Rape Accusations – Real or False?

In the past year or so, we’ve seen an explosion of discussions on both Fetlife and in the blogosphere about the problem of rape and abuse in the BDSM community, many of which I’ve commented on and linked to in other posts both here on this blog and elsewhere.  There is unfortunately a widespread belief that the majority of these accusations are false, and often motivated by a desire for revenge on the part of a jilted lover.

Well, let me tell you right now that not only is this patently untrue, but according to a recent article in The Guardian, even the widespread belief that most such accusations are bogus is actually undermining the investigation of them all.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that it follows from this that far fewer real rapists and abusers will be brought to justice when even the police mistakenly believe that most reports are false and don’t even bother to investigate them all diligently as a result.

Think about this for a moment.  Even the most heinous cases of rape or assault may suffer from a preexisting prejudice against even the claim that it happened, and official tendency to blow off all such claims as false.  Real victims of real crimes have a hard enough time obtaining justice without the entire system being prejudiced against them from the start like this.

This goes well beyond the old blame-the-victim mentality that has unfortunately already been around for eons to actually saying that people are lying about even being a victim to start with.  Allegedly as a matter of course.

I grow very tired of hearing the cries of “they are lying cause I dumped them” excuse…

So said a friend of mine in a discussion about the question of false accusations in a group called Critical Curmudgeons of Kink, an outpost of sanity in a crazy BDSM world, where such sacred community cows are routinely slaughtered, and where fools are not suffered gladly.

I get really tired of this too, my friend.  And even more tired of having been accused of the same myself.

I am tired of knowing that my ex is likely telling any new women he might decide to take up with that if they encounter me talking about what he did to me that I’m lying, and then regaling them with the same range of stories about how awful I am that he fed me about his then-wife when we first met, the one I later found out he’d lied to me then about being separated from.  Stories that I know will prevent them from even contacting me for a reference, or believing what I have to say, even though it’s information they really ought to have in order to keep themselves safe, because leopards don’t change their spots…

So, I’m particularly glad that there is information surfacing showing how low the rate of false accusations really is – and the distorted way of compiling the data.

It can’t come too soon, in my opinion.  The “blame the victim” culture in this country (and especially in kink circles) has simply got to stop.

My friend continues:

I will also point out that often charges being dropped are counted as false accusations when the reality is there was not enough evidence to take to trial not that it was actually a false accusation.

The Guardian article bears this out as well.

Which is part of why I am so vehemently opposed to the whole disgraceful “conviction or it didn’t happen” attitude we see so much of in our circles.

Most of these cases, even the most legitimate ones, never even get to trial, but not because it didn’t happen.

What’s more (and even more outrageous), when these cases that get dropped get counted as false accusations when they are in fact anything but, even the data that does exist about false accusations is distorted, showing a higher rate than is justified in reality.

Anyone with a brain intuitively rejects the idiotic notion that most (or even a lot of) accusations are false, especially since we all know perfectly well how badly the system itself routinely batters victims attempting to get justice.

As my friend (who has publicly mentioned personal experience with the matter) continues:

However it is still a huge gap between false accusations and convicted rapes, and I can tell you that a decent prosecutor will inform the victim of the you did it to yourself shit they will have to go through and many opt out at that point to save their sanity.

Very true.  We are all perfectly well aware of how this “blame the victim” business works, and how it is the victim herself who essentially ends up on trial in such cases when they do get to that point.

To which I’d only add that this is so if it even gets anywhere near a prosecutor to start with.  Which it often doesn’t.

By the time I finally reported the multiple rapes and nonconsensual battery (and resulting injuries) to which I had been subjected myself by a former dominant, for example, still well within the statute of limitations, the cop didn’t even want to take the report, and refused to even investigate it, telling me to my face that he thought it was a case of sour grapes by that point, or would at least be seen that way.  No way did he even go near the DA with the case.

And frankly, I was too afraid of the dominant in question to even try to insist he do so, among other things.

If anyone else gets hurt by this now-prominently placed jagoff, however, I will go to my grave regretting that I never reported it sooner.  Regretting that I suffered for months (and now years) in silence (from a legal point of view) and in physical agony without even going to the doctor or emergency room when I knew I should have to address some of the injuries, because you always think it will be better by morning…

Which was the main reason I finally stepped forward when I did – to at least *try* to protect anyone else from being victimized by him, since nothing in the world can ever repair the damage he did to me, both physical and emotional.  To at least try to ensure there’s a trail, for the next person…

I have spent tens of thousands of dollars since then coping with the injuries and fallout from them, however.  One of them has played a large role in costing me my ability to even function physically on a daily basis.  As such, it’s a never-ending daily reminder of what he did to me – which also always circles back around to the rapes and other violations of limits.

Interestingly, his last (or maybe it’s now the next-to-last?) submissive has actually moved halfway across the country now, following on the heels of comments that she suffered a “breakdown” after her relationship with him.  I can’t help but wonder what he might have put her through…  You really have to wonder about a dominant who’s collared more women than the years he’s been involved with them all collectively.

And my friend goes on:

While I do think there is a certain type of person with issues who does this in BDSM/Kink I think it is more about repeat offenses with the same people type ATTRACTED to BDSM/Kink that that it happens overall more in all society.

Indeed.

I’ve written a lot here in this blog and elsewhere about why I believe that BDSM is often used as a haven and shield to hide behind for many rapists and abusers.

No doubt there are some who are likewise into false accusations, but there is no reason to believe they constitute even a large percentage of such accusations anywhere, even in our circles, never mind “most”.

Bottom line, we are back to the point I always make – please BELIEVE people when they accuse others of rape or assault or abuse.  Do NOT blame the victim, do NOT try to minimize their experience.

You weren’t there, you weren’t in their shoes or their skin, and no matter what the perpetrator tells you to try to put his accuser in a bad light, you were not the one experiencing what he actually did to her, so you have no damn business judging.  (Fill in gender pronouns of your choice if others apply.)

Above all, please do NOT elevate those who are accused to positions of power and visibility where they can continue to harm others with the apparent blessings of the entire community.

Just because someone is an apparent leader in the community, or puts himself out there as an experienced mentor or assigner of mentors to mentees, or is well-liked, or a popular presenter, does not mean he’s necessarily a safe bet for anything at all. Check references carefully, insisting on talking to his earliest partners, and the ones with whom he is not on good terms, not just his current fan club.  Dig deep, don’t rely on surface appearances, no matter how nice he may seem, no matter how attractive or sexy or persuasive, no matter what fun toys he may have.  Talk to others to find out what they know about him and his current and former partners – and even who they disdain with respect to him, and then go talk to those people as well.  Don’t fall for that seductive domly come-on until you’ve really done your homework to establish that you are most likely actually in safe hands.

Just because someone who is accused of rape or other types of abuse may still do nice things upon occasion for his victim, either privately or publicly, whether within the ongoing relationship or long after the breakup, also doesn’t change the fact of the harm he did inflict upon her and the repercussions it has and might continue to have.  Some stains simply cannot be removed.

It is not the responsibility of the BDSM community or individuals within it to investigate allegations of rape, assault, abuse, etc. or to pass judgment about them much less establish penalties.

It is, however, the responsibility of every single one of us as human beings to extend compassion to the victims, and to honor them with at least believing them and helping them. To let them know that they are not alone, that they will not be blamed for coming forward, no matter how little others may believe what they say, or how hard their abusers may work to discredit them.

If you listen to tales of woe and claims of being falsely accused from someone who has been accused of rape or assault without also having an in-depth and open-minded and unblaming discussion about the matter with the victim, then you are judging with often much less than half the story, and with absolutely zero perspective about how that person was actually harmed.

(I myself have suffered at the hands of one who blamed another ex for all his woes, and made the mistake of believing it all at face value, only to ultimately find out exactly how he set everything up so that it might look, to him (and of course to anyone else he might describe the situation to), like it was actually she who was to blame, with nary a hint of insight into his own behavior or contribution to the problem.  I’ve often wished since then that I could talk to her, but believe she would not be receptive.  Let me state quite clearly here that I *am* receptive to talking to anyone else he might be involved with, or become involved with, present, future, or past, who would like to better understand what may have hit them, or just to commiserate, and I am likewise more than happy to share objective, specific, factually detailed, and documentable information about exactly what he did to me.  But I digress…)

The alternative to ensuring that we both believe and extend compassion to victims is what we’ve got now, a society in which the guilty know quite well that not only will they get away with their crimes, but that they will even be pitied themselves as the alleged victims of disgruntled exes with an axe to grind, or even be cast in the light of poor innocents like the two boys in Steubenville recently convicted of raping a classmate despite an actual conviction.

When we blame victims for their own assaults, and/or heap pity on their attackers, we lose a lot of our humanity both as individuals and as a community and a nation.

To all of you who have done this to me or to anyone else, while I don’t actually wish harm on any of you, I do hope that one day you will live to experience the pain of being blamed yourself for something that was done TO you by someone else, and watching your attacker go free and even be applauded and treated as a victim himself because you spoke out against him, left in peace to harm someone else who makes the mistake of trusting him inappropriately.  Or worse still, watch him be elevated into a position of trust where the chances of someone else being badly harmed are increased beyond the norm.

God forbid it should be your own daughter or niece who should suffer such indignities.  And God forbid they should be afraid to come to you for help for fear that you will blame them as well.

But if you are walking around talking about the compassion you feel for perpetrators, or how the victim had it coming to her for how she dressed or whatever, or accusing others of making false accusations just to get back at someone who dumped them when they speak up about mistreatment suffered at someone else’s hands, then this is exactly the message you will be sending, not just to your friends and acquaintances, but to your own loved ones, who very well may one day need your support to cope with the rape or assault that all women are statistically very likely to suffer at some point in time themselves.

If you’re not ready to pay that price in your own life, then for God’s sake, why would you engage in and encourage such behavior on the part of others otherwise?

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Sexual Battery – California

Note that all that is required for a charge of battery is to literally touch another person’s “intimate part” against their will, etc. – even through their clothing.  It need not be hitting, cutting, or any other kind of more violent contact.  Merely laying a finger on them without their consent with any sexual intent is sufficient.  Also note that the victim need *not* be “[s]eriously disabled or medically incapacitated”.

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Cal Pen Code § 243.4 (2011)
§ 243.4.  Sexual battery; Seriously disabled or medically incapacitated victims

(a) Any person who touches an intimate part of another person while that person is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, and if the touching is against the will of the person touched and is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, and by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000); or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, and by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

(b) Any person who touches an intimate part of another person who is institutionalized for medical treatment and who is seriously disabled or medically incapacitated, if the touching is against the will of the person touched, and if the touching is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, and by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000); or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, and by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

(c) Any person who touches an intimate part of another person for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, and the victim is at the time unconscious of the nature of the act because the perpetrator fraudulently represented that the touching served a professional purpose, is guilty of sexual battery. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, and by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000); or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, and by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

(d) Any person who, for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, causes another, against that person’s will while that person is unlawfully restrained either by the accused or an accomplice, or is institutionalized for medical treatment and is seriously disabled or medically incapacitated, to masturbate or touch an intimate part of either of those persons or a third person, is guilty of sexual battery. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, and by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000); or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, and by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

(e)

(1) Any person who touches an intimate part of another person, if the touching is against the will of the person touched, and is for the specific purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of misdemeanor sexual battery, punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment. Continue reading

More on Rape and Abuse in the BDSM Community

More great thoughts from Kitty Stryker, and a whole host of commentary from other community members about the topic of rape, (sexual) assault, victim blaming, and tolerating abuse in the kink community, and what we should do about it.  If you haven’t seen her prior posts, you can find links to them hereSimone Webb of Blogwasred has some other interesting commentary about comparing rape to a car crash, and in a repeat of prior linkages, Mollena Williams has also spoken eloquently on the problem in her blog, and in her duplicate post on Fetlife that so far has garnered 415 comments in addition to the 92 on her blog.  There are many more, and I’ve linked to many of them in prior posts and in the links section of this blog.

Maymay is right: “If speaking up means breaking the rules, let’s fucking break them”.

The system is broken, and is thankfully starting to come apart at the scenes (oops, typo, but I’ll let it stand as the Freudian slip/double entendre it apparently is), er, uh, seams, thanks to fearless bloggers like these who are well enough known in the community to be able to reach a lot of eyeballs.   Awareness is growing; we need to keep the pressure on and continue working to interconnect those of us who are speaking out.

These posts are pretty dense in cross links, and the threads long, but I urge you to read as much of them as possible – and join Fetlife to do so for the ones that are posted there, if you aren’t already a member.  You can do so for free, and anonymously, and need not participate in anything else other than to read if you don’t want to.

It’s not just rape that’s a problem, though.  It’s assault and battery as well – the violations of limits during play of other types.  It’s pushing past hard limits, or even repeatedly exceeding softer ones when the bottom protests.  All of it gets a victim demonized in the community for speaking up.  We need to quit pussy-footing around these issues and start calling them what they are. And what they are are violations of consent – and rape, etc.

If someone hits you without your consent, or does anything else to you that you did not freely agree to, and you object to it, you have been assaulted and battered, if not also raped.  If it’s fully negotiated and mutually agreed to, all well and good – except that consent can still quite legally be withdrawn at any point.  If the top continues on the same path after being told to stop, by any means you choose to use to do so, then he’s well over the line of nonconsent and into assault and/or battery.

Watch this space for definitions of the various terms used in the context of rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, domestic violence, etc.  I’ll be posting the actual statutes as well.

(I am not a lawyer and nothing in these posts should be construed as legal advice, consult your own attorney, yadda, yadda, yadda.)

Rape, Assault, Battery, and Police Reporting

I came across a fantastic post the other day by Saynine about the problem of rape within the BDSM context entitled “This Isn’t Play…BDSM and Rape“, following on the heels of reports by my friend, the outgoing International Ms Leather, Mollena Williams, of her rape by a prominent member of the Dublin kink community.    These are just the two latest posts I’ve encountered speaking out on this topic, and on the importance of reporting these rapes to the police, as well as publicizing them within the BDSM community.

Both posts and the ensuing comments discuss the potential implications of such reporting, both to the individual victims – and to the community as a whole.  The conclusions drawn pretty much without exception in these posts and many others I’m seeing, as well as the opinions of numerous other concerned individuals with whom I’ve been discussing the overall issues of abuse and consent for several years, the participants in San Francisco’s recent RACK panel, etc.,  is that reporting is essential – and that not only are the overall community’s needs secondary to supporting the victim and ensuring as best we can that others are not also harmed, but that doing so can only serve to help our image in the world, by conveying openly to everyone else in the most obvious way possible that we not only do not condone rape, assault, etc., and that that is not what WIITWD is about, but that we stand behind those words with actions that support them.

The question of rape and consent is important, but it’s also important to realize that rape as legally defined (basically, any kind of vaginal, anal, or oral penetration without consent) is only one part of the consent and abuse puzzle.

The other big issue that we face is the problem of either ongoing abuse of various sorts in BDSM relationships, and both in that context or in individual, one-off scenes, the issue of assault and battery if anything other than vaginal, anal, or oral penetration are involved – the questions of other types of play occurring without consent, limits being violated in the process, etc.

What happens when other limits are violated, such as beatings that go beyond the physical limits of what the bottom can take, too much force is used and the bottom is injured even in the course of something she did basically consent to but not to that level?  What about other situations such as if a knife is pulled nonconsensually, undesired cuttings, needles, or take your pick of various forms of humiliation play?  Or you tell your partner (who has been injuring you repeatedly with impact play and ignoring both feedback and ultimately safewords) that you now have a new hard limit, that he absolutely may not hit you with any kind of toy again until he gets some formal instruction and practice with it – and less than a minute later he starts right out doing it again, with a different implement than before, coming out with some lame excuse like, “I didn’t realize that was what you meant” when you protest and safeword yet again?  When even generally innocuous requests or demands happen to cause you intractable problems and yet he won’t relent and continues to demand that, throwing a fit when you object or try to stop it?  Or any number of other possibilities of hard or even soft limits being violated?

Legally, most if not all of these kinds of things are actually assault and/or, in the case that contact is actually made and not just threatened, battery. (Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.)

Different states have different laws that define each of these things (and domestic violence) differently, and laws and policies regarding arrests and prosecution vary even by jurisdiction within a given state, so it’s not possible to say what will or will not happen in each of these kinds of situations.

Another area that also seems pretty grey (although I’m sure the lawyers and police must understand it) is where the line is between domestic violence and assault and battery – and which one would apply in situations of the sort we kinksters often find ourselves in.

One thing I find particularly disconcerting is that much of what I’ve read about assault and battery seems to require that some sort of obvious and grievous injury occur in order for the concepts to apply and arrests to happen.

But what about those whose injuries never become visible?  Does that mean that they will not receive the same protections as anyone else who is assaulted by a partner or stranger?  I’ve been injured on multiple occasions where nary a bruise or mark ever showed up – but when I’m still in pain weeks and months later, I sure as hell considered myself just as injured as if some bone had been fractured or I’d been cut with a knife.

Regardless of the legal terminology, when limits are violated in any way, it sure still feels like rape.   The feeling of violation is terrible, and the violation of trust is almost as bad and sometimes even worse than the actual event.

I’ve had things done to me that in and of themselves may not have actually been that big a deal, but when they were things that because of other issues in the relationship, or other personal or medical reasons, I had set as a limit, it is precisely that breach of trust of a partner going ahead and doing it anyways, despite agreement not to, and then his negative reactions to my protests, that has often been far and away the bigger problem.

I would add to what both Saynine, Mo, and many others are saying about the importance of reporting rape (as well as other types of violations of limits) is that you need to do it right when the assault or rape happens, or very shortly thereafter.  Otherwise, the police are really unlikely to take you as seriously if you do it later.  Even if you do wait too long and they tell you they will not investigate it as a result, still insist on filing a report, so that at least there is something on record about this person’s behavior to help establish the pattern in case someone else runs into trouble with them and seeks police assistence.  There is also something very personally empowering to just tell your story to the authorities, to name what has actually happened.

Sadism For the Sake of Sadism – or What is Pure Sadism?

I consider a pure sadist, in the BDSM context, to be someone who gets off in some way from hurting others, regardless of whether or not that person likes it, and even prefers it when they don’t – or at least doesn’t let the bottom’s not liking it or not being able to take what gets dished out get in the sadist’s way of doing it anyways.

As long as the bottom agrees to those parameters, everything is copacetic.

There’s nothing wrong with consensual nonconsent – and many people definitely get off on it.  But it’s *got* to be agreed upon in advance.

That consent is also the only thing that separates BDSM-type sadism from the form described in the DSM that is considered pathological.

If there is no agreement that pushing those limits to the point that the bottom really cannot take it is OK, and especially if it’s stated in advance that it’s *not* (and is therefore a hard limit), then it becomes abuse instead – or even outright assault and battery.

It can certainly take some time to learn where those limits actually are, but once established, if not respected, then deliberately exceeding them (except by obvious accident) becomes pretty much a nonconsensual act, even if the overall play is consensual.

Obviously this can also take some real technical skill to avoid stepping over those boundaries in some cases – as well as a desire and intent to respect them.  It also takes open communications with one’s partner to determine when those limits may have also changed for some reason, especially things like the time in the menstrual cycle, any health issues, etc.

A pure sadist of the BDSM type may or may not also be a dominant as well, but often is not.