Ah Game of Thrones: what a show. It’s a pretty grim mashup of rape, incest, murder, betrayal, double dealing and just about anything else unspeakably awful that you can imagine could take place on a television screen. Every episode unleashes a fresh wave of vileness upon us, but how we love it! It’s as though we’re asking, nay, begging, ‘How low into the depths of depravity can people go?’ and Game of Thrones answers by saying ‘Here! Let me show you!’
One character who really is revolting is the stomach-churningly disturbing Ramsay Bolton. Think of the most awful, horrific, disgusting and evil person you can and you’ve just about conjured this nightmare of a human being. The character’s played absolutely brilliantly by Iwan Rheon. It is a genius performance because I retch every time I think about him. Seriously, I nearly threw up for a second there.
Now, I realise I’m a couple of weeks late for the outrage of this particular storyline but please bear with me and be aware of the spoilers if you’re not quite caught up with this season. Sansa Stark, a young, innocent and quietly brave character was raped in the show a couple of weeks ago. By her new husband (Ramsay, bleurgh). On her wedding night. While Theon, sorry, Reek *shudders* was forced to watch. It was an awful thing to see on screen and, as a result, the response was heated. Vanity Fair found it unnecessary, American Senator Claire McCaskill declared on twitter that she was ‘done’ with the show and book fans were horrified at the deviation from the original storyline.
Last week, I watched the following episode and (again spoilers ahead…) it got even worse for Sansa as Ramsay ramped up the revolting yet again by skinning alive an older woman who cared for her and who could have provided her a means of escape. He then gloatingly shows Sansa the grisly remains of her ally, ladling on a nice helping of psychological abuse along with the sexual. Honestly, after everything this young woman’s been through it’s a wonder she’s not rocking in a corner somewhere in her own piss, completely unhinged (maybe that’s next season?)
Out of curiosity, I checked to see what the response to this episode had been and I found…well, I found nothing really. And it made me wonder: why is it that everyone gets so upset over sexual violence towards women on television but not really that bothered about the non sexual physical violence? Surely, flaying a woman should be just as horrific to us as raping a woman? How is it that we are so desensitised to physical violence yet so disgusted by sexual violence? Shouldn’t we be as equally appalled by both?
In comparison, thinking about non-sexual physical violence in contrast to sexual violence in the real world also got my noodle ticking. After a rake through the Violence Against Women and Girls Report 2013-2014, I found that of the 87,071 domestic violence prosecutions of that year, 58,276 (74.6%) resulted in a conviction. Of the 3,891 rape prosecutions, 2,348 (60.3%) resulted in a conviction. So it’s really obvious that it’s easier to win a conviction in a case of physical violence as opposed to sexual violence. What’s also really obvious is that a woman who has suffered an act of physical violence is more likely to go to the police than if she’s been raped.
Through a friend, I met woman who was a victim of sexual violence and who had chosen not to report it. I know of some more, as I’m sure some of you do too. After a woman has been raped, we may imagine her going straight to the police in a panic or going home and having an emotional breakdown while scrubbing her skin in the shower until there’s practically nothing left (all informed by popular and visual culture, naturally). This woman told me that while she was being attacked she didn’t fight or try to run or make a sound. She also knew her attacker, in fact she’d been dating him and up until the point where he started to assault her she had thought about having sex with him. She stayed very still and after it was over, she stood up and went home. When she got home she made herself a cup of tea and sat and thought about what to do next. She thought about what she’d been wearing, how much she’d drank and how sexually active she was. She didn’t know how it could be proven that she hadn’t consented, she felt it would simply be a case of his word against hers and was terrified that she would be labelled as a woman who lied and ‘cried rape’ (kudos to the media for this one by the way. Thanks to them donating more column inches to this than necessary, we have a distorted perception of the amount of woman found guilty of false accusations of rape. Think it’s in the hundreds? Try 35 convictions from 2011 to 2012). So, for these reasons and many others she decided not to contact the police. How many other women are there like her? I wish there was a way to find out how many woman haven’t reported a sexual attack, I bet we’d be absolutely floored.
So, back to Game of Thrones. I want to know why so many people are so outraged by rape when we watch it on the telly (You know, when it’s being acted. When it’s fictional). Meanwhile, over in the real world society really doesn’t seem that bothered. If we were as bothered about it as we should be surely the statistics I talked about earlier would be healthier and more rape victims would be confident enough in the criminal justice system to report the crime. It’s also interesting to me that we got so upset about the rape scene and not so bothered about the brutal murder of a sweet old lady yet in the real world it’s almost as though the opposite is true.
With Dame Elish Angiolini basically telling the Metropolitan Police to get its shit together in her recent report and a rape victim recently receiving £20,000 compensation over the way Hampshire Police handled her case (I personally think they fucked it up beyond all recognition around about the time they threatened to arrest her for lying), things are looking like they might be ever so slowly heading in the right direction. Obviously the goal is for no human being to ever be harmed in any way ever again, but unfortunately that’s never going to happen. The goal should be that no matter who the victim or what the crime, they should have the faith and the confidence that they and their report will be taken as seriously by us as Sansa Stark’s rape was.