Today I am really bloody angry at men who try to downplay or appropriate what rape is and what rape means.
Before we start I will say that I absolutely know that men get raped too. I absolutely know that not all men are potential rapists (thank you Alison Steadman, via Shirley Valentine). Equally it should not need to be said that not all men condone, apologise for or excuse rape. I have amongst my acquaintances a wide selection of frankly delightful, non-rapey men.
If I don’t say that though, someone is bound to mention it. It seems to elicit a knee jerk reaction to any post that smacks of that troubling beast, feminism. Some man, somewhere won’t be able resist the urge to mansplain that they are not the same as the others, have I thought about the fact that I may be making sweeping generalisations etc?
I get that. Try to imagine, if you will, that this is not about you, OK?
This week I have been reading about the Stanford Rape Case. It came to my attention when the victim’s impact statement started flooding my Twitter feed.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the case, a 22 year old woman attended a party with her younger sister in on January 18th 2015. During the party she admits that she had too much to drink. She only remembers waking up on a gurney in hospital hours later, covered in blood. She was discovered by two cyclists, being sexually assaulted by a young student called Brock Turner behind a dumpster in the grounds of Stanford University.
The young man who was attacking her ran off, when confronted by the two cyclists.
In her statement, she explains:
I learned that my ass and vagina were completely exposed outside, my breasts had been groped, fingers had been jabbed inside me along with pine needles and debris, my bare skin and head had been rubbing against the ground behind a dumpster, while an erect freshman was humping my half naked, unconscious body.
Over the following twelve months she was not only forced to live with what physically happened to her, but also had a court case to contend with in which she saw her reputation being dragged through the gutter, her past sexual history exposed for all to see, the attackers’ attorney blaming her for being drunk and the attacker changing his statement to say that he believed she had consented to what he did to her.
Brock Turner was convicted on three counts of assault by twelve members of the jury.
The judge, Aaron Pesky, said there were ‘mitigating factors’ in handing down his sentence. Turner got a six month sentence, for which he is expected to serve three months. This is for a crime that has a maximum penalty of fourteen years in jail.
The mitigating factors were quoted as:
His lack of previous criminal record
I’ve read the victim impact statement two or three times now. At no point does Turner seem to show remorse. Remorse is being sorry and apologising. Remorse means admitting what you have done. Remorse means not passing the blame onto the victim. Remorse means not lying about what happened to try to make it look like you were in a consensual sexual relationship with an unconscious woman behind a skip.
It seems to me that the only remorse he has shown is for himself.
The judge said that he had to take into consideration the fact that going to jail would have a ‘severe impact’ on him.
Like the victim’s experience hasn’t been severe at all. In her impact statement she describes finally being allowed to shower in the hospital, after she has had to endure hours of invasive procedures.
I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.
This is her body. The body she lives in. The body she carries around every day. The body she can’t escape from. The body he violated. This is her prison. Is this impact ‘severe’ enough for you?
In many parts of the trial, and in the media reporting, much is made of Turner’s sporting prowess, as if this is also a mitigating factor in his behaviour. It has been widely insinuated that Turner has suffered enough, because he has been stripped of his place on the swimming team, and his career is over before it has begun. It has also been insinuated that his swimming prowess must mean that he can’t actually be a bad guy. We are meant to have sympathy for the fact that he had to give his shiny medals back, as if this somehow negates attempting to rape someone.
His father has released a statement in the last twenty four hours, trying to defend his son, claiming his son’s life has been ruined for ‘twenty minutes of action.’
I find this phrase, chilling, brutal and utterly dismissive of the victim’s experience.
He then goes on to say.
“He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile,” he wrote of his son. “His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear, and depression. You can see this in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice, his lack of appetite.”
Maybe he should have thought about that before he decided to try and rape someone?
It is as if these people, these men, have simply erased the victim from the crime. First she is turned into an object to be used, and then when she inconveniently pops up to try and validate her experience, they talk over her as if she just isn’t there.
Here’s her time-line as far as these men are concerned.
Now that would be seeing her as a woman, someone like your mum for example, rather than as flesh with a convenient hole in it. It would be seeing her as a human being, as someone whose life and experience and rights are as valuable as your own. It would be stopping to think that not every woman wants your cock inside her, no matter how fast your front fucking crawl might be. It would be stopping to think that you do not get to just take what you want, when you want it. That’s called stealing, and what you’ve stolen from that woman, she will never get back. It would be thinking that not every vulnerable woman is prey. It would be thinking that if someone says no to something, they mean it. It would be thinking that if someone cannot say no, it does not mean that they are saying yes.
It would be thinking about someone other than yourself for five minutes.