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Rape Crisis April 17, 2006

Posted by Winter in rape.
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This post has been written for the Blogathon to raise awareness about sexual violence.

an awesome fact has come to light: appallingly few women can claim that they have not been victims, at one time in their lives, of either attempted or accomplished sexual attacks. Angela Davis

I have never been raped. I have been sexually assaulted and sexually harassed, but this far in my life I have not been raped. Initially, it might seem a little strange, then, that on this day to raise awareness about sexual violence, I’m going to blog about something that hasn’t happened to me.

Many people might find the fact that I have not been raped rather surprising because there have been many occasions in my life when I’ve behaved in ways which our society construes as “asking for it.” For example, about 10 years ago, when I still dated men, I went out with some co-workers and got pretty drunk. There was one man I liked, although I didn’t know him very well. Somehow we ended up back at my place in the early hours of the morning. There was a bit of a kiss and a cuddle. I thought it would be rude to turf him out on the streets at 4am so I said he could stay, but I didn’t want to have sex with him. He was quite drunk too, but we settled down companionably in my bed. The next morning we went for breakfast together.

Why didn’t he rape me? I had done a lot of things which many people still regard as making a woman deserving of rape. I had got drunk; I had gone out with a man I hardly knew; I had taken him home with me; I had invited him into my bedroom; I had “led him on” and then, sin of all sins, I had said “No” to sex with him.

Well there is in fact only one reason why I didn’t get raped that night and it has nothing whatsoever to do with my behaviour.

I didn’t get raped because that man was not a rapist.

Fortunately for me, he was the kind of man who would never force a woman into sexual contact without her express consent. So, whatever I did, I was safe, because I wasn’t with a rapist. Now, there was no way I could possibly have known this at the time and if he had been inclined to force himself upon women sexually, I would have been in real danger because I probably was too drunk to put up a fight. But if he had raped me, it would not have been because of anything I did or did not do; it would have been because he was a rapist.

Still, can you imagine the court case scenario?
Does anyone think I would have stood a chance of getting a conviction?

Looking back over my life, I’m aware of having been in danger of being raped on three occasions. My behaviour has never altered. The only factor that changed in those situations was the presence of a potential or actual rapist, a man I now know to have been inclined to sexually abusive behaviour towards women. But I was lucky. I have been extremely lucky because I haven’t yet encountered a rapist in a situation where he has had the opportunity to rape me. It is perfectly possible that this will happen to me at some point in my life. All women have to live with the awareness of possibly getting raped. At least two of my friends have been raped. If my day comes, I might be able to fight him off, but I might not. One thing I do know: if it ever happens to me, it won’t be because of anything I’ve done.

Women have got to discard this imposed responsibility for being raped. Women get raped for various reasons, not least among them are the following:

a) There are too many rapists on the loose
b) They are getting away with too much rape
c) Our society has its own reasons for refusing to deal with the epidemic in sexual violence

Instead of facing up to the rape crisis, it is easier to argue that women are the problem. The myth propagated is that women are raped because of what they do. It is not, therefore, rapists that are the real problem, it is women: women must stop doing things that make men rape them. In other words, women have to stop getting themselves raped.

Of course women can’t stop men from trying to rape them. And this is all a big red herring anyway, created by a society which has long collaborated with rapists because rape terrorism controls women. Creating a world in which women are constantly terrified of being raped is a society with enormous power over women as a (socially constructed) class. Rape terrorism is also used to keep men in line for different reasons i.e. it is particularly important in policing appropriate masculine gender performance and (hetero)sexuality. But the important point to remember here is that rape is always a weapon of domination used by people with power against people who are depowered and positioned as deserving to be raped.

Many certainly still regard rape as a basically just punishment for uppity women. My mother’s middle-aged friends will make excuses for any rapist who’s victim is not a fully-clothed, sober young virgin dragged into a hedge by a complete stranger at knifepoint in broad daylight. These women, pillars of church and community, frighten me. If I had been raped by my friend that night, they would have said “But she asked him into her room. What did she expect?” They seem to believe all men to be potential rapists given the chance or spurned into action by an uppity woman who therefore deserves to be punished with rape. They know that rape is a bad thing. On some level, they do know that it’s really about power, control and the punishment of women. But they still think women deserve to be raped. Some of them must have been raped and I presume they blame themselves. Lots of women think they deserve to be raped.

Breaking down this false consciousness remains a top feminist priority.

Imagine a world in which no woman ever thought she, or any other woman, deserved to be raped.

Interesting links:
Truth about Rape (UK).
Men Against Sexual Violence (US).
Sexual Assault Awareness Month (US).

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Comments»

1. Louise Whittle - April 18, 2006

Statistically, the majority of rapes are usually by someone the victim knows i.e. the partner.

I was raped by my boyfriend in my late teens. I never spoke about it (and even now it is very difficult and very painful to remember). I found it easier to talk about the domestic violence but not the sexual violence. I thought it was about time I did speak out.

2. Winter - April 18, 2006

Thank you Louise. I think this day is all about speaking out and breaking the silence. I’m so sorry this thing happened to you.

I’ve never been in danger of being raped by a complete stranger. Of the three potential rape situations, one was a family member, one was a class mate in school, and one was someone I met at a party.

3. Louise Whittle - April 18, 2006

Thanks Winter.
Just quickly, it doesn’t help the situation when so-called feminists like Camille Paglia help to reinforce these myths and stereotypes. Such as going back to a bloke’s place is “asking for sex” as you are “giving mixed messages”! Does she really, really think she is helping women by coming out with this utter offensive tosh? No wonder the establishment adore her as she backs up the status quo.

I am frankly sick of these myths as it just reinforces the sexist attitudes towards women and at the same time women internalise this crap as well. I did and I blamed myself for what happened and so do countless of other women.

Time for a change!!

4. Andygrrl - April 18, 2006

What part of “no” don’t men understand? How is “no” (or “stop”) a mixed message??

Great post Winter. I just wrote a similar post, incidentally, without knowing about the blogathon.

Speaking out can be hard; it’s even harder when they don’t hear you.

5. Raven's Star - April 18, 2006

Absolutely excellent post! I get so tired of arguing with “well-meaning” people who tell me “you shouldn’t go outside at night alone, you could be raped!” I am a woman and am supposed to know my place – “safe” at home with men protecting me. Funny – for much of my life, at home with the men who were supposedly protecting me was the most dangerous place I ever went.

6. Winter - April 18, 2006

Louise, I haven’t read any Paglia yet – haven’t been able to face it! But, the idea that women get raped because they give off “mixed messages” is, as we all know, widely held. People rarely bother to interrogate the assumptions about power relations that are contained in such a belief. In the first instance, to believe this one must assume that the man has a right to interpret the woman’s nehaviour as “mixed messages.” Then one must believe that this male reading of female behaviour gives the man a right to force the woman to have sex with him. The whole notion is based upon an acceptance of male power over women because it assumes that men have a right to read and interpret, as well as to rape women.

Even if you feel that someone is going off ambiguous signals why on earth would that give you the right to try and force them to have sex with you?

When it comes to rape people say the most bizarre things. It’s very frightening.

Ravenstar I think you’re absolutely right. What I like to call rape terrorism encourages women to believe that they need male protectors. But female dependence upon men actually leads to abuse. Most women are abused by members of their family and their partners – the people who are supposedly protecting them from all the rapists in the park at night. The most sexually dangerous man I’ve ever met was a member of my family. He’s in prison now. I’d take my chances on the streets at night anytime rather than put myself in his hands.

7. witchy-woo - April 18, 2006

Excellent post Winter. The recent Amnesty survey confirmed the abounding ignorance and prejudice that surrounds rape/sexual violence. It’s as though people would much rather blindly accept the notion that women are responsible for the actions of rapists than be bothered to think the issue through for themselves. We have to change that

Only men can stop rape – it seems so glaringly obvious to me! Anything else is simply illogical, surely?

And Louise – you’re bang on about Camille Paglia. She’s a perfect example of a puppet of the patriarchy and she does both women and feminism a huge disservice every time she opens her mouth.
I’m sorry, too, about what happened to you but I applaud your courage in speaking out about it.

8. Richard Jeffrey Newman - April 18, 2006

A wonderful post! I’m going to use your story about “the man who was not a rapist” in my class. My own post for today is on my blog.

9. deviousdiva - April 18, 2006

“Imagine a world in which no woman ever thought she, or any other woman, deserved to be raped.”

Imagine that.

10. Sage - April 19, 2006

I love this post. It’s refreshing, after reading all the pain and torment at Femivist, to read what the outcome SHOULD look like, every time. We can be alone with a man without get hurt. What a concept.

11. The Huntress - April 19, 2006

This really made me think, because I’ve been in exactly that situation more than once – at mine/his, got drunk, didn’t want to have sex, ended up having a nice sleep together. I’d never thought of the situation that way before, that the only difference between me and so many women who are raped is that the men I have done this with were not rapists. My behaviour was no different, yet had anything happened, I would have been blamed. It’s such an important thing to draw attention to.

12. IrrationalPoint - April 19, 2006

Well said.

–IP

13. Natasha! - April 20, 2006

This post is dead on.

Why just last night I had a few drinks with my friend at the bar then headed to my place for a few more, sat right there on my bed with him and let him put his head on my shoulder while we watched TV and, lo!, he did not rape me!

Why not?
I assume because he is not a rapist. Sadly, I must keep in mind that this may not really be the case. It might just be that that’s not his venue.

14. Winter - April 20, 2006

I think it’s important to keep on reiterating that what people do is not the problem. There is nothing wrong with men and women (whether they know each or not) going out, getting drunk, going to each others’ houses, deciding to have sex together, deciding not to have sex together etc etc. There is nothing wrong with any of this.

There is something very wrong with the abusive men who take advantage of certain situations.

15. cristy - April 22, 2006

Fantastic post. You are so spot on that it almost feels like you have stated the obvious. It is amazing how rarely people do state the obvious on this issue though.

I think that you are so right on the subject of women’s own believes. The challenge for us is to reject the idea that we are in any way responsible for what has happened to us – particularly when we have behaved in the stereotypical manner (drunk, etc.). That is a challenge that I still find difficult.


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