Feminist Germaine Greer has an unorthodox suggestion for how to deal with men who rape: Women should put their names online in a rapists’ registry. Speaking at a literary festival yesterday, Greer — who became famous 40 years ago when she published the seminal “second wave” feminist text The Female Eunuch — criticized the paltry number of men who go to prison for sexual assault. “I wish there were an online rapists’ register and that it was kept up to date,” Greer said. “Because we know the courts can’t get it right.”“When I say that to people, they get so scared, and say, ‘Oh you can’t. What about privacy?’” Greer added, continuing:
“Years ago I knew we would never get convictions in a court of law for date rape, so I suggested women kept an online dossier, so if a woman had a date with a guy and he did something to her, or frightened her, and she asked him to stop and he didn’t, then instead of going to the police she should put him online. Other women could check this dossier, look up a guy and see that he has form. Then she can say no, or if she does go, goes knowing it’s a high risk strategy.
I don’t think a sexual bully should go to jail for seven years, but a couple of months’ community service wearing a t-shirt with the word ‘rapist’ on it would be good. As it is, we get nothing. [Rapists] are still walking around and doing what they have done the whole time. There is always one guy, say at a university who gets through lots of girls like a knife through butter.”
I don’t think Greer is being entirely serious. (Or if she is being serious, it sounds like she’s so frustrated with the failures of the criminal justice system that she doesn’t have respect for its processes anymore — i.e., innocent until proven guilty.) It’s also irresponsible for her to suggest that “instead of going to the police she should put him online,” even if she’s not being entirely serious. Society needs to make it easier for women to put their rapists behind bars, not ditch the process altogether for “vigilante justice.” When a woman reports a sexual assault, police need to take it seriously. Attitudes need to be changed not to blame the victim by asking how much she drank or what she was wearing. The backlog of “rape kits” — collections of DNA evidence taken by police and medical personnel after a sexual assault — rotting away in closets around the country need to be handled. Naming and shaming rapists online doesn’t do anything to fix those problems.
But I still don’t want to dismiss Germaine Greer’s suggestions. She does have a point: the criminal justice system is screwed when it comes to sexual assaults. In England, where she lives, only six percent of rapists are convicted, according to the Daily Mail. Let me write that again: six percent. In the United States, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network can paint an even more detailed picture. According to their statistics, one out of six women will be the victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. But RAINN’s statistics from the past five years reveal that 60 percent of those incidents are not reported to the police. Another terrible stat? Male victims of rape are the least likely to report sexual assault, despite comprising 10 percent of the victims.
When a rape in the U.S. is reported, the statistics continue to be grim:
Image via RAINN
Any one of us who know someone who has been sexually and whose rapist is still walking free shares in disgust at statistics like these. So even though I really like Germaine Greer’s feisty spirit, I’d rather see those rapists sitting in jail — not just named online.