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Rape and Victim Blaming

There are only a few days left in the fundraiser for rape crisis centers. We’ve raised more than a thousand dollars so far, and many of your donations were matched, which raises the total even more. So far, I’m giving away an ARC of Snow Queen’s Shadow, a copy of Goblin Tales, and a cameo role in Libriomancer. If we pass $1500, I’ll throw in all three of the princess books (autographed, of course).


Almost every time I post about rape, I hear from people who believe I’m exaggerating. That rape isn’t as widespread as people say. That they don’t know anyone who’s been raped, and can’t won’t believe it’s a real problem.

Unfortunately, that sort of attitude leads to stories like this one in the Denver Post.

“The victim in a Washington state sex assault now linked to a 32-year-old Lakewood man was charged with false reporting and paid a $500 fine in 2008 because police didn’t believe her story. Authorities … reopened their case and reimbursed the woman after Colorado detectives found pictures of the victim on a camera belonging to Marc O’Leary, an Army veteran charged in two similar cases in Golden and Westminster.”

Here’s another example from the Pittsburg Post-Gazette. Sara Reedy was raped at gunpoint in July of 2004. When she reported it to the police, she was arrested and spent five days in jail.

“Then, in August 2005, a month before she was to stand trial on the charges, Wilber Cyrus Brown II of Dauphin County was caught by police in the act of raping a woman at a convenience store in Jefferson County. During a police interrogation, he admitted to a series of sexual assaults, including the assault on Ms. Reedy.”

Both of the above links are from ginmar.

I’ve written about false rape reports before. Are we really so determined to deny and minimize rape that we’d rather arrest the victims? I do believe there are police officers and detectives who do everything they can to catch rapists and protect the people. Unfortunately, there are others who seem more interested in protecting rapists and punishing victims for daring to speak out.

Check out these excerpts from a New York Times article last month.

  • “[H]ow could [these] young men have been drawn into such an act?”
  • “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”
  • Residents in the neighborhood … said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s.
  • “Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?”

The victim in question? An 11-year-old girl, allegedly gang-raped by eighteen suspects who range in age from middle school students to a 27-year-old. Yet it was the men who were “drawn into” committing this crime. The victim dressed old for her age … or maybe it’s the mother’s fault. There’s plenty of blame for everyone except the people who actually chose to rape. Much like a case in Australia where “a man who had a baby with his 11-year-old stepdaughter has walked free after the judge ruled that the young girl was the sexual aggressor.

It’s everywhere.

These are just some of the links and stories I’ve come across in the past few weeks. This is why I hope you’ll consider donating to RAINN, your local rape crisis center, or another organization working to support survivors and end rape.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.



( 81 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 25th, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC)

Where's a Clue Stick when you really need one?
Apr. 25th, 2011 02:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you for continuing to post about such, and work toward raising money for it.

I'm often on the fence when discussing my own experiences with rape, because I don't want to be seen as 'that person,' while I also know it creates an atmosphere where others will come to me with their stories (which led to some aggravating politics at my college).

What stood out most to me at the time that my case was in court was that I was made to feel as if I was somehow less masculine, and had somehow brought this upon myself. Victim-blaming in these instances takes many ugly guises, and it pains me to see how often it is reported as the NYT example you quoted.

I wish you the best of luck with continuing your efforts.
Apr. 26th, 2011 11:45 am (UTC)
"Victim-blaming in these instances takes many ugly guises..."

Yes. And since we've constructed masculinity to mean you're tough and strong and able to protect yourself from anything, it adds one more layer of blame and guilt and shame.

What sort of aggravating politics do you mean, if you don't mind me asking? (And if you'd prefer not to talk about it, that's absolutely fine.)
(no subject) - aeazel - Apr. 26th, 2011 12:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 25th, 2011 02:14 pm (UTC)
Some of those links make me so angry I can't even think straight.

As always, thank you.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 25th, 2011 03:06 pm (UTC)
From what I've seen, it's rare to put much attention or emphasis on the rapists. This article seems to take that a step further, and I suspect you're right about the political reasons there.

It reminds me of a panel at Windycon a few years back. A friend of mine was trying to make the point that soldiers are human. Many of them are good, honorable people, but others are assholes. Just like any other group of human beings.

She didn't get the chance to finish before one of the other panelists blew his top and stormed off, yelling about how dare she criticize our soldiers and so on...
(no subject) - theguindo - Apr. 25th, 2011 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - jimhines - Apr. 25th, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - andi1235 - Apr. 27th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 25th, 2011 02:41 pm (UTC)
All those links really make me wish that I had 10MILLION Euros to give, instead of 10!
Apr. 25th, 2011 02:58 pm (UTC)
You and me both. But even the small donations add up...
Apr. 25th, 2011 02:51 pm (UTC)
Apr. 25th, 2011 02:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Apr. 25th, 2011 02:59 pm (UTC)
Today a female member of the military is more likely to be raped than to be killed by enemy fire. She is twice as likely to become a victim of sexual assault as a service-member than as a civilian.

I was sexually harrassed while active duty Marines. Twice, one in Okinawa- where a Sgt saw/heard the guy and immediately berated him, made him apologize, etc,in front of other male Marines and the other at Camp Lejeune.

The second was not reported, because, really, who would I have reported it to? I was a Lcpl, he was a Sgt, the other 2 guys in the room were Cpls. It would have been their word against mine, and back then (early 90s) it was still very much a 'Good Ol' Boys' type of atmosphere in the Marine Corps.

Have they made significant strides towards correcting that? Yes. Is it enough? No. When female Marines are being killed simply because they reported the rape (she was pregnant too), by the rapist- also a fellow Marine- then you know, enough is not being done. Yes , they caught him and convicted him, but it should NOT have happened in the first place.
Apr. 26th, 2011 11:47 am (UTC)
I'm glad we're making progress, and for people like the sergeant who stepped in and let everyone within earshot know that sort of shit was not okay. But you're right: we're not there yet.

I hadn't come across the Lauterbach story. ::Shudder::
Apr. 25th, 2011 03:54 pm (UTC)
That NYT article made me sick to my stomach. And the Australian case even more so.
Apr. 25th, 2011 04:49 pm (UTC)
OK - I'm the outlier here - but i have some questions (and maybe it's worth a separate post, i dunno).

First - I'm one of those whose only contact with rape was the one woman I know who's father was the issue - the two sisters were getting out by the time I met them (1 had moved out, the other was moving out), and they wanted, more than anything, to move on. I've never known any other woman, or man, who's *spoken* of rape - which I suspect is more likely what's true of most people who say, "I've never known a rape victim." It's more likely that they just don't know any who speak of it, because they don't want to be stigmatized. The stigma still attached to the victim makes no sense to me - when you're mugged or burglarized or car jacked - you are the victim and are treated as such. Somehow, when it's rape, the victim is guilty?

Second - I worked with the police for a couple of years in the mid-70's (albeit, in Berkeley, CA) and can't even imagine the men & women I worked with *arresting* - what kind of broken system arrests the victim? I can (with real stretching) imagine a system broken enough to ignore the complaint - but to arrest the complainant for false accusations? ESPECIALLY when (most of the time) it's not directed at a specific individual? It's not like they're yelling "man x raped me" and "ruining" "his" reputation - most reports are "I was raped, i have no clue by whom" (note: i didn't say "most rapes", I said "most reports"). What could a DA or police department possibly *gain* by arresting someone who reports a rape when they could simply ignore the report or argue too little evidence? I actually don't understand the mechanism on a nation-wide basis. I can imagine, in a smaller, closed system the point would be to stop women from complaining, to break them and to make them think it's ok if they're forced (or at least futile to complain) - but these examples are across far too large an area, far too many governmental systems to argue that kind of conspiracy. I really just don't get it.

Third - as for the 11 year old - after locking up every one of the damn bastards that attacked this kid (no matter how much she may have written about wanting to grow up and have sex and some reports are suggesting she posted comments asking men to "come and do her" to her #fb), there needs to be some serious checking in on this excuse for parents. You cannot tell me this kid, at 11, wasn't at least allowed if not encouraged by her parents to go down this road! There's no question who's guilty of the rape - it's the 18 bastards who did it. But no mother should ever let her kid put herself in this kind of harm's way - stop her. Pay attention to what the kid is doing. Take away the computer. Do NOT let your kid, who does NOT have an adult's understanding of consequences or permanence, put him or herself out there asking for things that s/he can't possibly understand the result of.

Don't get me wrong - this isn't about the guilt of the 18 bastards that did this - they're guilty of rape and should pay for that. This is about not ignoring the mother's apparent lack of interest or capability at teaching her kid not to be an idiot in public. This isn't about "asking for it" - this is about teaching a kid that saying "come do me" on your #fb is a bad idea (for girls OR boys). This is about what appears to be a REALLY bad mum - on top of all the rest.

EDIT: clearly I've not been clear above (and I get that this is a touchy subject about which it's hard to not react without reading all that's written) - but let me try one more time.
The rapists are guilty of rape. Pure and simple. The mother is guilty of NOT paying attention to what appears to have been a real cry for attention over a period of time. I didn't say mum was guilty for contributing to the rape (or at least I didn't intend to), because that's not the case. What appears to be the case is that she ignored her child's cry for attention. Those are different things.

Edited at 2011-04-25 05:20 pm (UTC)
Apr. 25th, 2011 05:25 pm (UTC)
"Somehow, when it's rape, the victim is guilty?"

It seems that way sometimes, in the way we (as a society) respond to rape.

"What could a DA or police department possibly *gain* by arresting someone who reports a rape when they could simply ignore the report or argue too little evidence?"

Cynically, they could intimidate and frighten rape survivors, most of whom are women, in order to prevent them from reporting at all. From a departmental perspective, their rape report numbers go down. From a personal perspective, men are given more freedom to harass and rape women with less fear of consequence.

Your third point doesn't appear to contain a question. I'm not aware of the claims you're referencing, so I can't say if these facebook updates actually happened or if they're more attempts to blame the victim and her mother. And I notice you're singling out the mother and her responsibility. Have you read something to suggest the father is out of the picture?

"This is about not ignoring the mother's apparent lack of interest or capability at teaching her kid not to be an idiot in public."

I guess I'm not sure what you're seeing that has so firmly convinced you the kid is an idiot and the mother is a neglectful, uninterested parent.
(no subject) - twilight2000 - Apr. 25th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 25th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
Twilight--The kid was visiting friends who lived in the neighborhood and you blame the mother? WHat could the child have possibly said or done (SHE WAS 11!) that could justify being gang-raped by 18 older guys? Would it have been better if she'd been 5? Or 50? There are only 18 guilty people here--the guys who did it.

And Jim--ARGHHHHHH to the whole thing.
Apr. 25th, 2011 05:17 pm (UTC)
Again - I don't blame the mother for an incident - it's clear (as i wrote over and over) that I blame the bastards who DID the rape.

What I blame the mother for is the longterm neglect of behaviour - boy or girl. I don't blame the rapists any LESS - they're guilty - and deserve to be treated as such. I only say that no one should ignore their kid's cry for help or attention. The kid clearly needed more attention from the parents than she got. That doesn't make the mother guilty of the rape or the rapists less guilty - it makes the mother guilty of NOT paying attention.
(no subject) - jimhines - Apr. 25th, 2011 05:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 25th, 2011 07:03 pm (UTC)
In a strange literary reflection of reality, in a recent novel, one of the main characters is comatose, drugged so that he will be receptive, and then raped (by the woman he's been married to while comatose).

It's been interesting to see discussion of this online because so many of the commenters either a) don't see this as rape or b) don't think of it matters because the victim is male and the perpetrator is female.

Many also thought this is fine because he was engaged to marry her before he fell ill...so that he'd given 'tacit' permission to the whole thing.

It freaked me out.
Apr. 25th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
Non-con is non-con - gender not a part of it. Unconscious=non-con, by definition. I recently watched an ep of L&O:SVU (which i can only take in very small doses...) where I spent most of the ep yelling at the lead male cop (Staebler) for accusing a man of "making it up" when he reported being raped by 3 women. It must have been a hell of an ep for the actor, because he had to spend almost all of it looking like a real jerk.

And really, "you can't rape your spouse" is scary thinking - that's been disproven in court (if not consistently enough) for years.
(no subject) - georgmi - Apr. 25th, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - j_cheney - Apr. 26th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the signal-boosting. My local rape crisis center already gets about 40 hours/month of my time as a volunteer as a hospital advocate, which is both rewarding and frustrating. But I have to say that I have been consistently impressed with the law enforcement in the Durham, NC area and their handling of sexual assault cases (as opposed to the western suburbs of Chicago, where you're as likely to get someone horrible who yells at victims or is just plain disinterested as you are someone who takes them seriously).
Apr. 26th, 2011 11:57 am (UTC)
I'm very happy to hear that. For a long time, our local rape crisis center had a rather adversarial relationship with the local police. Not that they were the enemy, but some of the police saw us as interfering, and some of us saw the police as a threat to protect our clients against... Actually trying to build that relationship, to learn from each other and recognize that we could help one another, was a helpful thing.

Unfortunately, it's very difficult to force change to individuals and departments like the western Chicago departments you mentioned that just aren't interested.
Apr. 25th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
Once again my hat's off to you, Jim. It's good to have you championing this cause.
Apr. 25th, 2011 09:19 pm (UTC)
Those incidents as summarized by you made me so angry that I couldn't even make myself click the links to read the actual articles.

It's very true how so many people don't think they know anyone who's been raped by somebody. I'm sure there are people I know in real life who are rape survivors, but because many of them so ashamed and traumatized, they've never told me about it. On the other hand, there a good number of people I know online who are rape survivors.
Apr. 25th, 2011 11:31 pm (UTC)
What, I go away with a brain tumor for what, four months, and this is what I see?

Plain and simple. People who deny rape as a crime are people who at some level, have that potential themselves. I mean, what else could it be? Could you imagine, even for a second, people who deny murder being allowed to get away with killing people themselves? Or police letting it happen? Obviously, they couldn't arrest the victim in that case, because s/he would be late. But. Argghhh again. This just makes me so very, very, very mad. Sm *eleven*-year old?!?!?!?!
Apr. 26th, 2011 12:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Arrrghgghhhh......
"What, I go away with a brain tumor for what, four months, and this is what I see?"

Let this be a lesson to you! No more cancer!!! (And yay for the last MRI detecting zero cancer cells!)

I suspect part of the issue re: denial and potential is an unwillingness to accept or admit that "normal" people can commit rape. The more we construct rapists as scary, dirty, scruffy strangers lurking in bushes, the more distance we create between them and ourselves & our friends/family.

Have you read "The Rape of Mr. Smith"? It's a script that treats a robbery victim in the same way most rape victims are treated in court. It's rather illuminating...
Re: Arrrghgghhhh...... - jjschwabach - Apr. 26th, 2011 01:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Arrrghgghhhh...... - jimhines - Apr. 26th, 2011 01:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Arrrghgghhhh...... - jjschwabach - Apr. 27th, 2011 01:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2011 02:33 am (UTC)
The news story about the 11 year old reminds me of this poem by Marge Piercy:

Rape Poem – by Marge Piercy (Circles on the water)

There is no difference between being raped
And being pushed down a flight of cement steps
Except that the wounds also bleed inside.

There is no difference between being raped
And being run over by a truck
Except that afterward men ask if you enjoyed it.

There is no difference between being raped
And being bit on the ankle by a rattlesnake
Except that people ask if your skirt was short
And why you were out anyhow.

There is no difference between being raped
And going head first through a windshield
Except that afterward you are afraid not of cars,
But half the human race.

The rapist is your boyfriend’s brother.
He sits beside you in the movies eating popcorn.
Rape fattens on the fantasies of the “normal” male
Like a maggot in garbage.

Fear of rape is a cold wind blowing
All of the time on a woman’s hunched back.
Never to stroll alone on a sand road through pine woods,
Never to climb a trail across a bald
Without that aluminum in the mouth
When I see a man climbing toward me.

Never to open the door to a knock
Without that razor just grazing the throat.
The fear of the dark side of the hedges,
The back seat of the car, the empty house
Rattling keys like a snake’s warning
The fear of the smiling man
in whose pocket is a knife.
The fear of the serious man
In whose fist is locked with hatred.

All it takes to cast a rapist is seeing your body
As jackhammer, as blowtorch, as machine gun.
All it takes is hating that body
Your own, your self, your muscle that softens to flab.

All it takes is to push what you hate,
What you fear onto the soft alien flesh.
To bucket out invincible as a tank
Armoured with treads without senses
To possess and punish in one act,
To rip up pleasure, to murder those who dare
Live in the leafy flesh open to love. The fear of the smiling man
In whose pocket is a knife.
Apr. 26th, 2011 12:15 pm (UTC)
It's been years since I last read this. Thank you.
Apr. 26th, 2011 04:11 am (UTC)
The one locally that's had me seething for weeks is this: it's not even enough, evidently, to convict the man.

Rape victim 'inviting,' so no jail

This case also caused a prior case the judge ruled on to be reopened -- a case involving an 11-12 year old girl.

The last I heard, after the public outcry, it was declared that Dewar would continue as a judge, and simply be disallowed to judge sexual assault and related cases. I haven't heard any further on the complaint process started after this case.
Apr. 26th, 2011 12:19 pm (UTC)
Ugh. I just ... what the hell???

Miscommunication my ass. What is so damn difficult about the fact that if you want to have sex with someone, you're responsible for making absolutely sure that they consent to it? Why is this so freaking hard???
(no subject) - lenora_rose - Apr. 26th, 2011 05:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 28th, 2011 08:04 pm (UTC)
Here's another list I think you'll enjoy. The link from which I originally grabbed it is now 404, but fortunately I'd copied the text into my post as well.

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!

1. Don't put drugs in people's drinks in order to control their behavior.

2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone.

3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6. Remember, people go to the laundry to do their laundry, Do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

9. Don't forget: you can't have sex with someone unless they are awake!

10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone "by accident" you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

And, ALWAYS REMEMBER: if you didn't ask permission and then respect the answer the first time, you are committing a crime - no matter how "into it" others appear to be.
( 81 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines

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