It doesn’t just ‘happen’

*Warning this post is both very angry and potentially triggering.*

On my way into uni this morning I saw two advertising posters which made me angry. One had me wanting to smash it up with whatever I could lay my hands on.

It was talking about rape and the counselling services this organisation provided for victims. All very well and good, but its tagline was

Rape happens, talk about it with us

The ‘talk about it with us’ is a paraphrase, but ‘rape happens’ isn’t.

Rape doesn’t HAPPEN. Gagging for a cup of tea when you get home at the end of a long day happens, forgetting your sister’s birthday happens when you are really busy.

But rape doesn’t HAPPEN. It is inflicted upon women by male perpetrators who have made a conscious choice to do so.

I am very disappointed that a charity supporting rape victims choses its words like this. I would search for what charity it is, but I am at university and I don’t want to type that into google – I am scared as to what will come up.

The other poster? Transport for London (government organisation who are responsible for all of the transport in London – tubes, buses etc. Their poster said (again slight paraphrasing)

No, stop, please, no, stop, stop, please, no…stop taking unlicensed mini cabs

this was over a picture of a woman’s face contorted in horror in a cab. So – you see women it’s your fault you get raped – you got into the wrong cab. Not the cab drivers fault at all, or transport for London’s fault for not cracking down on this. They may well have some sort of policing operation to stop this, but that is not what they are focusing on in this poster.

Shakesville writes very eloquently on this – what she refers to as rape culture.  Go and read her post for a more coherent response.

Both of these posters put the focus on women and completely ignore the fact that if it wasn’t for men forcing this on women it wouldn’t be an issue.

That’s all I can say on this right now, I have rushed to the computer room at uni to vent my rage and share it with you, as I suspect most people will look at me as if I am mad if I tell them my feelings about this. I have to go and calm down now as I am part teaching a session with some other people for the rest of my colleagues on my course.


13 thoughts on “It doesn’t just ‘happen’

  1. Mara says:

    This might interest you:

    Until rape is considered an offence men commit (instead of something that happens to women) I think nothing in particular will really change. If even a rape charity cannot see the problems with their tagline I think there is a very long way to go. Also, I do get funny looks and comments like ‘oh but it’s just a bit of fun’ when I comment on something I feel objectifies and degrades women (sorry, can’t think of anything specific off hand). If women themselves can’t see this it’s an even longer path.

    Hope your day improves xx

  2. EcoYogini says:

    yep Mara is right. it’s the way we view rape.
    BLEGH, so sorry you saw that!!!! it would have (and did) make me VERY frustrated as well.

    Hope your day improves- it’s the weekend!

  3. I have been lurking around your blog for a few days now. I must say it’s a wonderful, happy place to visit.

    So sorry you had to see such junk! I think you should call the center and let them know how upsetting it is to you. They can’t change things if they don’t know there is a problem. Thinking rape as a casual daily thing is wrong, just plain wrong.


  4. Deya says:

    I too have remembered being repulsed by the victims’ support group choosing to advertise themselves by saying: ‘Rape happens’. I used to see this inside the bus I took every morning to work for 6 months. The group was the Haven, which is part (I think) of NHS services for victims of sexual assault in Camberwell, Whitechapel and … one other part of London. My friend worked as a doctor for the group and it sounded like they were providing a good service, but the advertising was terrible and sending out a seriously wrong message.

    I think there was a bit in the body of the ad along the lines of ‘Sadly rape is an everyday occurrence…’ and I would always think, really? Sadly? That’s all you can call it, sadly? How about Unbelievably, Incredibly, Outrageously, Immorally or Totally Illegally?

  5. I didn’t even see these posters and I’m so mad I’m shaking. How very typical of the world we live in, there is no mention of the fact that RAPISTS are the ones that make rape happen, no mention of the fact that it is a crime committed by someone, not at all.

    How many times do we hear or read ‘she was raped’ as if it is something that *bam* just spontaneously occurs in life, completely out of context with everything else. Just once I would like to see ‘a man raped her’ or ‘she was raped by a man’, something to make it clear that this isn’t some situation that women just happen to find themselves in but that it is something that is done TO them by someone else.

    And the one about not taking unlicensced cabs? Yet another way to trivialize rape. This is in the same vein as men saying that since they couldn’t find a good parking space they were raped, or because their flight was delayed the airline raped them, or because the professor gave them a failing grade he raped them. This will set me off like none other. I hate it!

    Ughghghg. Thank you for sharing what you saw and your thoughts.

  6. Veronika Koller says:

    I was also seriously mad about the “rape happens” ad on the London tube. So much so that I filed my first ever complaint with the Advertising Standards Agency. Here’s the URL if you want to do likewise:

    I teach English Language at a university and a lot of the stuff I teach is on critical analysis of language. I used the “rape happens” example in a lecture today to show how people can manipulate grammar to hide respnsibility, like that of rapists. If any of you have a pic of the offensive ad, send it to me please, so I can show it in future lectures.


  7. The slogan I thought really clueless was “wake up to rape”, this being the title of a recent report on attitudes to rape by The Havens. I’m sure people can guess what image that put in my head.

    • Claire says:

      I ALMOST tweeted a photo of the poster with a sarcastic byline, but I didn’t want to be flippant about it either. I was frankly shocked. They are so wide of the mark.

  8. Also, the issue of unlicensed cabs is to do with men who try to pick up women by the side of the road. With a proper taxi or minicab, the driver and vehicle is traceable because of the licence and because a record is kept of the journey (by contrast, an illegal cab could even be a stolen car). Taxis are distinctive vehicles and are allowed to pick up passengers by the roadside, and other privileges such as using bus lanes; minicabs have to be pre-booked. If you use an unlicensed cab, it is the same as getting into a stranger’s car, or more dangerous in fact because the guy plying for hire by the roadside may actually be looking for prey. And there are other dangers, like robbery or simple fare rip-offs, which can result in using a fake minicab.

    • Yes, but for me the point they are making is that the responsibilty is on women, not on the TFL cracking down on unlicenced cabs, or for men to stop raping women, but for women to not get into the cab.

      In addition this is positioning women as victims and could act as a trigger for those who have been raped. This ad is an all out FAIL as far as I am concerned

      • Transport for London aren’t the police, and don’t have the power to crack down on illegal activity themselves (I’m sure they and the police do talk to each other, but the police are under the control of central rather than local government). Their responsibility is to administer transport, which includes running the Public Carriage Office, which administers taxi and minicab licensing and the scheme that these adverts promoted (CabWise). So, the only thing TFL can do to sort out predatory false cabs is to deprive them of prey by forewarning women about riding in their vehicles.

        Obviously I agree that men shouldn’t rape women, but in the meanwhile the government have to do their bit to make sure those that would, can’t. I agree about the trigger issue though, and perhaps you could get in contact with TFL because no doubt they will be running a similar campaign later this year.

  9. […] So, a tube advert which makes me happy – rather a contrast to this one! […]

  10. […] It doesn’t just ‘happen’ December 2009 12 comments 4 […]

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