Wednesday, 22 August 2012
The Idiocy of Recent Statements About Rape
Just to warn you, this post discusses rape and ignorant attitudes regarding the subject.
Last week Deb wrote a rather amazing post about some of the things we can do to prevent rape. It was very well received. Indeed, even her hero, Captain Awkward, retweeted and mentioned it. And so she should, as it was very important. It addressed some of the errors people make in campaigns to reduce incidents of rape whilst also pointing out the behaviours we can do our best to stamp out. You Really Must Read It.
After having written it, however, the proverbial has most definitely hit the air circulation device. There have been several things in the news which fly in the face of Deb's advice. Obviously the people involved did not listen to me and read the post. So, I feel that I should go through and list some of the mistakes people have been making, most of which are covered by point no. 7 on Deb's list;
Use The Word Rape to Describe Rape.
Julian Assange has been accused of a crime. It is entirely beyond me to know whether he has or hasn't committed this crime. That is what the legal system is for. However, rather than relying on the process of that system, there seems to have been another tactic used.
Denial that the act of which he's accused is rape.
Although, as I say, I don't know if he's guilty or not, I find this difficult. If I had been accused of rape, my first act would be to address my guilt rather than to quibble over what is or is not rape.
But quibble people have. Most recently George 'Meow' Galloway has waded in. He has suggested that raping a woman while she is asleep (and so unable to consent - hence rape) is 'bad manners'. Even now, having been condemned and given the chance to retract his statement, he has not.
"What occurred is not rape as most people understand it. And it's important to note that the two women involved did not initially claim it."
As most people understand it. Well now, this is part of the problem. Mr Galloway is not human as I understand it - if he were he would be unable to say such a thing. However, I understand that my belief of what constitutes humanity is in contradiction to what biology and, sadly, the law states. If I wanted to, I could brutally murder a spider (if I were brave enough to get close to one in the first place, that is) with no legal comeback. However, if I were to do the same thing to Mr Galloway, I would be rightly charged and convicted for the act.
If I went about expressing my view of Mr Galloway's lack of humanity enough, I might even be able to convince people to join me. Soon, with enough voices chanting, he might become sub-human in the eyes of society. It's happened before.
That is the power of belief. And so we have to chant;
Rape is rape.
It might also be worth addressing the rest of the above quote - the two women did not report it initially. Oh well then, that makes it so clear. Because every victim of rape marches straight up to the nearest police station and reports the crime. Because that's an easy thing to do when there are silly people out there muddying the waters by suggesting that what most people understand as rape is something other than what they have experienced. As Deb says, 'So often accounts of rape begin, “I wasn't raped, but this thing happened to me once where I was forced to have sex against my will...”'
People are raped and don't report it. Proper statistics seem a bit impossible to me, but take this Independent article from March of this year;
'One in 10 women has been raped, and more than a third subjected to sexual assault, according to a major survey, which also highlights just how frightened women are of not being believed. More than 80 per cent of the 1,600 respondents said they did not report their assault to the police, while 29 per cent said they told nobody – not even a friend or family member – of their ordeal.'
So the women weren't raped because they didn't report it, George? Please.
The problem with the Assange situation is that he is a hero to many people on the left. But in their desire to protect their hero, they are making the lives of those who have been raped so much harder. They are also painting a very damaging image of sexual life.
Not that I blame this entirely on Assange and the left. You just have to read some of the dodgy articles in both men's and women's magazines to see a very dangerous image of a sex-life which is both aggressive and plain weird (read point no. 5 in Deb's post). And then there are things like the 'romantic' scenes in stories like Twilight. Stalking behaviour is somehow elevated into something sexy.
Galloway's initial interview paints a picture of a man who, when acting properly, wakes up the love of his life and says,
"'scuse me, do you mind if I put it back in again, please?'
I think this is where plain sense should overcome anything else. If this is your image of right and proper...then something serious is wrong.
In America, the problems with rape have been somewhat different, and yet entirely the same. No. 7 has been breached but so has all scientific (rather than just legal) reality. I would be amazed if you'd not already heard the specifics, but in brief;
Todd Akin has suggested that women suffering 'legitimate rape' are able to magically protect themselves from getting pregnant. Challenged on this he has claimed to have used either 'a wrong word' or 'wrong words' depending on which interview you read. He does not, however, specify which of those words were wrong.
Obviously the whole thing is wrong. It is scientifically, factually, morally and in all ways WRONG. As I understand it (and I am no expert in American politics) his motives for saying and, presumably, believing such a thing is that if this were the case then it would help to support his anti-abortion stance. If this were the case he can then say that only women wanting to get pregnant will get pregnant. So there's no need for abortion.
As leaps of logic go, it makes Sonic the Hedgehog's jumping abilities look like, well, mine. But as well as the logic and science flaws, we have a concept of different kinds of rape. Legitimate and illegitimate. The crime is once again something that can be question. Was it really rape? Well, you did fall pregnant, so you must have wanted it.
Well, you didn't report it straight away, so it can't be rape.
Well, you were in bed with him, so you were asking for it.
Well, you did put on the short skirt...
Well, you did go out walking in that neighbourhood...
Well, did you do everything you possibly could have done to stop him...?
It is heartbreaking seeing the look in someones eyes when they come to terms with the fact that they were raped. It is heartbreaking when someone questions what rape is, questioning what a victim has experienced. It is heartbreaking seeing what is, effectively, another violation and the change in their body language as the damage hits home.
But because of the fear that we might have to witness someone we love dealing with the aftermath of rape, because we might know someone who could have committed rape, and because, ultimately, we might have acted in such a way that we could be a rapist, we question the definition of rape and the validity of the experience of victims. That is nothing less than absolute cowardice, if not significantly more.
And by we, I mean men. Every one of the idiots involved in these things have been men. They talk with such authority and absolute arrogant certainty and don't stop for a second just to question what it is that they're saying. And the scary thing is, you get the feeling they wouldn't stop to question what they're doing either.
We need to question ourselves. Men need to look at the things we do and think and say. We need to listen to the experiences of women and understand. And when we find other men saying stupid things, we have to speak out, lest those we love and care for are hurt.