Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tell Me More About This Assange Rape Conspiracy, It Sounds Fascinating! by Alex

Trigger Warning for description of sexual assault.

It makes me laugh my fucking face off imagining shadowy representatives of various governments sitting around brainstorming about ways to get to Julian Assange. They're all sitting there – old chinese takeout containers are strewn about, the floor around the waste paper basket (with a basketball hoop attached, natch) is littered with crumpled up ideas, all the men are well past a five o'clock shadow – then someone is like, "I've got it! We can trump up some rape charges!" And while the mood has definitely shifted, more optimistic?, they're not all sold. Could the public believe that Assange was a violent rapist? "Hear me out! It won't be the kind of attack that people usually associate with rape, he won't have left bruises or broken bones. There won't have been a knife or a darkened alley. It will be the other kind of rape, when the rapist knew their victim. No less serious, no less prosecutable, that insidious rapist who takes advantage of trust. That rapist who doesn't respect the loved ones, friends, dates, acquaintances they rape enough to ask. Enough to stop at no." By now everyone is nodding (give or take a couple still thinking a made up tax-evasion charge is the way to go), simultaneously excited by the possibility of a solution to their problem and sickened by the existence of sexual assault.

"See because everyone always believes rape victims! There won't be any sort of critical analysis of their stories. There won't be any sort of victim blaming. What kind of depraved monster would blame a rape victim for their attack?" The room erupts into sinister laughter. The plan was set. Larry knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a woman who could be bought to say that Assange ignored her request for a condom and another who would gladly lie about him fucking her while she slept. It was perfect. The world always sides with rape victims, the victim always sees justice. If any crime was to be exploited to arrest Assange, then date rape was a sure bet. The shadowy men slapped each other's backs and lit cigars and got ready to unleash a highly sympathetic juggernaut of a lie upon Julian Assange.

HAHAHAHA. Ha. Right.

That's some conspiracy. If you believe that I've got a story for you about a fluttering flag that disproves the Apollo 16 moon landing. 

Is it weird that Assange is actually being brought in for questioning on these accusations? Sure, I can see how that would seem omgsupersuspicious. It's weird because rape is so rarely taken seriously, particularly when the accusations are levelled at wealthy White guys and especially when the accuser(s) aren't describing a violent attack committed by a stranger. There is a reason I've only told two or three friends about the time I was raped and it has everything to do with not wanting to be discredited or shamed. Rape culture is big fucking deal. It seriously affects lives, it causes real harm. Rape culture tells women, men and children who have been the victims of sexual violence that they are at fault, that they are dirty, that their experiences and words cannot be trusted. Rape culture encourages the notion that there is a grey area, that there is "rape-rape" and something else, that consent can be a blurry concept. Rape culture means that women and other vulnerable people are never safe because rapists will always be more valuable to society.

Here's a fun story from the days of Alex yore, a story I shall call "Internalized Rape Culture: A Play in One Act":

When I was twenty or so, a friend of the man I was in love with came over to have drinks at my apartment with my then-roommate and me. We knew X as well as you can know anyone in the bar scene and we had a fun time, laughs were had. It was decided that X would stay over because he didn't have a car and we didn't want to drive him home and cabs in Winnipeg are a pain in the ass. X was to sleep in my bed and I was to sleep with my roommate. What great hostesses we were! At some point in the night X came and got into bed with us. It was weird and uncomfortable and I didn't really know what to do but I didn't want to make it a thing or leave my roommate alone so I just left it alone and the three of us slept in her bed. My roommate went to work in the morning and it was just me and X. I was awake but didn't let on. I didn't let on that I was awake when he started touching my breasts. I didn't let on that I was awake when he started masturbating. I just lay there and waited for him to finish and wondered how long I'd have to wait afterwards before I could "wake up". I didn't want to freak out and yell at him to stop or even think that he had no right to touch me or make me feel so incredibly terrible. I just lay there and pretended to be asleep. Sexual assault, as far as I knew, happened to women when they were alone in shady areas of town. Sexual assault was violent and committed by strangers. What would the man I loved think? He'd probably hate me for letting his friend touch me. If he believed me. If he didn't laugh it off as "that's just so X".

I never told the man I loved what happened, in fact when he called and found out X was at my apartment I devised a plan to make it seem innocent. X and I put out blankets and a pillow on the couch so that when he came over he'd see that X slept on the couch. It never occurred to me that X was wrong, that what had happened was a sexual assault. It didn't occur to me for years. I felt ashamed and that because I'd been drinking and had not told X to leave I'd been complicit in what had happened. I was 20, X was 27 or 28. He was the cool, charming, funny older guy who was friends with someone that I adored so much it felt like every cell was on fire. Why would I ever voice my discomfort? It never occurred to me that there was such a thing as rape culture and that it was rape culture that had warped not only my vision of what had happened but also had enabled my complacency. I didn't know any better.

Oh man, why the fuck didn't I know any better? Because of rape apologists who make asinine distinctions between various types of rape like George Galloway and Todd Akin and Bryan Fischer and the rioters at Penn State who prioritized Joe Paterno's coaching over his protection of Jerry Sandusky while he raped dozens of young boys and everyone who signed petitions in support of child rapist Roman Polanski. I wasn't raped, that time, but I was sexually assaulted and when people support conspiracy theory about the allegations against Julian Assange or believe that because of his contributions to Wikileaks that he should get a free pass or that rapists don't come in nice suits and speak eloquently and have similar ideologies they are sending the message to me that X was in the right, he took what he could get from me and I just let him. And what's worse, those apologists are fostering a culture that will create more young women (and men) like me. Young people who will not know they have a right to say no. Young people who don't know that their bodies are their own.

Those who want to believe that Assange should not have to answer any questions relating to the rape allegations are directly contributing to rape culture and in my mind, no better than that disgusting fuckwit Todd Akin and his army of right-wing supporters. Being an ally to rape victims can't be a political move, only used as a chance to one-up the conservatives. You're either with us or against us.

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