rape

Rape in Fandom

Earlier this week, [link removed at her request] shared a letter to her rapist in order to warn others in fandom about this individual.

A number of people have responded to express their support.  To say “I’ve got your back,” and that those who would commit rape are not welcome in this community.  To which I can add only, “Hell, yes.”  So often we as a society ignore rape.  We make excuses.  We pretend not to notice, and by doing so, we allow it to continue.

I’m bracing myself for the backlash.  For the indignant bloggers to ask why the Internet is dogpiling this poor man without giving him the chance to defend himself.  For the guys to rally behind the flag of False Accusations.  For the victim blamers to ask what she did to enable this, or why she didn’t press charges.  For the men to point out how terrible it is to be accused of rape, and the horrible damage it can do to a man’s reputation.  And for all of the other excuses why publicly confronting rape and rapists is a scary, dangerous, bad idea.  I’ve already seen it in a few comments.

To all of these people, please just shut up.  Instead of immediately working to silence someone who found the courage to speak out, how about you take a turn being silenced for once.  Maybe even try listening.

I’m not saying false accusations don’t happen — they do, albeit rarely.  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.

People don’t choose to be raped.  People choose to commit rape.  If you make that choice, I don’t want you in my community.

You know what?  The same goes for those who choose to grope their way through conventions.  The ones who believe a costume that shows off a woman’s body is an invitation to sexually harass her.  The ones who think drunk/unconscious is an acceptable substitute for consent.  If those are your choices, I don’t want you around.

Can you imagine what would happen if, every time someone raped, assaulted, or harassed another person, the rest of us actually spoke out?  If we as a community let them know — clearly and loudly — that this would not be tolerated?  If we told those who had been assaulted that we would listen, and we would support them?

Comments are open, and discussion is welcome as always.  However, please consider this fair warning that I’m going to be quicker to freeze and delete comments that I feel cross the line.

Rapists and Abusers

I’ve been reading various discussions about the gang-rape of a 15-year-old girl in California and the aftermath. (Warning: the article is intense and potentially triggering.) One constant, as with almost every such conversation, has been the mindset when it comes to rapists and abusers.

There’s a strong sense of us vs. them.  How could they do this? How could the bystanders just watch? I’ve come across various theories–they were poor and desperate, they were in a gang, they were drunk…

We want our villains to be easy to identify, like on TV.  We recognize the bad guys the instant they enter a scene, complete with foreboding music. We cringe as the poor victim is attacked, but we rest easy knowing we were smart enough to recognize the villain for what he was. He’s one of them. Because humanity is broken into two distinct groups:

 

There’s a clear boundary between the groups. That works for me, because it excuses me from having to worry about my own behavior.  I’ve never gang-raped a girl.  I’ve never beaten my wife.  I’m safely in the “normal” circle.

It’s comfortable. The evil rapists and abusers are over there, and us normal folks are over here.

Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t work like that. People don’t fall neatly into categories. I’ve found it more helpful to look at behavior, like so:

There’s no “us” vs. “them.” No neat boundary separating good guys from bad. We all fall somewhere on the curve, and that position isn’t constant. Do you think the guys who gang-raped that girl woke up one morning and decided to be rapists? In most cases, it’s a behavior that changes over time, moving further and further to the right side of the curve.

One day it’s a shouting match with my girlfriend. Maybe I use body language to intimidate her into backing down. Eventually, when that doesn’t work, I grab her. Not hard enough to bruise, just enough to let her know who’s boss. A month later, I’ve stopped being quite so careful about the bruising. Step by step, my behavior becomes more abusive.

Likewise with rape. Maybe it starts by trying to pick up a girl at the bar. Trying to talk a woman into going home with you is just part of the game, right? If that fails, I can buy her a few more drinks to loosen her up. Then maybe a few more–it was her own choice to get drunk, right?  Or maybe I just spike the drinks to speed things along…

Our society has strong attitudes about what it means to be a man. Real men are strong and in control. We go after the things we want. We’re assertive, even aggressive when necessary. We’re determined, and we don’t take no for an answer. Given all that, do you think it’s coincidence that men commit 95% of rapes?

How could they stand by, refusing to call 911 while a girl was raped in front of them? We’ve all stood by and done nothing at one point or another. Every one of us has heard someone making sexist comments and failed to call them on it. We’ve wondered if someone was being abused, but kept silent because we didn’t know what to say or how to ask.

If your response to all this is “But I’m not a rapist,” “All men aren’t rapists,” or the ever-popular, “Why do you hate men?” congratulations–you’ve missed the point. It’s not about you. It’s about recognizing that the “me” vs. “those people” approach doesn’t really work for understanding or ending rape and abuse.

Discussion welcome, as always.

Why it’s your fault if you’re raped at the Stamford Marriott

Potentially triggering discussion of rape and victim-blaming.

Yesterday, tinylegacies pointed me toward an article about a woman who was raped at gunpoint by a stranger in the Stamford Marriott parking garage.  The woman filed a civil suit against the hotel, claiming her attacker “had been in the hotel and garage acting suspiciously days before the attack, as well as the afternoon of the attack, and the hotel failed to notice him, apprehend him or make him leave.”

The full article is at http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/ci_13048639

The article is too vague for me to judge the hotel’s responsibility.  Did they receive complaints about this individual?  What does “acting suspiciously” mean?  Was the rapist’s behavior something a reasonable person should have noticed?  What security precautions should be in place?  I have some ideas, but I think these are questions to be answered in court.

What really struck me was the approach the Stamford Marriott took in defending themselves.  They claim the victim was careless and negligent, and “failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities.”

Let’s break this down.  Gary Fricker stuck a gun into this woman’s back, forced her and her children into her van, and raped her, threatening to do the same to one of her children.  The Marriott claims that this was “unforeseen and beyond their control,” but at the same time, they’re blaming the survivor for her carelessness, for not being sensible enough to avoid “mitigating her damages.”

In other words, it’s not the Marriott’s fault, because everyone knows rape is the victim’s responsibility.  If she got herself raped, that’s entirely on her.  She should have … well, what should she have done differently?  What are we really asking victims to do here?

  • Enter parking garages at your own risk!  (Make sure you bring a big burly man to protect you!  Don’t forget bullet proof jackets for yourself and the kids!)
  • Use common sense!  Everyone is a potential rapist, so don’t let anyone get within 100 feet of you or your children.*
  • If a guy sticks a gun in your back and threatens your kids, it’s your duty to “mitigate the damages.”  I suggest spontaneously developing superpowers.  Freezing time is a good one, as is the ability to generate a magical force field.  Superspeed will do in a pinch.
  • Stop worrying about your kids.  If this woman had been searching every shadow for potential rapists instead of wasting time watching her children, this whole situation could have been avoided!  If your 3-year-old gets run down by an idiot driver, that’s a small price to pay for your safety.
  • Avoid places you might be raped, including parking garages, hotels, dark streets, your own home, your friend’s place … actually, you should probably just lock yourself in a bank vault and be done with it.

The Stamford Marriott has attorneys who are responsible for defending the hotel in a lawsuit.  It’s their job, and I understand that.  But why is this an acceptable defense?  The lawyers should have been laughed out of the courtroom the instant they made such a bullshit claim.

Maybe they would have been, if not for the fact that it works.  Because too many of us still buy into the idea that survivors of rape deserved it.  That they were asking for it, or they were careless, or they were drinking too much, or they were dressed slutty, or they didn’t scream or fight back enough, or….

Lawyers play this defense because it works.  As pissed as I am with the Stamford Marriott and their attorneys for spouting this crap, I’m even more disgusted with the society that continues to believe it.

—-
*I don’t know how many times I’ve heard men complaining, “Why do some women say I’m a potential rapist just because I’m a guy?  That’s sexist!”  Well gosh, could it have anything to do with incidents and reactions like this one?

Rape Posts & Resources

I’m angry with myself.

Years back, I posted a page on my site with articles I had written about rape, as well as a link to a resources page I put together for a local crisis center.  (The crisis center hasn’t updated the page in several years, unfortunately, so those resources are now out of date.)

Anyway, this was right about when my career as a writer started to take off.  I revamped the web page to be more businesslike and focused on my writing.  I left the resource page posted, but it was no longer linked from the main page.  Looking back, I think I was getting all caught up in being a “professional.”  I was worried that including rape resources would take away from my image.

Looking back, I want to smack myself.  It’s the same sort of thing I’ve vented about: men not speaking out because it’s easier that way.  Because we’re afraid of what people will think.  Afraid of alienating potential readers, maybe.  I don’t know.  All I know is that in this particular instance, I chose silence, and I’m disappointed in myself for that choice.

I’ve updated the rape page on the new site, and I’ve put the link back in the menu bar.  I’m working on adding more links and resources.  (I’m open to suggestions if you have any.)

So, yeah.  Disappointed and angry with myself.  And grateful to the reader who indirectly kicked me in the pants to do better.  Thank you — you know who you are.

Jim C. Hines