During my latest run with running partners K and L, the conversation turned to the recent suicide of 17-year old Rehtaeh Parsons, who had been raped by four boys 2 years ago. We all know that Canada (and the pretty province of Nova Scotia) are not immune to such horrible events, yet we couldn't help but wonder what in the world goes through the minds of men for them to commit such crimes... often without a trace of guilt (those guys took pictures and posted them on social media, for goodness's sake!) For your information those 4 boys have remained unpunished to this day. Baffling to say the least, especially when you know there are PICTURES out there.
I am not here to give you a detailed account of the events - it's everywhere on the net for you to read about if you wish so - but I want to share some points of view I have encountered relating to this situation. What it comes down to, as you're about to see, is the attribution of responsibility. Who is to blame when a rape happens?
Right from the start let's make this clear: alcohol is not the culprit. Even very drunk most people wouldn't harm a fly.
By the same token, I would like to ask "Who should worry about rape?" As a friend of mine who has 3 boys said with much wisdom, it's not enough for parents of girls to do everything they can so their daughter will not end up being a rape victim. Parents of boys should do everything they can so their son will not end up being a rapist!
Ah, but your son is not one of those sickos, right? Let me just guess that those 4 guys who raped Rehtaeh, just like a good proportion of rapists, appeared normal to most of their acquaintances. Let me add that they almost certainly used to be a cute, adorable little boy, cherished by his proud parents.
What happened between then and now is what we should worry about. Much more so than we should worry about what girls wear and how much alcohol they ingest at parties. Girls are NEVER responsible for being raped. Period.
On that matter, let me quote an article by Stuart L. Hills, Rape and the Masculine Mystique: "No one, of course, ever inquires whether a robbed service station operator asked for it or observes that nice guys get mugged too."
This is NOT to say that each and every boy is a rapist in the making, oh no. But let's not put our head in the sand and pretend that those things only happen in faraway locations where everyone but the kitchen table is deeply deranged.
At this point in my post I would like to give a voice to a certain number of commenters who have done a great job of putting the dots on the Is and the bars on the Ts regarding this situation. I am providing you with an excerpt for each, but I also included the link if you wish to read an article in its entirety: simply click on the bold title to reach the rest of the article.
It sounds like Rehtaeh’s parents were doing everything they could to help their daughter. What about the parents of the other children? What did the parents of these boys do when they were told what their children had ‘allegedly’ done? There was photographic evidence for god sake! Did these boys go to counseling? What did their parents say or do to let their children know that what they did was wrong? Did Mom and Dad stick their heads in the sand and say, “Not my boy. I know, I know. You have a picture of him doing this awful thing but it must have been her fault. My boy wouldn’t do that.” And what about the parents of the kids who tormented Rehtaeh on Facebook and through text messages? Did they take away their children’s computers? Their phones? Were these children counseled on how their actions made feel?
Never take a drink from anyone or let your drink out of your sight. Don’t show too much cleavage. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Never go to a boy’s room alone. If it comes to it, go for the eyes, the nose, the balls. Always stay with a group of girls…safety in numbers. You can’t trust him, even if he seems nice. These are all the rules I was taught growing up. Parents, teachers, media, all told me I had to be careful not to get raped. Because I was a girl. And the responsibility was on me. I’m so fu**ing sick of it. I don’t have daughters that have to be taught these rules. I have sons. Three sons. And instead, I will teach them what seems like a pretty basic concept that should be taught to all sons: DON’T RAPE PEOPLE!
When women get harassed on the street, or at a bar, or on their walk home from work, do you know what we think? We wonder, am I going to get out of this safely? Am I going to walk away from this? Where are my keys if I need to stab someone in the eye? Are there people on the street? Will they hear me? Which way will I run? Solar Plexus, Instep, Nose, Groin. I’m exaggerating, but only so slightly. Does it disturb you that we think like this? That we have to think like this? Do you want to know the saddest part? When I started this essay describing my Friday night, I almost included descriptions of what my roommate and I were wearing. I almost mentioned that we were casually dressed, that our clothes weren't revealing, that neither of us was drunk. I almost fell into the trap of proving to you how undeserving we were of harassment and I'm embarrassed to admit that to you now. That's how easy it is to go into victim mode, how easy it is to absorb the lesson that you are somehow responsible for unwanted attention, for harassment, even for assault. No one is deserving of your behavior. Ask your female friends, if you have any, if they’ve ever walked home late at night with a key pushed through their knuckles, just in case, if they’ve ever crossed the street to avoid a stranger, just in case, if they’ve ever taken the long way home because of the weird guy on the corner, just in case. Ask them if they’ve ever made up a boyfriend to get a guy to leave them alone, if they’ve ever gotten off a train car and moved to the next because you just never know, if they’ve ever shelled out for a cab because men like you were at the bus stop. Do you really want to be that guy?
A few years ago, as I was about to leave a party, I found one of my friends passed out on the couch. Of all the people who were still there the vast majority were men, many of which I did not know very well but all of which seemed to be "good guys" - I had conversed with most of them and they all knew each other. Despite this "good feeling", my guts told me that I shouldn't leave my friend there; I managed to lift her up and to take her with me - she doesn't remember any of it by the way. I wonder how those guys would feel if I told them why I brought my friend home with me that night, why I did not simply leave her there to sleep it off (she seemed comfy enough on that couch). Leaving without her was simply not an option. Why does it have to be that way?
To finish up, I would really like to share a video with you but I can't seem to find a proper link, so here's how you get to it: On Facebook, find Wipe Out Suicide. Click on their Videos. Click on the one which shows a girl passed out on a couch (should be among the top ones): How to Treat a Girl (or Anyone). Watch. I promise it will be 30 seconds of your time very well used. (Their other videos are great too.)