An Open Letter to Rape-Culturists: Let Me Victimsplain Something to You

Gagged woman, close-up, blurred
Gagged woman, close-up, blurred

Like many victims of sexual assault, like many women, like many humans, I read Dan Turner's defense of his son, and recently-convicted rapist Brock Turner with horror and outrage.

I'd like to think everyone shares my outrage, but I know first-hand that there are many people out there who share Turner's perspective, who defend rapists at the expense of victims, who minimize the impact of rape and keep victims cowering in the shadows, imprisoned by shame and silence.

I've been mansplained enough in my lifetime. Now's my turn. I'm going to victimsplain some things to you, Dan Turner and everyone else who promotes rape culture:

1) Perpetrators of rape are not victims.

Brock has lost his appetite because he chose to rape an unconscious woman and got caught. It is common for victims of sexual assault to suffer from loss of appetite, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, chaotic interpersonal relationships, depression, anxiety, and a slew of other horribly unpleasant symptoms. The difference is that victims of sexual assault did not choose their fate. Their perpetrators did.

2) Rapists are not good guys.

One of my perpetrator's apologists called him a "man of impeccable character" at his sentencing. After he was caught on a phone sting admitting to child sexual assault, after he plead guilty. Let me clue you in: Rapists are not people of impeccable character.

3. Rape is not an accident, mistake, or "20 minutes of action."

Spilling milk is an accident. Forgetting to sign a check is a mistake. Rape is a crime. Prison is for rapists. Paper towels and online banking are for people who are accident and mistake prone.

4. Rapists should not educate people about sexual promiscuity.

Rapists should not educate people about sexual promiscuity, especially if they think that their violent crime is somehow related to promiscuity.

5. It's not OK to shame or slander victims.

My perpetrator sexually assaulted me when I was a child. Still, there were people who attacked me after my perpetrator was brought to justice decades later. Some insinuated I was mentally unstable and looking for a scapegoat for my midlife problems. Others insinuated I was looking for money. My experience is far from unique. Many victims of rape and sexual assault are victimized in this way after they are physically victimized.

Let me make this simple for you: Victims of rape are not the bad guys, and news of their rape is not a good time to make baseless assumptions about their motives and impugn their character.

6. Victim-shaming makes our communities more dangerous.

Pillorying victims discourages people from reporting sexual abuse and sexual assault. Rape is horrible; most victims aren't up for a second round of revictimization and shame. When victims are silent and do not feel comfortable reporting their crimes, perpetrators remain in our communities, free to reoffend while their victims suffer in silence.

7. The aftermath of sexual assault really, really, really sucks.

Victims don't have to register as sex offenders after they are raped, but their suffering goes far deeper than not being able to choose where they live, visit, and work. For victims or sexual assault, no place feels safe. No house feels like a home. No sleep is restful. There really isn't room in a public discussion of rape to solicit sympathy for a perpetrator who brought about a lifetime of suffering on his victim.

In a nutshell, society should be a friendlier, more comfortable place for victims than it is for perpetrators. If you're comforting a perpetrator while terrorizing a victim, you're doing it wrong.