Waking Up

One of the things I find most incensing about debates about rape is –

You know, let’s just stop for a moment and talk about that. Debates. About rape. This is always so intriguing to me. By intriguing, generally, I mean it makes my teeth gnash. Rape is the most intensely debated crime that I know of. I rarely hear people talk about whether or not a victim of a mugging deserved to have their wallet taken and I’m not often exposed to stories that go over the finer points of whether or not a murder victim caused their own death through their action or inaction.

Okay, I’ve got that particular point out. Continuing on.

One of the prevalent, rather insidious arguments that I run into is about whether or not a woman could have taken actions to prevent her rape/assault/etc. She could have gone with a friend to the party. She could have drunk less alcohol. She could’ve kept her drink by her. She could’ve not walked down that dark alley. She could have had a phone call check in set up with her best friend. And on, and on, and on. I call it insidious, because it’s right. If she had taken drastically different actions she might not have been raped – two problems with that and I’ll go over the simple one first.

First, the majority of sexual assault is perpetrated by someone the victim knows. So all of that horse shit about not wearing a tight skirt and not walking down alleys and not acting like a slut – that’s all fallacious. Because the victim knows their attacker, which means the attacker probably doesn’t care what they were wearing, where they went with whom, etc. The attacker likely has seen them in various levels of pretty and well put together down to hung over in pajamas.

But, victim blamers would say, she dressed like a slut at a party in front of this acquaintance of hers! He was pushed by her sexual allure! Tell me, really, does me wearing a diamond necklace of stunning beautiful quality excuse someone from stealing it?

Now onto the second point. I want you to do something for me, if it will not be damaging to your emotional health. Close your eyes, and think of three people you know. Three random people with various levels of closeness to you. Now try to imagine whether or not that person would rape you.

I did this exercise in a room full of women at a women’s issues conference. Topics covered at the conference were all sorts of things, establishing a career through motherhood, choosing not to have children, the glass ceiling, etcetera. The speaker said to close our eyes, and think of those three people. Then, if you could think of at least one of them being capable of raping you and picture clearly the steps you would take to avoid that rape, raise your hand. Then she had us open our eyes.

The amount of hands up were a little over half. My hand was up. She had us close our eyes again, and told us to put our hands up again if we had been the victim of a sexual assault and were willing to share that. Then we opened our eyes. The grouping was almost identical. The same women had their hands up almost down to the person.

Until you have been the victim of a sexual assault, you are far, far less likely to seriously entertain the notion that anyone would be capable of that sexual assault, unless and until someone seriously educates you. At some point you “wake up” to what happens surrounding a rape, how it can be prevented, and have a serious personal fear of it. Unfortunately for most women I know, the wake up call was their own sexual violation.

Ergo, none of that rape prevention stuff really works all that well unless people are educated. It’s a Catch 22. Gotta get the reality of how bad it is to step up on preventing it – gotta step on on preventing it to keep the reality of it from happening. Until someone twigs you to the serious reality of just how fucking horribly you can be hurt, you will roll your eyes and go pft, whatever, that shit only happens in Lifetime movies. Rape is glorified and made titillating and made shameful by our society. So it kind of follows that until you’re all too brutally introduced to the possibility of your own violation, you don’t really want to own that shame by admitting it could happen to you – and you might not really understand the gravity of the situation.

As I am wont to do, I came up with a metaphor for this situation. I felt that the metaphor had to be big, that it had to be something that affected many people, and it had to be a very similar situation on a grander scale. I found one in my thought process and I shrunk back  from using it because I was afraid of the repercussions. I was afraid people would get very sensitive and upset, I was afraid people would lay into me for likening it to a rape.

But then I thought about it and I decided, you know, it really is a very apt metaphor, and most of the people who read my blog aren’t assholes. So I should be all right. Feel free to respectfully disagree. If you do so unrespectfully, I’ll just delete the comment.

All that said, I want to take you back. Go back to August, 2001. Take a flight on a plane. Metal detector wand, shrug, move on through. Have a cocktail, yeah sure, pen knife, we don’t care. Now it’s September 11th, 2001. Our nation, the whole goddamn nation, has their sense of security utterly violated and totally set on ear by the attack on the Twin Towers. People are terrified to fly. The government overhauls all security programs. TWA becomes a solid, sometimes menacing presence in airports. Airports begin to play regularly repeating messages reminding people not to leave their bags unattended, and never to agree to take a bag onto a plane for someone else.

Now I’m not going to say something dramatic about how our nation was raped that day because that’s nowhere near what I mean. I’m saying that before September 11th, 2001, we really had lax security and no notion of how badly it could be abused. By and large, we had no idea. I flew before the 11th. Did you? We were safe enough, right? We just assumed we were safe. A speech I read afterward said, “No one knew. No one could know. We could not conceive of such a heinous act because all of us, however flawed, are incapable of anticipating that wild act of brutality.”

Here’s the key to both.

Regular decent human beings never consider that the person sitting next to them would be the one with a box cutter who’s going to hijack the plane, until someone did it, and now we’re all hyper alert (for now).

Regular decent human beings never consider that the person in their English class, or their stepfather, or their best friend’s boyfriend, is capable of shoving them down on a carpet and raping them. Until someone does it. And then we are hyper aware.

Are women able to take steps to prevent rape? Yes. Yes they are.

But they are not to blame for a rape perpetrated against them, nor can we use “rape prevention” tips as a brutish sort of weapon against victims to say they didn’t try hard enough to prevent it. We can’t, because the very conception of your own lack of security and the danger you are in relies on you being essentially paranoid all the time and assuming that there is a rapist around every corner. That’s no way to live. Trust me. Moreover, it’s not a place you get to until someone has pushed you there, unless someone educates you.

The terrible, disgusting onus of a rape is on the person who perpetrates it.


~ by oniongirl13 on April 15, 2010.

14 Responses to “Waking Up”

  1. You are brilliant, Oniongirl. Just brilliant. Well done.

  2. Wow. That was fantastic! Now everyone on earth needs to read it! Thanks so much for your insightful and well-written thoughts.

  3. This is an absolutely outstanding post.

    • Thank you for stopping in, and for letting me know. I feel like this particular post hit more firmly than others for me. At times it’s difficult to post those things, because it hurts a little, but it’s entirely worth it when I can strike a chord.

  4. Great post. Thank you.

    As someone who went through long-term CSA at the hands of an uncle, the constant “debates” on this issue are deeply offensive to me. They should be offensive to any right thinking person.

    Take care.

    • I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through.

      You’re absolutely right, however. The prevalence of victim blaming in sexual assault is appalling and I’m sorry you have to deal with it.

  5. Thank you for writing this post.

  6. A fantastic post and one that needs to be said and needs to be read.

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Di and Pandora, Narky. Narky said: A simply outstanding post: http://bit.ly/alxLe3 […]

  8. […] very good post on blame and rape (HT: […]

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