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Why Cressida Dick’s ‘Bad Apple’ Argument Upholds Rape Culture

Britain’s most senior police chief Cressida Dick said last week that there is the occasional “badun” at the Metropolitan police service. Her comments were made during a speech to the Women’s Institute about violence against women and girls.

“I have 44,000 people working in the Met. Sadly, some of them are abused at home, for example, and sadly, on occasion, I have a badun,” Dick said.

Dick made the comments on the same day that one of her own (now former) officer, police constable Wayne Couzens, pleaded guilty to the kidnapping and rape of Sarah Everard and admitted responsibility for her killing. He has not yet been asked to enter a plea to the charge of murder, as the court awaits psychiatric reports that are being compiled before asked for his plea on the charge of murder. Couzens, who served as an armed police officer, pleaded guilty to kidnapping Everard “unlawfully and by force or fraud”.

In the two short sentences alone, she managed to deflect blame, shield herself from responsibility, protect the Met’s reputation, exonerate a rapist and uphold rape culture.

There are so many things fundamentally appalling about these two sentences in Dick’s remarks. Let’s examine three parts of it: The term “baduns”, the inclusion of alleged abuse against officers at home, and the emphasis on how many officers she has under her eye.

`aTo merely label Couzens as one of a few “baduns” greatly diminishes the severity of his crimes. It is a flippant, almost playful, term. ‘That’s a bad ‘un!’ Is how you’d describe a cringe joke, or a lame pick-up line. Or you’d expect to hear ‘Oh, sometimes we have a few bad ones!’ from someone at a farmer’s market after finding a strange-looking piece of fruit.

It’s not how you describe a rapist and kidnapper responsible for the death of a woman.

Whether intentionally chosen wording or a manifestation of her subconscious, this language serves to downplay the realities of the situation and dismisses the severity of rape. Downgrading the seriousness of the problem inherently upholds rape culture. The breezy word choice combined with the suggestion that it’s only a “few” waives rape and rapists off as a small problem. It implies that this is not a widespread issue, or that there are only a few sexual assailants out there. Considering the statistics that nearly 23 percent of women in the UK have been raped by penetration (including attempted), this is no small issue. To lessen it builds into the rape myth that rape only happens occasionally in our society, when factually, it is devastatingly common.

Downplaying rape in any way, whether intentionally or inadvertently, feeds into rape myths and into rape culture. It is an all-too-common tactic used by our society as a whole, and manifests in a multitude of ways, including denying its commonality, claiming some rapes aren’t “so bad,” labeling some rapes as “not a real rape,” deploying victim-blaming to shift blame away from perpetrators, calling responses to rape an overreaction or hysterical — just to name a few. Our society chooses to underestimate the level of sexual harassment and assault against women in our society. We have a long history of writing rape as a marginal issue. How many statistics are needed to prove how ingrained sexual assault is in our culture? How many “worst-case scenarios” must happen to take this as a serious problem, and actually work to eradicate sexual assault from our culture? 

Our culture of downplaying sexual violence is reflected in the mindsets and linguistics of government officials, which in turn feeds into our society’s rape culture. Consider when Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided not to suspend a Tory MP last year who was arrested on suspicion of rape and accused of sexual offenses relating to four alleged incidents in London. Failing to do so was yet another example of minimizing violence against women. It feeds into the rape myth that victims are not to be believed, and upholds the exoneration of the rapist.

Dick’s language too is a reflection of our society’s history of downplaying violence against women. Not only does it uphold the rape myth that it doesn’t happen often, but her rhetoric also builds into the rape myth that rapists are only a mere crazed fringe of society, when in reality, that is a stereotyped image that does not hold up with the realities of the vast majority of rapes.

Dick’s choice to suggest that some of her officers also suffer abuse – specifically at home – aims to make us feel bad for him and to create an “understanding” of “why” he did it. Why include this phrase at all if not to invoke our sympathy? By saying someone was abused, Dick shifts the blame away from the perpetrator, because isn’t he just a sad victim himself?

This is a classic example of the exoneration of the rapist. To say someone has less culpability because he could have also been a victim of abuse at home is disgusting, and an absolution of the continuation of violence. It searches to explain “why” he did it. The shifting of blame upholds rape myths because it feeds into the desire to exonerate perpetrators.

There is no excuse for violence against women. There is no excuse for kidnapping, there is no excuse for force, there is no excuse for rape, there is no excuse for killing.*

Not to mention that this comment also seemed incredibly offhand, and wasn’t even directly linked to Couzens. She said that some officers may be abused at home. No one should be abused, anywhere, ever. If someone is abused at home, that does not give them any right to then go out and abuse others. So not only did she neglect to state with factuality that this statement was about Couzens, she neglected to understand that it does not matter, because his backstory does not justify the brutality of his actions like some kind of comic book villain. Therefore, the inclusion of this defense is not only a cop-out (pun extremely intended), but also a deflection away from the severity and a justification for the crime.

To include the precise number of police officers that work for the Met is deliberate language chosen to acquit her own responsibility of having had a guilty rapist and kidnapper, and accused murderer, as one of her own.

She emphasized the size of the force in an attempt to signify that she cannot control the actions of 44,000 people, and to influence us into thinking that 44,000 is far too large of a sum for an individual to monitor. This logic is beyond flawed to a point of conscious ignorance. If anyone was a rapist at any job, they would (or at least my god they should) be promptly fired. No company should be turning a blind eye to rapists. There is no room for rapists or sexual assailants in any job, full stop.

This isn’t just “any job” though either, is it? It’s a position of power. Making his crimes a direct abuse of societal power. Furthermore, the police, as a civil force, is an institution, and its alleged purpose is founded on the principles of protecting the people and serving justice. Cressida Dick does not want the public to look into the implications of the fact that one of her own is guilty of such horrific crimes. She does not want to take any responsibility and will intrinsically, assuredly avert attention elsewhere in order to save herself. To her, this is a minor coincidence that he happened to be an officer – she does not want to investigate the web of responsibilities involved in that fact.

But what of the fact that Couzens was accused of indecent exposure only a few days before kidnapping and raping Sarah Everard? The report of his indecent exposure was received by Scotland Yard days before he attacked Sarah Everard. He continued working following the incident. He was not fired, arrested, or suspended immediately following this charge.

It’s clear that Cressida Dick prioritizes the standing of the Met and her own personal reputation over everything else, as has been confirmed and demonstrated by this week’s vehement Daniel Morgan report. The scathing report details how the Met has placed reputation above the need for accountability and transparency, and will do anything for the sake of the Met’s public image, which constitutes a form of institutional corruption. It goes even further to say the Met has concealed or denied failings for the sake of public image, and has used dishonesty for repetitional benefit. 

It’s no surprise then that the police inspectorate delivered exonerations of officers’ actions against women mourning and protesting the killing of Sarah Everard. The report flat out called the media coverage a “public relations disaster” for the police. It is despicable that our institutions are so focused on their reputation instead of actually holding themselves accountable. When all you care about is reputation, you cannot possibly hold people accountable, which prevents the deliverance of justice, and also prevents taking action to eradicate societal violence against women. 

As made clear with the Morgan report, the Met will conceal or deny failings to save face. We saw this in the Morgan case, and we are watching that unfold now with Sarah Everard, as well as with the Smallman case. Where is the accountability and justice for sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, who were stabbed to death in June 2020? Two Met officers were arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public office for allegedly taking photos at the scene and then also sharing them. Another six Met officers are under investigation for having received the photos and failing to report them. Will Dick protect reputation over justice for women? Will she shield herself and her own in fears of just another PR nightmare, instead of holding those responsible accountable, in hopes to deliver a sliver of justice to the Smallman family? 

To Dick, Sarah Everard’s rape and death was simply another PR nightmare, as evident by her language around Wayne Couzens. It’s abominable to see so brazenly that her first concern is the Met’s standing and prestige, and just what lengths she will go to for the sake of the Met’s reputation. Where is this great effort in eliminating violence against women? Or in accountability? Or in delivering justice? Her handling of the Everard case, and her desperate attempts to soft-pedal the brutality of one of her own, showcase that she would much rather guard her glossy reputation than actually do anything to eliminate violence against women.

*The Court heard Wayne Couzens accepted responsibility for killing Sarah Everard, but he hasn’t been asked to enter a plea to a charge of murder. Because he has not yet pleaded guilty to murder, yet, there is still the possibility of the case being thrown out in contempt of court if the trial’s outcome is influenced.

Follow Mary on Twitter and Instagram @msmarymorgan

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