See the original blog post, "PLP Defends Rapists" for the announcement and call to action regarding PLP's defense of admitted rapist Seth Miller.
***TRIGGER WARNING*** Everything in this blog is a frank discussion of sexual violence and rape.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
If You Can't Beat 'Em
An excerpt from "Betrayal: A critical analysis of rape culture in anarchist subcircles"
As alluded to earlier, these repressive measures can actually split the ranks of the more moderate rape apologists, undermining the common front against the survivor. At the same time, repressive measures are deemed necessary at the very least when the usual process of normalization is broken. This points to one of the biggest contradictions within Rape Culture: that the very violence it relies on to reproduce itself also reveals its true nature for all to see. This contradiction is resolved by recuperative forces within radical communities which seek to co-opt support for survivors and redirect it against them. Many will claim to support a survivor while actually undermining their autonomy. This is usually done by limiting the possible scope of a survivor’s response to exclude anything that might further upset the social peace. These false supporters work to uphold the image of a supportive community, and in the process prevent any truly critical engagement with community. Their tools are the language and organizing frameworks which were forged by survivors and their supporters, appropriated for the purpose of disempowerment and twisted to usurp the survivors’ struggle.
Initially, the creation of words and new frameworks to use them was necessary, as the language for survivors to even talk about their experiences did not exist. Unfortunately, words are easily recuperated, and we can now see the inevitable limitations of relying on them so heavily. Once upon a time, radicals championed the use of the word “perpetrator” as an attempt to sidestep the stigma of harsher words. The once prevalent framework of Restorative Justice emphasised a person‘s ability to change. “Rapist” or “abuser” hardly underlined these values, and many felt it kept the rapists and abusers locked in those roles, just as referring to survivors as “victims” potentially kept them locked in a moment of subjugation rather than underlying their strength and perseverance. Of course now we are faced with a new wave of anti-violence activists, who lament the stigmatized nature of the word perpetrator, and now advocate the even more watered down term “person who causes harm”. Perhaps it’s time to realize that if a perpetrators capacity to change is not broadly recognized, that is a result of their own actions more so than the words we use to describe them. This is not to say that we should not choose our words strategically, or that we should not use them with strong intention, but only that our apparent obsession with language has serious drawbacks. At best, it leaves us caught in a never ending loop to find the right words rather than addressing our more meaningful shortcomings. At worst, it preserves the power dynamics of Rape Culture by attributing fault to survivors and their supporters rather than perpetrators and their apologists.
This bizarre reversal, where a perpetrators refusal of accountability is viewed at least partially as a result of flaws in a survivor’s response, is a common pattern seized upon by the recuperative forces of Rape Culture. Zines and pamphlets list strategies towards accountability which seek to avoid making a perpetrator defensive, which are perhaps better understood as strategies towards accountability which seek to accommodate a perpetrators defensiveness. The only thing such an approach avoids is a
recognition that being defensive is not something forced on a person by others, but a reactionary response which must be realized and worked through for any genuine accountability to be possible. Many will use the term defensive without ever asking, “in defence of what?”
Of course many survivors who anticipate defensiveness and the repressive apparatus activated by it have made good use of such strategies in the short term to initiate dialogue, or else to make demands concerning immediate safety without the goal of transforming a perpetrator. We have no interest in questioning the choices survivors make or discouraging the dissemination of potentially useful strategies (because, of course, how useful any given approach might be can only be decided by survivors themselves). Our concern is when the accommodation of defensiveness or the strategies implied by it become a tool of false supporters to limit the possible choices available to survivors, or to criticize those choices they disapprove of after a survivor has made them. Discussions of how to call out a perpetrator rarely centre on the survivor’s needs. “Avoiding defensiveness” provides the pretense to shift the discussion back to the needs of the perpetrator. Once a perpetrator has been called out, a similar framework is used to undermine support for a survivor. The false supporters endlessly reassure us that they are not angry that a perpetrator was called out, it’s only the way they were called out. The fact that a survivor would speak openly about their experiences is seemingly taken as more violent and controversial than the violence of those experiences themselves, which warrant very little discussion by comparison. How a survivor’s public response might reflect their needs does not seem to occur to the false supporters as they are so preoccupied with their need to preserve an artificial social peace. Again we see liberal tendencies rearing their head, as the false supporters’ insistence on denouncing the resistance of survivors, on claiming to also despise the Culture of Rape while simultaneously diminishing any fight against it, is reminiscent of liberals who claim to agree with the grievances of protesters and yet condemn any actions they might take to address them. The liberal complains that intensity and ferocity sabotages the struggle, but of course the anarchist knows the real problem is that we haven’t gone far enough.
As mentioned earlier, this is all part of a larger pattern to maintain the power dynamics that Rape Culture relies upon. There are countless other examples. The accountability process itself can be a double edged sword. Radical communities often divorce the accountability process from its place within the broader Restorative Justice framework, offering it as the sole response to intimate violence while simultaneously avoiding any further attempts at pre-empting violence before it happens. This false support places the needs of the survivor secondary to the question of how to deal with a perpetrator, once again prioritizing the needs of the perpetrator and maintaining the pattern of domination. What little support is offered survivors often replicates this same dynamic. One of the most common models of support used, that of making demands of the perpetrator, once again leaves all agency in the perpetrator’s hands, especially when there is no contingency plan if the perpetrator should refuse. Survivors who become emotionally invested in such models as a path for healing are often devastated when the demands yield nothing, or worse, when they incite a new barrage from the perpetrator and the repressive forces. In the anarchist milieu, where it is widely recognized that demands are mostly useless when not accompanied with the threat of force, it is quite revealing that such models prevail.