Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The devil on your back

Warning: This post will discuss sexual violence. If you need someone to listen to you, please call RAINN at 1.800.656.HOPE, or visit www.RAINN.org for an online hotline.

Yesterday, I saw this graphic come across my twitter feed on a number of occasions. The first time I saw it, it felt like being punched in the gut, and I sat, weeping, in front of my computer.

I wasn't crying because I didn't know the statistics (or know them as much as anyone can - rape is underreported). I am one. But there's a difference between reading that 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail, and seeing those rows and rows of figures. There's a difference between seeing a statistic that highlights how many women survive, and how many men commit the crime. (Yes. I am aware that rape is not solely a crime committed by men against women, and I do not mean to minimize anyone's suffering, but in the vast majority of cases, this is man on woman violence.)

I had a professor once, who, when introducing the subject of rape in the class, apologized to the men present who might have been falsely accused, because that was a horrible thing. He offered no such apology to the women in the room who had survived the crime.

In the American legal system, if you are prosecuted for a crime, you can either be found guilty, or not guilty. Not innocent. When there is a verdict of not guilty in a trial for a robbery, people assume that the police got the wrong person, or that the prosecutor didn't prove the case. They don't assume that since the victim had a history of being financially generous, a reasonable person could have assumed they consented to having their money stolen. No one says it was suicide when there isn't a conviction at the end of a murder trial. But when a woman is raped - after the evidence has been collected from the crime scene of her body, after it has been argued over (those bruises on your thighs, are they there because you like rough sex, or because he pried them open as he pushed into you?) - if there is a verdict of not guilty, she becomes the slutty bitch trying to ruin some guy's life. He becomes innocent.

It is easier to believe that women are liars than that men are rapists. But just because something is easy, that doesn't make it true.



Amanda Palmer blogged about Steubenville recently (and that comes with a trigger warning, too). She posted art of her own, but really, it's this picture of her that haunts me. Because I wish, sometimes, that it was possible to burn everything to the ground and start again. To immolate a culture that tells women that what they wear matters but doesn't tell men that about their behaviour. Where colleges offer presentations to sorority girls on how to keep drinks safe at frat parties, but don't tell the guys throwing those parties, that hey, it's not okay to put something in a woman's drink that makes her pass out, that doesn't tell them that just because she can't remember, doesn't mean it wasn't rape. Where the people in power in the government can talk about "actual rape" "legitimate rape" and have those words just become soundbites.

It fills me with poison. It fills me with rage.

But even in this, God, even in this I am a writer, and I see those flames, and I think of the phoenix, I think of those of us who have risen from our own ashes, and who have put our lives back together. Who have walked through that fire and come out the other side. And there are too many of us. But you are not alone.


13 comments:

  1. It makes me feel so sad when i hear people saying that girls are gulty too, that is god's will...
    Just take a look of this
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/01/08/atheist-tv-host-boots-piece-of-sht-christian-for-calling-raped-girl-evil/

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    1. Ugly. So ugly. And worse when it's someone who calls themself a Christian.

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  2. To be fair about the prevention teaching, one rapist can have multiple victims. I agree there should be more "if you do this, you are a rapist and an asshole" for clarification and to help pre-assholes avoid that all together (especially in my situation where I feel the man and woman involved were more guilty of ignorance(former) and insanity(latter) than maliciousness), but it's easier and reaches a larger demographic to teach defense.

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  3. I see your point, but I disagree. Easier cannot take the place of responsibility. The responsibility lies with the potential rapist. Teaching "defense" just leads to the thinking of, "well, if you don't do these things you'll be safe, and if you did do those things, then on some level you consented," and that's wrong.

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    1. Of course I don't think a victim is responsible for a crime committed against them, but we actually do teach people defense things like "how not to get robbed or murdered". Almost every parking lot has a sign telling you to lock your doors and take your valuables, and if a person with a crowbar comes and smashes your window anyway, the only person who would say it's still your fault would be an asshole. Just like anyone who thinks "on some level you consented" is an asshole.

      It really is more important to raise people not to steal or kill or rape, but it still happens, and there are some precautions that can help.

      But thinking on it, a lot of this has to do with the different situations and walks of life a rape victim can come from. It's not the victim's responsibility when a crime happens, but women who take the bus should carry mace, people at parties should always keep track of their drinks, and people who have been betrayed should have someone to confide in.

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  4. Saying we need to teach girls how NOT to be raped makes as much sense as telling people how NOT to be murdered, or robbed, etc. In that it doesn't make any damn sense at all and it places responsibility on all the wrong people. You teach people not to be criminals, not how to avoid being (for want of a better term) victimized by them.

    I've basically put a hole where my heart should be when it comes to these statistics and this news, which wasn't easy to do since, well, I'm part of those statistics, too. I just can't bring myself to feel anything about it anymore, but in the past it would instantly fill me with unbridled hate. To a degree, it still does. But it reached a point now where I'm no longer surprised and I no longer feel anything besides a fervent wish for these people to die in the many fires of hell, and with no Virgil to help guide them through and back again.

    I find the subject line of this entry bizarrely serendipitous as that's precisely how I've been describing what it feels like to be a survivor of rape for years and years now. That's not really here nor there, though. It's just something.

    Lastly, just remember that in this world there are photos of kitties in teacups. That helps.

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    1. And there are people strong enough to reach out and offer comfort. That helps, too.

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  5. Well the innocence projects projected that, using their data from the past ...ten years, that as many as 1/4 of the men in prison for rape may be innocent of that particular charge....

    I wonder where the graph people got their numbers, but it doesn't diminish the fact that it is extremely under reported. Nobody but republicans office seekers deny that.

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    1. A wrongful conviction is, of course, a horror of its own. I do not in any want to minimize that.

      When I say "false accusation" I mean where someone out and out lies - it's not an error by the police, or by the court (things that happen in crimes other than rape), but rather someone making up the event completely. To me, that is different to a wrongful conviction, which is where a crime has taken place, and the wrong person has been punished for it.

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  6. Something that troubles me about the comments following that graph is that so many question the validity of the numbers, question the science behind the study, etc. I wonder if they go to bed at night confident that they have done their due diligence to the topic because of the questions they've raised.(some may even add a little paragraph at the end or beginning of their comment that rape is indeed a terrible thing and someone ought to do something about it)

    I do ask myself if the only way they can find any peace is to focus on 'the numbers', and not that rape is happening all over the world, all the time!!!!!

    And my response to anyone who asks me to prove that last phrase, is to ask them to prove that it doesn't.

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    1. I think that at least some of the genesis for that kind of response is that the numbers are so horrible, people want them to be wrong. They don't realize that the ones that are wrong are too low.

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    2. I don't doubt the numbers, I just doubt that they are all the same exact situation. One rapist can target multiple victims, cases of incest or molestation go unreported, cases where the victim and rapist knew each other beforehand and the details are too complicated to be solved with a prison sentence, etc.

      Rape is a horrible thing that I do think is underreported, but I don't believe that every single victim didn't report their rapist because they were "slutshamed", just as I don't believe that every case here somehow involved a mini skirt.

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