Read Part 1

I would like to ask why you only mention the phrase sexual assault when discussing the female victims? Why did you describe the sexual assaults on the elderly women graphically eight times throughout the programme, but not once mention any specific sexual assaults on the male victims? Why did you choose to only show female actors in your reconstructions? Why is it, Channel 5, that you seem to think it is 'acceptable' to visually reconstruct brutal rapes on female victims, but not males? Yes, it is rarer for a male to be raped in a stranger attack, but should this mean it is any more or less 'shocking?' Rape is rape. It is inherently shocking and upsetting, no matter what sex the victim is.

Advertisements
Advertisements

It can be unforgettable and life changing, no matter whether the victim is male or female.

Yes, the rape of an elderly male is truly horrendous, but does this make it unmentionable? In comparison, is the rape of an elderly female victim so mentionable that you feel the need to repeat descriptions and images of it throughout your programme? Why, in fact, did you choose to make a programme about Erskine at all? Why choose a serial killer who, it could convincingly be argued, chose to target males over females, and then fail to mention this crucial supposition?

I could be forgiven for thinking, Channel 5, that by refusing to mention the sexual assaults on the male victims in this case, you not only deliberately misled your audience, but also enforced the current opinion that we as a society are more desensitized to female rape, and that it is in some way 'less shocking' than male rape? And, if this is the case, then you, as a company, could well be playing a part in sustaining, empowering and encouraging the current, and definitely real 'rape culture' that exists in our country, and indeed around the world.

Advertisements

Or, maybe it isn't an acknowledgement of 'rape culture' at all, but a symptom of it. Maybe these attitudes are already so ingrained in all of us that there was no other way you could think of to make the programme.

What is it to be Channel 5? Was it simply an oversight on your part? Or, did the inherent acceptance that female rape just happens mean that your colleagues were much more comfortable talking about it? What's more, what does it actually mean for women in today's society, when the rape of a female is thought of as less shocking than that of a male? Surely that very fact that women of all ages are raped on a regular basis in this country should actually make it more shocking? By refusing to mention words like 'sodomy', 'buggery' and 'male rape', whether it was intentional or not, you have given a loud and clear message on how you think society feels about male and female rape. In my opinion, not only have you given the female victims in this case no dignity whatsoever, but you have also denied the real story of the male victims.

Advertisements

You've denied them the terrible experience they suffered by refusing to acknowledge it ever happened.

My intention is not to detract from the terrible facts in this case. Each of the victims suffered an absolutely appalling death at the hands of a dangerous criminal with a broken mind. I cannot bear to think about what they went through. This letter is not really about the murders, it's not about Erskine and it's not even about the facts of the case. It's about men and women. It's about how, no matter how far we think we've come, there's still an awful void between the way men and women are represented in the media.

The way the Erskine murders were portrayed by yourselves did anger me. Maybe it's not your fault Channel 5, and, if I'm honest, I'm not really expecting an answer to this letter. But I just had to write it. I was furious after watching your programme and at first I didn't know why. The more I thought about it, the more it became clear to me. Maybe it is society itself that I should be directing this letter at, and maybe it won't make any difference. But, even if it only serves to raise the awareness of the reality of 'rape culture', the ongoing battle of feminism and the ever increasing fight against violence towards women, then it will have been worth it. And, Channel 5, I hope that, maybe, just maybe, you'll consider your portrayal of female and male victims of crime with a little more thought in future.

Yours Faithfully,

Alice Vinten #Television #Police