I’m the type of person who “people watches”. Throughout my life I have always watched and listened to how people interact with each other, whether it be in school, on a sports team, in a 12 step program, or within a group of friends. I tend to be quite observant and will pick up on little things that others don’t notice.
The truth is, though, that with the rise of Facebook and other social media sites my tendency to people watch can be a bit obsessive. It is very easy for me to scroll through my feed and asses and take note of people’s behavior. I also find Facebook groups to be just fascinating when it comes to how people behave online. I tend to scroll through Facebook groups and just read what people are saying to each other. I don’t comment nearly as frequently as I just read and observe what is going on in particular groups. This basically arises from the psychology nerd in me, and I can spend a lot of time just noting people’s behaviors.
I’m pretty good at consciously considering whether or not to join a conversation these days. I’m not perfect at is as sometimes I react and just join in. This skepticism about joining into conversations doesn’t just happen on Facebook but also in my life as well.
I’ve been becoming more careful about the conversations that I’m in for a few years now. I really began to work on it when I realized how many predators were in AA. Before that, I always tended to share in conversations because this was promoted in AA. But the result of this is actually what led me to become more guarded and hyper-vigilant than I’d ever been.
On Friday night I saw a particularly troubling post. I was browsing through Facebook groups to see what was going on in those groups. There was one group that I was in that particularly seems to have problems. People are always posting that there needs to be more support in the group, etc. But I was not involved enough in the group to see these apparently horrible threads where people tore each other apart…. yet.
It seemed like the Facebook group itself was a big social party. It was a large group and I noticed that some people seemed very invested in it and spent a lot of time interacting in the group. I, of course, stayed on the sidelines, only posted here and there, and didn’t spend too much time in this group.
But then I saw something that showed me what all of these people were complaining about to the admins/mods and group members. A young woman asked a “It is rape” question regarding her and her boyfriend.
I could easily tell that this was rape just by the fact that she was asking it and by the way that she asked it. But, in some people’s eyes the experience she described would not be rape for them because it would be consensual, which means that a lot of people vocally dismissed her claim. Also, she didn’t have a chance to say no, which quickly biased people against her due to perceptions in our society that you must say no for a sexual act to be rape.
By the time that I got to this thread, there were already about 250 comments and it looked like these comments had been made rather quickly. But, the majority of these comments were ignorant and full of victim blaming. Many people told her that this couldn’t be rape because it was her boyfriend and she was intimate with him. Others told her that it just wasn’t rape because it wouldn’t be rape for them, and some told her that you have to say no for sex to be rape so it wasn’t rape. And, people in the not-rape group were actually insulting her and others on the thread who said it was rape and actually were beginning to threaten to stalk and privately IM people in this group. It was victim blaming and rape culture at it’s worse.
Overall, I just found it disgusting and especially shocking that so many people told this woman that it wasn’t rape because it was her significant other. I spoke my part in that it looks like rape, and also shared that I have been raped by boyfriends (I was the first to share that). But, the horrible comments continued and someone replied to me about how it wasn’t rape because she didn’t say no.
So I just got fed up and put another comment to call for an admin/mod to turn off comments on this post and to just take the whole thing down. Then I began to go through the comments and report these horrible, sometimes aggressive and insulting comments one by one. This soon got a mods attention, and the post was taken down. I then just left the group.
The truth is that intimate partner rape and sexual violence is commonly minimized and denied in our society. Also, there is a perception that stranger rape is the most common form of rape. But statistics on rape actually show that intimate partner rape is the most common form of rape in women, followed by acquaintance rape. Here is a quote from a website on intimate partner rape about the numbers behind the frequency of this type of rape:
“More than half (51.1%) of female victims of rape reported being raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance. “
This being the case, how do we spread word to people that intimate partner rape actually is the most common form of rape? And, do we really think that knowing these statistics would change a person’s perception that it just can’t be?
I’m guessing that part of the reason why so many people won’t admit that intimate partner rape even exists is because it is scary. Who wants to actually accept that the most likely way that a rape occurs is within an intimate relationship? It definitely is a frightening thing to think about, and it can take away from a person’s feeling of control when it comes to keeping him or herself safe. It also can hamper with this idea in our society that love and relationships are a cure for many things in life. In other words, it takes away from the glamour of being in an intimate relationship that is so often perpetuated in society.
Still, though, by not admitting or accepting that intimate partner rape happens a person is not only enabling rape in our society but also is putting him or herself in danger. This is mainly because if a person thinks that this can’t happen, they might be less likely to truly be discerning when it comes to choosing partners and may not be able to spot rape in an intimate relationship even when it happens to them. And of course predators are going to quickly zero in on someone who is in denial that this can happen because it will likely be easier for them to get away with rape with someone who believes that it just can’t happen in a relationship, as these people will be less likely to accept that it has occurred.
So sadly enough this faulty idea about intimate partner rape really just perpetuates rape in our society. I really think that the only way that we are going to address it is for survivors of it to speak up. But the truth is that many don’t because it can be very humiliating to admit that you were raped by a partner due to society’s ideas of what a relationship should be and the tendency to blame victims/survivors in these scenarios. It’s pretty easy, I think, for survivors of intimate partner sexual violence/assault to feel heightened feelings of self blame because of this. I know too that I have been angry and blamed myself many times for not seeing the red flags in the men who raped me within intimate relationships, and people have put the blame on me for “choosing the wrong men” as well. This kind of victim blaming for women who have been in domestic violence or abusive relationships is far too common in our society and prevents survivors from speaking out. But, it is necessary that we do.
I have one more argument to make in terms of what I saw on Facebook. This is that a person does not have to say no for rape to be rape. In our society, though, due to movements like “no means no”, there is a perception that one must say no for it to be rape. Even law enforcement tends to define rape by whether or not a person says no. But within the field of counseling and rape advocacy professionals stress that a rape survivor does not have to say no for rape to occur. This should be obvious when you hear stories of women being drugged and then raped after they pass out, and by the fact that if a person is too intoxicated to consent that any form of sex at that point is considered rape. And what many people don’t know, too, is that it isn’t uncommon for rape survivors to not even have the chance to say no because of the violence or actions of the perpetrator. The perpetrator might be so violent and the assault happens so quickly that the survivor isn’t able to say no, or the perpetrator might be so threatening that they purposefully scare the survivor into not saying no. Because many police officers consider no to be a requirement for rape as does the general public, it makes sense that perpetrators would do everything that they could to prevent their victim to say no during a sexual assault. Still, if a person does not want to have sex with another person, even if they are unable to say no due to a variety of reasons, it is still rape.
I hope that the woman who spoke up about her rape experience online can get the help that she needs. I’m hoping that she is still holding up despite all of the terrible comments that she received, but the truth is that she may not be. It is extremely re-traumatizing for survivors to hear these kinds of comments. This is true whether it be the day after the sexual assault or even years later. I hope that one day people will realize how much only one victim blaming or minimizing comment regarding rape can affect a rape survivor and that these comments discourage rape survivors from talking about their experiences. Until then, we all need to support each other in order to not just heal from rape and/or sexual assault but also to weather the responses that we receive from people in regards to it.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below regarding any opinions of feelings that you have regarding this post.