Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Rapist's Lies Just Bad Judgment If Rapist Drunk?

From the Chicago Tribune's Ask Amy column:

Dear Amy: I recently attended a frat party, got drunk and made some bad decisions. I let a guy take me to "his" room because he promised that he wouldn't do anything I wasn't comfortable with. Many times, I clearly said I didn't want to have sex, and he promised to my face that he wouldn't.

Then he quickly proceeded to go against what he "promised." I was shocked, and maybe being intoxicated made my reaction time a bit slow in realizing what was happening. [...]
This situation of a young woman getting clear agreement on limits before being alone with a young man and then having that clear agreement immediately disregarded is one where too many people see the person at primary fault as the young woman who didn't assume the young man was a liar and a rapist even if everything else about him made him seem like a non-rapist.

Ask Amy columnist responds accordingly:

Dear Victim?: First of all, thank you. I hope your letter will be posted on college bulletin boards everywhere. Were you a victim? Yes.

First, you were a victim of your own awful judgment. Getting drunk at a frat house is a hazardous choice for anyone to make because of the risk (some might say a likelihood) that you will engage in unwise or unwanted sexual contact. You don't say whether the guy was also drunk. If so, his judgment was also impaired. No matter what -- no means no. If you say no beforehand, then the sex shouldn't happen. If you say no while its happening, then the sex should stop.
No, Amy, she was not a victim of her own awful judgment. She was a victim of someone who premeditated rape. That you confuse these two shows your awful judgment.

Nothing this young woman described indicates in any way that she engaged in unwise or unwanted sexual contact. Getting drunk at a frat house is only hazardous because of the risk of alcohol poisoning and because of the presence of young men who feel entitled to rape young women who drink alcohol and who believe they can get away with this crime.

That this young woman says she was too shocked at the quick transformation of a decent guy into a rapist to kick or fight doesn't negate the reality of what she experienced. Taking advantage of someone's shock is a premeditated act not a result of any confusion.

It doesn't matter if the young man was drunk since he was clearly sober enough to assure this woman that he understood and respected her boundaries and when they were alone he was able to quickly shift from "safe guy" to "rapist guy."

This behavior has been studied by researchers like professor David Lisak who has debunked the idea that this young man's actions can be dismissed as simply a matter of impaired judgment. That you are not a journalist doesn't excuse you from your personal responsibility for spreading misinformation. Please read the rape fact sheet (pdf) and Understanding the Predatory Nature of Sexual Violence (pdf) he wrote before you write or say another word about this letter to you or about rape.

Not assuming that someone, even a frat boy, who seems like a decent human being will commit rape at the first opportunity is not what makes someone a victim. Being in the presence of someone who is only pretending to be a decent human being and who then commits rape is what makes someone a victim.

The primary hazard doesn't come from this situation, it comes from rapists who know how a large number of people will respond to disclosures of sexual violence committed in this situation. You in your position as the Ask Amy advice columnist may think you make it clear that you're against rape, but because of the context you fail to be clearly against all rapes and instead become an ally to this young woman's rapist.

This response makes rape at frat parties normal and the rightful consequence of a girl or woman getting drunk at a frat house. Any subsequent backtracking that "no means no" becomes meaningless butt covering. This undermines the concept that each of us has a legal right to bodily autonomy no matter what we do or how vulnerable we are.

Amy then goes on to quote from the RAINN website and offer practical advice on STDs and pregnancy prevention before going off-track again.

See a counselor to determine how you want to approach this. You must involve the guy in question in order to determine what happened and because he absolutely must take responsibility and face the consequences for his actions, just as you are prepared to do. He may have done this before.
There is no need to do more to determine what happened. She did not consent and he understood she wasn't going to consent. Involving the man in this suggested way opens the door to a multitude of excuses for his decision to disregard her clear sexual boundaries and his choice to commit rape.

He indeed may have done "this" before but by not naming "this" as rape Ask Amy reduces or eliminates his personal responsibility for his actions and undermines the rightful consequences for rape.

This is not only backwards thinking, it assumes that all young men are premeditated rapists who will rape at the first opportunity while on a practical level excusing them for doing just that. Without this assumption of all men (or all frat men) being rapists, any view of this young woman as being a victim of her own bad judgment is nonsense.

If frat parties are this dangerous then those who host these parties should be held legally responsible for creating situations where rape is frequently presented as a natural consequence of girls or women attending.

This young woman's supposed bad judgment is a direct result of people who repeatedly tell young women that non-stranger rape can be avoided if they have the good judgment to just clearly communicate their boundaries and ensure those boundaries are clearly understood.

If young women believe this so-called rape prevention advice and are raped anyway those people aren't likely to admit that they are steering young women dangerously wrong. Instead they will find another reason to make rape the consequence of the rape victim's decisions.

This backwards view of rape as the consequence of the victim's actions must stop if we are serious about wanting to prevent rape. Until rape is rightly viewed as a consequence of rapists' actions and choices and those people are always viewed as those who should be held legally and morally responsible for the sexual violence then rape will continue to be appallingly common.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:23 AM   5 comments links to this post


At December 02, 2009 1:20 PM, Blogger Rj said...

Holy crap! I would love to believe that you made this response up (from dear amy), but I know the reality: give the appearance of sympathy while simultaneously insuring that some of the blame lay on the victim. Makes the writer feel a little better and the rest of the world a little safer.

At December 02, 2009 2:08 PM, Blogger Prudence said...

I know I should form words, but all I want to do is growl long and loud at Amy!
I agree with everything you've said and I thank you for saying it. People need to keep on saying that these sorts of attitudes (that victims of rape deserve it if they put themselves in the situation) are just WRONG!
Thanks Marcella :-)

At December 02, 2009 4:08 PM, Anonymous DvaBeyondSilence said...

Every time I make a comment about a man being responsible for his actions, I get back 'the women are just as bad' comments. It drives me crazy. If men want (and have) the position in society that they say they do, ie the more powerful, then at some point there really needs to stop this woman to blame mentality. It's not like buying a car Amy, where one can do research and look for concrete things. This is involving another person, a man, who you can't do research on to distinguish his caliber. As such, there needs to be an end road, the end of the line. This circle keeps happening because every time a man gets held accountable for his actions, his first comment is to blame the woman. Let the buck stop where it ought: a man is responsible for the care and keeping of any woman in his company. Period. Let them begin taking care of us with respect and proper consideration, no matter what. If they have a view of us, that they think justifies bad treatment, let them use their words to understand it better, and think the best of us.

At December 03, 2009 9:11 AM, Anonymous Kali said...

I find Amy's language and word choice very disturbing. It sounds like she is bending over backwards to remove responsibility from the rapist and place it on his victim. She uses passive voice to refer to his actions of rape, she uses active voice to blame the victim, and most astoundingly she makes the victim the subject in the rapist's criminal actions against her with this statement - "you will engage in unwise or unwanted sexual contact". No Amy, it is not the victim who engaged in unwise and unwanted sexual contact, it is the *rapist* who perpetrated unwanted sexual contact, i.e. rape. To see how ridiculous this statement from Amy is, consider how it sounds when we say that a murder victim engaged in unwanted dying, followed by a butt-covering statement that "the death shouldn't have happened".

At April 21, 2010 2:36 PM, Blogger Restoration said...

Who is this Amy anyhow? I've never heard of her. Is she on tv? radio? on the web? does she have a blog? What is this Ask Amy anyway? Is she a psychologist? psychiatrist? does she have degrees? from what school did she graduate? Ie, where does she come off getting all her expertise? She has all the sensitivity of that radio Dr. Laura Harpee Banshee. And it seems as if Amy has no violence personal experience whatsoever. Listen closely Dame Amy of Ask, I have experienced violence multiple times
-I am 99.99% certain you have no idea what you're advising: Close your one mouth, open up your two
ears & learn something from the victims & zip up perp's pants!


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