Shame is what sexual predators rely on. Next to alcohol it’s their preferred WMD. What were you thinking, after all, being alone, dressing like that, drinking too much, trusting too much? You should have known better. You should have known what would happen. It’s the same approach pedophiles use when they tell their victims “we’re only doing what you want.”
I was invited to speak in Ottawa recently and share my thoughts on violence against women and the role men play. There are two things I’ve learned since my daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons, died last April and I began to speak at conferences and meetings. One, the audience will be almost all women, as it was in this case, and two, attempts to hurt and silence me suddenly appear when there’s anything mentioned about Rehtaeh online or in social media. She’s worm food because I’m a failure, according to one person’s post. If I don’t shut up I’ll join her, says another. Some choose words so disgusting I can’t bring myself to repeat them.
You see, according to them, Rehtaeh didn’t die from being raped and bullied, she died because I’m a bad father. I knowingly let her smoke pot, drink vodka, and raised her to be flirtatious and promiscuous. Rehtaeh wasn’t raped because someone raised their sons to be a rapists, she was raped because her father raised her to be raped.
Almost every time her name is mentioned in the news or in an article those anonymous posters show up with their fake usernames and post all sorts of nonsense, innuendo, lies, misinformation and outright victim blaming. Rarely do they use real names and rarely are they women.
I’m not sure why some people feel a need to weigh in on issues they know little or nothing about. I reply if I can even though it’s almost always futile. Some people just have the wrong information while others are so out to lunch I’m left wondering if they’ve read anything about this story at all. Patrick Doran of the Edmonton Men’s Movement thinks I’ve been using a “victim-card” to silence critics in the “…years since Rehtaeh’s death.” It hasn’t been a year yet Patrick.
I try to not to get hooked. I honestly have bigger issues to deal with than a hand full of forgettable trolls. It’s the people who say nothing I want to reach, the people who are shocked by this story and don’t know, or don’t realize, they have a part to play. Men mainly. Not the ones trolling rape stories; I’m talking about the good ones. Men with hearts, families, compassion, decency, and a sense of virtue.
Rapists rely on other men to excuse and justify their crimes against women. Other men who’ll laugh at their jokes, invite them to parties, play sports with them, introduce them to other women. Men who’ll give them jobs, feed them, and help them blame their victims even if it’s by indifference.
Men, good men, need to stand up and do to rapists and their supporters what we do to child molesters. Imagine the difference it would make if a man who jokes about rape and always doubts victims entered a room to silence, whispers, stares, and looks of disgust from other men. That is what we need to do as men.
We need to take an honest hard look at why we befriend rapists, why we believe them, allow them, tolerate them, and help them get away with the crimes they commit. We should be confronting them, exposing them, shunning them from our homes, families, teams, and places of employment. We need to use our voices to be a part of the solution and not let our silence continue to be part of the problem.
There is a stigma attached to rape. A stigma centuries old, created by devils, used against their victims to hide awful deeds. It’s time to put that stigma where it belongs. There is no difference between a man who rapes and a man who befriends and defends him.
I tried to end my talk in Ottawa on a big note but couldn’t find the right words. The message has been said many times already. It’s time to stop talking and start doing. We’re still in a place where a 16 year old will write on Rehtaeh’s Facebook page and wonder how she couldn’t have known what happens to girls when the drink around boys. A place where young women ask what they can do to make sure they don’t get raped.
Truth is there’s nothing they can do. Women who don’t smoke pot get raped as do women who don’t drink vodka and women with amazing fathers. I hate to think what some of those posters will say to themselves if someone they love ever gets raped because according to their logic it wasn’t the rapists fault, it’s the fault of the people who love the victim.