As always, trigger warning is in effect.
If you guys haven’t seen the Predator Theory post over at Feministe yet, really, go check it out. Thomas breaks down some great new research that confirms what survivors have long known through repeat observations: rapists develop a preferred modus operandi; successful rapists’ modus operandi involves selecting victims and opportunities that maximize victim-blaming; successful rapists are repeat rapists; stranger rapists use alcohol or drugs; acquaintance rapists (the vast majority) are the only ones using force, because using force as a stranger rapist means you are likely to become an unsuccessful — and thus incarcerated — rapist, while using force as an acquaintance means you are likely to become a “misunderstanding” and “he wouldn’t do that, I know him.”
So we don’t all want to rip our eyes out and go live underground, this does offer good news, thoug it’s good news most of us have already known and have been trying to scream from the rooftops: serial rapists operate with identifiable patterns that can be witnessed and interrupted. Those identifiable patterns take full advantage of misogyny, victim-blaming, and misperceptions about what abuse is and whether or not it’s actionable. In other words, the guy who says “she’s a dumb slut who probably liked it, so what does she expect” means it, and statistics will back up your gut. That doesn’t sound good. I guess it’s good and depressing news. You can identify rapists, is the good news, and it’s exactly who you thought it was is the depressing.
Thomas finishes his post with something I think is really important. Predator theory really breaks down to bystander theory: until the criminal justice system recognizes the consistent pattern of grooming and abuse rapists utilize as criminal and actionable, we can’t remove predators from the general population. What we can do is stop giving them a license to rape around us, using those we know and love as victims. We can do that by recognizing their pattern for what it is — not a misunderstanding, not a drunken night, not a thing Nigel just spouts off about women sometimes but otherwise he’s okay, not a helpful action totally misinterpreted by crazy ladeez (I was just trying to walk her home!), not a joke — and making it clear that we consider those things repugnant, unacceptable, and socially actionable. In other words, making it clear to the potential rapist that his big bag of victim-blaming tools don’t work around you.
This research shows that rapists aren’t just testing the boundaries of their victims, but they’re testing the boundaries of the entire social group and support structure that surrounds the victim. A potential rapist might find a potential victim who does not respond well to his attempts to invade her boundaries and otherwise wouldn’t be a good target, but if that potential victim is surrounded by friends that laugh at rape jokes, don’t speak up when the potential rapist goes on sexist screeds, and doesn’t offer support when the potential victim says that guy is really creeping her out, that potential rapist (or serial rapist) is going to make an accurate assumption that when he rapes your friend, you won’t help her prosecute. You probably won’t even believe her, which — good news for the rapist! — means he can rape all your other friends now, too, before moving on to a new social circle.
To make it more clear, any time you have ever said or believed or made clear through action that you think women who are drunk/slutty/undressed/stupid/have been raped before/have daddy issues/don’t walk around with a tattooed no on their heads/married/young/sexy/pretty/unvirgin/did not lock their doors/did not scream/do not call the police/do not physically fight back/do not weep and gnash their teeth afterwards may have contributed in some small or large way to their rapes, remember that you are not talking about some theoretical woman, out there: you are talking about every female friend and family member you have. Because a rapist is going to hear you say those things, see you believe them, and that rapist is going to make a (likely correct) guess that he has free reign to rape every woman you know, possibly a few times, without risking anything — certainly not arrest or prosecution, not even the cold shoulder from you.