Sunday, July 3, 2016

Don't You Dare!

Caveat: I am a storyteller. I stretch, bend, twist, turn and invent the truth as needed & from my POV.

While sitting at my local Starbucks with some of my comrades-in-caffeine, a group of young women entered enthusiastically. It was a hot day and they'd obviously spent some recent time in the sun. In an admiring and disparaging tone, one of the men in our group commented on the skimpy clothing on a couple of the young women. I was in conversation with another person and chose to ignore him. The woman sitting next to him commented, "And they wonder why they might get raped." Before I knew what was happening, I snapped, "Don't you dare!" and pointed at her. "Don't you dare blame them for wearing whatever they choose. They are not responsible for the actions of some men who choose not to control their own impulses." I was livid. Almost immediately, I apologized for my vehemence. The woman on my left put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Don't worry about it, sister. I have your back on this one." Another man in the group related a story of an investigator who needed to be removed from an assault investigation because his first question was, What did she (the victim) do to bring this on? I realized others were as stunned as I was, though I was the only one who spoke with such fierceness.

I later realized that I was not sorry about what I said. I responded to an appalling comment. Victim-blaming is rampant in our culture. The 'boys will be boys' excusing of behavior overwhelms common sense. It is why approximately 67% of rapes are never reported. It is why 99.4% of perpetrators never go to prison. (according to RAINN) Rape is considered the most grossly under-reported crime in the US.

Our group's conversation turned to Brock Allen Turner, the former Stanford swimmer who received a very light slap on the wrist for his rape of an unconscious woman. His father, Dan Turner, wrote "That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life." and complained because his son has to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Well, Mr. Turner, that's what he is. I mentioned to the group the letter Brock Turner's victim wrote and read in court. Did anyone read it? Indeed, a couple of people had. Another couple of people never heard of it. Some side-stepped it with a comment that this kind of writing 'gets to them' too much. Again, I found my fierce voice saying, "It should get to us. That's why I felt the need to read it. I want to honor the woman's courage and her willingness to speak her truth."

At heart, I acknowledge that my strong response was triggered by a comment blaming the victims ~ especially poignant to me because it was made by a woman. What I know is that I live in a culture that does less than it could or should to prevent rape. I live in a culture more willing to blame the victim than to look at its own shadowy protection of its people of privilege. I live in a culture that coddles its male progeny and too often excuses their violent behavior. I live in a culture where women remain second-class citizens in many instances ~ and are also kept there by their sisters who have bought into the perpetrated blame game.

What do you know about rape? Has anyone ever told you s/he has been raped? What is your first reaction when you hear someone's been raped? (honestly) What can you do to change our rape culture and victim-blaming?

1 comment:

  1. Good for you for speaking up!! People have very weird perceptions about the crime of sexual assault, which is a crime of violence, just like robbery, carjacking, or other assaults. Rape culture is a term which is being used more and more lately, and I think it's useful - a culture in which rape seems to get a pass in many situations. Speaking up, as you did, when people make assumptions is a very good thing to do - just like objecting to racist jokes or comments. People have ingrained attitudes that need to be challenged. You did that! Yay ML!