Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mobilizing Anti-Violence Inactivists

Yesterday I posted on Oprah's interview with 4 convicted sex offenders and last week I posted about how several cases were mishandled prior to 2 9-month-old boys being murdered by their fathers. In 1, the father claimed the mother had threatened violence against their son. In the other, the father admitted hitting the woman but blamed her for his actions. I got several frustrated responses about how few people care in a meaningful way.

There is a huge and dangerous contrast far too often between what many people say about sex offenders and those who commit violence against family members and how reports of sexual and domestic violence are handled and talked about. There is also a dangerous contrast between what people say they believe in these areas and their actions.

For most people the dangerous difference is that they do nothing. I was in this group for two decades and my lack of action was related to my trauma. I coped by avoidance and until I was able to deal with my trauma, I couldn't look at these issues with any depth and I couldn't say anything beyond the most general type of statement.

Some of this contrast comes from the mistaken belief that all those who commit these types of violence are complete monsters or are criminally insane or that sexual violence is caused by sexual starvation or the inciting actions of the victims. Then there are the stereotypes that those who are dedicated to stopping violence against women hate men and that eliminating loopholes in rape and domestic violence laws are efforts to persecute men.

These incorrect beliefs create stereotypes that are too often used to evaluate individual allegations. One of the keys to reducing false allegations and false assumptions is to recognize the role of attitudes about women in systemic failures related to sexual and domestic violence.

Police officers who accept more rape myths were less likely to believe victims who did not adhere to the cultural stereotyped victim characteristics.
This research and other research are important because they can highlight where cases are evaluated based on cultural stereotypes thereby protecting those who choose violence.

These stereotypes are too often used to baselessly label victims or witnesses as false accusers, sometimes when the person who reported provided credible evidence and there is no credible evidence that the report was false, only an allegation from the person accused whose motivation to lie is too often ignored.

The meaning of constitutional rights such as innocent until proven guilty are often twisted to presume those who report violence to be guilty. If someone honestly discloses violence but can't prove that violence happened too often they are treated as if they are proven liars. This "failure to prove" is often linked to the belief that victims can incite sexual and domestic violence which is different from acting in self-defense.

She reports she was raped by a trusted friend, he reports that she was walking alone and willingly accepted a ride from him. When people believe that accepting a ride with a man means that man must be acquitted they become conditionally pro-rape even if they still call themselves anti-rape.

One example of how stereotypes about sex offenders can help sex offenders is when an attractive, popular man is rightfully accused of rape. Too many people instantly reject the claim and all credible evidence because, "He doesn't need to rape anyone." This stereotype ignores the fact that many people commit many different crimes they don't need to commit. Wealthy people who don't need money sometimes do steal anyway.

Some people who are not stereotypical monsters get more pleasure from hurting and dominating others than they do from mutual sexual activities and healthy relationships. Some people get even more pleasure when their lies about their victims are believed and repeated by people who hate violence.

When judges ignore the evidence given to them which shows that someone is dangerous, not enough people stand against these failures and not enough who do stand up will keep the pressure on until these failures are eradicated.

I don't believe the problem is how few people care, I believe the problem is that most of the people who care are inactivists for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that both violence and attitudes which help violence happen seem overwhelming and unchanging so that being an activist seems like it will make little to no difference on a broad scale.

This is wrong. There have been huge positive changes since I was first raped. Some changes haven't given the promised results, but that just means there is a need to review and adjust. We also need to evaluate whether changes which are labeled by individuals as bad are ineffective or if they are just bad for those who used to have an easier time getting away with harmful actions.

There is much more to do, but the needed changes are attainable. One of the key changes from the review of past efforts is the need to focus on primary prevention to reduce violence. For primary prevention to work, the actions need to be pervasive so that prevention in one area isn't undermined by actions in other areas.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:07 PM   2 comments links to this post


At February 11, 2010 8:58 AM, Blogger Rj said...


I want to ask, how can we be successful if we have one camp fighting for, and one camp fighting against, and both camps are coddling with the officials: judges, social services, etc?

My example is the woman I write about in these posts:

There are many of them. They train and speak about the opposite of that which we advocate.

At February 11, 2010 9:11 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

I believe a key is to highlight how MRAs/FRAs often want those who report violence to be presumed guilty without the need for credible evidence and often in conflict with credible evidence.

The men's groups who truly care about stopping violence don't ignore or shrug off false allegations against children and women who have been raped, abused, or threatened.


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