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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Abuse & Assault » Is there ever a valid excuse?

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Author Topic: Is there ever a valid excuse?
Dolphins_Cry
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I know the first reaction is 'NO! There's never an excuse!' for rape, but I'm just wondering if anybody's really thought about this before?

For the last 8-9 years I've been too busy blaming myself to really think about this question. He was already 'off the hook' as far as I was concerned - my own actions caused my assault.

Recently, I've started holding him a little more acountable and letting MYSELF off the hook. But then about 2 weeks ago I found out that his mother died approx 18 months ago. His mum was really sick while I knew him (aged 16) and probably couldn't be as much as a mother as he really needed due to her illness.

Do you think this could have been a factor in him "acting out" and being a bit reckless/impulsive? Maybe I should have been there for him more, and more forgiving of his actions?

Are there any other 'valid' excuses? What about people who are abused as children and grow into abusers themselves? They are products of their own childhood - is that a valid excuse?

Thoughts appreciated. I'm really struggling with this at the moment.

Posts: 31 | From: Australia | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
September
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Well, the thing is this: we are always responsible for our own actions.

I am sure that losing a parent is a horrible experience, and that it can have a huge impact on someone, especially if they lose their mother young. And yes, it's entirely likely that this caused some lasting changes in his personality. But the fact remains: he is a person with a mind and a conscience and with a working knowledge of what is right and wrong, and a lousy childhood isn't a 'get out of jail' free card. There are plenty of people who are abused as children, or who lose a parent, or otherwise have a hard time, and who don't grow into abusers themselves. Can it be tough? Yes. But at most, a history like that can be an explanation. It's never a justification or an excuse.

I don't know what actions you think you took make you responsible, but please understand that you have no blame. It doesn't really matter what you did: you did not ask to be raped. Thus, you are not to blame. He is.

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-joey
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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I think we can also agree that people have parents who are ill all the time, and that raping someone is not exactly a typical response to grief and the possibility of loss.

Rape is something that we know comes from a place of wanting to subjugate someone, to express that you have power over them, and to get off on that. It's not 'acting out," like a three-year-old "acts out." It is someone making a choice to assault someone else. Rape also isn't about being reckless or impulsive. In fact, most rapists, from what we know, don't just decide to rape in the moment.

Those feelings sound like very unusual feelings to have after the loss of someone you loved to me.

I think it's also important to recognize the difference between an explanation or a causal agent and an excuse. Children who grow up abused and become abusers themselves -- though statistically, to nitpick, we more often see that happen with boys who watched their mothers be abused, rather than with boys and girls who were abused themselves, and regardless, lots of us who grew up with family abuse do not become abusive -- have an issue which can influence their behavior and how they think about things, but they still have a choice in how they act. It's not something uncontrollable.

Many of us will have traumas and tough challenges in our lives, but most of us will not become rapists. If that were not the case, and if rape was somehow directly caused by trauma or loss, most people would rape someone at some point in our lives, and that's just not factual. Most people do NOT rape.

"Being there" for a rapist isn't going to stop them from raping if that is what they are going to choose to do. Plenty of rapists have loving families and friends, and that's never been found to reduce the rates of rape.

It sounds to me like you're putting a lot of energy into trying to make this anyone's fault but his, be that your fault or his mother's. But as September pointed out, there's only one person whose fault this is: it's his fault. I know that in a lot of ways, it's a lot harder -- even though it seems like it should be easier, right? -- to put that blame where it belongs, because it means accepting that someone you cared about and trusted did not care about you, and also wasn't someone worthy of your trust. That that person was someone who would purposefully and intentionally harm you can be terribly hard to accept, because it makes your whole ideas of safety, trust and your relationships threatened.

But it sounds like you've invested a LOT of time in trying to reassign blame, and I'd encourage you to try to take that next step soon, where you put it where it belongs. Until you do, it's going to be pretty hard for you to really heal and move forward.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Dolphins_Cry
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Ok, I understand. Explanation but never an excuse.

I suppose you're right in that I've been trying to place the blame elsewhere. Mainly on myself. I think I'm still stuck in that "we're friends" way of thinking and I find it hard to believe he could do something like that without provocation or some kind of valid reason.

Also, if I didn't do anything to cause it, then that means I couldn't have done anything to stop it from happening and it could happen again at any time and THAT terrifies me. It's much easier to think, "Well, I did X which made him do Y, so if I just don't do X again then Y won't happen...."

I know it doesn't really sound like it, but I AM actually making progress with this. I used to be a lot worse - I couldn't even have it mentioned without scratching all the skin off my hands and here I am posting publicly about it! Slow and steady [Razz]

Thanks for your responses.

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Heather
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Hey, I hear you, on all accounts.

It IS very hard to accept that sometimes, we are just not going to see a rape or a rapist coming, and that is something we have to accept.

On the other hand, there are things we can do to protect ourselves more the next time around. You can take a self-defense class, for instance: you'd be amazed at how much it can help just from the perspective of feeling more empowered and in terms of changing your body language and how you're perceived by potential attackers. People who want to subjugate someone are generally not looking for a challenge: if you look like one, they'll generally move on to someone who doesn't. You can keep an eye out for people around who who are troubled, who give some kinds of cues per misogyny or violence, not really respecting your personal space bubble, etc. I don't know about the history of your friendship with your rapist, so I can't know what cues may or may not have been there.

I know even having to think about any of that isn't fun or pleasant. (I just came back last night from teaching a group of women self-defense, and we always have to acknowledge that in some ways, it really is depressing.) But these are things we have to think about, and I think a lot of why it's so hard to is that -- particularly for women and girls -- we're reared with intentional blinders on telling us we do NOT have to think about those things, and that we simply need to put our safety in the hands of others, which I strongly feel endangers us for the benefit of others or a culture who just want us to be more pliable or docile.

It's also important to realize that while rape is prevalent, it isn't something that's just going to keep happening to you, or which means you can't trust the people around you. For most people, one bad apple like this doesn't mean everyone you know is not worthy of the trust you think they are. It simply means that this was a very unfortunate exception. But I understand that fear too, my two primary assaults happened within one year of each other when I was very young, and it was one hell of a double-whammy. However, in hindsight, I can see that I was not at all helped by the denial around me, by ideas that I could not protect myself and just had to rely on luck or other people's kindness, and by blaming myself.

It might also help you to understand that rape does happen with a provocation or a reason, but those things aren't about you. The provocation is a desire, on the rapists part, to express his own power and control over someone else, generally someone he sees -- for whatever reason -- as lower or lesser than he, or wants to make so and sees rape as a way to do that. Why he thought about you that way isn't likely something you or anyone else will ever know, but it still isn't about you, or his mother being ill: it's about him, his attitudes and his choices.

All the same, rape is an assault. There is never a "valid" reason to assault someone else, just like there is never a valid reason to walk up to a friend and shoot them in the face. Any violence, by definition, is a turbulence, an aggression, which is the very opposite of logic and reason.

An attacker may well have what he sees as reasons to do so, but when you listen to what they are for rapists who speak, you can usually hear the sexism and violence in them, or the utter lack of logic and reason. More times than not, though, what they have to say is about nothing but trying to shift blame to everyone else: part of the problem with rape is that it often has to do with rapists not seeing what they do as criminal because they intrinsically feel a right or entitlement to take what they want, when they want it, for themselves for those they rape. They see the bodies of those they rape as either their property to do what they want with, or feel that they should be their property, or free-for-alls for whoever wants a sexual repository. They often will say they don't understand why the rest of us don't see it that way, and feel that the error is in OUR logic for seeing things otherwise.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Dolphins_Cry
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Actually, I was doing self-defense at the time that it happened. I was an orange belt in Tae Kwon Do, which isn't very far up the ranks but I knew how to defend myself. It's a little bit embarassing to admit that. Just another thing to beat myself up over.

"your friendship with your rapist" - wow, that's actually REALLY confronting. I never think of him as "my rapist". He's just... my neighbour, I suppose. My friend. That guy. Whatever. But never my rapist. More food for thought.

I really appreciate your comments, they definitely give me some things to think about. It's hard to get that objectivity sometimes to really be able to put things in perspective. After a while of thinking about it, it just becomes a bit too much for my little brain! [Razz]

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Heather
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Still nothing to beat yourself up over, gal.

Too, a lot of martial arts doesn't cover things like defenses when someone is lying on top of you, or more practical self-defense, rather than how to engage someone in a more formalized setting. It also doesn't often tend to address women's perspectives, situations or strengths very often. But even when you have that that kind of self-defense training, people still freeze plenty of times. It happens, especially if you feel very unprepared for an assault, which is very common.

My sense is that you very much do not have a little brain. [Smile] But all of this takes time. I hope any of you remember that when I'm talking about this stuff and my own recovery, that I have had 27 years pass since my first assault now. That's a lot of time to work with.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 67076 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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