This Woman's Letter Calls out Anyone Who's Ever Used the Term "Rape Card"

December 19th 2016

Laura Donovan

Last week, a British woman named Sara Roebuck earned international attention for the letter she wrote to the man charged with trying to rape her in a Paris nightclub one year earlier.

Sara Roebuck

Written after she confronted her alleged attacker in a Paris courtroom, Roebuck's letter touches on the various traumas associated with overcoming sexual assault. The letter also addresses the notion that anyone would glibly accuse someone of rape, or as Roebuck puts it, that anyone would "throw the rape card about."

Using the example of Welsh athlete Ched Evans, who was found not guilty of raping a teenager in October, Roebuck drew attention to social media comments arguing that women "[throw] about the rape card" to ruin the careers of men like Evans.

"Throwing the rape card about," Roebuck wrote. "Let’s just consider that slowly. Throwing the rape card about, like having the most intimate part of your body violated against your will and then having the strength to report it is like trying to get an opposing player on the pitch a red card. Do you compare raping women to playing football? That the punishment should be a slap on the wrist because 'she can’t prove that she said no, or she was too drunk, or that she was coming onto me before, or that her ex boyfriend said she was able to have sex after the event in question so therefore in the eyes of the law it is ok'? No."

Sara Roebuck

Roebuck writes that nobody would ever go through the process of reporting rape just to play the rape card, as the experience of reliving such a trauma can be very hard for women and even discourage them from reporting what happened:

"I can tell you now, no person would ever willingly put [themselves] through that [process]. It is humiliating, exhausting, terrifying, heartbreaking, and it is just the beginning."

Saying someone pulled the rape card diminishes the experience of being sexually assaulted.

Urban Dictionary, for example, defines rape card as a situation in which a "woman has consensual sex with a man and regrets it the next morning":

Urban Dictionary rape card

The idea that women "pull the rape card" because they regret having sex with someone is inconsistent with research on false sexual assault reports. A June 2015 piece in Vox reported that only two to eight percent of sexual assault reports are false. In reality, it's far more likely for a woman to leave her sexual assault un-reported, than it is for a woman to fabricate a false claim. From 2005 to 2010, 20 percent of sexual assault victims didn't report their sexual assault out of fear of retribution, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

Read Sara Roebuck's full Medium letter here.