It’s not victims’ responsibility to report rape

A fairly well-known fact about me:  I read the comments.

I was reading the comments on Ophelia Benson’s post about how she is not attending TAM due to emailed threats, and I came across some comments arguing that it’s Ophelia Benson’s responsibility to prosecute the assholes sending threats because it’s victims’ responsibility to report rape.

They ranged from the horrendously offensive:

look it’s all ok for people to say she can decide what she wants to do with the threats. NO IT IS NOT!

if you are raped and do not report it and someone else is raped, you are partially responsible for that rape.

In this case, Ophelia has an obligation to report the threat and to share with other women, jerk men do not just attend TAM. They ATTEND lots of skeptic/humanist conferences. NOT outing this guy and reporting him, is like “oh well, I’m safe, good luck to the rest of you women.”

No, as a woman Ophelia has an obligation to her fellow women to keep them safe, and also to make sure these guys don’t “win”. To say “I quit” is to say “you win jerk man that has threatened me” and he has learned “wow threatening women really works well! I will try it more often!”

–Willow

to the irrelevantly hypothetical:

No question willow is being tonedeaf… But let’s indulge the thought experiment with a bit of an adjustment:

Someone witnesses a rape taking place and dosent stop or report it and the perp continues to rape, to what degree, if any, is the witness responsible for the subsequent rapes?

I’m sincerely interested in how people would consider this scenario.

–Jesuslovesbags

to the but-it-worked-for-me-therefore-everyone-should-do-it.

You know, I spent at least 7 years of my childhood in an abusive situation. If I had given up because people didn’t listen to me due to being a child, I never would have found people who did listen and spent my whole childhood being sexually abused. I believe in not giving up and to keep trying until someone listens and does something. I have two words for people who deny, belittle, mock, ignore, enable, etc when it comes to sexual harassment and abuse, but I won’t say those two words here. Research on the matter be damn and don’t give up until someone listens and does something to help. It may take a long time, but someone will eventually do something to help the victim, so they can eventually be a survivor.

–Mriana

I’m someone who was raped and didn’t report it, so make of my offense what you will.  I’m also someone who witnessed domestic violence and didn’t report it and a recipient who witnessed death threats and suicide threats and didn’t report it.  I don’t feel guilty about not-reporting any of these events.

I’m also a victim of credit-card fraud who didn’t report it (it was something like a $20 charge from a convenience store after I left my wallet on a train.  I just canceled the card.)  I don’t feel guilty about not-reporting that either.

The domestic violence I didn’t report because I was 4 and didn’t know what to do or really believe that it was actually a serious situation.  The death threats and suicide threats I didn’t report because I had already ruined his life and put him in this unstable state, so how could I send him for a stay in the mental hospital as well?  Those aren’t very relevant to this situation, so let’s talk about why I didn’t report the rape.

First, I had other shit to do.  I had a new full-time job and I didn’t know how to call in sick and say I was raped and would be out today getting an exam at the hospital (but I’d be checking email periodically).  I did not see the point of spending that amount of time and money on something that wouldn’t make the rape any better anyway.

Second, I had very little evidence.  He didn’t come inside me and I wasn’t injured, so I only mayyybe had DNA to prove that sex occurred and nothing else.  And given that consent is a defense and the prosecution is responsible for proving lack of consent, I had little chance of getting a conviction anyway.  Who’s to say I didn’t invite him back to my apartment for consensual sex?  Well, me, but given the cultural narratives around rape, I wasn’t going to bet on convincing a jury of that.

Third, I felt disgusted and ashamed after the whole experience and couldn’t imagine going through a physical exam or a police report with intrusive questions about my sexuality, and I certainly couldn’t imagine going through a jury trial in which I would have to testify.  (I still have a really hard time saying the word “rape” out loud, and I have a hard time talking about sex in any non-hypothetical way.)

Fourth, I wasn’t even really sure how to report it, or where to go.  Would I call 911, even though this wasn’t an Emergency that was happening Right Now?   I assume now that I would call my local police non-emergency line, but I was not thinking clearly at all in the direct aftermath of the assault.

Basically, my focus post-rape was on keeping my life going, not on Taking a Stand for Justice that was incredibly unlikely to be successful.  And if you want to tell me that I was WRONG!!1! to do that, the burden of proof is on you.

Terrible advice and online dating

My mom called me the other day, and I made the mistake of telling her some inconsequential thing my boyfriend had said about our respective career paths.  How he would move if he got a really good job opportunity, or how I might move, and how maybe we would just take a break and see how it goes if that happened.

Which, to me, is totally reasonable.  I’m almost pathologically unsure about what I want out of life, and I don’t believe in the concept of “The One” or anything.  And I’m a pretty serious loner, so I’m pretty sure I would be Just Fine if Boyfriend and I were separated.

Anyway, my mom took this opportunity to give me some Really Terrible Advice.  It went like this:

1)  Boyfriend is obviously not committed enough to your relationship.  This is your fault for the following reasons:

a)  You give him too many compliments, therefore making him feel cocky and take you for granted.

b)  You don’t have enough going on in your life besides him.  (Note:  I have a full time job and am taking grad classes.)

2)  Solving this problem is of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE.  Drop whatever else you were planning to do this year, and begin internet dating in an effort to make him jealous.

Lol, wut?

I don’t really feel like spelling out exactly why this advice is bad and wrong–I hope it is self-evident–but suffice it to say that I won’t be following that advice.

My only qualm about totally ignoring the advice, and the reason I’m writing about the advice at all, is that I’m having a bit of a who-am-I-to-know moment about it.  I’m young, and my last relationship before this one was totally dysfunctional and abusive.  At the time, I was pretty sure that I knew how relationships worked.  There were good times and bad times!  Relationships require work!  Sometimes you will fight!  Sometimes your partner will annoy you!  And if the bad times outweighed the good, if the relationship work was endangering your real work, if the fights were really screaming fits followed by sulking until you agreed that you were wrong and bad and hurtful, and if your partner did not give a shit that he was annoying you–well, you just had to put up with that, since that was how Relationships Work, and you wouldn’t want to be an immature, illogical, unfair, emotional Relationship Killer.  Suffice it to say, I did not actually understand how relationships should work.

I’ve learned a lot, in the year-and-a-bit since I got out of that relationship.  But now I find myself totally questioning my judgment when it comes to good and bad advice about relationships.  I think that normal relationships don’t involve manipulating each other via threatening to find a New Shiny Person, but I’ve never had a multi-year relationship that didn’t involve a flaming asshole, so who am I to know?  Am I being naive about this?  Is my life DOOMED TO FAILURE because I don’t feel like finding some dude on OkCupid for the sole purpose of making my boyfriend jealous?

That last one is facetious, I hope.  But the advice comes across as some ridiculous The Rules shit (I haven’t read The Rules).  It’s not like I secretly wish I were internet dating and Boyfriend is holding me back.  (Really, if Boyfriend and I broke up, I think I would probably be single for awhile and concentrate on my career, and then date women.  Even though then I would have to come out to my family.  But I digress.)  The thought of internet dating makes me want to throw up and then never leave my apartment again.  Digging through profiles trying to connect with someone, dealing with creepy messages from random-ass dudes (and couples!), meeting people I might not even like for the express purpose of determining whether or not we should have sex, definitely getting sexually harassed, maybe getting raped again–none of this seems fun to me.

I do kind of wonder how much my distaste for the idea of Trying to Meet Dudes is fear of creepiness/harassment/rape.  Creepiness is ubiquitous, as in, if I’m a woman, on the Internet, or in a bar or at a meetup group or wherever (actually, maybe I should start a Grouchy Sex-Negative Feminist meetup group; possibly (with enough vigilance) we could scare away the creepers), I’m going to get unwanted sexual attention from men.  Harassment (which I’m defining here loosely as repeated unwanted sexual attention) is more of an every-few-months sort of thing if I’m social in a mixed-gender group without a male escort.  Rape–well, at this point, I’ve only been raped once, but it was really more than enough, thank you very much.  And the desire to avoid creepiness, harassment, and rape is pretty much outweighing my desire to go out into the world and make new friends, and it’s DEFINITELY outweighing any desire I might otherwise feel for new male sexual partners.

It’s not like it would make my mother happy anyway, if I were to start internet dating.  I have had two boyfriends a few times in my life, and each time she disapproved.  So I think I’m just going to stick to my instincts on this one, and leave my OkCupid profile deactivated.

Dear brain:

Exercise–like the 40-mile bike ride I did yesterday–is supposed to make you sleep soundly, not flop around all night with racing thoughts that don’t even make any damn sense.  Please take note.

Biking at night feels amazing

It’s cool outside and the traffic is less (Boston is a pretty early-to-bed city, especially when most of the students are home for the summer), and the air on my face and the lights flashing by give me the illusion that I’m holding still and the bike moves the world around me.

I hope I’m not turning into an obnoxious cliche-spouting bike-evangelist.  Boyfriend says he will stop me before it gets that bad, but if I start talking about how much better the world would be if all the cars were replaced with bikes, please, blog, just put me out of my misery.

Today in the bike lane I saw…

  • a white Mustang with blue racing stripes.  DO WANT.
  • a Hummer with the logos of one of those apartment rental companies painted all over it.  Seriously, why does this exist?

My code is not working

…I will die a miserable failure.

Consent is not the default (my wacky rape-prosecution scheme)

Content Note:  This post isn’t graphic or personal, but it is about rape and the legal system.

I’ve been kicking around this idea about how “beyond a reasonable doubt” applies to rape cases.  In the American (USian) justice system, we have this idea that “beyond a reasonable doubt” requires physical evidence of a struggle to prove that the victim really didn’t want sex–zir word is not sufficient evidence of this.  In other words, when sex has occurred, even if a party to the sex says it was rape, the default assumption is that the sex was consensual.

We don’t do this for other crimes.  If Bob says Joe stole his TV, and Joe is found to have the TV, we don’t assume that Bob actually gave Joe the TV and therefore no crime was committed, and we certainly don’t assume that Bob probably gave Joe the TV with the intention of framing him for theft, or that Bob gave Joe the TV and then regretted it and therefore accused him of theft.  (We don’t say that Joe couldn’t help himself because Bob went and owned a TV right in front of him, either, but that’s another topic.)

Comparing rape to property crimes isn’t really accurate, though, given that sex is an activity, not an object.  I think a better analogy might be battery.  Let’s say Joe and Bob both participate in a combat sport–maybe boxing.  If Joe and Bob are in court because Bob punched Joe in the face, a jury’s default assumption is not going to be that Joe asked Bob to punch him.  Even if Joe and Bob have punched each other before in the context of boxing, the default belief is that assault is not consensual, so it’s far easier for Joe to get a conviction than it would be were it a rape case.

(A quick note about false accusations of rape:  they’re difficult to measure, but there isn’t evidence that rape is more often falsely reported than other crimes are, or that false accusations of rape are more likely to result in a conviction than false accusations of any other crime.  See Shakesville’s post on rape culture .  I’m not interested in proving this exhaustively, and if you’re interested in arguing about this using the existing data then go ahead and fuck right off, thanks.)

So anyway, I was thinking about Twisty Faster’s Wacky Consent Scheme the other day, and I had this not-very revolutionary idea about how the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof for criminal cases should work for rape cases.  Basically, if you have proved (beyond a reasonable doubt) that:

  1. Alleged!Victim and Alleged!Rapist had sex, and
  2. Alleged!Victim says it was rape,

and the defense is consent, then the responsibility for proving consent falls to the defense.  Just like if the defendant were found with Bob’s stolen TV, or if the defendant admitted to punching Joe in the face, the defendant must demonstrate that Alleged!Victim wanted the sex.  Not resisting hard enough to leave physical evidence does not demonstrate consent, any more than not having injuries after your TV was stolen demonstrates that you actually gave the TV as a gift.  Not screaming “NO” so that some third party can hear you does not demonstrate consent, any more than not screaming “NO” demonstrates that you wanted to be punched in the face.

What would count as evidence of consent?  Off the top of my head, a third party heard Alleged!Victim screaming “Yes!” throughout the entire act, Alleged!Victim had a motive and a previous conviction for making a false police report; Alleged!Victim told a third party zie planned to make a false police report; there is written evidence from after the fact that Alleged!Victim consented to the sex (obviously, while sober); there is written evidence that Alleged!Victim planned to make a false report.  So not nothing, but not “they went out for dinner first” either.

Sadly, given the rape culture we live in (read that Shakesville post!), this is unlikely ever to be implemented.  So what can you, my (imaginary) reader, do to reduce the incidence of rape?  Simple:  before you have sex, makedamn sure your partner wants to be there.  Go ahead and say “Do you want to have sex?”, making it clear that “No” is an acceptable answer, and if don’t get a yes, don’t have sex.

If you’re worried, this is likely to protect you from “false” accusations of rape, as well.

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