Dame(sel) in Distress?
Feminist advocates have spent years working to define rape as a social problem. These advocates have worked as claims-makers in this regard and have engaged in various framing processes along the way. Sociologists and criminologists have entered the conversation along the way offering a variety of theoretical perspectives and empirical investigations to help understand rape and sexual assault more fully. Despite these efforts, rape remains one of the most underreported crimes with an even more dismal prosecution and conviction rates.
The assumed incidence and prevalence of rape means that many people are either victims themselves or know someone who has been the victim of rape or sexual assault. Nonetheless, talking about rape remains difficult for many and victims are often ashamed and fear being unfairly judged or stigmatized if they tell anyone. Dame Helen Mirren, who has recently come forward to say that she was date-raped but did not report it to police, seems typical of other victims. On the other hand, she also has suggested that women jurors are more likely to think a rape victim asked for it. This juxtaposition may capture just what makes it so difficult to prosecute and prevent rape. Mirren’s comments, while made by a self-defined victim of rape, portray the kind of victim-blaming sentimentality that reinforces cultural attitudes, norms, values, and practices that excuse and normalize rape and other forms of sexual violence.
Jennifer L. Dunn on Accounting for Victimization
I live in the belly of the beast, the American Southeast. In my community, rape is underreported because it is same-sex rape and/or rape that involved trans people. Coming out to the police, especially in the South, could be further traumatizing. Furthermore, sending a trans person to jail is harmful to that individual as well as to community. The criminal justice system is not set up to respond to the needs of survivors who are LGBTQ, nor to keep safe our rapists who are LGBTQ.
In this case, I think responses other than reporting rape to the police are necessary. In my community, we are talking about creating queer survivor groups or places within community where we can hold our rapists accountable. If you know of any resources or models to such groups, please send them my way.
Studying rape as a social problem calls on us to look at the role of the broader social context instead of just at individual behaviors. This is a great way to get past looking at the women who “ask for it” and the “delinquent” individual men who commit the crimes.
Anytree, you make some very important points about the problems of reporting rape. Bottom line is that ‘reporting rape’ is clearly not always desirable from several standpoints. Your points about LGBTQ community must continue to make themselves into the broader dialogue about rape. One thing we can do as those who care about the issue is, as kiyallsmith acknowledges, insist on a critical examination of the structural and cultural context within which rape occurs. I am not familiar with any specific queer survivor groups but many LGBTQ community centers work to advocate for such programs. It sounds like a great project to work in collaboration with any local victims advocacy (e.g. rape crisis, battered women’s organizations) to get started. As far as resources, I would suggest checking out the website of Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) for general information at http://www.rainn.org and the National Center for Anti-Violence Programs has a special publication on violence in general in the LGBTQ community that may be helpful in writing grants for the group. This report can be found at http://www.ncavp.org/publications/NationalPubs.aspx.
I imagine that a link will be incoming any moment, but this post features on the carnival against sexual violence http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com/2008/12/carnival-against-sexual-violence-60.html congrats to Socmatters.
Our sister blog, Religion Compass Exchanges had a post on a related subject which you may also find of interest http://religioncompass.wordpress.com/2008/07/22/news-benedict-xvi-meets-victims-of-sex-abuse/.