Wednesday, October 11, 2006

How To Interpret The Date Rapist's Version Of What Happened

When people resist believing a girl or woman when she says she didn't give full consent to a boy or man she knows, they often say the scenario is one sided and they need to know what the boy/man was thinking before accepting the possibility that the girl or woman was really raped.

This may seem sensible, but the other angles toward this type of situation have been out there for generations and many people have assumed that if the boy or man didn't feel like a rapist, he couldn't be a rapist. But many men and boys have felt entitled to take sex which wasn't freely offered to them -- as long as they took it under the proper conditions from the proper sources.

Taking what you feel entitled to is not the same as getting full and legal consent from another individual.

Unfortunately, far too many people who want to get the boy/man's side of the situation are equating those two. Rather than looking to see if the description of the events conflict and then considering the ramifications of those differences they are looking to see if he felt all of his actions were justified.

But isn't justification perilously close to rationalization? And people can rationalize any crime imaginable from tax fraud to murder.

The flaw in the thinking of those who want to evaluate a case or scenario based only on the alleged rapist's beliefs goes back for centuries, long before women had the right to vote or to be an official part of the law making process.

Encarta: Rape (law)
The English common law served as the model for criminal law in the United States, including rape laws. However, U.S. laws added to the protections against false accusations of rape. For example, many states instituted a special corroboration rule for rape prosecutions. This rule provided that in the absence of corroborating physical evidence (such as semen or bruises) or the testimony of a witness, a rape victim's testimony was insufficient evidence on which to convict a defendant. As was the case with English law, this requirement assumed that the primary objective of the law was to protect men from false accusations rather than to protect women from rape.

I will go even further and say that an objective of these rape laws was to protect certain rapists from true accusations of rape because the men who wrote the laws believed certain women were asking for it or were theirs for the taking. Hence the resistance to the idea of marital rape and statements such as, "She might as well have been wearing a sign that says RAPE ME!"

Of course they couldn't come right out and say the law was designed to protect certain rapists, so they instead put the focus on preventing "false" accusations.

I know my boyfriend who raped me felt he had the right to do what he did. I got raped and got a total and absolute dismissal of the impact of an act he knew I didn't welcome and didn't consent to. If it upset me, that was my problem. He felt like he had the right to have sex with me and my feelings were immaterial. His official reasons were that he loved me and planned to marry me.

So when I hear people say that men can't be held responsible when their actions make a girl or woman feel raped, I hear people letting rapists off the hook for the pain they've caused. Because I associated the label rapist with strangers jumping out of the bushes, I didn't immediately label myself as a rape victim, but the harm of being raped was still there. It wasn't the label that caused me distress, it was the rape itself and the expectation that I shouldn't feel or act like I'd been raped.

Because of my experience I can never accept the idea of letting the boy/man's impression of what he did negate the reality of rape victims simply because that boy/man doesn't see a reason to stop and because he appears to be an otherwise swell guy.

A frequent defense alleged rapists use is that the girl was indecisive (meaning she didn't recognize him as a rapist so his behavior confused her) or she was advertising her wares. The problem with using the rapist's rationalizations as a defense against rape allegations is that taking sex which isn't freely given for any reason is still rape.

If we say we are a society flatly opposed to rape, there cannot be such a thing as a justifiable rape.

So why do people continue to act as if there were?

Let's look at a part of an anti-feminist rant found by Feministe to help answer that question:

Women, as a rule, are weaker and smaller. Many of them also want to "do it on their own and not be protected by some patriarchial man". That's well and good, but bad men exist. Bad men prey on unprotected women. Women have a couple of choices to live with this reality.

1. Get a gun, a permit to carry concealed, learn how to use it. I like to see all women armed like this.
2. Stop dissuading good men from giving into their protective instincts and allow them to help you.

The man who wrote this sees women divided into two groups. Those protected by men (like an endangered species list) and those women not on the protected list.

If you take yourself off the protected list, you'd better arm yourself because that makes you rapeable and no good man is going to step in when other good men try to rape you. But all hope is not lost. If you'll put yourself at the total mercy of one good man (father or husband), he will protect you from all those other men.

You are either claimed property or you are property that's just waiting to be seized.

Because rape isn't as traumatic to the rapist as it is to the rape victim, the rapist may seem like the more sensible of the two people involved. He may seem more rational in the denial of the truth than she is in the truth. Her wondering what happened to make this boy/man she thought she knew rape her may make her seem uncertain that she was raped when she's not sure what hit her and why.

Too often when we talk about what people can do to avoid rape, we assume the potential rapist is powerless in the face of his lust or that all real rapists are monsters from the moment of their birth. Too many say that nothing within the potential rapist can stop him. But I don't buy it for one second. And neither do those like the man quoted in Feministe. If a girl or woman is properly protected by a man, the urge to rape her will be resisted by those who believe in the paternalistic protection racket.

This is demonstrated each time a defense attorney attempts to label the alleged rape victim as impure. The official line is that she isn't a credible witness, but what they really mean is that she isn't off limits and therefore has no legal right to say no. When she says she was raped, she must be a liar simply because men have a right to her body with or without her permission.

If a boy or man can control others, he can control himself. A key to that control is consequences for failing to do so and a respect for all people's right to not give him what he wants.

When we give any excuse for rapists or let our opinion of their general character negate the harm they've done to another human being, we support the continued occurrence of rape.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:01 AM   5 comments links to this post


At October 11, 2006 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anna said...

I always like reading your posts -I do every day. Even though I am not a feminist and will never be, I really appreciate hearing other point of view. I do agree with most of what you say though.

At October 11, 2006 8:26 PM, Blogger Gracchi said...

I agree with you there can be no excuse for a rapist no more than there can be for the perpetrator of any other crime- we don't say that a murderer could therefore had to murder (save in a case of a clinical psychosis).

I think though that there is a difference between saying that and the next step which is to presume guilt upon accusation- I'm not saying you are doing that here- but I do think its a crucial thing to avoid. The presumption of innocence is key to the whole thing to my mind and that's the difficulty with rape because if a girl and guy are alone and one rapes the other, then its x's word against y's and nobody can ever know without other evidence what happened.

Oh by the way I really appreciate your blog like Anna above and come and read it most days because I think you are eloquent and interesting- these rape scenarios are definitely fascinating and make me think about rape in a different way.

At October 11, 2006 8:57 PM, Anonymous StarWatcher said...

If a man truly couldn't control his urge to rape, he'd throw the object of his lust down in the grocery-store aisle, regardless of how many other people were around.

Since this doesn't happen -- he chooses the time and place, and often uses drugs to make the woman less able to resist -- it's obvious that rape is a premeditated crime. If it's premeditated, yes he damn sure can control himself. He just doesn't want to.

At October 12, 2006 5:45 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Gracchi, many times when people talk about "innocent until proven guilty" in regards to rape, they are not talking about it in the true legal sense. They aren't thinking about habeas corpus or about a program to create a sex offender list for those not convicted. Instead they are using it as a device to silence those who have solid reason to believe a case is credible.

When it comes to the legal system I believe in innocent until proven guilty. When it's used as a shield as people attack alleged victims, I don't believe in it at all.

The rapist and his victim being alone with no witnesses doesn't mean there can't or shouldn't be a criminal case or a conviction. It doesn't mean that a jury can't determine whether there is sufficient evidence to reach a conviction.

At October 13, 2006 1:01 PM, Blogger sailorman said...

Marcella Chester said...
The rapist and his victim being alone with no witnesses doesn't mean there can't or shouldn't be a criminal case or a conviction. It doesn't mean that a jury can't determine whether there is sufficient evidence to reach a conviction.

Unfortunately the system makes it very difficult.

Think of the initial he said/she said as a 50% initial weighting.
Most studies of juries put the "beyond a reasonable doubt" level somewhere around 80-90% against the accused.

So you've got to get from 50% to 85% at trial. The victim usually gets a little "bump" because accused folks are often thought of as a bit guilty. But it's a long road to a conviction.

It is even more difficult when you remember that:
1) EVERY statement and fact which is offered to get from 50% to 85% is itself subject to he said/she said analysis.
2) Cross examination will screw up most witnesses. the victim will testify; the defendant need not testify.
and so on.

If there's no skin under her fingernails or bruising or other non-verbal evidence it is a very very hard case to win.


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