Friday, December 05, 2008

Dangerous And Unfounded Speculation About A Report Of Rape

From Sharon's Site:

I just found out a 15 year old girl on my street was raped last Friday night. I knew there was a police call and the ambulance was there. The newspaper said a 18 year old boy had been identified but he was not immediately charged. It's sad I know this girl and my immediate reaction was...hmmm...her dad was taken out of the house on a stretcher bloody on a back board last Friday night...did he walk in and catch her and she said she was forced. Last summer she had a pregnancy scare. I know because the screaming was in the middle of the street.

I hate to immediately think she wasn't a victim but a teen who got caught by her dad. It's also bad 3 neighbors have called me and said the same thing. Pretty sad.

The speculation seems to be based on the assumptions that:

1) If an alleged rapist isn't immediately arrested then the report couldn't possibly be true.

2) If a girl isn't a virgin or otherwise a "good girl" she couldn't be raped.

3) An observer's gut feelings equals evidence. And that multiple observer's who have the same gut feeling equals strong evidence.

4) Baseless guesswork about the circumstances of the alleged rape.

The first assumption is provably false. It is rare for a valid report of rape to result in an immediate arrest. During my training as a victim's advocate we were taught to inform those who reported rape of this reality so they wouldn't wrongly assume that the police were ignoring their report.

The second assumption is also provably false. Further, it is based on the assumption that the pregnancy scare came from consensual sex rather than from rape or sexual abuse against a 14-year-old girl.

Rapists often choose victims who they believe will receive this type of hostile reaction if the rape they commit is reported. These rapists depend on observers instant skepticism and/or hostility toward their chosen rape victims to help them get away with rape and to torment and further harm their rape victims.

The third assumption seeks to substitute common bigotry related to reports of rape for actual evidence.

The fourth assumption seeks to make the other assumptions seem substantial by fabricating a specific scenario that best fits those assumptions and then treating that fabrication as if it were a proven fact.

These assumptions together which are used to label this girl as a false reporter contributes to making this girl more vulnerable to other rapists since they know for sure how this girl's report of rape will be dismissed by some of her neighbors. Those who make these type of speculative claims might as well give this girl a T-shirt that says, "Rape me, nobody will believe me if I report you."

These types of comments demonstrate why so many rape survivors view reporting rape to the police as a dangerous choice. The "second rape" from respectable people can be more vicious than the first rape.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:00 AM   3 comments links to this post


At December 05, 2008 8:00 PM, Blogger Rj said...

I wrote an "essay" of my own experience regarding this. Here. I'll never be the same.

At December 06, 2008 10:56 AM, Anonymous m Andrea said...

Rj, I am so sorry, though my sympathy probably doesn't help at all. Your "how to stage a rape" article was especially disheartening because it's true. If there's no physical evidence, then people would prefer to believe that the female is lying than to consider that the guy would do something so awful.

I've been thinking that it's that denial which is the underlying problem. Women especially don't want to admit that their sons are not the shiny posterboy for equality that they'd hoped. They prefer to believe that sexism is "out there" rather than centered in their living rooms. Golly, the sexism is so "far away" and removed from their own lives that it couldn't possibly be right next door.

How about a campaign to get folks to wake up to the possibility that sexism is right in their own homes? What kind of denial mechanisms need to be overcome before that recognition could take place? How does someone get to the point where they can safely admit their families are not immune from the influence of patriarchal culture?

Remember those stickers which feminists are encouraged to plaster all over the place? The ones which say "this is misogyny"? Well, if that's too male-bashing for people to deal with, then how about some stickers which say "this is your culture brainwashing you"? I really like because they do a great job of delineating which anti-sexism campaigns are effective, and why.

At December 07, 2008 5:09 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

All that this particular blogger claimed is speculation but such speculation is common whenever a woman or girl reports she has been raped or sexually attacked by a male/males.

The central reason as M Andrea says is denial because far too many men and some women too refuse to accept that rape is in fact common.

This particular case is being investigated by the police but of course already the young woman has been judged because she supposedly is not a 'good woman.' Such misogyny is centuries old and it always the woman/girl's moral character which is on trial never the male(s) who commit rape.

We do not know what happened and speculating about this case only serves to reinforce misogynstic lies about women and girls. But it also serves to hide male accountability because it links in with the increasing widespread belief that rape is an isolated crime which only happens to a few 'good women or girls.' The male rapists too are always perceived as being deviant monsters who exist outside of so-called respectable society.

It is not surprising so few women and girls report to police when a man/men have raped them, because we know women and girls will not believed and instead neighbours, acquaitances, friends, relatives etc. will immediately assume they know the 'facts' and of course the woman/girl must have been lying or else since she was not a 'good woman/girl' must have brought the male violence upon herself.

It is called believing in a 'just world,' one wherein if a woman or girl does something 'bad'then she supposedly deserved to be subjected to male violence. Of course such a view neatly exonerates the male perpetrator(s) of any accountability.


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