Sometimes, looking at things from a sideways angle is helpful...

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Assange and rape

Trigger warning for rape and sexual abuse.

Every time people comment on the Assange situation raising points about all the good work he's done, it feels like a kick to the gut, for me. I recognise that wikileaks is a good thing, I really do, but how on earth is that relevant to the fact that he raped people? I'm not interested in comments querying that - in a world where as the victim of rape people are cross-questioned massively on how they might have brought it upon themselves, I choose to believe these women.

So, why does it feel like a kick to the gut? Because the man who raped and sexually abused me when I was 13 was a pillar of the community. Whilst I was miscarrying in a field, he was doing Good Work in the community. Thankfully the police to whom I reported it believed me, but it went nowhere, partly because of my own mental instability, partly because of the lack of concrete evidence, partly because of how many people were willing to speak out about how he was a good man.

I won't deny that some of the things he did in our town were very very good, but I don't think that excuses him violently raping a thirteen year old child. Maybe I'm lacking in my utilitarianism here, because he did do a lot of good, but this is what the stuff with Assange reminds me of. It reminds me of saying "well he only hurt two people and he helped so many more".

I'm not going to be the only person this has brought memories up for. In fact, I know I'm not. What scares me though, is the way this could dissuade other people from reporting rape. The treatment his victims have had online, stalking, harassment, everything. They would dissuade me. I wouldn't want to go through that so I'd decide not to report it. Whilst people dissect their every action, they don't realise what it's like to be a rape victim. I carried on. Whatever it took, I kept on living as normally as I could, going to school, doing homework, until I finally broke, and even when I did that, I took an overdose, brushed my teeth, went to school, and nearly died several days later. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that other people do the same, keep carrying on, and now that's being criticised, people, women, are being judged for not being the right kind of victim, and that's going to put people off coming forward, especially coming forward against someone that has a lot of community respect, as my rapist did, and still does.

I still have scars from that, and I don't just mean the physical ones, but this has reminded me what it felt like. What it felt like to know nobody would believe, or understand, no matter what proof I offered them, because he was a Good Man. I can't imagine what it must be like for Assange's victims to have so many people saying this, accusing them of everything under the sun, despite his own words, but I do know how hard it is, on a far smaller scale.

I think many communities and subcultures have the dangerous attitude of idolising specific men in this way, and then when they do something abhorrent, it's hard to know how to respond as a community. It's hard to realise someone you idolised is a rapist. That happened to me earlier this year. What did I do? I kept quiet for a few days whilst I worked through everything, then publically condemned him, because even if he was a role model, even if he was a great guy in many ways, he was a rapist, and that meant that I wasn't going to associate him, and was going to actively work towards the community accountability stuff his victims asked for. That's what you do. That's what you have to do. No matter how much amazing work a person has done, rape is rape.

Every time I see a justification for Assange's behaviour, I see it as a justification for that of my rapist. They were both Good Men. They both had massive communities backing them. I just hope Assange actually faces justice. I realise that there isn't any true justice for him, I realise that this could be a stitch-up, but do you know what? If he's found guilty by a Swedish court, and gets extradited to America, and imprisoned there for life? I don't think life imprisonment is an unfair punishment for a rapist, especially not one who avoids accusations and ducks charges like this. I don't think that's likely, because of Sweden's refusal to extradite to the USA, but nonetheless, I don't think it's a valid reason to oppose him being taken there for questioning.

The fact that so many people are backing him terrifies me. It feels like this is the very definition of rape culture, when we have people, self-professed feminists and lefties, saying "what he did was sort of rape, but I'd rather ignore it because he's done so much good stuff as well".

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