rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

A modern tragedy

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Remember when people asked about victims of domestic assault what appeared to be, on the surface, a reasonable question -- "Why didn't she just leave?" More and more people now recognize how fatuous the question is. Not only might there be financial dependency in some cases, or children to consider: There are also complex human dynamics involved. "Maybe it was my fault." "He apologized." "I still love the guy, I don't want him in jail." "He was drunk." "Maybe I just imagined it."

Cognitive dissonance is part of the human condition.

Trying to make sense of it all. Refusing to believe what is unfolding. Reluctant to admit that the past with him has been an illusion. Attempting to avoid the question, "How could I have been so stupid, so mesmerized, so swept away?"

The list goes on, and on, and on.

And yet there are those who would feign surprise that victims of a sexual assault tried to comprehend what had happened, contacted the abuser afterwards, still had feelings for him, couldn’t believe he was really that sort of person.

Those who like to see things in black-and-white nod knowingly. Maybe she's misunderstanding what really took place, days, months, years ago. Maybe she was complicit at the time, but now sees the whole thing through a different lens. Maybe she's just making it up.

A defence lawyer plays on those fashionable doubts. People don't like to recognize human complexity, ambivalence, incomprehension -- except, perhaps, in themselves. They construct simple stories about other people. There are a lot of stories like that about women. They're a species of urban folklore. We've all heard them, and maybe told them, too.

"She said she’d wanted sex with him. Sexual assault? Come on."

"She slept with him, in fact she still does. Now she dredges this up."

"She's a prostitute. How could she be raped?"

"She didn’t come forward until now. Just jumping on the bandwagon."

"She went to that party and got drunk. She was asking for it."

We make excuses, we explain things away. We provide moral alibis. The process of justice is reversed, in the public mind and in a courtroom, each shaped by patriarchy. The victim is put on trial, her self-doubts and uncertainties held to be proof of deceit or error, her life and her experience reduced to salacious media soundbites.

So once again we find ourselves engaged by an ever-appealing narrative. Essential elements of a Greek tragedy are present. The tragic male hero, with hubris aplenty, fallen from his former glory. Sudden reversals (peripetea) to enthrall the audience. A chorus of media pundits and commenters to tell us what we're seeing.

In a culture of misogyny, women cannot be the protagonists. For the media, the story is about a man on trial. He is the centre of the drama. His victims are bit players, trying to drag him down. The chorus sings of their flaws, not of his.

Expect, then, no anagnorisis on his part -- no sudden recognition, no critical self-discovery. This is real life, however dramatized. We're spectators of a tragedy, without a doubt, whose dénouement is fast approaching. But it's a tragedy, I suspect, that will have no catharsis.

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.