Two women were sexually assaulted in taxis last weekend in Nottingham. This has lead to the usual flurry of safety advice for women as well as the need to mention that the women were drunk. Here are the safety tips released by Nottinghamshire Police and news coverage:
This is a pretty standard response to rape. All women and girls grow up with similar tips that put all the responsibility of staying safe on us while boys grow up never being taught to respect women’s bodies. I was angry when I saw it but dismissed it as a fairly typical response from a police force with hardly a great track record in terms of victim blaming.
Then it got personal when my parents sat me down to tell me exactly how I need to stay safe. Don’t stay out too late, don’t take a taxi home, do not walk home alone – we’ll pick you up. No need to act too strong or independent, safety first. Don’t wait alone in the dark, take the longer, better lit route home.
My parents teaching me how to stay safe in the big bad world is ironic to say the least. The timing is specially painful. It’s been a particularly bad week following a bad few months triggered by what I can only describe as quite a special kind of torture. I recently spent a week staying in the same house as the man who sexually abused me, in the same room in which most of the abuse took place. This was after repeatedly telling my family that I was NOT comfortable in this setting, that I did not feel safe. It is true that my family does not know the extent of what I went through and maybe I am unfair – but surely knowing that some kind of abuse took place is enough? More relevant safety tips: do not put your daughter in the same room as the man who raped her, believe her when she says she is not safe.
I know I sound bitter. I AM bitter. I am angry. I am exhausted and so done with this bullshit. I spent years trying to build myself back up and create a life only to be knocked out again and at risk of losing it all. In this context, useless safety tips from the very people who placed me in this position are a slap in the face. Let me be clear though – my parents are not solely responsible for this. It is the victim blaming messages and rape myths ingrained in our society which make it possible for them to not listen to me when it comes to abuse within family but jump to protect me from strangers in alleyways and taxis.
I was not raped in a taxi in the middle of the night. I was not alone when I was raped. I was not raped by a stranger. I was abused by a family member at all times of the day and night, sometimes right next to other people. I learnt how to keep myself safe because I knew no one else would. I do not need safety tips on how to protect myself from strange men. As it is for most women, if you want to protect me, protect me from my family.