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Don’t shame rape victims who were high, they aren’t to blame

Don’t shame rape victims who were high, they aren’t to blame

James Wharton talks about his rape and being victim shamed

At a chemsex party I was hosting, I woke up to find somebody having un-consensual sex with me.

‘That’s what you get for being a slut.’

‘What do you expect? Inviting five strangers over to your flat for a party.’

A couple of months ago, these comments were left by strangers on an article about my sexual assault.

Those words are painful.

I’m thick skinned, I know full-well the game we play when speaking publicly, or on the record to a journalist; the deal is people will talk, form opinions of you and then express them.

I wasn’t hurt by this rough-end of this publicity bargain while peddling a new book. But, I was shocked by the overtness of this victim blaming nature.

When some began to leave comments that suggest I was somehow to blame for being raped, making offensive remarks; I certainly did look in the mirror and question why I had decided to speak out about this experience in the first place.

But after upset, came worry.

My concern came from the many gay and bisexual men commenting on the feed that were demonstrating a worrying lack of knowledge around the issue of consent.

Read: What I learned from my 18-year addiction to chemsex – and why I quit

Deciding to be open about my assault wasn’t easy

It’s important to note that I didn’t just announce what happened to me on a whim.

I decided to be open about what happened to me because I want to convey a very important message about the unreported culture of rape in London’s chemsex scene.

Just last week the Gay Star News chemsex series reports that the number of sexual assault victims in London’s party and play scene has doubled in the last three years.

Writing my book, I come out as being one of those silent victims.

But I do so in the middle of a wider discussion on consent, and the reasons why many victims decide not to make a complaint to the police.

When I wrote the account of my assault, I didn’t talk about the response victims of rape might encounter.

That’s because I was totally unaware that some would respond the way in which they did; by blaming victims themselves for the rape.

Read: Can I report a rape if I was high at the time?

We all need a better understanding of consent

Take these two examples and ask yourself if you would report either situation to the police:

First: You are traveling home from work on the Tube and somebody gropes you in the middle of the carriage. Would you be inclined to call for help, to make a police complaint?

Secondly: You’re in a sauna one evening after work, and while you’re sat in a Jacuzzi, a stranger reaches across and uninvitingly touches you. Would you call the police?

Generally, people view the first example as an event that would prompt outrage and a complaint to be made. Many are less likely to view the second example in a similar light.

In fact, where the law is concerned, the two events are the same.

Yet, some gay and bi men, condition the second as being somehow understandable or even expected.

That same frame of mind seemed to come through in the negative remarks I got about being raped at a chemsex party.

Chemsex series about party and play high and horny promo gif

Consent can be taken away at any point

It doesn’t matter for one second what environment you are in, it doesn’t matter if you had given it in the first place for some passage of time. Consent is owned by an individual, and it can be given and retracted momentarily.

In the UK, consent is defined by section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. It states that consent (vaginal, anal or oral) is penetration only when someone agrees to it.

However, it crucially stipulates this is only true when the person giving consent has ‘freedom and capacity to make that choice.’

And in a sexual situation where chems are involved too, if a person loses the ability to continuously assure of you consent, the sex becomes non-consensual. And that’s rape.

Stop blaming victims who were high for being raped

As a community, we have to stop throwing shade at those who speak about rape ordeals in chemsex settings.

If we want to tackle this unchallenged sexual crime that’s happening every weekend to our friends, to our fellow gay and bisexual men; we need to stand together as a community on it.

Follow @jameswharton on Twitter

This article is part of the Gay Star News Chemsex Series. Read more stories, support and see the videos on our chemsex section.