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There is No Such Thing as a “Classic Rapist”

There is No Such Thing as a “Classic Rapist”

From a very young age we are taught to fear strangers. Parent, teachers and loved ones warn children of stranger danger instructing them not to speak or go anywhere with someone they don’t know.

As we grow up this message is reinforced, particularly for women. We are told to be aware of our surroundings when walking alone late at night for fear of the stranger lurking in the bushes ready to attack. This story of the stranger hiding in the bushes or a dark alley is also often used when warning women about sexual assault. We are told we shouldn’t go out late at night alone, especially in parks, and that we should carry pepper spray in our purses to be ready to fend off violent attackers. So we grow up thinking we can pinpoint potential perpetrators — the creepy guy in the park, the man in the hoodie walking closely behind you.

It is this type of thinking that has skewed many of our perceptions about what rape really looks like. Take for example a recent trial where a man was unanimously found guilty of rape and sentenced to five years in jail. At his sentencing Judge Michael Mettyear had the following to say about the convicted man:

“I do not regard you as a classic rapist. I do not think you are a general danger to strangers. You are not the type who goes searching for a woman to rape.”

I bet if you asked Judge Mettyear what he meant by “classic rapist” we’d get some iteration of a creepy man who attacks women in dark alleys or behind bushes.

What’s worse in this case is that the judge continued his assessment of the case by saying things like:

“This was a case where you just lost control of normal restraint.”

“The victim was the worst for drink out of the two of them. She was completely out of it.”

“She was a pretty girl who you fancied. You simply could not resist. You had sex with her.”

I mean I could write a whole other blog post about these remarks but I digress. The point is that Judge Mettyear is clearly misinformed about what rape is. There is no such thing as a “classic rapist.” Men don’t just lose control and rape women. Being drunk doesn’t mean a woman can’t be raped. This man didn’t have sex with his victim, he raped her.

Messages like this are not only incredibly insensitive to victims, but dangerous for everyone. When we believe that these types of myths are reality, victims start to question what happened to them and are reluctant to report, people don’t understand what consent really look likes, attackers might not know they are raping women, rapists go free, rapists rape again, rape cases aren’t investigated, the list goes on and on.

The results are devastating. Consider the rape crisis on college campuses. Women in college are highly susceptible to rape, yet a new report reveals that nearly half of colleges and universities haven’t looked at a single case of rape and 20 percent don’t investigate all the incidents they report to the feds. Perhaps one of the reasons this is happening is because even administrators aren’t sure what qualifies as rape.

It’s high time we dispel myths about rape and start creating real understanding of what sexual assault looks like in all it’s forms. First, and foremost, rape isn’t a crime that is predominately committed by strangers. In fact, 73 percent of sexual assaults are committed by a non-stranger and 38 percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance of the victim. Perhaps we’ve held tight to the myth of stranger danger because we don’t want to live in a world where we think people we know can commit rape, but unfortunately the majority of perpetrators are the people who are closest to the victims. We can also lay the dark alley and bushes myth to rest because more than 50 percent of sexual assaults actually occur within 1 mile of the victim’s home.

Beyond statistics, I have found that one of the most effective ways to dispel myths about rape is to hear women’s stories. No two rapes are the same which is part of what makes it so difficult to define and so easy to instead rely on myths. This powerful story called “Breakfast” is an incredible example of the kinds of rape stories we don’t often hear about. Here is an excerpt:

The morning after I was rape I made my rapist breakfast…The night before he hovered over me and said ‘So pretty.’ When I said no, he said ‘Why not?’ When I asked him why he was doing this, he said ‘You are just so beautiful.” So, the morning after, I made him breakfast. There is another story that I like better. I fight. I spit. I struggle. In this story, I am brave. But this is not my story, and it is not true, because I am not brave and I did not fight.

Another powerful story, “My Rapist Doesn’t Know He’s A Rapist (Because My Culture Hasn’t Taught Him He Is One),” is another great example that points out some of the reasons people don’t know what rape is:

I convinced myself that if it was rape, I would have been injured. If it was rape, I would have been aware of that in the moment, and fought him off. If it was rape, I would have told on him.

My rapist doesn’t know he’s a rapist because in his mind, he was drunk too, so we were on the same page, right?

He doesn’t know he’s a rapist because society has taught him that drunk girls like me who come on to you are asking for it.

He doesn’t know he’s a rapist because, like I did at first, he believes that if he doesn’t physically hurt someone, it’s not considered rape.

He believes that since he ‘knew me’ for one night and didn’t attack me on the street, it’s not considered rape.

I applaud these brave women for sharing their stories so candidly. It is these kinds of stories that will help dispel myths about rape once and for all and prove that the idea of a “classic rapist” really does not exist.

Related from Care2:

These Anti-Rape Devices Miss the Mark When It Comes To Rape Prevention

Men Aren’t The Only Ones Slut Shaming Women

3 Ways Congress Is Getting Serious About Sexual Assault on College Campuses

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Photo Credit: OUCHcharley

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290 comments

+ add your own
7:17AM PDT on Aug 25, 2014

Again we see an example of judges who love protecting the criminal and denigrating the victim. It is an outrage to see how low the judicial system has fallen. That is the real war on women.

8:36PM PDT on Aug 12, 2014

A 'rape' is a 'rape'! There's no "classic" or modernity in it. Its a crime! Indians are not sufficiently educated especially when it comes to sex and sexuality. These come when the internet becomes the raison d'etre for porn and sex wonders. Indians who are not sufficiently sexually educated find that human beings are sexual objects. This is not only happening in India but many conservative parts of Asia. Western women are advised not to crowd in busy places as these are areas where molestations and indiscriminate sexual behavior do occur and without resolve. At times authorities will even make victims more embarrassed by 'endorsing' the acts of the perpetrators. In Asia, its advisable to wear decent clothings and stay away from crowded places and festivals (if possible).

1:38PM PDT on Aug 8, 2014

The term 'classic rapist' is a myth, perpetulated by persons who keep using the term. For there is no 'classic rapist' and to continue saying there is, leads some persons to believe there is and then they may mistakenly leave themselves vulnerable to a rapist, just because they do not fit the term 'classic rapist'.

A rapist is anyone who has the inclination and the opportunity.

5:23PM PDT on Aug 7, 2014

The term "classic rapist" is not meant to be used in this way. It is used to describe the man waiting in the dark alley, or walking behind you in a hoodie for a few blocks. This is considered to be "the classic rapist", because this is how rapists usually are. This term is not meant to define a rapist. Just because he or she doesn't fit into the "classic" category, doesn't mean that they are not a rapist. It doesn't matter what the circumstances are, as long as you forced someone to have sex with you, you are a rapist.

7:53AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Agree with you Nancy B. Education across the board is required here, so that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, and some form of justice can be seen to be handed down, so let's just get straight the fact that there is no "classic rapist" Any judge that thinks differently, needs a short sharp wake up call!

9:38PM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

This business about a classic rapist is just something our society endorsed so men could escape punishment. It was an opportunity to blame the victim because they flirted with the men, wore provocative clothes, drink too much, were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or dozens of other excuses to justify the rape. It goes back to Adam and Eve, and Eve supposedly seduced Adam so women are temptresses. People forget the serpent was male so let's blame the men for manipulating the women or let's just blame the rapist who refuses to stop when the female says no or the women is too drunk or drugged up to know what is happening. Without consent, it's rape.

7:58PM PDT on Jul 25, 2014

Thanks

4:20AM PDT on Jul 20, 2014

Rapists use the misconceptions and ignorance of people against their victims. When I was 15 I was a victim of systematic sexual abuse and I didn't realise. I was manipulated into thinking I was in love, then I was manipulated into thinking that I wasn't being raped. Despite what people think, the more someone asks you if you're going to report them and the more they tell you the judge would understand that you really seduced them rather than the other way around the more you start to believe it. I was under the impression that even if I was to report him I wouldn't be believed and the more he asked me if I thought he raped me the less I thought it had happened. I left him a bit after turning 16 and it wasn't until I was around 18 that I actually realised what he'd done to me. I still fight often with the idea that I wont be believed if I report him. Rape is having sex without consent or with consent which is coerced in any way (such as with drugs).

11:46AM PDT on Jul 19, 2014

There is no such thing as a "classic rapist" and no such thing as a "classic rape victim". Both come from all walks of life and are virtually impossible to identify just by looking.

1:56AM PDT on Jul 18, 2014

OMG You are so absolutely, positively right! Thank you for this well-written article that puts semantic problems (that in turn so easily lead to thought and logic problems) into sharp focus.

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