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asleep at mal 9/09
alumiere
Rapeculture 
4/23/10 11:52
asleep at mal 9/09
Lately (this month in particular), I've been tweeting a ton of links with the tag #rapeculture. There are a lot of reasons for that, but one is that it's Sexual Assault Awareness Month here in the US.

Everyone everywhere is to some degree affected by rape, whether you know it or not. If you're a woman in the US statistics show there's a one in six chance that you have been or will be raped in your lifetime; usually by someone you know as at least a passing acquaintance. If you're not part of that one in six, you may be a male or trans or intersex survivor. And even if you've never been sexually assaulted you know someone who's been raped or committed rape whether or not you are aware of that fact. I want you to take a minute to think about that, to think about every person in your life and to consider what impact that has on their actions, their behaviors, their emotional state in day-to-day life.

As a survivor, I can personally tell you it changed me in ways both large and small.

* I am always more aware of the people around me, especially men, and their behavior/body language.
* I am slower to trust than I would be otherwise, because that seemingly nice guy who just offered to buy me a drink or tried to talk to me may be a rapist.
* I have vivid nightmares that take me back to that scene, and (go figure) those are more frequent when I'm stressed or threatened.
* There are situations I avoid like the plague, especially if I'm alone ("mundane" bars/clubs; athletic fields; big parties not thrown by me/my close "freak" friends).
* No dating outside of my circle of extended friends. No dating in general for long periods of time.
* I'm intermittently uninterested in sex or more sexual depending on how I feel emotionally.
* My canes are titanium (good weapons), and I don't hesitate to throw elbows or put spiked heels in insteps if someone crowds me too much. I often carry and know how to use a knife at close quarters.

I want to share this paragraph from a blog I read regularly. In trying to survive, get your life back on track, and go on living, you have probably had to learn a lot of new lessons and skills. Those lessons and skills may have perhaps become invaluable. You may have found that your trauma has brought you to places you otherwise would not have gone, and you’ve found priceless moments, feelings, or people there. The good I have now does not justify the things that were done to me. Nor is it appropriate to ask the flip side, if I would give up the good I have now if I could have not been abused. The two do not weigh each other out, and never will. They are connected only insofar as one is cause and the other is effect; justifications, balance, or “worth it” doesn’t come into it at all. They simply are. I have lost what should have been, and I will never stop grieving that, even as I celebrate what is.

But you're thinking what does this have to do with me? I haven't raped anyone and I never will, nor do I know any survivors (chances are good you're wrong about survivors, they just don't talk about it to you). There's nothing I can do is there?

Well, lets start with something easy. Stop letting your friends, your coworkers, your acquaintances, and family get away with sexist, misogynistic speech. Every time you let that shit slide the unknown rapist in the group gets a subtle indicator that what he/she is going to do or has done is an acceptable act in our culture.

Don't be a rape apologist. No-one, anywhere, ever, deserves to be raped or sexually assaulted. Not the drunk girl in the trashy outfit and high heels, not the guy in prison for murder, not the sex worker outside the club, not the transsexual who works at the makeup counter in the mall. Not the woman who stays with her abusive husband because she and the kids have no-where to go, not the old lady who lives alone, not the college student walking across campus alone at 3am. Not the groupie who drinks with the sports star or the musician at the after party, not the underage boy who acts "ghey" at school, not the lesbian or asexual who just "needs a good fuck".

Tell the people you know that the standard for consent is Yes Means Yes (as opposed to well they didn't say no or fight or scream or...). And someone who's drunk, who's not yet 18, who has a mental disability that's not being treated, who's wasted on drugs cannot legally consent. That just because making out was okay does not mean sex is a given. That non-consensual groping, touching, grabbing, etc is wrong. Make it clear that anyone who breaks those rules is not welcome in your life and probably deserves to be prosecuted.

Lastly, work to create safe spaces. Call out street harassers for their threatening (and trust me, it is threatening to a woman walking alone) behavior. Tell the pushy person at the bar to stop bothering people, and if s/he doesn't call security. Speak up about how wrong it is when someone makes a rape joke or inappropriate comment or grabs someone they don't know. Show your friends in words and actions how they should act.

And creating a safe space means if someone does trust you enough to open up about a rape or assault that happened to them, shut up and listen. This is not the time to say "well I've been hurt too", that "my rape was worse than yours", "what were you wearing/doing/drinking" etc. This is when your friend needs you to be there, to empathize, to help them understand that whatever happened it is not their fault and they did not deserve it. Take them to the hospital if they want to go (encourage them, but don't be too pushy - a lot of people are afraid of more trauma) or to the doctor or pharmacy or...; wait with them for the police, the rape kit; make sure they get home safely and are not a danger to themselves. If the rape/abuse/assault was some time ago, then reinforce that they did not deserve it - period. Most importantly, do not let this revelation be a bad experience for them, do not make them regret their decision to open up, do not violate their trust.

I know there's a lot of things to think about here; I'd love your feedback, your thoughts on ways people can help. However, rape apology, comments about false rape accusations (yes, they happen but they're incredibly rare and irrelevant to this discussion), and other such nonsense will not be tolerated in this thread.

And I'll end with a suggestion that if you're giving money to a charity this year, think about donating to your local Rape Crisis Center or RAINN. Or go attend a class, sign up for a walk-a-thon, volunteer. These groups help thousands of survivors get through horrible situations, they work with police and hospitals to make sure rape kits are handled properly, they provide support for partners and family members, they do outreach in the community and schools; and in this ongoing budget crisis they often have to do so with less money and higher numbers of people who need assistance.
Comments 
4/25/10 15:07 (UTC)
That's a lot to digest.

First of all, I'm sorry that happened to you. Rape is inexcusable; most guys who do it know they are doing something wrong, even if they claim mixed signals later.

I'm curious as to whether you confronted your attacker after the fact? I realize that kinda vindication only happens in the movies. :/

The way you said it changed you: agree 100%.

Everything you say above about rape kits, rape victims being handled right by authorities: again w/ the agree. As someone who works in an occasionally sexist industry, sometimes people aren;t aware of what they're saying. It's amazing.

I am NOT someone who thinks that the babe in the low-cut dress who's had too much to drink is asking for anything..other than a safe cab ride home. ;) But having been in situations that I knew had an element of not-safe to 'em, I do think it's important for women to take responsibility for their actions. It'd up to men (usually men are the attackers, sorry guys) not to rape, but it's also up to me, as a mature woman, to know where I'm going, what my limits are, how I'm getting home & hopefully w/ whom, if anyone. ;) But again, nobody deserves to be raped.

Also, important note: I won't talk much about false rape accusations, as requested above, but I am friends with a couple of cops & ex-cops: they are not uncommon. I wish they were. They make the complaints of attacks that are 100% valid get taken a smidge less seriously.

At what point can the recipient say no to sex? At ANY point. After the drink is bought, after groping, after the act has begun. Period.

Thanks for the brainfoods. Fear of being attacked while solo is what has kept me from driving cross-country once, like I have always wanted to do.
4/30/10 19:50 (UTC)
I know that you are trying to help with your pointers, but you have no idea how much damage the incessant Monday-morning quarterbacking that survivors of rape ALWAYS have to endure does.

Well-intentioned advice about what a survivor could have done is
1. not anything they haven't heard, so it does no good.
2. falling on the ears of someone who feels a lot of blame and shame, so it does massive harm.
3. Making it very difficult for cops to get survivors of sexual assault to come forward, and they have a lot of trouble getting survivors to report. Rape is one of the most under-(NOT over-) reported violent crimes out there.

Now, here's why saying "that's awful, but..." or "women need to take responsibility" to a survivor is a bad idea:

Imagine someone just walked up to you and hit you in the face, and you live in a culture where being hit in the face is very stigmatized. Until recently, even the police ALWAYS blamed the person who got hit. A lot of police still do.

You feel dishonored, disgraced. You feel like everyone knows.

Now imagine that everyone you talk to about it says either "oh, you were asking for it" or "oh, I'm sorry that happened to you, but... you shouldn't have been in that neighborhood/ you shouldn't have been out alone/ you shouldn't have been wearing that shirt/ you shouldn't have been drinking."

100% of people say this. 100% And when you tell people, they often treat you differently, you feel more stigmatized, more tainted.

Remember, there is a HUGE amount of shame associated with being hit in the face. With all the shame you are feeling, you are very inclined to feel that it is your fault, so all you are going to hear from even the most well-intentioned Monday morning quarterback is "it was your fault. You asked for it. Don't report."

Oh, and IF you report, one of the police doesn't want to investigate. It often only takes one, and you're probably out the door. Even one of the people who are supposed to protect you doesn't believe you. It must be your fault.

IF you manage to stick to your guns until the trial, you are dragged through the mud. The defense attorney tries to paint you as a nut or someone that wanted to get hit, or someone who provoked it.

Did I mention the 73% chance that your assailant was someone you knew, and your entire social life has been upheaved.

Now, which is more likely: that someone would claim they got hit in the face when they hadn't, or that someone who had gotten hit in the face would decide not to tell anyone or, after the first person they told said something that implied they did something to cause it to happen, not to tell anyone else.

This is why rape is massively UNDERreported, not overreported.
My friend who is a cop told me that you should NEVER say to a someone who has just been through the trauma of a rape, "here's what you did wrong" and saying "here's what you can do to avoid it in the future," really is received the same way by someone in that situation. She talks about how very difficult it is to get a survivor of sexual assault to come forward, and how that kind of Monday-morning quarterbacking makes survivors clam up faster than the worst witness intimidation.

Oh, and police not believing real survivors is about a million times more common than false rape allegations. This is especially true of college campuses, because campus police are often employed by the university and high rape rates make the university look bad. Here is an example of what happens on college campuses:
http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/38671/test-case-youre-not-a-rape-victim-unless-police-say

To a large degree, the latter is a training issue, because the wrong reaction is deeply enculturated, requiring special training on how to react correctly. That training is very important, because it is so incredibly difficult to get a survivor, who is already feeling ashamed about what has been done to her (or him, but all available data indicate that it mostly happens to women), to report, and it's probably not well-funded.

Rape is not over-reported, rape is UNDER-reported. Rape is not over-investigated, rape is UNDER-investigated.
4/30/10 22:11 (UTC)
First, thank you both for your comments. Since I know both of you, this response is especially difficult.

I probably should have called staciadevi a bit on her response, but I was waiting for the follow up she promised. I also don't think she's saying quite the same thing as hermine_93 is reading into it, but that may be because I know her.

Yes, there are situations that are dangerous. But I see where you are sort-of saying that someone who's been mugged because they live in a bad area since they cannot afford to live in a rich one isn't looking out for themselves. We both know that's not the case.

The onus shouldn't be put on potential victims to not live their lives because someone else may put them at risk. It should be put squarely on the shoulders of potential attackers to not commit acts of violence.

I don't think you were around the year of/year after J from T-wolfe was attacked at Pennsic, but that was infuriating for me. The males in my clan were adamantly opposed to any of the women leaving camp unescorted because "it could happen again". I'm sorry, but no. That limits our interactions, our choices, our freedom to enjoy ourselves. It was and is utter bullshit, and contributed to my lack of desire for continuing to attend. As much as I love them, they reacted badly, and their attitude that an unescorted woman is an invitation to rape is a part of the problem, not the solution.

It also led to me pretending to go to bed the first night next year, then slipping under the tent/sheetwall and going out through the back, which meant that no-one knew I was out of camp. Had something happened, the situation could have been made worse by that, so it was probably less than smart in hindsight (I was very angry, sober, in need of a drink and saner friends). If I'd left with others knowing I wasn't home, with my tent wide open like it usually was, someone would have come looking for me when I wasn't back the next morning, but they didn't know until I came traipsing back into camp at one or two the next day, corset askew and shoes in hand feeling much less angry after a good night out.

As a society the thought that women need to be protected from themselves has a long history, and it's oppression plain and simple. If the attack had happened to J's husband R, would those same men have said to each other you can't leave camp alone because you may be attacked? Not a fucking chance.

And I know some of the same cops, so I know some of the same stories. Yes, there are sometimes false reports of sexual assault. But there are many more true reports that are recanted because of the behaviors of the police, the press, the courts. And those true but recanted reports are often counted as false, when the sexual assaults did in fact occur, but the victims become convinced that the process of confronting their attacker(s) is not worth the pain, the humiliation, the additional mental stress, the embarrassment to their families, etc, so they drop it.

As for whether I confronted anyone about what happened to me? Yes in one case, no in others. (And coming from someone who didn't know me well, that question would be offensive and my answer would be it's really none of your business. But even coming from a close friend if I hadn't already processed this to the extent I have it would probably trigger another round of self-blame, etc. so it is not really a good question to ask, ever.) There was no-such-thing as date rape back then; so I had no options to confront them. I was drunk, I had attended the parties, I had chosen to go with him to his room or take him to mine or to go for a walk with him. As far as anyone was concerned what happened after that was my fault.

(Continued in next comment...)
4/30/10 22:32 (UTC)
(Continued from previous comment)

Even though the guy next door told me later in one instance that he heard me yelling at T that I was "too drunk to fuck", but that he thought I was joking, quoting the DK song. (That song became a mantra for a while, painted on clothes, sewn on in patches, laughed over with a partner when I was starting to get my life back in control years later.)

Instead I got to see T all too often - in classes, at practice, even to perform/have a kissing scene with his roommate in a play. I figured out how to compartmentalize that night of drunken, non-consensual sex as something I had to live with. I also gave myself an ulcer, lost a few weeks in a mentally fubar haze, had emotional scars that seriously impacted my life for over a decade (they've faded, I've grown, but they're still a part of me).

But that wasn't the first time I'd been a victim, nor the last. Another boy apologized for the bruises and bite marks, for being so rough, but not for ignoring my pleas to stop. I got the message loud and clear.

On the one hand, I survived the 80's without getting killed or contracting an STD or HIV, and eventually worked out how to be happy. On the other hand, I spent a lot of time in between treating sex as something that wasn't worth saying no to. Time thinking that I was just a plaything, and since that was the case why not at least make it my choice who I was going to let "take advantage" of me every time I went out.

These days, I do still enjoy casual sex. But now it's solely on my terms. I choose to sleep with friends, to be non-monogamous, to cultivate FWB and polyamorous partners. But those are learned choices, and not necessarily the choices I would have made had I not spent so many years as a victim rather than a survivor in my own mind.

Would I have become involved in an open/poly relationship anyway? Perhaps, because I was/am/will always be bisexual, and because I am not wired for monogamy. But I also think I'd have made better choices, it wouldn't have taken me as long to develop the self-esteem to say "nope, not interested", and I probably wouldn't have been hurt or hurt as many people along the way.

OK, that got long. Anyway, you both brought up points that are important in this discussion. And things have changed a bit since the 80's for the better. But it's not enough. We need to be teaching everyone that the rape culture exists and making sure they understand that the only way to fix the problem is for the rapists to stop raping. We need to not let them find a safe space anywhere, and to call everyone out on sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ablism, and the other attitudes that allow rape to happen.
5/1/10 21:00 (UTC)
What I was trying to say is what you said. I think I didn't get it across very well because of a combination of broken mic, being too proud to leave typos, plus I was so upset by her comments that I had a lot of tremor in my left hand-- so I did kind of a poor editing job. And I think you put it better than I could anyway.

BTW, I don't think she meant any harm at all, and my apologies if I gave that impression.
I posted because here was this person trying to be helpful, and she didn't know that what she was saying was having the exact opposite effect from what she intended. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered. There would be no point in explaining to someone who meant harm that she was doing harm, but here was someone who was causing unintended harm while trying to help.
And it's something that happens a lot. Everyone makes these well-meaning comments without having any idea how much harm they do, and they won't know what to do until and unless somebody explains it. They end up doing all this damage that they would never ever do intentionally. People mean well, but we are not born knowing this stuff.