Fictional Portrayals Of Sexual Assault

Well YOU find a better image to go with this headline that’s neither upsetting nor NSFW.

I don’t exactly keep it a secret that I am an enthusiastic fan of strong female characters. Whether they’re high-powered businesswomen, vampires, mothers, superheroes, sorceresses, or commanding armadas of interstellar warships, I love these characters. I love identifying with them (the vast majority of my favorite fictional characters tend to be women) and watching their stories unfold.

Unfortunately, part of the grim reality of our world is sexual assault. It happens and, unfortunately, not everyone who commits sexual assault is immediately fed to sharks and/or set on fire (if I were running for office, changing that would be one of my campaign platforms, though).

Sometimes, to create drama, to help readers or viewers to sympathize with one character (or to detest another), or as a part of character development, storytellers will put a sexual assault (successful or otherwise) into a story. A character’s backstory may involve being a survivor of sexual assault, or having witnessed it (especially happening to a family member). Or, a sexual assault may happen during the course of a story.

There can be very good reasons for having this as an element of your plot—I understand that. But I think that it is completely valid and usually preferable to have a female character be in physical danger that is not inherently sexual.

There are a few rules that I would like for everyone to please, please follow if this happens in a story (whether it’s a book, a show, a film, a video game):

1) Sexual assault is not sexy. It should not be sexy. It should not be titillating in the least. No one, including a preteen for whom anything related to sex is potentially exciting, who follows your story should find anything about the scenario appealing.

2) Why is the sexual assault happening? I mean this from the perspective of character-driven storytelling (why does this person want to rape this other person?), but I also want to know how and why this serves the story. If it’s purpose is to provide motivation for a male character to rescue and/or avenge the female character, then please stop being an ass and maybe stop writing. That may sound like I am overreacting, but that kind of story in which female characters lack agency and seem to exist only to provide various types of motivations and goals for male characters is not only overdone—it is toxic.

3) I hate to even mention this one, but it needs to be mentioned—please look at what sorts of people are involved. If you are having, for example, a black man sexually assault a white woman (literally or symbolically—though the use of certain alien species or fantasy races to represent different human ethnicities is a rant for another day), you probably should not. That kind of scenario obtains a gut reaction from certain readers or viewers because it plays into some disgusting racist beliefs and fears.

Beyond those three rules, there are a few things to consider when you wonder if you should write that into your story:

1) It is almost inevitable that sexual assault survivors will be exposed to this story. If this is going to be a widely-consumed work (like a major motion picture), millions of survivors will be exposed to it. Trigger warnings exist online for a reason. Do you really want to do that to your readers? Even if you include the event in your story, there are ways of including a rape in a story that will be easier on certain readers.

2) Is this going to change the way that viewers see the character who is sexually assaulted? I do not mean readers or viewers who will victim-blame or see the survivor as “dirty;” those people can go jump into a volcano. But will readers, viewers, and even other characters see this character in a new way, possibly wanting to baby her, or seeing her as less powerful because they have also seen her in such a vulnerable state? Is that really something that you want?

It is important to note, however, that a storyteller who has a sexual assault, even one that is not handled as well as I would like for it to be, is not necessarily a bad person. At all, even.

In fact, have you guys seen Hansel And Gretel: Witch-Hunters? It’s not the best film in the world, but it’s a thrilling and goofy film with a lot of easy gore (some films are gore films and undesirable, but I did not once cringe or wince at the blood and guts in this film—it was pretty fun).

There’s an unsuccessful sexual assault during the film. It was completely unnecessary and decreased my enjoyment of the film.

But it was not a remotely titillating scene. It’s a really upsetting and violent one.

However, and I won’t spoil who or how, but the way that the sexual assault is interrupted is the best. And I honestly think that that was a big part of why the scene was written into the screenplay. Because we get to see a bunch of rapists get beaten up and killed in various ways, including one whose head just gets crushed.

That I could watch all day long.

And a lot of writers will put people who commit horrible acts into stories with the intention of destroying those people within the story. Sometimes it’s a little unsophisticated and juvenile, but unlike a rape depiction, a scene of revenge against a rapist is always a treat to read or watch.



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Woman Assaulted By Court Marshall

We all know there is an epidemic of sexual assault in the armed forces. But this case is getting a lot of press because—well it involves the guy that was supposed to charge people with sexual assault. According to reports this is what happened:

“Contreras was in Clark County family court in August 2011, with her two-year-old daughter, finalizing a divorce case. Then she was suddenly taken, by herself, into a room with court marshal Ron Fox to be searched for drugs. (There is no explanation given for why the search was needed.) During the search, the 28-year-old alleged the marshal touched her breasts, her butt and asked her to pull up her shirt. Then, Contreras walked back into the courtroom where Donniger sat, politely said she felt uncomfortable and “offended” by Fox’s requests to lift up her shirt, and that if she needed to be body-searched, could it be done by a woman. Patricia Donninger ignored her. Then Fox suddenly instructed another cop on duty to arrest her for “making false allegations against a police officer.”

But there were no false allegations and there is no law about making false allegations against a police officer. She was taken, illegally searched, illegally detained, and falsely accused. Really? There is a video from KLAS-TV that shows Contreras being confronted with two officers threatening to cuff her, and push her to recant, and she does, she’s also assaulted and ignored by the judge while her two-year-old plays.

Her child was taken to Child Haven and Contreras was sent to jail. This happens in the year 2013—what will you do about it?



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“She Wasn’t Conscious So She Technically Didn’t Say No” Is The New Defense In Rape Cases

I’ve tried to be quiet about the Steubenville rape case but I can no longer keep my mouth shut. A sixteen-year-old girl found out she was raped, multiple times, when she went on to her social media and saw pictures of her unconscious body being carted by two boys. She texted the boys and others from the party and was met with ‘you wanted it’ type responses. In fact one of her rapists told her he looked out for her and if she told anyone what happened he, “would never do anything nice for you again.” It was so nice to put your fingers inside her while she was unconscious in the backseat of a car while someone else filmed it. Good looking out, bro. Or wait, maybe he was referring to the time he tried to make her give him a blowjob in the basement while others watched and testified she “wasn’t into it”.

The boys took her from party to party where they (and others) raped her. I’m not putting “allegedly” in there because they did it. There is photographic evidence of it and recently someone has testified that they even recorded some it on their cellphone.
This case has gotten a lot of attention because Anonymous, the hacktivist group, hacked into some social accounts and uncovered a video in which a few football players, including both suspects, were joking about the incident. Here are some choice quotes:

“He’s puttin’ a wang in the butthole, dude.”

“They peed on her. That’s how you know she’s dead, because someone pissed on her.”

“They raped her harder than that cop raped Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction.”

“They raped her quicker than Mike Tyson raped that one girl.”

“They raped her more than the Duke Lacrosse team.”

“Her puss is about as dry as the sun right now.”

“It isn’t really rape because you don’t know if she wanted to or not.”

As disgusting as that is, what’s worse is the defense for these cocksuckers. The defense is, “it was not rape because she was unconscious therefore she didn’t SAY no.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!? That’s the defense? That’s what we’re calling a “defense”?!!? Those lawyers should be brought up on charges of their own. Half the people in that town are SUPPORTING the rapists. I don’t care if she was a “party girl” I don’t care if they play football THEY RAPED SOMEONE.

It’s disgusting, it’s frustrating, it’s infuriating and I hope those boys find themselves in jail where they meet a lovely cell mate that will be “puttin’ a wang in a the butthole, dude”. I hope those lawyers have daughters that drink too much at a party one night and they see pictures of her unconscious with two men dragging her to the back room where they will “rape her harder than that cop raped Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction”. I hope that half of that town find themselves at a party with the Duke Lacrosse team.

When will it stop? When will men learn that women are not their property? When will men learn DO NOT RAPE?

On Sunday, March 17th 2013 these two men were found guilty of rape. They were tried as juveniles and received minimum 1 and 2 year sentences, respectfully the maximum time they will spend in a juvenile detention center is 5 years. It will be up to the center to decided their release and they will get credit for all time served. The only punishment that they received that I found fitting to the crime is: they will have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their life. Good, because that is exactly what they are.



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Kym Worthy Is Freaking Awesome

Kym Worthy is the prosecutor in Wayne County, Michigan (where Detroit is located). If you are on Tumblr, then you have probably read about her. If you read “prosecutor” as just whichever attorney is prosecuting someone in court, I do not blame you. The position is known as district attorney in most counties (who head departments of assistant district attorneys or deputy district attorneys). In Illinois, the title is state’s attorney. It’s kind of silly how some states wanted to be hipsters and come up with their own names for these things, but whatever.

Kym Worthy is, well, awesome. One might even say that she is giving that wretched county the prosecutor it deserves.

I’m not praising her for prosecuting Detroit’s absurdly corrupt mayor a few years ago. I’m not even praising her, specifically, for being a strong black woman doing a difficult job in a difficult place.

I am praising her for being vocally outraged and calling attention to the fact that thousands upon thousands of genetic samples gathered after rapes are simply kept in storage rather than being processed in a timely manner.

This is not a problem specific to Detroit. Federal crime labs and, well, basically every other crime lab in the country has this problem. The genetic material gathered in rape kits by those few rape survivors (or, even more tragically, from those who did not survive their sexual assault) is not given priority and is not processed. Over time, genetic material degrades when not properly stored. Over time, evidence storage buildings flood.

Women (and men) who come to the police and undergo invasive medical exams immediately after suffering, in most cases, the worst traumas of their lives do so because they want justice and because they want to stop their attacker from attacking anyone else (there aren’t “one-time rapists,” you guys. There are rapists who are stopped or, better yet, die after their first rape. That’s all that keeps them from continuing to rape).

When a rape kit is put on a shelf, a rapist remains free. And finds other victims.

Kym Worthy (herself a rape-survivor) is making processing rape evidence a priority (as it should be). We may not, at the moment, live in a civilization that is particularly good at deterring rape or supporting rape-survivors or giving rapists what they deserve, but even a prosecution and a few years of incarceration (along with the “sex-offender” label) is better than letting these sickening monsters run free.

Kym Worthy’s efforts have already put a spotlight on the systematic failure to move forward in rape investigations. And they have, of course, already identified serial rapists—at least one of whom has also committed murder since original samples were taken from someone whom he had raped.

Kym Worthy’s cause is just. We need more people who are willing to get things done.



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