What We Don’t Want To See: Rape Culture In Ireland

Newstalk presenter George Hook has come under fire in the media recently following his controversial comments regarding a UK rape case on his show High Noon. During the broadcast, Hook implied that victims of sexual crimes are partially to blame, leading to backlash from The National Women’s Council of Ireland who tweeted shortly after the incident stating “George Hook’s comments are dangerous, and a perfect encapsulation of rape culture. His comments enable rapists.”

On Friday September 11, Newstalk confirmed that Hook will step down from his lunchtime slot and return to the station later in the year to present a weekend slot. Some have said that these consequences were insufficient while others have deemed it an overreaction but Hook’s comments are far from being the isolated, backward views of a single individual. Rather, they portray a wider prevalence of the view that victims of sexual crimes are at least partly to blame. It is worth exploring the statement from NWCI in relation to rape culture.

The victim blaming “What were you wearing? Were you drinking?” attitude is still an extremely prominent problem in Ireland and around the world. In his apology, Hook stated “It was wrong of me to suggest that any blame could be attributed to those victims or that they bear any responsibility in the crimes committed against them.” He added, “By doing that I played a part in perpetuating the stigma and I unreservedly apologise for doing so”.

Hook has deleted his social media accounts in the wake of his comments, following death threats to him and his family. There is certainly a danger that comments such as these coming from a prominent public figure would discourage victims to come forward out of fear of being blamed or marginalised.

Victim-blaming allows rapists to avoid accountability for their crimes, something that is proven by the fact that Ireland has one of the lowest rates of reported rapes resulting in convictions in Europe (less than 7%). This is a sobering and even farcical statistic with the average sentence for rape in Ireland set at 5 years, for the 7% who are actually convicted.

Rape culture is very much alive in Ireland, from pop music about “blurred lines” of consent reaching top of the charts and consistently played in popular nightclubs, to sexual harassment and assault being trivialised or normalised with comments like “Boys will be boys”.

From a young age girls are told that the boys who make fun of them are actually the ones who like them. Rape jokes are also common. People who defend them promote a horrific societal trend that comes across as tolerance. This undoubtedly makes it harder for survivors of sexual assault to report their attacks. In Ireland we are guilty of counterproductively teaching women how to avoid rape and berating them for “putting themselves in danger” rather than teaching men to properly communicate with their sexual partners in order to avoid presuming consent.

In light of Hook’s comments in the media it is important for us to begin to think more critically about our reactions to the ‘small things’ like rape jokes and pop music that sounds good but disregards consent. Silence is complicity. We must speak up to end this vicious cycle of rape culture.

Rape Crisis Centre: 1800 77 88 88 or visit http://www.drcc.ie/ The Samaritans: 01 116 123