How to be a Good Rape Victim

by Rachel Bell on May 22, 2011

Hey, I know, let’s stop focusing on rape victims Ken Clarke, and instead, how about we just tell men to stop raping. Rape is rape, end of story. Now addresssing men’s violence would save the state a pretty penny. Until the UK justice system starts learning from the US, and giving rape victims a lawyer to represent them, here’s what it takes to be a GOOD RAPE VICTIM. It’s a blog post written by the protagonist in the work of the fiction I’m writing.

Are you going to trial? Courageous girl, brave woman, you have reached a rare point. Obviously there was evidence that made the CPS decide a conviction would be very likely. Perhaps the rapist left his imprint on your body. Bruises from his tightening grip or heartless fist, cuts in your flesh from his cowardly blade, a black eye so that you were made to wear your sorrow and shame like a badge. Maybe you reported straight away and they bothered to look for evidence, maybe he left his semen all in and over you. If he did, I am sorry. Whatever the evidence, it has been decreed that you are a Good Victim.

To be a Good Victim is impossible. As impossible to attain as the supposed perfection of the women on magazine covers and billboards. The airbrushed girls who do not, cannot, exist yet, yet we measure ourselves against them. The fake hair, tan, teeth, breasts, waist, legs, buttocks, eyes, lips that we women must aspire to be worth it. Worth anything. Like her, the Good Victim is not human. Yet men – and women who do not question rape myths, demand that women who cry rape be Good Victims to be believed.

A Good Victim is a tame creature. She must not be too confident and sassy. She must not be her own woman. She must not be an independent woman. And she must not be sexy, oh no never. There must be nothing sexy, sexual, or sensuous about her. She must be chaste, with no previous sexual partners. She must never have had an abortion. She must not have children, whose father has abandoned them.

And to be a Good Victim on your day in court, I pray to the goddess of women, whoever that is, that you are free of your abuser. For only when you are free, can your true feelings be set free. I pray you are not coming to your day in court from years of abuse, years of rape by your father or a family member. I know he will have a hold on you even from his from his cell or treatment ward. He will be tormenting you daily, even when he is not raping you daily. If he gets out he will kill you. You would kill yourself to survive that. I know that your pain will only set in once you are free of your abuser and you don’t have to focus on your day to day survival of him. When the day comes that you are finally not scared shitless of him coming to rape you and hurt you again, when you have the chance to run and tell, only then will you be free to feel the true monstrosity of your pain, feel how frighteningly deep it lives within you. Only then when the full extent of your vulnerability and hurt is known to you, will you be able to even begin to recover. But if you make it to the court room at last, brave girl, oh how the months or years of threats, of terror and horror are finally to be faced. Oh how, having been free of that terror for just a matter of weeks, it will all be so much for you to deal with at once. You have had a matter of weeks to come to terms with ten, twenty years of pain, pain that has been delayed so very long, pain that has built up and up and up and now you are in danger of it overwhelming you if and when you look it in the eye. Looking at it square on will make you vulnerable, you will be fragile. You could break like that. Can you take a trial? So maybe, so as not to break, you will carry your street smart persona, your face of survival. It will protect you right? I am sorry my brave girl, but take your street smart face of survival into that court room and you will not seen as a Good Victim.

That brings me, brave girl, to what makes you a BAD VICTIM. It brings me to the rape myths taken on by jurors. To their sexist attitudes about the roles of women and disapproval of a victim which is expressed as ‘doubt’. One of the biggest rape myths is that jurors are blank slates. I have many memories you see. I remember the girls’ and women’s faces, every one of them, as they stood there being judged. The girls and women haunt me. Nearly all of them did not react during or after the rape as the jury expected them to, a jury in which chauvinists or collaborators sat, passing their judgement onto women, just as they do every day. The faces of every one of those girls and woman haunts me. Those poor, brave girls and women who were judged to be BAD VICTIMS.

So what made them BAD VICTIMS? What will make you join the unlucky ranks of the majority? Here’s what. You didn’t fight for your life, until the death, against a stronger, armed man threatening to kill you or mutilate you. You don’t have lots of bruising and physical injuries. You submitted. Now this may be because your rapist or rapists had a knife or gun to your head, it may be that you were outnumbered. Submitting was your way to stop you being KILLED. Like you, most rape victims think they will be killed. Some must submit to save their child too. I remember her so clearly, the woman who was raped in front her own four year old daughter. She had been on one date with the man. She submitted to stop him raping her child, as he promised he would do. She pretended she wanted him, she let him rape her, to ease his violence and protect her beloved baby. She agreed to meet him again to get him out of her home. What did the jury say about this woman, this mother, who had endured such an unspeakable hell? Those men and women decreed, ‘She doesn’t look like the sort of woman who’d be that affected by this.’

Oh I pray that you do not look like ‘that sort of woman’. Or remind them of one, or do anything like one. For then you will be a BAD VICTIM. Now what else might you have done to make you a BAD VICTIM like the rest? You begged your rapist to use a condom, so that you wouldn’t get pregnant or get Aids or any STI. You slept with the rapist previously, consensually. You had sex previously, so you are a slut and unworthy – a slut cannot be raped –and the gynecological signs of forced intercourse have been caused by someone else. Now the biological sera of a woman’s underwear and her sexual activity is of no relevance. Yet it IS a distraction from the defendant onto the victim. It’s of no more relevance to the issue of consent than his sexual activity and underpants. Only in rape cases is the victim put on trial. A rapist is presumed innocent until proven guilty. A person who reports sexual victimization is not entitled to that same presumption. I’m afraid my brave friend, the criminal justice system does not afford you your rights.

Are you beautiful or too ugly? Are you too sexy? I pray you do not dress sexy. Those men and women on the jury are very concerned with clothes. Have you had sex before in your life? Don’t tell me you enjoy it. Are you unmarried? Maybe you enjoy sex even though you are married. You really are a BAD VICTIM. Did you have sex AFTER the rape? My, what a BAD VICTIM you are. You are angry or sullen. You are not educated or articulate. The jury doesn’t like your lifestyle or attitude. You didn’t take precautions. You’re too young or too old. You’re too emotional or not emotional enough. You’re not female. You’re not middle class or rich. You didn’t scream. You must be to blame, BAD VICTIM. There’s plenty more to make you a BAD VICTIM. Plenty more.

You have dared to accuse a popular, famous, well-liked, handsome, gentle, retarded, respectable, rich man. Or a man that gives back to the community and works with kids and has had no complaints before. You were drinking alcohol, whether the rapist was there or not. You take drugs. You are a single mother or pregnant or have had a child with another man. You are black/Latina. You work as a prostitute/stripper. You have a pole in your room, your friend does or maybe you went to a pole dancing class. You have given blow jobs at parties. Your testimony is ‘too good’. You repeated what the rapist wanted you to say: ‘Fuck me rough and hard, just how I like it big man’ and ‘I’m a slut, and I need your big cock to rip me apart.’ You were walking alone, especially at night, in a bad neighbourhood, even if it’s your own neighbourhood. You didn’t scream or run. You didn’t say ‘No’ convincingly enough. You did not report it to the police immediately or cry for help immediately afterwards. You went on a date with the man. You invited him into your house. You were not wearing underwear or a bra. The rape wasn’t ‘violent’. You had sexual contact with him just before the rape. You washed your hair and body afterwards. You are seductive, even though you are five years old.

You are a child and therefore lie and imagine things and fantasize. You complain too much and make the jury resent or dislike you. Yes that’s it. You’re just not very likeable. You could be one of those many women who ‘cry rape’. Jurors are warned about disturbed or calculating women like you. Nevermind that crime statistics show false complaints of sexual assault are no more common than with any other crime.

What? You did not have his semen in your vagina or on your body? YOUR BAD VICTIM STATUS IS SEALED. I am sorry brave friend, that that is because he raped you with a bottle or other implement. Or you pulled it out at the last minute and washed his poison off later. This is why castration will not prevent men raping. The myths are strong but they are myths. Rape is not about an uncontrollable sex drive or out of control hormones. Rape is ALL about control and power and taking pleasure in exerting that control over another human. Rape is taking pleasure in the degradation of another human being.

OK, so maybe by some miracle, the jury decreed that you are a rare creature indeed, that you are a GOOD VICTIM. Now, your case will only have reached court in the first place if a conviction is likely. A conviction is only likely when you have a good victim and it was a ‘real rape.’ It is no longer socially acceptable to openly condone sexual assault, so many people distinguish between ‘real rape’ and ‘grey areas’ such as’ date rape’. Yet all rape is real rape. Rape is rape. Only a fraction of rapes, about 7% are stranger rapes. But the jury will be full of collaborators, full of people who buy into rape myths to let rapists continue their hatred of women. So was yours a ‘real rape’? Let’s see if your rape matches up. Real rape is when: the rapist forced entry and robbed the victim as well. The rapist was a stranger who jumped on you in the middle of the night. Rapists always strike at night, armed with and Rambo-esque weaponry. Despite the rapist’s arsenal, you fought to within an inch of your life, preferably to the death and were seriously physically injured with multiple visible wounds. You, the victim, got a good look at the rapist as it was very light. At least one, preferably several, upstanding, respectable eyewitnesses saw it all and can identify the rapist and that you did not consent. It must never be a case of your word against his, you understand. The eyewitness testimony must be backed up by ample forensic evidence of trauma, semen, blood typing and DNA analysis.

You are a white, middle class, articulate, educated nice girl, even better a Christian, you are someone we can easily identify with by your conduct, demeanor and life history, someone we would welcome into our family and take home to see granny.

Now, what about your rapist. To be real rape, he must look like a monster. So much so that scary music comes on when he enters the room. He bears no resemblance to a normal person. He is certainly not good looking, popular or has a beautiful wife. You see the juror will believe, like many do, the myth that men who have plenty of opportunity for sex do not need to rape. No matter that there is no evidence that men rape because they have been deprived of consensual sex, including sex they’ve paid for. Rape is not merely forced sex, as you know brave friend. Its’ about power and control, about a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, about believing women are less, that they deserve it for whatever reason. For it to be real rape, you must have reported immediately. As for real rapists, well they are obviously products of excess testosterone who eventually confess. They are not evil. They are just sick and can be treated. They may have suffered abuse themselves, which made them do it.

I have been talking a long time I know. It’s because I am angry. Angry because rape is the only crime where the focus is on the conduct of victim. Only crimes that fit all these criteria, with Good Victims, are prosecuted successfully and reach a conviction. Most do not reach court unless they fit these criteria. Those who cling to the myth of ‘real’ rape dismiss the overwhelming statistics to the contrary as the ravings of lunatic feminists. They say ‘date rape’ is the same is ungentlemanly conduct and as for young men who act subhumanly, they’ll say, ‘boys will be boys’. Their focus is on the victim: did she lead him on? what was she wearing? Rape is the only crime that demands performance criteria from the victim. Where we put the victim on trial. Where her conduct and appearance count for so much. When she must prove that she didn’t ASK to be raped. It’s transferring blame onto the victim and ignoring the evil of rapists. In the same way, we ask of domestic violence situations, why doesn’t she leave, not why is he banging her head against the sink for not making the dinner he fancied. We don’t say to people who are mugged, why did you go out alone? What were you wearing? We need to look at criminology not victimology. The collaborators who will sit and pass judgement on you in court believe the line that rapists cross is so blurred, you can’t see it. What does this all mean? It means that like most, you will not get justice for the terrible crime done to you, a crime that many women liken to being tortured and murdered, then left to live. It means something else too. By not convicting and punishing rapists, we are sending a message to society that you can get away with rape, that it’s not all that bad. By giving this permission to rape, rape will rise.

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