This is a guest post by James Landrith.
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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