Following a recent statement made by a Warwick student, the record needs to be set straight on consent. George Lawlor sparked controversy when he complained about consent lessons that he explained were ‘the biggest insult I’ve received in a good few years’. Having felt personally victimised to such an extent he posed for a picture stating ‘this is not what a rapist looks like’’ but I would pose the question; what does a rapist look like? Often ‘rapist’ calls to mind an attacker in a dark alley, never a friendly face; this is simply wrong, and this misconception leads to a complete misunderstanding of this awful crime.
The fact is, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: 82% of rapes are perpetrated by non-strangers, that is someone the victim knows and has interacted with, of these 47% are a friend or aquaintence and 25% are intimately known to the victim. Bearing these facts in mind our dark back alley vision suddenly changes to a bedroom, living room; home. Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz has bravely made a stand as she carries the mattress she claims she was sexually assaulted in, to show the burden she carries every single day. Her rapist has since not been found guilty although being accused by two other women, and he remains on campus. Rapists are potentially people we see and interact with daily, so a rapist cannot possibly look or seem a certain way.
Nevertheless, we must consider that the real victim of rape culture are not those who have to suffer through a consent lesson they feel they don’t need, but rather the victims and survivors of rape. Trying to stop people getting raped starts with educating everyone about what rape is, and what consent means. Sexual Violence is not selective, it can happen to anyone and consent lessons therefore cannot choose who is potentially a rapist and who is not. The ‘nice guy factor’ does not apply, both women and men need to be educated about the law on sexual assault and violence or else we stand idly by while this crime continues to occur. I’ve never met George Lawlor but I would say to him; consent lessons are not a reflection on you, but on society and arbitrarily classing a group of people as ‘not rapists’ is potentially dangerous and could threaten the safety of campuses in the U.K.
We are lucky on campus as our ‘never okay’ policy allows people to speak out about harassment and violence knowing they’ll be listened to, and that punishment will be dealt accordingly and appropriately. I certainly feel this is a strong united front supporting victims, and this is crucial if we are to stop sexual violence on campuses. Although Lawlor is correct that there are other ways to tackle the problem, surely an hour of consent lessons are a small price to pay for a better and safer campus community for all?