I received an email from a nice fella named Chris a little while ago, in response to my posts On Rape and How to Avoid Becoming a Rapist. He agreed to let me use our emails for a post. Here’s some of what he had to say in his initial email:
First of all, I am a survivor of rape and sexual abuse myself and concerning the post titled “On Rape”, I also believe the same as you, that the blame rests ultimately with the rapist, however, although it may not completely remove the risk, there are certain things you can do to reduce the risk of being raped. I hate the fact myself, but using common sense, personal safety guidelines will reduce the risk of rape. I follow these guidelines, so I am not a man who is imposing these guidelines on just women.
- If you live in shared accomodation or with parents, a partner or spouse, always let them know where you are going, who with, and what time you will be back.
- Stick to it. It is not looking to be treated like a child, it is giving the people who care about you the respect they deserve. If you keep the habit of sticking to it and you suddenly don’t get back for that time, they will know that something is not right and will start trying to find out what happened and may even start looking for you.
- If, for some unplanned reason you know you are going to be late, let them know so they won’t get worried.
- Don’t go out alone. Go with a friend, or even better, more than one friend. As well as the possibility of making the night more enjoyable, there is truth in the saying “Safety in Numbers”.
- Not telling you not to enjoy yourself, but if you drink alcohol, don’t go out and drink so much that you don’t know where you are and/or what you are doing. If you collapse in a coma due to overdrinking, it provides a simple and easy means for someone to take advantage of the situation. Drink also lowers inhibitions and may lead you to say yes when you wouldn’t if you was sober.
- Be aware of your surroundings. If you feel unsafe or just plain uncomfortable with your surroundings, call a cab home or to another place, informing your housemates, parents, spouse or partner of the change of venue. It is better to be safe than sorry.
- I agree that just because you are wearing a low cut [possibly tight fitting] top and a mini skirt, it doesn’t mean you are saying “come and have sex with me”, however, I hate this fact but remember that although you may not be inviting sexual advances, a potential rapist may not see it that way. Again, if you get unwanted attention and you feel uncomfortable about it, go somewhere else. (Home or another place, informing your parents, spouse or partner of the change of venue).
- Call a taxi to go anywhere you want to during all hours of darkness. Don’t walk. Walking at night increases the danger as you are less likely to spot impending dangers.
I say MAKE YOUR FEELINGS CLEAR. I would never jump to the defence of a rapist, but no human person should be expected to be able to read minds. In court, there sometimes has been something along the lines of reasonable belief that consent is being given. If someone is making sexual advances you don’t want, say so. Say no, say stop, say anything to get your point across that you don’t want it.
Be verbal! Saying “No” removes any reasonable doubt about what you want.
To which I responded:
I hear what you are saying, and I think that generally, all of this is great practical advice for anyone. What concerns me most about the way rape and sexual violence is treated in society is that the emphasis is so often on the victim/survivor, and what he/she did or didn’t do or say, that it creates a bit of a ruse, and the ones who are actually always to blame, the rapists, are forgotten, or enough doubt has been cast on the actions of the survivor that the rapist gets away with it. What the victim/survivor did or didn’t do isn’t the issue – it is what the rapist did that matters. And although practical advice, and self-defense, can certainly help some people to avoid becoming a rape victim/survivor, I think what is needed is a more comprehensive social plan to stop people from becoming rapists. And I think this must begin with raising the status of women, who are the paradigmatic victims of sexual violence, in combination with punishing crimes of sexual violence more severely.
While I agree that we must be careful to protect ourselves from sexual violence, I also know that this isn’t always enough. The vast majority of rapes are committed by people known to the victim/survivor, and quite often someone the victim/survivor trusts. All kinds of people become victims of sexual violence, in all sorts of surroundings and circumstances. Putting too much emphasis on what potential victims could/should do to avoid attacks of sexual violence has a corollary in logical terms: it also means emphasizing what current survivors could/should have done differently that might have preempted their attack. This just isn’t fair, because even the most cautious person can still find themselves in harm’s way, and holding a survivor even partially responsible for behaviour that led up to an attack does blame them for the attack. This can also lead to restrictions placed on those *most likely* to be victims of an attack, which will always be women – restrictions that could seriously limit freedom of participation at an equal level in society, simply on the basis of gender. This kind of thing would also further marginalize male victims/survivors or sexual violence, who *should* be more able to defend themselves against an attack. It isn’t fair to focus on what the survivor could have done differently. It ultimately doesn’t matter. Ultimately, rapists are the ones who are responsible for rape. Which means that rape can only really be prevented by rapists. That’s a scary thought!
To which Chris responded:
Please don’t think I am taking any of the blame away from rapists etc. and I am not trying to apportion any blame on current survivors of rape and sexual assaults.
What I was doing in my email was just outlining what can be done to prevent (as far as possible) rape and sexual assault from the potential victims side. Reducing the risk even slightly, in order to prevent at least one more victim is what I am aiming for here. I believe that’s all individuals like us can hope to achieve at the present moment in time. Changing society’s role in rape prevention would need to involve collective work by large groups of the general public, professional organisations, and government bodies, all working together to achieve the common goal.
Attrition rates surrounding rape cases in court are extremely small in comparison to the attrition rates of other sexual offence cases and I believe you are right in what you are saying what causes the low figures, and letting the rapists get acquitted.
I do believe that there is work being done to try and create an effective social plan to stop people from becoming rapists, but really and truthfully, I feel that unless potential future rapists start to recognise that they could be future rapists and seek the necessary help, I don’t think it would matter what preventative therapies were available. I have no knowledge of what methods there are and what they involve to try and rehabilitate offenders and potential future perpetrators, but I believe that potential future perpetrators would require to be able to feel the need to seek the professional help, and feel that they are able to without fear of repercussions, in order to try and prevent it. Bearing in mind my lack of knowledge in this area, I believe that to recognise, and admit, that there is a possibility that they could be future offenders, is already half way there to being able to prevent it before the potential sets in and get out of hand.
Another comment I would like to talk about here is that you said “….This kind of thing would also further marginalize male victims/survivors or sexual violence, who *should* be more able to defend themselves against an attack.” Now I am not sure where you are coming from on the should be able to defend themselves bit, but it is a common belief in society which a lot of people including myself are trying to change.
I don’t know if you believe men should be able to defend themselves, but in male rape cases, along with the other common problems associated with rape of women during the event, the male victims often suffer the same physical paralysis effects of the mind when they realise they are overpowered. Plus, although not all male rape cases do, I am led to believe that most rapes of adult men involve more than one assailant, with one or more people preventing a struggle by restraining and/or pinning arms and legs, whilst the another person rapes the man. As for boys and young men, of course they will not be able to overpower a full grown adult no matter whether the assailant is male or female.
To which I responded:
Yeah, I feel it, preventing rape by making people less likely to become victims. I just don’t think that’s enough. People still get raped even when they follow all the advice, take self-defense classes, carry pepper spray, etc. The only way to stop rape is to stop rapists. I mean, yeah, we have to be mindful about our personal safety, but sometimes we jsut can’t avoid becoming a target – and a victim – no matter what we do. That’s not saying we shouldn’t try to avoid it, but you know what I mean.
Not long ago in the southern states, I want to say Georgia but I’m not sure, they changed the law so that consent could not be withdrawn once sexual contact had begun. So no matter how uncomfortable, violent, degrading, or painful the encounter becomes, once consent has been given, it can’t be taken back. So agreeing to have sex means agreeing to anything and everything, no matter what. It’s a wonder anyone has sex anymore.
Oh dear, no I certainly don’t think that men should be able to defend themselves from sexual violence more than women should. I wasn’t clear in my previous email, I apologize. I meant that that is the common perception, which is hogwash, and leads to some serious marginalization for male rape survivors. Defending oneself from sexual assault is something nobody should have to do; criticizing how people choose to do it or not to do it is, I think, a horrible mistake. People have to make the best decision for their survival in the situation.
So, that’s the crux of it. Do we help people prevent becoming victims, or do we prevent people from becoming rapists? Or both?
oh, and Ruxandra has an article up about this very subject. I loved it.
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