Saturday, September 26, 2015

When Good Feminists Do Nothing

Rape is a crime that is continually in the headlines. The story usually follows a familiar pattern - the victim has been awfully mistreated and disbelieved. The rapist is said to have a history of violence. Bystanders have done nothing, and people are daring to say that the victim has made it all up.

With this background, one difficult scenario to contemplate is what changes when the people in the story are those you know personally. Not unknown people that one judges from afar, but people that one has interacted with in real life.

Imagine for the sake of argument, that a female feminist blogger pal was kidnapped and raped. Then, instead of getting the treatment and support she needed, she had to leave a clinic before completing a rape kit. Even though the clinic did next to nothing, she received a bill for $200 for their trouble.

This is about as bad as it gets, right? This is rape culture enforced by the state, as it literally makes the victim pay for their own assault.

What would a concerned, vocal feminist do in this situation?

Here are some ideas:

Start a crowdfunding campaign. The friend is out $200 after being kidnapped and violently assaulted. The least anyone could do is crowdfund for a friend. Crowdfunding is currently used for blog posts, YouTube videos, and lawsuits that did not happen. Surely a crowdfunding campaign could happen for the criminal case that will happen.
Send support. Letting a survivor know they are supported and have allies is free and possibly the easiest thing someone can do
Petition the government for change. Paying for a rape kit is outrageous and victimizes people. 
Signal boost. As it turns out, your friend is brave enough to share her story on her personal blog. This action should be commended and this courage should be shared with the world.

As it turns out, none of this is a hypothetical situation. It all happened about three weeks ago, to Elyse, a former writer at SkepChick that remains one of their most prolific contributors, blogging for six years and possibly being only second in post count to the founder of the website.

Elyse is a person that is well known within secular liberal feminist blogosphere, with people like Amanda Marcotte, Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers and others being mutual followers of her on Twitter. And it isn't that these people follow just anyone - all three of these people follow under 1000 people. Furthermore, it's very likely Elyse has met several of these people in person during events like SkepchickCon.

Elyse is also Facebook friends with the same people - Amanda Marcotte, Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers - basically everyone who has written for Skepchick and Freethought Blogs, but with some notable exceptions. But more on that later.

On September 8th, Elyse wrote the following in a post titled "I thought I retired from getting raped"

I also thought that when I wrote my article about having been raped by 4 different men on 4 different occasions, I had hung up my getting-raped hat. 4 was a good number to just retire on. I didn't need more rapes. I was pretty okay with that being a part of my past.
Now, don't call it a comeback, but I collected my 5th sexual assault last Wednesday. I'm like the fucking Michael Jordan of getting date raped. I swear to god.
I was shaken and confused and not particularly co-operative. I agreed to go to the hospital to get a rape kit done. I was not allowed to have anyone with me in the ambulance or in the emergency room. Not my husband. Not my friend. Not even a victim advocate from a crisis center. I was terrified and alone and I don't know how long I was in the ER, but eventually my anxiety was just too much. I fled the ER. I just stormed out.

The story continues. It is an absolutely harrowing tale. Not only was it told in this blog post, but there was a post-rape selfie in an ambulance posted to Instagram and several conversations on Twitter about that happened. And a copy of the bill for $200 was also shared.

Why is this probably the first one has heard of this? Why isn't this story on the front page of Skepchick, DoubleX. Pandagon or FreethoughtBlogs? Where is the solidarity for a friend?

For several reasons, Elyse is an "imperfect victim":
Elyse is promiscuous. Elyse needed her husband to save her from a date she was on. This explains a lot about her current living arrangements.
Elyse is mentally ill. Elyse is regularly sharing about her medications and her problems with mental health.

Elyse is a drug user. Beyond the prescribed medications, Elyse has a history of drugs and alcohol. Elyse is often seen sharing moments of questionable levels of sobriety. 
Elyse has been charged with assaulting a police officer. On August 8th 2015 Elyse was allegedly found walking intoxicated along a highway. When police officers interrupted her Elyse is said to have kicked and spit on them.  
Rape kits will be free next year. As it turns out, being billed for a rape kit in the State of Illinois will be made illegal on January 1st, 2016. This particular aspect of "rape culture" is a battle that is already over - being mad about it at this point will have absolutely no impact.

There are plenty of reasons to not share Elyse's story. Sharing the story may make this person "hypervisible" and subject to more scrutiny and harassing critics. Sharing the story may further exacerbate her mental health issues. Sharing the story may have some sort of anti-feminist result that can be rationalized.

But there is a simpler reason that Elyse is not the spokesperson leading the charge against rape culture.

Elyse has burned all the bridges with her feminist blogger clique.

Elyse and Skepchick had a brutal parting last year: 

Elyse mocked Rebecca's legal defense fund and was then criticized by Skepchick and FreeThoughtBlogs pundits:

Elyse has spent her time since her assault smashing the products of her former friends:

As it turns out, Elyse has bitten the hand that feeds and damaged her relationship with Rebecca Watson. Elyse has found herself in a smaller band of sisters with a considerably smaller footprint. Elyse presents herself as a victim of trolling, when in reality she spends an incredible amount of time tweeting photos of herself on the toilet and blasting her former friends for not being supportive of her.

It could be that all Elyse's acquaintances are burying her story for her own sake - for the sake of her fragile mental state. That would be understandable... but also something that they do not do for other people as it follows a condescending, erasing logic that they've often railed against. "Listen and believe" is the word of the day, always.

Thus, the simplest explanation is that "feminists" are trying to no-platform a victim simply because this victim might have bad things to say about how supportive they've been in the past. "Feminists" have abandoned their religion for the sake of optics.

Besides, Skepchick has better things to raise money for.

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