Polimicks

Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

Rape Myth #9 – You Have to Forgive to Heal and “The Sainted Survivor.”

Well, yes, but not the way they usually mean it. What most people, most non-having-been-raped people mean is, “You have to forgive your rapist.”

What I mean is, “You have to forgive yourself.” Now, let me talk about this one first, and then I’ll talk about the other.

Why do you have to forgive yourself? I’ve been saying all along that YOU didn’t do anything wrong, so what’s to forgive? As much as we (or at least some of us) may know intellectually that rape is never the fault of the victim, and that the rapist is the person at fault, because of all the societal conditioning we have absorbed over the course of our lifetimes, nearly every rape survivor I’ve ever talked to has at some point, if not for the majority of the time they’ve been a survivor, blamed themself for what happened.

“I should have fought harder.” “Why did I trust him/her?” “Why did I go to that party/bar/work?” The second guessing after the fact is amazing. “I should have known…”

I feel pretty secure in saying that every rape survivor has these thoughts. And the hardest thing in the world is to admit that it wasn’t up to you. You didn’t “let” someone rape you, they raped you. You should have known what? That the guy who said he loved you and would never in a million years hurt you was going to hold you down and force himself inside your body? Why the fuck should you have known that? That the guy who said he was your friend, and who spent evenings watching tv and movies with you and holding your hand when you got dumped would then tell you that you OWED him, and would THEN hold you down and force himself inside your body? Why the fuck should you know, let alone expect, that bullshit? That someone would force their way into your house and then your body? That the really nice guy who offered you a ride home would pin you the seat of his car… Yeah, it goes on. But the fact of the matter is: They raped you.

He/She/They Raped You.
Subject – verb – Direct Object.

And that is just what you were to them, an object. An object without a say in what happened to it.

So, yes, forgiving yourself is the hardest and most important part. The person who raped you? Fuck them, I don’t think you need to forgive them at all. Let go of your anger at them, yes. Forgive them, no.

And I don’t find “letting go of anger” to be the same thing as forgiveness. I think that you need to release that anger, because harboring it will burn you up inside. I think that living angry like that forever and ever, amen, will eventually wear you out. At the least, it’s probably going to make your life not very fun anymore. And no one should have to give up fun because of something someone else did to them. I think you can get to a place where remembering won’t hurt quite so badly by letting go of the anger.

And anger is natural. In fact, I don’t think you should even TRY to let go of the anger for, oh, at least a year. Ok, that was a totally arbitrary length of time, but seriously. Expect to be angry, at your rapist, at friends, family, yourself, the police… anyone in any way peripherally related to what happened. And it’s ok. BE ANGRY. I give you permission.

The anger at yourself should go first. Really. It rarely does, but it should. Just keep repeating, “It was not my fault. I did not ask to be raped. He/She/They Raped Me.”

Then work your way out. It’ll come, in time.

The Sainted Survivor
Possibly this should be a second post, but it is related. Trust me.

Now, movies and literature are full of (mostly) female characters who are raped, and who then beatifically forgive the rapist, usually tearfully while gently caressing the rapist’s cheek, and he weeps at the beauty and grace of her forgiveness and is redeemed and becomes a saint-protector of women or whatever.

Fuck that shit. Right in the ear.

What most people mean when they tell you to forgive your rapist, particularly in instances of incest and acquaintance rape, is that they expect you to get over this silly drama of yours so we can all go back to business as usual.

“It will help you heal” they tell you, to forgive this person who forced themselves on you.

Telling people they must forgive their rapist, when quite frankly an awful lot of us are just not capable of it, is cruel. Because on top of all the internalized “I should have done something…” that the rape victim is going through, you’re getting another heaping helping of “Why can’t I be good enough to forgive this person?”

So I find telling rape victims to forgive to be completely and utterly horrible. It layers on more guilt and more anxiety. It’s another way in which we fail, because if we can’t forgive we must be some kind of monster.

Also, forgiving someone has this connotation in our society of telling them that it’s ok, the past is past. I’m not going to hold this against you. Fresh start and all that.

I don’t think this is healthy. At all. Or a good idea. Sexual predators have the worst recidivism rates of all types of criminals. Forgiving gives them a pass. “S/He’s changed! They aren’t that person anymore!” Yeah, well, if I’d THOUGHT they were “that person” to begin with, I wouldn’t have been alone with them, would I? So what makes you think they really aren’t “that person” anymore. Would YOU be alone with them now?

And like I said before, what most people mean when they say “forgive” is “get over it, and act like it never happened.” You may well manage to forgive your rapist, but if you continue to behave with healthy caution toward them, say by never being alone with them, avoiding them in social situations, it isn’t going to be enough for those people urging forgiveness. They don’t want you to forgive, they want you to forget, because until you do, they can’t.

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26 comments on “Rape Myth #9 – You Have to Forgive to Heal and “The Sainted Survivor.”

  1. staxxy
    October 22, 2008

    The idea that forgiving your rapist will make it easier for you to get over it is complete and utter bullshit. It won’t. It won’t make it easier for you to heal at all. It’s one of the things that pisses me off the most about the average therapist on the subject.
    I am a pretty forgiving person, in general. I am pretty kind, and considerate… and rapists should have it tattooed on their fucking foreheads for a period of NOT LESS than 5 years.

    Like

  2. Anonymous
    October 22, 2008

    Even if SHE forgave him, I won’t. I had to grow up and live with a paranoid mom that hated sex, had PTSD and hair-triggers, would get screaming mad about porn or sexy lady pictures of any kind, and the marriage issues that go with all of that, Dad was patient, but not THAT patient.
    Her rapist should have it handed back to him ten times over. I see him at every family function and she insists I play nice and ‘he’s not that person anymore’. Its hard to accept that he’s going to get away with it, even if it was 50 years ago. I doubt that she’s the only one.

    Like

    • polimicks
      October 22, 2008

      This leads me to another necessary post, thank you.
      Expect a “Rape doesn’t just hurt the victims” post in the near future.
      Thank you.

      Like

      • euterpe35
        October 22, 2008

        the mother of the man who coerced me as a child… she was so shattered by it. She went through a phase of hating me for it, didn’t want to see me because of how it made her feel about her son. And until he admitted it to her, she didn’t believe me one bit. A lot of people suffered over that situation.

        Like

  3. kurosau
    October 22, 2008

    I’m asking this because I’ve never been exposed to it, but do you have any examples of the movies or literature that you’re referring to in the sainted survivor section?

    Like

    • polimicks
      October 22, 2008

      My snotty comment is “Watch Lifetime.”
      But I’ll do some research for you, if you’d like. I try to avoid these things, as they make me want to stab people. But I’ll look.

      Like

      • kurosau
        October 22, 2008

        I was really tempted to say something along the lines of ‘oh! that’s what they show on lifetime all the time’.

        Like

    • sirriamnis
      October 22, 2008

      We’ll start with St. Maria Goretti – who the Catholic Church is not advocating as a role model for teenage girls: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=78
      A. The die rather than lose your purity message is really disturbing on it’s own.
      B. The forgiveness thing. There will be more.
      Come to think of it, a lot of female saints are raped and forgive their attackers.

      Like

      • kurosau
        October 22, 2008

        Thanks for that.
        In general, I’m a fan of forgiveness. I think. I haven’t really thought this one through.
        But I generally see eye to eye with you in that it shouldn’t be paired with the experiences of a rape victim, nor considered an obligation for those people that have been raped. Really, if you choose to forgive your attacker, that’s fine, but I’d rather not try to teach people that doing such will help them feel better about having been raped, because I don’t think it will.

        Like

      • sarmonster
        October 22, 2008

        I think ‘not letting it take over your life’ takes priority over forgiveness. If making voodoo dolls and dartboards representing a rapist (for example)helps people focus that energy away from a healthy life and sexuality, I’d rather see that than forgiveness.
        Mick made a brilliant point about it giving them a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Who else do we put in harm’s way when we don’t report sex offenders?

        Like

      • zabieru
        October 22, 2008

        My armchair perspective here is that if you’re angry at someone, but there’s no action to be taken to resolve that situation, eventually you’ll want to let go of that. But if you’re angry at yourself, forgiving the person who is actually to blame will just make it harder to realize that you’re not at fault for someone else’s evil.
        So like if you’re at my house, and you’re horsing around and you break something, I’ll be angry. But you didn’t mean to break it, and so I’m not gonna yell at you or anything. So pretty soon I’ll want to just let it go. Or if someone I don’t know slashes my roomie’s bike tires, I’ll be face-smashing mad. But I don’t know him and can’t find him, so I’m not actually going to smash his face. That was some months back and I’ve let go. (In my case, I’m just an angry person, so I let go in order to be angry about something newer and cooler, but a lot of people do it so they don’t have to be angry anymore because they hate feeling that way).
        But as Mickey says, for most rape victims it’s really hard to forgive yourself. And if you’re blaming yourself for something, you can’t really be angry at someone else for it, so forgiving them at that point is really just another way to blame yourself some more.
        Forgiving yourself, getting good and angry at the perpetrator, and then forgiving him is probably healthy. But that’s a years-long timeline. I suspect that being told to get your forgive on first thing just sets you up to blame yourself.

        Like

      • velvet_tyger
        October 22, 2008

        I want to second this – I still have trouble forgiving myself, and I was a little girl. I can’t see myself ever forgiving the rapist, and I don’t see a problem with that either. I do agree that you need to find a place where it is not taking over your life, I’m still working on that one too. The other thing I had to struggle with was the idea that my being kinky was wrong – because it was too close to what was done to me when I was raped. I don’t suppose you could do a post on that idea?

        Like

      • sirriamnis
        October 22, 2008

        I can try.
        ~Sirriamnis, aka Polimicks

        Like

      • sirriamnis
        October 22, 2008

        Oh, Guapo, you are wise beyond your years.

        Like

      • lisatheriveter
        October 23, 2008

        Oh hellz yeah! That was incredibly insightful, Zabieru. Thank you.
        It made me realize that for me, blaming myself (and being angry at myself) eventually transformed to an attitude of analyzing what happened and how I should have responded, and learning from that to better plan for a future occurence. I’d like to say that I did that mindfully and deliberately as part of a healing journey, but really it just happened as a result of making it a habit to do that kind of post-game analysis in my professional life. Apparently, once you have developed a habit of critically thinking about one sort of event, it bleeds over into everything.
        Anyway, that worked for me. It may not work for everyone, and I certainly don’t think I’m some sort of sainted survivor and everyone else should follow my lead and be much happier. Frankly, I’m still angry about what happened to me, and I still feel that I let myself down. It’s just not the white-hot incandescent rage that it was for so long.

        Like

      • garpu
        October 23, 2008

        Feck. A friend of mine did a blog post on how stupid the whole myth of Goretti is. She deleted that blog because of trolls. I’ll ask if she’s got a backup.
        Here we go: http://web.archive.org/web/20070819014023/http://talmida.typepad.com/lesserweevils/
        It’s the first one she wrote, not the “more” one. I think it’s St. Agatha, who turns around after being assaulted and rips her attackers a new asshole, too.

        Like

    • lisatheriveter
      October 22, 2008

      I’m dating myself with this one, but one of the most notable pop culture examples is the Luke and Laura storyline from General Hospital (I never watched soaps, so I may have the show wrong, but I think that’s right). Not only did she forgive her rapist, she married him. Ick.

      Like

  4. madarab
    October 22, 2008

    Is it actually true about their recidivism rates? This seems to be a common cultural perception, but I’ve been hearing more and more that the facts do not support this.

    Like

  5. jennydevildoll
    October 22, 2008

    Yeah, fuck that “Sainted Survivor” shit. I fantasize about killing my rapist, who is in prison now, all the time.

    Like

    • polimicks
      October 22, 2008

      One of my therapists actually encouraged me, since I write, to kill my rapists in as many graphic, disturbing and vicious ways as I could… On paper.

      Like

  6. onogoro
    October 22, 2008

    In my experience, forgiveness isn’t forgiveness unless it comes on its own. I’ve never been able to successfully force forgiveness.
    When I was fourteen, I was told that I wouldn’t heal unless I forgave the men who raped me. I went through all the motions, did what I was told, and even tried to tell myself over and over that I forgave them. All it did was make me feel worse about myself. I wasn’t ready for it. I’m thirty, and I’m still not ready for it.
    I have, through lots of work and self-acceptance, learned to forgive myself. To me, that’s what’s important. It wasn’t my fault.
    Of course, that was also the same defective trauma group that told me that if I worked through things and became “survivor” instead of “victim”, it would never happen again. They lied.
    I haven’t forgiven them either, for trying to put something on me that never should’ve been put on me in the first place. I’m not trying to, either.
    I very much enjoy your posts. You put things into words that not all of us can. You’re blunt and easy to understand. And sometimes it’s helpful to have everything laid out. Especially right now. Honestly, I think I found your journal at the exact time I needed it most.
    Thank you, so much.

    Like

    • polimicks
      October 23, 2008

      Thank you.
      I cried when I read this comment. Thank you so very much.

      Like

    • Anonymous
      May 27, 2010

      forgive???who
      it is not about forgiveness, that is just another “GOOD GIRL” junk, who is the genuis that started this rumor. rapists rape because they like to hurt people. end of it, saying “I FORGIVE HIM” is just like blaming yourself!!!

      Like

      • polimicks
        May 27, 2010

        Re: forgive???who
        Like I said, most of the people who tell you to forgive really just want you to shut up about it so everything can go back to normal.

        Like

  7. Pingback: Out With the Old, In With the New | Polimicks

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