Posted on 8.07.2012 by Chantal
I've been thinking a lot lately about rape. Specifically, about how activists and radicals deal with rape in our communities. Because it happens.
As an anarchist, I'm deeply invested in building community responses to rape that exist outside of the State and capitalism and, particularly, outside of the prison industrial complex. How do we create open spaces for survivors of rape and sexual assault to speak and to heal? And at the same time, how do we respond to the destructive nature of assault in our communities without tearing them apart? How do we acknowledge the humanity of perpetrators of sexual violence while holding them accountable for their actions?
bell hooks said it best when she asked, “How do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing, and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”
I came across a surprisingly great post on Jezebel the other day about a thread on Reddit that asked perpetrators to share their stories. I should mention, I guess, that I don't have a Reddit account. And I generally try to avoid random internet conversations with men (Reddit, of course, being 66% male) about rape. But shockingly, I think these Redditors are onto something. As one Jezebel blogger argues, perpetrators' stories and experiences matter. It's easy (and right) to argue that victim's voices are too often silenced and outright ignored. But listening to the experiences of perpetrators doesn't have to be a silencing experience. By understanding the motives of perpetrators of assault, we can begin to understand the social and psychological factors that make sexualized violence so prevalent in our society. We can start to invest time and energy in raising generations of men (and women!) who understand the concept of consent and respect the bodily autonomy of others.
Most importantly, I think, some of these Reddit rape stories as told by perpetrators accomplish something that rarely happens in our society. They make perpetrators human. And before you say anything, no, these accounts in no way justify rape or any type of non-consensual sexual violence. Some of these posts are downright nasty, revealing the horrific extent of misogyny in our society. Rape is never okay, regardless of why it happens. But if we can begin to see perpetrators as real human beings who are socialized into the same fucked up world, we can begin to create models and frameworks for rehabilitation that don't involve cops or jail cells.
I, for one, look forward to that.