Dear supporters of my best friend’s rapist…

Your anger blazes out of computer screens, cellphones, car windows, searing and ugly. To you, she’s a liar. The worst kind of liar. The one whose vindictive, petty, revenge-driven lies may lock someone you love behind bars.

Anger is so much easier and less complicated than fear, isn’t it?

You never questioned his version of events. After all, he doesn’t look like a monster, does he? He’s a nice guy. He’s kind (to you). He has a good job, and an active social life, and lots of people around him. He’s popular and smart and a bit of a laugh. He doesn’t skulk in dark alleyways, or slime around seedy bars with roofies-filled pockets. That’s what a rapist looks like, isn’t it? Not your friend. Or brother. Or son.

I know you will always believe in his innocence, even when this awful saga inevitably ends in his imprisonment. The evidence may be impossible to explain away, but to accept it means not only losing your future with him, it means shattering your shared past. It means realising you shared smiles and made memories with a man capable of the callous violation and breaking of another human being. You probably trusted him with your own secrets and vulnerabilities. Such knowledge would break you – so you won’t let it in.

Besides, you wouldn’t just lose your faith in him. You’d lose your sense of safety, and have to accept your own helplessness to keep yourself and those you love from harm. There are no ‘rules’ you can follow that will keep you safe. You can’t pick out a rapist just by looking at them – whether on the street, or in a club, or at a family gathering. Not before it’s too late.

Many of you have have daughters the same age as her. Many of you left them alone with him too, and you have nothing but sheer dumb luck to thank that it’s not your beloved child gasping for breath in panic attacks, shaking with terror, crying tears of shame, called a whore and a cunt and a lying bitch on the streets. Stripped down and violated and turned raw with self-loathing and agony – first by the rape, then all over again by the disbelief and scorn. You can’t begin to process that, so in the face of overwhelming evidence you shut your eyes tight and stick your fingers in your ears. You spin your fear into hate and spit it at the person threatening your cherished worldview.

It’s disgusting. And yet disgustingly predictable. I ask myself, would I truly be different? If it were my father, or friend, or brother or lover, begging me to believe him over the police, telling me it’s all a lie cooked up by someone who hates him, what would I think? What would I do? Truth be told, looking at the numbers of men who rape, I too have only sheer dumb luck to thank that I’m not in your position. Would I blindly condemn an innocent victim out of fear? I hope not.

But rape culture means that if I did, few would call me out on it. Many would cheer me on. And because of that, neither her nor I can despise you quite as much as we want to.

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