Glamour model and reality TV star Katie Price was raped prior to her marriage to Peter Andre, according to her column in OK! Magazine earlier this month. In response to the media furore surrounding her revelation, Price stated that the only reason she chose to speak publicly about her sexual assault was following reports that her current partner, cage fighter Alex Reid, starred in a film that glamorised rape. While criticising the media attention this has yielded, two-weeks after her initial column Price has gone further to state that while she is unwilling to name the man who assaulted her he is, in fact, a “famous celebrity.”
Of course, this has inflamed tabloid interest in her attack, with almost any male celebrity she has ever been photographed with now the subject of speculation. As it stands the names of a footballer, a TV personality and a small-time film star have been bandied around the Internet as if the nation is involved in some sort of celebrity whodunnit, which not only means that, inevitably, innocent men are going to be accused, but that the severity of rape itself is being diminished, becoming nothing more than tabloid fodder, with papers scrambling to break the story rather than deal sensitively with what is a heinous crime and one that has a shamefully low conviction rate.
Price’s decision to publicly discuss her rape was, on Wednesday, the subject of channel 5’s current affairs programme, The Wright Stuff, and as a result Price called the show to defend her decision to conceal her attacker’s identity, stating that she would “never, never absolutely not” name him. While, understandably, it must be extremely difficult for rape victims to speak about their experiences, Price is a TV personality who has made the transition from glamour model to mainstream celebrity owing to her outspoken and confident public persona and her determination to speak her mind, all marketed as part of her independence and business acumen. Therefore her silence is, in itself, a strong statement.
The vast majority of women who are attacked neither speak about their experiences, nor report them to the authorities. The reasons for this are manifold, but include fear that they will not be believed, that their personal lives will be subject to the basest scrutiny and judgement, and that there will be aspersions cast upon their morality. It is a physical and emotional trauma that a lot of women suffer in silence, worried that they will be seen as the cause of their own abuse. While Price now feels able to speak about what happened to her, making the claim in a national publication, maintaining the anonymity of her attacker is not only inconsistent, but also downright irresponsible.It perpetuates the idea that rape is part of the male privilege, positioning guilty men above puishment, and suggests that female victims should consider their attacks something that they must just quietly accept. According to the Guardian:
The government estimates that as many as 95% of rapes are never reported to the police at all. Of the rapes that were reported from 2007 to 2008, only 6.5% resulted in a conviction, compared with 34% of criminal cases in general. The majority of convictions for rape resulted from an admission of guilt by the defendant, whereas less than one quarter of all those charged with rape were convicted following a successful trial.
Price should realise that as a public figure she can lead by example, and is now in a position to offer strength to women who are living in silence, wrongly convinced that this is their shame. She has no obligation, of course, she is an individual, but as she courts the media she must realise that by now refusing to name her attacker she is fuelling misogynistic attitudes that encourage the dismissal of rape allegations as nothing more than a form of attention seeking, meaning that in actual fact it will become harder for women to come forward, fearing a disblieving reception. While she claims that she did not anticipate the media reaction her comments have incited, Price is well-versed in the machinations of the British tabloid machine, making this an extremely poor explanation.
Cynical journalists believe that this is nothing more than a publicity stunt by Price, designed to win favour with the nation following her vilification during her divorce from Peter Andre, and the fact the name of her assailant is said to have been “accidentally” caught on camera during the filming of her ITV show, What Katie Did Next, will probably fuel this belief (especially as it was said to have happened during a magazine interview). However, this attitude is reflective of the general scepticism accorded many rape victims, and her claims must not simply be dismissed, but properly investigated. The reported involvement of the Suffolk police will hopefully lead to the serving of justice.