This week, news has surfaced for the umpteenth time that some finger wagging, self-righteous judge advised a sexual assault survivor that she ought not to go getting herself raped, silly goose!
While being a don’t-get-raped-ist is a popular diversion among participants in the justice system, this hobby is hardly limited to one profession. There are many workaday folks among us who have decided to serve as color commentators on sexual assault; a sort of sexual transgression crossing guard or safety patrol, if you will. I don’t have a lot of time, but I’m going to provide five very good reasons why this is a thing that no one should do, ever.
1) Real life is not a horror movie where it’s permissible yell at the screen “DON’T GO DOWN INTO THE BASEMENT, YOU STUPID BITCH! THE BAD GUY IS DOWN THERE! FUCK! FUUUUUUCK!”
As it turns out, real life is full of actual people. Real life is full of unpredictable events. Life is not a known obstacle course where you step in the holes of the tires, but not on the rubber parts, and where everybody who falls down did the super dumb thing. We occupy an alarmingly dangerous planet. When something terrible happens to someone, it’s not a little treat for you to contemplate or be entertained by. A person who survives a rape is a real person suffering something that might happen to you, your sister, your girlfriend, your mother, your grandmother, your cousin, your daughter, your son or any number of real life people. It’s real pain, not TV pain, not abstract pain or theoretical or philosophical or political pain. It’s visceral, ugly stuff and it’s not your right or privilege to play with it.
2) In almost every scenario, these victim-blaming “truisms” and “common sense advice” seem to come from people who have no idea what they are talking about, so their actual advice is factually inaccurate and stupid.
Let’s revisit the case of the judge who ruled “You Gonna Get Raped.” Her expert advice was that women seeking to avoid rape should avoid bars. If only this young woman had simply stayed home, then presumably she wouldn’t have gotten raped. If you think that statement is agreeable, someone should probably tell you that you are about ten times more likely to get raped at home than you are to get raped in a bar. The truth is that rapists, like almost every other criminal, prefer privacy while breaking the law. Their little rapey brains are still generally aware that getting caught is bad, with a few exceptions. It turns out that the conventional wisdom of locking up your daughters isn’t so smart after all. Even cursory research would inform people against the myths and superstitions about rape, but the loudest voices just don’t seem to bother with facts.
3) It’s a dick move to kick someone when he or she is down.
It’s is unequivocally deplorable to approach someone who has suffered a violent crime in order to insult his or her intelligence, judgement or lifestyle. If another human being has been severely harmed, and you are unable or unwilling to help, the only other acceptable option is to do nothing. Do not engage, fuck off, perhaps think about how you were useless. That’s it. Anything else is wrong. If you seriously can’t stop yourself from ramming your bike into an EMT when you pass by a car crash, then do everyone a favor and take a route that avoids the crash.
4) Focusing on the survivor’s choices creates a critical distraction from the important part of the issue, which is stopping the rapist.
As you can see in the case in question, the Judge mostly failed to bring the perpetrator to justice. If she had focused on the crime and the facts of the case, her sentence might have been more appropriate. Similarly, friends of the accused might not have tried to deter her from prosecuting if they had noted the important part: that rapists are dangerous criminals who rape people if no one stops them. The survivor astutely noted that her absence would not have stopped the perpetrator from assaulting someone else, as it only takes one second of thinking to realize that rapists don’t have rape-soulmates. They’re not starry eyed criminals of passion who are “saving it for the right one” and write sad entries in their diaries every time Very Specific Future Victim decides to spend the night in. There is an economy of it all, where we have the option to ask more than one hundred million women in my country alone to play dodge-a-rapist for the rest of their natural lives, and we choose that instead of vigorously prosecuting and deterring a few thousand rapists. In addition to being unjust, the practice is mind-blowingly inefficient and ineffective.
5) If you ever find yourself in a bad situation, you may find yourself forced to turn to someone who believes people invite bad situations upon themselves; someone who wants to give the same kind of “tough love” you gave, instead of what you really need, which is help.
We don’t live in a vacuum. If you spit out these hateful, victim blaming talking points, odds are that your words will find someone who is receptive to them. You have the power to perpetuate the idea that we should judge and not help. By perpetuating this idea, you are helping to build a society of useless, judgmental bad Samaritans. This is a hostile environment that is bad for everyone, eventually.
That’s all I have to say, really. So please, take off the orange vest, put down the cardboard stop sign, and if you really can’t bring yourself to be sympathetic, please just shut the fuck up. Thank you.