Nov 092012

With thanks to Gordon Maloney.

Students from the University of Aberdeen have organised a night-time march through the city for this weekend to tackle what they say is a “victim-blaming” culture around sexual violence.

The march follows the vicious sexual assault of a young woman near the main campus of the University.

The students say that the advice being given to young women, to stay safe by not walking alone, shifts the blame away from the perpetrators of sexual violence onto the victims, blaming women for walking alone rather than men for attacking them.

Lisa Frach, the Women’s Officer at Aberdeen University Students’ Association, issued the following statement:

“Many of you will have heard about the sexual assault that took place in Bedford Avenue last Saturday morning. The Grampian Police department, which is investigating in the Bedford Avenue case, has advised women not to walk alone, even in the daytime. This and similar advice have been given to women basically forever.

“However, this way of arguing forces not only the focus on the victim, but also the blame. Feminists and student groups in the 70’s started opposing this way of thinking and organised very successful “Reclaim the Night” marches throughout the world to shift the focus on the perpetrator.

“A facebook page called Aberdeen University Confessions, that was recently shut down due to questionable content, brought to light that the view women would bring sexual assault upon themselves, is still held among some students of our university. Your Students’ Association would like to remind everyone that while incidents such as the one in Bedford Avenue are rare, we would like to reaffirm that sex without consent is rape. This is equally true in the pub with your friends as it is late at night when you’re walking home.

“As reaction to the sexual assault, the advice given by the police and the persistent way of victim blaming we are organising a “Reclaim the Night” – march on November 10th. Starting at 6pm in Hillhead, we are heading to Bedford Avenue following the route the young woman took on Saturday morning.

“For women to liberate themselves from victim blaming and to emphasize the fact that women don’t need to be protected by men the march is going to be for self-defining women (including trans*-women and genderqueer persons) only.

“While we support the general safety advice we would like to encourage that if you wish to talk to someone about suspicious behaviour, harassment or violence, contact the police about criminal offences. If you don’t feel comfortable with the police you can consult the Student Advice Centre (SAC) in Butchart or RAS (Rape and Abuse Support) on 01224 620 772.

“The SAC service and RAS are both confidential services that are here to listen and offer advice if you need it, as well as give support in reporting incidents formally through the police service. Even if you have no plans to formally report an incident, it can help to discuss it with someone who is sympathetic and trained to give you non-judgemental support.

“Please, look out for each other and support one another.”