Saturday, August 28, 2010

When Victim-Blaming Hits Close To Home

I met one of Ryan's uncles for the first time tonight and we ended up getting into a bit of an argument about rape and victim blaming. I usually try to avoid these sorts of topics with people, but sometimes it just can't be helped. His argument was that if girls weren't drinking while underage (since we were talking specifically about rape on college campuses) and behaving in reckless behavior, then they wouldn't have been in the position to have been taken advantage of in the first place. This argument is nothing new of course, but it made me realize that in some ways blogging has made it more difficult for me to carry on these sorts of delicate conversations in my personal life.

Because here's the thing, Ryan's uncle probably wants to stop women from being raped just as much as I do. In no way do I think he's a bad person, but I couldn't stop myself from getting angrier and angrier. I noticed I started to get hot and my breathing became more erratic as I tried to calm myself down and speak rationally about why I believe this type of thinking is pretty reprehensible (which you should know by now if you've paid any attention to what I write here). But I just couldn't. Instead I kept saying the same thing over and over using different words in an attempt to get my point across while he did the same. Then I got angry that I was having this argument with someone in Ryan's family and it made me even more upset. It was when we were driving home that I realized I carry a lot of the baggage from the various conversations I've had online about this topic. Whenever I get into a conversation about rape, I now have a certain amount of anger that I can't seem to let go of. And that really sucks.

Always blame the victim, originally uploaded by mercurialn.

Don't get me wrong, I think I have a damn good reason to get angry over this sort of thing (as we all do). I just wish that I could have admitted that it was this sort of thinking that had made me deny my rape for so long and that for me this conversation is as personal as it gets. It's easy for these people to make vague comments without any sort of true concern about their own safety or the safety of others, but it doesn't work that way for me. We're talking about something I lived and not some faceless statistic. And yet, I never say that. Because I feel like I can't. That I shouldn't. That it isn't allowed. And that makes me even more angry about the whole thing.

I don't want to care that I may have acted like a crazy bitch to someone who essentially blamed women for being raped, but I do. I wish I didn't, but I really do in this case. And part of me thinks that is part of the problem with rape culture. Not only do I feel silenced, but I also feel like I shouldn't be angry about that silence. Sometimes I feel like the more I learn the less I can tolerate and sometimes I realize how high a price it is to not be ignorant. Then again I don't want to blame everything on rape culture, so maybe it's just me.

I really hope it's not just me.


  1. I wrote this while angry and confused so please excuse any rambling. I feel all exposed for some reason.

  2. It's not just you. I think you have a right to get angry about something like that. As much as he may mean well and be a good person, there's no getting around the fact that he was invalidating your experience and that of other survivors. It's privilege, like straight privilege or white privilege or male privilege, but this is the privilege that comes from being someone who hasn't experienced a rape or sexual assault. The privilege to pretend that it's not real, so you can say things about victims' drinking habits and believe that means something. You and I and others like us don't have the luxury of choosing that kind of ignorance. I can understand wanting to be nice and get along, but it's okay to get mad. Unfortunately, I don't know how to reconcile the two. I guess the best thing to hope for would be that he eventually grows more understanding of your position, or at least learns to leave that topic alone out of sensitivity for you. Anyway, it's definitely rape culture, and it's not okay that it's silencing. And you should not ever have to apologize for being mad about it. The society that perpetuates rape culture should be the one apologizing to you for making you put up with all these stupid consequences for something that someone else did to you.

    I hope that was coherent. I felt a bit rambly.

  3. I think that when it comes to things like this, you really can't change people's opinions. All you can do is make your argument and that's kind of frustrating and you'll get pissed as hell but it's all you can really do with some people.

  4. Yes, you guys are both right. And you weren't rambling at all Eve. You said exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you.

  5. It's not just you. I get really angry too, and am unable to make rational arguments. I actually get frustrated because I talk about and read about and write about this all day, every day on the internet, and having to repeat myself makes me start to feel like a broken record. You're human and you're passionate and that's going to result in anger and frustration at people that just don't get it sometimes.


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