The amazing Soraya Chemaly just released this Huffington Post piece on Rehtaeh Parsons, rape, and cultures of conformity.
We have children attacking other children, friends they’ve known for years, and then releasing the images of the attacks on social media like trophies. The victims are doubly shamed, harmed, hurt, while the reputations of the good young men with potential are protected.
It’s a must read and I agree strongly with her statement that the trajectory of shaming victims and supporting attackers must be changed:
“The issue is: Why are so many boys so very sure that they can get away with raping? Or learning that their status and prestige are enhanced by sharing photo-documentary evidence of their actions? They think they can get away with it because we teach them that they can and that they might even be rewarded for it. Their victims feel shame and are shamed. What we have to do is reverse this trajectory.
The shameless conformists are the rapists. The transgressors — who are treated as whistleblowers — are the victims who dare to speak up. When they are bullied and threatened, it is by others who are conforming to silence and abuse of power and expect the raped to as well.”
I am unsure though, how we do so in a way that doesn’t create the reverse system of shaming the children and families that were the actual transgressors. We currently have a system within which revenge and “old testament” thinking is in place
I think what justice system should say is: “We will NOT put you in the same position of being raped, because while you must serve time in prison, you must make deep amends for your crime through reparations and work after prison to educate others etc, we will not as a culture allow you to be tortured in the same way.” We as a culture have to be better than the people who are causing crime. As it is, we turn blind eyes to crimes in prison, allow for it, expect it, dehumanize prisoners purposefully. Huge corporations make money off of it and it is a national shame.
People already know that they might be raped in prison. It does not seem like a deterrent that is currently working. But there are calls all over the internet for it, which is horrible to me. It’s nothing but dominance and shame in cycle after cycle.
These criminals clearly deserve justice and to be removed from society. How do we do that without the “See how you like it!” revenge fantasy? Revenge feels powerful. Empathy and compassion feels, well, like being soft on crime. I think there can be justice and there can be compassion, but that doesn’t mean I want them to be wrapped in unicorn blankets and spoonfed cotton candy. It means we as a nation have to make some seriously hard choices about how we do what we do and who we are.
There should be MORE training of police to deal with victims, MORE support in school settings to understand the dynamics of bullying, MORE work done on how the use of social media is problematic MORE work around the toxic myths of gender that help support a culture of rape, of all those things.
It’s that Hydra thing I wrote about.
But no, there should be no rape there, no torture, in prison. There should be no assault by other prisoners or by guards. People know they’ll be raped and hurt in prison. That’s obviously not much of a deterrent currently.
Over the last 10 years we’ve allowed torture to become part of our culture. Actually, I’m sure it was used behind the scenes in decades past, but we are openly justifying it now, with things like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib capturing public imagination. It’s wrong. It’s evil.
We are disengaged from our moral center if we think that how these criminals got to where they are will be fixed in any way in our current prison set up. We are father away still, when we simply seek revenge instead of truly trying to fix the system.
Belonging is a core need of the human animal. Those girls who have died at their own hands, took their lives because that need was destroyed and severed. It’s a crime beyond imagining. The boys involved deserve to be punished.
We need a new imagination though, to reverse, as Soraya Chemaly suggests, that trajectory, and it will take a kind of work I’m not sure we all have the collective stomach for because it will mean letting go of our desires for vengeance, greed, dominance, anger, harshness.
There is something much bigger going on right now in our culture and society and we have to work together to identify and heal it. I’m glad for Sorya and others who are doing that work. Non-violence may be harder than violence. But it’s more important too.