Obnoxious reality TV star and Lib Dem Brian Paddick has done something interesting. Hot on the heels of his whistle-blowing about being asked by the Met to water down a report about rape, more revelations have emerged.
From years of experience in the Met, Paddick has identified certain problems–problems with which regular readers of this blog will certainly be familiar. Basically, the police don’t give a shit about rape. They often assume that the survivor is lying, they try to deny a crime happened for the good of their statistics, they subscribe to rape culture myths, and they just don’t get it. From his interview, Paddick seems to understand the seriousness of rape, and the set of attitudes in the police and broader society which allow rape to happen. It really is quite gratifying to see a public figure discussing these issues openly, and highlighting suggestions for how this can change.
Paddick’s suggestions are very sensible, involving a radical rethink in the way police and other parts of the system treat survivors. He also has ideas for poster campaigns targeted at dispelling rape myths, and offers support to advocacy groups. All in all, it looks bloody good, and it feels like a tiny little victory for feminism to see these issues being put onto the public agenda.
There’s always a but, though. There’s always a sneaky little catch, the barely perceptible string which rather spoils the whole thing.
Brian Paddick is running for Mayor of London. All of what he is saying forms part of his campaign. The criticism of the police only comes now Paddick is safely out of the institution, and control of it lies in the hands of a rival political party. His speaking out serves to discredit his opposition while bidding to win the votes of rape survivors and those who fear it one day happening to them. His suggestions–ideas put forward by feminists and advocacy groups for years–are not framed as things that should be done as a matter of utmost importance, but, rather, as campaign promises.
Paddick probably believes everything that he is saying to be right, and that’s because he is talking sense here. It is just that the stench of politicking rather sullies the whole thing. It becomes a matter of a better approach to rape being useful rather than being the right thing to do. Rape is a deeply traumatic yet horrifyingly commonplace event, and it should be fought against because it is a travesty that this happens, rather than because it might gain Brian Paddick a few more votes.
It is a form of blackmail, to use this as an election promise, particularly when it comes from a member of a party who are not exactly famed for holding to their election promises. All that he has proposed is things that should be happening anyway, not only as a component in a campaign. We don’t need to put a cross in a box in the vain hope that some bloke will possibly try to tweak the system a little bit. With his connections and platform, Paddick can serve as a useful ally, but ultimately the battle is ours.
It is we who need to fight rape culture where we see it. It is we who need to decide whether the state can ever be an adequate source of support for survivors and whether it can ever truly help right the wrongs that have been done. It is we who need to work towards building a safer world.
Rape is not a party political issue.