Friday, October 2, 2009

On Victims Coming Out

I was asked by a dear friend what I thought of the comments on this thread over at Feministing. Well, that's easy. If the topic is what happens to victims of rape in our society, the only answer is that we don't do enough on almost every level. Every time a person has the courage to come out and say "I was raped," and mean it as their experience, we are are better and clearer for it. And while I've have never been raped, I don't think there is anyone who has sex with men who hasn't felt pushed, coerced, or pressured. Rape is a strong word, but there are all sorts of sexual coercion that aren't rape, but they aren't right either. As I think people can tell, I am so totally against anything in the culture that creates and entitlement to sexual coercion that it rattles in every fiber of my being.

The reality is that a victim is mugged once, but raped over over again. By the justice system, by defenders of the rapist, by their families, by their own sub-conscious and memories. There are a thousand things that need to be done to change this, from how we define rape, to how we handle it.

That's because rape has two parts. One is the behavior of the perpetrator, the other is the behavior of the victim. Think about it like a car accident. We don't ask questions about fault when giving medical treatment. We do it. If a woman or man feels raped, then they were raped for how we have to help them. Now and in the future. The criminal justice system then has to decide who was to blame and whether to punish the perpetrator. Just like a car accident, a perpetrator might not have made the other person feel crushed, but we might lock them up any way because that was an accident of chance. A good driver might avoid an accident with a bad driver, but that doesn't mean the bad driver should be let go.

Back to Polanski, I don't think the stories on the thread have much to do with Polanski's case, because, if our standard were "how does the victim feel?" Well she's forgiven, at least publicly. Some people "move on," whatever that actually means, and others don't. That many can't, and live their lives in a shack which is the results of their rape, is an indictment of how we handle it.

I go back to moral courage: everyone who came out has shown moral courage, and the best action is to look at the overwhelming evidence of how we treat victims, and examine every step, and improve it. It will have a financial cost, but we will get it back with a moral gain. And probably a financial one as well, because fear and loathing have a cost.

The justice system has shown no moral courage in dealing with Polanski, he had a vacation house in Switzerland for years. Clearly this is a noir bargain all the way around. Personally, I would strip him of every cent, and that would include people "loaning" him things, for the rest of his life, and give some to the victim, and most to various institutions that help victims. I think that civil penalties that get at the position and privilege of rapists should be common. We take people's houses for smoking marijuana, I'd be tempted to take anything a perpetrator used to commit, or cover up, or plan, a rape. House, car, computer, bank account where funds came from.

Because for everyone that comes out, many more don't. For every thing that is rape, there are more than are shadows that men play to get what they want, which aren't rape in any hard definition, but are part of the play of shadows on the wall of our lives. There are days I fear that there are two kinds of women, those who have been raped, and those who have not been raped, yet.

And most of us, are only pretty certain, but not completely so, as to which category we fall in. I am so very sorry to almost every victim, because I know that they were victimized before, during, and after. And that the next victim probably will too. If the victims can have the moral courage to speak, why can't we have the moral courage to do something.

I'll leave this with The Listening Room, because the start, is to set down the stories, every letter of them, filling in every space, until there are no blanks left for rapists to hide.
[Example of how I feel about this. Lots of chatter about RP, but almost none about a man who posed as a fertility doctor who maybe responsible for 24 sexual assaults in 2 states.]

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