For part 2, see Towards A Survivor-Centric View of Rape: Part 2
“I don’t know. Rape is complicated. There’s a lot of grey area. Maybe the woman was too provocative. Maybe the guy didn’t realize she didn’t want to have sex with him. Are we sure it wasn’t just bad sex? Bad sex isn’t rape.”
Those are all valid points, provided you’ve never actually been raped. Once you’ve been raped, all of that looks like some sort of trick or smoke screen designed by rapists and exploited to keep themselves from getting caught. It’s as if the rapists of the world all got together and said,
Hey, we got a great thing going on here, but our victims are starting to accumulate, and if they start becoming aware of each other and talking to each other, they might organize and prevent us from raping them. We need a way to keep them under control and contain them — to keep them from talking to each other and to isolate them from everybody who cares about them and who might help them. We need a good “divide and conquer” strategy.
Ok, how about this: We’ll float a rumor that rape is “complicated”, that there’s a lot of “grey area”, etc. We’ll point out that women can be provocative — no wait! — make that too provocative, yeah, that’s good. They’re so provocative those women. And we can also exploit the fact that women are afraid of us, and especially afraid of getting beat up for refusing sex, and therefore often exploit the tactic of pretending to enjoy it so that they don’t get beat up or worse. Oh, and we should play up the bad sex angle. Everybody knows most dudes are just terrible in the sack….
One tragic and widely underappreciated consequence of rape is that (remember we’re focusing on the survivor here) getting raped instantly splits the entire world — which is to say every man, woman, and child — into two camps: friends and enemies. And the test to distinguish between members of these two camps is simple: for the survivor, a friend is anybody who gives her or him the benefit of the doubt — who simply assumes the victim is being honest, or perhaps “takes it on faith”, about the fact of the rape as well as its traumatic nature.
And everybody who doesn’t do that is either a rapist, or an accomplice (unwitting or otherwise), and therefore an enemy.
“Oh, now that’s just ridiculous. Now you’re saying that I become an accomplice to rape whenever I show a little healthy skepticism?
When your skepticism can be exploited by a rapist to hide and remain free to rape again then it’s not “healthy” skepticism.
Listen, I realize that you don’t actually want to be such an accomplice. In fact, it’s precisely because I’m pretty sure that you don’t want to be some rapist’s accomplice that I’m trying to explain all of this to you. But if you really, really don’t want to help rapists get away with their crimes, then you must be sure to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone claiming to have been raped.
Unless you’ve been raped yourself, and unfortunately even if you have been raped, you may believe quite strongly and yet erroneously in what we might call the Myth of the Middle Ground. The idea here is that somewhere between a rapist and his or her victim is assumed to exist a kind of “No Man’s Land” where everybody else can stand while they ponder the evidence and try to figure out what really happened.
But from the perspective of the one who got raped, this is pure bullshit. From her point of view, there is simply no way to deprive her of the benefit of the doubt without simultaneously handing it over to her rapist. As the rape survivor sees it, there is no middle ground. It’s as if by raping her, the rapist captured the whole middle ground for himself. He captured its downtown, it’s uptown, its parks, its museums, and its shopping malls. By default, this renders virtually indistinguishable from an actual accomplice anyone who seriously tries to hold some position on that non-existent “middle ground”.