The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thinking twice

Recently there have been a lot of things going on in regard to violence towards women.*

There's been the case of the All Black who got a discharge without conviction for assaulting his wife, the 12 year old girl who was raped walking back from a party late at night, and internationally the Virginia Tech shootings media coverage horrifyingly ended up focusing for a while on a young woman who was unfairly and inaccurately labelled as the "cause" of the deaths (including her own) because she had supposedly rejected the shooter. Maia's also shared the disturbing news that someone found her blog, where she writes against rape effectively and passionately, through search terms suggesting they were trying to find out about raping without being caught.

One thing that I want to focus on today is the blaming that happens; how women are held responsible for the assaults and violence that can overwhelm their lives.

Sivivatu's wife was blamed by his mother, and I think we can assume possibly took on some self-blame from the fact that she withdrew her complaint despite the police continuing with the charges. The 12 year old was blamed as questions were asked about why she was out at the time of night, and why her parents weren't looking after her.** A female student at Virginia Tech was singled out by media all over the world, for a while anyway, as the obvious cause of the shootings.

Did any of these women hit, rape or shoot themselves? Did they ask the person who assaulted, raped or killed them to do it?

I'm quite prepared to accept that there are societal pressures that shape rapists, particularly the existence of social norms that reinforce the view of self-denial; that seemingly impenetrable wall of belief that many hold that says "I'm not a rapist, she was drunk" or "I'm not a wife-beater, she provoked me." I've written a bit about this before, about knowing men who I believe have raped, but would never ever consider themselves rapists.

Frankly it's not good enough. All of us need to look inside ourselves and ask some hard questions; have I ever had sex with someone who couldn't consent? have I ever coerced someone into sex? have I ever hit someone when I really wasn't defending myself? have I ever blamed my actions on someone else to justify my violence towards them?

And we need to encourage this questioning in our children. We need to raise sons, and daughters, who can strip away the bullshit from their own thought processes and act consciously, without finding rubbish excuses that let themselves off the hook. And we can all play a role in this, through leading by example, through questioning the children we interact with, by learning how to see our own true motivations and the real effects our actions have on others.

Because I cannot believe that anyone who consciously considers their motives, and the effect their action would have on others, would choose to rape, or beat, or kill.

* Actually that's a crap first sentence. There are always lots of things going on in regard to violence towards women, or at least that's how it seems to me. I guess it would be more accurate to say there is a lot of media coverage right at this moment. Sadly I am too lacking of teh smarts today to come up with a better start, so you're going to have to just go with that and hopefully forget about the clunky beginning by the time you're at the end of the next paragraph.
** I did initially wonder about the role of the parents in this, I would have expected them to be caring for their child sufficiently that she wasn't in a vulnerable position like this. However subsequent media reports suggest that the parents believed that their daughter was staying with another family member. And ultimately I don't think they should share anywhere near the burden of blame that the rapist ought to.

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