A Rape in BRC

I just found this article on Yes Means Yes, “A Rape in Black Rock City,” and I’m so thrilled to see that this conversation is still alive four months later. Interestingly, my rapist is mentioned in the article because of what went down at Burning Man with him last August.

Even more interesting, it looks as though there are some people commenting about the guy who was outed as a sexual predator in the Austin burner community a few years back. One of Atomic’s victims was one of my only supporters in that community when the shit went down on the FB Burning Flipside Flipizen group. She kept me going in private messages and emails, watched the thread for abuse, as I left the group as soon as my rapist and his harem showed up, and helped send things to my sexual assault attorney. I am forever grateful to her especially.

Side note: Speaking of which, since someone from the Austin community commented yesterday and I promptly deleted their comment…just don’t. If you don’t live in Austin, TX, or even if you do and you’re not part of the following communities, please skip this section. I have no interest in hearing from anyone from the Austin Burner Community, Austin Poly Community, or Austin Ecstatic Dance community unless you were one of my handful of supporters, either publicly or privately, or you start with a profuse apology for not demonstrating an ounce of human compassion during that horrific time. My supporters know who they are, as they reached out via email, FB message, or by commenting on this blog. They are always always always always welcome here. They have my eternal gratitude for the kindness they showed me. For the compassion and empathy when everywhere I turned I was me with cruelty and victim-blaming and accusations of being a liar. I would name my wonderful supporters here, but I respect their privacy.

However…If you stayed silent. If you supported my rapist. If you shunned me. If you turned your head. If you engaged in derailing and rape culture rhetoric, and especially if you called me a “troll” (even though the “troll” in question wasn’t me, I didn’t even know about “Balanced Scales” until several friends asked me if I was her. She is to this day my *only* public supporter, so she is always welcome, and I am eternally grateful), especially if you said it was a case of “love gone kaplooey” or if you openly argued with me on this blog or elsewhere about community responsibility and how it wasn’t.

I have two words for you: Fuck You.

Leave me alone.
You are not welcome here.

Unless…your comment or email starts with a profuse apology for contributing to my secondary trauma, for protecting my rapist and giving him social license to rape again and again, for not showing a modicum of human decency for a human being in pain, and for not believing me. Start with that. Show some humanity and compassion and empathy (empathy not qualified with “sometimes your posts make me angry” (hint: stop reading them), then you’ll be welcome here. Otherwise. Fuck off.

Flipside, Austin’s Regional Event, can and does keep sexual predators out with enough evidence. I only hope for the sake of other women that I provided enough for them to keep my rapist out of the event.

The entire article and all the comments are well worth a read. Anything to raise awareness of rape culture and how society protects rapists. Until we can understand and accept that, nothing will change.

Several of the people who did show me support, Joseph Pred, Dr. Placebo of BED, Kitty Stryker, and Pepper Mint are all quoted in this article. These are good people. Pepper, especially, has been an advocate for me in the Austin Community as well as at Burning Man. He’s brilliant, and I hope to be working with him when I write my book on Responsible Community Response in a few months.

Excerpt from this post:

Recent Events

I’ve heard a lot of longtime Burners say that Burning Man 2012 felt more rapey than previous Burns. I haven’t been around long enough to have an opinion, but while I had plenty of awesome conversations with awesome guys on the playa, I also handled a number of invasive guys. Many folks have pointed out that Black Rock City may be a temporary city, but it’s still a city — over 50,000 people attended in 2012. As with any community, our community will have to deal with both predators and clueless people.

* * *

An Assault

These issues were highlighted in September, right after Burning Man 2012, when a thread popped up on the biggest Burning Man forum called “Serial Rapist On The Playa.” The original post was written by a Burner named Miss R. Here’s an excerpt:

Thursday night my daughter (who is 19) and I went riding our bikes to a few art installations. We were sober. She decided to go see Burn Wall Street but I was tired. She took off on her bike. On the way to the installation it began to rain. She ducked into Want It Camp.

12 hours later she arrived back to our camp hallucinating and having been given an IV at the med tent.

She had been found behind Emerald City, face down and overdosing. The rangers assumed she had gotten drunk or taken drugs. Several hours after returning to our camp bruises appeared on her neck and it was obvious from other signs that she had been sexually attacked.

More, including a quote from Pepper Mint, in which he refers to my rapist.

But, as those of us who research rape already know, the majority of these crimes don’t happen with weird strangers; they happen with people the victim already knows. And as I already pointed out, predators are on the lookout for cultural gaps to exploit. So the only real long-term solution is to change the culture.

There are two components to changing the culture. The first is that we call out the people who violate boundaries, even when they’re our friends. It’s relatively easy to watch for outsiders who behave oddly. It’s much harder to talk about community members who hurt people. Maybe Creep Cards will help with this, but sometimes stronger measures will be called for.

To that end, I recognize that what Want It camp has gone through was painful for the whole group. But whether their campmate is guilty or not, this is part of the Burning Man community process of incentivizing good behavior. We as a community are making it clear that no, we’re actually not as vulnerable as we might appear. (Readers will probably be unsurprised to know that similar issues around naming abusers have surfaced in the BDSM community; Tracy Clark-Flory has a good summary of that, too, including quotes from Thomas.)

A sex activist and Burner friend of mine named Pepper Mint, who camps with Poly Asylum, wrote to me by email that:

I can also confirm that the playa felt extra-rapey this year. I got a total of three reports of harassment directly from friends. And it was underscored for me because someone asked my camp (pre-playa) to exclude her rapist who hangs out in poly circles. After being asked to leave our (and the other poly) camp, said rapist dude then proceeded to stalk her all over playa, threaten lawsuits, and try to get law enforcement involved on his side. (emphasis mine. link mine.)

Much like with BDSM, I don’t think we can rely on the authorities or even the wider community to help protect people. As you can probably guess from the above, I’m a strong advocate of naming names, and having a culture where doing so is acceptable. That’s the only way I’ve seen actual progress in sexual minority communities around sexual assault. Naming people may in fact sully some reputations incorrectly, but it’s important to remember that the vast majority of accusations are correct — the highest estimates put false accusations at 10%, or 1 in 10. I have yet to see a false accusation, and I’ve thrown a lot of folks out of parties at this point (though admittedly very few for full-on sexual assault). I’m okay with the occasional guy having to explain some inaccurate stuff to his social circle if it means that rape actually carries a social cost in our communities. I’m even willing to be that guy. (emphasis mine)

Pepper suggested that in such cases, everyone in the community should at least know the identity of the accused. I think it’s worth asking: What are the implications of enabling that information to remain secret? When we recognize that predators exploit gaps in the culture, how can we narrow those gaps? How should the wider Burning Man community handle Want It Camp in the future?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Creeper Cards and the rest. This is an ongoing, very sensitive discussion, and I’m open to all opinions, but rape apologists and rape culture BS will not be tolerated.

I was thrilled to see the victim of this rape being discussed and her mother commenting on the post. Good for them for speaking out. Thrilled to see they will not be silent.

I will never be silent again.


~ by omgrey on January 27, 2013.

3 Responses to “A Rape in BRC”

  1. […] A Rape in BRC […]

  2. I like the Creeper Card idea as a specific tool for specific situations. I have some concern that there might be some trying to push limits to collect the cards, or to use that as an excuse for pushing boundaries. But on the whole, I think that there is a significant element of ignorance about consent that the cards can help rectify.

    I don’t think the cards will do a thing for predators except possibly putting them on notice that people are paying attention.

    I have become convinced that the event organizers have heard what people have to say about the “rapey” atmosphere and have rejected it. Their inability to confront the issue, I fear, will have awful, tragic results. That is, unless we Burners make it something they can no longer ignore.

    I can and have done things for my camp to be a safer space or make people more aware of dangers, but that’s about it. But artists and alcoholics (AA) and all manner of groups gather and meet on the playa to advance or help the causes that are meaningful to them. It occurred to me after reading “A Rape In Black Rock City,” that maybe there can be a coming together on this issue as well. I have no clue how though, when I speculate the ways lead to more problems – like if bars had a litmus test to be deemed safer spaces. Speculate on that for a moment and see the potential problems crop up.

    So, I don’t know what can be done as a community when the infra-structure won’t admit there is an issue, but I’m willing to help if any smarter than me come up with something. Until then, I do what I can as an individual and theme camp organizer.

    Thank you for talking about this.

    • Thank you for commenting.

      Burning Man, unfortunately, is falling into line with the rest of the culture. No one admits it’s a problem. BDSM communities dismiss it. Polyamorous & sex-positive communities dismiss it. Dance communities dismiss it.

      Everyone does.

      It’s something that happens somewhere else. Not here. Not to my friends. Not BY my friends.

      Denial is so powerful.
      And it enables these rapists to keep raping.

      We must revoke their social license & make it to where they can’t ignore it. Exactly.

      Never thought about that with the creeper cards. That is exactly what would happen. They’d take it as a badge of honor.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

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