It’s gonna be quite a long text but writing this story will help me take some weight off my chest.
Recently I went to a gathering with friends where I learned that an old friend of mine, who I don’t really have contact with anymore, raped a girl I know. I told some other mutual friends, they were shocked and even had a hard time believing the story (which we do not know the details to). How could such sweet a guy do such a horrific act ? The guy clearly did not fit their idea of what a rapist is like. He is nice, caring, gentle, and with us had always said he wanted gender equality and shares feminist content on internet.
This had me thinking. I didn’t doubt that he had indeed raped this girl, but it didn’t make me think of him as a purely evil human being. Contrary to my friends, him being an overall good friend was not in contradiction with him raping a girl.
That’s because being nice and being innocent don’t necessarily go together. Rape is horrific. Rapist aren’t necessarily purely evil beings. You don’t need to be a mean person, or even of bad intention, to overstep someone’s consent.
It does not make rape less horrible, or even forgivable.
It’s just not as simple as actively wanting to harm someone else.
That’s why rape is such a complicated issue. It is really hard to sentence (in any way, being sending someone to prison or deciding to cut ties with them) when they’re not bad, when they even seem really nice and all the stuff.
And I mean that even as a victim. My first boyfriend was nice to me, he did not want to pressure me for sex, yet when I told him to stop something because I did not feel comfortable he did not. He was drunk, and I believe he did not understand what I meant and was not sound enough to ask more questions. I really believe he did not mean harm. Yet I was raped (although I was fifteen and did not realize it immediately) and I got harmed, especially mentally.
I don’t want anything to do with this guy, when I pass by him in the street I feel very scared even though I know he won’t try to harm me. I also don’t want him to go to jail or anything (but if you’re a rape victim reading this and want your rapist to go to jail, it’s very valid too, I’m just sharing my own story). Because I don’t believe he’s a bad guy, I just wish I had the courage to confront him and make him understand what he did was wrong and should actively work on himself so that he never does anything like this again to a girl.
So back to my point, which is not jail or no jail. It’s that you don’t have to inherently be a bad person, or to have the intention of harming someone, to rape them. You can be a rapist and be a overall nice and good person. Therefore your opinion of someone should not affect whether you believe their victims or not when they come forward. You shouldn’t try to invalidate their story because it does not fit the idea you had of the rapist/assaulter. Anyone can be a rapist.
What to do when you’re aware is another question. I believe you should respect the victim’s wishes.