Hey men, rape is not a beauty pageant
THIS is a special public service announcement for those who think some women are "too ugly" for sexual violence.
RAPE. IS. NOT. A. BEAUTY. PAGEANT.
The alleged drink-spiking incident at a Perth venue reveals a dearth of knowledge in Australia about how rape and sexual violence works.
Rapture nightclub owner Neil Scott seems to have decided that HE gets to choose which women are worthy of drink-spiking - and any sexual assault or rape likely to follow - and which women aren't.
His response to 19-year-old Shantel Smith's allegation that her drink was spiked at his venue is a shocking example of obtuse sexism and rape culture in action.
Instead of listening to Shantel and the thousands of other Aussie women who have inundated his social media accounts and emails about this issue, he resolutely sticks his head into a bucket overflowing with rape culture.
"I only had two or thee drinks before I came in (to Rapture) so I definitely wasn't drunk, bought one drink from the bar and was then unconscious for the next 2.5 hours, vomiting and experiencing other common symptoms of a date rape drug," Shantel wrote on her socials when she recovered from her toxic night out.
Shantel says that she suffered the after-effects of coma in a bottle chemicals like GHB and rohypnol.
Instead of responding in a civil and concerned manner to Shantel's experience, Scott messaged her a rant accusing her of lying because she wasn't - in his view - good-looking enough for drink-spikers to waste their efforts on.
A screenshot of his venue's response went viral across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, outraging people across the country. In part, it read, "Why would anyone want to spike your drink? … Are you worth someone trying to spike your drink?"
Scott then posted CCTV footage of Shantel leaving Rapture with the fat-shaming caption: "The large girl with the white top, the short black skirt and the black and white shoes is Shantel Smith, the girl who claimed to have had her drink spiked."
He then reiterated his 'she's too ugly' rant during media interviews.
"She's not a particularly attractive girl," he told the West Australian.
"It's just implausible to imagine that she had her drink spiked, it just doesn't sort of add up.
"She's just a very plain Jane type of girl.
"I can't understand why anybody would be possessed by her."
Women are not sexually violated based on their looks and it is not acceptable for anyone to validate and compliment a female's sexiness by her "rape-ability".
It's hard to believe that there are men in this era who insist on perpetuating damaging rape culture myths like this - yet here we are.
What makes it worse is that blokes like Scott have had ample opportunity to gain a nuanced understanding of sexual violence thanks to the countless brave women who have shared their experiences under the #metoo hashtag over the past two years.
Scott's frustrating view of sexual predation permeates all parts of society.
In America, for example, US President Donald 'grab 'em by the pussy' Trump deflects allegations of sexual assault with the "too ugly to rape" mantra.
Even the legal system insists on validating this belief.
In 2017, a panel of Italian appeal judges ruled that two men convicted of rape could not have committed the act because the suspects "found her unattractive" and the woman was too "masculine" to be a credible victim.
Those who reiterate the "too ugly" defence is completely and spectacularly bereft of any understanding of the drivers that underpin violence.
Sexual sadists do not target victims based on society's narrow perceptions of physical beauty and they do not rape to simply "get off".
Sex crimes are used to control, belittle, demean, defile and break victims because of who they are - not how they look.
These crimes are the ultimate form of power and their victims show that sexual violence is not a beauty pageant.
Blokes rape babies, they rape people with disabilities, they rape old ladies, they rape other men, they rape girls and boys - they even rape animals.
To understand that sexual violence crosses a broad section of society, just look at the heart-wrenching stories that flowed from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the ones that are now coming out of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
Setting aside the reams of research that show violence against women is driven by outdated misconceptions of gender and also by misogyny, the myth that rape only happens to pretty people also places responsibility for violence on the victims.
They're asking for it because of the way they look, act or dress.
This myth also reinforces the incorrect and dangerous notion that sexual violence is precipitated by sexual desires that men cannot control - in other words, men are controlled by their penis.
This myth means ensures that' survivors who do not live up to society's beauty standards are less likely to disclose abuse for fear their quest for justice will live and die by whether or not the legal system deems them worthy of rape.
It is highly unlikely that Scott will have a change of heart, but at least there is an upside to his appalling display of ignorance about Shantel and her experience.
Now every woman in Australia knows his venue is the one they need to avoid in the future if they want to have a safe night out.
After all, you can't spell rape culture, without Rapture.
Sherele Moody is an award-winning News Corp journalist and founder of The RED HEART Campaign and the Australian Femicide & Child Death Map.
*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Mensline on MensLine on 1800 600 636