Yesterday, on an anonymous forum, I finally found out what some women really think about women who have been raped and didn’t report their attacker.
They “enable” men to rape again.
They bear some blame for that man’s criminal activities in the future.
They have a moral obligation to other women to report, and if they fail to do so, they are in some way morally blameworthy if that man goes on to rape again. Which he no doubt will since rapists never rape once.
This destroyed me. I didn’t sleep last night, so now you get to read my thoughts about it all.
I was raped many years ago by a family friend. Pillar of the community he was, endlessly trustworthy and kind… except for his thing about raping young girls. I was a child. It was at a time when the police were even more useless at dealing with victims of sex attacks than they are now. I had got into his vehicle willingly, as I had many times before and he drove to a secluded spot and ripped my life away from me. Years later I would still see him, and he would always smile at me in a way that let me know that he was enjoying knowing he’d got away with it. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I found out that he had raped or seriously sexually assaulted every one of our friendship group. None of us knew about the others at the time. 20 young girls that we know of. There are almost certainly more that we don’t know of. It’s a leap to think that he spent 18 months raping young girls and then moved on to take up macramé as a hobby instead.
I didn’t report. I could have done. There was probably enough forensic evidence and evidence of force and struggle. He might even have been arrested. Possibly, if the gods were smiling, charged. And then what? Even now he would be bailed, possibly with a condition that he stayed away from me and mine. Then, I don’t know. On the very slim chance that it had made it to court, I’d have had to have faced him and told strangers what he had done to me, what he had made me do. All while he sat and smirked at me, because, let’s face it, a young girl from a ‘broken home’ doesn’t have much to say in the face of an adult male with a well respected job and years of charity work behind him do they? The chances are that it would never have come to court though. And I would, as all women who report their attacks and don’t see their attackers convicted are, have been painted forever as a “false accuser”.
I was about half way in line through the girls we know he raped. None of us reported. None of us told anyone for years about what he had done. We were all too ashamed to say anything. And yet, yesterday, I was told that because none of us reported, we are guilty of all the crimes he committed after he attacked us. Donna is as guilty of him raping me as he is, because she didn’t report. I am as guilty as he is when he raped Selina because I didn’t. And so it goes on.
This is of course utter bullshit. The only person guilty of his crimes is him. A group of young girls, terrified of him and a legal system that doesn’t care is not. I am no more guilty of his raping Selina, than Donna is of him raping me. Putting huge pressure on women to report their rape is another form of abuse in itself. It’s negating consent. It’s an emotionally violent and distressing position to put a woman in so shortly after she has been attacked. Our legal system is based on consent, we consent to be ruled by laws enshrined and enforced on our behalf by our agents in power. Rescinding that consent results in anarchy. Consent cannot be forced, women cannot be forced or guilted into reporting the crime against them.
Rape is a crime unlike any other. There is no other crime where the victim has to go to such lengths to prove that the crime actually took place or that, even if it did, the victim wasn’t in some way to blame. If you’re burgled, the first question you’re asked by the police is unlikely to be “Did you ask to be burgled?” or “Did you display your valuables in such a way as to make them tempting to a weak-willed burglar?”. If a woman is raped she will inevitably be asked, repeatedly, if she actually consented, what she was wearing, had she been drinking, is she SURE she didn’t consent, why was she there, why did she speak to that man, is she 100% super sure she didn’t consent? I absolutely understand that an accused person is deemed innocent until proven guilty, but, in the case of rape, the victim is somehow deemed guilty until proven innocent and this is in spite of changes made to the way rapes are investigated and prosecuted. Women know that, if it happens to them, their chances of seeing their attacker convicted and going to prison for it are negligible. We also know that the process of getting to that elusive goal is going to be unbelievably stressful, and, with too few ISVAs available, there is little support offered to victims.
The other bit of this is that it seems that, despite lip service paid by women about believing victims and supporting them, when it comes to the crunch, they still have a lot of internalised misogyny. Blaming victims for their attacker’s future actions unless they follow a course of action prescribed by them, a course of action they will hopefully never have to go through, or they will blame them for the future criminality of their attacker is the ESSENCE of victim blaming. You are telling a woman that, because a man chose to violate her, it’s up to her to stop him violating anyone else. More than that, you are prescribing a course of action to her, knowing how difficult and painful that will be, and how unlikely it is that it will change anything anyway.
Of course, women should be encouraged to report when they have been raped. They should be given support and help and be believed and listened to. However, they should report the crime because it’s a crime against THEM, not because they will feel a displaced guilt should their rapist go on to rape other women. But women should also be trusted to know when that process will be too difficult for her for all kinds of reasons. It is not Donna’s fault that that man chose to rape me. It is not my fault that he then chose to rape Selina, it is his, and his alone and the sooner society, even other women, stop finding ways to blame women for men’s violence against them, the better.
(names haven’t been changed. Sadly, this happens so often, that even knowing 2 of the names out of the series of victims won’t help anyone pin point anyone)