No excuses for rape apology

**TRIGGER WARNING** For rape, abuse and rape apology, for brief mentions of eating disorders and suicide, but mostly for our worst enemies masquerading as our lovers, colleagues and friends.

We have watched, fought and cried over the awful ignorance surrounding rape that’s being touted in the media in the last month or so. There is no denying that rape is very much in the public mind at the moment, but while politicians play top trumps with the worst definitions they can think of and push women’s rights and body autonomy further towards the 19th century, the perpetrators of this despicable crime are still very much being glossed over, remaining comfortable while idiots like George Galloway defend them in the public forum. Last night, after being sexually harassed at a train station for twenty terrifying minutes, I came home to see a facebook event to a feminist men’s discussion group. Now, debates over the usefulness of a regular male space to discuss patriarchy aside, in the list of people who had signed up for updates I clocked at least one man who has made women feel unsafe and abused. I know this because it was someone who I was intimate with for a long time, and other people know this because I am not the first person who he has dismantled with his lying, abuse of consent, gaslighting and, ultimately, abuse of privilege. Yet, in the group he remains, protected by a history of showing up to feminist discussions, dating awesome feminist activists and an ability to quote Bell Hooks. I’m sure he’s not the only one either.

It’s an old activist joke that when you start seeing injustice in one place then, like The Matrix, you see it everywhere; my experience with abuse has felt like that. For two years, to my detriment, I made apologies for the behaviour of the person I called ‘love’ and, even in the face of my beloved sisters who he had previously hurt, I poured my compassion and mental health into the relationship. It’s only now, after comparing notes and identifying patterns with other victims and after exploring my sexuality, consent and emotion with friends and lovers that I realise just how bad it was and how much danger I had been putting myself in. And now I fear going back to the feminist spaces in my town, for fear of being faced with my abuser, for fear of having to explain myself, for fear of being shouted down again and overlooked and shamed for having opinions that didn’t align with his. I don’t want to turn up to Reclaim the Night and know that the man who made me so unsafe, the man who inspired a suicide attempt and eating disorders will be there.

When people are far more likely to be abused and raped by people that they know, we must turn our attention to those among us who claim to be allies but who are actually the enemy. This is imperative. There are too many consciousness raising circles that promise to call out ‘bad behaviour when we see it’ and yet still invite and welcome known abusers into the fold when they should be our safe spaces. Julian Assange has shown us that many so-called feminists are prepared to brush off allegations and the personal stories of women in order to protect their constructed reality. I’ve had people tell me that my ex has just got ‘women issues’, as though an entire gender is just a substance to be mistreated and abused and that’s just his Achilles Heel, hey, we all have a weakness. Even he charted it all down to just being a ‘bad boyfriend’, something that couldn’t be helped but didn’t make him a bad person because, after all, he did try but I guess it’s just in his nature not to respect consent or value my worth, like someone who can’t dance, it’s just not his fault. When we make excuses for the people in privileged social circles then abusers become abstract working class men, men of colour, slavering beasts in darkened alleyways but the truth is simple: Patriarchy slithers into even the tightest and most right-on activist groups and we must be fierce in our defence of those spaces. I have heard excuses too many times; I have heard so many people in the aftermath of my break up telling me how uncomfortable they felt in the presence of the man who mentally pulled me apart and yet they said nothing at the time and they are still saying nothing.

So let me say something. To the abusers, rapists and apologists: stay the fuck at home when feminist events and marches come up in your facebook calander. It is not our job to accommodate you. It is not our job to give you a second/third/fourth chance. You are everything we despise. I refuse to tip toe around you after you obliterated my self worth. You made me feel so isolated and so fragile, hiding my true allies away and making every one of us feel worthless, but we found each other now. We are stronger than you: We don’t need you, we don’t want you here. Rapists go home.


5 thoughts on “No excuses for rape apology

  1. Thank you for writing this. It was very poignant and I think right on the money.

    It hits extra hard for me, because it’s sort of something I think about, and wrestle with, regularly, on a daily basis for the past four or five years. Because, to put it simply, I used to be one of Those Guys.

    Not a toxic “ally” like you’re describing here, but a misogynistic, rape-culture-enabling douche. The sort of fuckhead who whined about how those uptight feminists were taking the fun out of everything, who told rape jokes and decried those lying women who “cried rape” for what was OBVIOUSLY just regretting a one-night stand!!!! I was a Nice Guy who got frustrated when women I dated didn’t want to have sex after everything I was doing for them (and guilted some into it anyways), a creep at public events. I was kind of trash. And it wasn’t until a woman I had been dating tearfully told me how much the things I did made her feel manipulated and belittled, etc, that I ever started thinking about this shit and finally taking feminism seriously.

    Like the joke you mentioned, once you start seeing injustice somewhere you see it everywhere. And once I started seeing how some of the shit I’d been doing was fucked up, I started seeing all the rest of it. So for the past five or so years I’ve been wrestling with that and trying to figure out….. what sort of place is there in activism, in feminism (or pro-fem) for guys who have bought into and perpetuated this painful and toxic rape culture and patriarchy, but who want to change themselves and start atoning for the shit they’ve done in the past?

    That’s why this article hits spot on the nose, because you’re absolutely right and it’s something I still have trouble wrapping my head around. For years, I’ve been trying to be more like the person I want to be and less like the person I was, educating myself on feminism and activisim, trying to call out sexism when I hear it from my friends or coworkers or brothers or cousins. And I do believe there’s a place in feminism as a social movement for those who genuinely want to repent and change, I have to believe there is. But at the same time, even if there is a place in the broader context of feminism for that redemption and atonement, it shouldn’t ever come at the expense of women who were victimized, whether by the specific men in question who are genuinely trying to change or by any men at all.

    Because like you said, no one is obliged to give us a second or third chance. And if we assume that just because we’re trying to change it means a woman needs to give us another chance…. how is that different from a Nice Guy assuming that a woman should give him sex because he pretends to treat her like a human being? Even if we did thousands upon thousnads of hours of social work on behalf of abused women and got a presidential medal, that wouldn’t undo any harm we’ve done in the past. And a woman’s right to a safe space, like you said, totally outweighs whatever right we have to join in these events, even if our desire and goals are completely sincere.

    So…… the question of what space there IS for guys like that, guys like me, it’s something I still struggle with. Because women deserve safe spaces above all else. All I can think of is that maybe men who have in the past been victimizers can only talk to other men to try and educate them? It still strikes me how much I was able to hurt people in my life, people I supposedly cared about, without a single malicious thought… just ignorant, privileged and self-centered ones. And while I’m sure it doesn’t even compare to the trauma an abused woman goes through, which I do not for a moment profess to understand… living with the guilt of having perpetuated this bullshit system for the better part of three decades sucks. So maybe that’s where it lies. That we can educate other guys who are just as ignorant of their privilege and who are internalizing this harmful culture every day, and make them realize how they’re hurting the women in their lives without thinking about it because of it. Not groups like the ones you mention here that pretend to be ally groups but shelter and coddle abusers and victimizers. Society as a whole does that enough already, right? Because like I’ve heard time and again, it should be men’s responsibility to teach men, women shouldn’t have to be the ones to explain it to us.

    I don’t know. I still wrestle with it. But this post rings really true to me, and gave me a lot to think about. Thank you.

  2. There can be no excuses made for rape apologists. Which is why this is especially tough for me to admit to. For too long I’ve been making excuses for people, glossing over the rumours and otherwise sticking my fingers in my ears. I’ve stood by whilst my friends have been abused, have been raped, and what’s worse I have helped their abusers find excuses.

    I refused to call their perpetrators on their shit. I persuaded myself that there were probably two sides to the story, that it’s not black-and-white and that, as I counted the abusers amongst my friends, it wasn’t my place to pick sides. I made it all about me. I lurked in the gaps between the “official” version of events and the parts that were too painful for my friends to share. Some even seemed to forgive their attackers. I figured that, if I could find excuses, then clearly their behaviour can’t be inexcusable.

    I don’t think of myself as a rapist. But, given the circumstances, I can’t honestly say I’m very much better. Not by enough, at any rate.

    I have, time and time again, taken the coward’s path. I wanted to forgive. I wanted to find excuses. I didn’t want my friends abused.

    Evidently, we don’t always get what we want.

    Often, I have a sort of emotional “L’esprit de l’escalier”- only working out how I should have felt and acted after the fact. There’s always going to be an element of “too little, too late” if I say I should never have allowed this to happen (not to mention an inflated sense of my power to kick asses), so I usually avoid saying it. But this is different.

    I don’t know whether my friends will forgive me for making apologies for their attackers. I imagine that, if the situation was reversed, I’d find it hard to forgive them. I don’t presume to be able to sway them either way. That’s up to them; this isn’t the reason I’ve come back down the stairs.

    This isn’t an appeal for clemency from the victims; it’s fucking severence notice for the victimisers.

    Dear Abusers;

    I have to live with the fact that I enabled you. I have to live with the fact that I ignored pleas for help. I have to live with having made excuses. I don’t, however, have to live with you.

    I don’t want to count rapists and abusers amongst my friends.

    I’m done.

  3. You are so brave, and so brilliant. Thankyou. I am full of sisterhood and love for you after you have written this. Small offering, but if you do ever want to go for a dog walk and talk about anything, I would love that. xxx

  4. Well done for writing this, to say nothing of escaping the abuse!

    It’s tough enough being a feminist survivor of abuse, who considered themselves a feminist all along – not any tougher than for other survivors, but a particular kind of tough, because there’s some sense we might have had the information we needed all along (which might be true, if it was all just a matter of information). I can’t imagine how much worse this is when your ex is involved with local feminism.

    I hope this doesn’t put you off for long, and that there is some way of getting this message across. I’ve been truly shocked and horrified about where the apologism has come from with the Assange case – not people who think he is innocent (he may be, who knows), but people who think what has been described somehow doesn’t count as rape… I didn’t think I was naive, but that’s been a serious dent in my faith in human nature.

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