I came across this blog [http://www.racialicious.com/2008/12/21/original-essay-the-not-rape-epidemic/] today and it got me thinking about the legal definition of rape. Rape is generally defined as forced or non consensual sexual contact. This definition is broad and open for interpretation, although different states have different rape laws. The complications come from trying to distinguish between what is rape, and what is not. Everyone has their own opinions on this, as shown by the recent “legitimate rape” business. I think there is a certain coldness and insensitivity in attempting to separate “legitimate” rape from “non-legitimate” rape. Does an outsider really have the right to make that determination?
Rape isn’t always easy to prove. It does not always involve battery and it does not always leave visible damage. Sometimes, people don’t realize that they have been raped until after the fact. And yes, this is still rape. No, she didn’t just “change her mind.” She was raped but didn’t realize it at the time. But of course, we cannot rely on the mere word of a victim of rape! They are probably just making it up in order to screw the system. Nevermind the immense amounts of shame and emotional destruction associated with rape – she’s only pretending. If we are more worried about catching victims-who-cried-rape than actually preventing rape from happening in the first place…we need to re-evaluate our moral standards.
The blog linked above states: “What happened in the courtroom is a byproduct of rape culture – when what happens to women is marginalized, when beyond a shadow of a doubt still isn’t enough, when your past, manner of dress, grade point average or intoxication level are used to excuse the despicable acts of sexual violence inflicted upon you by another.”
True that, sister. We live in a society where it is still not safe for victims of rape (female AND male) to come out and say that they were raped. They feel that no one will believe them. They feel marginalized, they feel embarrassed, and they feel guilty. This is a disturbing situation that needs to be dealt with. When we try to classify other people’s experiences based off of our own standards we cannot adequately understand or empathize with them. Victims of rape do not need to be blamed. They do not need to be judged. What they need is compassion. As someone who uses compassion as a cornerstone in building my self-awareness and growth, I am deeply disturbed by the lack of empathy shown to those who have been sexually assaulted or raped, or even just sexually harassed. We have got to take these cases seriously and provide support, not criticism.
Michelle Obama was on-point (as usual) when she described the lack of empathy in our country. Until you can at least attempt to understand someone else’s situation, you have no right to pass judgment on them.