Friday, May 29, 2015

Violence Against Women - Rape and Response

Written in response to discourse on CBC radio, May 28, 2015.

There is call from people affected by rape to strengthen laws. There has been an evolution in law away from the victimization of the victim; a reduction if you will, in drawing inappropriately on orthodoxy and a contorted view of female sexuality.  For a person to be charged with rape, there needs to be a clear determination of the absence of consent on the part of the victim – oft times the means by which to determine the presence or absence of consent is in the un-witnessed dialog between two people leading up to the event. There is no basis in this circumstance to answer to an accusation of rape and there can never be, or people would be convicted on accusation alone.

The goal is to have a society where people are safe and can choose how they want to interface with others – the challenge is it is hard to effect through law enforcement – it needs to be culturally driven and that will take some time. Women are understandably frustrated that they are required to be constrained in their daily lives to a greater degree than men to protect themselves, but there is really no other way, people simply have to protect themselves. As a man I am mindful of where I am, who I am exposed to and how I might manage any given situation should it arise and women need to as well. So prevention is a critical element in response to the threat of rape.

Consent and only consent – is the determinant of rape. People must be clear in communication around sexual relations, by way of example, a women when confronted with an male in a manner that is uncomfortable to her should respond by saying, PLEASE STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING – an affirmative request to cease is the clearest means by which to be sure what you are saying is understood. There is room for misinterpretation in interface unless a very clear AFFIRMATIVE request to cease is made.  
People refer to the presence of a rape culture, it is important to break out all the aspects of issue – there is the patriarchy – there are men who rape women, they are unrelated. The patriarchy marginalizes women by systematizing male privilege, rapists rape. The patriarchy has an imperative to protect women, an imperative that is part and parcel with “chauvinist” inclination; the protective inclination as a “stand alone” entity is a good thing. Patriarchs in the traditional sense see rape as a crime, as women do. A convicted rapist or a person compelled to act to rape when opportunity presents, should be contemplated separate and apart from the male population general. One hears women referring to the “rape culture” as though it is a general practice of “most” men. Most men I know are kind, loving and respectful towards women. The general state of patriarchy effects less than desirable outcomes for women in society at large – this is in no way a rape culture, it is a culture of privilege for men.

The awkward fusion of Stoicism and Christian Theology has created a culture where women become devalued when contemplated in the context of sexual relations; this reality then contributes to male disrespect for women in some circumstances. This may be the source of some violence toward women – this is the point where violence against women can be attacked culturally. Presently, we are at an awkward point in the evolution of female sexuality in society at large, women have evolved perhaps in advance of society as a whole, which is abrading against old perceptions on the part of males.

Due to the reality that rape is very difficult to prove and is subject to interpretations of discourse between people, caution is warranted in how we respond to accusations of rape. Also, given that the data associated with conviction is oft times the interpretation of interface between two people, there is a high possibility of wrongful convictions. Given these realities it is important that people convicted of rape once, who have served their sentence, be permitted to enter society in an unfettered fashion.  So the answer to the question - To publish rapist names - seems simple enough, the first time through the process NO, if a person re-offends, then society needs to protect all concerned. There is wrongful conviction, especially in the area of rape; rape is very difficult to prove for reasons stated above – so if someone is convicted and they serve their sentence, they deserve the benefit of the doubt. There should be no question that if there is an offender that has more than two convictions, that steps should be taken to ensure the public can manage their presence in any given community.

What is missing here, and is missing throughout our corrections processes, is criteria based advancement. There needs a series of steps people go through to regain their place in society at large having committed a crime. Multiple time offenders are by definition “repeat offenders”, so our approach to them needs to be different than a person that is a first time offender. The key here is assessing each case and then making a choice to publish data or withhold it.

The challenge with publishing the names and locations of offenders is that we marginalize them more and subject them to people inclined to “name & shame”.  Naming & shaming offers no value in the case of an individual intent on reforming, and fails to arrest the actions of an individual who is compelled to act as a result of illness. The general public oft times is out to effect vengeance – rather than exercise a measured response to people accused or convicted of rape.

Rapists that have offended eight times (as was the subject of the CBC program that has prompted this blog) require NO consideration with respect to privacy, they need to be managed. In the case of repeat, “high risk” offenders, they should be monitored 24/7, ankle bracelets and other technology to communicate their location to police or a monitoring body is warranted and or an isolated living circumstances – perhaps community that is designed to house and contain the negative affect of repeat rapists.

It is critical however, that people, having served their punishment, and having been released on the first occasion be given opportunity to reintegrate into society – unobstructed. A person in this circumstance should never be exposed to “community” type interventions, because, for the most part there is an absence of evolved enough people to involve themselves in the private lives of others. There tends to be a vindictive, small minded cohort that finds their way into the “community justice” space, people absent the understanding of fundamental law and ignorant of critical elements related to civil rights.

The other challenge is the reversion to an “ancient” moral perspective, a degree of righteousness emerges along with a “vigilantly” mentality. This is exacerbated by people who have been affected by rape as they become involved in processes related to “community” interventions, people traumatized by an event are unlikely to be able to find an objective place from which to actuate.

Within our society there is a wide cultural variation with respect to sexual discourse, this is allowed, the response to sexual deviation tends to drive us backward to a strict and highly moralized stance. It is the merger of sex and all the associated baggage it carries and violence suppression that drives the rebuke. The focus of response needs to be on violence and the violation of being over powered – to be forced to action absent consent.  

Ideally, society would be free of rape, there is no more grievous injury to the sole than to be over powered, rendered defenseless and sexually assaulted. Ideally, women would be treated the same clothed in a burka or a bikini – the reality is they are treated differently. Ideally, women could run in the parks at any time of day or night by themselves absent fear, the reality is however, they are at risk when they do. The prevalence of rape is shocking to me, when I inventory the women in my life whose personal lives I am familiar with – the percentages that have been affected by rape is staggering. I am unsure what drives it, I only know it exists, the only way to manage it is to recognize its presence, to understand the modalities that lead to it occurring and then find a ways to lower the risk, and contain perpetrators.   

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