Friday, February 4, 2011

Redefining Rape? You're kidding me, right?

This past week, it seems that some members of the christian nationalist party (aka, the GOP) have been suggesting that we need to revisit the definition of rape - it seems that they want to limit it to purely "forcible" rape, and eradicate the term "rape" when it's committed on people who are drugged or drunk (date rape), or on underage children (statutory rape). This campaign isn't about rape, actually - it's about abortion. But now an idiot in Georgia wants those who identify rapists to be called "accusers" rather than victims, until the rapist is convicted of rape in a court.

For the vast majority of rapes, it's not a matter of sex - it's an act of violence. Since the majority of rapists are men and the majority of rape victims are women, it seems that violence by men against women is something of a lesser crime to these predominantly male "lawmakers." Rape victims are reluctant to accuse their rapist perpetrators because society chooses to see many of the victims as having "asked for it," and so are treated like prostitutes instead of victims. The shame and humiliation of it (which are essential elements of this violent act for the rapist) can keep victims from coming forth to accuse their rapist. We have seen repeatedly that those who accuse someone of rape are, in turn, accused of being wanton harlots, and testimony about their personal lives is used to discredit them as victims deserving of our sympathy and support.

Yes, there are false accusations from time to time, and having one's reputation sullied in this way can be an awful thing when the accusations aren't justified. But is the chance of that so important on our priority scale that we prefer to see rapists get off scot free, time and again, while their accusers are discredited and humiliated beyond the act itself? Our justice system provides the concept of "innocent until proven guilty" in a court of law, but we don't treat most victims of theft this way. We don't treat most victims of assault this way. Why should we treat rape victims this way?

Maybe these lawmakers should experience rape for themselves. Perhaps then they might be able to muster some empathy for rape victims and quit trying to turn victims into villains.

As it turns out, I know something about this on a very personal level. When I was a young teenager, I was raped by an older "friend" who had bought alcohol for me. I was horribly drunk when it happened, and totally unconscious when he began. I woke up in pain and surprise ... it went on an on forever, it seemed. Then he finally finished and left. I was so ashamed of the situation afterward that I never told anyone about it, including my parents. To have accused him surely would have implicated me in the illegal consumption of alcohol, as well. This incident from my past isn't something that makes me proud - far from it! - but it has forever made me a champion for victim's rights in rape cases.

I prefer that no one ever have to experience this act of violence, but no one should be made to feel like they somehow were at fault, either, when it happens to them. This is one situation where I can honestly say that I understand what female victims are going through and I'm entirely in their corner! Rape is a despicable crime and its perpetrators should be given serious punishment for it! This shameful political campaign to redefine rape needs to end and those supporting it need to be run out of public office, as soon as possible!


Brian Jewett said...

Thank you for posting on such an important but obviously painful subject, Chuck. Ignorance is no excuse for those trying to pass this legislation -

Chuck Doswell said...

It's not something I like to talk about, but the recent legislative efforts by CNPers really upsets me!

Scott said...

We have some great institutions in this state, but the Georgia Legislature is not one of them. It has been taken over by a bunch of extreme right wing ideologues over the past dozen or so years.
Just to name a few:

The head of the Senate Banking Committee is a former board member of a failed bank. But wait, it gets 'better'. He is being sued by the FDIC for gross negligence and various breaches of fiduciary duty, and two bank directors of the failed bank have pleaded guilty for bank fraud and will be going to prison.

The legislature wants to pass an Arizona style immigration law, that imposes fines on businesses that knowingly hires illegal labor. They've gotten push back from the 'bidness' community over this. The R's don't mind seeing 'illegals' doing the perp walk, but fine a business for hiring them? Naw, that's bad for bidness.

Laura said...

Thank you, Dr. Doswell, for speaking out on behalf of sexual assault victims. I am so sorry this happened to you.

Laura Anderson