Dear Amanda Marcotte

Content note: This post discusses rape

Dear Amanda Marcotte,

I read your piece in Slate justifying a decision to incarcerate a survivor of rape to force her testimony with a kind of slack-jawed disgust, slowly morphing to a deep and visceral sense of terror.

I was horrified to read what happened to the woman who, having survived something so vile, was arrested and incarcerated until the trial. My heart shuddered at the thought that could happen. And the bile rose up in my throat as you said, over and over again, that this was all right. You say that in domestic violence cases, a lot of survivors recant their testimony because of the abuser, and go on to speculate that perhaps this is what happened with this woman. You say that there’s nothing that can be done to heal this in time for lawyers to get what they want, as though that’s the important thing here. You pretty much out-and-out blame women who do not comply with the justice system for any future violence that may be perpetrated.

Your article is sickening and frightening to me, a rape survivor who never reported what happened to me to the legal system. I’ve had to deal with many shades of bullshit from rape culture in my time, but you’ve given me something new to feel horror over. It had never occurred to me that some people might decide to blame me for any other things that might be perpetrated by that man. It had never occurred to me that the state could lock me up if they wanted to for not wanting anything to do with them, and self-professed feminists would cheer them on. I know that men who rape often don’t stop at one. And yet, what happened to me was deeply personal and I chose to deal with it in the way that made me feel safest. I feel like, for the most part, what I needed to happen, happened: all I wanted was him out of my life and to not have to talk about it in great detail to anyone.

As a feminist, I believe that the needs of the survivor are the only thing that matters in any instance of sexual violence. The way of starting to heal a deeply personal violation is also deeply personal, and deeply individual. For some survivors, this might be the route through the legal system. For others, it might be making sure everyone knows the name and face of the perpetrator as a warning. For others, perhaps recognition of what happened and reconciliation with the perpetrator is possible. For others, maybe setting the perpetrator on fire. It’s individual, it’s unique, and all of these are valid if that’s what the survivor wants.

Under rape culture, the wants and needs of survivors are ignored twice. First, in the initial violation, and second, in the response. We have our autonomy completely stripped of us by a state which supports and enforces rape culture, by peers who support and enforce rape culture, and, apparently, by people who consider themselves prominent feminist commentators who are also doing their best to sweep the wants and needs of survivors under the carpet when they get a little inconvenient.

So fuck your “greater good” guilt trip. Any greater good which involves kidnapping and incarcerating women is not worth it at all. Fuck your decision to ignore the wants and needs of survivors; you are just as bad as the rest of the rape culture which spawned your ideology. Fuck your supporting a move which will only put survivors off speaking out about what happened.

There is only one thing that matters, Amanda Marcotte, and that is what survivors want. Our role, as feminists dismantling rape culture, is to support each individual survivor unconditionally, in whatever course of action she chooses. Any other course is just rape culture, rebranded.

12 thoughts on “Dear Amanda Marcotte”

  1. I never reported when my ex assaulted me. I’ve told very few people, only those people I knew would be supportive and give me the space to deal as I see fit. Since we were in a relationship, there are lots of people who would say what happened wasn’t sexual assault at all. The fact that I agreed initially to have sex. that I initially really did want to have sex, but things quickly went off the rails. That the fact that I was repeating over and over “You are hurting me. Please, this is extremely painful” and lying there shaking and crying, those things don’t make it rape because hey, we took vows ya know. The fact that I didn’t leave immediately or that I tried to rationalize it away in order to preserve my marriage (which ended anyway, when the Ex decided to leave me for another woman after moving me to a foreign country where I knew no one. Yeah, I married a peach.) For some people, that would make it all not really a violation. There are very good reasons I didn’t report it, that I never will report it. I have enough shit to deal with from a society who would say I’m just making it up to get back at the Ex for leaving me, I do not need a feminism that tells me it’s MY fault if my Ex goes on to assault someone else. NO. It’s NOT my fault. The ONLY person EVER at fault for rape is the RAPIST. Point blank. Full stop. Repeat until you GET A FUCKING CLUE. The thought that I could be locked up? Held against my will? Have my life disrupted AGAIN by that bastard? No. No no no. NO WAY are survivors going to report knowing that if they don’t do exactly what they’re told they’ll get locked up. Good job re-enforcing the objectification of survivors. Oy.

  2. In 2002 I was involved in a case in the Northern Territory in which a woman was charged with the unique NT law of ‘failing to prevent an act of incest’.

    The Crown alleged that her father was also the father of her child – based on some seriously misrepresented DNA paternity testing from samples that had been taken from her and her son without informed consent. When she refused to testify against her Dad she was charged herself.

    Needless to say she was an Aboriginal woman and a search of court documents revealed that only Aboriginal women have ever been charged under that law.

    We got the case thrown out due to the crap DNA evidence. The Crown was claiming there was only one chance in 7000 that a randomly selected Australian man other than her Dad could have been the father but they had completely discarded the question of close relatives and in fact there were three other men in her small community alone who might also have been the father. But she still spent over a week in the cells before bail was posted. Aborigines often die in NT police cells.

  3. I know that men who rape often don’t stop at one.

    True for many definitions of ‘often’. But the best available data (which isn’t all that good) suggests that the majority of detected sex offenders only ever commit one offence. As a whole, sex offender recidivism is significantly lower than for other criminal offences – though there is considerable variation in that across different categories of sex offender (e.g. sex offenders who target pre-pubescent boys not previously known to them have a five year recidivism rate of over 50%).

  4. I think what happened regarding the rape and then incarceration of this woman is sickening, I do hope that victims will come forward though, in the hopes of preventing another horrendous attack on an innocent.

  5. Dear stavvers:

    Thank you for writing this. I’m sorry you were raped, but at least you had the option to decide whether or not to press charges. Forcing women to testify against their will is not progress, nor is it right. I hope that you have been able to put the past behind you and that things are better for you now.

  6. Absolutely, the needs of the victim are paramount, and absolutely, the system–most systems–relegate the victim’s needs to be back burner. Throwing a rape victim in jail–where she risks being sexually assaulted again, with even less ability to resist or report–is so wrong it’s even hard to express how much. On a scale of 1 to 10…it’s a 20. Or 50.

    Society and its structures are determined to find ways to make a specific rape–and rapes in general–the fault of rape victims. Amanda Marcotte needs to rethink her position, with help from angry women (you, me, others commenting here) if she’s not bright enough to get it on her own.

  7. I reported being sexually assaulted twice, when I was a six year old little girl and when I was a 26 year old woman, a victim of a break in stranger rape. Neither of those men are behind bars. The first, my father, hired a shark of a lawyer. His relatives got me alone and terrorized me until I was scared for my life on the witness stand. This was allowed to happen. When I still believed it had happened as an adolescent, he institutionalized and drugged me at one of those terrible places for troubled teen agers — I was causing trouble by not recanting the truth. I ran as far away as I could as soon as I could. My family still talks to each other about how evil, lying and manipulative I am. Because of what happened when I was a little girl. Because of a predator. The justice system did nothing.

    When I was brutally attacked and raped, taken to the ER, the cops kept asking me if I’d been drinking before the advocate arrived (I’d had a beer with dinner, many hours ago — what relevance did that have to somebody breaking in to the house and strangling me in bed?). The advocate helped me with the rape kit – I was relieved when they told me my assailant had probably used a condom. They could only find his hairs and skin under my nails. I was bleeding from the assault. I was shaking like a leaf in the paper gown.

    The cops came back in and asked me about whether I’d been drinking again, if I was sure I had been raped. I blinked. The window to my house was broken and a laptop gone from the dining room table. I was bruised. I hadn’t even seen the guy’s face. Pretty close to the perfect victim. There they were, smirking. “Why would you be HAPPY there’s no DNA evidence?” one said. Because I don’t want to be pregnant or have an STD. Treated like this under the “best” conditions and I know it’s not even close to the horror that trans women and sex workers experience. Why in the hell would I ever call the cops again? I don’t think Amanda Marcotte is this stupid. Clickbait like this is fucking awful.

  8. But, you’re not saying setting rapists on fire is ok, right? Because if that truly is a rape surviver’s wish you seem to be saying it’s our duty to support that. (Which I may be totally ok with, for the record)

  9. Another horror story of what can happen if you report a rape – particularly if you have a disability or mental illness (or have been drinking, or are a member of a minority group, or have previously had consensual sex with the rapist …)

    It casts a particularly bad light on samuella’s experience as UK cops seem to have an unofficial policy of simply dropping rape cases in which the victim has admitted to having used alcohol – but only after she has already been further abused by the reporting process.

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