[T]he auditing and ranking of survivors of sexual violence and/or the auditing and ranking of various acts of sexual violence itself IS RAPE APOLOGIA. The intent of the person engaging in it is irrelevant: Auditing and ranking survivors and acts of sexual violence functions to suggest that some acts of sexual violence are tolerable, and, further, that if a survivor of the “not as bad” sort of sexual violence has lasting psychic injury from that trauma, they are “overreacting.” Accusing survivors of abuse of being attention-seeking, melodramatic, lying is a centerpiece of silencing victims.
For many survivors of sexual abuse, lasting trauma is defined not by the actual acts, not by their quality or quantity, but by the support they receive following the abuse. Dawkins notes that, as soon as he got away from his abuser, “I ran to tell my friends, many of whom had had the same experience with him.” He may not recognize that as a crucial point in his not suffering lasting harm, but the fact that he immediately found support among peers who validated his experience, who neither shamed him nor called him a liar, and the fact that, years later, they would still speak to one another about the abuse after the abuser died, is an invaluable resource to a survivor, which many of us do not have.
To the contrary, many survivors of sexual abuse are silenced and neglected and shamed by the very people who are meant to support and protect us.
The profound feelings of unsafety engendered by being failed in this way after surviving sexual violence is, for a number of survivors, equally or even more traumatic than the abuse itself.
Sexual violence does not exist as a series of unrelated abuses that act in competition with one another for attention and concern, but as a spectrum of abuse on which exists both women being creeped on in elevators by strangers and rapes so brutal their victims do not survive.
The implication that there are survivors of sexual violence who have no reason or right to “complain” as long as there are survivors who have experienced something “worse” somewhere in the world not only elides that post-abuse support profoundly affects trauma prognoses, but also creates a justification for ignoring all but only the “worst” manifestations of sexual violence, which necessarily means neglecting survivors in a way that makes them vulnerable to further trauma.
"Rape ranking" is not a neutral position: It is active rape apologia that harms survivors and abets predators.”
— Melissa McEwan, “Dawkins Defends Himself with More Rape Apologia”
The whole piece is worth a read, but excerpted here to highlight that:
1. The kind of support people receive (or fail to receive) after a sexual assault has a huge impact on the degree to which they retain lingering trauma from their experience with sexual violence.
2. Boiling the experience of sexual violence down to the assault itself and ranking the “seriousness” of peoples’ trauma (including our own) based on assumptions about the nature of that assault supports rape culture.
Both are things that, as a survivor, I could probably use to remind myself every day. Delegitimizing my own experience is supportive of rape culture. My still-painful memories of my experiences would be completely different if the people I tried to talk to about them had responded differently. It’s not just about what “happened.” It’s about what happened next.