Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why Men Just Shouldn't Post About the Rape of Women

Simon P. Green, a paramedic with American Medical Response in Portland, responded to a call from a rape survivor. He treated her and took her to the hospital, talking to her about the assault on the way. He then decided to post about it on his MySpace page, providing details just vague enough to not break any laws, but still detailed enough to allow reporters to find the woman and to potentially impede the police investigation.

The survivor, "Jane Doe," has filed a law suit against Simon Green and American Medical Response for violating her privacy. According to the lawsuit, Green posted details about the attack, including the approximate location of the attack (which took place in the survivor's apartment), what Jane Doe said about the knife-wielding attacker, and a description of the attacker. The post, written 2 weeks after the incident, "led TV reporters to her door, prompted neighborhood reconnaissance and may have impeded the police investigation."

As someone who works daily with survivors of domestic and sexual violence, I've debated the merits of posting anything about the stories I've come across. I've debated this with myself and with colleagues. I would never post details (even vague details) about a survivor, or even an abuser. But I've thought about writing about some of the situations I've run across, by changing some of the details and/or writing vaguely enough that even the survivor herself probably wouldn't know for sure if I was talking about her. I haven't done it yet, because I haven't really come to a clear conclusion about the ethics of it in my own head. But I've known colleagues who have written about their experiences with clients, residents, and survivors on their blogs. And I do think it can be both cathartic for the writer and enlightening/educational for the reader. So, yes, I do understand why someone would want to post about this sort of thing. But, IMO, there are limits.

According to Green, he didn't post this to share a vicarious trauma he experienced. He didn't post this because he learned something valuable from the experience. No, he posted this to "'get the word out' so other women would have an opportunity to protect themselves." How paternalistic of him. But his ignorance and appalling lack of understanding doesn't end there.
On his MySpace site he suggested victims should fight off attackers if confronted by a knife or carry a gun.

"My advice: fight. It's only a knife, and any rapist is a coward who will probably turn tail at any resistance," his posting read.
It's only a knife. Seriously? And what exactly, Mr. Green, is your experience with rapists that you can be so "knowledgeable" as to know what the best response for a rape victim should be? And where do you get off, Mr. Green, espousing what a rape victim should do?

Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz summed it up best:

There's no crime in what this guy did, it's just morally reprehensible.

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