A keen believer that the British will patronise the culture of anywhere they can call "East" faster than you can say "We're so liberal", I thought I was ready for the British response to the Delhi rape. Patronising and othering - I was ready for Britain to put on its disappointed voice and drop brick-like hints about our "superior" treatment of women.
What I wasn't quite ready for, however, was the obstinate, disrespectful, utter blind eye turned on our own rape problems in Britain. Of which, let me assure you, we have many.
Suddenly, we went from 95,000 rapes a year to a utopian bliss where rape didn't happen, or, on the very, very rare occasion it did, society stood around and tutted while the perpetrator was sentenced to a li
fetime in prison within a fortnight. Women went from 200 of them being raped a day to rape not even appearing in our vocabulary. What rape? We have no rape here in Britain.
Among language such as "ancient", "draconian", and even "medieval", one article in particular shone as a beacon of disrespectful stupidity. Libby Purves, writing for the Times, said of the Delhi crisis: "We in the West have struggled away from legal (if less spectacularly vicious) oppression of women ... [we are now] looking eastward in disgust."
This article was a disgraceful piece of journalism, as blind as it was thick, dangerously perpetuating the ideas that are only reinforcing our own rape problem. With poor conviction rates and a complete misconception of what rape actually is and how to "prevent" it, the UK is plagued by a rape crisis far more poisonous than we choose to believe.
The news reports of rapes in dark alleys of drunken girls in short skirts both ignore and degrade the 80 percent of rapes perpetrated by acquaintances of the victim. What's more, rape is one of the few crimes where we are still desperate to blame the victim. If someone forcibly breaks into your house, injures you and then steals your laptop, no-one says it was probably your fault for leaving the laptop on your desk.
The problem we ace is that our patronising stance towards India's rape issues is serving to obliterate any discussion of our own.
Even where other countries have been cited by commentators seeking to globalise the debate, the UK has not. I will stand up, as a citizen of the UK, and as a young woman and tell you: we have a problem. I do not feel safe. Every night I walk home alone in the dark on the way back from university, I fear rape. I pull my hood up to look more masculine, I have my phone within reach and I walk very, very fast. Were I to be raped, I have next to no faith that the legal system would support me adequately, or bring my rapist to justice.
Working to end the fear
I am cautious here to clarify the nature of the comparison I am trying to make. I am by no means making a comparison between general living conditions of those in the UK and India, nor am I suggesting that women in the UK and India live equivocal or comparable lives. Rather, I am drawing a parallel between experiences of rape between two countries because I believe any woman who has walked home at night looking over her shoulder, or had an uneasy arm placed around her waist when left alone with a manipulative acquaintance - whatever her nationality or her culture - will have felt the same fear. We should connect transnationally via that fear in order to support one another and work to end its very existence.
In the UK, of an estimated (up to) 95,000 rapes a year, around 15,670 are recorded by the police. Worse still, of that original 95,000, a pathetic 1,090 result in conviction. How do you think that makes young girls like me feel? Safe and superior to Indian citizens?
Furthermore, conviction rates for female rape in the UK stand at a measly 39.7 percent (and that's once the case gets reported, recorded, and taken to court - which itself constitutes less than 16 percent of all rapes). Conviction rates in Delhi stand at 41.5 percent and in India as a nation 26.4 percent. Even when you consider that the UK abolished rape within marriage in 1991 while the Indian Penal Code still does not explicitly outlaw rape within marriage (as long as the victim is over 15 years of age), this hardly merits the UK feeling superior.
It even permeates our politicians' stance. Take these two statements, for example: "If you are a young woman... in a tight, short skirt and high shoes... how able are you to get away [from a rapist]?" and "[Rape is caused by] display of body"
Which is the UK politician, and which is the Indian politician?
A similar story can be found with the social phenomenon of "Eve-teasing", which has been referenced throughout the reports of Delhi's "epidemic" of rape: the practice whereby women are harassed in the street, verbally or physically (groping). How very socially backwards. I count myself lucky that, as a citizen of such an advanced and superior country as the UK, I have never walked down the street and been cat-called, and certainly never been walking through a not-all-that-busy bar to find a man's hands on my chest as he walks past.
No surprise either that the biblical reference to Eve is designed to imply blaming the victims - these temptresses who lure men into harassing them. Of course, it is also lucky that, here in the UK, us young females are never told that if we are wearing a short skirt, we are largely "asking for it" in terms of harassment.
Culture of denial and blame
One of the posters held up by an Indian protester read: "We live in a society that teaches women not to get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape." Who can read the latest offering from Warwickshire council, a poster that tells girls "Avoid being a rape victim!" and deny that we too uphold this culture of denial and blame?
Most worrying of all, Shah Rukh Khan, a Bollywood star, released a statement saying: "I am so sorry that I am a part of this society and culture." What quagmire of disgusting patronising have we steeped ourselves in that he felt the need to make this statement?
Following Todd Akin's comment, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut [fertility and pregnancy] down", did he feel the need to apologise for being part of American society? Did he say, "I am so sorry that I am part of a culture that belittles this hideous crime so much that I can distinguish between rape that is ok and rape that isn't"?
When George Galloway dismissed rape as "bad sexual etiquette", was he shamed into apologising for the whole of UK culture?
Neither man felt even remotely inclined to do so. Where apologies were even (eventually) involved at all, they were centred around miscommunications and slip-ups of wording. Neither politician would have dreamt of apologising on behalf of their cultures, nor did we make them feel they should.
This constant orientalising is inconceivably dangerous. Our media's push to dump blame on to India has highlighted our own rotting core. If we keep pretending we have no rape problem, if we keep ignoring the realities and blaming the victims, there will soon be no hope of salvaging our deteriorating culture.
Rape is a global problem that will never be resolved by alienating and blaming other cultures and the UK press should be ashamed that they believe another culture is so savage whilst so carelessly kicking back and saying nothing of their own, hugely flawed, culture.
We need to reform how we tackle rape, but we will never achieve the reform of how we look at rape if we do not first acknowledge that we need it at all and how desperately we do.
Rebecca Myers (@rebeccamyers) is deputy editor of the Warwick Boar, the student newspaper of the University of Warwick, and a self-proclaimed feminist