CW: Rape, Sexual Assault, Male Violence Against Women
Before you read this, please note that I will not engage with any whataboutery, or cries of ‘Notallmen’.
Research into the type of men who rape women has focused on asking men who are taking part in anti-recidivism courses, men in prison, and men who have accepted that they are guilty of rape. These are the exception, not the norm. Men who abuse women and children are crafty. They are devious. They are manipulative. They are not monsters. They hide in plain sight and they convince decent, normal, average, folks that they are ‘good guys’. As we have seen so often, it is not unusual for them to be well-known, and well respected, members of their communities. They ingratiate themselves into elements of society, and carefully hide the less savoury elements of their personalities. Then, when allegations of abuse are made against them, they have an army of defenders who are willing to say ‘he was always very good to me’ / ‘but he’s on the board of the local school’ / ‘he’s a great GAA man’ etc. etc.
Then, there’s the false sense of security that Garda vetting provides. Garda vetting doesn’t weed out predators, it doesn’t give any indication of who is, and isn’t a rapist. Garda vetting just tells us who has a criminal record. Do you see the problem here? You could be a serial rapist, but because you have never been found guilty in a court of law, your vetting disclosure will not reveal how dangerous you are.
The basic lack of understanding of trauma, how it impacts people, how memory is not linear, how memories reveal themselves, how prevailing culture silences women – all these elements of society conspire to silence victims. Sometimes for decades, sometimes forever.
Talking to the men who are happy to talk to researchers; talking to the men who got caught; talking to the men who are aware of, admit to, and have remorse for, raping women; is talking to an extreme minority of rapists. We won’t learn enough from them to understand what a rapist is like, their motivations, their manipulative ways, their lack of empathy for their victims, their lack of concern for the long-term, often life-limiting, effects that their abuse has on their victims.
If you want to know what a rapist looks like – ask their victims. We’ll tell you. In return, though, you need to listen. You must be prepared to accept uncomfortable truths; to reject your pre-conceived notions; to have the humility to accept that you have been wrong, that you have been duped.
Abusers do not stop abusing, rather they must be stopped and perpetuating the myths that men who abuse are a minority, and that men who abuse are monsters, won’t stop any of them.