Monday, March 10, 2008

What Really Fuels Rape Denial? Part 2

To read the questions which led to this series, check out part 1 which focused on the motivations and weaknesses of hardcore and softcore rape denialists.

In part 2, I am focusing on the marketing of rape denial.

To understand how active rape denialists sell rape denial to society at large, I will need to highlight basic psychology and how that relates to behavior which doesn't on the surface make any sense.

First, unpopular rape denial. This is what we hear from child rapists who say their toddler-victim was asking for it. Definitely bad marketing.

The popular rape denialists hate these people and for many of them it seems to have little to do with the crimes child rapists are trying to deny. I believe the popular rape denialist's hatred has more to do with the way this form of rape denial makes the popular rape denialists look suspect when they say, "she was asking for it" about an older rape victim.

Because of this, active and successful rape denialists have a vested interest in seeing that the public dismisses child rapists as monsters who cannot be understood. The popular rape denialists must be seen as having nothing in common with child rapists. If most of the child rapist's rationalizations line up with the rationalizations of the popular rape denialists and the public sees this clearly that would make the popular rape denialists much less popular.

This distancing from "real" rapists such as those who rape small children is one of the reasons women rape denialists can become popular. Katie Rophie's coldblooded response to college women who talked about about their sexual assaults at anti-rape events was seen by too many people as an impartial assessment when it was no such thing. Because of Roiphe's gender, appearance and demeaner she was perceived by many as being more similar in character to genuine rape victims than she was to those who who rape college women. Yet she squarely aligned herself with those who "rape" college women. Those "rapists" were in the right and those "rape" victims were in the wrong.

That's the power of marketing. To help maintain this power those who reject this bit of marketeering need to be made non-credible quickly so that what they say is ignored or never heard. Rape denialist marketeers gave us the term feminazi.

As for my claim that the popular and active rape denialists hate of "real" rapists has little to do with the crime, it is important to remember that they are already numb to the pain caused by most rapes. If a person cannot or will not feel the pain of a college woman who is raped by her boyfriend, how can that person genuinely feel the pain of any rape victim even one attacked while following all the rape denial rules?

Just look at where these people put their effort. When they talk or write about rape what percentage of that is dedicated to those they acknowledge as real rapists? How much genuine effort has Katie Roiphe put into helping those she acknowledges as real rape victims?

Yet when a rape denialist hears about someone who is convicted of falsely accusing a man of rape and that woman isn't given a day of jail time, they are outraged -- but look through their past statements and see if you can find similar outrage from them about the number of rapists who aren't convicted or who aren't given a day of jail time.

How often is their discussion of real rape and real rapists little more than a disclaimer before attacking "rape" victims and those who are dedicated to reducing all types of rape?

Next look at the comparisons rape denialists make. Keep in mind that rape denialists will stress that real rape is a crime second only to murder.

Now for the comparison: "Rape is a serious crime, but being accused of rape is just as serious."

Many people who don't view themselves as rape denialists will nod in agreement. It is a serious matter when someone is accused of rape. And rape is a serious crime. But that isn't what the rape denialist said and this is not the meaning of the comparison.

Through the equivalency of this statement a true accusation of rape becomes an equal punishment for rape. Rapists who are accused but not charged become people who have suffered as much as their victims have suffered. This is false and if most of those who agreed with the original comparison considered what they were being sold, they'd ask for a refund.

This explains the rape denialist passive acceptance of lack of jail time for rapists.

It is also important to note that while this comparison gets used in discussions of false rape reports, the word falsely is omitted before the word accused. This is no oversight, but is done for marketing purposes. Also implied through sentence structure is "... being accused of rape is just as serious of a crime."

Rape denialists frequently and unashamedly treat girls and women who report rape as if they are criminal defendants so this implication isn't something I am imposing or projecting on them. Some denialists will come right out and say that alleged rape victims should be the ones who are considered on trial during rape trials.

Some rape denialists have claimed directly that being accused of rape is a form of rape. This rape of a name has gotten decidedly mixed reviews in the blogosphere and I haven't seen it used much lately. The claim that attacking a man's name (by testifying about sexual harassment, for example) is no different from attacking a woman's body might be loved by active rape denialists, but it is a much harder sell to the public at large.

The comparisons made between actual rape and accusations of rape are not part of calls for ethical and complete investigations. They are calls which support shutting most rape investigations down before they start.

Aborted rape investigations and sloppy investigations are what leave a taint on men who are truly innocent of the accusations made against them. The more rapists who get away with rape, the greater the taint there is on men who are not rapists. That means that the rape denialists are not protecting the best interests of men who have never committed a sex crime.

But fear of false accusations sells.

The solution to the taint on the men who are truly innocent isn't to change the law so more rapists get away with rape. That would increase the taint on the innocent. It is real rapists not the genuinely innocent who benefit from the changes the rape denialists want so badly.

If a jury ignores a rape defendant's admission that he forced himself on the alleged victim and acquits that rapist because of their biases about non-stranger rape, the popular denialists declare the man wrongfully accused.

To understand how popular forms of rape denial can work on generally decent people like those allowed to be jurors in rape cases, this post at the The Situationist about the difference between fact and perception shows how our brains adjust based on expectations. A study found that the same wines described as being of differing quality and cost were perceived in line with the expectations that the description created and out of line with the reality that all of the supposedly different wines were identical.

When rape denialists successfully market false expectations they are having a real impact on those people's perceptions.

If the expectation in a child rape case is that disclosures of rape and other forms of sexual abuse come from children's lurid imaginations and the power of vindictive adults then the perception of the evidence in that case will be altered. When the evidence of abuse is undeniable, the defendant may be judged by how that adult compares to the juror's expectations about those who sexually abuse children.

The inherent weakness of rape denial marketeering is that thorough investigations can disprove the marketing message. This is why rape denial marketeers want most rape investigations stopped before they start collecting evidence.

Good research can also disprove many elements of the rape denial marketing message. Because of this the rape denialists need to attack solid research even if it is clear that their attacks have no validity and are simply a rehash of old attacks which have been discredited.

Here are the most popular rape denialist descriptions for rape followed by a description of this type of rape and the opinions denialists want people to have toward the rapist and rape victim respectively.

Note: The descriptions are gendered because popular rape denial is gendered. The saying is "women lie about rape" not "people lie about rape."

1) Real rape: Stranger abducts an innocent young girl from the bus stop or abducts a respectable woman from the mall parking lot.

Hate the rapist. Feel nothing but respect and pity for the truly innocent rape victim.

2) Preventable rape (includes all date rapes): Rape which cannot be denied but which is preceded by any action taken by the rape victim that can be attacked by rape denialists such as consuming even 1 alcoholic beverage. Not serious enough to warrant criminal charges against the rapist.

Mild disdain for the rapist for taking advantage of stupid or immoral victim. Strong disdain for rape victim for inviting rape.

3) Morning-after regret non-rape (alternatively called gray rape): Rape which gets denied because the rapist claims the victim seemed like a consenting sort of person or because the victim didn't say no convincingly enough or which can be denied because the rapist couldn't tell the difference between non-verbal consent and unconsciousness.

Extreme pity for the rapist. Disgust for the rape victim who is either vindictive or delusional or reckless.

4) Get out of trouble non-rape: Rape which is discovered because a parent or someone else asks why the rape victim is in distress or acting oddly.

Extreme pity for the rapist. Hatred for the rape victim.

5) False rape: Rape against one of "those lying women" where there is no DNA evidence proving sexual contact and the rapist doesn't use the "it was consensual" defense. Also used when it is discovered that this rape victim was raped previously and reported that rape. No conviction of the alleged rape victim is needed for the rape denialist to want a criminal label to stick to the rape victim.

Martyrdom for the rapist. Hatred for the rape victim and all those who don't instantly accept this bit of marketeering.

These marketing terms all get used to excuse real rapes -- sometimes even after the rapist is convicted by a jury. Those who use these marketing terms will describe "real rape" as being horrific and make it clear that they "suffer immeasurably whenever someone is raped." A rape victim who is able to keep functioning after rape cannot be a victim of "real rape" because "real rape" makes that impossible.

This is true except when the crime is so horrific that it cannot be denied. Then the rape victim is heroic and brave for continuing to function.

When cops hold rape denialist expectations that's where there are likely to be hostile interrogations of rape victims. Some of these cops can learn to see the flaws in their expectations, but others will keep being hostile to most rape victims until they no longer do interviews with rape victims.

We understand the nonsense of snap judgments which come from expectations when a doctor takes one look at a patient who complains of persistant abdominal pain and says, "you're fine."

At best that's guesswork. Someone with cancer or someone having a heart attack may not look sick. Guesswork in medicine can cost people their lives when competent medical investigations could save lives.

This is also true in criminal investigations. Rapists who are ignored because of snap judgments about the victims who report them have gone on to rape and murder. But rape denialist marketeers don't want the public to think about that.

The marketing of rape denial demands guesswork and the guess always needs to favor the man accused of rape. When they get called on this they will often say, "I'm just looking out for defendant rights."

If they don't treat all crimes and all those who report being crime victims in this same way, their response is a well-marketed lie.

The key here is for everyone to be aware that rape denial is being actively marketed and that there are people who work to reframe unacceptable messages until they becomes acceptable and memorable enough for the buyers of rape denial to turn around and become sellers of rape denial.

Part 3 will focus on understanding why some people are passive rape denialists.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 2:14 PM   0 comments links to this post

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