So it’s the season of goodwill, the party is in full swing, the drinks are flowing and we all want to look our best! Not to long ago I received a lovely helpful email, detailing ways I could keep myself safe this Party Season. It included: not drinking too much alcohol or taking any drugs that could render me less able to make decisions, wear clothing that was less likely to attract unwanted attention and staying in contact with friends and relatives. The last of these ‘helpful’ tips is the only one that made any sense to me!! What could the possible consequence be of drinking too much and wearing a very short but lovely dress? Well of course you could be attacked and killed, robbed even but I guess that these tips were aimed the most destructive crime visited on a human being and that is Sexual assault and Rape. Murder destroys families, robbery can make you eternally annoyed and angry but an attack of a sexual nature destroys a person and follows them their whole lives. It destroys relationships, self-esteem and if it reaches court the victim and perpetrator are in a face off that more often than not sees the victim ripped to shreds and the perpetrator shouting consent. Backtracking a little, this email came during the controversy over the release and possible return to the English premiership of convicted Rapist Ched Evans. For me the fact he was released still protesting his innocence is an absolute disgrace. Surely parole is predicated on a persons willingness to admit guilt and show a reformed character this disgrace of human being is still saying his rape attack on a completely inebriated women in a cheap hotel room was consensual. Even his mad as a box of frogs girlfriend is ‘sticking by him’ and beliefs his half-baked story. Which if you take what he says as truth; he cheated on his oh so loyal girlfriend with another woman. This girlfriend must be mad, deluded or highly desperate to stay with and conduct a relationship with such a disgusting human being. Which brings me back to my last point on consent. How on earth can consent be granted if someone is unconscious through excessive alcohol consumption; equally I ask does what a woman wears make her a target for rape therefore making it her fault. So I replied to that ever so helpful email asking if I was drunk out of my mind; lying naked in the street or in a bed did that mean I was asking to be assaulted!? The reply I got was that those tips were to be reminders to not put ourselves at risk! Well my final reply was that they send out an email reminding everybody that no matter what state a person is in that nobody has the right to assault them even and that, that single fact was of more help and useful than the offensive and blame the victim infused original email.The whole sorry tale of Ched Evans and his disgusting behaviour got me thinking about the ordeal of rape and sexual assault victims and how the crime is dealt with in the UK. I live in Scotland and therefore I thought I’d thought I’d check Rape Crisis Scotland’s website for some stats, never in my life have I felt so angry about what I saw. In 2009/2010 the numbers of rapes recorded by police was 884, the number sent forward by the Procurator Fiscal for prosecution was 92 and the number of convictions was 41. If those numbers are translated into percentages it would be 4.6% of all rapes recorded resulted in a conviction, only about 10% of rapes were sent for trial and then rape convictions were 44.6%. These numbers however they are presented are a disgrace but the most disgraceful fact is that they are an improvement on 08/09 figures which were that 3% of all rapes recorded resulted in a conviction. There has been a thought in recent years that the number of rape cases being brought forth for trial being so low was due to a peculiarity of Scots Law; whereby two separate pieces of evidence have to be produced in order for a trial to proceed. Clearly in the case of rape this can be very problematic, especially if the defendant is using consent as his defence. It also worth mentioning at this point, that I have tried to be gender neutral but under both Scots and English law a man can never be the victim of rape. Of course men are subjected to violent sexual assaults but stats do show that women are by far more likely to be the victim of rape and sexual assault. So bringing this back to my ever so helpful email, women are more likely to be attack by a man known to them than a stranger; the stats show that stranger rape occurs roughly make up about 10% of reported rapes the rest is made up of attacks by men known to the victim in some capacity. This again makes a conviction; let alone reporting an attack that more horrendous. But the criminal justice process is made infinitely worse by the dense probing all aspects of woman’s life, with 7 in 10 women being asked questions about her sexual history or her character. Much like the harassment that Ched Evans victim has been subjected to, no victim is ever to blame for the vicious crime perpetrated on them, not if they were flirting, not if they were roaring drunk, not if they were partying in their underwear. The idea that there is any reason for a rape other than the man’s utterly disgusting behaviour is beyond me and should be remembered by all those sick people throwing remarks about the victim of Ched Evans. Everybody has a mother, people may even have a sister and it’s likely men may have girlfriends or wives and maybe even daughters: think then do you think you’d like your love own to suffer the lifelong horror of a rape and for that rapist to be returned not only to society but to a position of power. Ched Evans is a high-profile offender but many more go unpunished; that email highlighting ways to avoid attack would be worth nothing if I was with male friend who then proceed to rape me when I was unconscious through drink or drugs. Would it have been my fault? No you bet my Boney ass it wouldn’t be, nobody has the right to rape, assault or touch you without your express permission. Maybe when it is reported in the media ‘woman subjected to rape’ rather than ‘woman raped whilst drunk’ or equally terrible ‘young mum raped’ or ‘prostitute raped’ will attitudes towards blame begin to change. And perhaps when women are not assigned roles in that they are either described in terms that make them out to partially responsible for their situation, worthy of sympathy or in the case of sex workers unworthy of sympathy will the focus shift to men and their behaviour. Women are attacked every day in the UK and there is little they themselves could do to prevent; it the power to stop this victim bashing lies in the hands of everybody but the real power lies in men, they can choose to listen to woman who says no, they can educate their sons to respect the opposite sex and they can take a caring and responsible role with a woman who is inebriated. Each of us has the power to educate our boys to respect women and for women to not be marginalised into roles which further make it easier for men to perpetrate sexual violence.