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Damaged people damaging people.

This is worth seriousness.

It really does cross my mind: Why the hell, why the brain-exploding, world-screaming hell, does rape happen? Why does anyone do it?

Seriously, just: why?

I know, it's studied, it has explanations, there are power implications because it's so much about the abuse of power, it's (DEAR GOD) been used as a tool of terror throughout history, it happens in too many places for too many reasons, it could perhaps be the oldest crime in the world, but I want to reduce it as far as possible, and the act -- which has been described as the worst violation one can commit short of murder, and unlike murder the person who lived through it has to live with it -- boils down to damaged people damaging people.

Rape is not committed by a healthy person. It is not committed by a connected, tuned-in person. The person who does it may be using perception to sense who are potential targets -- and isn't that a horrible misuse of our brainpower? -- but this is a corruption of our abilities as people. It's the wrong use of them. Horribly wrong. And sometimes it hits me with bludgeon force how horribly wrong it is.

I've written about this before. The implications of what Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been accused of brought this back to my fore-mind for more thought. Being friends with a writer who works for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, who wrote today about the implications of the Assange case, and who counsels people who've been through this -- both to help those who've survived it, and to reach others before they do it and teach them with the hope that they never do it at all -- has made me more aware of the problems and issues than before. And still, with that knowledge, there's that disconnect: Why?

Why be that terrible to another person? To (sometimes) many other people?

I hope that can be some relief: I seem to have enormous trouble thinking like a rapist. Though that's a low bar to clear.

These thoughts have yet to truly cohere. They just happen sometimes.

To be highly pie-in-the-sky and sincere, I don't want people to be that awful to people. And I know that I can't 100% stop that awfulness. I know that I can do my damnedest to be a force for good, to stop or fight the bad a little at a time, to increase the good as much as I can. To stay decent. To keep caring for others. Platitudes, yes, but needed platitudes.

The deepest question we can ask is quite possibly "Why?" And, on this issue, I keep wanting to ask that question.

Just: Why?


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 10th, 2010 04:58 am (UTC)
Thank you for this.

At some level, I worry, part of my reaction is I don't want to have to think about it. And that would be kind of really privileged of me to do. There are, as you pointed out, explanations for the damage. And i'm glad I know people who are also doing what they can to repair that damage, at so many levels.

This can be better. (Another platitude, but still true.)
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 10th, 2010 11:57 am (UTC)
The problem being, of course, if we see them as monsters, we automatically write them off as irredeemable -

The lesser-realized problem is that if rapists are monsters, "well, my friend can't be a rapist, because s/he's not a monster."
Dec. 10th, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
Which is why I used the word "damaged." I know people don't have to be like this. I know people can be repaired. Whether I can properly act on that belief is still an unanswered question; how would I deal with someone who has committed that act? (I had a longer response to that which I don't have the time to write here.) But I have to believe that repair is possible.

Thank you, again, for listening to me work through these thoughts.
Dec. 10th, 2010 11:55 am (UTC)
But I think that there is so much STUFF in our culture that teaches boys and young men that women pretend they don't want it when they do, or that men are MEANT to be aggressors, or that women's bodies are somehow owed to them.

Which is exactly why we do middle-school and high-school workshops about respecting and maintaining boundaries, consent, and how to be a good bystander (get through the Someone Else's Problem field)!

Dec. 10th, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC)
That work of yours really went through my mind while writing my post. And it's one of the many reasons I truly admire you, along with your colleagues in BARCC. It's an approach I don't remember seeing when I was in high school, for instance (whoa, Eighties/Nineties; that is a while ago).

Here's hoping more and more people learn the good lessons.
Dec. 10th, 2010 01:39 pm (UTC)
The question of how people can do such things to other people is answered simply. People dehumanize those with whom they have conflict, and the ability to control others through fear or force is well known to be intoxicating.

Ultimately, you are proceeding from the perspective that compassion is the norm, but that is demonstrably not the case. Compassion for those outside of one's tribal group is a product of civilization, it is not biologically programmed into us the way that the ability to marginalize people (which was necessary as a biological function in order to compete for resources).
Dec. 10th, 2010 03:11 pm (UTC)
I know that I've been really well protected (sheltered?) from a lot of such ugliness. Didn't really see much of it in the whole first half of my life, if I think about it. I see more as a post-college adult: being a reporter for three years showed me a lot of ugliness. Being online and hearing the stories of friends who have lived through such ugliness has made me further aware of it. I still fell a disconnect, but some of that comes from not really wanting to think through why the awful treatment happens.

Thank you for reading, and for responding.
Dec. 10th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
Well, as Westerners we are very sheltered. Leave the comfort of the societal restraints that we have, and concepts such as compassion and empathy are quite laughable. It's not built into us, it's something we have to agree on a social level to do on a grander scale.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


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