Thursday, May 06, 2010

Consenting After Rape As Nullification Of Rape

I received the following from Melissa last week:
I've encountered a few rape apologists recently who talk about the fact that 40% of the victims in Koss' study slept with their rapists again, and act like it's proof that no rape occurred in the first place. (Yeah, infuriating, right?) I list off a bunch of reasons why women might sleep with their attackers again (coercion, a relationship/marriage, denial, etc.), and sometimes I even tell them that I slept with my rapist again, but I figured you could do the subject justice better than I could. :) If you get the time/inspiration, could you write a post about rape victims who have consensual(ish) sex with their attackers after the rape, and why it doesn't disprove that there was a rape in the first place?
This too common denial that someone could consent after rape or at least comply after rape is a denial that I addressed about a month after I started blogging in a post If it happens again is it still rape?

As I've thought again about this premise that subsequent actions by a victim of a sexual assault nullify that sexual assault, I realized that this premise isn't cited when a drug addict commits repeated crimes against family members. I don't remember anyone using the choices of non-criminal family members' after the crime as an excuse to claim the crime could not have possibly happened.

People might consider the family member foolish or too soft or they might even understand why someone wouldn't turn their back on a family member who exploits other people's love or caring. They might even acknowledge that the family member might not have recognized that what the drug addict did was a crime. But few people would claim that crimes such as burglary, check forging, identity theft or even physical assault couldn't have happened simply because a family member later consented to give that drug addict money or didn't immediately become estranged from the drug addict.

However, when it comes to sex crimes, where approximately 73% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, many people dismiss relationship dynamics which they otherwise understand without the least bit of trouble. Fear is ignored, love is ignored.

Even the normalization of non-consensual sexual contact and actions are ignored.

Not long ago I started watching the movie High Fidelity where one of the early scenes contains a flashback where boys are grabbing girls breasts as the girls struggle to stop the contact. The voice over refers to an attitude where girls breasts belong to boys and the boys want their property back. What was shown was sexual assault but it is such a frequent sexual assault that it is often dismissed as acceptable behavior when girls let boys kiss them.

If a boy or man pushing past a girl or woman's sexual boundaries is considered acceptable behavior as long as no weapon or death threats are involved and if girls and women are blamed when they fail to successfully block all unwanted sexual behavior why would we expect girls and women to view those boys and men as any worse than the average guy? Why would we expect girls and women to end all sexual contact?

When non-stranger rapists are excused repeatedly and victims of sexual violence are dismissed as only thinking they were raped by people who claim to be absolutely against rape it can't be a surprise when sex crime victims don't react only according to limited stereotypes about what people do after being raped.

If someone violates sex crimes laws, they committed a crime no matter what the victims does, says or thinks after that. Denial or forgiveness or repeated abuse don't nullify this fact.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:09 PM   3 comments links to this post


At May 06, 2010 1:06 PM, Anonymous gidget commando said...

This was me.

It took me years and the help of the only friend who was truly aware of rape dynamics before I could acknowledge to myself that I'd been raped. It took much, much longer to be okay with the fact that I stayed with him for far too long after that. Now, thanks to the kind of writing you've just done here, I understand...and forgive myself for not being the perfect rape victim.

(Isn't it terrible that any rape survivor has to forgive her/himself for not being the "perfect" victim?)

At May 07, 2010 3:39 PM, Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Thanks for that statistic. I just thought I went to the absolute wrong, depraved extreme by trying to cope through denial. It was wrong. It still makes me sick.

At May 07, 2010 7:28 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Gidget and Elizabeth,

I remember too well the denial that someone I would trust with my life could have meant to rape me. All the excuses for boys and men who ignore girls and women's boundaries made it nearly impossible to know immediately that what was done was no accident. The memories which revealed premeditation were too painful to recall for many years.


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