Everything You Need to Know About Rape but Were Afraid to Find Out.


Carrie stood before a crowd of thousands, serene and self-possessed, talking of everyday crimes and everyday criminals, horrifying her audience with statistics they wished weren't true. "Rape is not a rare explosion of violence committed by a psychotic madman on the first woman he comes across. As frequent as it is, it is tempting to say that rape resembles a form of interpersonal relations. Surveys on college campuses routinely register numbers that are more than a small fraction: when asked if they have ever experienced 'forced intercourse,' between twenty and thirty percent of the women participating have said they have."

Carrie's head was barely visible above the lectern, which she had insisted on. Sober and scholarly, with her oversized oval glasses and sleek black shoulder-length hair, she was a far cry from a raving radical. Her voice was serious and calm, almost deadpan, but her words packed a punch that her small frame could never deliver.

"The numbers are quite different when the men are asked. Similar surveys of male college students have revealed that between 10 and 15 percent admit to having forced intercourse on a woman at some time. But when we consider the mentality of a man capable of forcing a woman, this divergence isn't surprising. The kind of man who is capable of forcing himself on one woman is probably capable of forcing himself on another. And many of the men who commit this kind of 'friendly' rape convince themselves the woman wanted it, that she was just playing hard to get. They frequently even call their victims later and ask them to go out again. Such an attitude would have a tendency to distort statistics.

"The astonishing thing is that many women do go out with these men again. Statistics show that most women don't recognize date rape as rape either, even when it happens to them. When a rape is committed by a date, or even by a casual acquaintance, women will refer to the incident as forced intercourse, but few will refer to it as rape. It often takes a woman years to realize she was a victim of rape if she knew the perpetrator, making date rape the most hidden of all crime statistics.

"Take for example the hypothetical case of a woman who is losing interest in a man she has slept with several times. She wants to break things off, but he doesn't. He invites her out for dinner and over for coffee afterwards, and since she knows him, she goes. Once there, he won't let her leave and forces her to have intercourse with him. Is that rape? Many people would say no. It was her boyfriend, after all.

"But rape is defined as the act of forcing sexual intercourse upon an unwilling victim, no matter what the relationship between rapist and victim may be. Not even marriage entitles the man to sexual favors whenever he pleases. There is rape in marriage, as this state has recognized through legislation--an Oregon first, I might add.

"Why is it then, if approximately one in four college women surveyed have experienced incidents conforming to the legal definition of rape, that less than a third of those victims consider themselves victims of rape? And more than a third never tell anyone what happened. We estimate that only 10% of rape victims seek out a rape crisis center, and only 5% report the rape to the police. Of those, the only ones with a chance of convicting their persecutors are usually those who were violently beaten, and even then the men sometimes get off with the story that the woman wanted it 'kinky.'

"But for all intents and purposes, if a man doesn't obtain consent, it is rape. Perhaps you have been such a victim and have never admitted it to anyone, not even yourself. You're not alone. There are people who will listen. The women who are here will listen. And if you are willing to go to the authorities, others will listen too, and maybe even some men will learn from the experience, will be forced to do so. Tell others what happened to you and what it was like if you can. That it wasn't pleasant, and that he didn't show you a good time, that you felt disgusted, degraded, violated. And that a man who stoops so low deserves little more than loathing."

There were a number of expressions of pain and clarification on attentive female faces as Carrie spoke. And as for the male faces--Waterfront Park was dismal and the men didn't look much better.

"Of course, the notion is very widespread, among women as well as men, that there is such a thing as 'justifiable rape.' That when a woman leads a man on, she only gets what she deserves when he turns around and rapes her. The notion of 'deserving it' even extends to incidents in which the woman was foolish enough to get herself in a situation conducive to rape, alone with a man in her home or his. But bad judgment is not a rapeable offense. And in this respect, women as well as men need to be reeducated. Women must realize they don't 'deserve' it when a man forces intercourse on them against their will, no matter what the situation; they must discard the myth that a man's sexual desire, once aroused, is uncontrollable and must be fulfilled. It's not. Men can be aroused and the arousal can fade without any adverse conditions such as the development of 'blue balls.'"

Carrie said this in the same sober, deadpan tone in which she said everything. But the two little words dropped on her audience like a bombshell. "Men can feel desire come and go much the same way women can. In that respect, we are much more similar than our cultural myths would have us believe.

"There is a growing tendency in our society to abandon the concept of individual responsibility, and the belief that a man in the throws of physical passion cannot be held responsible for his actions is a part of that. But women are raised to be acquiescent and appeasing, and the combination of these two cultural biases leads to a society that condones rape. Women themselves must see to it that we break out of this vicious circle. Women have the responsibility to no longer put up with male demands.

"Once we women have reeducated ourselves, we can set about the arduous task of reeducating men, because no one else will. So be prepared: once this 'war' is over, the real war has only just begun."