Attention George Will, this is what #SurvivorPrivilege really looks like
Over at the Washington Post, a supremely out of touch article by conservative columnist George F. Will makes the infuriating claim that victims of sexual assault enjoy “a coveted status that confers privileges.” His logic suggests that because of a supposed liberal plot to bestow some sort of benefit on rape survivors “victims proliferate.”
Of all the tone-deaf rape-denying arguments we’ve heard, this one might take the cake.
When I was in college, one semester my room mate was a teeny little girl from India who was 17. She’d lived with someone else the first semester that year, but requested a room change and moved in with me. She was AWESOME, hilarious, a lot of fun, and the reason she’d switched rooms was because her previous room mate, and room mate’s friends, were really racist to her and also previous room mate was having a LOT of sex and constantly locking her out or having loud sex at 2am with her in the room. Our dorms were set up as a single room that two people shared, bathrooms down the hall. The rooms were so small you could sit in one bed and reach out and touch the other, no matter where it was in the room. No privacy. It was’nt just a person having sex, it was a person having sex at another person in a way that was disruptive and insulting.
So, my room mate switched rooms when no other interventions worked, and we got along really well. But one of her former room mate’s friends continued following her around asking intrusive questions about her, about India, about food, about clothing, about bathing, really personal stuff. It culminated with him pinning her against the wall of an elevator with his ass, rubbing against her, as she pushed against him and struggled to get away. He was rubbing her all over, laughing, and was over a foot taller than her. Someone else in the elevator finally told him that what he was doing wasn’t cool and he got off her. She was so affected by this that she wasn’t able to ride in elevators for a while unless someone she knew and trusted was with her, because she was afraid another huge dude would pin her against a wall and rub up against her. She also had nightmares from it, and the guy continued following her around. She was constantly changing up her route to classes etc, switching up when she ate, all that, just to avoid him.
She wound up filing a formal complaint with the university, who dismissed it because he was gosh just a REALLY NICE GUY from a small town, there’s NO WAY he could POSSIBLY have known that following a gal around asking intrusive questions and pinning her to a wall with her ass as she pushed him away begging him to let her go was WRONG! Gossssssh! Why didn’t she SAY anything????? Since I was a part of the proceedings (I testified about her nightmares and sudden fear of elevators), and he knew it, he started following ME around. I’d look up from eating in the cafeteria and he’d be sitting in a chair pulled away from a table so he was pointed right at me, arms crossed, staring at me. This happened several times.
And, y’know, there’s no rule against sitting in the cafeteria staring at someone with your arms folded, but it was obviously an attempt to intimidate and threaten me for daring to take her side against him. I was very careful not to get into an elevator, stairwell, etc with him.
This is what “survivor privilege” is: it’s not being taken seriously. It’s having to continue working/studying/living with someone who harassed you. It’s a serial harasser/rapist being free to go on and target multiple people because when women complain about harassment it’s not taken seriously. It’s having to live with the effect of your harassment and knowing that if you complain your harasser will know and likely escalate. It’s harassers being accorded greater protection than victims… as with the convicted sex offender who moved into the dorms and nobody was told until after he broke into 2 different dorm rooms and masturbated onto women sleeping in their beds, because telling people (women, his preferred targets) that a convicted sex offender was moving in might make people be MEAN TO HIM and he’d SERVED HIS TIME gosh he was a NEW MAN who’d PAID HIS DEBTS TO SOCIETY… and then proceeded to do exactly what he was arrested for, but this time without facing jail time because students affected by him called university police and not Chicago cops so nothing happened.