On February 6, the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign started working with nightclubs and pubs in Cork city to help people who feel at risk while out socialising. The initiative aims to combat harassment and sexual assault.
“With the increase in online dating, we want to help create an extra feeling of security and offer a helping hand to those who may need it,” said Cork Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) secretary Michael O’Donovan to the Irish Examiner.
The premise of the initiative is that anyone who feels at risk while enjoying a night out, regardless of gender or sexuality, can discreetly approach staff at participating establishments and ask for ‘Angela.’ This will be understood by the staff, who have been trained to respond accordingly and separate them from the person who made them feel unsafe. They would then accompany the person to a safe location where they could discuss their concerns.
The ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign is a good idea executed well that will bring necessary help to people who need it. But, it says a lot about our society that this initiative is necessary.
The Rape Crisis Centre says on its website that it had to provide counselling and support to 1384 people in 2015 alone. Writer Jaclyn Friedman said in Time that if there were huge numbers of people getting “carjacked or kidnapped, we’d call it a public crisis.”
Some social critics such as Paul Joseph Watson of Infowars have argued against the existence of western rape cultures. But for Friedman, “that we accept it as normal, even inevitable, is all the evidence I need.”
The Rape Crisis Centre also says that males are sexually abused too. 12% of their clients in 2015 were men and 81% of those men were subjected to child sexual violence. The 2002 SAVI (Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland) Report from Liffey Press found that 60% of young men who had experienced child sexual abuse had never told anyone before telling the researcher. This shows that men and boys find it particularly hard to ask for help. Abusers continue to get away with their crimes as a result.
US Navy veteran Peter Musser spoke on the YouTube channel ‘Uplift’ about how gender roles are destructive. Rape culture affects everyone living in the rape culture. No one escapes unscathed.
“Rape culture isn’t just rape culture. It’s part of the bigger picture of misogyny,” said Musser. “Rape is the product of this rape culture. It’s the terrible negative. But it ties in with how boys can’t be who they are. Boys can’t express themselves. They have to wear certain colours. They have to put up a front.”
One popular counter-argument against the notion of rape culture is that the cause of rapes isn’t that people don’t know that it’s wrong. This has been put forward by Carl Benjamin of the YouTube channel ‘Sargon of Akkad,’ a controversial cultural critic who is known for taking photographs of women and posting them on Twitter with where they live and work.
But, Benjamin is misunderstanding and ignoring the larger problem, sticking his head in the sand like an ostrich. Natalie Parrott of the ‘ContraPoints’ channel responded to Benjamin: “It’s not that rapists don’t accept the truth of the proposition ‘rape is wrong.’ It’s that they don’t even think of their behaviour as rape in the first place.
“People who argue that rapists know that rape is wrong have a bad theory of the psychology of rapists.”
This can be seen in high-profile cases. Harvey Weinstein made several remarks in interviews after accusations were made against him which made it clear that he didn’t believe he had done anything wrong. These could obviously be the lies of a man who understood exactly what he was doing and doesn’t want to go to jail but it could also easily be sincere.
Broadly quotes vice president of the European Men’s Health Forum Dr Svend Aage Madsen as saying that this kind of self-denial or ignorance is typical. “If you look at court cases, you’ll see there are very few instances of sex offenders admitting to the offence. Instead, the phrase you constantly hear them say is ‘I thought she wanted it too.’”
The ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign is an important and hopefully effective effort to protect people in this context. But society shouldn’t regard this situation as if the solution is to teach people – women especially – how to not get raped. The only way this problem is going to be solved permanently is if we tackle rape culture head-on.
The Rape Crisis Centre does great work as discussed. What’s also important is consent workshops in colleges about what exactly sexual assault is and how to make sure you don’t accidentally hurt anyone. These workshops are especially useful because, as discussed, many rapists do what they do because they don’t understand that what they’re doing is rape. It would be good to see these workshops introduced in secondary schools also.
You can donate to the Rape Crisis Centre at https://www.rapecrisis.ie/make-a-donation.html. If you’ve been affected by any of the issues discussed here, please visit the Centre or a mental health professional.