Rape apologists need an exercise in empathy. Here’s one

2019-10-08 07:02:31


An Irish that a man who repeatedly raped his ex-girlfriend while she was unconscious should serve no jail time. When the crimes occurred, the woman was taking medication that made her sleep heavily. Magnus Meyer Hustveit was convicted of rape, but has had .

The reason for Justice Patrick McCarthy’s leniency appears to be that Hustveit admitted the extent of his guilt in emails to the victim and in court, and, without these admissions, it would have been impossible to prosecute him. “In truth this case comes here today out of his own mouth,” said McCarthy.

Here’s a catch-22 for you: it’s difficult to retroactively prosecute for rape because of lack of evidence other than the survivor’s own testimony, yet in a case where there is an admission of guilt, the rapist is simply too honest and admirable to sentence.

Last week, when that he drugged women in order to have sex with them came to light, people who had defended Cosby against the testimony of finally conceded that bitches might not be so crazy after all. The writer Marc Lamont Hill observed: “Rape culture = NEEDING Cosby to admit he’s guilty before we believe it. If that’s the standard, almost no one would be guilty of rape.”

In the Irish justice system, it seems, even an admission of guilt isn’t enough for a jail sentence: indication, if any were needed, that in Ireland is due not only to difficulty in acquiring evidence, but also to a callous disregard for the bodily autonomy of survivors and institutionalised protection of male sexual entitlement.

Asked if she thought justice had been done, : “No. And I don’t think anyone could.” I agree. The message to people raped by intimate partners or raped while unconscious is clear: don’t report; don’t prosecute. Even if you’re demonstrably telling the truth, we still won’t offer appropriate punishment. Unless you were raped by a violent stranger down a dark alley, with the bruises to show for it, your rape doesn’t count. (And, even then, what were you doing in the alley?)

In trying to understand rape culture, it helps to think through empathy. If , who do we choose to feel it for? Remember , where the US media continually recited the heartbreaking tale of two young athletes, their promising careers ruined due to a foolish, momentary lapse of judgment in which they dragged an unconscious girl around from party to party and raped her? Those boys were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Surely there is something similar in this judgment. This handsome, intelligent, successful young man tragically admitted to raping his girlfriend while she was unconscious, not realising that she would betray his honesty by actually prosecuting him.

While Irish media have been commendably sensitive in their handling of the case, as public discourse unfolds many of my suspicions about empathy for the rapist are confirmed. Here are some reader comments from two popular Irish news sites:

“I’m confused as to how a woman could sleep through incidences like this and not be aware that something is going on.”

“Is the judge supposed to treat him like a case where a house is broken into and a woman is raped by a stranger holding a knife to her throat?”

“This is the low end of the scale. When was the last time you asked your partner for consent? Never. No one asks for consent when they’re living with a lover. So we must all be rapists then.”

“I genuinely don’t mean to offend anybody; I am not an apologist for gender-based violence. I am simply saying that this guy probably has some kind of pathological sexual disorder […] Maybe he needs medical help and treatment instead of fifty lashes […] Maybe think more compassionately about this.”

Clearly, Ireland’s apologists would benefit from an exercise in empathising with the survivor, not the rapist. So here’s one:

Imagine that you are suffering from an illness and taking medication that knocks you right out. Imagine that you wake up to find semen on your body. You confront your partner; he admits he had sex with you while you slept. You tell him that this is not OK. A few weeks later, you awake to the feeling that you have been penetrated. Your partner is masturbating and watching porn beside you. He admits to violating you again. Later he reveals that he does it often. The relationship ends.

The extent of his breach of trust makes you feel unsafe all the time: you begin to understand that what happened was rape. You write to your ex-partner to ask him to explain himself. He tells you that he “used your body for [his] gratification” for almost a year. He tells you that he raped you up to 10 times while you were unconscious. By the time you bring him to court, you are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. You have nightmares. You have attempted suicide twice. Your rapist walks free.