Friday, May 29, 2009

Date Rape And The Volunteers

The beginning of a Sexual Homicide Exchange Profilers article titled, What's Booze Got To Do With It? Sadly, Just About Everything by Pat Brown should be titled What's victim blaming got to do with it? Sadly, Just About Everything.


Date rape is the most prevalent form of rape occurring in the United States today. However, very few of these crimes are ever prosecuted. Why? Not many are reported to the police and not many can be proven in a court of law. Date rape continues unabated because women haven't wised up to the reason they become victims of this type of criminal activity. In a twist on the saying, "There are no victims, only volunteers"….I add, "Where there are volunteers, there are victims".
Calling victims "volunteers" unfortunately supports popular denial of date rape and it supports the continued unabated occurrence of date rape because when you volunteer for something you freely consent. And if you freely consent it's not rape.

Those who genuinely volunteer are the rapists and the observers who focus on the victim's alcohol consumption or anything else the victim does instead of focusing on the actions of rapists. But they are not volunteering themselves, they are volunteering other people to become rape victims.

Ms. Brown knows she's stepped in it with this opening by telling readers not to email her and tries to prop up her view of rape victims as volunteers.


A crime is something that occurs because a person with a criminal mind can take advantage of another person with relatively low risk of penalty by society being enacted against him. At least the offender must view the risk of penalty as low. Date rape is an easy crime to get away with because the offender believes that the woman will not press charges and if she did, she wouldn't be able to prove her case in court. Why?

Because the woman is usually inebriated at the time. She is drinking and making poor decisions about whom to be with that evening and poor decisions on which activities should engage in. She is an easy choice of a target for the offender.

Ms. Brown gets the reason for the difficulty of prosecuting these types of rapes all wrong. The problem is not that the victim was inebriated and made poor decisions. The problem is how these non-violent decisions are labeled, judged and then compared to the criminal decisions made by that person's rapist. This can lead to people talking about "deserved" rapes.

In the hypothetical example Pat Brown uses which features a repeat date rapist she calls Joe, the rape is premeditated from the first contact in the bar. However, by framing what Joe does as being a result of the choices made by the rape victim, Sarah, Ms. Brown provides support for the rationalizations used by serial rapists. This allows people to minimize the importance of Joe's predatory behavior which included lies and creating a drink with the specific goal to incapacitate Sarah.


BUT, ALL the women have gotten themselves into a situation, which THEY themselves feel unable to go to court to prove that a rape really did occur.
This is inaccurate. The problem is not proof, the problem is bigotry based on the idea that it is the women who have, "gotten themselves into a situation," and therefore have caused their own rapes.


Following is a list of the reasons that prevent women from feeling able to file charges and win in a court of law:

1. Presently sexually active
2. On the pill
3. On a date
4. In his or her car willingly
5. In his apartment alone
6. In her apartment alone
7. At a party drinking
8. In a bar drinking.
9. Lack of extreme fear - not enough fear to fight for one's life and not enough fear to run half-naked into a hallway and be embarrassed.
10. Above all, no REAL evidence of rape, only sexual activity. It is a he said, she said kind of situation

This list has nothing to do with genuine proof and is all about the popular bigotry which gets used by rapists. Using this perspective all of these items become defacto legal consent. That's the problem and anyone who uses any of these listed items as a reason to doubt a rape case has chosen pro-rapist bigotry over justice.

The list item #9 on lack of extreme fear sticks out because it highlights how skewed many people's view of consent is. If you didn't fight for your life or run screaming (which assumes you could do one or both of these if you really wanted to) then it's assumed that boys and men can proceed even when the girl or woman hasn't consented.

The last item on the list is not only bigotry it is false. Testimony is real evidence in all types of crimes. And testimony is far more than, "He raped me."

When people talk about REAL evidence in rape cases they often mean non-sexual violence: gunshot wounds or cuts to the neck of the victim. But in many rapes, stranger and non-stranger, the only violence is sexual. When this isn't sufficient to consider rape criminal enough for a conviction then rape by itself gets treated by our criminal justice system as if it is legal.

Once this becomes the view then there is no basis for demanding that boys and men not commit rape.

In this example, Sarah might have later freely consented which is often used as evidence that a rape victim actually consented. But Joe's actions in Ms. Brown's example show he wasn't working toward consensual sexual contact. His single minded goal was sexual assault. He didn't get a clear, "no" because he wasn't interested in finding out what Sarah wanted or didn't want. He was only interested in getting her to an isolated location and getting her intoxicated to the point where she couldn't stop his assault.

She didn't exhibit extreme fear because Joe was a non-stranger who lied repeatedly to reduce her fear and then he used the drink he made to get Sarah more impaired than she would be otherwise.

Yet she's the one who gets scolded by Brown for her decisions.

Brown gets it wrong in other ways. Girls and women who have been victims of stranger rape and who have not been drinking can also choose not to report. The backlash against those who were raped isn't limited to the subset of rapes called date rape.

Girls and women who drink are also not the only easy choice of target.

Women in comas are also easy targets. But the public response to these rapes is far different than it is to date rapes. The actions of rapists who target those in comas are the same or less severe than the actions of those who rape drunk women since these rapists don't have to work to incapacitate or trick their intended rape victim.

Despite these rapists' similarities the popular perception of these rapists couldn't be more different. The difference comes from the attitudes about the victims those rapists targeted. The comatose rape victim is an innocent victim. The drunk rape victim is too rarely described as innocent and too often is bombarded with more scorn than her rapist will ever face.

This volunteering to help date rapists begins with investigators who don't want to investigate these types of rapes and who may refuse to do an official report and who may block a rape victim from getting a rape kit. Some investigators volunteer to help rapists by making false accusations against rape victims.

Once non-stranger rape is reported in the media many people are quick to volunteer that the victim, if not an outright liar, made a poor decision which nullifies that victim's lack of consent. Since most rapes have no neutral witnesses they will volunteer to support that rapist being set free "to protect the innocent" of course -- even though this most often protects the guilty.

So how does Ms. Brown propose to eliminate date rape?

IF YOU [being female] want to prevent date rape, follow these tips:

1. Make sure you value sex as something special
2. Don't go out with men you do not know well
3. Don't drink in bars and leave with anyone but your female friends
4. Don't go to parties with alcohol flowing and back bedrooms available.
5. Drive yourself to and from places. That way no one can rape you in a car and you will be careful not to drink and drive, so you won't drink much, period.
6. Don't act like a slut. Drinking, giggling stupidly, telling sex jokes and acting in a sexually suggestive manner shows a guy you are an the one to pick for a one night stand, or, if you don't come through with sex, a simple little rape.

This list does nothing to prevent date rape. Item #6 sends a dangerous message to rapists. Acting in a sexually suggestive manner shows men nothing except you are acting in a sexually suggestive manner. Brown is telling men what this behavior means and what crime they can get away with if Brown has steered them wrong.
Rape is never acceptable but women need to understand that making it easier for criminals to commit crime is not acceptable either. Remember, ladies, YOU are partly responsible for the way men view women and you are not doing yourself and your female friends any service by encouraging date rape as a weekend hobby.
The problem with these statements is that Ms. Brown herself is making it easier for date rapists to commit their crimes by putting all the responsibility for date rape onto potential rape victims and that encourages date rape as a weekend hobby. The, "but," which follows, "rape is never acceptable," contradicts her claim.

As long as we view the problem of date rape as being caused by the behavior of the victims and not the behavior of the perpetrators this type of crime will continue and the widespread injustice against rape victims will continue.

Here's how Brown could have presented her date rape prevention list based on her values:

IF YOU [boys and men] want to prevent date rape, follow these tips:

1) Make sure you value sex as something special
2) Don't go out with girls or women you do not know well
3) Don't drink in bars and leave with anyone but your male friends
4) Don't go to parties with alcohol flowing and back bedrooms available.
5) Drive yourself to and from places with no female passengers either way. That way you won't be tempted to rape someone in a car and you will be careful not to drink and drive, so you won't drink much, period.
6) Don't act like a sexual predator. Understand that girls or women drinking, giggling stupidly, telling sex jokes and acting in a sexually suggestive manner shows you nothing about whether they will consent to have sex with you.

But as I highlighted at the beginning of this post, Pat Brown fails to demand that boys and men work to prevent date rape. That's a very dangerous oversight and rape victims will be the one's who pay the price.

H/T: Sheila

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:31 AM   2 comments links to this post

2 Comments:

At March 04, 2010 10:46 PM, Blogger GroovaciousK said...

I couldn't disagree with you more. I don't think the victim is to blame, but I do think that the author of said article is trying to give safety tips. You can defend yourself and be preventative and proactive in your defense as a woman. I think you just about twisted every example of how one could defend themselves as a woman and be more careful into some crazy argument that if said things are done differently the rapist isn't guilty. It's absurd and preposterous. It's still rape. No one is saying it isn't. However, the author is right in saying that a lot of crimes could be prevented if people were more conscious that there are bad people in the world or good people with poor decision making skills or bad intentions or however you want to phrase it. Look the world isn't exactly safe and full of guardian angels and faeries. You don't leave your door unlocked, your car running with the keys and your baby in it. Let's be practical. A little common sense and good advice can go along way. If I were a criminal, let me tell you, stupid people who don't take good advice and want to pretend like bad people or people with poor intentions don't exist would look like volunteers to me. Get off your victim horse and step into reality, girlie. It's an unpredictable world out there and playing safe is as important as anything. Becoming a victim is not what I want to do today. I'd rather point fingers before a crime is committed against me than after. You go put yourself out there with unsafe behavior. Don't suggest the other lemmings follow you off the cliff because having someone to blame, doesn't make you any less of a victim after the fact. If you get raped, it's going to suck for the rest of your life and whether or not someone can prosecute your offender will not make it any less painful for you. Be proactive, stop defending victim-hood. It's a dumb ideology. It doesn't make the world any safer to punish. Rapists are rapists. They aren't inhibited. They aren't acting consciously. They are unconsciously looking for people that demonstrate really poor choices so they can take advantage. They aren't unconsciously or consciously thinking of repercussions. If they were, they might think of how they make you feel terrible after it happens to you. They aren't. Suffering and repercussions aren't on the agenda. If we cut appendages off to stop rape, they'd use something else to hurt people. They aren't in their right minds. Since, we are. We need to protect ourselves the best we can. OK I think I've said enough.

 
At March 05, 2010 12:45 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

GroovaciousK,

Referring to me as "girlie" reveals that you are no true ally in the work to prevent sexual violence. You write about the harm of rape as if that matters to you but then you have no qualms about attacking a rape survivor.

If you are going to point fingers and expect me or many others to view you as a decent human being those fingers better be pointed at rapists or those considering or excusing rape.

Instead you seem intent on attacking all girls and women who don't restrict their lives in the ways you think they should. Do as you say, or else.

Your claim that the types of tips which I criticized aren't used to nullify a rapist's guilt is incorrect. Research has shown that attitudes about victims can and does reduce many people's willingness to convict a rapist who has been proven guilty. By the end of your comment you openly support the beliefs which allow people to excuse proven rapists.

When I seek to address prevention at the source, which is changing the attitudes and behavior of rapists and potential rapists and those who talk about victims more harshly than they do rapists, I am being practical.

You seem to want people to choose the strategy of raising the white flag to sex criminals from within a position that's as safe as a bunker. That position of safety is not safe since even bunkers have vulnerabilities and are not places where we can live full lives. Also many people who do exactly as you wish them to are still raped.

The danger in the world is not fixed. In many places it is safe to leave your door unlocked, your car running with the keys and baby in it. This is so because of the ethics of the people who live in those places.

Rapists are not rapists as you position them. They are people who choose consciously to rape whether they give their abusive actions that label or not. Research on convicted and unconvicted rapists shows this consciousness. You are also wrong that rapists don't think about repercussions. Many of them think of these carefully and plan their rapes to maximize victim blaming and/or the opportunity for the victim's truthful statement to be considered dishonest or unreliable.

Almost all rapists are in their right minds and they most likely love it when rape victims are attacked for their choices.

 

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