Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Question of Character

My first class today was optional. Unfortunately, neither God nor the Fates had conspired to let me know this, so I found myself wandering West at the crack of 10am (trust me - I am in college. this is obscenely early for me). As I stepped into the Perk to buy myself some breakfast, I saw a girl walk by me in a white t-shirt, emblazoned across the front with a single word:


No, I thought. That cannot mean what I think it means. She cannot be saying that, not this way.

But she was. As I walked around West today, I saw gaggles and gaggles more of people - almost exclusively women - walking around wearing t-shirts lending their support to the lacrosse team. To say it was hard for me to watch is the understatement of the Cenozoic era. I made me sick.

Look, I am not saying that these guys are definitely guilty. I don't know anything more about the evidence than the rest of you, and if they have those timestamped pictures, well, that could be a problem for the prosecution. But, see, the primary basis of these women's claim that these two guys did not rape that girl is this (this too):

"Anybody would be so proud to have them as their sons."

"[Reade is] one of the nicest kids I've ever had the pleasure of representing."

"I think Collin is literally one of the most kind and gentle people I've ever met."

"I know [Seligmann] personally and his girlfriend really well. There is no way that this event even happened if this is the guy that the stripper is '100-percent sure' about."

These are nice boys, officers. Nice boys don't rape people. You must have the wrong gentlemen.

But let's take a little look-see at the rape statistics in the United States, shall we?

First off, fewer than 40% of all rapes are ever reported.

Even so, 17% of all women and 3% of all men report having been raped (thus creating the commonly-cited 1 in 4 women will be raped in their lifetime statistic).

300,000 women and 90,000 men report annually that they have been raped.

80% of all rapes are acquaintance rapes.

64% of women who are raped and 16% of men who are raped are intimately related to their rapist (this means boyfriends, husbands, girlfriends, exes, dates, etc).

So, according to the math, one million people, male and female, are raped every year in this country. 800,000 of these people know their attackers. Almost 530,000 of them are intimate with their attackers.

Those are big numbers, boys and girls.

Those numbers say that over half a million people every year in this country are raped by someone they have CHOSEN to put themselves in a situation with.

Their rapists inspire trust in them - they act kind, they act caring, or funny, or genuine, or maybe they're married or dating. These rapists act like nice guys in every respect but one:


In 500,000 cases every year, one person's impression of another is not sufficient protection for them. In 500,000 cases every year, one person puts on an act until a door is closed, or a partner is drunk, or they get really angry. In 500,000 cases every year, someone who is loved and cherished and thought highly of commits rape.

And in 500,000 cases every year, someone who is loved and cherished and thought highly of IS raped. To deny this fact and aver that your impression of someone is sufficient proof they are not a rapist is the epitome of insult to these people, because you imply that they were raped by their own fault, for not seeing or detecting something they should have, because god knows no one who SEEMS good or funny or kind could possibly be a rapist.

Except they are.

So please, use timestamped photos as your evidence these two kids are not rapists. Use receipts or eyewitness testimony or whatever you have on hand to prove your point. But do not use your judgement of their character, because that is not good enough.


Anonymous Beth said...

The girl we give whole milk to was wearing one of those shirts.

4/21/2006 1:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

80% of all rapes are acquaintance rapes...

But does logic alone preclude us from thinking that a nice guy tends to not rape people?

Or more simply - is noone an acquaintance of (or intimate with) someone who is a known asshole? Because that's the relevant statistic: nice guys who rape people versus assholes who rape people. Not whether you just are an acquaintance of (or intimate with) someone.

4/21/2006 5:45 PM  
Anonymous curiousgirl said...


you are missing the point. The point is that if 80% of rapists are aquaintace rape (eg spousal rape, date rape, friend rape etc), that statistic is only possible becuase people are raped by people they dont think could possibly be rapists. 'nice guys,' in other words. not assholes as far you you know right up until that moment.

So, if your (mine anyway) character assesment of someone isn't enough to protect you or me from rape, it isnt evidence that an accused rapist is innocent.

4/25/2006 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to be clear, I'm not trying to blame rape and sexual assault victims for their acquaintances.

But I do know that close to 80% of murders (76.8%) are committed by acquaintances. Does this mean that nice people are as likely as assholes to commit murder?

I grant that attempted rape and sexual assault are much more prevalent than murder (though I have heard reasons to believe that the 25% number is statistically flawed). I also concede that gender violence is endemic in our society - of acquaintance murders, 33% of women were killed by a husband/boyfriend, as opposed to only 2.7% of male victims.

But still. I read elsewhere (I forget where) that gang rapes and sexual assaults with 3 or more people are premeditated in 70% of cases, and that 50% of sexual assaults or rapes committed by a single perpetrator are planned. Think about that. These are gruesome crimes. Is a nice guy as statistically likely as an asshole to premeditate a sexual assault? This would have to be true for Allistan's extrapolation to be reliable. (As an aside, should we really advise a parent - purely from a safety standopint - to be as comfortable with a guy who makes chauvinistic remarks dating their daughter as someone who appears to treat her with dignity and respect? Do we tell them that their daughter is in as much danger, no matter which guy she dates? Though it plays to a political agenda, I think this position is irresponsible on the individual level.)

The type of guy who would, e.g. brandish a broomstick and scream that he was going to shove it up the victim, or yell racist things about cotton shirts, is an asshole. In fact, he might be exactly the type of asshole who participates in or otherwise helps a gang rape or sexual assault. At this point, I don't disbelieve the victim.

But it doesn't really matter what I think. I'm just an anonymous member of the court of public opinion who stumbled on this blog entry. (By the way, I thought it was both well thought-out and well-written; this is why I commented. I just happened to disagree.) One scary thing about Allistan's extrapolation is that, if true, it also means that a judge shouldn't allow a *jury* to hear evidence as reputation in order to exculpate a defendant.

This is a huge deal.

I understand that in the individual case, a rape victim has difficulties contending with the defendant's reputation witnesses. But our justice system has some good aspects, and trial by jury is one of these. Where, as here, issues of race and class are concerned, we become concerned with trial by jury, and Allistan's extrapolation becomes more enticing. But if we find a fair cross-section of the community, a group of individuals who (like you or I in that situation) take their duty to impartiality seriously, and who commit themselves to weigh (as best they can) the circumstantial and reputational evidence presented to them; then we should place at least as much confidence in their ability to weigh character testimony as we would in our own.

A second problematic implication of Allistan's extrapolation is less of a big deal in an individual case, but has larger societal implications.

Gender violence is currently immoral, but gender violence is endemic. Socially, what follows from this? Rape is currently a morally heinous thing, but this does not guarantee that morality will be used solely in support of social justice to rid society of gender violence. One way to rid society of assholish attitudes that lead to gender violence is to identify instances of the attitudes, link them to something that is already condemned (gender violence), and then condemn these attitudes individually. If every man becomes a potential rapist, however, if instances of assholish attitudes aren't individually identified, then morality will predictably hinder social justice. The necessary social forces for progress won't coalesce - or, will coalesce against you. No good comes of this, only cultural warfare.

4/27/2006 9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Myth: Rapists are pathologically sick and perverted men.

Reality: Men who force a woman to have an unwanted sexual encounter are indistinguishable from the general male population.

This myth has been used to obscure the fact that our culture encourages aggression in males, especially sexual aggression. In addition, typing the rapist as a "murderous sex fiend" serves the function of keeping women frightened and submissive[7], yet unaware of the most common source of danger‑the men in their neighborhoods and homes.

Until recently, sociological and psychological research conducted on convicted rapists tended to verify this myth, focusing on psychological characteristics, family background and "criminal subculture" of the rapist rather than dominant cultural factors and norms which might encourage sexual aggression against females. [8]

The scanty information we do have, however--F.B.I. U.C.R. statistics, recent sociological studies, statistics and information from rape crisis centers, and interviews with victims and rapists‑all refute the myth of the psychologically deranged rapist. Altho the psychotic rapist does exist, as does the psychotic murderer, he is the extreme exception. Listening to victims and to the few rapists who have spoken out, we discover that there is no "typical" rapist but that he is less likely to be a "deviant sexual psychopath" than a married businessman, a street‑wise teenager or a fraternity brother.

Those men (rapists) were the most normal men there (San Luis Obispo prison). They had a lot of hang‑ups, but they were the same hang‑ups as men walking the street.

‑Alan Taylor, parole officer, quoted in Pat Miller and Joanne Parrent, "Some Factual Information," in Kathy Barry, et al., ed., Stop Rape (Ann Arbor, Michigan, Women Against Rape, 1971) p. 2

4/28/2006 5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Research refutes the myth that rape is purely a biological consequence (e.g. being "sick" or pathological), and current research focuses on culturally-determined factors of rape. Many of these cultural determinants are societally endemic. However, it is an overstatement of the research (even in the early to mid-1970s type that you cite, I believe) to state that rapists are "indistinguishable" from the normal population.

I do not have time/ability to canvas the current research, but a google for "characteristics of rapists" finds this abstract:

What are the characteristics of a rapist? Researchers Julie A. Allison and Lawrence S. Wrightsman find that the collective results of various studies point to no single factor that can reliably predict rape.

Rape As an Outgrowth of Society

Allison and Wrightsman turn attention away from both psychology and biology toward common social influences on the violent sexual aggressor. Although being male is the most obvious determining factor, there are a range of less obvious associated variables:

Childhood abuse. One study by Groth (1979) found that 90% of rapists in the sample population reported being sexually abused as children and 34% were victims of physical abuse. However, Scully (1990), relying on a considerably smaller sample, found only 9% of the sample reporting sexual abuse, and one-half reported growing up in nonviolent households.

Negative attitudes toward women. Several studies involving large numbers of male college students conducted during the 1980s found a link between a belief in male dominance and superiority over women and a belief in rape myths (for example, that the woman brought it on herself through her own behavior).

There was also a correlation between male dominance and sexually aggressive activity. Scully (1990) found that 45% of convicted rapists believe women like to be hit because it shows men care about them. Society rewards such negative attitudes, creating a "power differential" that according to Muehlenhard and Linton (1987) makes rape more likely to occur.

Need for power and dominance. The male college student studies further reveal that the sexual behavior of rapists is motivationally "overdetermined." That is, sex comes to serve many purposes, particularly power and dominance, but also anger and neediness. Subjects typically report responses such as, "I enjoy the conquest." Anger- and dominance-related motives for sex correlate with the incidence of nonconsensual sexual behavior, including date rape.

Poor social skills. A study of men drawn from the general population by Murphy, Coleman, & Haynes (1986) found that men who reported engaging in coercive sex were less able to discriminate between assertiveness and hostility in women when viewing videos of male/female interactions. They also had more trouble telling the difference between female friendliness and seductiveness. Other studies of imprisoned rapists indicate they share this "social information-processing deficit" generally and in interactions with women.

General aggression and manipulativeness. Men with histories of coercive sexual behavior also tend to be less well socialized, more impulsive, and more violent in general. Allison and Branscombe (1992) found that men who say they might commit rape if they would not get caught also tend to advocate "Machiavellianism," the manipulation of others through guile, deceit, and opportunism to obtain results. Combining this with "hypermasculinity" (macho behavior), "affect intensity" (strong emotional expression), and anger successfully identified men who reported they would use force from those who reported they would not.
Many Factors Make Up a Rapist
Allison and Wrightsman say that sexual violence involves complex interactions of individuals with the larger society. A major FBI study of 41 hard-core serial rapists in 1978 revealed that even among these men, the stereotype of the rapist as depraved sociopath fails to hold. The authors conclude their study of the causes of rape by examining research on the link between pornography and sexual violence among men.

5/01/2006 9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read Allistan's latest post. I'm all of the "anonymous" people on this thread except the person who posted the "prison sucks" link. I'm probably done commenting, but if I need a pseudo, I guess you can call me Homer. If you hadn't already guessed, I'm a guy. (One who gets a little annoyed at being told that he and his attitudes are indistinguishable from a rapist's. And someone who fails to see what good can come of such a claim.)

5/01/2006 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, Allison - I meant to use your real name. Good luck with your papers. (try not to procrastinate with this blog stuff, it isn't worth it... I wish I still had a final few days to hang out with my college buddies...)

5/01/2006 9:59 AM  
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5/26/2007 7:36 AM  
Anonymous tc said...

True you can't judge a rapist by their "nice" reputation. I've learned that a very odd way this month.

However, you've over the whole dynamic. For one thing, you've simplied the trust building process. There are two reasons these people trusted their rapists:
- Someplace in life they've been conditioned to ignore all the signals sent out, and self-respect they should have had. It's a heart-breaking situation. It's not that they are nice but rape, it's that some people associate with the not-nice and don't know it.

- The perp is good at manipulation, so good that he fools those close to him. He may be the one who gradually creates the conditioning I mentioned. This isn't a nice guy, it's a crafty guy, so the problem is the misjudgement of others...not that nice people rape.

I've known casually for several years now in a "new age" group, the husband of one of the women. I never felt that good about him. A year ago he produced an anti-semitic behavior. I confronted him, and got no place, just really odd behavior. At points it was manipulative and unnatural, but mostly it lacked geniune ablity to empathize. Turns out the anti-semitism was the least of the issues. This guy is a non-violent abuser to his spouse. Not only are the clues there in how he handled this with me and with her...but her reaction was classic abusee from the panic to the preservation behavior to putting up with what his power plays.

There wasn't an obvious clue out there, and I'd spent these years in their home. He's white, she's black, they are both part of this new age activity and he's never said anything even slightly questionable about power, or male roles, or money or..., leaving an impression of a very nice guy without prejudges or hatred. Yet turns out he acts completely with a hate base of behavior. I'm disengaging and cutting my losses and hoping to be left alone. Turns out there was a reason I'd been keeping my distance all this time.

This supports that "nice" guys rape a lot. Except that what it really supports is that there is a base of not nice in there to be detected, if one is close enough and has the self-preserving self-respect to react to it. The problem is that usually those close, have had that detection mechanism stripped from them already in those 80% cases.

This guy isn't nice except in real surface ways. Just one step into geninue exchange and it's glaring that his entire base is a mess. However, he has and still is fooling a lot of people that should be able to detect it.

I was googling and came to this site today precisely because this duality of personality vs. appearence is creepying me out.

Got to agree with the commenter that some of this is the patriarcial elements in our society. It's obvious that some of this person's attitude comes straight from the 50's handbook on power and men and women. Boy have I shocked him. I never read the handbook.

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