Self-Confessed Rapist Tries and Fails to Start #IHave Conversation

Time's Up rally, London, January 21, 2018. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/ Getty Images)

Earlier this week, Sky News interviewed a self-confessed rapist. (There aren't enough trigger warnings in the world.) The man, whose identity was concealed -- apparently to protect the woman he attacked over 30 years ago -- was invited for a face-to-face interview after, prompted by #MeToo, he felt compelled to admit to his actions online, with the accompanying hashtag, #IHave.

The reporter tasked with tracking this man down and talking to him, Hannah Thomas-Peter, reported: "Interviewing a man who admits to raping a woman is unpleasant, but important."

On the surface, it certainly seemed that way.  Before I watched the interview, I was hopeful that it would be the start of the next rational steps for #MeToo -- getting to grips with why rape happens, figuring out what goes through the mind of the attacker before, during, and afterwards, and figuring out where their incredible sense of entitlement to other people's bodies comes from.

Hannah Thomas-Peter didn't go easy on the man, despite his getting audibly choked up when describing how sorry he was for his actions. "Isn’t this all about you?" she asked. "You’re doing this to make yourself feel better." And he admitted that that was part of it, yes. "Isn’t it the case," Thomas-Peter continued, "that speaking out now is relatively low risk for you? That actually, you got away with raping somebody, and now you can afford to say it out loud?"

After a fairly vivid description of events, it came time to find out why this man had decided to force himself onto a woman who was sobbing and shaking her head, after the two had met at a party. Unfortunately, it was less than revelatory. "Being fueled by alcohol and a sense of what I wanted, I kept going,” the rapist told Thomas-Peter. “It was my selfish act… and the alcohol had taken away my judgment. At the end of the day, I knew I was wrong. Both at the time that it happened, and afterwards.”

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Thomas-Peter also noted in her online report that: "It is also possible, he thought, that his behavior was in part underpinned by a society-wide attitude that women's bodies were not their own, and their needs less important."

Well, DUH. Duh all around. You only have to be familiar with the most basic dictionary definition of rape to know that rapists feel entitled to have sex with people that don't want to. If you are a living female human, or a man that has survived assault, you also know that entitlement can be exacerbated by intoxication. So what was the point of this interview again?

While the segment was praised in some corners as difficult but necessary...

...Twitter also assured me I was not alone in my frustration:

There is no doubt that both Sky News and Hannah Thomas-Peter went into this with the best of intentions; an attempt to take a step forward in gender relations; a desire to get to the root causes of sexual violence. The problem is, this rapist had absolutely nothing new or useful to tell us about why he did what he did. Because of this, in the end, and despite their best efforts, it felt like Sky had merely given a sexual abuser a spotlight to ease his conscience.

The only true value to this whole misguided incident is that it is a solid reminder that we owe it to survivors to hear their stories from their perspective, and not from the perspectives of their abusers. This man, essentially, took it upon himself to tell a story that ultimately belongs to the woman he forced himself on -- and there is no telling how she will feel if she stumbles across this report.

Thankfully, the Sky News rapist's attempts to get #IHave trending were a dismal failure -- it has been picked up only by those sharing this specific Sky story, or by trolls. Even if #IHave had been picked up and adopted by other sexual abusers apparently in need of a space to confess, chances are not only would they have had nothing useful to tell us, they would probably only own up outside the statute of limitations, which assists literally no one.

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The core of the power in the #MeToo movement is that it has finally allowed women's voices to be heard loud and clear, and front and center. Muddying that with the sounds of abusers doesn't offer a way forward, it just potentially causes more pain to those they have already hurt, and drowns out women's voices once more.

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