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Rape is Rape: How Denial, Distortion, and Victim Blaming are Fueling a Hidden Acquaintance Rape Crisis by Jody Raphael is a powerful account of the ways in which rape deniers reject the impact of and commonality of acquaintance rape, often solely viewing the issue as "bad sex", an alcohol fueled mishap, or simply as rough, yet consented intercourse. Those who deny that acquaintance rape is a serious, or even common issue, use various strategies to deny the crisis. Blaming the victim is one of those strategies. This is done by stating that the victim should have never gone to the offenders home, that she consumed alcohol, that she dressed provocatively, that rape is a by-product of women's increased sexual freedom and so on. By blaming the victim, the burden of proof also falls on the victim, more so than on the offender. Instead of the offender providing his guilt, the focus falls on the victim who often has to deal with allegations that she is somehow responsible for the situation, or that she could, through her own actions have avoided the rape. Another strategy used by rape deniers is to simply deny the data and numbers available. This strategy ties closely into distortion, in which deniers also reject and distort the data available to fit their own agenda and beliefs concerning rape. For example, Raphael describes how many rape deniers use data that is skewed, or that does not fully describe or analyze incidents of acquaintance rape. At the same time, some rape deniers find their own numbers, stating that about 50 percent, or half of all rape claims are false. Raphael provides sound data that puts false allegations between two to eight percent. According to Raphael, there is little doubt about acquaintance rape prevalence: "Despite attempts to discredit or distort the data, the fact is there can be no possibility of disagreement about rape prevalence in the United States. Assertions to the contrary are either uninformed or deliberately calculated to shake public confidence in social-science research and rape research in particular" (p. 83).
Denying the prevalence of acquaintance rapes takes on various forms, from blaming the victim to denying and distorting the facts and research. But, it is not only individual groups or people who seem to have an agenda that employs these strategies. Raphael depicts how media, various organizations, such as schools, college campuses, churches, even the police and the justice system often show indifference to the suffering of victims. In chapter eight "Denials Effects" Raphael depicts how indifference by individuals and organizations, the use of language to minimize the event, disbelief and punishing the victim fuels the denials of acquaintance rape cases and causes further harm and injury to the victims. In chapter ten "A world without rape denials", Raphael provides the reader with tangible ways in which the denial of acquaintance rape could be challenged, by focusing on the same institutions and personal beliefs of people that fuel ongoing denial and victim blaming.
It should be noted that Raphael uses vivid and very descriptive accounts in which women tell their stories about acquaintance rape. These accounts are powerful and they all show elements of a culture in which acquaintance rapes are not taken seriously. As instrumental as these accounts are for the readers they can also be triggering to women (and men) who are the victims of sexual abuse or acquaintance rape, and readers should note that these accounts could be triggering. Therefore, it could be convenient if the book comes with a trigger warning in the beginning so that readers know that certain elements of the book may be difficult to read. Despite the fact that some readers could potentially find the book triggering Rape is Rape is an easy and interesting read. It focuses on the core issues of acquaintance rape and the ways in which rape deniers try to undercut and change the facts. Rape is Rape provides a sound and interesting side of the acquaintance rape debate, making it rather apparent that as Raphael notes, there is an acquaintance rape crisis. The intended audience is certainly those who have been impacted by acquaintance rape, but the book can also be used in the classroom in Gender studies, Women's studies, Sociology, Psychology and Criminal Justice among other disciplines.
© 2014 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.
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