"We Interviewed Rapists"

April 3rd, 2017

Content Warning(s): Rape, Self-Defense

Day three! April is Sexual Assault Survivor Month! This post will contain sensitive material; please exercise caution if you see a topic that could be upsetting to you. We're all about respect here! A final caveat: these are written from my limited perspective as a bi woman who was raped. I don't have all the answers and I'm still working through my own journey. There are many other kinds of sexual assault and abuse that are relevant this month. Take time to consider the needs of your diverse fellow survivors. Speak up for them when they can't speak up for themselves, but don't speak over them. Thank you!

Recently, an old article has been circulating again on tumblr. It's called "Through a Rapist's Eyes" and its premise of this article is that convicted rapists were interviewed to answer what they looked for in a victim. The article is upsetting to me for at least a few reasons: 1. The conclusion is extremely victim-blaming (don't wear this, don't put your hair up like that), 2. The tone is fearmongering to the ends of "rape happens on the street", which is largely untrue and 3. Most rapists go without prosecution or, in fact, any punishment at all, because survivors overwhelmingly don't report rape. In response to this article, a counter-argument movement was made to debunk the myths included therein. (This is an article that sums it up nicely, but there are many more responses as well.) Something that still bothers me is that some of the self-defense tips are valid for when you're legitimately in a dangerous situation; however, the lens with which this is presented assumes that all attacks of that nature lead to rape, which perpetuates the ever-harmful "rape happens in an alley" myth. Not to mention, the tagline here being "take the time to read this; it may save a life, it may save your life." It sure didn't save mine.

If you see this on your dash or feed in the upcoming weeks, take a moment to consider how dangerous it is when information is spread like this. Framing an article through the "Rapist's Eyes" encourages the reader to empathize a rapist's perspective. If it were interviews about, perhaps, murderers, the focus would be on the "otherness" of the murderers but recognize the fact they committed a felony. Rapists overall aren't punished nearly as severely as murderers and their victims are still alive to suffer the consequences of strangers' empathy. To consider a rapist's perspective is to lessen empathy for the survivor. In a world where victim-blaming reigns above a survivor's word, this is unconscionable. I often wonder what my experience would have been like and whether I would have reported if I felt the authorities would take me seriously. My rapist will never face the consequences of his actions and he's not alone.

I'm choosing to empathize with those who didn't feel they could speak up about their rapist/abuser; those who feel or felt like they couldn't have spoken up because they wouldn't have been believed; those whose rapists will never be imprisoned, and their stories would have been skewed into those statistics even if they were interviewed like the ones in the article; those like me, who had to make the decision of whether reporting the rape was worth it or whether I should just shower it off and keep walking in silence. I urge you to consider to do the same for your fellow survivors. "We believe you" is the CSSN creed for a reason!

Thanks for reading! Tomorrow's topic will be about the phrase "survivors have scars, victims have graves," and will call back to themes mentioned today.


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