(Trigger warning: sexual violance. Also, this post is not some sort of admission or call for help in disguise, it just is what it is.)
I had a very strange dream last night.
I was reading the paper, when I came across and article describing how a group of Icelandic activists had published a list of well known but unpunished Icelandic rapists. I recognized names on the list. I recognized my own name on the list.
Bjarni Rúnar Einarsson.
I woke up.
This dream was not entirely unexpected, these topics have been on my mind a bit lately.
On the one hand, the topic has been very visible in the Icelandic media of late. This is largely because the controversial "comedian" Egill Einarsson, best known for his chauvinistic persona, Gillzenegger, was very publicly accused of raping a young woman. He has vigorously contested this charge in public statements, blog posts, and a fair number of lawsuits against people he accused of slander (including the young woman). I do not presume to know whether he is innocent or guilty, but I am less than impressed by his behavior.
At the same time, during the past few months many wonderful women have told me their own personal stories of being assaulted. Too many. This saddens me and I find it frankly baffling how many guys do this sort of thing. I think many men, young and old, just do not comprehend how long it can take a person to recover and put his or her life back together after being hurt in this way.
So it is safe to say, the topic been on my mind. Apparently my subconcious decided to ask the question: what would I do if I was accused of raping someone?
When I have discussed this with people, the first reaction is usually "well, you are innocent right? So you deny it." Then people start to get strategic about how best to deny the allegations... how to keep the situation from escalating and destroying one's reputation.
It is a natural reaction, very understandable. But it is also rather selfish, a defensive reaction motivated by fear.
I think it is the wrong approach. Which is not to say that I think everyone accused is guilty or that people should admit to things they didn't do. It just seems like a better reaction would be to humbly ask: why? What am I actually being accused of? Why is the accuser upset? What can be done to make whatever is wrong, right?
Human interactions, relationships and sex are really personal and complex. Sure, sometimes people just lie and there's not much that can or should be done about that. But there is also a huge amount of scope for misunderstandings in bed, mistakes and plain old disregard for others' feelings. I've never met anyone outside the BDSM community who used safe words, most people are awkward discussing sex and boundaries and lots of people are crap at empathizing and reading body language. Accidents happen. Usually people brush them off as such and get on with their lives. But what if they don't?
If someone claims to have been hurt, then responding with kindness and listening to what they have to say is not the same as admitting to a crime. It's just the right thing to do, even if you are convinced of your own innocence - and doubly so if you are unsure or even know you did something wrong.
So I would like to hope that my reaction to the weird scenario in my dream would be something like this:
"I don't know why I am being accused. But I would like to understand. And if I have wronged that person in some way, I would like to see what I can do to make it right."
Maybe I am just naive, but this seems like a reasonable reaction. Following through will be scary, but it's the right thing to do.
I think deep down, we all know this. Which is why we have a hard time believing people like Egill that take a hard line, deny everything and fight every step of the way. In doing so they are showing the kind of callous disregard for others' feelings that completely destroys any credibility they might otherwise have had.