Towards A Survivor-Centric View of Rape: Part 1

Suppose some woman walks up to you and says, “hi, I just got raped”. Should you believe her? What if she’s lying? What if she’s just trying to get back at some guy who treated her badly? Maybe he just cheated on her, so now she’s going around telling everybody that he raped her. Gosh! What should you do?

If these kinds of questions trouble you, then I have some great news for you, because the situation is really not that complicated. What you do is this: you believe her.

“But what about the guy! Doesn’t he have rights? What if she’s lying!”

Yeah, yeah, I get it. Believe me. I know what you mean. Maybe she is lying. Maybe the guy is a great and wonderful person who would never actually hurt a woman. Yes, these are all valid concerns.

These are valid concerns that you should totally ignore, so that they don’t interfere with your ability to believe that the woman got raped. When a woman tells you she got raped — actually, when anyone tells you they got raped, be they woman, man, child, whoever — it is absolutely imperative that you believe that he or she got raped, no matter what. 

“But what if she’s lying!”

Yeah, yeah, we just covered that. You’re right, she might be lying. But go ahead and believe her anyway.

“But what if she’s done this in the past and even confessed that she lied, and now here she goes again!”

Nope. That doesn’t change anything. You should still believe her.

“But I don’t understand! This makes no sense. This is just crazy!”

Right, it makes no sense, to you. Most likely because you’ve never been raped. Had you ever been raped, you would know that being disbelieved is so awful, that it’s just much, much better to make the mistake of believing a liar, than it is to make the mistake of disbelieving a true rape-survivor.

“But I would never make such a mistake. I can tell the difference between a liar and a true rape survivor with perfect accuracy.”

Go back and say that out loud.

(Continue with Towards A Survivor-Centric View of Rape: Part 2)

7 Comments

  1. The words that come out of your mouth after someone says they’ve just been raped should be “What can I do to help you?” or something to that effect.
    A lot of rape survivors never report or talk about their rape because of fear of disbelief, the reporting process being further traumatizing or the (FALSE) ingrained belief that they did something to cause the rape.

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    1. Thank you, for explaining that. That sounds like excellent advice. And thanks for explaining about the fear of disbelief and the traumatizing nature of the reporting process.

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    1. Wow, thank you, bethanyk! I cannot tell you how much it means to me to me that you read that whole letter. To answer your question, no, I haven’t sent it yet. At this point I feel like it’s a waste of time. The EEOC under Trump is a very different organization from what it used to be. Trump’s acting EEOC Chair, a woman named Victoria A. Lipnic, used to work for Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, which is the same anti-labor law firm where “Batman” is currently a partner. Lipnic has stated publicly that she views the EEOC as the “underscore Employment Opportunity Commission”, suggesting that the part about equality has become something of an irrelevant appendix. Since Trump promoted her in Jan. 2017, any attempt to appeal to the EEOC became as ridiculous as a chicken asking a fox for help against one of the fox’s fox-friends.

      And please don’t feel bad if you don’t get the gang rape metaphor. The fact that you tried to understand means a great deal to me. The main thing I would like you to know is that as a result of conceptualizing my MetLife fiasco as a form of gang rape, everything I thought I understood about rape has been both transformed and elaborated — hence this whole “Survivor-Centric” view of rape. You might view this series of posts as a conversation between the old me and the new me. 🙂

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      1. Isn’t it cool to watch the old you and the new you and see how we can learn and grow and evolve.
        I read the letter and then the subsequent posts.
        I have heard the term “rape” used in other situations like “rape of the land” and the metaphor in a way that all was taken from a person (their dignity, their self esteem, their self worth, their honor, and how they were shamed for something they cannot control or help).
        I don’t know what it feels like to be gang raped. I don’t know the brutality of that KIND of rape. I have been sexually abused as a child and I have experienced date rape. I have also been held against my will with the intent to harm me and rape me. I have had some pretty awful experiences. I know that those experiences made it feel as if it took away from me as a human being. That it robbed me of who I was and that pieces of me were not only violated but stolen.
        So many of us have common feelings about different situations. Loss to me has been abandonment by my entire family because of my refusal to stay silent about the abuse. I don’t know what the death of a family member is but I think there is common ground in the feelings of loss. Just like the feelings you had of being disrespected (small word for what you experienced just can’t find the right word) and discriminated, those feelings may feel similar to feelings I have had being in a vulnerable state due to my PTSD or using my motorized scooter. What I’m trying to say is that I understand you are saying you felt ganged up on and in a sense violated. On a totally side note, I am sorry you were abused by the person while you were sweeping the floor. That is NOT ok. That is a crime. That should be validated and you should be heard for what happened to you. It should not have happened and I’m very sorry it did.

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      2. I’ve always heard that rape is not really about sex, but power, dominance, control, etc. I totally get that now, but would also add that rape is not necessarily about actual physical violence either. Rape can be extremely gentle, physically speaking. Heck, I’ve had prostate exams that were surely more physically uncomfortable than many rapes. But knowing what I know now, I would never, ever use lack of any signs of physical trauma or injury as an excuse to invalidate a survivor’s accusation of rape. Rape is fundamentally a psychological experience. To my view, when I say that I was “gang raped, figuratively speaking”, probably the vast majority of people will obsess rabidly about the “figuratively speaking” part, whereas my own nervous system is (still) obsessing about the “gang rape” part. This relative difference in value that is ascribed to the actual rape versus everything ancillary to it is what I mean by a “Survivor-Centric” view of rape. When someone says “I was raped”, I think most people will immediately begin obsessing about everything BUT the fact that the survivor was raped, when that is the part that the rape survivor is obsessing about, and (to my view) that is really what everybody else ought to be obsessing about as well.

        Regarding what you feel was stolen from you, I can’t promise this will work for you, but for me, since recognizing this difference between a survivor-centric view of rape and the alternative, and since committing myself whole-heartedly to a survivor-centric view, I am really starting to feel as if I am stealing back what was stolen from me. It’s pretty amazing, actually. I really feel like I’m healing finally. I would love to know if you can achieve something similar — if, in fact, you haven’t already figured that out on your own in some sense. Judging by the way you write about your experiences, I get the distinct impression that you’ve worked out much of this on your own. 🙂

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      3. I tried to tell someone that the other day that sex is about dominance and control and they fought me tooth and nail and I finally realized that fighting with someone over something like this is just not worth it.
        My husband worked with those types of crimes in his job and had a lot of training and so totally aside of what has happened to me he has been able to tell me the things he has learned from working such crimes and they are simply fucked up!!!!!! It is not about just oh lets have sex with this person and they don’t want that.
        I feel when I have a PTSD moment or when my Tourette syndrome is in full force and I am in panic mode that even talking , others talking to me, is invasive and like an attack on my brain.
        People are sensitive to analogies and metaphors but you mean no insult in saying how something makes your body feel.
        I understand what you are saying about getting back your power. I’ve been working on that inwardly. Yes, I have worked a LOT out on my own!!! Very perceptive.
        My writing can be intense and raw but I like to write exactly how I feel. Even when I have written about the rape experiences it has been extensive and specific in detail because I want others to know what I went through, how I felt, and then the after affects of it all so they GET why I sometimes feel the way I do now.

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