Friday, April 28, 2006

If it happens again is it still rape?

National Review: Carrie Lukas

The survey found that four in ten of the survey's rape victims, and one in three victims of attempted rape, chose to have intercourse with their so-called attacker again. The survey researchers scratched their heads as to why these women would return to their attackers, but Sommers asks the obvious question: "Since most women the survey counted as victims didn't think they had been raped, and since so many went back to their partners, isn't it reasonable to conclude that many had not been raped to begin with?"

The original survey may be flawed, but this conclusion is downright dangerous.

From personal experience I can speak to this paradox. My boyfriend didn't fit the profile of a rapist as I'd been taught (a monster who snatches girls off the street) so even though what happened to me was rape, I couldn't accept that he meant to treat me that way. I couldn't accept that the guy who had been in my life nearly my whole life and who was one of my brothers' best friends could be a rapist.

Looked at without understanding, people could think I decided to have intercourse with my boyfriend again. I did no such thing. It took a second rape (when I was still in shock from the first rape) before it began to sink in that the first time hadn't been a fluke. He hadn't mistaken the signals of non-consent.

Two rapes by the same person don't cancel each other out or imply consent.

If you still don't understand, think of it this way:

On the positive side of the scale I had 10 plus years of fun when this guy was around.
On the negative side of the scale I had less than 1 day of unimaginable pain and betrayal.

The next time I saw my boyfriend he was at his very best. Kind, loving, so on and so forth. It was like that 1 day never happened.

And of course he set out to manipulate me from the moment he decided he wanted sex and increased the manipulation after the first rape so I would feel like I was hurting him if I stopped seeing him. He did a fine job of manipulation until I found out he had another girlfriend. Then the whole house of cards crumbled.

Many rapists use manipulation and power to keep getting what they want. Sexual abuse can go on for years and to say that repetition and duration somehow negates the crime is the ultimate in victim blaming.

Nothing cancels out a rape, not even consensual sex.

From later in the article:

In the past, victims of rape were made to feel that the crime was their fault. Many women around the world still suffer this bias. Today in the United States, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. A man accused of rape often is convicted in the court of public opinion without evidence.

I don't buy this argument at all. Too many people in the US continue to insist that the alleged victim must be a liar or stupid if they don't come right out and blame her while arguing that accused rapists are the only group being labeled as guilty.

For more on this subject read:
abyss2hope: Defense attorney asserts that alleged rape victims have an unfair advantage

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:11 AM   5 comments links to this post


At April 28, 2006 1:14 PM, Blogger John Doe said...

Hi Marcella,

Thank you for your comment in my blog, and I can see your point. However, I think that the point of Lukas's article was not to suggest that going back to the purported rapist means that a rape has not taken place. I think she, and Christina Hoff Sommers, are pointing out the intrinsic inconsistencies of the survey which resulted in the 1 in 4 statistic and this makes that statistic suspect. If the survey people define "rape" expansively on the basis of their questions alone, which will be necessarily colored by any agenda they might have, and ignore what their interviewees believe to be rape, then they skew the results towards higher numbers. This is illustrated by the revelation that 75% of the women they decided had been raped, did not themselves believe they had been raped. Is it not reasonable to suggest that someone who knows what rape is, does not believe they have been raped, is not in a state of denial or otherwise coerced has, ipso facto, not been raped?

Moreover, if 40% of the women the surveyors declare to have been raped went back to their purported rapist, and 75% of the sample believed they had not been raped, then those 40% could well be mostly from the 75%. That's not to say that they all were, but the minimum must be 25%-40% = 15% of the surveyed women were declared to have been raped by the surveyors, went back to their purported rapist, and did not believe that they had been raped. Clearly, if you were to take this survey, you would be one of the 25% and one of the 40% but not one of the 15%.

I agree with you that it would be an error to suppose that two rapes make a non-rape, and Carrie Lukas, quoting Hoff Sommers doesn't say that either. The quote is: "isn't it reasonable to conclude that many had not been raped to begin with?", my emphasis.

I also agree that sometimes rape is the result of malicious manipulation or the abuse of power. The trouble is that that line of thought quickly gets into trouble because where do you draw the line? Many might argue that simple courting is a form of manipulation and some have gone so far as to say that "all sex is rape". Clearly (I hope), this is going too far, but drawing the line in different places will generate different results from rape surveys. If you want to get an even higher number, you could define rape as any sex that was regretted after the fact. The result would terrify many people (women and men) and not have a positive result, the scope for injustice would be phenomenal.

At April 28, 2006 4:00 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

John Doe,

On where to draw the line, I say "first, do no harm." This is an equal opportunity creed.

The definition of rape as any sex that was regretted after the fact seems to be one that can be used to deny or minimize rape.

However, I believe that working to reduce the harm people do to each other sexually will reduce the incidence of morning-after regret.

Since the word rape seems to be a trigger for many, when defining rape, I prefer to talk about legal consent and non-consent.

Using those terms there's an obvious divide between courting and manipulation designed to circumvent lack of consent.

At May 01, 2006 1:54 PM, Blogger BetaCandy said...

John, there's just still an awful lot of confusion about just what constitutes rape. I'm shocked every now and then when someone tells me a story about an ex or about a particular sexual encounter, and I immediately identify it as rape, but she doesn't.

Women are SO conditioned to give men second chances and stand by them and support and cooperate, that when that support and cooperation is betrayed, our first instinct is to question "What did I do wrong?" This is not a conditioning that men experience. Unfortunately, a lot of men are conditioned to believe they're entitled to anything they want and they had better never let a woman have any control over them, and they can be very persuasive at painting this psychosis as something less pathological than it really is. I have to forgive women for a degree of confusion.

At May 01, 2006 9:30 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


Thanks for bringing up the point about how conditioning girls to be nice or supportive can backfire.

At June 04, 2006 5:43 PM, Blogger alyceclover said...

Two men I talked to that were sexually molested (one by his father) as children, expressed conflicting emotions. The desire to be with the predators and the anger of being exploited. Would it be fair to say that children who continue to have sex with adults, haven't been raped? Might it be possible that some women create an alternate personality to deal with the trauma of the rape? Unaware that they are "acting".

It's kind of like you are doing customer service work and a customer is screaming in your face, and you smile politely, until they calm down (or don't) while in your head you're cussing them, wishing them dead. (well dead might be extreme)

Hope that makes sense. My daughter lived with an abusive boyfriend, who raped her once; quite sure she had sex with him (unwillingly) many times after, because it took her a while to leave him.


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