Woman shares impact of McFadden ‘Can’t wait to do some damage’ song
*Trigger warning for survivors of sexual assault
Yesterday ABC The Drum Unleashed published my piece ‘New song by Delta’s man promotes rape myth’ about Brian McFadden’s new single, released Monday, titled ‘Just as you are (Drunk at the Bar)’ which contains the lines:
I like you just the way you are, drunk as shit dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can do some damage
I like you just the way you are, drunk as shit dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can take advantage
Collective Shout ran a blog post on the same issue, titled ‘Don’t be that guy Brian McFadden’. Feministing picked it up too, in a piece titled ‘Pop star Brian McFadden pens new ode to date rape’ describing the song as ”a gift for the committee in charge of picking a new national anthem for the Republic of Daterapia.”
An anonymous woman bravely posted the comment below on Collective Shout’s site . If anything should shame Brian McFadden – and all involved in the song’s production and distribution, including Universal Music – for creating a single making light of sexual exploitation – it is what she has written. Brian McFadden says his song is ‘tongue-in-cheek’. Tell that to women like this and all those other women and girls preyed upon and sexually violated.
This song leaves a particularly bad taste in my mouth as I was actually done some damage to after being taking advantage of. A drunken night which saw me going home to a “friends” house to hang out, and then being dropped off in the morning by one of his friends. Well, let’s just say I have a huge gap in my memory, and a huge hole in my heart after the incident. This hole only formed though, when I heard from a friend that the “friends” friend had sex with me that night. Charming. It’s taken me a few years to come to terms with what happened and the resulting anxiety and shameful feelings have been horrible. I haven’t told anyone about the fact that I don’t remember anything and I WOULD NEVER have consented to having sexual intercourse with the person if I was coherent enough to say no. I can’t speak up about it though because I doubt anyone will believe me, and as everyone will think, I brought it on myself, getting that drunk.
You did not give consent. You are not to blame
I would like to start by commending you on your bravery in being able to articulate your experience of sexual abuse so openly and eloquently. I am saddened however, to say that while your experience is yours and yours alone-and no one has the right to claim they know how you feel- many other women will find echoes of their own experiences in your words.
Your response to what has happened to you is very normal. It often takes victims years to come to terms with what they have experienced. Some never do. The resulting shame and anxiety you feel is also completely normal for someone who has experienced what you have, however I must stress that while feelings of shame and self blame are very typical following an assault (as they are a function of PTSD) you are in no way to blame and the shame rests with him and him alone: getting drunk is not a crime. Sexually assaulting a drunk person is not only criminal, it is a low, vile, predatory act that has to do with a power, dominance and a desire to exert control over another person.
So often we hear the myths that “drunk girls are asking for trouble” and that “men can’t control their lust”. Firstly, no person has ever “asked” to be sexually assaulted. This is a myth which is used to excuse the actions of perpetrators by shifting the blame onto victims.
Secondly, sexual assault is not a function of uncontrollable lust. This myth is not only inaccurate but it is also insulting to men as it casts them as slaves to base, animal emotions. If I were a man I would be eager to knock this myth on its head. If it were true that sexual assault is a result of sexual lust then men would be raping attractive women in the cereal aisle at Coles. We’d also have to ban men from the beach during summer.
The truth is that research shows that men who sexually assault women do so in a calculated fashion based on three primary factors.
1) Access to the victims: perpetrators select or groom potential victims whom they have direct access to. It is a deliberate and thought through process.
2) Perceptions of the victim’s vulnerability: perpetrators choose victims they perceive as being more vulnerable than others. But it is important to note that vulnerability can take many forms. Women who are unconscious or heavily intoxicated may be more vulnerable than other women. Perpetrators must always be held 100% accountable for their actions and it is nonsense to suggest that the more drunk a woman is, the less responsibility a man has to take for his own behaviour. Disturbingly, perpetrators also identify and prey on other types of vulnerabilities. For example, blind, deaf, physically and intellectually disabled women are sexually assaulted at a much higher rate than the rest of the population. This is because they are perceived by some as being more vulnerable and less likely to report to police- particularly if they have trouble with communication skills or if they are dependent on their abuser (such as if their abuser is a carer). Perpetrators also target other populations which are perceived as being more vulnerable either physically (such as children or incapacitated women), socially (such as individuals who have no strong friendship or social networks who might encourage them to report), women who are dependent on the abuser in some way (such as in cases where the abuser is in a position of power such as an adult relative or boss) or perpetrators who know that their victims are unlikely to be able to access support and judicial services for a range of other reasons (such as sex workers who are often not believed, victims in same-sex relationships or victims who have previously had consensual sex with the abuser- such as wives and girlfriends).
3) The likelihood of them being caught and reported on: Perpetrators also weigh up the likelihood of being interrupted by a witness or witnesses and they make a series of calculated decisions based on location and risk. In particular perpetrators often manipulate victims into a location where they have more control over the situation. This is all done to avoid detection and to maintain power over the situation and the victim.
The point of this is to stress that rape doesn’t happen by accident. Research shows that perpetrators know what they are doing and they make a series of detailed decisions around their behaviour. So it is ludicrous to suggest that men can’t help it. The overwhelming majority of men never rape. Those who do, do so deliberately and must be held to full account.
The next thing to say is that silence is not consent. “I’m not sure” is not consent. “Maybe later” is not consent. “Yes” tonight is not “yes” tomorrow night. Consent must be active and given freely and without any force, pressure or coercion by someone who has the capacity to consent each and every time. You clearly did not give consent. You are not to blame AT ALL and full responsibility lies with him and him ALONE.
I also note that you feel concerned that you would be either blamed or not believed if you spoke out. I wish I could tell you, “no! you are wrong!” but your concern is not irrational or unjustified. Unfortunately we still live in a society where victim blaming mentalities exist. Approximately 85% of victims will never report to police because they do not trust the justice system. And with the odd exception, this is justified. Less than 1% of sexual assault cases in NSW are successfully prosecuted.
Victims do often disclose to a family member or trusted friend. But unfortunately even those who love us are often schooled in the same victim-blaming mentalities as the rest of society and they usually blame the victim, interrogate them as though they don’t believe them, or minimize the experience by saying things like “maybe you are exaggerating” or “maybe you just misinterpreted things”. BUT THERE IS HOPE!
So we are clear about this, a person’s capacity to recover (and recovery is possible!) is directly dependent on a number of factors (including the relationship they hold with the abuser, the length of time between the assault or assaults and the decision to speak out, the nature of counselling (if any) they receive on disclosure, prior mental illness or drug and alcohol dependence …. Etc etc). But without question, the number one thing that determines a person’s ability to recover is the types of attitudes they encounter on disclosure. Victims who are believed, supported, not judged, and treated with the dignity, compassion and respect they deserve are far more likely to recover than those who are blamed, humiliated or not believed.
As a community it is vital that we support survivors and their supporters. There are three things I always tell survivors who disclose to me.
1) I am sorry this has happened to you (translation: “I believe you”).
2) What has happened to you is a crime (translation: “you are not to blame”)
3) I will do whatever I can to help (translation: “you are not alone”).
These were things I wished someone had said to me when I was sexually assaulted almost four years ago. While we cannot all be counsellors it is my hope that we can better educate the public so that those of us who fall into the role of an accidental counsellor (this is someone who is not a trained counsellor but who finds themselves- unexpectedly- on the end of a disclosure) can better respond to survivors with empathy, compassion and a desire to protect their best interest.
I also want to stress that while it is wise and prudent to think through who you can disclose to (as some people just don’t get it), there are expert counselling services out there (which are also free!) for individuals who have experienced sexual assault and for those who support them. I can firmly recommend the following.
NSW Rape Crisis Centre offers a 24/7 hotline run by trained experts for survivors and anyone supporting a survivor. Their number is 1800 424 017. They also have a live 24/7 real time internet counsellor, because sometimes it’s often less confronting to type rather than to have to speak out loud. The link to that service can be found on their website here.
A nationwide service can also be reached on 1800 RESPECT. This line is run by trained experts for victims of sexual assault or domestic violence- as well as their supporters.
Most of all I wish for you to know that you are not alone and that there is a community of us out there who really do care about you and who are appalled by what you have experienced. Please, PLEASE know that what you have experienced is not just an abuse. It is a HUMAN RIGHTS abuse and that there are many- like me- who care. Reading your words moved me to write this post. I hope it has some impact- no matter how small.