Towards A Survivor-Centric View of Rape: Part 3

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”.

 

Towards A Survivor-Centric View of Rape: Part 2

For part 1, see Towards A Survivor-Centric View of Rape: Part 1

“But if women know they’ll be believed automatically, then all men will live in constant fear of being accused of rape, even if they didn’t actually rape anyone!”

Yup, that’s the idea. At the moment, it’s rape victims who live in fear of being accused of lying about being raped, which is much, much worse. So a truly survivor-centric view of rape — where all accusations of rape are assumed to be true by default — would shift the burden of fear off of the rape survivor, where it should never have been in the first place. If you’ve ever been raped, you know what I’m talking about. If you have never been raped, then maybe you should suspend judgment while you reconsider your position.

But really your concerns about false accusations of rape are both misplaced and grossly underestimated. Your concerns are misplaced because really they belong strictly to everyone who is not the actual rape survivor. The idea here is that this is a survivor-centric view of rape we are discussing, which means it’s the rape survivor that matters above everybody else, especially the folks who are afraid of being falsely accused. Yes, definitely, they surely matter, but that’s really a different subject altogether. What to do about that problem will have to be put off to the side while we figure out how best to help actual rape survivors.

And your concerns are also grossly underestimated, because it’s not just all men who will live in constant fear of being accused of rape. We will all have that problem — even the rape survivor herself. What’s more, parents will be especially afraid that their sons and daughters might one day be falsely accused of rape, and thus highly motivated to teach their children about the importance of respecting the rights of others. That won’t eliminate the risk entirely, of course, but as a general rule of thumb, the more respectful you are toward others, the less likely someone will accuse you of rape, falsely or otherwise.

The basic rule of a survivor-centric view of rape can be summarized, thus:

If anybody claims to have suffered a rape, then by default you should believe them — no matter what. It is much, much better to falsely accuse someone of rape, than it is to disbelieve a genuine rape survivor. The very last thing you should do is accidentally disbelieve someone who was actually raped. However bad it is for someone to be falsely accused of rape, it is much, much worse to get raped and then on top of that have to cope with people disbelieving you.

(Continue with Towards A Survivor-Centric View of Rape: Part 3)

 

 

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)

Who Started It? — Toward a Theory of the Pseudo-victim

It’s not always easy to tell the difference between aggression and self-defense. Especially as a parent of 6-year-old boy-girl twins, I’m constantly having to figure out “who started it”. But this problem is not restricted to the disputes of childish children. Plenty of childish adults also struggle to figure out “who started it”. It would appear that people only hate to be victims until they’ve been accused of acting aggressively. Apparently, being accused of acting aggressively is much, much worse than being known as the victim of someone else’s aggression. It really seems to me that most interpersonal conflicts boil down to a struggle for victim status — a contest for the “prize” of “being the victim”. Few interpersonal conflicts cannot be paraphrased as follows:

A: I am the victim here.

B: No way, I am the victim.

A: Hah! You think so, eh? Well, I say I am the victim because you did Z!

B: Because I did Z? What are you talking about? I only did Z because you did Y. Thus, I am the victim. I am the victim of your unprovoked aggression!

A: Whoa! “Unprovoked”? Are you kidding me? I’m the victim! You’re the aggressor! The only reason I did Y was because you had done X! What else was I supposed to do after you did X?

B: But I was entitled to do X! That was my right, because of the way you had so callously done W! If you didn’t want anyone to do X then you never should have done W…etc., so forth, ad infinitum,…

Crazy, right? I never know what to think about this situation. Clearly they can’t both be the victim. Or can they? Hmmm. Now, there’s a thought. But it’s an unusual thought, perhaps worth thinking about. But in the meantime, if we just go with the normal way of understanding these situations, then just one of the pretenders-to-the-title-of-victim can be the real victim. The other pretender is just, well, pretending. He or she is a pseudo-victim — someone who is just trying to look like a victim, no doubt to benefit from the sympathy that the rest of us all tend to feel for real victims; and of course the consequent time, attention and other resources we donate toward helping them. The pseudo-victim is a kind of cheater, or malingerer.

 


Image Credit: Pixabay

Autism Is Not An Intellectual Disability

Portrait of Albert Einstein

Evidence suggests 62% of autistic people have normal to superior intelligence. Although it’s too late to give Einstein a formal diagnosis, biographical evidence strongly suggests he was autistic. Image Credit: Pixabay

I’m wondering how common it may be for people to misunderstand autism as some form of intellectual disability. To the extent that someone were to misunderstand autism in this way, we might predict that he or she would find it hard to believe that a given autistic person actually has any sort of disability at all, given the lack of an intellectual one.

I suppose the argument would look something like, “Mr. Autistickish may have autism, but he clearly does not have any sort of intellectual disability, therefore he’s not disabled.” Such a conclusion may seem especially warranted if the skeptic believes the commonly held false belief that mere intellectual prowess (a.k.a. “intelligence”) — is the beginning and end of successful achievement.

According to a 2008 study by the Center for Disease Control, it does appear that some 38% of autistic children also have an intellectual disability, which suggests that if all you know about a person is that they are autistic, and you simply guess that the person also has an intellectual disability, you’d be correct about 38% of the time, and those aren’t terrible odds. But it also implies you’d be wrong 62% of the time, which is to say that autism predicts normal to superior intellectual functioning much more often than not.

The upshot here is that autism — however often it may be associated with intellectual disability — is not at all the same thing.

 

 

One Good Reason Not To Use Autism As An Excuse, Perhaps

hand_holding_ace_hearts

Yesterday, I played the so-called “A-card”. In doing it, I actually said to my wife, “Uh, I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to play the autism card here”.

Then a short while later I think I figured out at least one good answer to the question I posed a few days ago in my post So…Why Can’t I Use Autism As An Excuse? Having accomplished this, I proceeded to feel like quite an A-hole for having played the A-card, apologized to my wife for having done so, and committed to making proper amends for the gaffe I had committed — the very reason I thought I needed an excuse in the first place.

Now, although I really do regret blaming autism for my gaffe and have resolved to be much more careful going forward about doing that, I also happen to believe that it really was my autistic neurology that caused the gaffe — in particular, my gift/curse ability to achieve some truly ecstatic states of autistic “hyperfocus”, to the point where I can occasionally become hazardously absent-minded¹.

What happened yesterday is that I was supposed to bring my kids to a birthday party for a classmate after lunch, and all morning long my thought-furnace had been cooking up solutions to a particular problem that’s been bugging me recently. Well, lunchtime came and went and a couple of hours later I suddenly remembered the party. As it turned out, the 6-year-old birthday boy had been really looking forward to my kids’ coming to his party, and he waited and waited and waited for them until about an hour after the party had been scheduled to end. I had really dropped the ball in that situation, and my wife, and the boy’s mom, and of course the boy himself were all quite upset about it.

In any case, when my wife confronted me about this, I immediately felt like a total jackass — I mean really, this was true worst-Dad-of-the-Year material — but gosh do I hate feeling like that. Very uncomfortable. And I just sort of automatically reacted by tossing out the line about the autism card.

But doing so really accomplished nothing. I still felt like crap about having forgotten the party. On top of that, I felt like I had somehow mistreated my wife. I could see that my use of this defense mechanism had also been quite invalidating, and not just toward my wife, but to the little boy and his mom, as well. When I pulled out my A-card that way, it’s like I was telling my wife something like, “honey, I realize your frustration probably feels quite uncomfortable, but you’ll just have to suck it up because my autism trumps your frustration.” Although I hope I would never actually say it so explicitly like that, I can see that one considerable consequence of A-card play is that it runs the risk of exacerbating another person’s frustration with guilt for having made inappropriate demands on a disabled person.

Now, I’m not suggesting here that one should never or even rarely use autism as an excuse. As a rule, I’d guess that the more disabling one’s symptoms are, the more one probably ought to be playing that card. But I think something like the opposite is probably also true: the less disabling one’s symptoms are, the less one ought to be playing that card. But even in the situation described above I’m not sure I can rationally see anything wrong at all with simply conveying the fact of the matter that I forgot the party because my autistic brain was busy obsessing about some problem, and that’s really what a lot of autistic brains do. In that sense my question from the other day still stands: So…why can’t I use autism as an excuse?

But what is also true is that I love my wife and her feelings matter to me. And even though I’d never met them, the feelings of that little boy and his mother also matter to me, and the fact is that my A-card play did not just invalidate all of their feelings, but it even invalidated my own feelings — the feelings of concern that I have for these other people, feelings that I happen to like and don’t want to invalidate, autism or not. And when I recognized that I really didn’t want to go around invalidating all of these people’s feelings that mattered to me so much, I just decided to make a choice and withdraw my A-card.

So, I apologized to my wife, and I resolved there and then that I would find some way to make it up to that little boy who cares so much about my own children that he was really hurt when they didn’t show up to his birthday party.

Yup, autistic or not, I’m going to make it up to that little boy.

 


¹I think the most hazardous thing I’ve ever done was forget to give my daughter her anti-seizure medication. This is not something I did just once. It continues to happen on occasion, though most of the time I do catch my mistake and give her the medication a few hours late. I also once forgot that I’d started running a bath, and forty-five minutes later when I realized it, I discovered that about 100 gallons of water had gushed out into the hallway. Really most of the time my absent-mindedness is just frustrating for anybody that happens to need or want my presence of mind.

So…Why Can’t I Use Autism As An Excuse?

No Excuses sign

Image Credit: ShutterStock

Ok, ok, I get it! Really, I do. I cannot — probably must not — use autism as some sort of an excuse.

And I do admit that I have tried to do exactly that, at least a few times in the past year since being diagnosed. One of the more consequential of these took place early last Summer when I tried to explain to a family member why I had recently been fired from my previous job. I’ve lost count of how many times in my life I’ve either gotten fired or quit a job because I knew if I didn’t it was only a matter of time until I got fired. And among the people who know me well enough to know that story, I’m really something of a record holder in that regard. When I started explaining to this individual that I have a hard time controlling my “thought furnace“, and that this has always made it hard for me to do pretty much everything from working to loving, this person cut me off —

“So you blame your diagnosis then?”

The question surprised me –in fact, felt like an ambush of some sort — and I got all jammed up in the head about how to answer. The conversation rapidly veered off into one of the uglier rows I’ve had in a long time, complete with F-bombs from all involved and a subsequent refusal to speak to one another that continues to this day, and which threatens to continue indefinitely.

Because of this experience and a handful of others more or less like it, I have come to understand that “playing the autism card” is probably a bad idea. It probably won’t solve whatever problem I’m hoping it will solve, and this in pretty much any otherwise-apparently relevant situation.

I also admit that I find this quite disappointing. One thing I really enjoy about this diagnosis is that it explains so much about me, my behavior, my personal history. It makes so much sense out of my “thought furnace”, my various learning obsessions, my stalwart commitment to routines, my anxiety problems, etc.. But one thing that I especially love about this diagnosis is that it explains my chronic, lifelong tendency toward all manner of social misfittery — everything from merely boring folks (which happens a lot, apparently), to pestering them, annoying them, frustrating them, and every so often shocking and/or infuriating them (in my defense that happens relatively rarely, but nonetheless far too often for even my own tastes). Especially those latter cases, in which I have to assume that the word most likely used by my adversaries to describe me to others simply must be asshole, I especially like the sense of relief that comes with knowing that I’m not an asshole (gosh darnit); I’m autistic (-ish).

Yeah, sure, wouldn’t that be nice? But apparently it doesn’t work that way. For some reason “playing the autistic card” is a serious no-no, especially in that kind of situation. Yep, I get that now. Really, I do.

But I want to clarify something about that. See, I really do understand that it’s not okay to use autism as an excuse. I really do understand that whenever I try to use autism as an excuse, I’m really just asking for trouble. See, that part is very clear to me. I understand fairly clearly that we have this as a rule, and that if I break this rule I will likely be punished in some way. But, see, what I don’t understand is why this is true. Why do we have this rule?

Why can’t I use autism as an excuse?