Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book Review: Rape Is Rape

Below is a book review by Judith Ierulli, LCSW of the book "Rape Is Rape: How Denial, Distortion and Victim Blaming Are Fueling a Hidden Acquaintance Rape Crisis" by Jody Raphael, JD and published by Lawrence Hill Books in 2013. The book review was initially published here

In the powerful new book, Rape Is Rape: How Denial, Distortion and Victim Blaming Are Fueling a Hidden Acquaintance Rape Crisis, Jody Raphael takes a balanced but unflinching look at the media, the public, rape deniers, and how they support the behavior of rapist, impact victims, and judicial outcomes. She also makes room for the voice of the survivor as they try to make meaning of the unthinkable. Their changed lives after the assaults include: giving voice to their confusion and shame, the impact of others as they disclose the rape, reactions from friends, family, and the hospital, rape evidence collection, the media, police intervention (if they are able to have charges filed), and the court system.
The understanding of rape in our society is colored by how we understand sexual violence, its prevalence, and who rapes. Is it rape if you were drunk or high, if you were asleep, if you didn’t fight hard enough to leave bruises or physical evidence of trauma? Is it rape if you went willing into a room, car, or a party dressed in a way that can be deemed sexually provocative? In 80% of reported rape cases the victim knows the perpetrator. Raphael’s book examines the arguments of what is “real” rape versus what is bad sex or alcohol-fueled miscommunication. The answer should be that rape is rape.
“If you think about rape, it is the taking away of an ability to express love. It shatters the way you connect to everyone. It involves where your core intimacy lies and your love, and when that is involved, it shatters the way you connect to every human being,” said one of the rape survivors in the book on the way the experience affected her.
The latest study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that 12.3% of American women over 18—more than 14 million women—state that they have been forcibly penetrated within their lifetime. There have been 620,000 women raped within the last twelve months. This number does not include men and children under the age of 18, but think of what the number would be if it did. This book looks at how entrenched beliefs from both sides of the argument impact how we as a society deal with far-reaching effects of sexual violence. The collusion to minimize acquaintance rape from feminist and conservatives voices distorts the cultural understanding of what is rape. Is it really a price of women’s sexual freedom or a result of women’s promiscuity?
In her book Raphael explores rape deniers perpetuating the dangerous indifference that can deeply affect institutions: police, church, and educators. Looking closely at the rape statistics collected, examining their methodology and distortions of statistics, she reveals how by using incorrect or incomplete data, supporters of survivors of sexual violence can do damage to the very cause they are trying to support. Data has been misconstrued and twisted by those who want to minimize or flat-out reject the findings, using outdated information or studies that are just plain wrong.
Raphael effectively give us current context by looking at high-profile examples of rape cases to understand how strong and pervasive the distortions are—from Julian Assange, Todd Akin, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Kobe Bryant, and the armed forces. What gets lost in the debate is that rape is not about sex; it is about power, violence, control, and the utter humiliation of the victim.
In her book, Raphael states, “Rape is probably the only offense in which a suspect can successfully defend himself by claiming that the victim consented to the crime, which causes the police to intensely scrutinize the believability of the injured party’s description of events.” 
She ends her well-written book with hope and a guide to steps that we as a community and country can do create a world without rape denial. This is a powerful, moving, extremely well-researched work that brings a focused light to a complex issue. She ends with, “There is only truth. And we all must tell the truth. Denying rape makes society unsafe for women and allows predators to go free. Rape is rape.”

Judith Ierulli, LCSW

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