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A Story of Rape

an attempt to use male privilege to fight sexual violence and rape in our communities. and to keep the dialogue going.
I became politically active several years ago. I fought for many causes, but I never spoke out against sexual violence and rape. I thought that because I had never had anything like that happen to me that I had nothing to offer or support to give. Since I knew I would never do anything like that, and I surrounded my self with friends who wouldn't do anything like that, that sexual assault and rape were things I wouldn't have to ever really think about.

Two of my sisters had told me stories about how men had raped them. I still didn't look at rape as something I could do something about. I considered how my sisters knew their attackers and trusted them. I also thought about how neither of these incidents were ever reported and that they only felt comfortable years later to tell me about it. I remember wanting to find these guys and baseball bat their knees and cut off their penises. And then time passed and I almost forgot all about it. My sisters have never forgotten.

Years later I was still out fighting injustice wherever I could find it. Activist groups in my area dealing with sexual assault and rape were almost exclusively female. Many of their events were for women only. I respected the wishes of these groups to organize autonomously, but I could not get involved and I thought it would be important for men to be involved on these issues. I showed up at the "take back the night" event and was told I couldn't march with them. I felt frustrated by this and remained not involved.

I went to one "men's" group meeting people organized. It seemed like a meeting with no action and no substance, other than being an open space for guys to disavow their allegiances to patriarchy. I didn't see how a meeting like this was going to do any good for anyone, other than help make the people there feel less sexist.

I continued to not think about sexual violence and rape. Then a group of women within an activist group I was working with brought up sexual violence in our "activist" community. They wanted to ban a certain individual from our meetings because they were saying that other females don't feel safe if he was there and would not come to the meetings if he might be there.

I remember looking around the room at all the males with blank stares on their faces. Some of the males demanded details while the women formed a bloc and insisted that the details were not important. Since I had never really thought about this and how do deal with it, I sat silently while the group passed the proposal to ban this guy if he did not meet certain conditions. After the meeting, I went with a group of (mostly males) to his house and gave him a written statement of things he could do to be welcomed back into our community.

He took offense to this and quickly became defensive. He talked about how he does so much to combat patriarchy and sexism, and that we were all full of shit. He said he was going to move because of this. He insisted that all he did was grab a women and kiss her on the cheek against her will. When the men in the room realized they weren't dealing with a rapist, the conversation was over and we all left. Some of us felt lied to (by both sides) and used, and that our action did nothing to stop any sort of sexual violence. I felt confused about how massive issues of sexual violence really are and how they overlap every other issue in one way or another.

I wrote a little essay about my experience that night. I criticized the meeting for banning someone, like they were some sort of government. I criticized the guy for being an authoritarian asshole. I criticized the narrow-mindedness of everyone involved. I hated the whole situation.

I wanted people to look proactively at this and come up with better ways of dealing with this problem. Banning was not an option. He said he would just move if he was banned. I considered that not dealing with the problem, but pushing it farther away to some other place. I thought he and others like him have a problem and everyone should deal with it. The perpetrators are the ones who will need the most support from their communities to stop abusing people in the future and to fight off impulses that might lead to that behavior. I realized then, as I do now, that there are no "right" answers or 12 steps people can take, but something more needs to be done about it. Raising awareness is just a start. Putting that awareness into action is a good start.

Right when I think I have some introductory information on the issues of sexual violence and rape, a man in my community wrote a letter about how he was raped. He was traveling and needed a place to stay and his host raped him. I remember being stunned by how brave he was to share this information publicly and attach his real name to it. His experience motivated him to look up more information and share it with us. This event changed many misconceptions about rape and sexual violence for me and others. I somehow seemed to forget that men are also raped all the time.

Then I heard of a very personal event that ended my apathy towards sexual violence and rape. Although I hate talking about it, I think telling this story may be beneficial.

My ex-girlfriend told me that my brother raped her. I remember being speechless and freaking out inside. It was the most personally devastating thing I had ever heard. My own brother raping a woman I was in love with for years. I became full of rage hoping it wasn't true. I became a giant asshole and demanded details from her. I was completely insensitive to the fact it took her over a year to tell me. I honestly have never been that mad and disgusted and outraged in all my life. I didn't want to know the details but felt like I had to know them.

She told me how it happened. She was at the bar shooting pool with my brother that night. She said my bother kept buying shots for her until she could no longer drink. My brother offered to drive her car and drives to his house where he takes her keys and says she is too drunk to drive. He convinces her to stay. She trusts him because he is my brother and her friend. She pukes on her self, takes off some clothing and passes out on his bed. Later she wakes up with my brother on top of her and inside her. She felt like she couldn't move and she couldn't scream or do anything.

Afterwards she felt like she couldn't tell anyone and pretended that nothing ever happened. My brother also pretended that nothing happened. This went on for a year before she had the bravery to tell me. Once she told me I could no longer see my brother without wanting to literally kill him or worse. I thought about severely hurting him. I thought that might make me feel better, but I knew it wouldn't stop him from doing it again to someone else. I felt powerless, and I wasn't even involved. I knew my brother needed some serious help and support that I could not possibly give him.

I moved away, in part, to never see him again. I started refusing to come home for the holidays because I didn't think I could control myself around him. My family began to think I just didn't like them any more, and my brother never mentioned any of it. I had to tell my family that their son and brother is a rapist.

They didn't like the news too much. At first my sisters and mother believed her, and my dad was skeptical. They interviewed my brother who was like "yeah, I had sex with her" as his side to the story. My brother ended up convincing them and our old friends that he was innocent. He either made up or brought up things in her past to discredit her and make her into the "bad" person. I didn't think this situation could get more horrible and ugly, but it did. My sisters had even helped spread my brother's rumors about her.

I will never know what happened. I wasn't there and it's one person's word against another. My family somehow thinks I'm "jealous" for believing her and that I can't come to grips with them having an affair. Honestly I would be happy if they had sex millions of times and he never raped her once. But she says he raped her and I believe her. She has no reason to lie and he has every reason to lie. I don't know how this situation could ever be resolved. Your ideas and comments are needed.

As you can see I don't know anything about sexual violence and rape. I can see that I'm not the only one who is ignorant about these issues. I spent the last few hours writing this in hopes of continuing the dialogue and raising awareness about the many complexities and deeply held emotions surrounding these issues. It seems to me that silence is what allows sexual violence and rape to continue.









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that is messed 11.Aug.2003 18:19

nobody

your family has some serious denial issues. it is much easier for everyone to believe that some distant person is lying rather than confront the problem of their son being a rapist. you need to remind them of this and question their motives. remind them of yours, why would you want to alienate yourself and your brother for the sake of some girl?
your reaction to her news is exactly why it took her so long to tell you.

Your story 11.Aug.2003 21:54

anonymous

Your story is like a microcosm of the bigger picture of rape in our society. The men are still protected, even by the women. What happened to you is so typical. You were alienated from your family because of what he did. Victims of rape and sexual harassment usually drift quietly away and flounder in their lives, while the rapist continues on his merry way in the larger society. He has no shame, while the victim (that includes you in this case too) does.

The previous poster is right, your family is in denial. To admit what he did would be to face a huge problem. It's so much easier to pretend it didn't happen.

Your approach is that your brother needs help. That's very kind. The problem is that a person will never seek or accept help unless they admit that they really have a problem, and need to change. It sounds like your brother doesn't think he needs to change yet.

People usually don't feel the need to change unless they suffer consequences. One consequence he has already suffered is losing the trust of his brother. So far that's not enough for him. All I can think of for you to do is to think of other consequences that might force him to see that he needs to change. I don't know what those might be, or whether there are any that you could implement, but that would be the most proactive thing I could think of that you can do.

The other thing you can do is to make sure that you protect any woman you know that might get into a vulnerable position with him. Sometimes you can't fix what happened in the past, but at least you can prevent other things from happening with your new awareness.

I don't really have any great advice. Just wanted to show my support and sympathy.

permission 12.Aug.2003 12:24

me

hey, i really hope you have the rape survivor's permission to use her story as part of your efforts. Obviously you have the best of intentions and hopefully she's given you the go-ahead to discuss her attack, but if not it seems like you're touching on some of the same themes that our male-supremacist culture relies on: non-consensual use of the lives women to benifit the aims of men. And just because you have good intentions doesn't mean the power dynamic is really different.

that said, fucking someone passed out asleep is one of the most vile things I hear about. If it's ok with the victim of the attack, I think you'd be more than justified punching your brother in the face over and over again until you felt good and tired of doing it. Only, of course, if that's what the victim of his attack wants.

it's really terrible that things like this are so common in activist communities. This is not an unusual story at all. unless it becomes so, our movements aren't ever going to accomplish shit.

Some help 12.Aug.2003 13:19

sadyra sadyra@hushmail.com

The most important thing that you can do for your partner is to continue to believe her and support her. Your brother did an awful thing that won't go away simply because he denies it. Unfortunately, it is all too common for people to believe the rapist's side of the story. It sucks, and we have to continue working together, both males and females, to put an end to this.
I would recommend that your girlfriend get in contact with the Portland Women's Crisis Line (I am assuming both of you are in Portland?) and speak with a sexual assault advocate. They can get her in touch with some counseling resources, as well as validating her feelings and offering some more support in addition to that which she is recieving from you. The phone number is 503-235-5333. All of the women are wonderful and super helpful. Thank you very much for being a powerful ally to your girlfriend. The world needs more men like you.

BTW - Who told you that you couldn't march at Take Back the Night? In the years that I have been involved with the event it has been open to everyone who wants to put an end to violence towards women.

thanks for sharing. 19.Feb.2004 17:15

portlandgirl

as a survivor of rape myself, i can tell you that this story isn't very surprising. at the time of my rape, i was also very intoxicated and in my own bed. i also distincly remember feeling like i couldn't move or yell for help. the other people at my house had no idea what happened. i pretended like everything was fine for a long time. i was in shock. i wanted it to be fine. because of my behavior, people had a hard time believing i was actually raped. most people in my circle of friends endedup believing him. he went around after the rape, and told everyone a different story, while i was silent and skipping back and forth between happy denial and thoughts of suicide. people have such narrow views on what rape is. i wish that survivors and support groups would be more open. it is so important to understand rape, and what it means. for men who may end up commiting one, and women who don't understand why they feel so horribly abused.