The Rape Issue: PW Attacks the Myths & Lies About Sexual Assault

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 11 | Posted Jun. 22, 2011

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Rapists are the only criminals who don’t need an alibi. They rely on lies and the people who perpetuate those lies, like local columnist Dan Rottenberg, whose recent editorial/rapist’s manifesto went national earlier this month for trumpeting the old victim-blaming trope that victims invite rape through their clothing—a dangerous bit of pro-rape propaganda rapists have been telling juries for years.

Last week, I wrote a response to Rottenberg’s column. Some people thought I shouldn’t have, that responding would simply draw more attention to his ideas. Hogwash. The problem is the exact opposite. The lies that enable sexual assault to be practically a rite of passage while growing up—1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are molested—are already everywhere, so deeply rooted in our culture you have to dig deep to yank them out. Just look at the statistics. We’re called Killadelphia, but the rape rate is almost five times the murder rate. Only about 3 percent of rapists spend a day in jail. Staying silent has never helped a situation of sexual assault, ever. We say no. My column was a drop in the well in terms of addressing the lies perpetuated in Rottenberg’s column. We say there is no better time to learn more and write more reality checks.

In This Issue:

Women Taking a Stand Against Street Harassment: Nicole Finkbiner hit the pavement to report on catcalling. It isn’t flirting or flattering; it’s a threat that pivots on the fear of assault previously delivered by other men, TV, the worried parent who warns, ‘Be careful. You could be killed. Or worse.’

Q&A With a Leading Male Voice Against Sexual Violence: Michael Alan Goldberg talks with Dr. Jackson Katz about redefining rape as a men’s issue. Almost half of all victims of sexual assault are under 18 years old and 1 in 10 victims of sexual assault is male.

Survivor of Sexual Abuse Shares His Story: We hear from a contributor who was molested as a child and how, because of the victim-blaming lies his attacker told, no one believed him.

Reality Check: Pennsylvania's Rape Laws Perpetuate the Myths: I report on how in good old Pennsylvania, victim-blaming lies and myths are so deeply embedded in the criminal-justice system that we are the only state left in the country that bans experts from testifying in sexual assault trials and formally instructs juries to draw verdicts based on a disproved bias against victims. (But hopefully, legislation correcting this bit of dark ages will pass this year.)

Number of Rape Victims Reported Don't Reflect Reality: I also delve into the ways sexual assaults are downgraded in statistics. Because of the system—which relies on a definition of rape that’s 81 years old—it’s almost impossible to have a complete statistical snapshot.

What we do know is that rape is a weapon of war, a tool to put victims in their place. It says: That place is in a pool of blood or a Dumpster in an abandoned lot in Kensington. The threat of rape says, you will be told where you can and can’t go alone, and you have what’s coming to you if you don’t follow our rules. It tells kids: Love hurts.

We also know rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power. To view rape as sex is to peer down through the eyes of the perpetrator. Rape isn’t sex to a victim, whether that victim is a 7-year-old girl, a 13-year-old boy or 42-year-old woman.

It’s not random that gang rapes of black women by white men helped ignited the civil-rights movement of the 1960s: Rape is a civil-rights issue. As you’ll read about in these pages, we’ve got a long way to go. Meanwhile, we won’t answer lies with silence or burning cheeks, but with information. And honestly? Fuck that.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 11 of 11
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1. Mo said... on Jun 22, 2011 at 01:38PM

“Excellent work. This archaic victim-blaming mythology needs to get blown to shreds, we are living in 2011 after all. Thanks for stepping up to the plate!”

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2. Anonymous said... on Jun 22, 2011 at 02:05PM

“"We" don't know that rape is about power rather than sex. A select group of sociology ideologues merely believe that to be the case, with weak reasoning and data behind the argument. You can keep repeating it as much as you like, but that doesn't make it true. As for rape actually being sex, it clearly is. Sex doesn't have to be consensual for it to be sex; rape is just an abhorrent form of it.

Also, it'd be nice if we dropped the concept that a not guilty verdict is not believing the victim, given that there will undoubtedly be testimony from the accused giving a different account, and a conviction requires proof beyond reasonable doubt. If "believing the victim" means a certain conviction based on their testimony alone, it would be healthy to maintain some skepticism. Things like the alleged victim being drunk are relevant; they factor in to their credibility as a witness.”

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3. john Miller said... on Jun 22, 2011 at 07:25PM

“Power is a nebulous concept. Both rape and sex are about power, just different types. In rape power lies almost exclusively with one actor, in sex there are varying degrees of power among actors.”

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4. alicia said... on Jun 23, 2011 at 08:39AM

“excellent article that needs to address the issue of sexual violence towards people. its time to raise our collective voice to speak about what this does to people, families, communities and societies.
so often people dont think or want to talk about what leads to drug abuse, what leads to violent behavior, what leads to mental health problems. but i'm glad to see such a prominent information source taking a stand on the issue.
there are some really demented souls (as we can see from just these comments) who refuse to see the realities of power and control in its most devious form. but people like that will always exist and should never stop or minimize the movement towards truth and healing.
good job, PW!”

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5. Anonymous said... on Jun 23, 2011 at 11:37AM

“Sex is only about power when there is consenual power play happening. Sex is about mutual respect care and pleasure and should be that way no matter what your relationship is to the person you are consenually fucking (and also when there is consenual power PLAY happening). Rape is about power and control, domination and coercion, about privilege and ideas of ownership and entitlement and is not consenual, and is definitely not sex, it is an act of violence, which sex is not. Comparing the two, or thinking of rape as existing somewhere on a sexual spectrum, even if on the deviant end, doesn't mean that you have some unacademic, plebian, realistic view of rape. Probably it means that you have a pretty unhealthy view of sex. When Murtha says we I believe she means sex positive, anti-rape feminists and their allies, which you are clearly not if you believe that sex doesn't have to be consensual to be defined as sex.This idea only supports rape/rapists.”

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6. What the hell, Anonymous? said... on Jun 23, 2011 at 12:06PM

“You are truly fucked in the head. I was viciously gang raped as a teen, and though I've been able to recover, it still haunts me. And I can assure you, rape IS NOT SEX.

Seriously, what planet are you on?”

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7. courtney bambrick said... on Jun 25, 2011 at 07:09AM

“THANK YOU a million times for this article and all of its amazing sidebars. i wish i didn't have to scroll down so far on the website for it.”

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8. Nathaniel Borek said... on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:52PM

“All the articles about rape culture in the last issue were well presented, needed, and welcome in this city as far as I am concerned. It is very unfortunate that people who have never had the experience of being raped find it hard to understand that rape is not a sexual act on the behalf of the victim. It is very unfortunate that people who have never had experience being raped, or experience with loved ones confessing that they were a victim, also find it hard to believe that being a victim of rape isn’t a “welcomed”, “invited”, or “desired” experience. I would be absolutely amazed and appalled if there were any rape victim that would suggest that they dressed or acted a certain way because they wanted to be raped.

(cont.)”

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9. Nathaniel Borek said... on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:53PM

“One thing bothers me just as much, if not a little more, than the unfortunate blame that is placed on rape victims: the placement of these articles in Philadelphia Weekly. Being a man I agree with Dr. Katz that men need to be participants in the awareness of and fight against rape culture. Though I do not agree that men need to be the majority that bring about change. Being a man and a victim of rape (as an adult), I believe that this problem needs to be addressed and spoken about equally, by men and women, victim or not. All that said, I am glad these articles were written, but it seems hypocritical of the people at Philadelphia Weekly to quote Dr. Katz referring to a hypothetical conversation to address objectification: “The word ‘that’ immediately objectifies her, she’s not a person, she’s ‘that.’ That’s a very subtle but very common thing. That behavior is on a continuum where rape is the extreme, but rape doesn’t come out of nowhere. There’s a culture that breeds it.”

(cont.)”

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10. Nathaniel Borek said... on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:53PM

“In every issue of Philadelphia Weekly (that any man, woman, or child can pick up for free) there are advertisements showing half, if not completely, naked women and men with stars or black boxes over their eyes with print that says: “HOT SEXY BABE”, “lust reigns supreme”, or “Beautiful Blondes! Busty Brunettes! Ravishing RedHeads”. An add that features a naked person with their face blurred or covered does the same thing the word “that” did in Dr. Katz’s hypothetical conversation. It turns a person into an object, a sexual toy or receptacle. While these articles were very informative, they seem at odds with the way Philadelphia Weekly does business.”

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11. Hecuba said... on Jul 6, 2011 at 05:23PM

“Feminists have been saying for decades that 'rape' is about male sex rights to women which means when men rape women they know these men are enacting their belief in their right of sexual access to any woman 24/7. Question why do so many men commit sexual violence against women they know if it isn't about male sexual domination over women. After all men could easily enact male power and male domination over women by simply subjecting them to physical violence, but no these men believe they are entitled to have sexual access to women and that is why they rape.

Certainly for the female victims what they are subjected to by the male rapist is not 'sex' but for the male rapist it is 'sex' because he believes women have no right of ownership of their bodies because women are just 'sex' and hence cannot be raped since they only exist for men's sexual servicing.

So next time don't call rape 'violence' name it male sexual violence or name it as male belief in 24/7 sex right to women.”

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