The Uncomfortable Truth: Rape’s Hidden Income Inequality and What You Can Do About It
The Rochdale abuse is one of the most horrifying cases of sexual abuse in modern British history. It was hallmarked by bureaucratic inertia and an unwillingness to take action to alleviate the suffering of young, vulnerable people who were being preyed upon by organized groups of trusted older men. Even before the #MeToo campaign, the girls of Rochdale spoke up about what was happening to them. So did their families, concerned neighbours, and people in their communities. The people who could do something about it didn’t step in; it was easier for them to turn a blind eye. It’s not true that women don’t speak out. They do. It can depend on whether people choose to listen.
The Rochdale girls were just ignored partly because they were poor and easy to dismiss. It took a four-year investigative journalist work by Andrew Norfolk of the Times in the UK to uncover their story, and the ramifications were felt across the UK.
Here is the uncomfortable truth: making a rape complaint costs money, and a lot of women can’t afford to sustain the costs. Time off work for medical care. Hospital car parking. Medical fees, if applicable. Lawyers fees. Time off work for police visits. More time off work to see your lawyer. If you have parents, they may take time off work to come with you; more cost.
The uncomfortable truth is that rape can have a financial cost and an additional burden on the victim and their families. Women don’t give up rape complaints because they are weak and stupid and powerless; there are many reasons that women stop the legal process, and one reason is that it can cost too much in terms of the actual and hidden costs. Women either don’t get heard in the first place, or they can’t pursue because they can’t afford it. That’s one reason why so few cases go to trial. Rape impacts your family like no other crime except murder; it can be a joint decision whether you pursue or not. If your choice means that your child goes without in some way, and has to wear second-hand school uniforms, then your choice isn’t really a choice, is it? Suddenly it becomes an option rather than a priority.
You are not so easy to dismiss if you can afford a lawyer. It isn’t fair but, unfortunately, that’s how the world works. We need to do more to protect women and girls after they have been attacked, and not just in the short-term period. It helps to have a lawyer to make sure that the police do their job because, as we see time and time again, they do not. Having financial independence will mean you can protect yourself better.
Being poor means that you are voiceless. Even worse, it has also been shown that there is an intersection of variables, based on gender and race. It’s easy to dismiss victims as being weak, powerless and stupid and to enforce your opinions on them by dismissing their efforts to be heard; this is a completely wrong narrative. When you translate the victim’s behaviour into being determined by economic constraints, it can start to make more sense.
That’s one reason why women are seen and blamed and perceived as being weak if they fail to go to the police, or go through a trial. They simply cannot afford it.
What can you do about it?
You can do everything in your power to empower the women and girls around you to become financially independent and stable. Education is so important and it can do so much to ensure that our daughters are helped. Women get paid less, so it’s one more reason to ensure that women are empowered, from an early age, to have great career choices that will bring them financial security.
This is why the Women in Technology movements, and the associated Diversity in Technology movements are so important; you are helping to cloak women in the ability to protect themselves financially, and to make sure that they can afford to draw on this help if they need it. When women learn skills that can really empower them, they can look after themselves well for life. That’s why STEM careers are a great future for women and girls. Great careers help women to help themselves.
Truth is, when an rape attack happens, you don’t get the help that you think you will. It’s not like an episode of Casualty or E.R. where everyone is helping the distressed victim. Truth is, people don’t know what to say. Also, you have no guarantee that the police will do their job.
Support the young women in your environment; are you encouraging them to set themselves up for life? Are you empowering them to protect themselves by having financial self-reliance? It is one crucial way to help your daughters, nieces, neighbours to be absolutely confident that they will get help if they ever need it; and let’s hope that they don’t ever need it.