On Gendering Rape: The Statistics Defense

This is a guest post by James Landrith.

If you’re interested in guest-posting at ethecofem, please contact us at ethecofem(at)gmail(dot)com.

Once I began to speak out on my own rape, I was surprised at the number of men and women who wrote to me or called me to talk about their own experiences at the hands of predatory women. Quite a few of the men who contacted me reported that they had been raped by women while attending college. Common methods used included alchohol, drugs or coercion. It happens far more often than most people realize and gets very little attention with regard to prevention and prosecution. In many cases it is outright denied or the concept mocked. Many resources for survivors give it lip service and little else, when it is acknowledged at all. Men are told to suck it up or that they are “lucky” if the perp was a woman. Or their sexual orientation is questioned or it devolves into outright mockery. That’s fun. Then our bodies are used against us to excuse or deny sexual violence committed by women. The “wet noodle” defense or erection = consent meme is a common tactic trotted out by those who wish to deny or make excuses for female offenders. This leads to an abysmal number of men willing to report abuse by women. Why report when so many of those people/organizations who are supposed to be advocating on behalf of survivors are willing to excuse, minimize or outright deny your experience on the basis of gender? Mockery, denial and excuses are only compounded when organizations create awareness campaigns that either accidentally or intentionally give the impression that rape consists of male = predator and female = survivor. For instance, campaigns targeting men that focus on how not to be a rapist or the difference between yes and no clearly promote the concept that rapists are men and survivors are women.

While I understand that statistical models are often used to determine how to direct and target prevention campaigns, such models can also be their own worst enemies by influencing how and who reports, corrupting the very statistics themselves. In short, the numbers of men reporting are very low due to underreporting and most survivor organizations I’ve worked with or consulted acknowledge this and that a large part of the reason is public perception. For example, the following are examples of some widespread misconceptions that male survivors face: a) men can’t be raped and b) women can’t be rapists. Campaigns that target males only as rapists continue to feed the public perception that only men can be rapists leading to fewer males reporting rapes and also negatively impacts female survivor reporting by silencing those who were hurt at the hands of other women, which further skews the numbers they use to justify the campaigns in the first place. It is a vicious cycle and one we need to break if survivor advocates are truly committed to ending sexual violence. While the focus of such campaigns should rightfully be on the behaviour of the rapists and not the survivors, we should not be further promoting the concept that rapist = male and survivor = female.

Politicizing and gendercizing rape only serves to minimize and further alienate those survivors who don’t fit into the traditionally promoted model of survivor vs. predator. Individual survivors have enough “reasons” to not seek assistance or fully acknowledge the violence they experienced. Prevention and survivor outreach models should not create additional mental barriers and public expectations/stereotypes.

This entry also posted here: http://remodel4life.blogspot.com/2010/10/on-gendering-rape-statistics-defense.html

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11 Responses to On Gendering Rape: The Statistics Defense

  1. Danny says:

    Hey there James! I’ve seen you around and I’m glad to see you here sharing your experience.

    What you say is true. If we hope to really make progress in dealing with rape one of the firs steps is to remove the stigmas you speak of here. As long as people keep leaping from rape to the assumption that its a male against female crime the problem of rape will be here to stay.

  2. I appreciate the welcome Danny. I’ve seen you on several other blogs as well and have appreciated your comments and perspective.

    Removing the stigma and supporting ALL survivors is going to be key to ending sexual violence. Until it is truly taken seriously and ALL survivors supported and ALL predators targeted without regard to gender and political points to be won in circular arguments that only benefit certain populations and certain organizations, then real progress will elude us.

    Take it seriously and stop the minimization, excuse making, denial and mockery or risk getting called out for bias and political expediency. Male survivors and female survivors of female predators are beginning to get vocal in recent years.

    We won’t be shamed, ignored or pushed into the “quiet corner” anymore. Time to get used to it.

  3. Flutterby says:

    There most definitely needs to be more awareness of men who are raped by women. Even though I put a lot of time and effort into researching and working against sexual violence, there are worryingly few systems in place to support male victims, and those that are out there almost always focus on male-on-male sexual violence.

  4. Catherine says:

    Excellent post!

    I saw a sitcom a few days ago that used woman-on-man rape as a comedy device. Dreadful!

    • Lara Foley says:

      I think I saw the same episode, I’m assuming you are talking about the episode of sh*t my Dad Says. I was really perturbed by that scene as well, loss of a tooth, bruising everywhere, torn clothes, very unfunny stuff played for laughs.

    • Catherine says:

      That would be the one.

    • Thanks Catherine. I didn’t see that sitcom episode, but I read your blog entry on it. I’m glad I missed it, but thank you for calling foul on that horrible P.O.S. passing as comedy. I previously blogged about the use of female on male rape as a comedic device on my own blog. It can be very triggering to see such things and extremely minimizing.

  5. sunsetz says:

    Very well written. I’ve had a (female) friend who was essentially told “we can’t arrest women for domestic violence.” This was despite several years of documentable abuse against a disabled young woman by a roomate/caregiver. There’s very little focus on either women as perpetrators or men as victims.

  6. Katrina says:

    I greatly appriciate bringing this issues to light. it is a real problem but once again I end up feeling alone in my own situation. I was molested by my older sister. and it has been consistantly minimized through out my entire recovery process. I have had to fight and re-educate ALOT of people who think its no big deal that it was just kids playing, I assure you it was not merely playing she had complete control over me from the time I was a baby. she did what ever she wanted to me and no one stoped her.

    • I’ve heard from a few female survivors who had been abused by their sisters. You are not alone, but I understand how you feel. I hope you are able to find others who share your experience so you can feel less isolated and better understood. For what it is worth, I consider a fellow survivor regardless of the individual differing factors that may separate our own experiences.

      Keep reading, commenting and if you feel strong enough – speak out. They can’t ignore all of us!

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