Predator Theory

A guest-post by Thomas.


[Trigger Warning, this entire discussion is about rape, rapists, rape methodology and rape-supportive culture] Readers of Yes Means Yes Blog may notice that this largely duplicates my prior writing on Lisak, and I have lifted passages of my own earlier posts wholesale.

Though the stranger rape remains entrenched as the paradigm of “real” rape, of rape that is recognized as such, it is not actually the norm. As most readers of feminist blogs know, acquaintance rapes are by far the more prevalent. In this area, understanding badly lags, and relatively recent research could change the understanding of exactly how acquaintance rapes happen, who commits them, and why. It is for this reason that I have been doing everything I can to popularize the work of University of Massachusetts professor David Lisak, and similar work by some of his colleagues.

Though the term is mine and not Lisak’s, the substance of the research can be summarized by the title of this post. Predator Theory is the theory that acquaintance rape as we know it is overwhelmingly caused by a relatively narrow portion of recidivist undetected rapists in the population, each of whom will have several victims, and that these rapists select targets based on the likelihood that they can rape without meaningful consequence, and favor alcohol and avoid overt force as tools to defeat resistance for just this reason.

Large Surveys of Undetected Rapists

I am aware of two large-sample surveys of undetected rapists. One is Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists by David Lisak and Paul M. Miller, published in Violence and Victims, Vol 17, No. 1, 2002 (Lisak & Miller 2002). The other is Reports of Rape Reperpetration by Newly Enlisted Male Navy Personnel by Stephanie K. McWhorter, et al., published in Violence and Victims, Vol, 24, No. 2, 2009 (McWhorter 2009). (I can’t link to either study because neither is available in full for free.)

These look to me to be the best available data on who the rapists are who have not been caught and incarcerated — which is the vast, vast majority. They are, however, limited, so that in talking about them it constrains the discussion of rape into a narrow range around a modal form of men raping women.*

Lisak & Miller

Lisak & Miller set out to answer two questions:

First, do a substantial number of undetected rapists rape more than once (i.e. repeat rapists)? Second, do undetected rapists (repeat or otherwise), like their incarcerated counterparts, commit other types of interpersonal violence …?

Lisak & Miller at p. 74.

Their sample was 1882 college students, ranging in age from 18 to 71 with a median age of 26.5 — so somewhat older than a traditional college population. The group was also ethnically diverse. They asked this group four questions about rape and attempted rape. Here is the full text of the questions they used:

(1) Have you ever been in a situation where you tried, but for various reasons did not succeed, in having sexual intercourse with an adult by using or threatening to use physical force (twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.) if they did not cooperate?

(2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances (e.g., removing their clothes)?

(3) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn’t want to because you used or threatened to use physical force (twisting their arm; holding them down, etc.) if they didn’t cooperate?

(4) Have you ever had oral sex with an adult when they didn’t want to because you used or threatened to use physical force (twisting their arm; holding them down, etc.) if they didn’t cooperate?

Lisak & Miller at 77-78.

120 men admitted, essentially, to rape or attempted to rape. This is actually a relatively slim proportion of the survey population — just over 6% — and might be an under-report. Lisak & Miller’s team did interviews with some of the self-reported rapists to confirm the self-reports, which would tend to reveal an undercount in the self-reports, and found that the responses were consistent.

The really new information, however, is how those rapists and their offenses broke down: of the 120 rapists in the sample, 44 reported only one assault. The remaining 76 were repeat offenders. These 76 men, 63% of the rapists, committed 439 rapes or attempted rapes, an average of 5.8 each (median of 3, so there were some super-repeat offenders in this group). Just 4% of the men surveyed committed over 400 attempted or completed rapes.

The breakdown between the modus operandi of the rapists also tells us that a great deal of the rapes that happen are very different from what is recognized as “real” rape. Of all 120 admitted rapists, only about 30% reported using force or threats, while the remainder raped intoxicated victims. This proportion was roughly the same between the 44 rapists who reported one assault and the 76 who reported multiple assaults. (What the authors call “overt-force rapists” committed more sexual assaults, on average, than the “intoxication rapists” by about 6 to 3, but the parts of the sample are so small that this result did not reach statistical significance and could be sampling error rather than a real phenomenon. I’d really like an answer to that, though.)

Lisak & Miller also found that the repeat rapists in their survey were responsible for a broad array of violent acts, including intimate partner violence and child abuse. The surveys covered acts such as slapping or choking an intimate partner, physically or sexually abusing a child, and sexual assaults other than attempted or completed rapes. The 76 repeat rapists, just 4% of the sample, were responsible for 28% of the reported violence. The whole sample of almost 1900 men reported just under 4000 violent acts, but this 4% of recidivist rapists were responsible for over 1000 of those violent acts. The public policy implication is clear: rape is not an isolated problem, as the repeat rapists are not only committing a huge proportion of all rapes, but disproportionate share of the domestic violence as well. Society-wide, if these men were removed from the population, there would be a dramatic decrease in violence towards women and children.

McWhorter

Stephanie McWhorter and her colleagues completed a study in 2009 that in my view replicates the important results of Lisak & Miller, working with a very different population of young-ish men. She studied 1146 newly enlisted men in the U.S. Navy, asking them about their behavior since age 14. McWhorter’s participants were younger than Lisak & Miller’s sample, averaging just under 20 and topping out at 34, as one would expect from a sample of military recruits. The study was longitudinal, following up at intervals during the participants’ Navy hitch.

McWhorter used a Sexual Experiences Survey tool that has been in use for more than 20 years. Of her 1146 participants, 144, or 13%, admitted an attempted or completed rape — substantially higher than Lisak & Miller. But in another respect, her work very much matched theirs: 71% of the men who admitted an attempted or completed rape admitted more than one, very close to Lisak & Miller’s 63%. The 96 men who admitted multiple attempted of completed rapes in McWhorter’s survey averaged 6.36 assaults each. This is not far from Lisak & Miller’s average of 5.8 assaults per recidivist. Looked at another way, of the 865 total attempted or completed rapes these men admitted to, a staggering 95% were committed by 96 men, or just 8.4% of the sample.

McWhorter’s findings on modus operandi also confirm the basic finding of Lisak & Miller’s earlier study: 61% of the reported attacks were intoxication-based, 23% were overt force alone, and 16% were both. (77% of the pre-enlistment and 75% of the post-enlistment rapes or attempted rapes were, in whole or in part, intoxication attacks. But 34% of pre-enlistment and 45% of post-enlistment assaults involved overt force, a change in pattern that ought to be explained by further research.)

McWhorter’s research also indicates that rapists start young. Of the men who did not report an assault pre-enlistment, only 2% reported assaults while in the Navy, but 16% of those who admitted that they raped or attempted to rape between age 14 and enlistment also said they did it again while enlisted. 60% of rapists, however, said their first assault was after they turned 18. This implies that there is a window when rapists start raping, in their late teens.

Finally, in an entirely unsurprising finding, rapists who admitted assaulting strangers – ever – were less than a quarter of the rapist population. More than 90% targeted acquaintances some of the time, and about 75% said they only targeted acquaintances. Only 7% of all the self-reported rapists reported targeting only strangers. And, in fact, there was zero overlap between the men who said they targeted starangers, and those who used only force.

I’m going to reiterate that, because I think it is important. As McWhorter wrote:

Of the men who used only force against their victims, none reported raping a stranger; all the men knew their victims… [T]he stereotypical rape incident characterized by a man violently attacking a stranger was not reported by any of the respondents. Instead, respondents who used only force against their victims reported raping only women they knew. Men who targeted strangers exclusively reported they used substances only in the rape incident.

These findings may help explain why most self-reported [attempted or completed rape] incidents go undetected.

McWhorter, p. 212-13.

Lisak’s Qualitative Work

Lisak’s contribution extends far beyond identifying the prevalence of certain types of rapists and their methodologies. He has also done a great deal of work understanding who these men are and how they operate. The analysis I want to focus on is this paper, Understanding The Predatory Nature Of Sexual Violence. It is on the web in several locations, though I have not seen a journal cite for it anywhere. A review of the references shows, however, that it is based on peer-reviewed literature, including Lisak’s own prior work.

Lisak says that the research on the psychological characteristics of incarcerated rapists also applies to the undetected:

Many of the motivational factors that were identified in incarcerated rapists have been shown to apply equally to undetected rapists. When compared to men who do not rape, these undetected rapists are measurably more angry at women, more motivated by the need to dominate and control women, more impulsive and disinhibited in their behavior, more hyper-masculine in their beliefs and attitudes, less empathic and more antisocial.

Guys with rigid views of gender roles and an axe to grind against women in general are overrepresented among rapists. That won’t come as a surprise to most readers here, I expect. But it is important confirmation. Guys who seem to hate women … do. If they sound like they don’t like or respect women and see women as impediments to be overcome … they’re telling the truth. That’s what they think, and they will abuse if they think they can get away with it.

Lisak doesn’t actually say this, but having read some of his work in depth now, I really think the major difference between the incarcerated and the non-incarcerated rapists are that the former cannot or do not confine themselves to tactics that are low-risk to them. The undetected rapists overwhelmingly use minimal or no force, rely mostly on alcohol and rape their acquaintances. They create situations where the culture will protect them by making excuses for them and questioning or denying their victims. Incarcerated rapists, I think, are just the ones who use the tactics that society is more willing to recognize as rape and less willing to make excuses for.

It is the modus operandi that keeps the undetected rapist undetected: they correctly identify a methodology that will put them under the protection of the rape culture. They are unlikely to be convicted because the story doesn’t fit the script. In fact, they are unlikely to be arrested because the story doesn’t lead to easy convictions. In fact, they are unlikely to be reported because rape survivors know that the tactics these men use leave them with little real recourse. In fact, these rapists may put the victim in a position where she is so intoxicated or terrified or just isolated and defeated that she never even says “no,” and because the culture overwhelmingly refuses to call these tactics what they are, even the victims themselves may be unable to call it rape for a very long time afterward, if ever.

Lisak describes the characteristics of their methodology:

In the course of 20 years of interviewing these undetected rapists, in both research and forensic settings, it has been possible for me to distill some of the common characteristics of the modus operandi of these sex offenders. These undetected rapists:

• are extremely adept at identifying “likely” victims, and testing prospective victims’ boundaries;

• plan and premeditate their attacks, using sophisticated strategies to groom their victims for attack, and to isolate them physically;

• use “instrumental” not gratuitous violence; they exhibit strong impulse

control and use only as much violence as is needed to terrify and coerce their victims into submission;

• use psychological weapons – power, control, manipulation, and threats – backed up by physical force, and almost never resort to weapons such as knives or guns;

use alcohol deliberately to render victims more vulnerable to attack, or completely unconscious.

[Emphasis mine.]

This isn’t quite a user’s guide to finding the rapists at a party, but it is an identifiable set of characteristics that have some implications and allow some educated guesses.

As Lisak says:

This picture conflicts sharply with the widely-held view that rapes committed on university campuses are typically the result of a basically “decent” young man who, were it not for too much alcohol and too little communication, would never do such a thing. While some campus rapes do fit this more benign view, the evidence points to a far less benign reality, in which the vast majority of rapes are committed by serial, violent predators.

[Emphasis mine.]

Lisak’s work has received mainstream attention recently, notably this report on NPR. That report contrasted Lisak’s model with a lawyer and law professor defending the traditional view that campus rapist are simply good boys who made a single bad decision:

Stetson University law professor Peter Lake agrees there are plenty of predators on campus, and that it’s important to spot them and get them out of school.

But Lake says there’s a problem the predator theory underestimates: the amount of drinking and sex that’s become common with many — although certainly not all — college students.

“It’s very common for them to go out Wednesday through Saturday at a minimum, drink fairly heavily and hook up sexually with people that they may not know particularly well, may have met for the first time that night, or had been introduced through friends, or MySpace or Facebook,” he says. “So you have a lot of sexual activity, you have alcohol, you have a population that’s sort of an at-risk age, and it’s in some ways, it’s a perfect storm for sex assault issues.”

* * * *

Lake, author of the 2009 book Beyond Discipline: Managing the Modern Higher Education Environment, says schools address sexual assault mainly as a violation of conduct codes. And he says these codes have evolved to better handle sexual assault cases.

Part of Lake’s belief in second chances for students comes from personal experience as a law professor. He’s a consultant to universities about discipline procedures, and he was the honor-code investigator for his own law school’s discipline committee for a decade.

But he’s also worked as an attorney in criminal courts where he’d see criminals who were “incorrigible” and who made him “kind of grateful that we have jails and we’re still building them.”

Those men were different than the ones he’d routinely see being disciplined on college campuses. “What surprised me was how many people have made terrible mistakes and can actually learn to be better people from that,” Lake says, “that there still is a chance for teachable moments.”

But Lisak, the psychologist, says schools put too much faith in teachable moments, when they ought to treat sexual assault as a criminal matter. “These are clearly not individuals who are simply in need of a little extra education about proper communication with the opposite sex,” he says. “These are predators.”

[Emphasis supplied.]

Elton Yarbrough, A Case Study

NPR even provided an example of exactly the kind of behavior Lisak studies: Elton Yarbrough, formerly of Texas A&M, and now of a Texas correctional facility. What happened? Exactly what Lisak’s work predicts, every time:

By the time it was over, there would be a total of five women, all testifying they were assaulted by Yarbrough in the same circumstances: After drinking heavily, each said she passed out or fell asleep and woke to find Yarbrough having sex with her or touching her sexually.

“He would pick the most intoxicated female, whether he’d be at a bar or at a party,” recalled Lt. Brandy Norris, the lead investigator on the case for College Station police. “He’s a serial rapist. He was smart enough to know he didn’t have to hide in the bushes and grab them as they were walking by.”

[Emphasis supplied.]

Since the victim-blaming social structures are so strong, my thought reading this was, “how did any of these women ever get a prosecutor to take it to trial, let alone convince a jury?” Call me cynical. Here’s a partial answer:

A European foreign exchange student, the first woman to accuse Yarbrough by name, had been a friend of a friend of his. The two had chatted on what police would call “The Facebook” and played pool together at a local nightspot. During the 2004 Thanksgiving break at her off-campus apartment, she and her roommate couldn’t get Yarbrough to take the hint to go home after a night of drinking and they all lay down to sleep in the same bed.

The exchange student testified she woke up to find him on top of her, having sex with her. She screamed and demanded he leave, and he did. Her roommate called 911, and at the prompting of police, she called Yarbrough two days later and confronted her assailant on the phone — while police recorded the conversation.

Some excerpts from the tape that were read to the jury:

Victim: “I was passed out, Elton, and you knew it. I don’t care if you were drunk. I was out cold. Why would you do that? Had you planned it, or was it just something that came to you spontaneously? What?”

Yarbrough: “No, I didn’t plan it. I don’t know. I don’t know what happened.”

Victim: “Why did you do it?”

Yarbrough: “I don’t know why … Look, I’m sorry.”

Victim: “You made me feel so sick, so violated, so helpless …”

Yarbrough: “I don’t really — I don’t even know what to say. It was my fault. It’s no excuse but I was drunk. Sorry for making you feel that way.”

The tape became a key piece of evidence that helped put Yarbrough in prison. And news of his arrest would lead three other women to testify that Yarbrough had assaulted them prior to the foreign exchange student.

An admission on tape is pretty good evidence, and evidence that most survivors will not have.

Yarbrough’s victims were his friends. Women he knew very well, women who were comfortable being alone and drunk with him. And some men wonder why a lot of people — women, but not only — view men generally as potential rapists. Well, that’s why. The predators may not be a large portion of the population, but to their targets they are a danger that is not easily identified.

Earlier survivors had come forward, and he could have been stopped. But the first got pointed questions from the health center about being drunk, felt blamed and didn’t want to put herself through the hell of seeking accountability. In acquaintance rapes, it’s only the most recognized and conventional victim narratives that are recognized, and often even those are not.

When interviewed, Yarbrough exhibited just the sort of self-justification one might expect from a man who raped five women but insists he did nothing wrong:

“I was pretty promiscuous in college. I don’t know too many people who weren’t. I guess when you combine a lot of drinking and partying in college you’re going to have a lot of” sex going on, he said.

And when people drink, their inhibitions are lowered — and, he said, sometimes they have sex with people with whom they wouldn’t normally. “It’s college. You walk around Northgate,” he said, speaking of one of College Station’s most popular bar areas, “you’re going see a lot of drunk men and women. And then, at the end of the night, you’re going to see a lot of drunk men and women going home together.”

But he says he never forced anyone to have sex, and says the four women with whom he admits to having sex were willing participants. He recalled one having participated in foreplay before intercourse, and another came into his bedroom and initiated sex with him, he said. His childhood friend testifying he’d raped her was “a big shock,” in particular, he said.

“Pretty much all of them said they were too drunk to remember the details of that night, but the only details they could remember were the details that were incriminating against me,” he observed. “They didn’t remember any of that other stuff that happened.”

[Emphasis supplied.]

Recommendations

In the past I have given my thoughts about the implications of the Predator Theory for dealing with rape as a social crisis, and I’ll summarize them here, though they are laid out at length in the Yes Means Yes posts. Lisak’s own view is that it isn’t possible to fix the rapists, but that:

Rather than focusing prevention efforts on the rapists, it would seem far more effective to focus those efforts on the far more numerous bystanders – men and women who are part of the social and cultural milieu in which rapes are spawned and who can be mobilized to identify perpetrators and intervene in high-risk situations.

[Emphasis mine.] With that in mind, here’s what I think we can do:

(1) Men who inhabit cis- and het- identified social spaces need to listen to women. The women we know will tell us when the men they thought they could trust assaulted them; if and only if they know we won’t stonewall, deny, blame or judge. We need to listen without defending that guy. That guy is more likely than not a recidivist. He has probably done it before. He will probably do it again.

(2) The same men need to listen to other men. The men who rape will all but declare themselves. The guy who says he sees a woman too drunk to know where she is as an opportunity is not joking. Men who rape look for assurance that their social license to operate is in effect; they look for little confirmations that if he takes home the drunkest woman at the party and she says the next day that she said no, that she’ll be blamed and not believed. Choosing not to be part of a rape-supportive environment actually tells the rapist that his behavior has risks, and not everyone will take his side against an accuser.

(3) We need to change the culture of discourse about rape (and I mean all of us). Rapists know that the right combination of factors — alcohol and sex shame, mostly — will keep their victims quiet. Otherwise, they would be identified earlier and have a harder time finding victims. Women need social permission to talk frankly about sexual assault, because the more women can say what happened to them, the more difficult it is for the same man to rape six women without facing legal or even social consequences.

(4) Because the rapists have a fairly well-developed modus operandi, is is possible to spot it and interrupt it. We can look for the tactics and interrupt the routine. We can spot the rapist deliberately getting the woman drunk or angling to get the drunk woman alone in an unfamiliar place, and intervene. A guy offering a drunk woman a ride home may just be offering a ride, but if he is insistent when someone else offers a ride, this ought to raise a flag. If a guy is antagonistic towards women and places a lot of emphasis on sex as scoring or conquest, and he’s violating a woman’s boundaries and trying to end up with her drunk and alone, we don’t have to be sure what he’s doing to be concerned, and to start trying to give her exit ramps from his predatory slide.

The most important change I think we can make in light of the Predator Theory, however, is to get the theory itself into circulation. Probably many of us know the line from the movie The Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” The recidivist rapist’s strongest ally is the false belief that, if he is ever accused of raping an acquaintance, it must have been a miscommunication. It is this myth, more than anything, that allows that relatively small number of predators to hide among us and to keep doing what they’re doing.

For further reading on Lisak’s work:

Matthew Yglesias on the NPR piece

Shakesville’s link to the original Meet the Predators post at Yes Means Yes

Lisak featured in Shakesville’s Quote Of The Day

Teet The Predators

Predator Redux

*Big caveats here: The research in this area is still in an almost embryonic state, though. Since both studies only look at male attackers and don’t discuss the sex, orientation or gender identity of victims at all, I’m kind of stuck with discussing rapes committed by men and presuming that their adult victims are women, though I’m almost certain there are exceptions that are not broken out in this data, and that are probably too few in number to allow conclusions about anyway. Also, as Feministe’s own Cara has pointed out, the questions impose limitations which necessarily narrow the assaults addressed by the data. I’m going to address rape within the constraints of the data, which is about male rapists, and speak as if the modal assault, which is against a woman, is all assaults. That ignores a lot in terms of topics and dynamics, if not raw numbers, and I’m aware of how much it ignores, but just having any data from a non-incarcerated sample of rapists is a huge improvement over having none.


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46 Responses to Predator Theory

  1. Simplejewel says:

    This is SO. GOOD.

    Thank you, Thomas.

    As the co-founder of a student coalition to get a Sexual Assault Centre on the campus of Carleton University, I live and breathe this every day. I was particularly struck by the recommendation that we need to make it socially permissible to discuss sexual assault and we NEED TO STOP FUCKING SHAMING WOMYN.

    When we do this and we start to believe people’s stories, then we will have shifted our idea of a ‘rapist’ and THEN we’ll be getting somewhere. Until then, college/university athletes, professors, politicians, and the best-damn-lefty-activist-you-ever-did-see will keep sexually assaulting the people I know and love, and get away with.

  2. Hot Tramp says:

    Thank you for summarizing your many awesome posts on this.

    I really, really hope that we keep seeing research on this, and that we see new research on rape that doesn’t fit this model — same-gender rape, female-on-male rape, and so on.

  3. Thomas says:

    Hot Tramp, exactly. I want to see what this looks like outside the narrow confines.

  4. Shelby says:

    Wow, thanks so much for breaking this all down! It’s really great to have all this info laid out like this.
    And I’ll go ahead and cosign everyone else who wants to see broader studies done. Personally, I’d REALLY like to see research on the rape of pre-teen/adolescent men of color. I am continually stunned by the number of male acquaintances I’ve talked to whose first sexual experience was at the age of 12/13 with a woman in her twenties. And I haven’t once heard one of these stories told with any kind of exaggerated bravado– it’s very clear that these were negative experiences that have caused them to carry around a lot of shame and anger. Basically I’d really really like to see the “every kid wants to bang an older woman” myth crash and burn and die in hell.

  5. . . . says:

    Thanks for this excellent summary. I appreciate the studies and your disseminating them. I think your recommendations are good given the very limited nature of the data.

    I echo Hot Tramp’s and Shelby’s comments re: the need for more and broader studies. In addition to the groups they and Cara list, I’d add child rape (for girls as well as boys and for Anglos as well as PoC); rapists and victims who are younger and older than most of those in the studies; lack of consent due to disability (including mental illness), blackmail/shame or other power differential as well as alcohol or drugs; and situations that are more common to other groups of victims and perps. The areas that are most important to me are child victims and child rapists as well as the disabled (all kinds of disabilities).

  6. Politicalguineapig says:

    I think a very big addition to the studies would be to examine how much time the predators spend socializing with males, vs. how much time they socialize with females (in a non-rape, public context.) It’d be interesting to see how that breaks down.

  7. William says:

    Excellent summary, Thomas.

    I know it would likely be prohibitively expensive, but I’d like to see a replication of Lisak’s study that had more in-depth psychometric follow-ups (MMPI-II, MCMI-III, Rorschach) with confessed rapists.

  8. Dr. Confused says:

    I’ve been reading the Yes Means Yes blog so I’ve been following quite a bit of this but what I hadn’t pulled out before now were the absolute numbers. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of men are rapists. That is seriously scary. When I am in front of my class of students there are probably about 3 rapists in the room. It is not insignificantly likely that one of those 3 rapists has raped a woman also in the room. When I am in a faculty meeting, there are probably about 4 rapists in the room. Wow. Just, wow. I am not going to be able to stop thinking about this as I go about my daily life.

    One of my ex-friends (well, more than one, but I one I want to discuss in particular) is a rapist. Up until just now I would have said “has serious issues with women” or something similar but no, I’m going to come right out and say that he deliberately seeks out intoxicated women or gets women intoxicated and uses social force to get them alone, or even assault them in public. He’s done it to me and I’ve seen him do it to many women. For the last little while we were still “friends” my now-husband and I appointed ourselves protectors of his victims: following him home and extracting extremely drunk women from his clutches, physically pulling him off a woman and asking the woman if she is having a good time, inserting ourselves between him and women, etc. I feel guilty that we didn’t do more. I feel guilty that we cut all ties with him after he repeatedly broke promises to stop this behaviour and get therapy, rather than pursuing this. I feel so powerless in the face of the system that simply will never stop him from continuing to rape women.

  9. PrettyAmiable says:

    Dr. Confused, I only wish that you had talked to his victims about pressing charges so that he could face some real penalty.

    Incidentally, don’t think cutting off ties with him wasn’t a significant move: one of the issues with the guy who sexually assaulted me – who was friends with my roommates at the time – was their tacit approval of what he did just by going out to bars with him or hanging out with him at his place. They weren’t stupid enough to bring him to the house, but it was heart-wrenching to know that my pain just wasn’t enough for them to rethink their friendship.

  10. Dr. Confused says:

    Honestly PrettyAmiable, I don’t regret either 1) not pressing charges myself or 2) not convincing others to press charges. The system is not set up to prosecute people like him. Any prosecution would have failed and the victims would have been put through hell.
    I can only surmise what went on behind closed doors on the times he got drunk women home except with me, and with me it was very much one of those “well, maybe I consented, but everything’s a little fuzzy from that night” incidents that is simply not treated, legally or socially, as rape.

  11. Sailorman says:

    Dr. Confused 3.26.2010 at 4:53 am
    I’ve been following quite a bit of this but what I hadn’t pulled out before now were the absolute numbers. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of men are rapists.

    Not precisely, but close.

    First (and less important,) some unknown percentage of people qualified on the basis of Question 1 only. They presumably have attempted rape but not completed it. Of course, in order to care about this you would need to distinguish between someone who tried to rape and failed, and someone who tried to rape and did so. It’s not much “better” even if you take the most flexible viewpoint; you wouldn’t want either of them around.

    More to the point, it’s worse (and the numbers may be too low) because insofar as these studies may have been performed on relatively young people*, it is quite possible that some subset of those who have not currently answered “yes” to any of those questions will nonetheless rape someone later. Although my understanding of the studies is that most rapists commit their first offense when they are relatively young, that’s not an absolute bar by any means. And of course, for the repeat offenders it is quite likely that they will commit more offenses as they have more time to do so. For a random sampling of 100 people, the percentage of people who are rapists is probably higher at age 40 than at age 30, etc.

    At some point it probably stops increasing. And
    *This is certain for the military one, and possible for the college one. Yes, I know that they sampled from age 18 to age 71 in the college one. I don’t know about the distribution, though, and it was on a college campus. It’s quite possible it was loaded with 18-22 year olds.

  12. William says:

    First (and less important,) some unknown percentage of people qualified on the basis of Question 1 only.

    The difference between intent to rape and actually committing rape is important only for the intended victim, when it comes to guilt and mindset it is irrelevant.

    And of course, for the repeat offenders it is quite likely that they will commit more offenses as they have more time to do so. For a random sampling of 100 people, the percentage of people who are rapists is probably higher at age 40 than at age 30, etc.

    I’d wonder about that. What these studies show pretty compellingly is that the stereotype stranger-in-a-dark-alley rape is rare while acquaintance rape with alcohol as a weapon is very common. As a population ages, lifestyle changes. While I’m certain that rapists will continue to rape as they become older I would suspect that they are presented with fewer opportunities as they get older and the context of social relations changes, if most rapists are opportunistic then the number of rapes they commit as a population will decline as their opportunities decline.

    I don’t know about the distribution, though, and it was on a college campus. It’s quite possible it was loaded with 18-22 year olds.

    Not with a median age of 26.5. That figure means that half of the respondents were younger and half were older, so you have a pretty good distribution which leans young but not 18-22 young.

  13. Faith says:

    “Not precisely, but close.”

    The problem with speculating on the percentage of men who are rapists is that even with studies like this, there is really no way at this stage to make any real determination. I’d strongly suspect that many men would lie about whether or not they had forced themselves on a woman even if the questions were completely anonymous.

    “The difference between intent to rape and actually committing rape is important only for the intended victim, when it comes to guilt and mindset it is irrelevant.”

    As someone who has been the victim of attempted rape and rape, I’d also like to add that just because someone doesn’t complete the act of rape, it doesn’t mean that the victim isn’t traumatized. I had to deal with much of the same trauma from the attempted rape as I did the completed one. As a matter of fact, the attempted rape was worse than one of the instances of actual rape that I experienced in some regards. The rape was over
    -really- quickly. The attempted rape involved me being held to a bed for over 45 minutes kicking, screaming, and crying. So, yea, I really don’t like any insinuation that men who only attempt rape are somehow less guilty than men who manage to complete the act of rape.

  14. Sailorman says:

    I am absolutely not in any way whatsoever attempting to minimize the effects of being assaulted, irrespective of whether the assault ended in rape. From an individual “is this guy a horrible person?” or “has this person been victimized?” there’s absolutely no distinction between a rapist and someone who has attempted rape.

    But I understood the post to be discussing policy and statistics, and from policy/statistics perspectives there is a difference, sometimes a substantial one. Like if you’re asking, say, “why don’t all of these men get convicted for rape?” Or if you’re trying to somehow work the numbers into other types of solutions or assistance, or in any other number of policy areas.

    So from a policy perspective, sometimes things need to get treated differently. Each individual occurrence is horrible–but some may be easier to prevent, and some may be easier to prosecute, and some may be easier to get convictions for, and so on. It is possible that the ways to stop attempted rapists are different from the ways to stop serial rapists, for example.

    Look, I have many female loved ones and family members and quite a few have been raped; one died, basically from the rape. I have a wife and two daughters who haven’t–yet–been raped, and I hope they never will be.

    It’s not as if I think this is a minor issue. In fact, I think about it all the time. It’s just that I think that nobody has solved it yet and that the solution is going to involve hard, specific, data, and I don’t see how anyone can have a productive discussion about solutions if we can’t distinguish between “rape” and “attempted rape,” or if we can’t make equivalent distinctions.

    That’s all I was trying to say.

  15. William says:

    the solution is going to involve hard, specific, data, and I don’t see how anyone can have a productive discussion about solutions if we can’t distinguish between “rape” and “attempted rape,” or if we can’t make equivalent distinctions.

    Sure, but the distinction you’re making is largely irrelevant. If I pick up a gun, point it at someone, pull the trigger, and the primer fails then I have still attempted to commit murder. If someone slaps the gun at the last second and the shot goes wide, I’ve still committed murder. If I’m too drunk to aim properly and I miss my target, I’ve still attempted to commit murder. I think here that you might be missing what it means to attempt rape.

    The way the questions are written we aren’t talking about men who went down that road and then, at the last second, realized what they were doing what wrong. What we’re talking about are guys who couldn’t maintain an erection, were interrupted, fought off, somehow intervened against, we’re talking about men who admit to attempting to rape but were somehow foiled. The fact that they failed to complete a rape is perhaps a blessing (of sorts) for their victims, but from a policy perspective I fail to see why a lack of completion should matter. From a pragmatic perspective there might be problems prosecuting these kinds of cases (though I’d argue that the solution is not to make a distinction but to change the way we think about and prosecute rape), but if we’re talking about how to use these numbers to influence policy then I really don’t see much of a reason to treat rapists differently because of chance.

  16. Faith says:

    “It is possible that the ways to stop attempted rapists are different from the ways to stop serial rapists, for example.”

    And all I’m trying to say is that the only real difference between an attempted rapist and one who actually has raped is that very fact. Yes, there are different psychologies when it comes to rapists. Not all rapists are alike. But, as far as I’m concerned, a man who attempts rape is just as guilty as one who actually does rape.

    In short: A man who attempts rape is just as much a rapist as one who actually does manage to complete the act of rape and society should treat him accordingly. The man who attempted to rape me was far dangerous, believe it or not, than the one who actually did. The one who attempted to rape me had sexually assaulted many other women. I have no doubt that he’s still out there doing exactly that. On the other hand, the man who actually raped me does not have a history of sexual violence and I have no doubt that he does not pose an overwhelming threat to women.

    I don’t know if you see what I’m trying to get at or not here, but I really don’t think it is at all helpful to try to separate attempted rapists from actual rapists.

  17. jemand says:

    I’m wondering about if this data has changed at all over the past century. The fact that there was exactly *zero* self-reported incidents of the most common rape narrative means to me, that, having that as a “rape narrative” might have reduced the incidence of such rapes to zero, while they may *not* in fact, be anywhere near zero in a culture where such rapes *aren’t* considered serious and criminal. Is there any cross-cultural studies trying to tease out the cultural attitudes of what constitutes rape and the correlation between the types of rape that occur?

    And secondly… maybe men just would not *admit* to the kind of rape that is most likely to be identified and get them in trouble. This *is* based off of self reported studies, so, rates of false reporting might differ across the type of rape the question is asking about. Is there any way to investigate this?

  18. William says:

    And secondly… maybe men just would not *admit* to the kind of rape that is most likely to be identified and get them in trouble. This *is* based off of self reported studies, so, rates of false reporting might differ across the type of rape the question is asking about. Is there any way to investigate this?

    Read the studies more carefully. There were quite a few men who reported using violence or the threat of violence in order to commit rape in both studies. The Navy study found that men who used violence exclusively targeted victims who they knew. Such a finding would tend to support the underlying theory that rapists are opportunistic predators. If you want to target a stranger, you know very little about them and their capacities so you find a way to minimize danger to yourself (get them drunk and wait until they pass out, slip something in a drink, etc.). Using force would leave more evidence and undermine your assumed defense (the sex was consensual). A rapist who targets people they know would be able to employ more means of coercion because they would be better able to gauge the potential reactions of their victims.

    What this data says to me isn’t that somehow the narrative has reduced a certain kind of rape but that the narrative was developed in order to undermine the reports of victims and create the illusion of safety. Let me repeat that, the dominant cultural narrative regarding rape was developed in order to silence victims and protect their powerful victimizers. If society defines rape as “a violent assault by a stranger” it allows rapists to say “I didn’t rape her it was just a misunderstanding.” The dominant narrative exists as a tool of maintaining the rape culture in the same way as slut shaming does. It provides one more level of defense for rapists and does so by specifically marshaling cultural values in order to devalue the reports and experiences of victims. “She was a slut, so it wasn’t rape;” “she didn’t fight back hard enough, she must have wanted it;” “she just regretted it in the morning;” “she was drunk, it was a misunderstanding” each of these kinds of statements are part of the narrative, they are excuses that society uses to negate the experience of victims. They can only be maintained by creating a myth about what rape looks like.

  19. William says:

    Just to clarify, I’m in no way saying that violent stranger rapes don’t happen. Rather, I’m arguing that those kinds of rapes have been focused on in the discourse in order to enforce a certain system of power by producing a specific image of what is considered rape, to the exclusion of other experiences.

  20. jemand says:

    but see, william, that is my question. I have the sneaking suspicion that in cultures where there isn’t at least the dominant cultural narrative that violent stranger rapes, at least, aren’t the woman’s fault, that they exist and occur in numbers more similar to other types of rapes.

    I am not convinced yet that the narrative was *formed* in order to silence victims, or if a widespread social agreement from almost everybody that *this* kind of rape is unacceptable leads to there being none of that kind of rape. If that is the case, than I am very optimistic that we can reduce all the other kinds by changing social attitudes as well. At *this* point, since that kind of rape is very rare, I believe that focusing only on that particular narrative, violent stranger rape, does have the affect of silencing victims.

    You can’t say for sure the effect of this narrative unless you compare it to somewhere which doesn’t have it.

  21. William says:

    I have the sneaking suspicion that in cultures where there isn’t at least the dominant cultural narrative that violent stranger rapes, at least, aren’t the woman’s fault, that they exist and occur in numbers more similar to other types of rapes.

    While that might be possible, I’m not sure what the utility of such an observation might be. If rape isn’t about sex but about power then what you have in the different presentations of rape are different means of powerful persons exercising their power over powerless people. Observing that a difference in the presentation of a phenomenon such as rape exists in societies with different discourses around rape seems to miss the point, to me at least.

    I am not convinced yet that the narrative was *formed* in order to silence victims,

    Power creates knowledge which serves to replicate itself. Just as history is written by the winners, a discourse forms to serve the group with the power to enforce it. Does that mean that there was a smoke-filled room somewhere in Alabama where a bunch of old white guys decided how to define rape in order to hurt women? No. Does that mean that the discourse around rape has been heavily influenced by powerful people who wanted to keep their friends and sons out of prison? Yes. Silencing victims is necessary to maintain the power of their victimizers. Its hardly accidental that the definition of rape excludes the kinds of rapes that are most likely to be committed by people of relatively more social power and influence.

    or if a widespread social agreement from almost everybody that *this* kind of rape is unacceptable leads to there being none of that kind of rape.

    We don’t even really have that. We question the experience of rape victims who suffered even the violent stranger rape. Just look at the discourse which surrounds rape in prison.

    If that is the case, than I am very optimistic that we can reduce all the other kinds by changing social attitudes as well.

    The problem with that line of thinking is that it assumes those with power actually want to stop rape. If you look at the way, say, your average university handles a rape allegation what you see is a move to protect the school from liability and preserve it’s reputation. Look at the way the US military has handled the problem of rape in their own ranks. Look at the way the problem of rape in Blackwater has been managed. Look at the phenomenon of “gonzo porn.” I am somewhat less optimistic.

    You can’t say for sure the effect of this narrative unless you compare it to somewhere which doesn’t have it.

    Except you’re comparing apples and oranges. What similar culture can you imagine in which violent stranger rape isn’t (ostensibly) prohibited?

  22. blue milk says:

    Brilliant post!

  23. james says:

    You have to be aware that, in context, this research is a direct attack on the last 50 years of feminist theory.

    The debate isn’t between ‘stranger rape’ and Lisak’s coming to the rescue with ‘predator theory’. Feminists put in place a framework for thinking about ‘acquaintance rape’ in the 1970/80s, and regarded it being perpatrated by ‘normal’ men as a conseqence and extension of the ‘normal’ sytems of gender relations. Lisak’s research is an attack on this, which instead claims that rape perpetrated by a smallish group of deviant sociopaths. It’s in direct opposition to all the 1960s Brownmiller/Dworkin/MacKinnon ideas about a continuum between rape and consensual sex. The debate is between the feminist social theory way of thinking about crime vs. old school offender-types criminology.

    I’m not qualified to judge who’s right. But this stuff has consequences:

    “Rather than focusing prevention efforts on the rapists, it would seem far more effective to focus those efforts on the far more numerous bystanders”

    The subtext here (which Thomas doesn’t flag for you BTW) is about things like Student Conduct Codes and mandatory sexual-assault education lessons. Feminist theory says are a good thing and has been promoting them, because rape if caused by a malfunctioning systems of gender relations you should be able to educate people out of it. Lisak’s attacking them as predator theory says they’re useless, as you can’t talk hardened offenders out of crime.

  24. Jean/Jeanne says:

    What’s the geography here? North America? Continential US?

    I’d like to see more discussion of the culturally different definitions of sexual assault. And more commentary on sexual assault of adult men — if we don’t include them in the discussion, then it becomes too easy to vilify all men as potential preditors.)

  25. jemand says:

    “Its hardly accidental that the definition of rape excludes the kinds of rapes that are most likely to be committed by people of relatively more social power and influence.”

    My point is I see a chicken and egg problem with this. Do people of relatively more social power take advantage of the common rape narrative in determining their individual course of action, or was this social narrative created specifically to hide what powerful people were *already* primarily doing?

    And I do see your point about prison rape, but I would argue that actually prison rape actually does *not* fit the archetypal social concept of “rape,” and that this archetypal form basically never happens in the US. But I really want to know what came first– that this kind of rape never happened anyway, or the social construct changed the ways rape was expressed away from the archetypal form from occurring.

    As for different cultures, well, there really aren’t many studies are there? But this story: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Jeddah,-gang-raped-woman-sentenced-to-prison,-one-hundred-lashes-14486.html indicates to me that there are countries in which violent man on woman stranger rape is considered her fault and he doesn’t face much social opprobrium or even much trouble to find him, so… my guess is violent stranger rape occurs quite often there. Even with “powerful people” as perpetrators, as contrasted with here, were “powerful people” organize their behavior *around* social opprobrium.

    At this point I would go back to my point that prison rape isn’t considered part of the social archetype of rape in this country, and neither is acquaintance or alcohol related rape, *but,* that it seems possible we as a society have driven into nonexistence one type of rape by a widespread social concept, so it is possible we can do so with other types as well.

  26. Cos says:

    Lisak & Miller’s team did interviews with some of the self-reported rapists to confirm the self-reports, which would tend to reveal an undercount in the self-reports, and found that the responses were consistent.

    Why would interviewing only the self-reported rapists, reveal an undercount in self-reports? Doesn’t an under-count mean that some respondents who did rape, did not report it on the survey? How would interviewing those who *did* report it, reveal whether any others should’ve but didn’t report?

  27. barbarian says:

    I don’t know people who were raped, but I do have lots of friends who do this — find the drunkest, youngest, most vulnerable girl at a party and prey on her. Then they brag about it. It’s quite real because they tell me they do it.

  28. jemand says:

    @barbarian, well, DUH you don’t know that people who are your friends are raped, do you think they would trust someone who hangs out with multiple rapists by telling them their personal story, when the culture generally just shames and blames rape victims? You probably know SEVERAL people in your friend circle who have been raped, but you just don’t know because they don’t feel comfortable around you.

    My apologies if I am misreading your comment and misunderstanding the social interaction you are describing, but that’s sure what it looks like is happening here to me.

  29. Angela Vistry says:

    @james #23,

    No, actually, I think this confirms much of feminist theory about rape. The culture of rape is what makes it possible for bystanders to think these men’s attitudes toward women are normal, and thus to remain friends with predators and to blame their victims.

  30. William says:

    My point is I see a chicken and egg problem with this. Do people of relatively more social power take advantage of the common rape narrative in determining their individual course of action, or was this social narrative created specifically to hide what powerful people were *already* primarily doing?

    It is a cocreated situation. Discourse feeds behavior and behavior defines discourse. Both evolve in response to changing situations, but trying to figure out which “started” the process misses the point. What we’re looking at is a system of power that is dominated by those who have power. Any potential change in the discourse you would want to introduce has to be understood in the context of this system.

    It wasn’t too long ago that rape was seen as a property crime in the west, a crime committed by one man against the property of another. This contributed to a narrative of rape as an aggressive act between men, placing the women who were victimized as mere objects of aggression. We could look at the way in which this situation developed, but somehow that seems less important than the observation that such a narrative served to both keep women dependent upon the men who wielded power over them and to perpetuate the dominant systems of power of the time. The discourse and the powerful people who dominate it serve to support and perpetuate one another, one cannot exist without the other.

    And I do see your point about prison rape, but I would argue that actually prison rape actually does *not* fit the archetypal social concept of “rape,” and that this archetypal form basically never happens in the US.

    Two observations. First, I would wonder why prison rape doesn’t fit the social concept of rape? Does it have to do with the perception of the victim’s guilt? Does it have to do with a male victim being so alien a concept that the idea is simply rejected? Again we see different kinds of power being enacted by the way in which we talk and think about rape.

    Second, no one here is saying that violent stranger rape doesn’t happen in the US. It certainly does happen. What is being said is that that specific kind of rape is very rare in comparison to other kinds of rape. If these studies tell us anything it is that rape is far more common than any of us would like to believe. It might also be worth noting that that particular example of rape is more likely to be committed by people of less social power who are less able to manipulate victims into dangerous situations.

    ut I really want to know what came first– that this kind of rape never happened anyway, or the social construct changed the ways rape was expressed away from the archetypal form from occurring.

    What I’m saying is that you’re essentially looking for a fictional line. Social discourse is evolutionary in nature. Just as species changes don’t generally happen in one generation with a clear line separating the parent species from the new one, discourse change slowly over time.

    As for different cultures, well, there really aren’t many studies are there? But this story: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Jeddah,-gang-raped-woman-sentenced-to-prison,-one-hundred-lashes-14486.html indicates to me that there are countries in which violent man on woman stranger rape is considered her fault and he doesn’t face much social opprobrium or even much trouble to find him, so… my guess is violent stranger rape occurs quite often there

    You’re talking about comparing two radically different cultures with radically different social systems, values, and histories. A comparison of the US to Saudi Arabia is going to be problematic, to say the least, because there are a great many contaminating variables. The only difference between the two is not simply how rape is viewed. The dominant culture of the US doesn’t have the same history of monarchy, of colonialism, of religion, or of environmental effects upon social systems. The west doesn’t have the legacy of Islam and Saudi Arabia doesn’t have the legacy of the enlightenment. You’re comparing apples to oranges.

    At this point I would go back to my point that prison rape isn’t considered part of the social archetype of rape in this country, and neither is acquaintance or alcohol related rape, *but,* that it seems possible we as a society have driven into nonexistence one type of rape by a widespread social concept, so it is possible we can do so with other types as well.

    But. We. Haven’t. Gotten. Rid. Of. Violent. Stranger. Rape.

    We haven’t. It didn’t show up in two self-report studies of relatively privileged populations. One doesn’t have to go much further than watching the 10 O’Clock news in any major metropolitan area to see that violent stranger rapes do occur. You’re working from a demonstrably false assumption.

  31. barbarian says:

    @jemand, good point, actually. I probably should say “that was rape” when somebody tells me he’s done something that sounds like rape.

    It always seemed presumptuous, because generally I wasn’t there at the party and didn’t know the details, so I’ve never been the one to speak up. I mean, you don’t actually know what happens in the bedroom; maybe the girl was conscious and said yes.

    I don’t like the general attitude of trying to find girls whose defenses are down, though, because it is a little predatory. If not rape, it is at least malicious.

  32. james says:

    @Angela Vistry #29,

    “No, actually, I think this confirms much of feminist theory about rape.”

    ?!? Think of it like a Venn Diagram. Feminist theory is A & B, and predator theory is B & C. There is some overlap (I’m not saying that Lisak is claiming absolutely everything feminists have ever said about rape is completely wrong, that’s a ridiculous thing to imply). But even through there isn’t complete disagreement on everything, predator theory is still a direct attack on feminist theory.

  33. jemand says:

    Yes, it is on the 10 o’clock news, because for the very rare case of such rapes to be widely spread on the 10 o’clock news is *part* of societies insistence that *this* kind of rape is the kind we all need to worry about! You can’t separate the fact that these stories are *used* to prop up a disproportionate fear in the entire population, by pointing to such exaggerated reports in saying it’s not gone. Sure it’s not *absolutely* gone, but it sure happens pretty rarely.

    I really agree with you, but I also would like to see more research being done on these subjects. I’m sure there are more nuanced differences between cultures which have colonial and christian and monarchical backgrounds, and variation in other cultures which share an Islamic background. I am thinking it would not be *impossible* to look at several different lines, several different nuanced societal attitudes and how they play out in how they shape expressions of violence including rape. Basically, I am saying that this type of research seems to be in its infancy and I think we will find things we never expected as more research is done.

    Just because species differentiate slowly from each other in paleontology and evolutionary biology, doesn’t mean research can be done linking certain body shapes to certain environmental triggers and pressures. I really would like to see that sort of thing in studies of anthropology and sociology as well, I think it would be helpful to our understanding of what is going on, and how to improve things.

  34. Angela Vistry says:

    @james,
    Right, I take your point that Lisak is highlighting a certain kind of person (the predator) rather emphasizing the continuity between rapists & ordinary guys (a continuity or continuum early 2nd wave feminist theory often stressed). But then you suggest Lisak’s argument is attacking
    things like Student Conduct Codes and mandatory sexual assault education lessons. Feminist theory says are a good thing and has been promoting them, because rape if caused by a malfunctioning systems of gender relations you should be able to educate people out of it. Lisak’s attacking them as predator theory says they’re useless, as you can’t talk hardened offenders out of crime.
    Lisak is presumably arguing for a change in the particulars of the education programs, but he’s still arguing for education in the interests of prevention.

  35. Lauren says:

    @james, Are you suggesting that feminist theory is unchanging and immovable, or that feminists at large are unchanging and immovable, or that feminism at large is unable to accept new concepts? Because the concern trolling is annoying.

    Quit beating around the bush and say whatever it is you’re trying to say.

  36. Thomas says:

    James, I think you’re building a strawfeminist. If you have a piece of literature in mind saying that rape culture means most cis het men commit rape (as opposed to rape culture means that ordinary social relations create an environment in which rapists can operate), then cite it and folks can respond. You’re making an empirical claim about feminist theory that I don’t think you can back up.

    And I’m not talking about fiction. Everyone knows Marilyn French’s quote; it was a statement by a fictional character. I mean feminist theory.

  37. RD says:

    Does it have to do with a male victim being so alien a concept that the idea is simply rejected?

    Prison rape includes cis women raped by COs and trans women raped by male inmates and/or COs.

  38. Alex says:

    Actually “Repeat rape and multiple offending among undetected rapists” seems to be available here: http://www.publicintegrity.org/investigations/campus_assault/assets/pdf/Document5_Lisak_study.pdf
    According to google scholar, anyway. I haven’t clicked on it yet, this netbook grinds to a halt if I look at a pdf. Google Scholar displays a link on the right hand side if it can find a free version of a paper.

  39. William says:

    Prison rape includes cis women raped by COs and trans women raped by male inmates and/or COs.

    Right you are. Thanks for the check, even if I’m a bit embarrassed that it was necessary. I suppose that just goes to show the power a dominant narrative has to frame a discourse and dictate the kinds of experience included and excluded. I’ll be more careful in the future.

  40. RD says:

    William – no problem. What a great way to take a call-out. :)

  41. Kristen J. says:

    @William

    She was a slut, so it wasn’t rape;” “she didn’t fight back hard enough, she must have wanted it;” “she just regretted it in the morning;” “she was drunk, it was a misunderstanding” each of these kinds of statements are part of the narrative, they are excuses that society uses to negate the experience of victims.

    In this context, I think it’s important to note that its also a way in which victims negate their own experience…or to put it another way…a way to deny that they have been raped.

    The OP talked about changing the discourse…IMO the most important step in that change is convincing victims that being raped isn’t shameful. I can’t tell you how many DV victims I’ve worked with that admit to being punched, kicked, dragged, but were too ashamed to tell the judge they’d been raped.

    I think it’s this shame that keeps the rape myths alive.

  42. jemand says:

    Kristen J,

    There have also been instances where a woman I know (online) would say she doesn’t feel comfortable comparing what happened to her to more violent rapes, so she doesn’t feel comfortable labeling it as rape even though she was incapacitated by alcohol. She is not shamed into silence– but even then, doesn’t feel comfortable calling it *actual rape.*

    Probably because it was her ex who has custody of her kid…

  43. William says:

    In this context, I think it’s important to note that its also a way in which victims negate their own experience…or to put it another way…a way to deny that they have been raped.

    Absolutely. Thats what makes the narrative so insidious. It doesn’t just work it’s power on a victim but in them as well. The narrative isn’t just part of the judge, the cop, the rapist, etc but part of the victim. A victim who is too ashamed to even report has obviated the need for society to silence them. Power is a hierarchical thing and it’s very nature, in relation to knowledge, is to begin it’s influence at the earliest of levels.

  44. Kristen J. says:

    @William,

    I agree completely. And that shame often leads victims to defensively project their feelings of shame onto other victims. (I’m thinking even more of male children I’ve worked with who were the victims of childhood sexual abuse.) Helping victims accept that there is no shame (and while we’re at it no control) not only helps them psychologically, but also helps to end part of the social construct.

  45. Mahri Irvine says:

    OMG! Thank you so much–this is the type of info I’ve been looking for, as certain nameless jerkoff newspaper “editors” at American U have decided to unleash a victim-blaming article upon the campus community… thus leading to national news coverage of the journalist spewing rape myths.
    Thanks for the article references! I really appreciate it!

  46. Mirror says:

    @26, that was a question I had too–the undercount is in the men who report that they have not raped/attempted to rape who then are not further interviewed.

    @42, the edges are so gray that sometimes they really hamper argument (not saying we shouldn’t keep talking and talking about it until it’s figured out, of course, just that it can be difficult). For instance, I would say emphatically that I have not been raped even though there was one time when a partner basically forced himself on me…why? I think because he thought I was playing. If I had opened my mouth and said “stop” I have zero question that he would have stopped, and I just didn’t for the same reason I didn’t want sex right then–I was just too damn tired. But this was someone I chose in general to have sex with both before and after this, so it seemed like not a big deal. But at the same time, it was definitely rape by the definition of unwanted sexual contact. So it’s clearly at the transparent edges of gray, and that makes me unsettled about the whole thing. Um, I guess I have no real point here, sorry about that.

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