On Political Movements and Rape
Within the Occupy movement, multiple rapes and sexual assaults have been reported from both male and female survivors. Across the country, men and women have been attacked by rapists both within and out of the movement itself. While the attacked live on dealing with the traumas inflicted on them, the media, after showing nothing but ridicule and disgust, has resorted to using the reports of rape to stain the Occupy movement. As a backfire method, many presences in the camps–large and small, have disregarded and ridiculed the reports of rape and the survivors themselves. Both the media and the occupiers have given lots of attention to the rapes that have occurred, often for either groups own political gain.
As to the media, I’m tired of watching countless articles and news stories online and on television being thrown around, claiming that the Occupy movement is invalid or unsafe because of the rapes that occurred. The media, dominated by corporations whom obviously aren’t the biggest fans of Occupy, has long been rattling off charges of ridiculousness and frivolity when talking about the protesters. Now that rapes have been reported within the camps, Occupy has been deemed as a dangerous, seedy place for predators to roam free and protesters to abandon one another. Seemingly uncaring about the men and women who have been raped within the movement, the media has condemned occupy and all of it’s inhabitants as potential rapists, rather than people dedicated to a cause. What the media either fails to recognize or simply ignores is a few simple facts.
The first is that because rapes have occurred at Occupy camps, the Occupy camps are not bad places. Rapes happen everywhere. In cities, in homes, in hotels, in the countryside, predators exist. Because someone is raped in a specific environment, it does not make the specific environment a bad place. It means that a rapist happened to be present at that geographic location and raped somebody.
Second, because rapes happened while other Occupiers were at the camps, it does not make the Occupiers bad people. They were people in the presence of a rapist, and some of their fellow protesters was raped in their midst. The only instance in which the Occupy protesters could be, or should be shamed or held accountable is if they knowingly ignored a rape. Undertones of blaming the Occupiers have been spotted or outright stated in multiple articles I have seen on the issue. The same kind of ploy was pulled in recent anti-teen drinking ads, which blamed friends of the attacked for not watching out for their friends enough. For some reason, the media has a long history of failing to understand this, and especially within the Occupy movement. Rapists will rape if they want to. Blaming fellow protesters if they had no knowledge that the attacks were occurring is not only cruel to their psyche but a far from subtle political scheme to paint the Occupiers as rape apologists with no concern for others.
These ideas being thrown around by the media as to the attitude of the Occupiers toward rape is obviously being used for their own political means. While I maintain that people are free to hold whatever opinions they wish on Occupy or similar movements, my problem lies with the media’s use of survivor’s bodies, experiences, and pain for their political gain. Rapists use the bodies of those they attack for their own gain by taking out their shame and aggression on another human being. What I am questioning is how the media finds it morally justifiable to use the rapes that have occurred to paint the movement as nothing more than a hotbed for rape and social degeneracy.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have the Occupiers. For the same reasons as the media, many individual Occupiers have used the rapes that have occurred for their own political gain. Rather than using the rapes themselves; however, the Occupy movement has often used the term “alleged” with a tone of disregard, tried to ignore them, or done little to nothing. Some of the camps have made many measures to protect their fellow protesters, and I commend them for that, but even in my own interpersonal actions with those in Occupy Philly and in other cities, the rapes have been brushed off with an air of disdain for the attacked.
My biggest problem as far as interpersonal interactions go with Occupiers is the word “alleged.” When discussing rape, there is a good way and a bad way to use this term. The term “alleged” is meant to be used when someone is directly being called a rapist. If there is a reason to doubt that the person in question is a rapist, they are allegedly, a rapist. The point is to protect the identity of someone who possibly may not be a predator. However, when discussing the rape itself, “alleged,” is no the way to go, in my opinion. When people discuss an act that took place in their presence, or in the presence of something they believe in, they use the term to discredit the attacked and rid themselves of shame or guilt. That is not the proper way to handle rape, especially within Occupy, which claims to be so focused on protecting the rights of every single person involved. To try and brush off the fact that attacks have happened within the camps is to ignore the rights and experience of one of their fellow protesters. To ignore their rights and experience is to alienate them, and other survivors, thus having the potential of dividing the movement and wrecking it’s goal. This policy toward the rapes that have occurred shows the same political reasoning the media has used, and makes a poor example of a movement fighting for the rights of all involved.
On top of that, the responses to rapists have been often nothing less than appalling. Rather than keeping the rapists out of the camps, many (but not all) cities have simply stopped giving them free supplies, or directed them to counseling within the camps. Whatever your beliefs on how rapists should be handled within society are, I feel that most people should agree that rapists should be kept out of the vicinity of the attacked by the community. Many Occupy camps have failed to do this, much to my dismay, and rage.
At the end of the day, Occupy and the media have long been at war, but this war over rape that is occurring is unacceptable. The use of survivors bodies, experience, and trauma as a means for political gain is a step or two above rapist in my book. The same idea stands that rape is something for the powerful to throw around to get rid of political movements that the media doesn’t like.
What should be done? First off, people should take a step back and take care of their community, and the survivors in the community. Occupy should not be alright with rapists running amuck within the camps when the attacked and their friends are still there. Measures should be taken to care for and give counseling to the attacked more than the rapist. Occupiers must accept that rapes have happened in the camps and move forward to protect those already attacked and their other fellow protesters. The rapes must not be ignored, ridiculed, or looked at with disdain because of what the media is doing to the movement through the rapes. The media should stop using the rapes to paint Occupy camps as a place where everyone gets raped and predators are waiting in every tent. That is not the case. The media (though I doubt it will) must stop using he experiences of survivors as they wish so they can stain Occupy as a movement. The media must take Occupy seriously and take the rapes seriously. What both groups seem to be forgetting is that the rapists are the ones who are supposed to get the ridicule and disdain from both he media and the movement. It is entirely unacceptable for anyone to blame anyone but the rapists for the rapes, and while the battle between Occupy and the media continues, we all need to remember that.
As a quick reminder, I want to clarify a few things. I have not been as able to be involved with Occupy as I would have liked to have been. I am not coming from the perspective of either an Occupier or someone in the media, I’m writing from the standpoint of an observer within politics. Also, these ideas do not just apply to the Occupy movement, but should be understood for all political movements that have and will emerge. As people get increasingly involved in politics that never would have been without Occupy and other movements, it’s important to remember the rights of survivors who stand along with the movement(s). Much like I have written about before, I continually notice the social and political rights of survivors being tossed out the window. This cannot continue, and should not happen for any group, if anyone wants solidarity in a movement that fights for the interests of everyone involved.