What does a rapist really look like?

Cate de Leon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - It’s funny how we all seem to agree on the gravity of rape, but the minute someone claims it happened to him/her (yes, man-rape exists, too), people suddenly splinter in all directions. (By now, I’m surprised that bringing up the “She was asking for it!” argument hasn’t been declared a crime in itself.) Meanwhile, the recent involvement of high-profile and well-loved entertainment personalities has brought another angle to light.

See, when we think of the word “rape,” we imagine a horrific but grossly oversimplified hell. The guy in particular is some sort of demon incarnate with lustful, bloodshot eyes. He was born without a conscience. He rarely gets to see sunlight because he stays recluse all day, masturbating to porn and stalking an inordinate amount of women. That’s an exaggerated description (albeit possible), but you get what I mean. We have terms like “His eyes looked rapey,” which hints that we think rapists come conveniently packaged in a certain type — which then makes us think it’s acceptable to argue that someone is not the type (holler at me, Barbara Walters).

What’s odd is that while sexual violence is so shockingly common (every two minutes in America), the people we would normally label as the “rapey types” are few and far between.  For the most part what we have is a population of peacefully functioning citizens — people with jobs and families and friends who love them. People who greet you when you bump into each other. People with decent to stellar reputations. And yes, comedians who give a million good vibes on their daily noontime show and Golden Globe lifetime awardees are part of this mix. I’m not saying I know what happened (I don’t), or that just because both cases are high profile and are happening simultaneously, they are one and the same (they’re not). But there is a very palpable bias when we’re too attached to how “great” a guy is. How he’s the “most sensitive father to his children” and therefore could never do such a thing.

Father figures, friends

“I look up to you like a father to me,” book binder Ana May Simbajon told then Judge Rogelio M. Esteban before he grabbed her, kissed her all over her face, embraced her, and touched her right breast.

On the anonymous Facebook confessions page, The Diliman Files, a girl has confessed to being led by her boyfriend to a frat gang rape. Another girl fell asleep beside her longtime lesbian friend and woke up to the latter fingering her. I have a gorgeous businesswoman friend who refused to detail a very similar experience when she brought it up one day — only that she forgave her guy friend and that he was really apologetic.

According to the US Department of Justice, nearly 90 percent of victims knew their offenders. Jose Soriano didn’t think seven-year-old Angel Alquiza was in any trouble when he saw her out on the street at 9:30 p.m. with pedicab driver, Abundio Lagunday. The latter often brought her to and from school. That night, he led the little girl by the hand to his side car and drove her to an abandoned warehouse where her body was raped, slashed, gouged, and dumped into a sack by a couple more men. The mastermind, pedicab operator Ernesto Cordero, was reading a Bible when the cops first approached him for questions. (Another pet peeve of mine: “Hindi ko gagawin yun! May takot ako sa Diyos!”)

The funny, the talented

We’ve all witnessed to some degree how Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon, and Richie D’ Horsie warmed up our screens with laughter — Sotto still bagging lead roles and relationships with women half his age, while de Leon has become a respectable writer as well. But they still publicly apologized to a 16-year-old Pepsi Paloma for allegedly raping her back in 1982. She was then coerced by champion of women’s rights, Tito Sotto, to drop the case. She hanged herself in 1985. As for us, we forgive those whom we like and who prove useful to us. And I’m sure their girlfriends, wives, and families can attest to the sweet and loving deeds they do behind the camera, and I won’t invalidate that at all. That just proves my point. You can rape and know how to love. You can rape and truly be sorry. Humanity is a highly complex state of being. We are the best of creatures, we are the worst of creatures.

Even Mia Farrow, despite how vocal she’s been about what her daughter, Dylan, allegedly went through, has been silent about the sexual abuse charges faced by her brother, John Charles. She has also expressed support for convicted sex offender and “close friend” Roman Polanski.

We are wracked with personal and relational (in the case of fans, pseudo-relational) bias, and I can honestly understand that. I can actually imagine still loving certain people and not being able to help it if ever they were found guilty of something as horrible as rape. In the successfully prosecuted case of Maggie dela Riva, there were mothers and fathers in the death chambers with their sons. You can’t take that away from people. But it also needs to be made clear that our biases and all the good things that these people may also be don’t change what was done and the impact it has on the lives and psyches of the victims.

Rape doesn’t come from dark spirits in the underbelly of hell. It comes from human beings. And not to take anything away from the demoralizing nightmare that it is, but I like this view. It’s not so much about living in fear as it is about seeing the nonsense that needs to be cut off every time a case presents itself. It also means we get to be vigilant when it comes to watching ourselves and others. It means we rise above our base nature and knee-jerk reactions and take full responsibility.

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Tweet the author @catedeleon.











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