When Rapists are Heroes

Audrie Pott of Saratoga, CA

Audrie Pott of Saratoga, CA

A boy from a Pakistani tribal region was accused of a crime. In retribution, the local Council sentenced his sister to be gang raped. As though these rapists would be the heroes of justice.

As Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times:

As members of the high status tribe danced in joy, four men stripped her naked and took turns raping her. Then they forced her to walk home naked in front of 300 villagers.

Her next duty was clear: commit suicide to rid herself and her family of the stigma of being raped.

But instead, she accused her attackers, propounding the shocking notion that shame lies in raping, rather than in being raped.

When I tell this story my students are shocked. Of course the shame lies in raping.

But right here in America too many think otherwise.

A bevy of reports have been telling the same story: young high school men sexually assault a young woman, take pictures and share them to brag about their conquest as she is belittled and blamed. Rape is something to brag about. Rape makes the young men heroes.

That’s what happened to 15-year-old Audrie Pott of Saratoga, California who was gang raped not too far from my home. After passing out from drinking at a party she woke up to find that her body was covered with humiliating messages scribbled in black magic marker:

She woke up with her shorts off and arrows, circles and nasty comments scrawled on her body. The left side of her face was colored black.

Arrows pointed to her genitals. Scribbles on her breast proclaimed, “(blank) was here.”

One suspect told investigators that he thought it was funny to draw all over her.

She later heard rumors that football players had sexually assaulted her and taken pictures, which they shared with friends and most of the football team. She had seen students at her high school crowding around the cell phone of one of the boys.

Eight days later Audrie hung herself in her bathroom. A note she left read:

My life is ruined. I can’t do anything to fix it. I just want this to go away. My life is over. The people I thought I could trust f-ed me over and then tried to lie to cover it up. I have a reputation for a night I don’t even remember and the whole school knows.

Rapists are heroes and a victim takes her life. Sounds a lot like tribal Pakistan.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 19, 2013, in feminism, men, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 45 Comments.

  1. What a horrible, horrible story. Sometimes people scare the crap out of me.

  2. Oh, good Lord. What we do. What we allow. Our poor young women.

  3. I am always sad when reading that kind of stories…

  4. Oh, I am stealing your title–will link back.

  5. Do your students typically conclude that it’s a lot like tribal Pakistan, or do they protest?

    • I have always read them this story for a purpose other than the one I discuss in this blog post — I’ve read it for discussion of moral relativity versus cultural relativity. For the record, I believe that almost all the time we should align with cultural relativity, but there are exceptions as when harm is being done.

      I only made the connection after reading all of these reports, so I have yet to discuss the question with them.

  6. too bad …. tragic incidences…
    everyday there are news of “brutal” rapes in my country India… I dont know whats wrong with people here. But its shame to mankind. :(

    • I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the mindset that lets rapists go free, forces women to marry their rapist, blames the victims and sometimes even makes the rapists heroes.

      • 1. is harsh punishments solution for this?
        2. what should be done if talking about sex in public is kind of taboo?

      • 1. The whole community needs to be educated and sensitized so that guys don’t have an incentive to appear as heroes — they will be shamed instead of celebrated.

        2. We need to move sex out of taboo and talk about sex more and make a distinction between sex and rape. As I’ve said before, it ain’t sex unless everyone’s enjoying it.

  7. Reblogged this on Loss For Words and commented:
    Another tragic story where a rape victim is nothing more than a worthless heap of flesh and her rapists are legendary and important.

  8. G*d that’s sad! I don’t understand some “humans” at all. Non-human animals act better than these low life gang rapists. We humans think we’re so clever and noble but you don’t see chimps raping other chimps (as far as I know). There were two cases similar to the case you mentioned in California that took place in my country. A British Columbia teen and Nova Scotia teen both committed suicide after being sexually assaulted/raped and their photos being shared on social media. Really it’s so sick. The cases here in Canada have not found justice for the victims yet. I am hoping that the law will prosecute those involved in the rapes.

  9. Children need to brought up to respect each other, whether male or female, and then when they are grown up, they would never in a million years feel it is ‘ok’ to have sex with someone who didn’t want it. It’s meant to be a special thing – what must a rapist be thinking as he/she is having sex with someone who is crying and struggling and in physical and mental pain?

    Victims should never feel ashamed, but they have been violated, so they sadly probably always will feel shame, no matter how many people tell them otherwise.

  10. Thanks. Sad. No more words.

  11. Katie (Katherine) Rupel

    Stories like these absolutely tear me apart, but I am glad when they are shared– I feel if more people speak out about situations like this, we can achieve a higher level of awareness about how to combat violence against women. I think the sickest part is that these kids thought it would be okay to perpetuate this kind of violence… This attitude must end. My thoughts go out to her family. Rest in peace Audrie.

  12. I thought you might be interested. More of the cultural matrix of violence against women:

    http://clownonfire.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/misogyny/

    Alice

  13. Reblogged this on her and commented:
    Sad :(

  14. Ashonti Hunter

    This story is pretty sad. I knew that in some parts of the United States there would be people who shared beliefs of people from the old times and more radical parts of the middle east, but I never thought that in california, let alone in the bay area, that people would find this acceptable. ESPECIALLY high school kids. Usually when I am at a party with my friends or people I went to/ go to school with, if someone passes out we just take a bunch of pictures with them and post them on facebook so we can laugh about it later. Raping someone who passed out never even seemed like a good idea, and everybody would probably just make you leave for suggesting that. It is really sad that this happened to that girl, and it’s sad that she killed herself.

  15. It absolutely sickens me to the core that in this day and age women are still blamed for being raped. When will society realize that instead of blaming and harassing victims that we need to come together as a community and help the victim (man or woman) realize that this is not their fault? Rape is never the victims fault however it seems like they feel the most shame when it is really the abusers that should feel the blame. The football players from this high school and the one in Ohio should instead of allowing others take the blame, step forward and come clean about what they did and they should be ashamed. I always find myself asking how would the attackers feel if the same situation happened to their mom or sister?

  16. This story is so sad!! It is amazing how some people think now a days! It is very sad to know that their is men out in the world who think that rapping some one if funny and that they have to show their friends and everyone else what they have done to make themselves feel good. People who do this and the people who sit there and watch the photos or videos of them rapping women should be ashamed of themselves because they are bein part of it as well eventhough they did not rape the person but by not saying anything about it or reporting them!

  17. Taylor Thompson

    This is very interesting. Many times whenever I hear about a rape in the news or from some other source, the blame is almost always on the rapist and the shame does seem to lie on the victim. Rape is a sensitive subject, and it’s sad to think that victims like Audrie Pott feel ashamed of themselves and the people that did that to her found it amusing. It is also sad to think that there are some people out there that believe if you dress or act a certain way, you were “asking to be raped.” In those cases, the shame definitely lies on the victim and the blame as well. Does this mean that every victim dressed or acted a certain way to become a victim?

  18. It is very sad to hear that she was raped while she was unconscious. And on top it her body was scribbled with shameful comments – hints of male dominance? It does not end there – sharing of her nude pictures and making fun of her indicates deep physiological issues. This was a time when the victim needed most support from the society, but unfortunately was harassed from them. It was this harassment that was more painful, more insulting than the actual act of rape. Outlook of society should definitely be educated and changed – rape victim should be treated as humans and not objects of ridicule.

  19. What a tragedy. Women must know how to protect themselves and keep away from some dangerous places. You never know that some people are that sick!

  20. It’s so unfair! Why the woman should be the one who feels gulity? It’s so sad that women get hurt by surroundings after that tragedy happened. She is hurt physically by the man who raped her and hurt mentally by the people around her who blamed her being raped. I heard similar thing in Korea. Women in Korea use public transportation are sometimes sexually harassed on the train while they are standing, such as touching their ass or putting their penis close to them from the back. However, the woman who is sexually harassed usually doesn’t want to go to the police or even say “Don’t “, because they think it’s embarassing. They don’t want to be known that they are sexually harassed.

  21. Myles Blackwell

    I actually teared up when reading this story. It’s appalling that things like this happen. I imagine they happen much more than we think they do. I hope that rape education can continue to grow and be more thorough. One thing I thought this post could use is a perspective from a male rape victim, which is less likely, but does happen nonetheless. It wouldn’t blame exclusively men for these crimes, which I felt a little while reading, but the individuals responsible. A very good post though.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Certainly not all men are rapists.

      Regarding your suggestion, I haven’t heard stories about males being raped and then guys bragging about raping them. It might happen and I just haven’t heard about it.

      I am more concerned about a culture that makes rapists into heroes. And unfortunately sometimes even women back a rapist over a victim. I’ve written about that before too.

  22. Very sad. Thank you for this post.

  23. It’s really so sickening to read stories like this, and is so heartbreaking. It makes me curious to think what was going through these guys minds when they were committing this assault, or how they even thought it was anywhere near acceptable to do this. It makes me angry to think that rapists are proud when they should be embarrassed and ashamed.

  24. Samantha Morales

    This is such a sad and tragic story. How can people be like this? The poor girl was humiliated and raped by a couple of low life boys who think that it’s funny to take pictures of this girl after they rape her and wrote all over her. I can not believe that people would actually make fun of her because of what they did while she was passed out. It’s so sad that she couldn’t find another way out without committing suicide to overcome the humiliation. What has the world come to if these boys are bragging about what they did while she suffered because of what those boys did to her.

  25. What is the matter with society that accepts and even rejoices is this type of violent act against woman. I can’t imagine what is going through their heads when they are raping a woman, someone’s daughter, mother, sister, or friend. We often dismiss these types of stories when they happen in a foreign country and this is not okay. Yes it is a different culture, but it is morally wrong. Many Americans feel better because in America woman have more rights. Yes woman do have more rights than many other parts of the world, but that doesn’t mean our job is done. Take the horrific story of Audrie Potts, who remember was only 15 years old. Not only did her rapist brag about their attack and find humor in it, but she felt that committing suicide was the only option she had. Talking about how this happens hopefully will let woman know they can speak up. I have heard too many times,” Well she put herself in that position what did she expect would happen?” Maybe she thought woman were seen as people not objects. That we lived in a society of humans not animals? The boys who did this seemed like everyday kids. Is our society desensitizing children so much that the act of rape is funny? Or are they so used to seeing images of violence against woman that they think it is their right? Or is the woman body so sexualized that they think it is acceptable? The problem is that these issues cannot just be blamed on a few people. Watch and don’t even speak out. I know hearing these stories leaves most of us at a loss of words, but someone has to speak out. Thank you for sharing this story for the woman who have been afraid or lost their lives because they couldn’t speak out deserve it they need to be heard.

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