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Yes. Don't Rape Her.

One response to the repost of erbie's statement was that one (male) reader felt attacked, because he feels the list effectively paints all men as potential rapists, including all my male friends, who read this journal. He, as my friend, felt deeply offended at the inferred meaning that I thought he was a rapist-in-waiting.

Another reader said that he also felt attacked (which he found strange because not only is he absolutely disgusted by the thought of harming another being, but because he has zero sexual interest in women) but also pointed out that I wasn't necessarily speaking to the friends on my list, but speaking out in general, in a culture of silence, as a gesture of solidarity and/or rage.

That's true; that was in fact what I was doing. I wasn't aiming the list at my male friends, simply because I didn't think about the possibility that my male friends would abuse women. And statements like "Tell your sons/godsons not to rape women" or "If your buddy rapes someone, tell him he's a rapist and call the police" are for any gender.

But now, because it's been brought up, I *am* thinking about it, and I want to say a number of things.

I would really like to believe that no one who reads my journal - not all of whom *are* my friends, or even people I know are reading it - would rape anyone. If I was told that any of my friends had raped someone, my first response would not be "I told you so!" but shocked disbelief, and an immediate, instinctive reaction to go to their defence. Because I care about my friends, very much, and I don't want to think they are capable of terrible deeds.

I would also like to believe that no one who reads my journal has been raped, but I know that's not true. And they weren't raped by shapeless forces of malevolent misogyny, but by *people*. People who were (with one exception I know about) men.

Rapists are not natural disasters. They do not live independent from society, emerging only to strike with devastating force when they are least expected. Rapists live amongst us. Most of them have friends and family and workmates. Most rapists have people who care about them and people they care about. Many rapists do not even know they are rapists. Until the mid-1980s in New Zealand, a man who forced sexual intercourse onto the woman he was married to was not, legally, a rapist.

Rapists are real people. Rapists have little girls and sisters and female cousins and girlfriends and wives and mothers, which is why "Would you do this to your sister/mother?" is a strategm that has occasionally worked in making a potential rapist realise that the person he's about to violate is, in fact, a *person*. Often - very, very often - a rapist *does* rape his sister/wife/daughter/mother.

It is a nasty, hard thing to face up to, but those 34% of women were abused by somebody. Many somebodies. Maybe somebody I know. Maybe somebody *you* know.

Maybe - and I don't want to say this, or even think it, but it *is* possible - maybe you.

In fact, and this is really appalling, the number of women who acknowledge rape or abuse in New Zealand at some point in their lives is actually higher than 34% of the population. Because, while the story doesn't say so clearly, blythely and mjp17 found the (year-old, only just now reported) study the story comes from, and the study isn't asking about all sexual or physical abuse, but about IPV - Intimate Partner Violence.

34% of New Zealand women will acknowledge they were physically or sexually assaulted sometime in their life by their *partners*. And, since most women in New Zealand have male partners, most of those abusers were men.

Let's say that all of these men are serial abusers (not all of them will be, but it's safe to say that a fair proportion are, so let's just extend that a little). Let's say that 4% of New Zealand women have not ever been abused by men, but by their female partners. Let's say that the male abusers, over their lifetimes, assaulted a whole six women each. If all these very generous let's says are true, then:

5% of New Zealand men have physically or sexually assaulted their *partners*.

That's not including the guy who once punched his girlfriend in the face when he was drunk and was utterly horrified and never did it again, or the guy who only rapes the devil-women prostitutes he doesn't know. That's assuming abusers are attacking a large number of women, and that it only happens within sexual or romantic relationships.

Walk down the street. Every 20th guy you pass, think "Him". Think about your friends. Him. Think about your family. Him. Him. Him.

*Yes*, it's harsh, and horrible and nasty, but this is what I have to do, every single day. In fact, I don't get to play the 5% game, because when I walk down the street, I have to assess *every* man as a potential threat. And even then, it doesn't help, because I know the chances are that rape, if it happens, will likely be from someone I know: maybe someone I trust; maybe someone I love.

I live every day knowing that there is a very high chance that at some point I will be raped, and that it will be by someone I think is my friend.

For those of you who don't live with that, please take a moment to think what that would be like. Think how infuriating it would be to be told that I can "avoid" rape by taking care of myself. Think how devastating it would be to *be* raped, and go to the witness stand, and be asked "Were you drinking? Were you wearing provocative clothing? Did you struggle?"

Telling me to be careful when I walk alone at night does very little to change that chance, because I am much less likely to be raped by a stranger. It merely increases my fear. I have no idea what it's like to live without the fear of rape. In my entire lifetime, it is extremely unlikely that I will *ever* know what it's like to live without that fear.

I am frightened, and I am angry, and I *will* say, "Don't rape women". Even if it offends you, because you would never rape women. Because rapists are not natural disasters. They are people, and they rape people, and instead of merely telling the potential victim how to "avoid" being raped, (as if it was something she could *avoid*, somehow, with the magically correct combination of preventative measures) I will tell the potential perpetrator *not to do it*.


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Nov. 30th, 2005 12:46 am (UTC)
I just wanted to chime in again and say yes, excellent post. As I mentioned in a comment on the original post, that fear you talk about that women carry has material repercussions. It restricts mobility. It increases anxiety. It is sexual terrorism that demands women give up freedom of movement *or else.*
Dec. 1st, 2005 10:28 am (UTC)
Amen, sister.

And if OR ELSE happens, it is then their fault for not taking the advice!

Thanks, patriarchy! You get us coming AND going. May we pretty pelase bear your babies and cook your dinner and wash your clothes?
Nov. 30th, 2005 01:06 am (UTC)
Rapists are not natural disasters.

Absolutely. That should be on a t-shirt (on the back of one, I think).

Having interned as a Rape Education and Prevention Program facilitator, and having talked to frats and sororities, one of most appalling thing I found was just how *eager* some of the men were to rationalize their own behaviour with drunk women--women they *knew* weren't able to consent. And it just saddened me.
Dec. 1st, 2005 10:29 am (UTC)
I would *love* to hear more about your experiences, if you wouldn't mind sharing. That sounds deeply fucked up, and really interesting.

And I like the t-shirt idea! The trouble is, without context, it could easily be read as "rape doesn't just happen to *anybody*, the way natural disasters do."
Nov. 30th, 2005 01:06 am (UTC)
This is an *excellent* post.
Dec. 1st, 2005 10:30 am (UTC)
Thank you! I always have a hard time writing these posts, knowing that they will attract upsetting and condescneding commentary, so it's always really encouraging to get support.
(no subject) - mellific - Dec. 1st, 2005 03:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2005 01:21 am (UTC)
I love your journal. You always post something important or interesting, often both.

I was talking with my husband about this tonight. He hadn't realized that I walk around in fear all the time. It's funny, I asked him what his dad had told him about protecting himself when he was a boy. He said by the age of 5 his dad had instilled in him the notion that if anyone ever hit him or attacked him, he was to hit them back as hard as he could and not stop until they backed away.

Do you know ANYONE who tells their daughters this, or even suggests that they should fight back if they are attacked?
Nov. 30th, 2005 01:26 am (UTC)
My parents did. And I would have done it anyway. I was the terror of the playground--not fast, but if you got near me and provoked me, whatever happened next was your own damn fault.

Always been a woman. Never, EVER been a lady.
(no subject) - blacksquirrel - Nov. 30th, 2005 02:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - karenhealey - Dec. 1st, 2005 10:36 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2005 01:25 am (UTC)
One of the things that happens when I remember the time I was assaulted (note, I don't say "my assault", or even "my assailant"--I refuse to own any of that shit) is that I find myself having conversations with the man who assaulted me. I find myself imagining that he was caught (instead of escaping, leaving a ski-mask behind him), and that I had a chance to confront him. I want--still, nearly 30 years later--I want him to know that I am a person, not a thing. And I want to know him as a person, too.

Unfortunately, through a bizzare chain of circumstances, that opportunity never came to be. So I pray for him (I'm sure his life has been a disaster) and let it go again... until the next time.

I wish we could all walk alone in the dark...
Dec. 1st, 2005 10:38 am (UTC)
So do I.

Thank you so much for sharing this with us, as a solid reminder that both rapists and victims/survivors are real people.
Nov. 30th, 2005 01:42 am (UTC)
Think how devastating it would be to *be* raped, and go to the witness stand, and be asked "Were you drinking? Were you wearing provocative clothing? Did you struggle?"

Have you had sex before? Have you been intimate before? Did you try to stop once you were in the middle of being intimate? How did he get your pants off without your help? How could a big girl like you be raped? Couldn't you fight back? Did you actually say no? Did you say yes first and then no? How long had you been dating? How could he force you if you'd be intimate before? Why would anyone want to rape you?

Not that I went to the witness stand because, at fifteen, I didn't think anyone would do anything. But once you're vocal about abuse, people do judge you. People you don't expect to judge you suddenly have all these digusting, horrifying reasons why it wasn't really rape.

I'm glad you're writing these posts. You've been making me think about my own feelings of safety even after (or maybe even because) of the attack when I was younger.
Dec. 1st, 2005 10:41 am (UTC)
I'm glad you're writing these posts.

Baby, anything for you!

This blame the victim crap has GOT to stop.

(PS: I'm not sure if you gave it to me already, but could you please email your address to keh36@student.canterbury.ac.nz? I have Christmas goodies for yoooou.)
(no subject) - carlamlee - Dec. 2nd, 2005 03:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2005 01:58 am (UTC)
I just deleted the entire text of a godawful long comment and am just going to summarize, because it was coming out very wordy and this is, in my estimation, a hint that I have said 5 words of meaning in 500 words of fluff.

Our problem might be semantic. I think what I am reading is: "don't presume that telling me (x) rape prevention or personal defense strategies are going to make rape as an institution, or rapists as a class of person, go away."

That was never the presumption I (or others, I feel, though I am disinclined to speak on behalf of anyone other than myself) intended. In fact, what you put in the previous post as an edit is exactly what I felt was intended by "be safe and avoid rape". To have all the knowledge at your fingertips about what can happen, what you can do to minimize risk, and how you can protect yourself in the worst case scenario.

I think what it boils down to is some very vicious semantic tennis about the word "avoid". If you want to be a strict constructionist about the word, then realistically speaking it is effectively impossible to "avoid" anything in this world with a statistical probability greater than zero. I agree that rape as an event extends beyond the actual physicality. Escaping a rape attempt physically unharmed does not just magically go away the next day. Those effects linger. Psychological damage is a real thing that can't be discarded.

But nobody is claiming we can make rape disappear completely by being prepared to protect yourself in the event it does happen. Or at least, I don't believe they are; I certainly am not (or am not intending to, at any rate... as I've said before, if communication were transparent, I'd be out of a job). But to me, as someone who's lived a fairly good period of time with the threat of random violence or violation looming overhead (mind, that and this are not exactly the same, but I am not without empathy), all the warnings I ever got about how to deal with the worst case scenario are worth the fear if they ever, ever save my life even once.

Warnings don't make a shoddy system go away. Perhaps what we need to add to this list is the statement "Rape is more than just an unconsented, forced sexual act", because it is. What concerns me is that over this one tiny word -- "avoid" -- people of LIKE MINDS, people who generally believe in each other, and believe that rape is bad, have instead spent most of today arguing with each other while agreeing in spirit.

I'm going to stop there, I think, until I have points to answer, because it's late, and I'm not in a good emotional place so my ability to articulate properly is diminished. But to perhaps reassure you: I don't think giving women the tools to protect themselves will make rape stop. I don't think rape is contained within the actual assault, either. And I don't believe that you can use safety techniques and forewarning as garlic and crosses to ward off the figurative vampire of rape. But I think it's important that we give the women we can the tools to best survive a rape or attempted rape as undamaged as they can, AND to give them the resources for help that they'll need afterwards. And in the meanwhile we have to do what we can, when the opporunity presents itself, to problematize and rework the system that gives rise to such situations in the first place.
Dec. 1st, 2005 12:48 am (UTC)
But I think it's important that we give the women we can the tools to best survive a rape or attempted rape as undamaged as they can, AND to give them the resources for help that they'll need afterwards.

I think the point of kphoebe's post is that this is what (is supposed to) happens, but it simply isn't enough. The onus for rape - awareness, avoidance, recovery, has been emphasised on women for far too long. It's like trying to teach fish to impale themselves on fish hooks if you want to improve your catch. Instead you should focus on the fish hook end, or in this case, the rapists themselves.

we have to do what we can, when the opporunity presents itself, to problematize and rework the system that gives rise to such situations in the first place.

Exactly, hence the "If X then do not rape her" post. The actual act of rape is horrific enough in itself, but the pervasiveness of the FEAR makes it a massively important social issue. As you point out, even the word "Avoid" is a point for contention as it plays on the fear surrounding rape.

No-one should have to live under that shadow for the majority of their lives. I wish I was smart enough to think of an effective way of solving this, but I'm not. The best I can come up with currently is, "Just don't do it".
(no subject) - millenia - Dec. 1st, 2005 01:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - millenia - Dec. 1st, 2005 01:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - archangol - Dec. 1st, 2005 04:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - karenhealey - Dec. 1st, 2005 10:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2005 02:02 am (UTC)
Increasing the Chanses

From www.nzgirl.co.nz:

[New Zealand women] have the third highest number of sexual partners with 13.2, behind Turkey (14.5) and Australia (13.3).

A mean of 13.2 sexual partners would explain some of the rape statistics. It is a bit like Lotto: the chances increase the more tickets you buy (which is horrible analogy…)

I would love to know if the abusers know that they have abused, but the Who study left out half the population. Oh, while the report is a year-old, the New Zealand data is quite new, and has only been added to the site.

Nov. 30th, 2005 02:51 am (UTC)
Thank you for saying all this.
Dec. 1st, 2005 10:47 am (UTC)
You are very welcome. These posts are tough for me, so it's good to get the support.

(PS: WISCON IS GO. Working on my paper proposal now ^_^)
Nov. 30th, 2005 03:17 am (UTC)
Amen to this.
Dec. 1st, 2005 10:49 am (UTC)
Thanks. I really appreciate that you took the time to comment.
(no subject) - satou_sei - Dec. 1st, 2005 11:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2005 03:44 am (UTC)
Yes. I wanted to chime in to tell you that your expression of this issue is very powerful, and your dedication is appreciated. These are ugly facts, but examining them and turning the over in the light of day can only help. Thank you.
Dec. 1st, 2005 10:50 am (UTC)
Thank you so much. I put a lot of work into these posts, and they're always hard to make, so I really appreciate the support.
Nov. 30th, 2005 06:45 am (UTC)
I am frightened, and I am angry,

I know that far to many women feel the same way. One woman who feels that way is one too mant, but to have this global climate of fear... I struggle for words.

there are some, who are men, who want to change it. but not enough , it seems. We must mobilize, organise, unite and make the world a safer place.
i support your call to end rape and violence against women , and hope that I can influence others.
Dec. 1st, 2005 10:51 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, for speaking up, and then for going further and *acting* in support. You are awesome.
Nov. 30th, 2005 06:56 am (UTC)
Karen, I have been too busy to respond to these posts, but I have been reading them and following the conversations that ensue.
Thank you for raising these issues, and not being afraid to throw in some curly questions that provoke debate.
I don't think I can add any more to this discussion, as much of what I would like to say has already been said.
All I can summarise is that some poeple are assholes and they do what they want without thought of the consequences. Rape is just one of the facets of this. It is an awful ugly part of human nature and I hope with discussion this type of activity can be reduced.

Dec. 1st, 2005 10:54 am (UTC)
Thanks, Hilaire.

I actually am always afraid to throw those provoking questions in (at least, what I think are provoking questions. Sometimes people blow up at stuff I don't even think about, and sometimes they leave what I consider sure argument-bait completely alone). But usually I suck it up and do it anyway. It really helps to know there are people who appreciate it.
Nov. 30th, 2005 12:02 pm (UTC)
YES!!! EXACTLY. I'll stop with the caps lock now, it's not that I'm shouting, just that I vehemently agree. Thanks bazillions for saying this and I'm going to link on my journal (if I can figure out how) so spread the word a little wider (although I suspect my journal has woefully small audience, most of which is subsumed in your audience anyway).

Dec. 1st, 2005 10:55 am (UTC)
Thanks, Eli! And say it, sister. If you make a noise in the forest and someone's already heard it from me, it's still a noise!
Nov. 30th, 2005 02:21 pm (UTC)
You've stated a number of times that you've focused on male-offender rape because, outside of prison, the population of rapists is overwhelmingly male.

Walk down the street. Every 20th guy you pass, think "Him". Think about your friends. Him. Think about your family. Him. Him. Him.

The population of violent offenders is also significantly skewed to dark-skinned ethnicities. Do you modify it to every 10th Maori guy you pass you think, "Him"?

I don't think you do, but I'm using this to point out that what you advocate appears to be based on the same principles as racial profiling.
Nov. 30th, 2005 04:13 pm (UTC)
I read that point quite differently. I thought karenhealey was not advocating that it is somehow useful in stopping rape to think of men in this way, but that it is useful in understanding the horrible extent of this: just how many men there are out there that are, knowingly or unknowingly, raping.

Blatantly unnecessary race-tagging ("the defendent, who cannot be named, was a male maori...") in reporting has a similar effect to the way that women are constantly told how they should act to avoid rape: it is not designed to protect us, it is designed to make us afraid.
(no subject) - archangol - Nov. 30th, 2005 09:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - karenhealey - Dec. 1st, 2005 10:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grendelkhan - Nov. 30th, 2005 06:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - archangol - Nov. 30th, 2005 10:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - penguinonthelam - Dec. 1st, 2005 02:13 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - penguinonthelam - Dec. 1st, 2005 03:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - archangol - Dec. 1st, 2005 04:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - penguinonthelam - Dec. 1st, 2005 04:49 am (UTC) - Expand
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