Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fallout From Attitudes About Women Who Drink Before Being Raped

From In The News UK:

Incorrectly believing her to be drunk on account of her unsteadiness on her feet, Mitchell and McDermott forced the woman into an alleyway as she left a shop after buying cigarettes and proceeded to rape her, while Clinton kept lookout.

This assumption by 3 teens (Ashley Mitchell, 19, Curtis Clinton, 16, and Kersley McDermott, 18) that their actions would have been acceptable -- or at least plausibly deniable -- if their 32-year-old victim had been drunk and not suffering from multiple sclerosis is unfortunately supported by the outcome of too many rape cases and too many opinions of people who claim to know what they are talking about.

If she had been drunk, it's likely that they would not have been convicted or if they had been convicted they likely would have had much more support from people who would blame their victim or who would call the assault a misunderstanding that shouldn't ruin the lives of three boys.

Many of us are in reality as vulnerable to rape as the drunk and as this woman, but we aren't generally viewed as someone who might as well be wearing a sign that says, "Rape me. Get away with it." That difference in perception often protects us. When it doesn't, those who excuse the raping of the drunk suddenly turn into people who are fervently anti-rape.

They start yelling, "Monster! Get him! Lock him up forever!" Yet in the next breath they will make excuses for those who commit the same acts under different circumstances or to different victims.

Sometimes they feel like being anti-rape, sometimes they don't.

These judgments which have nothing to do with the evidence of the alleged crime aren't limited to what girls and women do before being raped, they extend to women's actions after rape.

Jill at Feministe in a post about rape and power writes:

Sexual assault survivors are supposed to be Lifetime Movie victims. They should be crying, in pain, desperate to go to the hospital or to the police. When their reactions don’t match that model — when they do the exact opposite of what we expect a rape victim to do — their credibility is damaged. Even when what they do is totally normal for people in their situation

The irony here is that when many sexual assault victims are doing the opposite of what we expect "real rape victims" to do (and by "real rape victims" they usually mean those who were attacked by strangers who not only raped them but nearly killed them), they are reacting to pervasive messages that come from the very people who don't understand the impact of their words and attitudes.

People say, "Women have to stop being victims" yet when women who are raped try to do just that, they are called crazy or non-credible when they stop living in denial.

People say, "Women have to take responsibility for their sexual interactions" yet when women who are raped try to do that, they are called liars when they stop taking the fall for a rapist's actions.

Listen to those who talk about what girls and women need to do and then compare that list to their standard for what boys and men need to do. You'll find the different standards enlightening. For those who don't understand what I'm talking about, I suggest writing down everything you say about sex, rape and consent to get a glimpse of what gendered beliefs you've internalized without thinking through the ramifications of those beliefs.

My post-rape feeling of being crazy was a direct response to the messages I received about sex, consent and rape. These messages came from general comments I heard and from specific comments made to me.

When I was first raped, I couldn't imagine that this guy I loved took deliberate premeditated actions against me, but when he raped me again I knew his decision to rape was no fluke or misunderstanding. Two decades later when I finally decided that I had to go back and examine that whole relationship, I discovered numerous occasions where he set me up to take the fall for his actions and his choices. Of course, being in love with me, he was powerless to resist me and therefore not guilty of doing anything wrong.

From a City Room post about yesterday's panel sponsored by Cosmo:

“Rape is still rape,” said Neil Irvin, director of community education at Men Can Stop Rape, saying it almost “seems cliché” at this point to have to remind people that no means no.

Ms. [Ashleigh] Banfield [CourtTV anchor] pressed the issue. “Is it possible that you could acquiesce at the beginning of the evening and by the time you’re too drunk to be heard or understood, it would be unfair for men to try to decipher when the no ends up actually arriving?” she asked.

This question, a blatantly leading one, again reinforces the idea that standing up against all non-consensual sex is somehow unfair to men.

Poor babies.

"Acquiesce at the beginning of the evening" implies that girls and women who are in romantic situations like a date have given an implicit consent for sex. Kiss or make out with your boyfriend and that is acquiescing to sex. Say no to more and you are trying to revoke consent. Rather than listening for a no, these men need to decipher when the yes ends up actually arriving.

Not only would this reduce the number of rapes, it would make these men approach being competent lovers. Rather than focusing on what they can get away with, they would be focusing on doing what is enjoyed and welcome.

To see how unrealistic Ms. Banfield's excuse for rape is, you only need to listen to the number of girls and women who can describe carefully communicating the acceptable parameters of their interactions so there would be no misunderstanding. Many times they even received a verbal response which made it absolutely clear that the boy or man understood the limits and agreed to them. These rapists began by acting respectfully -- and like my rapist -- promised to remain respectful of clearly communicated limits. Then when they had a chance to attack successfully, they tossed their promises aside so fast their victims didn't know what hit them.

Hey, guys, here's a clue. If you are unable to decipher another person's consent or lack of consent, you have no business trying to have sexual contact with anybody except yourself.

Abstinence until intelligence.

If you can't tell, the answer is no. If you can tell, and proceed because you believe you can get away with it, you are a rapist even if your victim decides that denial is the best way to cope. You are a rapist even if a jury buys your excuses.

Mr. Laurino [county prosecutor] said that Dr. Lisak’s research showed that even the “nice guy next door” will use alcohol strategically. “The predator uses alcohol because they know it’s going it impair the credibility of the victim, which is extremely important,” he said. (emphasis mine)

This strategy means premeditation. Note that it isn't the rape victim who is being impaired by the use of alcohol, it is the public and the potential jury.

We have to stop making and accepting excuses for the inexcusable. If you don't find certain rapes inexcusable then don't complain when you are rightfully called a rape apologist.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:04 AM   0 comments links to this post


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