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Archive for the ‘Rape’ Category

hey y’all…

¬†just to let you know, Marcella’s ON FIRE lately!!!!! If you haven’t read her blog, which focuses on rape, then get your booty over there now. I especially love her critiques of the legal system and how it completely does not support rape survivors.

Go Marcella!

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so, I went to see Georgia Rule the other night. I gotta tell you, it was not at all what I was expecting. From the previews, you kind of get the impression that it’s about this family of three kind of difficult women who have complex relationships with one another (this is true), and that in the end everyone might just get along after all (also true). However, it’s what came in the middle that really surprised me.

***********WARNING – SPOILERS FOLLOW*****************

this movie is heavy. it’s about incest. it’s about alcoholism. it’s about loss, and finding the best way you can to get through it. Lindsay Lohan’s character was raped by her step-father from the age of 12 to the age of 14. Her mother, Felicity Huffman, didn’t know. LL dealt with it by becoming rebellious, doing everything she could to get away from them, drive them away, piss them off. And it ended up screwing her up, as often that kind of behaviour does. LL tells someone, who tells Jane Fonda, her grandmother, who calls FH, who doesn’t believe it. There remains some tension in the movie as to whether LL is telling the truth about the abuse, tension that sticks around until she confronts the stepfather and they discuss what happened.

I thought the movie was realistic. For a while, I was pissed because I thought that it was going to turn out that LL had lied about the incest, but it didn’t turn out that way (thank god). But yes, it was realistic. From what I’ve read, there are a lot of women who believe their husbands over their children in cases of alleged incest. Incest is also a reason why children act out, so sometimes what can happen is that when a child tells a parent about incest or abuse, the parent thinks the child is lying because of prior acting out. It becomes a vicious cycle. The thing that stuck with me was when the stepfather said, “do you think I would lie about this?” – obvious to me, that of course he would. Of course he would deny it, of course he would lie about it, to cover his ass, to keep his happy little status quo.

From what I have read, false accusations of incestuous molestation and rape are extremely low. I cannot imagine the heartache it would cause to find out that your child had been molested or raped, but I simply cannot fathom choosing a person who had raped your own/their own child/grandchild/niece/nephew/sister/brother over that child. I am horrified by and yet strangely pity these people who defend incestuous molestors/rapists.

Is this too easy for me to say? What circumstances would warrant such a defense? I simply can’t think of any, other than psychological abuse or trauma. meaning, I can only understand defending an incestuous molestor/rapist if you weren’t in your right mind or if you were scared for your life and/or that of your child.

has anyone else seen this movie? any comments on this issue? I can’t think what else to say about it, but the movie certainly stirred up some discomfort and discussion in my mind.

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I’ve been taking a course this term on environmental justice. It’s been interesting for me, because I’m not very eco-savvy. Despite that my best friend is an environmental goddess. I’ve never been all that concerned about these matters, but it seems like the time is well afoot to be concerned, so yeah. Why not take a class about it? Also very interesting for me has been the intersection between environmentalism and gender, class, and race issues. That’s where the “justice” part comes in.

One of the things I’ve noticed in this class, both in the readings and in the discussion among my fellow students, is how common it is to appropriate rape as an analogy to describe environmental destruction: “raping the earth” is a phrase that has come up a number of times.

Whenever this term has been tossed out into the classroom, a common space shared by all of us as students as well as our instructor, I’d say about 60% of whom are female, it has hit me like a ton of bricks. I can only describe the emotional reaction I have had as one of shutting down. I can’t concentrate on what is being said beyond that point; it’s like there’s been a wall erected in my learning environment. I hear that phrase, and I can’t hear anything else. I am paralyzed by it. I can no longer participate, not even to register my disappointment and distress at the use of this analogy. This creates a hostile learning environment for me.
I am very disappointed that people choose to use this analogy in talking about environmental degradation. By saying that destroying the earth is like rape, two things are done. First, rape survivors feel it. In a room with 20 females, statistically speaking, 5 of them are survivors of sexual violence. They don’t need this reminder. They also don’t need their experiences appropriated in order to make a rhetorical point. It is not appropriate in any way to compare something done to the earth to something that real women have experienced and continue to experience everyday on a widespread scale as part of their gendered oppression. It is not at all appropriate to discuss the violation of a person’s body and psyche with the extraction of resources from the earth, or the destruction of an ecosystem. The earth is not a living being in the same way that humans are living beings, and it is not a valid analogy to draw. If these people using this analogy are so concerned with exploitation, they should consider the exploitation of women and rape survivors to be a high priority.

Secondly, comparing environmental destruction to rape positions women as something like the earth: not really thinking, feeling beings, but irrational, passive resources to be used and exploited for gain. It places women on par with nature, and further from humanity. It “others” women, making women more “natural”, more impulsive, more essentialized. It makes women no more than our sex, our bodies, the most “natural” thing about us, and makes women’s sexuality and reproduction in particular a point of departure for exploitation.

And as this rhetorical device serves to make women more like the earth and nature, at the same time it feminizes the earth. The earth isn’t made strong, independent, masculine – it is made to submit to the desires and whims of humans. We can even tear apart mountains if we want to, cut into diamonds to create multifaceted jewelry, plunge the depths of the ocean floors. There isn’t a single inch of this earth that can’t be bent to humans’ will, forced to behave, to become tame, to be destroyed to build our “civilizations.” Conceptually, “Mother Earth” is just a woman after all, something that has been dominated for many centuries. Anytime we want to dominate something, our best bet is to begin by feminizing it, making it womanly, making it submissive.

The last time this happened in class, I posted a note on the class online discussion board, explaining how this phrase makes me feel and some of the ideological ramifications, and asking that my colleagues refrain from using this inappropriate analogy any more. My request has been supported thus far, for which I am grateful. I’m also glad to sneak in a bit of feminist theory in a non-feminist class any chance I can!

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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.

 

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. If, for some unplanned reason you know you are going to be late, let them know so they won’t get worried.
  4. 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”.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).
  8. 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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child rapist gets 4 years

Darrell James Smith, just convicted of sexually assaulting two children and videotaping one of the attacks, was sentenced to 4 years in prison today. Public outcry over the sentence has called it too lenient. The judge who made the ruling has defended the decision, saying that a prison sentence is a harsh sentence.

4 years is enough time for sexually assaulting two young children? And creating child pornography in the process? 4 years is enough? Considering most sexual assualt cases in Canada end in a stay, and many of those who are convicted get probation and house arrest, in comparison a prison sentence is harsh. But is it sufficient punishment for traumatizing two children?

I say, no it is not. No it is not enough.

For society to take crimes of sexual abuse seriously, our courts need to also take them seriously. And this is not enough.

Read about it here.

UPDATE: I just read an article in my local paper here about a man in Sydney who is getting NO JAIL TIME for raping FOUR children. Where is the consistency? Oh, I think I get it – Smith made child porn, so he gets jail. Sure, that’s perfectly sensible. whatever – I’m jsut getting more and more disgusted with the so-called ‘justice’ system.

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This week, it came out that a Saudi national , Taher Ali Al-Saba, who had been accused of sexual assaulting two minors, has left the country, despite not having a passport.

The Saudi Embassy has confirmed that Al-Saba has left Canada, but won’t say anything further, about how or when this occurred.¬† Because Canada has no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia, it is highly unlikely that Al-Saba will ever return to be tried for his crimes.

Great to know the justice system works so well.

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I noticed this little gem in the local newspaper this morning over breakfast. I almost choked on my Fruit Loops.

At first, I was pleased to see that a judge in Cape Breton had sentenced Raymond Shawn Leroy to 4 years in jail for rape, considering most rapists get off a lot lighter than that. Apparently, the rapist kidnapped his victim, beating and raping her for ‘several hours’ – leaving her with ‘swollen, blackened eyes, facial swelling, and other injuries.’ However, he was found not guilty of unlawful confinement… so I guess the victim could have left at any time, according to the court.

The prosecutor, Shane Russell, said the victim was “humiliated, beaten, raped, and threatened. She was subject to extreme violence and disrespect.” In the article, however, the victim was described as being recently released from a detox facility. I suppose this is significant somehow, although the press is forbidden from publishing the name of the victim ‘along with any information that could lead to her identification.’ Maybe I’m missing something, but what does the victim’s recent release from a drug treatment program have to do with her being raped? Oh right – so we feel less sorry for her.

Finally, the nastiest part of the article came. I’ll quote directly:

While noting the photographs spoke volumes about the attack, defense lawyer David Campbell said since she did not file a victim impact statement, it can be inferred she suffered no lasting psychological damage.
“It looks a lot worse than it actually was,” said Campbell, adding his client is remorseful for his actions.

Sure, being kidnapped, beaten, and raped isn’t as bad as all that, and is easily forgotten. I’ll buy that. No big deal, right girls?

These comments obviously minimize and dismiss the effects of rape on the psychological health and wellbeing of survivors of rape. Why is this so dangerous? It encourages rape, in so many words, by affirming that victims can easily get over their rape experiences. It also adds to the support for light sentencing of rapists, making women less and less safe in our communities. This blatant hostility toward women, and tacit condoning of rape, is not acceptable. This woman deserves to be taken seriously, and given a modicum of respect – not subjected to ridiculously flawed logic from some misogynistic asshole defense lawyer whose sour grapes over losing his case are staining his shirt.

Something tells me that this wasn’t the first time he attacked this woman verbally, but this time it is publicly, in print, and her voice is absent. Someone has to speak out. I’m writing a letter to the editor in protest of this treatment of a rape survivor by David Campbell. Join me: letterstoeditor@hfxnews.southam.ca

*quotes from “Man sentenced to four years for sexual assault” by Steve MacInnis, published in The Daily News on Wednesday, January 10, 2007.

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