Posts tagged ‘assault’

September 19, 2011

Strangers in our midst

There is so much great work out there on rape culture. On what it is and how it impacts all of our lives. There also a great deal of excellent work simply discussing rape and sexual assault, and how it impacts people. In a small way, this post can serve as a footnote or a gentle reminder about one of the most pernicious myths in rape culture: stranger rape.

Stranger rape does happen. Of course, given its prevalence in media reporting we tend to believe that it happens a lot and all of the time. That most sexual assaults are of this nature. Not so much. When the stat is brought out that one in seven women has been raped/sexually assaulted (I’m going from memory, so forgive me if I’ve got the number off — the point I’m drawing doesn’t depend on this number), our minds generally turn towards thinking of women getting assaulted in parks or alleys. Not so much.

Sexually assaulting and raping women is generally done by men known to them. By their brothers, fathers, boyfriends, husbands, uncles, friends, etc. This is the same when discussing sexual child abuse. You often see news stories worrying about the ability for sexual predators to meet children on the internet in chat rooms or whatever. Nope. If you think a child is being sexually abused you must look to their fathers, brothers, uncles, family friends, etc.

Regarded in a certain light, these people can be viewed as strangers: because any person currently assaulting another human being is unknown to me. If I discover such a person in my own life it is because they truly are a stranger to me. I wouldn’t actually *know* them if I didn’t know this about them. The person capable of sexual assault or rape is strange to me.

Outside of this somewhat solipsistic framing of ‘stranger’ rape, it generally is done by people you know. I write this because this aspect of rape culture is often shied away from and it is important that we remember it. That we keep it at the forefront of our discussions about rape and sexual abuse. It also emphasizes why rape culture is so destructive, because this truth keeps disappearing. We talk about why it is futile (and wrong) to tell women to maintain constant vigilance so that they aren’t raped. But we rarely say that this is because it will probably be their father, brother, uncle, cousin, friend, boyfriend, etc., who will rape them. It is next to impossible to protect yourself from someone you live with. Someone who you’ve known for years and hasn’t assaulted you in that time.

So. The message here is that if you are someone’s father, brother, cousin, friend, boyfriend, husband, etc., don’t rape or abuse the people who love and trust you. For those who are strangers to people in their lives, don’t rape people who don’t know you, either. And for everyone, at long last, don’t rape.