It’s been a big coupla weeks for rape.

15 May 2013

Do I have to engage with this? Honestly. What decade is this, again?

All the news about rape in the military is just … indescribable. First there are the crazy numbers (there are three rapes every hour, 70 per day) and the fact that the numbers are up by 35% from last year alone. Then there’s the fact that two separate Air Force officers who served as the chiefs in charge of sexual assault prevention and response for their units have, themselves, been charged with sexual harassment.

Humph. Guess the military’s plan to end sexual assault by sending the message, “Hey, ladies, don’t get raped!” isn’t working.

Then there’s the case of the three kidnapped women trapped in sexual slavery in Cleveland, finally discovered after living in the same house for ten years. Christ.

Let’s not forget that it’s not just this week’s news cycle. There’s also the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, which has put on trial in the school’s honor court a young woman because she complained about the way the school had handled her rape case. This trial could result in expulsion or other consequences for her. Meanwhile, her accused rapist continues on at the university, still unnamed publicly.

And that’s just some recent stuff in the US. Don’t even get me started on rape in other settings. Like India.

I have had it with rape culture.

Here’s my suggestion: guerrilla warfare oriented to the public shaming of individuals who engage in slut shaming and rape talk following a rape case. Yes: what I’m recommending is that we take a page from Anonymous’ treatment of the Steubenville rape case.

It’s largely due to Anonymous that the Steubenville rapists were brought to justice. The individuals teamed up with an Anonymous subgroup that opposes cyber bullying called #OpAntiBully. Their work was far from perfect — the group ultimately had to retract the name of one boy who hadn’t even been at the party — but they started a campaign to draw attention to the case. It was this group that released a bombshell video of one Steubenville grad “joking,” “They raped her harder than that cop [actually a pawnshop owner] raped Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction,” he guffawed. “She is so raped right now,” he said at one point.

Bet he’s regretting that now. Likewise, the four Nova Scotia boys who raped 15-yr-old Rateah Parsons and then harassed her until she committed suicide — only to find that Anonymous was after them. Anonymous has not yet released their names, waiting for an appropriate response by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; but they have let it be known that they’re ready to go public.

Even more than exposing people who say offensive things at parties, the web has become the haven of people who believe they can write anything, no matter how outrageous, under the cover of anonymity. When a woman comes forward to accuse a man of rape, she’s immediately bombarded with anonymous harassment — all of which serves to enhance rape culture more broadly.

So here’s my suggestion: that Anonymous start to pursue public shaming and public harassment of individuals who engage in that behavior online, specifically when associated with actual rape cases like Parsons’ and the Steubenville victim’s.

You might get nervous about this and term this an online form of vigilante justice/lynch mob. This scenario requires that we trust the decisions by hacker groups like Anonymous to make the right choices about targets. The problem with lynch mobs, of course, was that they operated outside the actual legal system and that they functioned on a crowd mentality, mobilizing the lowest human sentiments, often against the most socially disenfranchised — classically, a mob of angry whites against at most a handful of African Americans during the first part of the 20th century, to take one prevalent example.

You might also fear that this behavior impinges on First Amendment freedoms. One of the reasons why we have no law forbidding anonymous trolls from sending offensive texts, emails, and web comments to rape victims is because their hate speech counts as protected free speech. I simply propose that an extralegal counter-offensive against hate speech is also free speech.

Hate speech against rape victims seeks to shame and silence them. So does a counter-offensive against these trolls and the perpetrators of actual rape. As much as I found Take Back the Night marches to be empowering when I was an undergrad — and important for giving me the sense of being surrounded by vocal, smart female and male activists against rape — those marches are not helping right now during this period of a surfeit of rape cases in the media.

Let’s try public shaming of rape culture advocates.

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32 Responses to “It’s been a big coupla weeks for rape.”

  1. Flo me la Says:

    And here in Sweden two guys were just freed of charges of rape because when the girl they pushed a wine bottle into closed her legs, it could have been because she was shy… So you know, they couldn’t know for sure she didn’t want that bottle inside of her.

    Yep, it’s been one hell of a week.

  2. Becky Says:

    It’s been so horrible, that I actually looked at my partner and asked him if all men were actually ok with rape but that the smart ones kept their mouths shut. He was, of course, very offended, and vociferously corrected me about this, but it appears a great number of men just think of women as objects to do with what they will. It’s very disturbing to me, very disturbing. How about the Japanese politician who said the enslavement of “comfort women” was necessary for soldiers who were “facing bullets”. HUH? What’s a woman supposed to think?

    • Didion Says:

      I published that post earlier and then went for a long hike in the hot weather we’re suddenly having — and promptly had doubts about what I’d written. Do I really want a free-for-all of attacks and counter-attacks? Even if I’m willing to trust a group like Anonymous to make the right decisions about appropriate targets, am I philosophically willing to cede that kind of extra-legal power to any group?

      Vengeance is something I appreciate other people enacting in film — it’s not something I’m prone to myself.

      But in the end, the news has been SO bad, and the reactions SO offensive, that I want a solution to our current culture which is so one-sided in supporting rape and its apologists. This post reveals the desperation of a miserable woman who sees little hope otherwise.


  3. Agree whole-heartedly. Like above commenter I’m also from Sweden, and it was actually 3 guys who walked away from raping a girl with a bottle. One of them was quoted as saying: “when she started bleeding it kinda put a damper on the mood.”
    Link to Swedish article: http://www.genusfolket.se/samhalle/annu-en-friande-dom-om-valdtakt/

  4. Servetus Says:

    I’m generally not in favor of shaming anyone for anything but I could make an exception for this. The armed forces stuff is particularly disturbing (and I read an article recently about a woman who worked as an army lawyer and essentially had her career ruined after reporting having been raped herself. They wouldn’t assign her any more cases). I hope it’s “just” that it’s being reported now, i.e., we’re seeing it exposed, as opposed to the actual rates climbing …

    sigh …

    • Didion Says:

      I know what you mean — in fact, I think she was the woman interviewed in that grueling documentary, The Invisible War. The news is just so completely over the top. And I must say that that film helped to tip me over the edge with my desperation.

  5. eteokretan Says:

    Ariel Castro is going to plead not guilty, apparently.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/15/ariel-castro-attorneys-kidnap-not-guilty?guni=Network%20front:network-front%20main-3%20Main%20trailblock:Network%20front%20-%20main%20trailblock:Position8

    “Weintraub [a member of Castro’s legal team] said Castro is despondent in his bare-bones cell – but Weintraub thinks people believe he’s got it too good under the circumstances. “His day consists of remaining 24 hours a day in a room … that contains a metal bed, a very thin mattress that is covered in plastic. It has a metal sink and what appears to be some sort of a mirror,” Weintraub said.”

    Apparently it never occurred to Castro before how terrible it is to be confined to a small place against your will.

    [Granted, he’s still just accused of this crime, but honestly.]

    • Servetus Says:

      I read that too and sort of shook my head. I mean, of course his defense is going to encourage him to plead “not guilty,” and of course he’s innocent until proven guilty, but it sort of defies belief, the way his defense is talking about him, like, oh, you’ll see that elements will emerge that show his innocence … okay, I’m waiting.

      • eteokretan Says:

        Yeah, innocence? Didn’t he basically confess everything already, saying it was the women’s fault for getting in his car, etc.? Didn’t he already call himself a sexual predator?

        There was a version of the Guardian story that went up this morning that was different than the current one. I wish I could find a copy of it. It mentioned the daughter he “fathered,” whereas this one has the daughter “born to Berry.”

      • Didion Says:

        That story is so awful I don’t even think I can write about it. Not least because I’m a little upset by my need for heads to fucking roll on this one. But then, to be honest, I’m no angrier about Castro than I am at the douchebags who laughed at (and tweeted about) the passed-out bodies of girls gang-raped by party goers. Or, for that matter, the “sexual assault prevention chiefs” who sexually harassed women in parking lots.

    • Didion Says:

      Really?!? When will it end?


  6. […] agonizing a while about yesterday’s angry/ desperate post on a guerrilla response to rape culture, I opened up a new novel last […]


  7. Just, yes. Every time I hear a “rape joke” my urge to smack someone silly rises. I think the public shaming of perpetrators is completely fair, considering we’ve been shaming victims of sexual harrasment forever… I honestly think a fair punishment for rape (when a rapist has admitted or bragged about it) is more along the lines of “an eye for an eye”. I’m a very peaceful person about most things, but this – this just makes my blood boil. I’ve seen too many victims shamed, re-victimized, forced or blackmailed or begged to stay silent and it’s not. right.

    • Didion Says:

      Many thanks, Christine — and it’s good to see that another person doesn’t read what I’ve written and think, “Yeesh — that woman is crazy.”

      I admit, I’m increasingly nervous about my seeming endorsement of Anonymous. Perhaps we need a new group of hackers. Anyone out there with skilz?

  8. Didion Says:

    Turns out, Ladiez With Skilz are way ahead of us on this one. See here for a story about women who re-worked a sexist Facebook page in the best possible way … only to find, naturally, that Facebook reacts in a way that has us all scratching our heads.

    • Didion Says:

      Where are our real-life Lisbeth Salanders?

      • Servetus Says:

        Isn’t that kind of the problem? Someone who exacts that kind of vengeance has to be radically damaged herself …

      • Didion Says:

        But I think it’s part of the superhero trope that the hero be damaged. Or at least in the case of Batman.

        I don’t feel particularly damaged myself, but am willing to fight the good fight … so long as I can learn the hacking chops to do it.

        Then again, I’ll probably just keep being a college prof. Sigh. The Woman Upstairs.

      • Servetus Says:

        How hard can it be? Google tells us all. For instance, here’s instructions to create a DDOS episode.

        http://www.trainsignal.com/blog/videos/ethical-hacking-how-to-create-a-dos-attack

        You can be a College Prof by day, and then go into a phone booth or a Bat Cave and come out a hacker. I mean, Superman didn’t spend all his time saving humanity. He was also a newspaper reporter.

      • Didion Says:

        I can do this! Why, I believe I’ve even got a pair of glasses around here to cultivate that aura of dweebiness.

        Of course, Lisbeth had that guy Plague to help with the gadgets. She also had fearlessness. The problem with being an academic is that I learned fear the minute I got to grad school. Must unlearn fear….

      • Servetus Says:

        You’ve also gotta learn how to anonymize your IP.

        And yeah. You’ve gotta feel like you’ve got nothing left to lose. Paradoxically: a hard mood for academics to cultivate.

      • Didion Says:

        Sigh.

        Considering that I’m somewhat dedicated to remaining somewhat anonymous on this blog, I really ought to learn how to anonymize my IP.

        But there’s fear, and then there’s laziness, which academics also have in spades.

      • Servetus Says:

        fear, laziness, exhaustion. The Holy Trinity.

  9. Scott Cunningham Says:

    I love this idea! Heck, I’ll publicize a few names right here.

    When I was 17 I was sexually assaulted by Pat Sully. Pat Sully. I don’t know the name of whoever raped me and tried to murder me when I was 23 though. My second-year university roommate Edwin Lang of Toronto Ontario Canada would always shout rape threats at passing joggers, so we started inviting his fiancee out with us every time we left the house in the hope he wouldn’t threaten joggers in front of her. It didn’t work. It did not work. He was afraid she might cheat on him, so he constantly tried to cheat first, but he refused to understand what we said about consent so really he was always trying to pressure women around him to drink heavily. We didn’t let him hurt anyone, but he refused to acknowledge what we told him about getting people drunk out of their minds does not equal consent. I hope somebody’s been policing his behaviour to keep him in line since he moved back to Toronto, because Edwin Lang is a pushy, manipulative man steeped in the myths and misogyny and willful ignorance of rape culture.

    This has been a completely factual test of the Emergency Rape Culture Shaming Broadcast System.

    • Servetus Says:

      Wow.

    • Didion Says:

      Cheers to this and THANK YOU for starting this conversation — and I’m going to borrow your Emergency Rape Culture Shaming Broadcast System term — ERCS for short.

      The story about pushy, manipulative, misogynistic Edwin Lang makes me think, again, that one place to start to fight against rape culture is to focus on change within institutions: high schools and universities in particular, where rape of all kinds is endemic. Those institutions either try to ignore these crimes or they seek to sweep them under the rug. And as the case of Edwin Lang reveals, those institutions ignore the hate speech that undergirds rape culture.

      Institutions are particularly touchy about lawsuits and public shaming. Institutions will become antsy if they believe their leaders and administrators might be liable to a lawsuit if they mishandle a rape case. Thus, it is very much to the advantage of institutions to find new ways of addressing these matters rather than to continue their current policies, which only further seek to shame and silence the victims.

  10. exiled Says:

    in b4 not you personal army.

    also anon is an activist group with some hackers in it, not a hacker group.


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