The February 22, 1984, Awake magazine, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, had some very disturbing and controversial counsel to women about rape. It included the following, under the subheading, “Treat Him Respectfully”:
The intended victim should remember that the rapist is a human. No doubt there are circumstances in his life that have precipitated his behavior. So although a woman should not cower in fear and permit a rapist to intimidate her, at the same time she should treat him understandingly, as a fellow human.
Often, when Jehovah’s Witnesses give counsel like this, they include an experience that they think backs up their words. Whether or not these stories are real is questionable, but consider an experience the article relates right after the words quoted above.
First, note the story in its entirety:
Let’s establish that this story was about a man of color, since, in the last paragraph, he refers to the writer as a “white woman.”
I don’t mean to assume, but he said his family was from the South, and there is a large black population from the southern part of the United States. However, even if he wasn’t black, the point is, we can be pretty sure that he was a man of color; if he was white, he wouldn’t have mentioned that the woman was also white.
Assuming He’s a Rapist
What I find most interesting is that this woman assumed he was a rapist, or at the very least, the writers of this magazine made that assumption, since they included the story in an article about rape. Note, however, that the man never made any attempt to rape this woman! Consider what actually happened, according to her account.
First the woman says he threw a six pack of beer at her. That’s rude and obnoxious, but does that make him a rapist?
Second, it was mentioned that he turned around to “do something” with his pants, but the woman never noticed exactly what he did. Who’s to say that he didn’t realize his zipper was open, or maybe he had an itch? I’m not a fan of men who “fiddle” with their pants, but he did turn his back to her, so perhaps he was just taking care of some personal business and was trying to be polite about it. We honestly don’t know what he was doing, do we?
The last part of the story says that he shook the woman’s hand and said he appreciated that she didn’t look at him with scorn. Would a rapist really shake the hand of his intended victim, and wish her well with her bible study? I doubt such a violent and vile man would change his mind about his intentions in the time it takes to ride an elevator 13 floors.
The account tells us what this man did and what this woman said, but if he was actually a rapist, note that there are a few things missing from the story. The man never made any moves toward the woman, or tried to physically intimidate her in any way; when he got on the elevator, he didn’t stand over her, move in close to her, or force her into a corner.
The man may have thrown his beer at her, but he obviously didn’t do it as a way to knock her off her feet, as she caught the beer and was able to toss it back to him. He also didn’t reach over and try to stop the elevator by using the emergency button, something I would expect a rapist to do.
While he “did something” with his pants, he didn’t drop his trousers in front of her and stand there with his penis out. It’s also worth noting that, typically, a rapist will subdue a victim before they remove their pants or undo their zipper, since it can be harder to fight with a victim or wrestle her to the ground if your pants are around your own ankles!
Whatever the case, the bottom line is that this man made no attempts to rape, assault, threaten, or otherwise intimidate this woman, and did nothing more than throw a six pack of beer at her. Yet, she made the assumption that this man was a rapist simply because he was rude and “did something” with his pants.
The writers of this magazine agreed with this assumption, and included her story in their article.
Using It To Bolster Their Own Words
Assuming that a man of color who is obnoxious and rude is automatically a rapist is bad enough, but notice how the writers of the Awake magazine used this experience to bolster their counsel about “respecting” and “understanding” a rapist.
This woman took command of an uncomfortable situation by talking about the bible, yes, but because she wasn’t raped that night, apparently there is a connection, much like how using an smart phone will keep you from being eaten alive by dogs. Do you have a smart phone? Have you ever been eaten alive by dogs? I rest my case.
I think it’s a good idea to give strangers some space, and to try to avoid dangerous situations by not looking like a scared victim and by taking control of those situations when possible. However, I don’t think it’s a good idea to assume that all rude men are rapists, and to assume that you averted a rape by talking about the bible simply because you weren’t raped that night. This specious reasoning is faulty enough, but when an element of racism is added to it, I would say it’s downright disgusting.
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