Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: The Missing Stair Part Two: The Creeper and the Excuser

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  • Rochelle Furneaux,

    Tears in my eyes. Thanks Emma, for writing such perfect words for this. THIS.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Thanks for writing this, Emma.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3886 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Firstly, we are conditioned to not make a fuss.

    I am so much more bolshy online than in person and it's mainly because of this. "Oh goodness, if I get snotty about this then I am going to seem really impolite."

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I think you wrote this too well Emma. There is nothing to say other than bravo.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4425 posts Report Reply

  • Cliff Pervocracy,

    "If everybody knows, why isn't he in prison?"

    Well, because "everyone" can't just go to the cops with "I heard this guy is a rapist"; we'd have to present evidence of specific incidents. And the only people who could do that--the women he assaulted--have opted to leave town and cut off contact rather than try to go through the court system. I don't blame them, given how little they have to gain and how much they have to lose if they go to the police with a story that begins "so I picked this guy up at a sex party, and..."

    It doesn't even matter whether they should have done this (although in my opinion, they should do whatever the hell they want because someone does not incur obligations by being raped); it's what they did do, it's what a lot of survivors do, and hopefully it's helped them to be safe and heal, but we can't put the guy in prison based on "we all know what really happened here."

    United States • Since Sep 2013 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Cliff Pervocracy,

    And the only people who could do that–the women he assaulted–have opted to leave town and cut off contact rather than try to go through the court system. I don’t blame them, given how little they have to gain and how much they have to lose if they go to the police with a story that begins “so I picked this guy up at a sex party, and…”

    Yeah, this. The mountain in the way of the obvious solution seemed so obvious to me that I simply couldn't work out how to explain it. Give my friend his due, he did get there pretty quickly, but the reflex that this couldn't possibly be happening was telling.

    But we must not place the burden for dealing with this on the people least able to carry it.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4631 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Danielle,

    I am so much more bolshy online than in person and it’s mainly because of this. “Oh goodness, if I get snotty about this then I am going to seem really impolite.”

    Oh, hells, me too. People expect me to be more... forthright in person than I am, ergo if I'm not setting someone's arse on fire I must be okay. Not so much.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4631 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Danielle,

    I am so much more bolshy online than in person

    Likewise. Partly it's a selection issue (being mellow and reserved online = lurking, and what's the point of sticking your head above the parapet unless it's to politely, um, set someone's arse on fire), but also because the social sanctions that operate face to face against showing anger don't work so well online. I once ignored a comment made by a new acquaintance at a dinner (about the reporter who was gang-raped in Egypt) that online, I would have totally taken down, because I didn't want to be the activist harpy that ruined the evening. I still go over various staircase-wit versions of what I should have said.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 974 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    Fantastic stuff, Emma.

    It's the invidiousness of some of these people that can make them hard to deal with - hell, I'm a bolshie dyke, and yet I sometimes have trouble with swimming against the currents of social censure of "making a fuss". And also, we're programmed to be "fair". If that weird skeevy person is making you uncomfortable, it's not "fair" to treat them with too much reserve if they're in your social circle (unless they do something way beyond the pale). I think so often these people will insinuate themselves in a largish social circle as a kind of camouflage in the herd. Everyone knows them, they're not really best mates with anyone, some people avoid them, and yet they keep popping up everywhere. We tend to give more trust to people we associate with, even casually -- and some people cash in on this tendency.

    As Thomas says on the Yes Means Yes blog:

    We need to spot the rapists, and we need to shut down the social structures that give them a license to operate. They are in the population, among us. They have an average of six victims, women that they know, and therefore likely some women you know. They use force sometimes, but mostly they use intoxicants. They don’t accidentally end up in a room with a woman too drunk or high to consent or resist; they plan on getting there and that’s where they end up.

    A lot more good info in that post on the preponderance of rapists in the population - there should be no more belief in the myth that most rapes are committed by strangers lurking in alleyways. Of all the women I know who have been sexually assaulted, only one has been seriously assaulted by a complete stranger. Also, Thomas' post describes how, according to two studies, the majority of them are repeat offenders.

    I think someone has mentioned it before, but this post on Schrödinger's Rapist compellingly describes the calculations an isolated woman (mainly women, but not always) often makes when encountering (mostly) men. Rapists don't come with big warning signs stamped on their foreheads. Maybe that guy making the shitty joke just has no decent social boundaries... or maybe it's not just that. There's another long long long comment thread there with many reporting their experiences on people who insist on trespassing on personal boundaries.

    Sure, there is a heck of a lot of a difference in degree between some guy sitting too close to you and making suggestive "jokes" versus rape, but these posts and the comments demonstrate just how much they're on the same continuum. If someone doesn't honour the minor social boundaries, how much will they honour the more fundamental boundaries? In my experience, if someone steps over that line in the smaller aspects, it's not that hard for them to step over it in the more serious contexts, if they think they can get away with it.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 696 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I've never been aware of a rapist within my my social group (which does not of course mean there has never been one), but I have a couple of times physically placed myself so as to frustrate a creeper.

    I didn't cause a confrontation (in one case, it was a creeper boss, which might have got difficult) but it was surprisingly effective just firmly, passively being there.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22537 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Oh, how this resonates. For all women. I have this problem at the moment - an acquaintance that others find discomfiting, and I feel I am likely going to be the one who has to tell him that his behaviour around women is unseemly, and not okay, Mainly because I'm not one of the women he creeps on.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh,

    I feel this may need a trigger warning, just in case, because it involves a child, so what Emma said at the start of her post:

    Trigger Warning for Rape and Sexual Harassment

    but with 'child' thrown in the mix.

    See, there's this guy. When the wee one was but a few months old he asked several times if he and his wife could take her home for a few days. He earned a firm no and a "WTF?! Who the hell do you think you are even asking that?!" look. I mean, I've never heard of that being considered in any culture, and certainly not in Chinese culture.

    Then when he discovered she'd learnt how to kiss people, he'd hold her and say in the creepiest way imaginable repeatedly "Kiss uncle, kiss uncle" (yes, in execrably pronounded English), then ask her if she wants to go away somewhere else with him, particularly if we're at the brother in law's place, downstairs to his apartment. Funnily enough I would always grab her back and refuse to let her go with him, but the poor girl's only 2 so she doesn't understand the situation or why I respond the way I do.

    See, this guy has a history of inappropriate behaviour. Sometimes of a sexual nature, like visiting our place, making off-colour jokes about my wife, and wondering why I get angry. It's not always of a sexual nature, though, sometimes just plain, vanilla rude.

    But what can I do? There have been periods of months when I've made it clear he is banned from our apartment. I'm not the confrontational type, but there have been times when I've sat here yelling rude things in English (he only knows a few words) until eventually he leaves. But we have to see him - his wife is my wife's best friend and they live in the same building as my brother in law. My wife talking to his wife talking to him sees the latest inappropriate behaviour end, particularly if there's a ban on him visiting enforced, but he always comes up with some new trick. And I try to tell myself that he's probably not a danger to my wee one because if he was he wouldn't go advertising it, would he? And he's basically a decent bloke in most respects, it's just he has this nasty habit of repeatedly being really obnoxious and vulgar. But what Tracy Mac said:

    If someone doesn’t honour the minor social boundaries, how much will they honour the more fundamental boundaries?

    And I have heard of him hitting his wife (no, that would not be tolerated in my presence, but fortunately they went through a phase of only arguing with each other when they visited us until I said, "If you're just going to argue just don't come", but that never got physically violent), and basically I just have to wonder, if that's how he behaves in my presence.... well....

    Thank you Emma, I honestly think this is the best post of yours I've read yet.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    This man should not be allowed to be around your little girl. Ever.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    Yeah, I know, but husband of my wife's best friend and lives in the same building as my brother in law. Let's just say that when he's around my wee one never steps out of my sight. That's the best I can do right now.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    I hope your wife has the same rule, not to let him near the child - she doesn't take her along if she's visiting her friend. And anyone who you let look after her - if you have a babysitter, you should spell it out explicitly to them that this guy is not allowed in your apartment or near your child. I wouldn't let him touch her in any way whatsoever - no cuddles, no holding hands, no bloody nothing.

    Because I can personally vouch for the fact that some people use that kind of creepy carry-on to normalise their "affectionate" behaviour to a child... and then escalate to bigger and better things when left alone with them.

    And regarding the intersection of violence in general (e.g. wife beating - I can vouch for the fact it goes with child abuse too), this from one of the studies mentioned in the Yes Means Yes blog:

    Lisak & Miller also answered their other question: are rapists responsible for more violence generally? Yes. The surveys covered other violent acts, such as slapping or choking an intimate partner, physically or sexually abusing a child, and sexual assaults other than attempted or completed rapes. In the realm of being partner- and child-beating monsters, the repeat rapists really stood out. These 76 men, just 4% of the sample, were responsible for 28% of the reported violence.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 696 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    And here's a digest from David Lisak himself, highlighting the tactics of abusers in terms of using psychological ploys, premeditation, alcohol use, and just as much violence as necessary to achieve their aims: http://www2.binghamton.edu/counseling/documents/RAPE_FACT_SHEET1.pdf

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 696 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Russell Brown,

    That relates to Cliff Pervocracy's Just One Ally - someone else who shows they have your back, and/or are also witnessing just how fucked-up a situation is. Can make all the difference, a lot.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 696 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to TracyMac,

    Thanks Tracy. I do what I can to manage things, but I'm up against a huge (un)awareness issue in that none of these subjects are common topics of conversation in Chinese media, so, y'know, people just don't know and I don't have the Chinese vocab necessary. Working on it, though. Fortunately this guy lives far enough away that we don't see him often.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    When I was at high school I had a group of friend which included some considerably older people. The oldest man, who I believe was a decade or so my senior, had some sexual involvement with several female members of the group. When one of our number accused him of rape everyone was profoundly uncomfortable and tried very hard to deny the possibility. I think we were invested in the illusion of our own safety and admitting to that in our midst meant facing up to the risk we were all at.

    I did not parse his attentions as rapey at the time but, in hindsight, I shudder over how he treated me and how very much worse it could have been.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to TracyMac,

    That relates to Cliff Pervocracy’s Just One Ally – someone else who shows they have your back, and/or are also witnessing just how fucked-up a situation is. Can make all the difference, a lot.

    Yes. "It's not just you. I'm seeing this crap too."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22537 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to TracyMac,

    That relates to Cliff Pervocracy’s Just One Ally – someone else who shows they have your back, and/or are also witnessing just how fucked-up a situation is. Can make all the difference, a lot.

    I was reading down this thread, knowing I'd read something like that somewhere, and unable to remember where it was. Thanks, Tracy. Because I'd recommend this approach to Jackie, and as much as possible given the cultural barriers, to Chris. Talk to other people. Jackie, do that Talk with the Creeper, but if possible do it with someone else with you. When it comes from just one person, it's much easier to dismiss, to frame as your problem, not his. Two people makes that so much harder.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4631 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    I find it interesting how in all manner of situations and on so many levels that involve abuse the most common response is to behave in a manner that protects and supports the abuser and isolates and undermines the abused.

    I have tended to stand up early to abuse - stand up when you find it or know it is so - it may not work but at least you aren't condoning it with the tolerance of silence or omission

    Call it out as you see it when you see it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1223 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I've never been aware of a rapist within my my social group (which does not of course mean there has never been one), but I have a couple of times physically placed myself so as to frustrate a creeper.

    I didn't cause a confrontation (in one case, it was a creeper boss, which might have got difficult) but it was surprisingly effective just firmly, passively being there.

    Yeah, but I think it's also about guys being firmly and actively "dude, not cool" within their peer groups. There's been a lot of internet chatter in geekdom about convention creeping, and while there's been a lot of depressingly predictable "avoid the comments at all costs" dudebro dick-baggery it's also been encouraging seeing guys get that jamming harassment/rape culture isn't women's work. It diminishes all us, and we've all got to decide whether to be the solution or the problem.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12366 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I will. Thanks darling.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Gee, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    it's also been encouraging seeing guys get that jamming harassment/rape culture isn't women's work. It diminishes all us, and we've all got to decide whether to be the solution or the problem

    amen to that

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 78 posts Report Reply

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