feel genuine empathy for the victim without any 'grey edges' of doubt for her story. It's this particular myth that is so, so damaging for women who then consider their own experiences of sexual assault in the light of how they might be perceived. So women ask themselves "will I be believed?" rather than "was that a crime?" and in doing so are silenced and negated. Many, many women never tell a soul about their attack for fear of this judgement - never tell their partner or their mum or their best friend, let alone their employer or the police.

We hear from lots of women who have never told anyone their story before for fear of not being believed - for fear that their attack wasn't a 'real' rape because it wasn't perpetrated by a stranger (given that only 8% ever are, that's a huge number of women to be silenced). The current reporting of the Julian Assange case - where the rapes are hardly mentioned and where his supporters are playing them down too is outrageous - and it affects all women."


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