Saturday, February 16, 2019

Should She Tell her Boyfriend She Was Raped?

Here’s a modern moral dilemma: should she tell her boyfriend that she was raped? Should she tell him that she put herself in an extremely vulnerable position... and was raped?

You might think that it’s an easy question. You might think that it’s easy to decide. And yet, the woman in question went out drinking by herself with friends at their house. She apparently became seriously drunk, too drunk to go home. She seems to have passed out in the spare room. A man she knew got into bed with her and took off her jeans. This tells us, unless I don’t know something, that she had either passed out or was blackout drunk. It is not self-evident that you can remove someone's jeans without waking her up. He started having sex with her. Clearly, she did not consent. Thus he was raping her. She managed to extricate herself, got up and went home. Her boyfriend was angry that she had not come home earlier. She is suffering the trauma of having been raped and asks Guardian advice columnist, Annalisa Barbieri whether she should tell her boyfriend what happened.

Here is her letter:

I was raped by someone I thought was a friend, and am scared that if I tell my partner he will think I’ve cheated or it was my fault.

I had gone for drinks at a friend’s house and fell asleep in the spare room. I woke up and someone was in the bed. It was dark and I couldn’t see who it was. He had taken off my jeans and put himself inside me. I pushed him away, but he did it again. I hit him and got out of there as quickly as I could. He tried to say sorry and I knew then who it was.

I don’t know how long he was there before I woke up. I had drunk too much. Everyone had left and the friend whose flat it was had passed out in another room. No one was there to tell, so I left. I could hear him shouting after me. When I got home my partner was so angry that I had stayed out late. I couldn’t speak and just cried, but couldn’t bring myself to tell him why.

I’ve stayed out drinking before and it’s become a real issue between us. Part of me feels like this is karma for being a bad girlfriend. I would never have slept with the man who raped me. I have no attraction to him, but thought he was someone I was safe around. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have been so drunk. I should have gone home.

If I tell my partner, will he think I’m a slut? Will he be angry? Will it completely change how he looks at me? I’m hoping I can forget it all and move on, but all I want to do is cry. I feel sick and I can still feel that man in me and smell him on me. I just want to forget.

The problem here is that there are multiple issues. As for the rape question, obviously she was raped. For that, by the laws of Great Britain and most other countries, she does not bear any blame or responsibility. If a woman is walking down the street with her handbag open and exposed, the pickpocket who steals her wallet or iPhone is no less guilty of his crime. 

That is, in the eyes of the law, as Barbieri says:

This absolutely was not your fault. It does not matter how late you stay out, how much you have to drink or, for that matter, what you wear: the responsibility for this lies with the perpetrator alone. You are not a slut: he is a rapist. This is not karma: he is a rapist. You are not to blame: he is.

To be fair, we would add that rape is a felony and that the facts must be decided in a trial by jury. The man in question ought to be indicted on rape charges and that a jury will hopefully find him guilty. We do not believe in lynching, do we? The ambiguity over how he managed to get into bed with her would be a matter for the jury to decide.

But, there is more to it than the jury verdict. Telling the woman that none of it was her fault is slightly disingenuous. She was not responsible for being raped—the phrase makes no sense. But, she was responsible for her own behavior, for going out without her boyfriend, for getting extremely drunk, for choosing to crash at the friend’s place and so on. Clearly, she thought that she was among friends. Clearly, she did not believe that there was any chance that she was in danger. Clearly, she was wrong.

Note that her boyfriend is already angry at her… for the behaviors described in the prior paragraph. None of which are at issue. She showed monumentally poor judgment and she did not act like a girlfriend, like a woman who had some responsibility toward her romantic partner.

And she raises an important issue: will her boyfriend see her differently when she explains what happened to her? The issue dogged the recent torrent of #MeToo descriptions. We recall that Jenny Lumet explained in Variety that she had been raped by Russell Simmons. She had not talked about it because, she said, she did not want other people to envision her in such degrading circumstances. This has nothing to do with whether or not she had consented. Clearly, she had not. And yet, in order to show that she had not consented Lumet had to describe the events in detail. As has the woman who wrote to Barbieri.

Being degraded involuntarily is still degrading. In one sense Barbieri is correct. Her boyfriend, if he finds out, will most assuredly be angry. And he might well choose to confront the alleged rapist… who is apparently a friend of both of them. And yet, if he does, what do you think that the alleged rapist will say? Will he say that she edited the story to absolve herself of responsibility?

And since the rape occurred among friends, and since she and her rapist were not alone in the house, other people are also likely to know about it. But, what do they know and whose side will they take? 

If she chooses not to tell, what is the likelihood that the boyfriend will hear about it from other people. In that case, she would do better to tell him… though the chances are fairly good that he will hold her responsible for her own behavior and walk away from the relationship.

If we were merely dealing with a crime the standard advice would suffice. The case would be remanded to a court of law and decided there. Of course, if it is, that would mean not only that it would be publicized, but that all the other friends would be involved, would be called on to testify, and so on.

I raise these issues to point out that these questions should not merely be reduced to the legal issue, to the issue of criminal responsibility. If that were all that there is, we would not have a problem. And yet, responsibility is not merely a criminal matter. And the woman in question is surely responsible for her own behavior, for putting herself in an extremely vulnerable position, and for failing to honor her commitment to her boyfriend.

In a court of law that in no way reduces the rapist’s criminality. And yet, life is not a courtroom.


Ares Olympus said...

This is a place where it is easy to say she was a victim. She was a victim of her incapacity AND from a victim by her friend she trusted. But overall I don't like the word victim. We might try saying the man was a victim of his inhibition from drinking, and a victim of his lust, a victim of misinterpreting earlier flurting from her perhaps.

At least these risks are partly why I chose to never get drunk in my 20s, because I didn't know if I couldn't trust my own behavior. Why risk making a fool of yourself or worse? And if someone accuses you of rape or sexual assault when you were in a blackout state, where you can't even remember what happened, how would you defend yourself when you can't be sure what happened? You might even be accused decades later as we now learn really does happen. And so many such incidents go unreported, that lots of people will believe them, no matter how good your character has been since.

Anonymous said...

Annalisa Barbieri is the best advice columnist of the Guardian, but The Guardian is still The Guardian. She misses the point entirely that:

"I’ve stayed out drinking before and it’s become a real issue between us. Part of me feels like this is karma for being a bad girlfriend."

AB writes:

"I do not know if you have told your boyfriend yet, and I do not know what his reaction might be. If it is anything but sympathy for you and anger at this other man, then you may want to consider your future with him."

Really? At least this boyfriend tried to stop her drinking. Would the letter writer be better off with someone who lacks boundaries? It must be hell for a man who warned his girlfriend and then finds out the next-to-worst happened anyway. He will probably consider his future with her.

Women, apparently, have a right to drink themselves to oblivion, but men in similar circumstances ought to remember law and decorum, and innocent partners are not good enough for the drinking damsel if they tell her: told you so...!

We are living in strange times. It seems that the warnings against alcohol and substances have been replaced by the right to party - for some. The comments below the article are very telling too.

A while ago, a retiring judge issued this warning:

"Girls are perfectly entitled to drink themselves into the ground but should be aware people who are potential defendants to rape, gravitate towards girls who have been drinking. It should not be like that but it does happen and we see it time and time again."

Of course certain circles of the internet exploded.

UbuMaccabee said...

I think it was Mencken who said that with women, after 3 drinks it really wasn't a question of when but of where. I cannot find the quote anymore, maybe it has been scrubbed from the Internet because it is improper. Mencken is deeply improper. I, too, am improper and come from a long line of improper men.

$20 says the guy who drunk-raped her was a feminist whose wore a pink pussy hat for pussy hat march day. "I thought he was someone I was safe around." I'd be interested to hear why she thought that?

Saw plenty of women at college, drinking and doing drugs, flirting and groping and being groped, then basically dry-humping on the dance floor with 5 or 6 strangers for an hour or two (lots of doggie-style simulation), kissing, lots of kissing, and then blotto on some bed somewhere. I wonder how some of those episodes ended? By plenty, I mean half. Tom Wolfe wrote about this in "I Am Charlotte Simmons."

She doesn't appear to have gone to the police to get a DNA test / rape kit, so the hard evidence is likely gone. That's going to make the case tough. The guy should be facing a formal charge, and, if convicted, he should be serving time. No question. But crying and self loathing isn't going to get things done. Now he likely walks. Now he can try it again with another girl. All she can do is smear him; a DNA match would have made him fold and admit it.

Biological reality > feminist ideology and empty rhetoric. Men have hard-wired drives and no amount of education or propaganda is going to change that. Every 30th thought is not about sex. Worse, even among men, we have trouble spotting the ones who will break ranks and go and do something indefensible. I'm often surprised to see who gets charged with what. But add alcohol and the probability goes way up--always. Drugs, too.

Poor girl, silly girl.