Monday, November 16, 2009

The Trouble With "Inviting Trouble"

Some of the most dangerous statements I remember from childhood were often spoken in the context of trying to help me stay safe as I got older. Too many of these dangerous statements are still repeated and they are just as dangerous as they ever were.

In comments from the story: NOLA: SUNO basketball player arrested after alleged date rape about a college student accused of rape, I found some good comments which make it clear that those commenters understand what is and is not consent, but I also found familiar dangerous statements based on their judgments about the setting and context in which rape was reported.

What seemed to the most important detail for some people was that the young woman who reported being raped was going to watch a movie with the college basketball player in his room.

Darlinnikki: she laid down on his bed!!!!!
ladies, this is an open invite for trouble.
ladies, we must STOP putting ourselves in situations that could easily turn out bad.
The needed premise for this described action to be an open invite for trouble is for men to know that if they rape someone who laid down on their bed for any reason that their actions will almost certainly not be the central focus of many people's reaction and they will just as likely get away with that rape.

In reality a multitude of situations which Darlinnikki and others would view as safe could just as easily turn out bad. The biggest difference isn't the reality of safety but the perception of victim risk taking and who people focus on as the root cause of the sexual violence.

In some situations where the same sex crime is committed the victim is much less likely to be lectured and the rapist is much more likely to be held legally responsible and lectured.

Contrast the reaction quoted above with what a judge told a man sentenced to life in prison for attempted rape of a sleeping woman:

Today, Orange County Superior Court Judge Gary S. Paer chastised Vicente, calling the crime a "complete invasion."

"You can't just go into people's homes and do what you (did),'' the judge said. "Basically, you scared the hell out of this woman."
This woman was in a situation which easily turned bad, but her would-be rapist was a stranger who entered through an open window and not an acquaintance who could lie and claim consent.

The defendant was drunk which is frequently used to excuse non-stranger rapists from full responsibility for their crimes and to explain why even if they are convicted they shouldn't be sentenced to life in prison.

Those who talk about accidental rapists aren't likely to rush to this man's defense even though the context of this rape attempt supports that definition much better than the non-stranger rapes it is usually applied to.

This crime truly was one of opportunity. If there hadn't been a bowl of Cheetos on the open windowsill Paer might not have looked to see what or who was on the other side of that window.

When all rapes are taken seriously, the context doesn't matter. What matters is what crime was committed.

When common excuses are used selectively they are shown to be just that: excuses. Every time men rape women, even women they know, they should get this type of response. "You can't do what you did. You harmed a woman and that will not be tolerated."

Instead it is common to read:
Uptown NOLA: Why did she agree to go to his bedroom?
Why did she agree to lay with him on his bed?
Sounds like she had opportunities when he showered and when he walked to the dresser to leave. Why didn't she?
I am a woman and believe rape to be a heinous crime. However [...]
This however nullifies the claim that she believes rape to be a heinous crime. The reality is clearly different. The implication after the however is that the woman must be a liar in labeling what was done to be rape because the description of the alleged rape don't fit Uptown NOLA's vision of how a heinous crime like rape is committed.

If she truly believed that all rapes are heinous crimes, it wouldn't matter why a girl or woman agreed to go to a man's bedroom and didn't leave when observers who know how the story ends believe she should have or could have.

The only question should be: Did the suspect proceed in the absence of consent? It is really that simple when the dangerous cycle of warnings and denial and "inviting trouble" aren't swirling like a dense cloud over the evidence in a sexual assault case.
Uptown NOLA: I totally agree that no means NO! But as women we must take responsibility for our own actions too. If she continually said no, then she should have had the good judgement to leave when it was clear that he wasn't hearing the word no.
This follow up comment more directly and openly contradicts itself. No does not, according to this comment, mean no consent. In addition to having to say no, the woman or girl had to leave once the rape attempt has begun with no consideration for any barriers to leaving. If someone you would have trusted with you life suddenly reveals he is a rapist, you are not allowed to experience shock and if you do that reality will be ignored in the name of personal responsibility.
playboy225: I[f] she meant no, then she should have left. Look, nobody deserves to be raped, but going to a guys apartment, then to his bedroom, then laying in the bed with him, LEADS HIM ON! Why did she not just scream or leave...

Again we get a comment which contradicts itself. He fails to expect the man in this situation to not commit rape and ignores the possibility that the man led the victim on by asking her to watch a movie with him when that wasn't what he wanted at all.

Playboy225 gives many boys and men an old, lazy excuse for committing rape. The message he ends up sending to many rapists and to many who are tempted to rape is, "Nobody deserves to be raped, unless ___." As long as rapists properly fill in the blanks their actions will be excused.

The commonality of these comments is that danger must be avoided at all costs if you are a girl or woman, but not if you are a man or boy in danger of committing rape.

The problem with this one-sided demand goes beyond a gendered double standard. If girls and women are truly expected to avoid danger at all costs then many of the activities girls and women are not criticized for must be avoided.

Going to the hospital, for example. The vulnerability of being a hospital patient is immense and far beyond the vulnerability of sitting on a bed with a man to watch a movie.
A 32-year-old laboratory technician working for Mission Hospital, in Mission Viejo, California, has been convicted and sentenced for raping an incapacitated woman in her room.
If vulnerability is the cause of rape then this type of case should be happening almost on a daily basis. The reason it isn't has nothing to do with vulnerability and has everything to do with the collective response to these rapes.

Darlinnikki, Uptown NOLA and playboy225 aren't likely to focus on the decisions of the victim which made her vulnerable like they did in the date rape case. Instead their focus would be on the decisions of the rapist with no excuses allowed.

Those who regularly excuse rapes of women who are unable to resist due to intoxication aren't likely to do that in this case even though she was unable to resist due to intoxication. The story doesn't say whether the intoxicants were administered by medical professionals and for most people this won't matter because the rape happened in this woman's hospital room.

The normal excuses that the victim likely consented and just doesn't remember doing so don't fly when the accused rapist is an on-duty EMT.

Vulnerability is the reason people who decry becoming vulnerable view vulnerability as a non-issue in this type of case. Any one of them could become an incapacitated hospital patient while each of them clearly feels removed from the vulnerability where the college basketball player allegedly committed rape.

If they can easily imagine how the victim could be them then their focus is on the rapist, but if they believe the victim could never be them or someone who behaves according to their standards then their focus is on the rape victim.

They most likely do not consider the possibility that the EMT rapist may have developed his taste for rape in scenarios where they excuse the rapists and disrespect rape victims. He may have taken the types of statements they made and internalized those statements so that he could rationalize that he was doing nothing wrong by raping a woman in her hospital room.

If these people could understand how rapists can use their words as the source of the evil voice in the rapists' heads telling them why their intended victims were inviting trouble, they might stop providing rapists with words that make rapists' hearts sing.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:24 PM   3 comments links to this post


At November 16, 2009 5:02 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Unfortunately this is what commonly happens when a male rapes a woman he knows because immediately so-called 'common sense' reactions are that it was the woman's responsibility not to place herself in a situation wherein the male could rape her. Those who make these claims do not want to see or understand that male rapists make a choice to rape and it is the male rapist who is responsible for his actions not the female rape survivor.

Irrespective of whatever precautions a woman/girl takes they will never be 100% secure, because it is male rapists who choose to rape - not women's behaviour or actions. These are deliberate diversionary tactics which neatly takes the focus and accountability away from male perpetrators.

Many women too engage in 'policing' other women's behaviour and blaming women rape survivors for supposedly not enacting sufficient caution or 'common sense.' Sadly, too many women believe they would never allow themselves to be in a similar situation but men who rape are cunning and manipulative. Such men are normal, well-adjusted males and yet women are constantly told 'it is male strangers they should be suspicious of not 'the boy next door type.'

At November 17, 2009 9:12 PM, Anonymous Anne said...

For all their whining accusations of feminists saying "all men are rapists", a lot of victim-blamers actually do say it. All the time.

Every time you tell a woman "What did you expect? You sat on his bed. etc, etc" You are saying all men are rapists just waiting for the opportunity.

At November 18, 2009 9:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For all their whining accusations of feminists saying "all men are rapists", a lot of victim-blamers actually do say it. All the time.

Victim-blamers, and MRAs, are comforted by the idea that men can't help it, because it means men can't be responsible. The feminist view holds that men *can* help it - they fear it because that means men *can* be held responsible - and maybe they fear it because deep down they know it presents a better picture of men than they do themselves.


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