Responsible Community Response

20120818-104723.jpgIt’s a horrific subject.

It’s a horrific act.

It’s a horrific aftermath.

In fact, there is absolutely nothing pleasant or fun or “sex-positive” about sexual assault and rape. No one wants to talk about it, and I can hardly blame them. It’s, as previously mentioned, horrific. Until I was raped, I avoided the subject like the proverbial plague. And, perhaps (in part) because I did avoid it, it’s now all I can talk about because I’m now a survivor myself. The assaults were not my fault. The fault lies solely on the rapist, but perhaps if I had talked about it, addressed it, recognized that it *could* happen to me and with a trusted lover, then I would’ve been more prepared to respond when it did happen, instead of just going into shock. Perhaps.

I’ve spoken with nearly a dozen sexual assault professionals in the past two months and have done countless hours of research on sexual assault in our culture, the “rape culture,” and read too many examples of sexual assault/rape. In every. single. instance, the survivor is not believed. Even when there is video evidence. So I know that it’s not personal that my former community doesn’t believe me. They probably just don’t know what to believe. They don’t know what to think. They just don’t want to think about it. They want to go back to hooping and dancing and orgasms and forget such evil exists.

I want to do that, too.

The difference: I can’t. Because when I hoop, I think of how he replaced me so quickly. When I dance, I think of dancing with him. When I try to have any kind of sexual activity, including masturbation, I still see him. My assailant. My rapist.

But I get that the community doesn’t know what to do or what to say or what to believe. They don’t want to believe it’s someone they know and maybe even love. They don’t want to believe it, and neither do I.

Doesn’t change the truth.

So, for future reference for the Austin Poly Community, the Austin Ecstatic Dance Community, and the Austin Burner Community, as well as all other communities throughout our culture, here is how to handle a rape accusation:

    1. Believe the survivor. Whatever the “truth” of the situation, the wo/man feels assaulted, violated, traumatized. That is very, very real for the survivor, and there is very likely a good reason for it. Remember, 98.5% of reported sexual assaults/rapes are telling the truth. Odds are, s/he is, too. Believe them.This is what believing them looks like:
      • “I’m so sorry this has happened to you. It’s not your fault. I’m here for as much or as little as you’d like to share. Without judgment. With only support and love.”
      • “What can I/we do to help you feel safe?”
      • “Do you need someone to go to the Rape Crisis Center with you?”
      • “Do you need someone to go to the Police with you?”
      • “I believe you.”
      • Check in with them often. Perhaps have a support group of 5 to 7 people who each take a day of the week to be there so no one person gets overwhelmed with the PTSD. After all, everyone has their own lives to deal with as well.
      • Remind them that you believe them and are still with them often. Understand that it takes MONTHS if not years to get over something like rape or sexual assault, if anyone ever truly “gets over it.” It changes a person on a very deep level.
      • Understand that there is a spectrum of rape/sexual assault. They don’t all look like a stranger jumping out of the bushes and forcing himself with violence or deadly weapons. (An abuser has a wide, insidious arsenal, and they use love and trust and even spirituality as weapons of manipulation.) Rape/sexual assault also looks like crossed boundaries without further, explicit consent. It also looks like having sex with someone who is too drunk or drugged or distraught or scared to freely consent. It also looks like not stopping when indicated to stop either verbally or with physical cues like pushing him away or pulling away or crying. That’s removed consent. Which means, if he doesn’t stop, that’s rape. Period.
      • Encourage wo/men to speak up in the community. Consider a private blacklist of those accused shared privately with women. Warn newcomers up front of people who have been accused of sexual assault or “bad boundaries” or whatever. Let them decide with all the information available. Don’t let them become another victim blindly.
      • Reach out to the survivor personally, offering support. If you don’t, s/he will assume you are taking the accused’s side. I can’t begin to express how lonely this has been, even with the support shown by those close to me. The shame and isolation and fear is staggering. Reach out.
      • BELIEVE THEM! Several years ago in the Austin burner (Flipside) community, a man was accused of sexual assault. The community rallied around him in support, claiming he’d never do such a thing. When a brave woman filed a report, THIRTEEN others came forward having been assaulted by this same man. Don’t let so many others be hurt because you feel uncomfortable with the topic of conversation. Your discomfort is minimal compared to the extensive PTSD and life-altering trauma caused by sexual assault. Seriously.Now another is accused. They’re behaving the same way, publicly at least. Rallying around him. How many others must be hurt before you begin asking the right questions?

If you and your community are interested in helping their members feel safe and protected…if you don’t want to perpetuate rape culture…if you want to encourage more wo/men to speak out when this happens, DO NOT SAY:

      • “Are you sure?”
      • I’m sure he didn’t mean to.
      • “I know him, and he’d never do that.” – because, you really don’t know him. Seeing him at dances and potlucks and dinners isn’t knowing him. Abusers keep a very, very believable and charming facade in public. Period.
      • “Maybe he just got carried away.”
      • “That’s a very serious accusation. Do you have proof?” – This isn’t a court of law. This is a person who has been traumatized.
      • And don’t ostracize them. Take extra steps to include them and make them feel safe. There is a lot of shame that goes along with this type of trauma, and the tendency is for victims to self-blame and isolate. Reassure them it’s not their fault over and over. Show them they have support. Otherwise, they’ll assume they don’t because no one is talking to her/him. They’ll think you just don’t care, because that’s rape culture. They’ve already heard the above far too often.
    1. Question the accused. This doesn’t mean assume guilt. This doesn’t mean condemn them. This doesn’t mean ostracize them. This means QUESTION THEM.

This is what you do/say:

      • “What happened?”
      • “Why does s/he think consent was removed/not given? Why were you still having sex with him/her if consent had been removed?
      • Don’t let them skirt by on reputation and charm alone. They must speak to the events.
      • Watch his reaction. If the word “crazy” or “sick” comes out of his mouth to excuse the accusation, beware. Look at how many other “crazy” exes the wo/man has. Has another “crazy” ex threatened to burn his apt down? Has a third been his “stalker” for 5 yrs? What’s the common denominator here? Does he go through wo/men as often as he gets his oil changed?
      • Watch them. Have there been others? Do they go through wo/men quickly? Are there other symptoms of abuse?
      • WATCH THEM: do they take responsibility FOR ANYTHING? Have they done everything they can to make amends/apologize/treat the survivor with care and understanding? (And not just by his word, by the survivor’s word, too.)
      • WATCH THEM: if they vehemently deny and throw up gorilla dust and gather yes wo/men as character witnesses and don’t speak to the events, HUGE RED FLAG. This is how abusers respond. This is how a guilty person responds. It’s all about control and avoidance of responsibility.
      • If they behave guilty, they probably are. Then, instead of saying “He’s my friend, he can’t be a rapist,” turn that around: “He’s a rapist. He can’t be my friend.” Period. (As Thomas says: “The rapists can’t be your friends, and if you are loyal to them even when faced with the evidence of what they do, you are complicit.”) [emphasis mine]
      • 98.5% of reported sexual assaults are truthful. If s/he says she was assaulted/abused, odds are, she probably was. Which means, he’s probably guilty. Or, if not “guilty” of “rape,” then at least responsible for some sort of horrendous misunderstanding, mistake, bad judgment, or abuse that resulted in deep trauma. The assumption should be the survivor is telling the truth.
      • If he is unwilling to take responsibility, to be accountable, to do everything they can to make amends with the wo/man traumatized, then they’re likely guilty. If not guilty of rape, at least not someone who is honest or with integrity, someone who abuses and treats people badly and without kindness or respect. In this case, ostracize them.

We must shift the burden of care.

It’s truly amazing just how much accepting responsibility, showing remorse, giving a sincere apology, and freely offering atonement, whatever it takes, and/or sacrifice for slights (in other words, behaving like a human being with compassion and integrity) can heal.

The law is decades behind us. It is up to us to protect our loved ones and our communities from these predators. Are you willing to accept that just because there isn’t enough evidence for a criminal case (like 86% of reported cases) that what s/he did wasn’t still morally reprehensible and deeply damaging to the other person? Do you want to be another person who behaves as if it’s acceptable that 97% of rapists walk free to rape again? Ostracize them. Let them find another feeding ground, and they will. Just don’t allow them to continue to feed on your friends, your wives, your girlfriends, your sisters.

Please remember, the monster is well hidden. The mask is so very convincing, even those close to him won’t see it, and even when they see glimpses, they’ll excuse them away because everything else is so wonderful. The control and manipulation happens so very gradually that it’s like a frog in a pot of boiling water. No one sees until it’s far, far too late.

In my case, I’ve been very *very* transparent and honest on this blog regarding the events without going into graphic detail in such a public forum (although I have on other rape survivor sites, and I’ll happily link you to it privately), so I’m being right out there about the events, asking for accountability and responsibility. I’ve taken responsibility for my part in this, and I have done so from early on.

He has not responded to any events. It’s all be gorilla dust and self-righteous indignation.

He has not tried to make amends, take responsibility, or apologize.

He has not shown me a shred of kindness since he sexually assaulted me twice and subsequently discarded me.

So, who’s next? Are you as a community willing to become complicit in abuse because you don’t want to even look more closely? Do you want to be a place that harbors rapists and abusers?

It’s a cultural issue. It’s a cycle.

It’s up to us.

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~ by omgrey on August 18, 2012.

19 Responses to “Responsible Community Response”

  1. [...] Responsible Community Response [...]

  2. This questionnaire format Grey is very good. It should be implemented in every sex-positive community! This guideline/questionnaire is similar (definitely in “spirit”) to MANY pre-membership contracts and policies for the two BDSM groups I was/am a member. Great post! :)

    • Thank you, Professor! It’s my goal to get this out to every sex-positive community across the country & around Europe. As I get better and become increasingly more functional, I’ll be touring and speaking to these groups about these exact things.

  3. Considering the fierce reaction of the internet, I image you’ve heard about Todd Akin’s remarks about rape & his delluisions about basic female biology. There’s a web petition looking for signatures to have him removed from the House Science & Technology committee.

    Here’s the link: http://www.dccc.org/pages/denounce-todd-akin

    They’re still short on names, and with your readership, I was wondering if you could help spread the word. That his words, his attitude and his ideology is so profoundly wrong that words almost fail.

  4. [...] doesn’t trust rape survivors and would rather placate the accused (hmmmm…sounds like a community I know). Rape is rape is rape. “Forcible” rape with a weapon, physical threats, or [...]

  5. [...] I won’t go down the entire list, please go read it for yourself, but these are tips WE ALL can do, regardless of gender. Please take special note to #6: Be Supportive. That means not to shun, question the validity of, or victim-blame the wo/man who’s come forward, like my former community did. Like some of my former friends did. [...]

  6. [...] It is VERY SEX POSITIVE to raise awareness about sexual assault and how to avoid suffering it and inadvertently committing it. A truly sex positive friend of mine says that “sex critical” is very “sex positive,” and I agree with her. She’s also a survivor. Have I mentioned just how many I’ve met? Virtually every. single. woman., and quite a few men, have told me they are also survivors. It is an issue. It needs to be addressed. And it is *very* sex-positive to do so. [...]

  7. [...] disprove.” That truly could not be further from the truth, whether in a court of law or in a social/community situation. The opposite is actually [...]

  8. [...] I speak of the Austin Poly Community because that is the community, and I use that word very loosely, that I have the most experience with. I have seen some [...]

  9. [...] Original Blog Post [...]

  10. [...] That’s the place to start. Cultural change. Community Responsibility. [...]

  11. [...] have helped them feel less alone, and their comments help me feel less alone. Look for a book on Responsible Community Response in 2013, I’m determined to teach communities how to respond to sexual assault and rape [...]

  12. [...] is up to us, every one of us, to make the rapists and perpetrators of sexual assault accountable, SOCIALLY ACCOUNTABLE, for their crimes. Until the law catches up, we must turn the shame onto the rapists and abusers [...]

  13. [...] Looking forward to your respectful comments as part of an ongoing discussion about how to socially deal with rapists. [...]

  14. [...] me sanctuary then ripped it away; friends turning their backs on me and embracing my rapist; an entire community calling me a liar and a troll, even when I wasn’t doing what they accused me of doing; being stalked at Burning Man; the [...]

  15. […] took a third rape in as many years by a third man, ostracism from my community, a dark decent into complex PTSD, and extensive rape recovery therapy to accept these things. No […]

  16. […] months of struggle also included my rapist making legal and social threats, convincing an entire community I was lying, trying to confront me at a sexual assault awareness seminar, and stalking me at Burning Man. Not a […]

  17. […] little hope, that extremely dangerous thing. I know through extensive experience not only that most people are generally insensitive assholes, but also that the rare good, compassionate people have a tendency to keep quiet and hidden. I hope […]

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