Rape is Wrong, But…..

Dear, contributors to rape culture. STOP. Maybe try some education.

Actively hoping for your progress in character,

Star

Now for the real thing.

   Rape has been the subject of many headlines recently. From Steubenville, Ohio, to tragic teen suicides in Canada. Each day it seems we are seeing sexual assault, and with increasing frequency we are hearing parents and the public defending the abusers.

    In the case of the Steubenville rape a large part of a community has chosen to ostracize the victim publicly, and all the while maintain that their boys are angels. These are the actions of adults! Which leaves very little wondering as to how a throng of high school kids felt it was perfectly fine to mail death threats to the victim. I grew up in a small town where sports are a religion. I get it. As a successful high school athlete  in a small town you get perks. Cops tend to look the other way when you are caught at a party, and there is no end to the accolades of others in the community after a big win. For many young people it is a head rush, and probably feels something like celebrity. For a small town, its sports are a shining event in an otherwise dull locality, and its athletes are local stars whom the whole community latches to, and who’s glory they revel in. It is a point of pride.

   What I cannot understand, though, is how that many people can deny evidence. These boys photographed themselves with their comatose victim. There is video and photographic evidence. So how is it that even after being found guilty, and apologizing in court to the victim’s family,Mali’k Richmond’s  father maintains his sons innocence? How is it that the community still demonize the victim and comforts it’s guilty boys? These are questions that I have been thinking about relentlessly. I just cannot accept the total lack of sympathy or compassion, but I am beginning to understand it. Or should I say I understand why it is so.

   Recently I shared a link on Facebook. In the story I linked a boy with a clearly limited IQ, ranted about girls dressing like whores and deserving what they get. The boys stance is as repugnant as one could imagine, and lacking in any real substance or intellect. For me sharing it with my friends was a no-brainer. Many of my friends are activists types and I figured we would all have a discussion about our outrage, then ultimately laugh at his stupidity; but that is not what happened.

   What happened next, I truly did not anticipate. First was a comment of support. After that, however, was something that kind of shocked me. An acquaintance of mine from high school made a comment to the effect of “Rape is wrong, and no one deserves rape…but if you pass out drunk at a party or dress like a skank it’s kind of is your fault.”  Naturally a heated argument ensued. All the while this girl defended her opinion; this is why I am writing.

   The argument is not new to me. I have heard it before, and read it thousands of times in the comments section of articles about rape. I always just chocked the prevalence of this argument up to the fact that the comments section is largely the playground of the dregs of our society. While I found the frequency of this stance disturbing, I attributed it to the ignorant and wicked. Surely no one I knew would ever say such a heartless thing! Then the incident I recalled happened. This proved to me that this disturbing mentality is not limited to the most lowly. That the claims about our pervasive rape culture that I had found alarmist, were probably not as exaggerated as I wanted to believe. To hear this opinion stated is disturbing, but to hear it come with conviction from a female was horrifying. More horrifying yet was how fully she believed she was right, and how her responses were limited to supporting her argument and not acknowledging an ounce of the facts that had been laid before her. She treated what she said as a harmless opinion, not worthy of the enmity it was receiving. What she could not grasp after countless explanations was that, no, her opinion was not harmless. In fact it is her opinion, shared by many others that endangers victims of sexual violence.

   As a society we cannot attach conditions to the statement “Rape is wrong.” It just needs to be the one simple 3 word sentence. Any addendum implies blame on the victims part, which is wrong, because this is not how we would react to a victim of any other violent crime. Anything that comes after the but is an opinion that is of no relevance, except to others who look to excuse perpetrators of sexual violence.

 “But it is just my opinion! Opinions can’t be wrong! You can’t call my opinions irrelevant, you don’t know how to debate if you call my opinion wrong and irrelevant.”

    That may be so. There are many topics that have to do with tolerance for opinion. However, once you have experience sexual assault, be it first hand or through someone you love, there is no tolerance for people who blame the victim in any capacity. To blame even one is to blame them all in one way or another; Be it for the situation they were in, judgment, weakness or fear. To blame someone for rape opens up a window to minimize the abuse of all. And it happens. Our society has big problem right now, because people think it is ok to disrespect victims and believe the worst. I disagree with this callous ‘logic’, I feel that this mentality toward victims raped under “questionable” circumstances is why the girls in Steubenville felt it was ok to send the rape victim death threats, why girls everywhere are showing a tendency to bully rape victims. So, no it is not just a simple opinion. No one will ever blame themselves more than the victim of a sexual assault, and having a public who thinks it’s ok to encourage that because it is easier is wrong. I keep hearing what a god fearing country we are, but I see no great abundance of compassion or love. Just people waiting to pass judgment on someone in the darkest hour of their lives…it is a sick sort of voyeurism.

   The girl I referred to kept trying to dig herself out of the hole she had dug, but to no real avail. She continued to defend herself saying that she knew rape was wrong and had compassion as a ‘true’ Christian. She did not like when I brought her beloved religion into it, knowing she had failed one of its biggest teachings. Unfortunately the ‘get what you deserve mentality’ does blame the victim and lay a hefty judgment. And in her defense of herself, never once did she revoke her judgment of another human being suffering intolerable pain. She maintained it is ‘just’ her opinion, and is harmless.

. We live in a society that tries to minimize abuse, and it is working. The point of the matter is not ‘should she have been passed out drunk with strangers?’. Obviously the answer is no, it was not a wise choice. The point is that those boys felt it was ok to rape her because she was in a moment of vulnerability. To say rape is wrong with conviction and then remove blame from the rapist(s) in any way no matter how small just creates an endless paradox for me. Point-blank, no rape. That is the only point of any real importance. And if you can’t say point-blank no rape, and have to think and judge the actions of the victim then the conviction of rape as inexcusable is hollow. What might seem like a small opinion is the echo of a rape culture  mentality that runs through our society, and deeply effects how victims of rape and other abuse are treated.

   In related news: Pennsylvania is trying to pass a ‘Shut up or Leave Bill’. This bill would make it illegal for women of known domestic abuse to call the police for intervention in a domestic dispute.  It has become so normal for people to make their own judgment of another persons situation, that people in our country at the highest levels are trying to take away the voices victims. That is the ultimate end game of the “Rape and abuse is wrong, but….” statement. If enough people say it, or think it boys in general, and men in power will think it is ok to degrade women.

    I mean ,can we be honest for a second? How can anyone say straight faced, or with any seriousness at all, “Rape is wrong, but I don’t feel that sorry for her, because she was dressed like a whore.” For me it is just an unacceptable double standard. Really? A man should dictate how I or any woman dresses, because he’s not a big enough boy to employ a little self-control? Suggesting that rape occurs because girls dress provocatively is just as much of an insult to men as it is to women. This suggests that, no, men have no more self-control than an animal so we as women need to babysit. All of this concentration on what was worn rather than the crime committed perpetuates victim blaming and excuses rapists. Should girls always be vigilant and cautious? Yes! Always know where you are and what is going on. But sexual assaults happen even in what seem to be controlled situations. The dressing like a slut allegation is pretty irrelevant when the majority of rapes occur between people who know each other, not at parties or circumstances connected to possibly provocative behavior. The only thing that can be said for trying to prevent these assaults are jewels of common sense everyone knows. Know well who you let into your life and always be cautious in unfamiliar places. I am quite sure many women who were victims of sexual abuse knew and did just that, the only one at fault is the attacker. All I see in the attention paid to how girls dress are people who need somewhere to direct their hate and unhappiness, and most likely their closet urges also.

    Unlike a disturbingly large number of people, I feel sorry for the girl in Steubenville. Was she acting recklessly and made poor decisions? Of course, but she is human. We all make some pretty big ‘uh ohs’ at one point or another. It is just sad that young girls can’t make a mistake these days without paying heavily. What those boys did was sick and evil, and they deserve the worst. That girl does not deserve what they did. No girl deserves that! I will never judge or look down on a victim of sexual violence, because it could happen to anyone.

   What really breaks my heart for this victim is, as I said, is that I grew up in a small town where athletes are treated like super heroes. The people focusing on her reckless and less than cautious behavior clearly don’t understand growing up in or around a small town. You are not raised to lock your door at night, or see evil intentions lurking around every corner. Being raised in a small town leaves you naïve of what is outside of that bubble. Everyone knows everyone, and before you can even get away with something fun, someone has already called your mom after passing your car on the road. It is quaint, and safe. At least it used to be. There are no more Mayberry’s, as they say, but that is not the fault of this poor kid. My parents grew up during a safer time in their small town, just as I am sure hers did. I would have never thought twice about going out with people in town or their friends from the surrounding small communities, because of how I was raised. Things like this have not been prevalent or the “norm” for long, so that a small town girl went to a party in a neighboring small town should not be a shock, and cannot be automatically written off as stupid.

    There are so many details and circumstances that surround any sexual assault, that people find it easy to get caught up in these things that don’t matter. At the end of the day what matters is that victims of sexual abuse live with psychological and physical scars for the rest of their life. There is no way to forget or get over what has happened. Moving forward is possible, but there are countless hurdles along the way. A victims self-image, confidence, self-worth, and trust will always be tarnished. Of these the worst is losing trust in one’s self and judgment. No one can hurl worse insults than what a victim has already called themselves. To ask ‘What did YOU do?” “How could YOU have prevented this?” reinforces the responsibility a victim feels for their own assault. These are the reactions that cause most rapes to go unreported. Couple the general speculation of others with a trail that aims to blame the victim and provide a three-ring circus of slut shaming, and there is very little wonder why women feel they cannot report their abuse. So if you find yourself saying “Rape is wrong, but..” just stop yourself, because you are about to be part of the rape culture that has taken root in our country. If you feel that this is an unfair statement think about this. If of reported rapes the national statistic is 1 in 3 women have been sexually abused, that is 1 out of 3 women who are friends, sisters, aunts, mothers, wives, cousins, and daughters. Their rape will affect their family and loved ones, especially if the victim feels that ending their own life is better than facing living with their rape, or reporting it. The pain these women feel is felt by those who love them also. That makes the number of  those affected by sexual violence far higher than 1 in 3 women. Sexual violence has the potential to affect us all. And that is why you should care about your harmless opinions, because those harmless opinions are more than certain to meet the ear of someone affected by sexual assault. You harmless opinion reinforces shame and stigma of a large percentage of our population. So with all due respect it is not a harmless opinion, it is a weapon of oppression which reinforces the idea of  victim blaming, slut shaming, and corrective rape.

By the Numbers 

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A 2004-5 poll interviewed a random sample of 1,095 adults aged 18+ by telephone.

Here are the percent who rest all or partial blame on the victim by situation.

If the woman was drunk- 30%

If the woman behaved in a flirtatious manner- 34%

If the woman failed to say “no” clearly to the man- 37%

If the woman was wearing sexy or revealing clothing- 26%

If it is known that the woman has many sexual partners- 22%

If she is alone and walking in a dangerous or deserted area- 22%

One last number, 13, the number of minuets from her hometown the victim was when she was ‘not even in her own state’.

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