Most news that would normally dominate the headlines has been sidelined during the coronavirus pandemic, but the story of the musician Duffy managed to cut through the news cycle due to its sheer horror.
In February, the singer, whose full name is Aimee Duffy, released a statement regarding her disappearance from our radios and screens in the early 00s, after having the UK’s best-selling album of 2008 and winning three Brit awards and a Grammy. She explained that her withdrawal from the public eye came after she was abducted, drugged and raped. Days ago, she outlined details of the ordeal that took place over four weeks, beginning on her birthday. “Rape is like living murder, you are alive, but dead,” read one agonising line.
Her bravery has been applauded by charities such as Rape Crisis, which say her actions will encourage other women to feel empowered – and, as we know, Harvey Weinstein’s prosecution came about only after his victims felt able to speak out. Duffy’s account has shone a glaring light on why so many women feel unable to do so and how so often, in relation to rape and sexual assault, the victim, rather than the perpetrator, is continually punished.
Throughout Duffy’s post, the many ways in which women are made to suffer for years (more than a decade, in her case) are detailed. It was a male friend saying that “most men would run a mile if they knew you were raped” that triggered her decision to go public. Along with feeling afraid in her own home, Duffy was fearful that the experience “would hinder her future romantic life” and that she would be “forever single”. She had been warned by loved ones that she shouldn’t speak out as they believed that doing so would harm her career. Such comments from her friends in particular are difficult to read, not just because they seem harsh, despite presumably being intended to protect her, but because their concerns are by no means far-fetched. They reflect the reality of a society where even the well meaning see survivors of rape as “damaged goods”. The stigma Duffy and her friends feared was not unfounded – after the post went live, “Duffy lying” became the third-highest result in Twitter’s auto search on her name.
Duffy’s choice not go to the police because she “didn’t feel safe” isn’t at all surprising, given that last year it was reported that rape prosecutions in England and Wales were at the lowest level in a decade. After such a trauma, women are required to be doubly brave to recount it to a world that will probably hold it against them. Yet as more women come forward, I hope for a future that makes it easier for them to speak their truth, instead of making it another thing to fear.
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