America’s Shameful Culture of Rape

A Cop Rapes a Woman at Gunpoint.

An 11-Year-Old Rape Victim is Smeared.

KBR sues a rape accuser for $2 Million.

What is it with our inability to find justice for victims? If events of the last few months have sent any sort of message to women in America it’s this:

“If you’re raped or sexually assaulted, justice won’t be on your side.”

What happens when the people who are supposed to protect you are the rapists themselves… such as when two New York cops, who were caught on video repeatedly returning to the home of an intoxicated woman to rape her, were acquitted. Jurors said it was mostly because the victim was drunk.

What happens when the press and public spend as much time parsing a victim’s history and “character” than the person accused of brutally assaulting her?

Women can’t win.

The structures, institutions and organizations supposed to help rape victims are often simply tools of a social attitude that blames them for the crimes committed against them.

This week brought the absurd announcement from KBR that it was seeking repayment of legal fees from Jamie Lee Jones, had accused her colleagues of raping her and the company of trying to cover it up but had lost her rape case in front of a jury. Al Franken still got legislation passed so it wouldn’t happen again.

And then just this week, an off-duty police officer was arrested for allegedly raping a woman at gunpoint in broad daylight, abusing his authority in the grossest way.

There is a recent story out of Springfield, MO about a young girl whose school utterly failed her after she reported her rape to authorities, instead humiliating her and sending her back to be victimized again, violently, by the boy she initially accused (he later confessed to the second crime). The school continued to deny wrongdoing and doled out punishment instead of remediation for the traumatized young woman.

Lara Logan, after being brutally raped in Egypt, had to face a firestorm of questions about whether women reporters belong in dangerous situations.

An 11-year-old girl in Texas, who was caught on video being gang-raped by 14 men and boys in an abandoned house, had to face media scrutiny when a New York Times reporter reported accusations by townspeople about the clothes she wore and her mannerisms. And the Republicans kicked off the year by repeatedly trying to sneak a new definition of rape onto the books.

What exactly is a rape culture, anyway?

Is it the assumption that comes from society’s assuming sex is a transaction involving men taking what women have to offer–but not offer too enthusiastically, lest they be deemed promiscuous–thereby creating a Catch-22 (and ignoring violence that falls outside the gender stereotype boundaries)?

Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that the only thing that the victim of every rapist shares in common is bad fucking luck.

Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that the only thing a person can do to avoid being raped is never be in the same room as a rapist.

Rape culture is avoiding talking about what an absurdly unreasonable expectation that is, since rapists don’t announce themselves or wear signs or glow purple.

This massive spate of 2011 rape cases and controversies in their wide scope and variety, and the inevitably depressing results, are a perfect illustration of the cultural problem writ large.

Let’s start with two examples from earlier this year.

The Julian Assange case:

A powerful man accused of “acquaintance rape,” based on two women’s accounts. One involved a forcible sexual encounter that began as a consensual one, and another involved penetrating a woman while she was asleep. Both women were sophisticated professionals who knew Assange, and both were alone with him when the alleged assaults took place.

Both women were blamed, smeared and their identities revealed online, accused of being part of a supposed worldwide conspiracy to bring Assange down.

 The Texas gang-rape case:

A large group of boys and men were caught on video brutally and repeatedly gang-raping a young girl. In this case, there was physical corroborating evidence, the victim was too young to legally consent, and the accused were relatively powerless men in a poor community.

The young woman was smeared when prominent newspaper stories fixated on her appearance, her dress, and her behavior rather than the demeanor and histories of the men involved.

So the lesson is clear:

If you report an unexciting rape that happened in your home while you were alone with the perpetrator, you get blamed.

If you are recorded on video being repeatedly raped by a massive number of people, you also get blamed.

If you’re a grown woman: blamed.

If you’re a child: blamed.

If it’s your word: blamed.

If there’s physical evidence: blamed.

Rape culture does not just encourage men to proceed after she says “no”.. nor does it simply teach men that a lack of physical resistance is an invitation… nor does it only tell men to assert ownership over whichever female body they desire.

Rape culture also tells women not to claim ownership over their own bodies.

Rape culture also informs women that they should not desire sex.

Rape culture also tells women that saying yes makes them bad women.

Both rape and rape accusations are products of the roles assigned by rape culture.

In the traditional seduction scenario, a woman is expected to not desire to have sex, and to only submit after the man has successfully coerced her into submission but when the preferred model for consensual sex looks a hell of a lot like rape, an array of fucked-up scenarios are inevitable:

The woman never wanted to fuck the guy, refuses to submit, and is raped;

The woman submits to the man’s coercion in order to avoid other negative consequences (like being raped);

The woman had desired the sex all along, but must defend her femininity by saying that she had been coerced into sex.

Thankfully, a good deal of modern men and women reject these antiquated ideas, but they’re far from being banished from the sexual landscape… a landscape that may seem somewhat bleak at the moment, but there’s hope in the grassroots movements for media justice and for countering the rape-culture narrative that have sprung up this year.

Online activism like a petition demanding the press retract accusatory and prurient coverage are beginning to hold the media accountable for the lens they hold to victims.

And demonstrations such as “Slutwalk”, whose message is encapsulated by the idea that nothing causes rape except a rapist and a lack of consent, is creating a powerful and conversation-starting counter-narrative to these high-profile defeats.

Where justice and authority let victims down, solidarity, activism, and a massive effort to create awareness will have to fill the breach.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42927752/ns/us_news-life/t/cops-rape-co…

— — — — —

This worrisome trend where we now have the victims of rape somehow morphing into the instigators of it…

Whether it be because of their relationship with those they accuse (even spouses).

Whether it be due to societal perceptions regarding their “promiscuous attitudes”..

Or even whether is can be blamed on their “provocative attire”..

With little doubt, we are inextricably harking back to a time when women were considered ‘property’… a time that all too many rightwing politicians and demagogues seem nostalgic for.

Sorry, but I am finding more and more that the level of intelligence, education, and any reasonable ability to cull bromidic invectives from actual facts in the ‘real world’ has now devolved to the level of complete dysfunction..

The majority of this putrescence invoked and propagated by those whose abilities are far from any grasp of the Constitution, enlightened societal values, nor any facility to recognize true wisdom when they see it.

…. that the nonsense belched by so many “half informed” people polluting the national dialogue.. those unable to analyze the differences between “victimhood” and a person who might be “accusing someone of having victimizing them” has now evolved into a perverse ‘legitimacy’..

…. that prominent republican lawmakers (a compound oxymoron if ever there was one) would actually attempt to redefine ‘rape’ in the eyes of the law, as if there is any ambiguity as to what rape really is..

…. that those insisting (in their breathtaking ignorance) that, somehow, a crime has not “officially” been committed until a conviction is obtained…

…. that those unfortunate commentators and legislators who are content to confuse the differentiation between a “crime” and a “criminal” (as if, in their self-deception, actually think that they can “actually think”) …

…. the fact that they feel that a victim of a crime wasn’t really “victimized” until a Jury deems it so..

…. that these people feel (as is proper) that those who might be accused of a criminal act is “innocent until proven guilty” can, in the same breath, opine that if the accused is acquitted, that it somehow “proves” that no crime was committed at all..

These cynical, deviant opportunists… those with the power to write our laws.. those who feel that the need to dilute the basic human rights that women hold and their freedom to accuse one who might have committed an atrocious crime against them… those attempting to de-legitimize their veracity should be called out for what they are…

Nothing more than a bunch of mindless, soulless drones… all too willing to inflict whatever damage they deem necessary solely in the name of vapid, political expedience.

ENOUGH!!

Only when those degenerate Republicans….

Those who seem to feel that it is incumbent upon them to interfere with the right a woman has to hold sovereignty over her own body..

Those who feel that women who are victimized by the sort of deviants that they proudly consider their “base”…

As soon as these “lawmakers” are willing to stand by idly and watch their wives or their sisters or their mothers or their daughters being savagely raped by the most ghastly elements of society.. the dredges of humanity…

As soon as these unapologetic misogynists will agree to pay the expenses and raise the progeny of these heinous crimes..

As soon as these who tout “personal responsibility”, even in the face of their own hypocrisy.. and agree to pay for the lifetime of therapy that is needed for women who have been violated so that they can even marginally deal with what happened to them and try to have some semblance of a “life”…

Only then, will their opinions have any real credence.

Until then, they should just shut the fuck up.

  1. Excellent post but I would expand it to a huge problem in most male dominated cultures. They all have a horrible record on rape it does not matter if its East, West, North and South.

    The problem in the US is things where getting better with the rape shield laws and such but when states are forcing victims to pay for their own rape kits and states are trying to force victims of rape to have their babies it’s getting worse.

    This is not a left right issue either.

    About the biggest thing I did not like personally about Hillary Clinton was how she attacked a 12 year old rape victim on the witness stand to get a rapist off. I know the liberal line about defense but hearing the account of the story she victimized the girl twice.

    Dunno how the Julian Assange case can be blamed on the US when it happned in Swedan though.

  2. Doc, this is an excellent post. This is THE most evident and obvious symptom of a justice system that frequently does not dispense it.

    Other examples show up in our system all the time. The housing crisis for example: Sure there were a lot of Americans that bought homes they couldn’t afford with money they didn’t have, but Wall Street took the mortgages and re-packaged them into a hundred trillion dollars of un-secured derivatives.

    Blaming poor homeowners for the collapse of the housing bubble is like blaming uranium miners in Africa for the nukes that we built.

    But I know you hear it all the time….”If only those poor homeowners hadn’t taken out mortgages and TEMPTED those banks into creating exotic investments, none of this would have happened…”

  3. Women are second class citizens in this country. In the world at large.

    People get mad at me for saying that but I’m willing to debate anyone who believes men and women are treated equally in this country.

    But women have always been treated unfairly.

    You ever heard the story of Medusa? The snake headed gorgon. A myth, of course, but a window into society at the time.

    Medusa was a beautiful priestess in the Temple of Athena. The most beautiful priestess who had chosen a life of celibacy in service of Athena. One day the god Poseidon, desiring her for her beauty, rapes her in the temple.

    Enraged at Medusa for this act, Athena turns her hair into serpents and disfigures her appearance so that all men who look at her turn to stone. Athena most likely envied her mortal beauty and took the chance to punish her.

    At this point in Greek society, rape was a crime. But not like you think. The rapist was not guilty. The victim was the guilty one. Being raped was a crime. Not raping. Being raped.

    3,000 years later and we really haven’t come all that far.

    • 3000 years and we are moving BACKWARDS.

      The Roman Empire was a paralytic, sclerotic, thousand-year survival that only managed to exist by being propped up by the strength of and the inertia of apathy.

      Sound familiar?

  4. Oh BRAVO, BSM!

    Attitudes about women in general may have improved somewhat in the past 50 years. We see more women in positions of importance, both in business and in government. But there is still that undercurrent of “she’s just a woman…don’t pay her any attention”. This reminds me of the 3/5 rule about blacks during and immediately after slavery. Women are simply just not valued as men are. We are still looked upon as so much property, not capable, not entitled to an equal wage for equal work, not equal in the eyes of the law. How could we be equal if, even as the victims of heinous crimes, we must have “asked for it”? How could we be seen as equal if our President in 2009 must pass a “Fair Pay” law?

    Admiring Dr. Martin Luther King as I did, I supported equal rights for African Americans. But the biggest disappointment of my life was the fact that the Equal Rights Amendment for women was defeated.

    How can it be that the majority (approximately 52%) of the American people STILL are not considered equal under the Constitution?

    The culture of rape is not one that will be easily changed. We see so much violence against women in our movies and TV. Not until women stand together and demand that victims’ rights be upheld, not until we demand fair treatment by the police, courts and by the press that sensationalizes every salacious story, not until we demand that the entertainment business stops portraying women as sex objects, not until we are deemed equal under the Constitution will we see a change. Perhaps it is time to bring back the ERA!

    Sorry to get on a rant…you hit a nerve! Thanks for your post! :-)

    • I will rant with you. I am not ashamed to say that I woke up with a knife at my throat in my own home. I went through a trial in which all 6 victims told their stories. He was convicted, but only for one of the rapes. One of the victims was 13 years old.

      He got five years in prison. Who is he bothering now? Prior to the rapes, he was kicked out of a state mental hospital for beating two staff people. He was put back on the street because he was too violent. He raped six women. Two of them were almost killed.

      I tell this because I worked with the police and victim groups after my rape. I am not ashamed to tell my story. It is vital that we do.

      Blue State Man thank you for being so sensitive to this issue.

      • Dorothy, I am so glad you shared your story with us. That took courage and I certainly do respect that. It’s hard to believe that this man only received what amounts to a slap on the wrist for his crimes.

        This is so unfair and it contributes to the reasons that so many rapes go unreported. What’s the point of going through the horrible humiliation of the police investigation and the legal process if they aren’t going to put these animals behind bars for the rest of their lives? Recidivism rates are high…approximately 20%, but yet they continue to let them out to rape again. Rehabilitation for sex offenders is quite another whole topic we could discuss all night!

        I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier, but I’m glad I did tonight. I hope that you have fully recovered from your ordeal. Let’s pray that no other woman will ever have to go through what you did…not likely that this could be, but we can hope!

        • Thanks Emerald. Unfortunately, many rape victims to this day have to prove they did nothing wrong. There are certainly more victim services for rape victims than there used to be.

  5. BSM, I hope you don’t mind me reposting this story I told on the other site:

    This reminds me of an incident in a small town I lived in. The high school quarterback and his buddy, an all-conference linebacker, came up with a “scheme” to get girls drunk, and then they would rape them while they were too drunk to resist.

    They got away with this for two years, then finally four of the girls they had raped came forward and told the police. It turns out there were several other girls involved, but they were too afraid to come forward.

    There was a really ugly trial that split the town. I was shocked at some of the letters I read in the paper; people — mostly parents of other football players — blaming the girls, saying they had to take responsibility, too, for getting drunk; claiming the two football players were being railroaded. I was horrified at some of these letters. I couldn’t believe in this day and age people still had the mentality of blaming the victims.

    We were friends with the aunt of one of the victims. The girls took all kinds of shite at school, they even took shite from some parents, they got called sluts and worse. The two football players were convicted and got a couple of years in adult prison (they were convicted as juveniles, but they were over 18 by the time they held the trial). But, the girls all had to leave town. The whole episode was just sickening. I really lost respect for some people I knew.

    Now, after I posted this story, someone actually responded that the girls put themselves in that situation … i.e, subtly suggesting it was their fault. This was obviously someone who doesn’t “get it,” nor is capable of “getting it.” His comments were identical to the ones I saw in the town blaming the girls … “well, what were they doing getting drunk in the first place…?” etc., etc.

    I continue to be horrified by our society’s initial reaction of looking for ways to blame the victim.