Rape: Myths, Truths and Experiences

NB: This post comes with a trigger warning. Contains sexual descriptors and mentions  maltreatment of a prostitute. Please be careful and read with caution.Be safe, please. 

Much of the current discourse around rape seems to be based around two things. Firstly the magical ‘if’ and secondly victim blaming. These appear to be the current things ironically holding back productive discourse on rape whilst driving it at the same time.

I have no problem with the police or other agencies issuing safety advice like people walking in groups late at night, and carrying mobile phones for example. However what I resent is that safety advice being used as a blaming mechanism when the advice itself is not enough.

Rapists will often present the excuse at their disposal that somehow their victims were asking for it, or that the sexual act was consensual in some way.

The problem is women are told to be careful women are told to be safe but men are never told not to rape. This is because of the different characterisations which influence gender. They are at best social constructions. We have constructions such as the well worn trope that if a woman is sexually active regularly with different partners she is characterised as a slut. However if a man repeats similar behaviour he is a stud.

These flaky misunderstandings are the heart of our culture in the UK and drive our conception and understanding of rape.

I listened with incredulity to a debate on BBC Radio Five Live’s Stephen Nolan programme. The debate came about as a result of female anger at some controversial comments on rape he has made in a new book.

Nick Ross has been dealt with in a fulsome manner by other writers so I do not wish to focus on that again.

However the testimonies of two victims who phoned into the show were moving, touching and chilling at the same time.

I applaud the bravery of these women in recounting their stories to be disseminated on the radio. I feel sure that it will have brought benefit to some people who maybe feel less alone after hearing the struggles of others.

Another misnomer about rape is centred around alcohol. There is no evidence to suggest that my drinking alcohol women are inviting rape. Women should be able to go out dressed as they wish, and drink sensibly preserving their own dignity without being told they are targets for rape.

Perpetrators need to hear phone-ins like Stephen Nolan’s in order to fully understand the consequences of their actions.

In both cases the interviews started off sympathetically but as they wore on there was very sadly little sympathy directed at the victims. This is how much patriarchal culture has inculcated and been inducted into our society as an inevitable force in daily life. I say to you that it’s high time that this status quo was brought to an end.

I believe the change in tone was due to a BBC raison d’être of balance. The BBC’s greatest asset is also the weakest part of in that it is a government funded organisation. This means that it cannot show bias at any time even with rape victims.

We do live under patriarchy that is not in question. Nick Ross’s book was essentially a piece of academic research. The commentator Brooke Magnanti opines that Nick Ross has “fallen into the trap of thinking like a criminologist.” This is exactly the problem. Academic writing is often cold and emotionally detached. Therefore seeing an almost academic publication serialised in a Sunday newspaper, quite apart from the headline in the Daily Mail is always going to be a difficult process for rape victims.

Women should not have to read such publications in a Sunday newspaper because of the triggers it brings them. The memories and the reliving of very painful experiences are a heavy price to pay just for opening a newspaper. The truth of rape is that each victim reacts differently, and processes differently but the common trait is the palpable pain that lasts afterwards often infinitely. I was captivated by the interviews and found myself just wanting to reach out to the women involved to tell them they were not alone and to tell them that they must not ever feel that they are suffering in silence and unable to seek help either from empathic family, friends or trained professionals.

We must too reduce the stigma of reporting rape. Rapists are evil and calculated people and likely to reoffend. Therefore the more cases that are reported the better.

In saying that though it is important that women are believed. I myself always want people to be heard when they confide in me about many issues. It seems to have been an ongoing pattern over the years that people share their trials and tribulations with me.

I am not myself without personal experience in this area. My disability has always added that extra layer of vulnerability to my life particularly physical vulnerability.

I’m not going to be specific about names and places from here on in for reasons that will become clear.

Once I was in a nightclub. It was the end of the night and my wheelchair had broken down. I had gone out with my carer at the time in my manual wheelchair. A man came up to me and stuck his tongue down my throat. He rubbed himself against me and tried to give me (feed me) a drink. This was not consensual in any way. I tried to push him off me but he was too strong and held my shoulders against the back of the wheelchair. Therefore I was physically disempowered even more than usual.

I never reported it. Looking back I should have done but the experience helped me to empathise with the loss of control people feel when they go through such an experience. Also the force of physical domination by another person in a non-consensual sexual act is chilling frightening and scary. I always feel generally disempowered without my electric wheelchair anyway due to not being able to be as independent as I normally would. Having to rely on other people is something that upsets me as I feel I already rely on them enough.

My second experience was a betrayal of the caring relationship. It happened during my time At University. My regular carer had gone for a break as was usual. I was introduced to a new live-in carer who would be looking after me for a fortnight. She seemed nice if a little depressed herself.

I had supportive flatmates and a good Hall Manager. I went out for my regular cheese themed night out on a Saturday night. I danced the night away and had a couple of drinks. As an aside a bit of an 80s woman on the quiet don’t tell anyone!

So the night ended and I was taken to the toilet before going home. I did what had to be done but began to panic when the carer locked the door. She then proceeded to try to kiss me I told her I wasn’t interested and said I wanted to go home. She sat looking at me in the toilet for a bit longer and then unlocked the door.

I was tense on the way home as though there was more to come. Don’t ask me why I just sensed something.

I got back to my room and she undressed me as normal and put me to bed. However I was not expecting what happened next. She then climbed on top of me held my arms and told me to relax. Relax I thought! I feel anything but relaxed right now I feel terrified. Again I tried to push her off but lacked the strength. I tried in vain to tell her I was gay. She accused me of lying. This was prior to my transition. She didn’t listen. I felt genuinely disempowered once again. She stayed in my room until 6.00 a.m

I confided in my flatmates the next day. My flatmate said she knew something was wrong because she had seen the lights on under my door when she got up to the loo but didn’t think anything of it. The reason why this should have been a red flag is because there was no way technically speaking or physically that I could have operated the light switches myself from my own bed.

My carer returned from her break and knew something was wrong because when the person tried to kiss me goodbye I put my head down on my chest as a protective gesture. She said that this was most out of character for me and she was right. We then reported what she had done to the relevant agency and suspicious behaviour had been reported the previous week. She did not keep the job.

After this, I worked with a counsellor on strategies to keep me safe.

My third and final experience is not related directly to me. It concerns another former flatmate of mine. There’s no nice way of putting this. Essentially he brought a prostitute into our home and raped her with a number of men. This experience was made all the worse by the fact some of the men carried knives and my other flatmate who was deaf was also asleep in the house at the time.

He “reduced her to c*nt” in the words of Kate Millett. He didn’t pay her. Then afterwards he came full of highly inappropriate glee to tell me what he had done in explicit detail. He was boasting about the things he had done. I was disgusted with him. Sweat was pouring off him and he did not even seem to care or grasp the gravity of what he had done in violating the dignity of another human being, of inviting himself into another humans body without her permission. Or maybe with permission analogous to Anne Hathaway’s superb portrayal of a desensitised mechanical and traumatised Fantine in Les  Miserables.

I woke my carer up after phoning her. Initially she thought I was joking. I only wish I had been truly.

Next morning the police came and I gave a statement. He almost got kicked out of University. The callous coldhearted nature with which he had gone about his dealings with this woman, complicit with other men objectifying her reducing her to nothing but a shell outraged me. It offended me and upset me. For I myself cannot imagine comprehending myself disrespecting a woman in such a vulgar manner. As she shouted out to him in the street; “I may be a whore but don’t treat me like a c*nt.”

There will of course be people reading this who do sex work and they will say their clients are nothing like that. Therefore I am pleased for them. But however I am disgusted and remain disgusted at my former flatmate and to this day we have never kept in touch. I just felt so sorry for this poor woman being treated in this way stripped of dignity and humanity. I cried buckets of tears that night.

Ironically to some it was also around this time that my suspicions around my birth sex began to crystallise. I was just nothing like a man at least an alpha caveman anyway. I was not driven by carnal desires but by empathy, love and compassion. I have no sense of male entitlement or any desire for male power because I have seen first hand the damage these things can do.

In my trans years I am interested in supporting women, helping women listening to women and understanding women. Also, men who have been affected by such issues. Social issues and feminism are what motivates me. Illumination on matters where education is needed and only darkness exists. But I feel passionate the women should not be blamed for the misdeeds that have been committed against them but should feel confident and be supported by the full force of the law to bring charges against those who have wronged them. Furthermore I believe they should have access to the type of support that benefits them most individually.

All we do not need is mythological fantasy telling us that rape is somehow preventable. One of the things that made me feel extremely bad on that night was that my disability prevented me from getting out of bed to do anything to help that prostitute out of a dangerous situation. But then the best way to avoid rape is for people not to rape at all. If it happens above all what needs to happen is for victims to be listened to and to be treated as victims, not enablers in the crime. The amount of false rape allegations is extremely low.

Nick Ross’ intentions may have been good but academia should stay where it is and the most credible primary source we can listen to are victims themselves.

 

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One thought on “Rape: Myths, Truths and Experiences

  1. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I dont know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you arent already 😉 Cheers!

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