Woman and sexual abuse.

In the Great Debates forum, there’s a thread ‘Dear Woman video - pretty amazing’, and I’m not at all a fan of the OP’s video post. After criticizing it I was told:

Which is true I guess; but I wanted to talk about something that’s been bothering me… And though the video/thread enticed me to make this post, I want to distance myself from it because, I think it’s really stupid.

Since I started getting older and started dating, I’ve been hearing awful stories about women, (who I’ve met or dated), that have been sexually abused or taken advantage of sexually.

I’m not talking about a girl who gets too drunk and regrets sleeping with someone after she wakes up in the morning in some strange bed. I don’t believe pornography objectifies women. I even believe in legalizing prostitution. I’m also the type of person that thinks men should be considered, as well as women, when talking about equality, (what about the men in the business of pornography or prostitution?) Things like the Duke lacrosse case really pissed me off. But I digress…

I know WAY too many women who HAVE been hurt. I don’t know what to do about it. I just can’t imagine how many men there are out there who are willing to abuse these women. It’s disgusting. Of course men can be victims too, however no man I’ve known personally has come forth and admitted to any abuse of a sexual nature. Unlike the video, I’m not going to apologize for the actions of these predators, but I will say that I have nothing but sympathy for these women, (and men). I admit I was naive growing up, I just had no idea how much of a problem this really was.

Last year I learned that my own mother was a victim of sexual abuse. It was by a her uncle - (her Mom’s sister’s husband). He was a deacon with the Catholic Church. I even liked the man before I was told about it. He was not the type of guy I would think would be capable of doing such a thing.

I don’t know what to say, or what to do about this situation. It’s just sad. I feel helpless

Agreed (although I don’t think this’ll be terribly controversial; not too many folks will come out to take a strong stand in favor of sexual abuse). As a man, I figure I have some responsibilities, as follows:

  1. Don’t commit sexual abuse. This one’s the obvious one, I guess.
  2. Don’t engage in behaviors that trivialize or condone sexual abuse. What such behaviors might be is up for debate, but I have some personal guidelines.
  3. If I’m ever in charge of an adolescent boy (as a dad, as a teacher, etc.), make sure that boy knows that sexual violence can cause harm equivalent to other forms of violence, in many cases much worse. Make sure that boy knows what constitutes appropriate behavior.

There’s no reason for me to feel guilt over someone else’s actions based on our shared chromosomal structure, but there are occasions where my relationships with other guys offer me an opportunity to, in some very small way, lessen the risk of sexual abuse.

Consider this. Let’s be optimistic and presume that only 10 percent of the male population is nasty enough to do that; psychopathic, amoral, sexist, whatever. While only a minority, that’s a lot of men in absolute numbers. And how many of those women left those men or were left by those men? Unless they went to prison and stayed there, those men likely went on to another woman and abused her. It doesn’t take much of that for those 10% to abuse a substantial percentage of the female population.

They’d get little sympathy and a lot of mockery. Same with abuse in general.

Right, I just posted this because I was told the video was what got us talking about these things. Well, I’ve had this on my mind for some time now, and wanted to share it. I don’t know what it will lead to, but it’s a real problem.

Maybe some would be mocked, but I think they are ashamed and **fear **they will be mocked, or look at differently. Women often keep quiet too.

Male sexual abuse is even more underreported than female sexual abuse. Both are serious problems. Even if you haven’t personally known a man who came forth to talk about it, that doesn’t mean you don’t know a man who has been sexually abused.

FTR I’m a female victim of incestuous sexual abuse. My experience was horrible, of course, but I tend to feel less sorry for myself than for guys who are abused and can’t bring themselves to report it because of macho culture. Guys are shamed into thinking that if they were able to get erect and have an orgasm that they “wanted it,” just like some women have orgasms during rape. There’s also the risk that if a man tries to talk about the experience to a friend, they will be congratulated on having sex rather than consoled for the abuse.

Arousal/orgasming during sexual abuse seriously fucks with a victim’s head because they start wondering whether they subconsciously liked it after all. And of course they didn’t like it, and arousal is a well-known response to fear… but it’s one thing to logically state something, and it’s another to truly believe it when it happens to you.

Would you consider an argument that maybe it’s worth talking about the “girl who gets too drunk and regrets sleeping with someone”? Or rather about that archetype, and why that springs to mind as a common occurrence when you start thinking about sexual assault? I am certain that you weren’t saying any of the above with any kind of malicious intent or for the purpose of limiting your interest in the topic or anything, but in context it seems to me to have a little bit of a particular kind of atmospheric defensiveness about it. I think we all inherit that. A lot of times where the conversation breaks down is over the question of where to draw the line between part of the problem and not part of the problem. Maybe redrawing your lines would make it seem like there are things you can do.

As Left Hand said, you aren’t going to get anybody showing up saying sexual assault is fine. What you will get, though, in any particular case, is a sort of normal distribution of people across the axis of “how not fine is this?” It seems like there is always somebody who will say that this particular instance is unambiguously a brutal crime, and there’s always somebody who will say there’s nothing to be concerned about in that same instance.

In the meantime, as you say, the facts on the ground are pretty unsatisfying. A lot of bad happens. My personal perspective is that, that being the case, a good thing to do is to try to sort of move the middle of that curve toward the taking-it-seriously end of the spectrum. Pretty often, what that means in practice is being the person feminist jokes are about – the “that’s not funny” guy. It means being hypersensitive about stories that involve a girl who wakes up with “regrets.” It seems to me that in general, the playing field isn’t level. The language we use to talk about these issues, when you put it all down on the ground at once, has a recognizable slope to it, and women and victims are at the bottom of it. That’s where all the backlash about no meaning no and victim-blaming and so on really comes from - from an effort to try to establish some kind of baseline level of neutrality from which to evaluate what’s going on.

TLDR version: if you want to take a more active role in preventing the terrible shit you see going on around you, maybe consider taking another look at your first principles. I don’t know whether or not it’ll occur to you that you’re missing some everyday imbalances that are going on in ways that you can affect, but that’s what happened for me. Maybe you’re looking for a big bad dragon you can slay or be slain by, when in reality you could just, like, do a little housekeeping.

If you’re asking me to reconsider my “girl who gets too drunk and regrets sleeping with someone” position… it depends on the situation. I don’t mean drugged, and I don’t mean a woman that’s passed out due to having too much to drink. I mean a woman who would sleep with a man she otherwise wouldn’t because she got drunk on her own, but still had a choice.

I know a lot of men who have the same regrets after getting drunk.

Specifically, what I’m asking as far as that goes is why are we talking about a “woman who has regrets” at all at the moment? What is it that makes it seem like we need to establish an upper bound like that if we’re going to have a conversation about sexual assault, and that makes it seem like an equivalence about how many men you know who have regrets is also necessary? And I’m supplying one possible answer: we don’t want to upset the apple cart. We’ve learned that, when the “sexual assault” bell rings, there are certain courtesies to be remembered, and they have to do with women who drink too much and change their minds, and high school quarterbacks and so forth, because there’s a particular skeptical point of view we should approach these issues from. I’m also saying that maybe upsetting the apple cart isn’t something that should be of primary importance, if premise #1 is that this is a serious problem.

I’m not talking about any particular circumstances - passed out, drunk, whatever - because we’re talking in the abstract. I’m just asking you to consider thinking about the fact that you started a thread about how sexual assault is a serious problem, and in that context you gave reassurances about the kinds of things you weren’t worried about. To whom, and why, I’m saying.

I think I see what you’re saying. I guess I wanted to established that I’m not the type of person you would find making a video like the one that I linked to… but that said, I still recognize it’s a serious issue that I don’t want to ignore. I’m up for housekeeping.

Here is a pretty powerful TED talk on the subject. It makes a convincing case that the blame lies with our macho culture.

I don’t think that’s whole story. For one thing, that still wouldn’t explain sexual abuse in the gay community. Our culture doesn’t objectify men, but gay men still get sexually abused by other men.

Even if macho culture is to blame, there is no way the culture will reverse itself because of a few public service announcements.

I would like to add a 4) and 5) to Left Hand’s list:

  1. When someone claims he has been abused, asks whether some behavior is ok… don’t poo-poo it, don’t ask angrily “what gave you such an idea?”: listen. A single-digit-age kid asking whether it’s ok for someone to ask another person to masturbate in public is not thinking of doing it to others: he’s a victim of someone doing it to him (or at least, the one I know was).

  2. Don’t assume a woman can never be a sexual abuser, the accomplice of one, covering up for one or refusing to believe that such a thing can happen under her own roof. We have so many examples of the last two in these same boards we could write a (very depressing) book just with those stories.

You consider assuming 10% of men are psychopaths to be “optimistic?” In other words, you think the actual percentage is higher than 10%?

I’d WAG it at more like 1/2 of 1 percent.

But your overall point, that one bad person can harm a lot more than 1 good person, is well founded.

You can wish that is so, but are indeed mocked. Even on this very forum, in the Men and Sexual Abuse thread, when a handful of male Dopers stepped forward to talk about their sexual assaults, there were a few other Dopers who felt compelled to throw their cheap two cents in and call them weak, less of a man, etc. I’ve seen similar mentalities directed at female Dopers who discussed their abuse/rapes. Never underestimate the number of people who blame the victim.

As to the OP, I recently picked up a zine called Support, which happens to be a guide on how to support sexual abuse survivors. As a survivor, I think its advice is pretty good. It’s specifically for people who are partnered with a sexual abuse survivor, but you can still use the advice in most situations. I’ll paraphrase it here:

What you should try to do or feel when talking to someone who is telling you about their sexual abuse:

– feel accepting
– want to help
– have time and take time for her/him
– remain reasonably seperate (ie empathize with the survivor, but don’t become emotionally disabled yourself)
– be aware of your own feelings
– do not judge
– try to create a safe environment for your friend/partner/loved one
– encourage positive behaviors, such as going to counseling, etc.

Please, do not:
– try to ‘fix’ him/her. It is not your job to fix anyone, only they can do that for themselves.
– martyr yourself. As the zine puts it, “This is your friend. The part you play in his well-being should be a gift you give, not a burden you shoulder. Stay open and honest, with yourself and with your friend, about your own needs and limits.”

And I would like to add… Remember, THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. This is about the survivor. What makes me angry about the response to what I went through is that a lot of people ignore *my *feelings and focus on their own anger and helplessness. My mother once called me all happy because she’d gone to therapy and the therapist assured her that what happened to me wasn’t her fault and she didn’t have to feel bad about it. Well, great for you, mom! It’s hunky-fucking-dory now that YOU don’t have to feel bad about it! Except that I DID blame her, and STILL do, for part of what happened to me, as she enabled it through her neglect. Have a little consideration.

Actually, I was listing psychopathy as one of many possible reasons, not saying that all of them are psychopaths. Someone can be a brutal sexist and not be a psychopath, for example.

And for what it’s worth, the Wiki page on psychopathy mentions an estimate of 1%, although IIRC there are higher estimates.

Good advice Mississippienne. Whatever you went through isn’t fair. I hope you were able to overcome, or at least deal with, the past. I wish you luck.

Lakai, thanks for sharing that link.

Even with a partner who has consented in the past - respect her (him works too, but we will assume her) if she indicates a disinclination to participate in sex (or in any particular act during sex - if she asks you to stop spanking her, stop spanking her). Don’t cajole, don’t whine. Just learn to respect your partners signals (positively and negatively). They may change - even as an evening progresses - but don’t push for a change.

Yes and no are clear cut in sex. “I didn’t really want to but…” creates a culture of misunderstanding, and one where pushing just a little harder can result in sex…or rape.

To expound on that point a bit further. If you have some jerk of man doing bad things it won’t take him long to cause damage far and wide. How many victims does he have access to?. How long has he been at it? How often does he get a new victim? Yearly? Monthly? Weekly? The date rapist aint just dating once every couple of years you know…

Assume some “favorable” numbers for answers to those questions and you can easily IMO have a TINY fraction of men that are assholes yet have a LARGE fraction of women (or other victims) that have been abused.

In Colorado, a drunk woman can’t give consent to have sex.

Mississippienne, I appreciate your thread, but why the use of the word “survivor”? I hate that. What does a person survive? Sexual assault? Does that mean I survived college because I got a degree? What does it mean if someone doesn’t survive?

Are they dead?
Did they go bonkers?

I think the use of the word “survivor” equates sexual assault with attempted murder, and I kind of resent that. It sounds like you’re putting that person into a psychiatric profile – or worse, indicating that ‘survived’ means ‘it’s all breezy now’. That’s kind of how I feel about it. I respect your choice of words…I guess my addition is that if you’re talking to someone who ‘survived’ sexual assault, you may want to avoid that word unless they use it first.