Some of you may know that I spent many years actively pushing forward conversations within anti-rape and anti-domestic violence organizations and activist circles in ways that would make us better able to respond to the needs of victims/survivors and the challenge of stopping rapists/abusers in a world of much more complex sexuality and gender than those movements had previously considered.
There has been very significant growth in those movements over the last 25 years since I first spoke at a public hearing on judicial reform in California and on Oregon Public Radio about sexism and gender complexity in the context of gendered and sexed violence. Since that day, we’ve had the Supreme Court of the United States decide in favor of a Black trans woman raped in prison by another prisoner at the direction or at least by the intent of the US employees*1 and conclude that consensual sex isn’t violence or a felony*2. Legislators have consistently whittled away at the marital rape exemption that in some states still provides a defense against rape accomplished without force or violence against a spouse. Rape laws have also become gender/sex agnostic for at least the majority of states during that time. The last 25 years have been full of small victories.
And yet, the stunned silence about sexual violence and harassment against women which still requires positive action has been broken in many more times and places than the stories of sexual violence against men. Though I am not a man, from the beginning of my activism I was acutely aware that my story was considered less believable because many people perceived me as a man. For that reason, from the first time I spoke out I called attention to the possibility that every time we speak of sexual violence with men present, men victims may be present, and that our language can and must reflect our best understandings of how gendered dynamics put women at unique risk for assault while also consistently portraying a world in which no gender makes one immune to rape, and that, when appropriate to the conversation, we state clearly that men victims, however rare or not, however much they are more likely to have their assaults occur only in the context of prisons and jails, are at unique risk for being silenced by a culture that does not support men’s stories of being sexually assaulted or raped.
Because of this, I find heartbreaking a story which many may frame as positive: with the #metoo campaign has come some new awareness of men victims.
Read Wonkette for one good take on this. But there are many others.
Take care, all y’all, and keep helping one another.
*1: Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). Seriously, if you don’t understand what a big deal it was for a Black trans woman in prison for a felony to win a lawsuit against the federal prison system for injuries and rapes caused by another prisoner, I can’t help you. Some people say it was a big deal in 1994, but fuck that. Justice for prisoners of any gender or race are hard enough to come by in 2017. It’s a big deal, and it’s a big deal now. Although the SCOTUS decision established the deliberate indifference standard, it was clear that prison guards purposely put Farmer in a cell with someone known to commit rape, laughed at her and hazed her about her rapes while they were happening as well as between assaults, denied her requests to transfer to another cell for her safety when she could document that both other prisoners and the guards were fully aware of injuries she’d sustained at the hands of her cellmate, and failed to punish her rapist for the assaults (although I suspect the cellmate was probably rewarded by guards in the small ways that guards do when attempting to encourage cooperation, I can’t remember if any of the evidence I read through included that).