The Reason (In My Opinion) Why Date Rape Gets No Sympathy From the General Public

7 Sep

Date rape - or, "sex gone wrong" (courtesy of Womenin3D.org)

Stranger rape - or, "f***ed up crime" (courtesy of UltimateDefenseTraining.blogspot.com)

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to make light of rape committed by a stranger at all. I’m not writing this to offend any rape victim, advocate, or anyone who feels for rape victims. I hope my post won’t come across as condescending or insulting or cruel, but if my opinion offends any reader in that way, please accept my apology.

Monday’s post (I delayed, so sorry!) featured a male reader who questioned the truth about my story after reading about the first time and the second time I was raped, and my response to him. I really hesitated to share the argument, but what he wrote serves as a great example, I think, of the (common) snide reaction most people have when they hear about acquaintance rape happening.

Who am I to make that judgment? No expert, really, but as I’ve written before (and have no intention of taking back or changing), I’ve been date raped twice. In my experience, nobody respects acquaintance rape as a true crime, and I know I’m not the only victim of this type of rape to say they’ve been through the same. I didn’t report my first attacker and I regret it, but I reported my second attacker to my church pastor, the local police, friends, family, the regional board of church representatives and council – basically whoever I thought would listen. I was called a liar, a drug addict, an undiagnosed bipolar on medication, and also laughed at, made fun of, insulted, hated, isolated, ignored, and dismissed. I tried to press criminal charges and had them recently dropped without warning, even though I can prove the second attack. (Thankfully, a lawyer has taken me up on filing a civil lawsuit.)

The Difference Between Acquaintance Rape and Rape by a Stranger

The simplest definition of acquaintance rape, given by Merriam-Webster.com, is: “rape committed by someone known to the victim.” That’s easy enough to understand. I keep switching between the terms date rape and acquaintance rape because a lot of sources define them the same way, but they’re not exactly the same thing. Date rape is a type of acquaintance rape, like ‘babysitter rape’ or ‘mentor rape’.

At TheFreeDictionary.com, stranger rape is defined as: “a rape in which the victim does not know the rapist.”

Now, just to be clear, I’ll give the definition for rape. Found at Wikipedia.org:

Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent.The term is most often defined in criminal law. A person who commits an act of rape is known as a rapist.

But why get so technical with the definitions?

Public Opinion

I think it’s helpful to give legal definitions because opinions may vary, but rape is ultimately a legal term. It describes a crime that’s not really up for public debate or approval.

Rape isn’t the only crime defined so strictly. Theft is one legal term that can’t be tweaked by members of society who “just don’t agree”. Another is murder. For example:

  • A woman was recently convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for feeding her 16-month-old son, who suffered from congenital syphillis, biscuits tainted with rat poison. The article at Examiner.com says that she did it out of mercy.
  • A teenager faces trial as an adult for the stabbing death of his 49-year-old female teacher. The article at CommercialAppeal.com says that he bragged about stabbing her at least 9 times around her neck, one first in her throat so that she wouldn’t be able to scream, and also that he had plans for the crime dating back over several months and had studied military tactics to be able to commit the crime effectively.

Would anyone argue that the crimes the woman and teenager (if found guilty) committed weren’t murder? Or, would anyone say about their crimes, maybe, “it wasn’t murder – the little boy needed to die” or “that teacher shouldn’t have been in that school at that time” ? Nobody (sane) would make such comments.

What was the end result of both crimes? An innocent baby boy and a teacher lost their lives. Poisoning or stabbing did not make either victim more or less dead than the other. One may have felt less physical pain than the other before dying (we can’t be sure), but that doesn’t change the final result of what both victims suffered. Punishment for the crimes might differ because of the level of severity only.

Now consider these examples:

  • The president of Uruguay has recently apologized to the president of Haiti for a gang rape committed by Uruguayan peacekeeping troops on a young Haitian man. The article at Reuters.com says that after earthquakes left many parts of Haiti in ruins, a video surfaced and circulated on the Internet that shows Uruguayan marines laughing as they hold a 28-year-old Haitian man down and assault him. The public outcry for justice was so loud that the president of Uruguay stepped in.
  • A man in New Hampshire was finally convicted and sentenced to 15-30 years in prison for forcibly raping a 15-year-old member of his church 14 years ago. The article (courtesy of The Associated Press) says that the girl wound up pregnant and was forced to stand in front of her Baptist church congregation and apologize for “behaving immorally”, even though the girl complained that she had been raped and never changed her story. (Sounds eerily familiar 😦 )

According to definition, both crimes were undeniably rape. The end result of both crimes? A 28-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl wound up assaulted. Being ravaged by foreign “peacekeeping” troops or being forced into sex by a trusted member of community did not make either victim more or less raped than the other. One may have felt less physical pain than the other throughout the ordeals they endured (again, we can’t be sure), but that doesn’t change the final result of what both victims suffered. And punishment for the crimes might differ according to the severity of injuries, just like the law dictates for murder and other crimes – but that wouldn’t mean that one guilty party could be charged for anything other than rape, like “unpleasant sex”.

So why was there public outcry for one rape, and public ridicule for the other?

There’s No Such Thing as The Boogeyman

In my article about Rihanna’s music video for “Man Down” and the outrage that followed, I said:

What would happen if young people actually DID follow Rihanna’s example, and suddenly anytime you heard of a rape in the news, the headline in the paper would read something like: “Teen Victim Fatally Shoots Attacker after Alleged Rape”? That would be a problem for a society that feels best about keeping rape and sexual abuse a “hush hush” topic, never to be talked about, and never to be acknowledged as something serious that damages lives almost the same way that murder does. Potential rapists wouldn’t get away with so many crimes, and be hidden by their communities, never facing criminal charges, or serving jail time that amounts to a slap on the wrist whenever they were actually charged and tried. They wouldn’t want to try raping anybody – a crazy young’un out there could just shoot them up for it. I’m not saying anyone should go out and pick up a gun. I’m saying that we need to be honest – rape is real violence, too, but a lot of us don’t care.

Now, I don’t think I was right in saying that people don’t care. Indifference isn’t really the best way to describe how I think society feels about the topic of rape. I think it would be better now to say that rape makes society uneasy.

We all know that rape is a heinous crime – really, we all do. It makes most people sick to their stomachs to imagine anyone they know ever experiencing rape. It’s a disgusting crime that I think is the only way of destroying someone without killing them – just leaving them physically alive to live with a core that starts rotting away from the minute of the incident until there’s an intervention of some kind. You really have to be a sick person to rape someone – right?

Well, if acquaintance rape is a legit crime according to the law – then maybe not.

By definition, acquaintance (and date) rape is committed by someone the victim is familiar with, and not a shadow in the bushes – the “boogeyman” that inspires rage when people think about rape in general. Consider these statements from The National Center for Victims of Crime:

  1. Seventy-seven (77)% of completed rapes are committed by non-strangers (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997).
  2. A woman is four times more likely to be raped by an acquaintance than by a stranger (Illinois Coaliltion Against Sexual Assault, 2002).

How many women (not even considering men, who can also be victims of rape) are estimated to experience a rape in America every year? About 1 in 6? The 2010 United States Census counted the American female population as about 156 million. That would mean that an estimated 26 million rapes of women alone would be perpetrated by psychotic strangers, if the statistics given above were based on a crime that’s not really rape. I tend to believe that stranger is very real and very damaging, but that it’s also very rare. (In searching for articles on rape to compare above, it took me more than 2 hours to find a report on a rape committed by strangers :-s) I also tend to believe that 26 million or so women in America aren’t crazy if they’re raped and recognize that they were raped – even if it was “just” a boyfriend or a mentor that did it.

Humans commit Rape – not Shadows

It’s horrible to think that rape, the kind of crime that everyone agrees is revolting beyond words, isn’t necessarily an act of the depraved. That not only is it common, but that it’s commonly committed by normal people. In other words, you don’t have to be a psycho to rape someone.

What does that mean for the general public? That Joe Blow has the means and equipment to rape his date if he (or she, if we’re talking Jenny Blow?) wants to. Joe Blow can be a doctor, a neighbor, college student, your best friend. Joe Blow can even be you.

The moral, good citizens in us want to think that we can contain rapists in a bin labeled “sick” and keep them away from normal society, but unfortunately it’s not possible. Otherwise we would have to anticipate cases like the woman who poisoned her child, the man who raped the 14-year-old in his church, and basically sequester all of society.

The problem comes, I think, when instead of being over-vigilant, we try to pretend that exceptions to the accepted rule don’t exist. And when they show us that they exist (in the form of incest committed by parents, rape committed by boyfriends and spouses, and sexual abuse committed by child mentors), turning a blind eye and ears because the exception makes us uneasy. It’s like we think that if we accept that there are cases of normal people doing bad things (committing rape), and that those cases are in the majority, that we’re blurring the line of distinction between “good people” and “bad people”.

Blaming the Victim for Your Feelings of Guilt

I want to stress that nobody is at fault for the existence of rapists in society. It disturbs us to our core and it’s human nature to want to assign blame for things going wrong, but please, put the blame where it belongs: on the guilty. You as a normal citizen of society aren’t responsible for the existence of the person next door who raped someone, even though maybe you feel like you could have – or should have – seen it coming and prevented it somehow.

On the other hand, the victim isn’t responsible for having been raped, and you might be surprised to find out that he or she may be feeling equally upset about falling into the “gray area” of rape. It’s embarrassing to realize that you’ve been victimized, but that it wasn’t by a psycho – which would be acceptable by the general public. It can make a victim feel “less than” if they think that their injuries and circumstances surrounding their ordeal means that the real unwanted sexual penetration they know they suffered – that the law recognizes they suffered – isn’t a cause for complaint. It can make a victim feel guilty when they thought they, too, would be protected.

“Do You Think What Happened to Me Was Rape?”

I hope someday we can get away from having to ask or hear questions like this from confused and frightened victims of sexual assault. Maybe even that someday a victim can be confident in seeking help and justice just like the families and friends of murder victims, because of the nature of the crime and regardless of the flavor.

In the meantime, I’ll settle for a little bit of your compassion.

7 Responses to “The Reason (In My Opinion) Why Date Rape Gets No Sympathy From the General Public”

  1. someone September 10, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    Thank you so much for posting this.

    I was in some very bad situations last year where I said “no” and was forced to have sex anyway. I asked the guys to stop (it was 2 different situations) but they would say “You’re ok” or “You want to.” one would not leave me alone afterwards and kept asking to come over and when I finally reported what he did, he told my friends that I was just mad that he didn’t want to be my boyfriend when I never wanted this guy in the first place. He was DETERMINED to rape me.

    His friend gave my friend and I a ride home, and my friend was supposed to be dropped off after I was based on the direction we were going but they went right by my apartment and then when I tried to get out after they dropped my friend off, the guy texted me saying “You have a choice. You’re either going to my house or I’m going to yours.” I said “No I’m tired” and he yelled ‘YOU SAID THAT YESTERDAY” and when I got out of the car he jumped out and his friend drove off so fast his tires squealed.

    I was dumb enough to let the guy in (who was well over 6 feet tall- I’m not even 5 feet atll) and I sat on the couch and wound up getting body slammed on the floor and hitting my head so hard I was seeing stars. My arms and legs were both pinned and I couldn’t do anything- I don’t know if it’s because I already have PTSD from things that happened to me as a child or what.

    Nobody believed me. They said things like “Well it’s not like some random guy found you and shoved you into an alley.”

    But there was no question in my mind that it was rape. Since when does saying “No” or “Stop” or “I don’t want to” not mean anything? How would those girls that blamed me feel if the same thing happened to them?

    • E. A. September 13, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

      Thank you, someone! For making such a great point as well as sharing your story. People forget that it becomes rape when a person protests (says “No” or “Stop” or “I don’t want to”) and their assailant goes ahead with sex anyway. Where in even the most complicated definition of rape does it say: “You must be assaulted by a strange man in a dark alley to qualify as a rape victim”? (As if being a rape victim is some badge of honor that ANYONE in their right mind wants to have.)
      If guys like the ones who assaulted you didn’t think that what they were doing was criminal, they wouldn’t have tried to hide themselves – or driven away so quickly after you escaped. If even the rapist knows what he’s doing or done is rape, why do the rest of us act so dumb about it?
      I’m so sorry for the disgusting things that happened to you, and the people who tried to make you feel like your case was BS. I hope someday soon you get justice.

  2. M.M. December 2, 2011 at 3:24 am #

    Glad I came across this post/blog. I can very much relate to invalidating comments and being accused of having bipolar disorder because of symptoms of PTSD (this term was just presented to me a few months ago because I was still struggling with the symptoms almost 10 YEARS later!!). I was actually “voluntarily” admitted into the psychiatric ward of the hospital when I was a college student because of this crap. It doesn’t matter – friend or stranger – rape sucks and leaves a lasting impact that’s hard to shake. Anyway, that’s my little rant. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • E. A. December 5, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

      M.M., thank you so much for commenting, anytime I read a story from someone brave and willing to post here I feel overwhelmed with sympathy, and at the same time validated knowing that really, none of ours are isolated cases or freak occurrences.
      Your comment struck a particular nerve with me when you talked about being labeled ‘disordered’. What disgusts me is that you ended up questioning yourself because of their psychological abuse, and they got to keep it moving at your expense. But it’s never the people with the actual problem that THINK they have a problem, is it?

      • M.M. December 5, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

        Thanks for your response, E.A. I definitely ended up questioning myself and the chaotic emotions that I was experiencing, but the reason I was admitted to the psychiatric ward wasn’t due to self-doubt – I actually didn’t know that I was going to the psychiatric ward.

        I went into the school counseling office a few days after my “event” and said that I think something really bad happened while I was drinking and that normally I would have been really upset, but instead I didn’t feel anything but hyper and kind of agitated/disconnected from myself. I was having a difficult time studying (final exams were the next week) and didn’t know what to do.

        I was asked if I wanted to “sleep for a few days at the hospital” – I said, “yes” (sleeping sounded great) – that’s how I ended up there. Very annoying. I was then treated for bipolar for the next 4 years.

        One doctor who I was seeing during my semester off suggested that I wasn’t bipolar (i.e., my body/mind was just trying to cope with having been raped); however, by that time, due to lack of support, I didn’t understand and sided with what everyone else in my life was suggesting – a chemical imbalance.

        I think when something like this happens, having a supportive environment is crucial because we are so emotional and vulnerable that it is easy to believe others although deep down we know what’s going on. The area of ourselves that is affected – no matter how deep down – doesn’t lie, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise.

      • E. A. December 6, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

        OMG What is this, the ’60s?! They tricked you into going to the psychiatric ward, when it was obvious that you were talking about having been raped?? This was a certified college counselor?! WTF…I can’t. I just … no.

        The measures people will go to in general to pretend rape doesn’t happen are just absolutely revolting. 4 f***ing years as a medical guinea pig, and what’s the cretin who raped you up to in life these days? Bet he got through college just fine.

        It’s getting so these days, a person can come right out and say “Well, yeah, I raped her/him, but I’m sorry/that was in the past/we were both drunk”, and everyone’s content to go on with business as usual. But I agree that the body doesn’t lie about rape trauma. I just wish the one doctor who saw through it all could have done more for you, but going through the after-effects of rape is terrifying enough without being alone and not knowing whose support to trust. I’m so, so sorry for what you went through, M.M.

  3. M.M. December 7, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    Thanks you for reading and commenting on my long rants 🙂

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