Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Getting Past Rape By Forgiving The Rapist?

In the advice blog Love Honor and Dismay a woman wrote in about her rape at age 14 and the aftermath of that assault. Here's part of the response:

Permission to stop defining yourself based on him. He needs to be gone from your life and he won't be until you let go of him. He's like a bloodsucker who has been attached to your side since you were fourteen. You need to grab hold of him, yank him off and throw him away.You need to start defining yourself based on YOU, not on him. But you can't because you're still angry at him, you still hate him, you still resent like hell what he did to you, so he still has this power over you, he defines who you have become, because......because you have never forgiven him. [...] Those are two tough goals for someone in your position: (1) work to regain your self-worth and (2) cast off your victim role by forgiving your rapist.

While Dr. Andrew McAllister's intentions are good, I think he is off base, especially on number 2.
It isn't her rapist who needs to be forgiven. The person who needs that sense of total grace is the rape survivor and part of that is fully accepting her victim role. If you read the details of this woman's struggles related to her rape at 14, responsibility for the rape was put on her in a variety of ways and from a variety of people.

That, as much as the rape itself, sets up rape survivors for distress in future, wanted sexual interactions.

She didn't take too much responsibility because she has low self-esteem, she did so because her rapist, and others, shifted much of the responsibility for his actions onto her. Those people need to have the responsibility for their actions and their words put back on them.

If people want the illusion that they could never be raped so much that they will come up with simplistic preventative measures, they are the ones blind to the real and complex dangers of rape.

As long as she is responsible for preventing any of her sexual partners from stepping over the line into sexual exploitation or rape, consensual sex will be something that must be endured while on high alert. Many non-rapist men don't realize how their words and actions can echo what rapists said or did. The problem isn't just hers, it is his as well.

Her needs and, yes, phobias, must be as important as his needs. She must be more important than sex. What happened to her and how that trauma has impacted her should never be used as a weapon in the relationship. That doesn't mean no sexual contact, it means listening and being willing to adjust the interaction so it is safer for her.

Be a safe person. She deserves nothing less. If you won't do this for her, she should dump you without the slightest bit of guilt or feeling that she owes you something.

I didn't see this dynamic for decades because memories of what happened were too painful to examine and because I did as people recommended and went through the forgiveness stage. Unfortunately, that pushed problems under the surface instead of eliminating them.

For decades my behavior and thought processes seemed irrational.

Once I got to the point where it was safe for me to dredge up those memories, I found that hindsight is not 20/20. I saw manipulation that I was too inexperienced to recognize as it was happening. My self-blame and shame didn't originate with me. It originated from my rapist and those who excuse rape committed by boyfriends.

I was finally able to let go by fully accepting what had been done to me. My rape was the biggest turning point of my life and acknowledging that doesn't mean I have a victim mentality. I would be a different person today if I had never been raped at 15 by someone who said he loved me. Some of those differences are good, but I don't have my rapist to thank for them, I have myself and those who were positive influences.

The trauma was real and what it taught me about people was real too. I learned how much so-called good people will hurt others for a few minutes' pleasure, but I also learned there are people who are more noble than I ever imagined they could be. I also decided to be one of those people who reached out to help other rape victims.

This survivor, like all rape survivors, needs to embrace that she was a completely innocent victim. Rape isn't the price a girl pays for dating more than one boy at the age of 13. If her boyfriend didn't like her behavior, the appropriate response would have been to stop seeing her, not to rape her and then break up with her 3 days later.

That action was one of deliberate cruelty. She doesn't need to forgive him, she needs to keep him on the hook and see that his behavior was absolutely, totally unacceptable. The fault for rape belongs 100% to the rapist and 0% to the rape victim.

Believing that emotionally as well as intellectually is the key to freedom.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:38 PM   6 comments links to this post

6 Comments:

At January 09, 2007 6:45 PM, Blogger The Speaker said...

Thank you. Again.
This post really touched me.
Produced emotions that produced tears.
Thank you.

 
At January 10, 2007 3:40 AM, Anonymous deviousdiva said...

Thank you and you are so right.
Great post

 
At January 12, 2007 2:31 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Oh, Marcella! I am so glad I found this post. I, too, felt that the forgiveness advice of that post was a bad call. I also agree that the Blogger meant well, but he just doesn't understand. I, too, hid behind 'forgiveness' and I paid a terrible price. My rape memories have been coming back to me for only a little over a year now and I have been devastated. When I read that post over at Love , Honor and Dismay, I was a bit horrified by the advice. Of course, I had to jump in with my two cents and ended up retraumatizing myself by telling him in detail what it was that he was asking women to forgive. I'm trying to get myself back together now. If you want to come over, I left a recent post on Divine Anger in response to the forgiveness trap. When Andrew decided not to post my comment, I posted it in my own comments in the Divine Anger post. It helps me to see that you understand this. I'm so glad that other women are able to speak publicly on this subject. I'm struggling and it has helped to read your post. Thank you.

 
At January 12, 2007 2:52 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Hello, Marcella. I'm so glad I found this post. I read the post you mentioned at Love, Honor and Dismay. Though I think the Blogger meant well, I was a bit horrified by the advice. I left a couple of comments to that post, but it didn't seem to cut any ice. I think he just doesn't understand. I, perhaps foolishly, decided it was my job to make him understand, so I inadvertenly retraumatized myself by telling him EXACTLY what it was that he was asking women to forgive. He didn't post that comment, probably because it was graphic, so in answer to the whole mess, I left a recent post on my blog about Divine Anger. I posted that comment to him in my OWN comments for Divine Anger. Though I felt I could not stay quiet while someone dished out potentially harmful advice to a suffering woman, I didn't take care of myself and had a bit of a meltdown after confronting my own material like that. I'm still trying to recover from the upset of the whole fiasco. I think I'm glad I spoke up, though.

I, too, fell under the spell of forgiveness. It's a great tool to repress and deny, there's no doubt about it, but the biggest problem is that it leaves the rape victim feeling responsible! I have paid dearly for employing that tool. It's been thirteen months since I have been dealing with the rape memories. I have been struggling terribly. I'm so glad I found your post, Marcella. I'm so glad some other women are able to write on this topic. I felt so alone doing battle with the Forgiveness Folly over at that blog. I don't feel so alone, now. Thank you for writing about this.

 
At January 12, 2007 8:23 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Lynn, I'm glad my words could help you. I too know what it's like to feel completely alone. Definitely take care of yourself.

 
At January 12, 2007 4:01 PM, Blogger Lynn said...

Thank you for visiting my post, Marcella. Sorry for the double comment over here. I thought blogger ate the first one.

 

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