Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Rape Story

False rape accusations: the New Misogynists are obsessively fearful about this. Even though the statistical probability of being raped themselves far outweighs the chances of being falsely accused of raping someone else.

A long time ago, in a rural community in western Colorado, I was assigned to be a personal advocate for a sixteen year old girl who had been raped. My role was never clearly delineated, but basically I was available to drive and accompany her to appointments, to help her navigate the criminal justice system, and to just be a friend in need.

I was awful at all of this. I had no idea how to do anything but try to sympathize with her, and even that was difficult because frankly, I found her to be -- at least initially -- a highly unsympathetic character. A high school dropout with bleached hair, shredded jeans, dirty bare feet encased in three inch patent leather "fuck me" pumps, raccoon eyes glaring at the world, she dared the world to pity her. She was sullen, defensive, resentful, and uncommunicative with both her estranged mother and me, the two harried, helpless matrons who doggedly flanked her throughout the process, deigning only to address me when she wanted me to run for coffee, candy, or cigarettes. Like most of the victims of domestic and sexual violence I met while volunteering at the project, she failed to meet my ideals of what a "good victim" should be.  

Yes, I am aware that all of this speaks much more harshly about me than her: my arrogant expectations, my insatiable appetite to be recognized, my clueless class privilege.

And I was initially as skeptical of her story as anyone else in the community:

She had gone over to her boyfriend's house, a cabin in the woods, even though she knew her boyfriend wasn't home at the time. She had agreed to play a drinking game with the boyfriend's roommate. Within a short time, she was drunk. When the roommate jumped on her, tore off most of her clothes, and attempted intercourse, she ran away. Now she wanted him to be tried for assault. Her primary concern was to be vindicated in the eyes of her boyfriend, who, in response to her accusations, had immediately distanced himself from her and allied himself with his buddy. In other words, it was easy to characterize her as just another girl who had made some foolish choices, and sought a rape conviction in order to avoid being "slut-shamed."

And then I heard her tell a detective a part of the story I hadn't heard before. And these details changed my whole perspective, and made it impossible for me not to believe her. In an attempt to escape her assailant, she had fled the cabin naked save for her socks, and dashed through subzero temperatures down the frozen moonlit rural road. As the accused took after her in his jeep, she dodged into the dark woods and stood waist deep in a snowbank for twenty minutes until she was sure that he had given up pursuing her. She then proceeded to stagger half a mile through the woods to a house with lights on, where she found refuge. The neighbors there drove her to the hospital where she was treated for hypothermia.

The jury believed her story, too, as it turned out. The young man was convicted; he wound up serving several months as I recall. This was no triumph for the girl, whose reputation in the town was now in tatters, and who finally, at the sentencing, gave in to a cascade of bitter tears because -- despite the conviction -- she had lost her boyfriend's "love."

I have personally known several women who reported being raped. (I don't know anyone who has been falsely accused of rape.) In all cases the accused rapist was arrested, tried, and convicted. And in all cases the women who endured not only the rape, and the trial, but also the aftermath of trial, suffered long past the conviction of their assailants. They suffered not only from PTSD, but also from the loss of dignity, privacy, employment, friends, and even family members. The attention female rape victims get is not something any sane person would seek, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that for male rape victims, it's even worse.

I'm not saying, of course, that false rape accusations are never made: I expect that occasionally they are. But my own experience suggests that they are rare. That rape isn't always proven (because one or both of the parties were too addled by alcohol to provide credible testimony) is not evidence that women are likely to falsely accuse men of rape. The JuicyJuice's story of fighting his own "false rape accusation" is a case in point. Instead of citing his expensive, stressful ordeal as proof that rape victims are liars, I wish the young men who read it would draw the following conclusion:

Having sex with someone who is too drunk to give consent is not only unethical, it is not likely to validate your ego or satisfy your quest for pleasure. If seduction is, after all, a "game," it is about as "sporting" as shooting a tranquilized lion tethered to a pole. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, it is putting you at risk of being accused of rape. You may or may not be convicted, but the outcome either way will cost you, and it will haunt your future. 

Silence is not consent. Chemically-induced immobility is not a green light (and what are you, a necrophiliac?). If a potential partner has not enthusiastically and unambiguously signaled his/her desire to proceed, stop. It's just that simple. Why is this hard to understand?


  1. I had a roomie at military school who was raped. Whole episode haunts me to this day. It's a complicated story but she was kind of a free-spirited, petty rule-breaker whose escapades had strained a lot of people's patience (including mine) before she got raped at a party she wasn't supposed to be at.

    Everyone saw "Not Supposed To Be There... AGAIN!" and it really overshadowed the rape, which was "well, he said/she said" and "I'm not saying it's RIGHT, but she wasn't even supposed to BE there!"

    He got off with less than a slap on the wrist, but she got demoted, given extra duty, psych evals... and she just really deteriorated in front of my eyes. Can you imagine? If she was a rape victim, there she was pulling weeds 15 hours a week, career derailed, a pariah to everyone around her, while her rapist walks smug and free. That freaking guy came to talk to me about it before she did, and quoted REM lyrics to bolster his position (!!lol)

    Eventually she got booted out, but watching her spiral downward was really awful and it took months before they cut her loose.

    To my lasting shame, I was too busy and selfish then to extend her a meaningful olive branch. From the start, I had felt like getting embroiled in her life risked derailing mine. I also felt like she was a spoiled rich girl who'd never met a rule that applied to her before. She had margins for error, soft places to fall back. I did not. I had to follow the rules. She wasn't even supposed to be there! Envy and resentment and pity and disdain all mixed together. More than a decade later I still don't have a firm grasp on it.

    But I could have afforded to give her something better than a cold shoulder. It's frustrating now because I feel like these kinds of situations are deep near the hear of how we police female behavior. (and then we say, "Women are so conformist!") lmao

    1. It's easy to look back and know how we should've acted, but not so easy at the time.

      Decades ago I was in a situation where I was abroad on some scheme and a girl in my group who I had only known a few days was raped while unconscious. She wouldn't have known it had happened, only another girl we shared a room with came in and saw the guy on top of her after he'd helped carry her to the room. The next day she told me what she'd seen and we had the unenviable job of telling her she'd been raped.

      I tried to handle it sensitively, but looking back I made a right hash of it. I was completely out of my depth.

      No charges were filed. Initially she just wanted to move on and pretend it never happened, and the organization we were staying with didn't want the police involved, so the guy was kicked out and that was it. Of course as the nights went on she kept getting blind drunk and obsessing over what had happened, she kept saying he'd taken away her right to say yes and no. I did urge her to go home, tell her family and get therapy, but I didn't do a very good job of it, like I said, out of my depth. Eventually she was kicked out herself for persistent drunkeness, and I later heard that a lot of people doubted our story as they thought her too unattractive to get raped, nice.

      I've been criticized by other people over the years for not going to the police myself, but what was I supposed to do, go and say that a man who had left the country had raped a girl who had also left the country and that she didn't want to press charges?

    2. Thank you for this comment, Anon.

    3. When you said, 'military school' I was thinking of a high school military school. But then you said, "career derailed". Was this boot camp?

    4. When you said, 'military school' I was thinking of a high school military school. But then you said, "career derailed". Was this boot camp?

      It was the occupational specialty training school between boot camp and people's first real assignments. Boot camp is just where you learn the super-super-basic common core stuff and get physically up to speed, and where they weed out people who are clearly a poor fit. so she'd already gotten through that part.

      Then they send you on to a more technical training program where you learn to do your actual job. You learn how to be a flight mechanic or a medic or an artilleryman or whatever. That was where I met her.

      She was actually really technically proficient, but she had a hard time dealing with the "military" side of things. People like that got treated worse than someone who was all spit and polish and yes-sir, but kind of marginal at the technical stuff.

  2. A moving post. Thank you, Cinzia.

  3. Like you have met a few rape victims. Unlike you, I know a few whose attackers got off. I've never met anyone who was falsely accused of rape.

    1. I've known loads of rape victims, I don't know a single one who even reported it.

      I get so angry when I see the current maxim 'If she didn't go to the police then it didn't happen' and variations there of, which seem to be a manosphere favorite at the moment. I feel like they're accusing all these women I've known of being liars.


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