Friday, June 02, 2006

When is Rape not Really Rape?

I went to a training session on children (usually age ten and up) who sexually offend. I am still reeling from what I heard while I was there. It is too long winded to go into all of it but the woman delivering the lecture began by giving an "example", see what you think.

Several young lads and a girl get together one evening and end up buying alcohol, getting very drunk, going back to someone's house and having sex with the girl. Next morning the girl reports that she has been raped by these boys.

Our trainer then went on to ask "Should these boys be criminalised for making one bad decision?" and said "there but for the grace of god go any of my own boys". The trainer went on to suggest that there should be a way of contextualising an incident like this because being labeled a sex offender can have damaging impact on young boys who simply made a stupid choice.

I could not believe what I was hearing. I interrupted and asked about the victim. How do we "contextualise" her experience? Unwilling participant in a childhood mistake? Facilitator in a rite of passage? Should her assault be ignored in favour of not branding the perpetrators as rapists? I did not get the answer I wanted. Of course the victim will be consulted and her feelings taken into account. If she feels that she was raped then that will be addressed. The whole situation must be addressed "holistically". This is such bullshit. Rape is rape. How dare she suggest that it should be treated as a mistake, a simple error of judgment.

I wanted to say that if she thinks her sons are the kind who might get drunk and gang rape a young girl then she ought to be ashamed. Bring up your sons better, stop making excuses. I wanted to stand up and shout that this was intolerable. That if we were talking about the gang rape of a young boy then the reaction would be different. I wanted to take over the training and begin again from a feminist perspective and tell all my stunned looking colleagues the truth about rape. I wanted to shake the trainer until she woke up.

I didn't do any of these things. I did say that rape should never be tolerated or excused away. I said that I was unhappy with the phrase "bad decision". In the face of all my co-trainees and their obvious discomfort at my questioning, I bailed.

I should have done better.


asdgasdfaserwe said...

I am fuming just reading this. This is a defining of rape that is designed to, and serves the purpose of, centering rape around the perpetrator's own perception of what he has done. In other words, if in his opinion it is his right to abuse a girl or woman, he can not be a rapist.

I am so angry. This 'trainer' is expressing what is, increasingly, the answer to the current epidemic of rape: shifting the boundaries to a place where no woman can be raped because rape only takes place when the man agrees that this is what he did.

You did do something; you spoke; you wrote about it.

ms. jared said...

what feminist first said. you DID do something. the fact that you were the only one and no one else said anything is really troubling.

i am sick to death of how men and boys never have to take responsibility for their actions. it's up to women to police them and keep from "getting themselves raped". it's infuriating!

thank you for speaking out about it. maybe your words will sink in with the others and they'll think about it next time.

xoxo, jared

witchy-woo said...

Oh gods this makes me so mad! It reminds me of an article in the guardian last year about school children 'daisy-chaining'. The article called it 'experimenting with sex' - it was rape, for heavens sake!

How are girls and women supposed to be able to name their own experience when our entire culture denies the reality of what's happened to them?

Good for you for speaking out Pippa - the discomfort of your co-trainees indicates to me that you were at least making them look past the trainers emphasis on the importance of the boys lives and think a little deeper about the wider issues.

It's always hard being the 'lone voice' - don't be so hard on yourself. You did good!

FallingStar said...

You did very well to speak out like that, even if the bloody stupid 'trainer' didn't get it. This also makes me really angry. Don't be discouraged, you did do a good job, even if it makes only one person question what the 'trainer' said.