Polimicks

Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

Rape Myth #6 – Stranger Rape

Ok, so this should actually be a later number than 6, but I quit numbering at five and I’m too lazy to go back and re-number, so this is six. Just add some .5’s and .25’s to the rest of the rape posts. Edited to fix numbers. I fail at numbering.

Now, way back when, in Rape Myth #1 I think, we covered that 73% of all reported rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Which means that of all rapes reported, a little over a quarter are/may have been committed by a stranger. Now, that’s only of reported rapes. I don’t know if research bears this out, but I have a sneaky suspicion that if you could look at all rapes, that a lot of the unreported ones go unreported BECAUSE the victim knew the rapist.

Now, since 3/4 of reported rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, why on earth is the “Stranger Rapist” the standard, if you will, of real rape?

Ready for the theories?

First of all, by creating this bogeyman of the “Stranger Rapist” this allows women to set up (demonstrably false) safeguards to protect themselves. They’d never invite a stranger into their home. They don’t walk alone after dark. They don’t walk near bushes. They carry pepper spray. Etc… As I’ve mentioned before it’s like with people who seem to think that being thin is some talisman against ill health who are utterly shocked when they have a heart attack at 45 in spite of having a perfect BMI or some shit.

Second, no one wants to think they know someone who would rape anyone, let alone them. And this is where the victim-blaming really gets bad. You know Guy A, Guy A rapes Girl B. Girl B reports it, but YOU KNOW Guy A, and he would never do something like that because you would KNOW if he were that kind of guy, and wouldn’t hang out with him. So obviously that whore is falsely accusing him, or she tempted him into it, or did something to deserve it, or, or, or…

Look, everyone knows someone. Every rapist has a mother and a father, probably siblings, co-workers, acquaintances, that guy at the corner store who sells them their cigarettes or fruit smoothies, the nice old lady down the street they do chores for. Rapists do not exist in some sort of bizarre Rapist Dimension and get teleported over here to victimize people out of the blue. They don’t, they’re here all the time and you probably know at least one. And you won’t know it. And this will lead to another post on “You can’t spot a rapist.”

You are far more at risk of being raped hanging out somewhere familiar with someone you know, than when you’re walking down the street. You just are. Granted, I am not advocating walking down dark streets alone, because apart from rape there’s also just plain assault, robbery and muggings to worry about, not to mention getting hit by some asshole who isn’t paying attention to his driving. But seriously, you can take all the safeguards in the world, and while it might lower your chances of being raped, it won’t erase them entirely.

And I can’t even tell you that you can do it by avoiding men entirely, because women can rape as well.

So you’d pretty much have to just live in an iron box to which no one else had access ever, ever, ever, to insure that you didn’t get raped. But that’s neither very practical, nor does it sound very fun.

But that’s essentially what people are advocating when they put the responsibility of avoiding rape on the shoulders of its victims. Rape is never the fault of the victim, it is the fault of the rapist. And I don’t know if I will ever be able to repeat that enough. Even if the rapist is Arnold from next door who is the nicest boy and carries groceries for Old Mrs. McGregor and is an Eagle Scout.

See, acquaintance rapists rely on the stereotype of the “Stranger Rapist” to shield them. How could they have raped Girl (or Boy) X, they knew them, dated them even. Why that’s just laughable. They’re not some maniac leaping out of the bushes in a deserted park in the middle of the night. They were just chillin’ in X’s rec room watching videos and one thing led to another, and well, they understand X is ashamed of what happened, but rape?

Yeah, it’s pretty fucking insidious, isn’t it? And so lulling. And so very, very wrong.

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19 comments on “Rape Myth #6 – Stranger Rape

  1. kurosau
    October 10, 2008

    It seems to me that a great deal of the problems with the perception of rape and rape victims is centered on the rape accusation itself. And that’s something I’ve been scratching my head about.
    Do you think there’s ever a time when we should consider an accusation of rape an accusation, rather than a definite fact?
    By virtue of the fact that it’s possible, I’m sure that someone, somewhere, has accused someone else of rape falsely. But I personally think that’s got to be rare. At the same time, how can I satisfy my desire for the proper application of the law (IE, innocent until proven guilty), when the two seem mutually exclusive in this case.

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    • templar46_2
      October 10, 2008

      IMO… an accusation should *always* be considered an accusation unless you were both actually there. That’s not to say you should brush the victim off, or even disbelieve her/him… treat the victim with all the comfort and support possible, but always keep in the back of your mind the possibility that things may not be what they say they are. Regardless if it’s true, they’re probably pretty fucking upset and traumatized… and either way, THAT should be addressed.
      which isn’t to suggest they’re actually “lying”… they may believe to the core of their soul that it happened the way they remember it happening… but that doesn’t always, 100%, mean that it *did*. Lord knows i’ve got some pretty serious memories that later in life proved to be… not “wrong” exactly, but not “correct” either.
      man… i hope that last paragraph made sense without making me sound like an ass… *gulp*.

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      • Anonymous
        October 10, 2008

        The Anonymous comment was me, I forgot to log in.
        If someone IS that traumatized, something very wrong happened, whether they can bring themselves to call it rape or not.
        The problem is that it is very, very difficult to admit, even to yourself, that you were raped. It’s like admitting failure, a failure to protect yourself from something that really is one of the most horrible things you can go through.
        The whole thing is so loaded. But if sex with someone results in that much trauma… odds are very good it wasn’t consensual.
        There will be more on this later.

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    • polimicks
      October 10, 2008

      In an earlier post I covered the FBI’s figure on rape charges that were considered unfounded, which includes both false and not enough evidence to take seriously: 8%.
      That’s a pretty damn small number. False accusations make up only a part of that number.
      The problem is that rape is held to a higher standard of evidence in a lot of cases than other crimes. You report your car stolen, and it turns out to have been someone you know, what is the likelihood that a jury is going to believe that you’re pressing those charges just to screw with that guy you know?
      That exact type of accusation is leveled at damn near every rape victim, particularly if she knew her attacker ahead of time. Part of what is at work here is the belief that you should be able to recognize a rapist before he rapes you, apparently with some eerie mystical womb power we’re all supposed to have. So if you were alone with him, then he didn’t SEEM like a rapist to you, so either you’re stupid or lying.
      But look at it like this… if that friend of yours took your car without permission, it’s really just your word against his that he did that, right? But your word is given an awful lot of credibility here, I mean, why would you lie about something like that? They aren’t going to demand you recount every time you might have let someone drive your car, or even just gave them a ride to prove that you are promiscuous with your car, and that that gave the guy permission to take it even if you didn’t tell him he could that time.
      Is this making any sense? Because it’s getting late and I’m having trouble typing.
      And on to famous “false accusations,” i.e. the Duke case. They didn’t charge the stripper with a false accusation, they just decided there wasn’t enough evidence to charge those guys, NOT that she was lying. But the media don’t make that distinction well, if at all.

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    • sarmonster
      October 10, 2008

      Unfortunately, I don’t think false accusations ARE that rare. A combat veteran was telling stories about how a guy she broke up with was making a bit of a nuisance of himself. The other women in her platoon said “Accuse him of raping you.”
      NOT even remotely forgivable, IMHO.
      I’ve heard other women threaten it(sorry, I’ve never heard a guy threaten seriously to accuse someone of rape), and know of at least one person who accused someone of rape out of revenge for him being an asshole (she was a virgin and admitted it). Luckily the case was dismissed.
      I’m of the opinion that falsely accusing someone of rape is as bad as the act itself. It means real victims don’t get taken seriously, you could completely ruin someone’s entire life.
      Imagine what sex offenders go through: You have to notify your neighborhood where you live, and the only thing they know about you is that you’re a sex offender. You’re not allowed to go near schools, and will never have custody of a child. You can’t get a job that does background checks-ever. That means no income, no benefits.
      And that’s if you don’t get killed in prison. Prisoners are allowed access to the records of everyone they’re serving time with, and are generally brutal to sex offenders. Knowing about the above, getting killed by prison inmates might be a blessing.
      If you’re raped, by all means report it before it happens to someone else; chances are there will be others who’ll back you.
      But by gawd, find another way to deal with someone who’s just pissed you off or is being a pain.
      There are women very close to me who’ve been attacked or raped by total strangers, but I don’t think locking yourself away and always requiring an escort is the answer; This isn’t Iran.
      Go where you want to go, carry a weapon, learn how to use it, make it clear that you are fucking DANGEROUS. If rapists realized that attacking someone was tanamount to arm-wrestling a hungry polar bear, I think they’d be more inclined to keep it a fantasy.

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      • polimicks
        October 10, 2008

        Honestly, false accusations ARE that rare. Because most women realize that what they are setting themselves up for with that false accusation that will likely be found out, is going to be at least as bad if not worse than what they’ve done to the guy…
        Really.
        As a means of revenge, it sucks and costs the accuser nearly as much if not more than the accused.

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      • templar46_2
        October 10, 2008

        false legal accusations/reports are that rare, i don’t doubt that at all. (although i must have missed the post about 8%, that was news to me)
        but “my ex-boyfriend pissed me off, and i’m going to tell all our joint friends he raped me, so they’ll hate him, and be *my* friends now”… kindof… isn’t.
        thank god those level accusations actually ARE likely to be found out… it’s a fairly serious lie to keep up the (fake) emotional impact of it for very long, and god forbid the couple in question actually gets back together. my girl and i know one person in particular who did that… and after she got back together with her accused rapist ex-boyfriend she actually said “oh, yeah, i was just really mad… but i forgave him”. we haven’t spoken to her since. 0_o

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      • polimicks
        October 10, 2008

        Honestly, I can only think of one, maybe two people I know personally who have done that sort of thing, and that’s after working in a fucking nightclub for nearly a decade.
        And I doubt the one will ever do it again, because I had to be physically restrained from beating her with a mike stand, while screaming at her that what she had just done was raping other women all over again.

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      • spitphyre
        October 11, 2008

        Considering how many women I know who refuse to talk about their experience with anyone other than their friends who have gone through the same things I am going to say that I have started looking at the “false accusations” in a different light. Starting to think there’s a whole lot less than people would have us believe.

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      • spitphyre
        October 11, 2008

        And the weapons/self defense wouldn’t do any good. In most situations those tools would be far enough away from you that you wouldn’t think about using them.

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    • zabieru
      October 10, 2008

      Another point is that if you say your car was stolen, the first thing that happens is the cops start investigating the theft of your car.
      If you say I took it, they won’t necessarily arrest me right off the bat, but they’ll start from the assumption that your car was stolen unless they have some kind of concrete evidence that it wasn’t stolen. If they come ’round my place and it’s parked in front of my house and I say you let me borrow it, they’ll continue to investigate me for the theft of your car unless I have something in writing or a witness or other backup for my story.
      If you say I raped you, the first thing that happens is you get investigated.
      That’s fucked up. No one will try to tell you that your car wasn’t stolen. No one will suggest that maybe you just had a few too many and you wanted to lend it. No one will tell you not to report the theft. No one will suggest that I’m not really the car-thievin’ sort, so you should just give me a pass on this one because I really am an okay guy.*
      Those things are said to rape victims.
      So yeah, I think we should investigate accusations of rape just the same as we do any other accusation of a crime. And yeah, later stages of that process are going to be trying for the victim, because I wouldn’t want to live in a society that didn’t give defendants the right to challenge the case against them. It sucks that in this situation that’s often going to boil down to “Prove you didn’t say yes” because that’s an awful thing to have to prove, but there’s really no way around that short of just locking up anyone suspected of rape who doesn’t have an alibi.
      But there’s no reason why we should consider an accusation of rape so different from any other accusation. If you report almost any other crime, you are treated as a victim until proven a perpetrator. No one starts off investigating the victim of an assault or burglary for false accusation or insurance fraud, or trying to unfound the crime before they even investigate. Victims of domestic violence used to be treated that way, but that has largely changed.
      The question isn’t really “should we consider this an accusation or a fact?” I don’t think you’re doing this on purpose, but you’ve raised up a straw man there. Re-read carefully. You’re looking for the part where anyone in this conversation said “accusations of rape are proof enough for anything, we should skip straight over interviews and trial and just sentence anyone who’s ever been accused of rape.” It’s not there, of course. No one holds that position.
      The fact is, you don’t need to pass any hurdles to be proven worthy to report a car theft. But if you want to report a rape, you will be tested and only if you pass those tests to the satisfaction of whoever’s taking the report will your accusation even be treated as an accusation, rather than the morning-after regret of a woman not virtuous enough to deserve society’s protection.
      *Okay, if you accused your brother or something, some people would say that stuff to you, but even in that case there’s a material difference: If your brother steals your car, he can return it. There is an argument to be made that the harm done by having your brother arrested for GTA is greater than the harm done by not having your car for three days. That argument really, really doesn’t apply to rape.

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      • polimicks
        October 10, 2008

        Thanks for being far more articulate about this than I managed.

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      • polimicks
        October 10, 2008

        And have I mentioned lately how very much I adore you?

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      • rae_beta
        October 11, 2008

        YES. THANK YOU.

        Like

    • rae_beta
      October 11, 2008

      Do you think there’s ever a time when we should consider an accusation of rape an accusation, rather than a definite fact?
      If you are serving on a criminal jury.
      Otherwise, how you can and should ethically treat it will probably be determined by your relative relationships to the victim and the perpetrator. And ultimately, you’ll probably have to deal with the fact that sometimes, there is no real or right answer to that question. I spent four-plus years as a volunteer advocate at a rape crisis center, and I don’t have a real or right answer to that question, aside from the one above.

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  2. spurnnedhistory
    October 10, 2008
  3. oldviking
    October 10, 2008

    While false accusations may be rare. The THREAT of a false accusation can strike fear in the heart…And it does happen…

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  4. rae_beta
    October 11, 2008

    Re: stranger rape, I think it’s important to acknowledge that while it accounts for the overwhelming minority of rapes, it does exist. It’s a dangerous stereotype to perpetuate, but it’s also dangerous to discount entirely.

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  5. velvet_tyger
    October 11, 2008

    slightly off topic
    I realize this should have been a response to an earlier post, but…
    “And I can’t even tell you that you can do it by avoiding men entirely, because women can rape as well.”
    We don’t want to think the nice young man could do it – even less do we want to thing the nice young woman did… and on the subject of reporting it – I wonder if even 5% of men who are rapes report it.
    So far as I’m concerned, always take a report seriously, always be supportive. If you have doubts – reframe it in terms of the car example above or something similar. And remember that even if you hear the whole story and believe that it was a misunderstanding – the person you are talking to is still traumatized!!! I have had one where hindsight – 5 years later – tells me that it was partly a misunderstanding made ten times worse by cultural barriors (he was from Jordan – not to accuse – but completely different signals). So do I think he needs to go to jail and all – no… BUT I was still raped. Does that make any sense to anyone else? (and yes – took me years to be able to say that – and no, I’m not saying it was my fault).

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