When writing about rape in fandom two weeks ago, I included the following:
“I’m not saying there’s never a time to talk about criminal prosecution of rape and why people might choose not to endure the ugliness of a rape trial. I’m saying this is not the time.“
Thank you to everyone for not derailing the conversation. So often when someone talks about rape, the immediate response is some form of “You have to report it!” I saw this at a few other blogs: “You have to get the asshole arrested!” Or on the other end of the spectrum, “If you didn’t press charges, you have no right to complain!”
Rape is a crime that rips power and control from the victim. You know what doesn’t help you regain that sense of control? When everyone jumps in to tell you what you have to do. Especially if you add a heaping pile of guilt: “If you don’t press charges and he rapes someone else, it’s your fault!”
Bite me. Rape is the fault of the rapist. No matter how hard some people try to pretend otherwise. Most of the time, when people talk to me about rape, they’re not looking for me to fix it or solve things. They might be looking for someone to believe them. They might be looking for support. Often they’re just looking for me to shut up and listen.
That’s hard. I feel pissed off and hurt and powerless, and I want to do something. I want to fix it, and I want to make sure the bastard who did it gets punished. But that’s not something I have the power to do.
Not helpful: You have to press charges! (More about satisfying my own need to punish the guy and to stop feeling helpless.)
Might be helpful: If you decide to press charges, I’d be more than willing to go to the police with you, and to court if it goes to trial.
So why would someone choose not to report rape? Rosefox linked to this blog post explaining some of the reasons. Some police officers are wonderful about sexual assault, but not all. I’ve known people who reported a rape, only to have the cop refuse to believe them and threaten to arrest them for filing a false report. Then there are the stats on how few rape cases go to trial, and how few of those result in conviction.
As for the trial itself… I’ve been through the court process for a custody issue. It was one of the most stressful experiences of my life, and it dragged out for close to a year with hearings, appeals, rescheduled dates, meetings with attorneys, and so on. Imagine going through that experience as a rape survivor, having to relive the rape again and again in front of strangers, hostile attorneys, and the rapist himself.
Do I want rapists locked away? Of course. So what’s more likely to help that happen? Trying to bully a rape victim into doing what I want? Or trying to support her (or him), letting her make her own choice and offering to support her in whatever choice she makes?
I also wonder if this insistence on “You have to report it!!!” is another facet of our attitude that stopping rape is women’s responsibility…
Discussion is open and encouraged, but once again I’ll be moderating as needed to keep it respectful and on-topic.