Reaction to RoastBusters

November 15, 2013

It’s all over the media, here in NZ and apparently all over the world.

I’m exhausted. I’m disillusioned and I’m depressed about it.

Why?

Because for me, as for too many women, it’s personal. I’m a rape survivor, and the first time I was raped I was only 13.

I like to approach all problems with logic. And I always want change. I want to live in a world where the young girls approaching 13 that I know (I have a child who is 12) will not have to live with what I live with. I believe that change is possible, that we can live in a more civilised community. To believe otherwise is too depressing.

I like to participate sometimes on community forums. Usually I stay in the safer women dominated spaces, those for mothers. We talk about issues that affect our lives as mothers and it’s mostly comforting and inclusive and it feels good.

Except this week nothing online feels good.

I am dismayed at the mainstream reactions I see to the RoastBusters case. The questioning of the victims and the scarcity of questioning the perpetrators. Why were the girls drinking? Why did their parents let them out so late at night to parties with alcohol? The accusation that those girls should have been more sensible, and they would not have been raped.

I’m sick of it. And here’s why.

There is nothing women can do to stop being raped. Apart from never be in the presence of a rapist. Unfortunately most rapists don’t wear signs on their heads. So they’re hard to avoid. The elderly lady recently in NZ who was raped in broad daylight outside her home, emptying her letterbox, could not have done anything to avoid being raped except…. maybe never go outside? Another recent case in NZ another elderly lady raped in her own bed is told by idiots online she should have locked her door.

There is everything men can do to stop raping women, and there is so much the majority of men who are good men and who do not rape can do to encourage a safer environment for the women around them.

Don’t accept rape humour. For the woman sitting next to you it may be an extremely uncomfortable moment, but she’ll smile and try to not let anyone know. Rape is not a joke. I never laughed about the several times I was raped, and I’m figuring I never will.

Teach our young what consent looks like, boys and girls. Consent requires the active and free “yes” of all genders, at all time, during any sexual encounter. Very simple really.

Teach real respect for others as human beings. Teach empathy.

Don’t engage in victim blaming discussion. Saying “it’s just commonsense” is a cop out. Telling women what we should to to stop being raped is not going to stop rape. Ever. And we know already. It wouldn’t have helped either of the elderly ladies mentioned above, it wouldn’t have helped me as a child of 13. What it does do though is makes rape survivors understand they need to keep their experiences hidden because if we bring them to light our behaviours will be questioned in minute detail, or it will be assumed that we are lying. What it does do is push half the population to live in fear of being raped by the other half, and push half the population into understanding that their movements, behaviours and dress must be limited in a way that the other half does not have to do. It limits our freedom to be ourselves.

The most depressing thing about this week is the focus on what women should do to avoid rape, and the lack of focus on what it is in our wider society that we can change to make rape rare or even (shock horror!) stop it completely.

Apparently there are a few societies worldwide in which rape is rare: Ashanti, Mbuti, Mongo, Tuareg, Gond, Mongols, Lakher, Cuna and Jivaro. Now I am no expert on cultures, I’m a biologist not an anthropologist. But if even one of the societies listed really is one where rape is rare then that proves a point. It proves that it is possible to create a society where rape is rare. And that is a society I think we should all aim to achieve.

But I have been told that I’m dreaming. Rape is always going to happen and I’d better take steps to avoid it. That these societies are not / cannot really be rape free or rape rare. It’s not possible.

The only answer I have to that is dismay, and an understanding that if that is the way most New Zealanders think then they’re right. We will never achieve it.

And one final point in this long rant. The reason I think why this is is because it makes many men uncomfortable. Men in NZ frame our social discourse, and it is men who do the vast majority of raping of women, children and to a lesser extent other men. To point out to men that it is from within their half of the population which rapes makes them uncomfortable, apparently it is misandry to point out this simple fact.

Now if you’re a man reading the above paragraph, read it again. Notice that NOWHERE do I say all men are rapists. I understand that the majority of men are not rapists. But I also know that most rapists are men.

Grow up guys. Put on your big boy pants and help us out here. We are well aware that most men don’t rape, but if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.