Trigger Warning for rape apologism and victim-blaming.
Convicted rapist Daniel Katsnelson (pictured above), who has changed his name to Daniel Kaye since his rapes, recently made some rather disgusting comments about his victims in a pre-sentencing statement. He said that they should learn to lock their doors.
Katsnelson indicated he hoped his victims could take something “positive” awayfrom the experience of being sexually assaulted. “When asked what that might be, he suggested that maybe she will now know to keep her doors locked,” the pre-sentence report stated.
Katsnelson, who has no prior criminal record, has admitted he was “prowling” Vanier residence at York University in the early morning hours of Sept. 7, 2007, and “hoping to get lucky” after a night of drinking.
The York University graduate and his friend Justin Connort managed to enter the building under the pretext of helping an intoxicated friend. Instead, the two men went from room to room, looking for doors that were open. (Connort pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault in December 2008, and was sentenced to three years in prison).
Their first victim, who was 17 at the time, was asleep and unaware her roommate had left and did not lock the door. “Do you want to get lucky with a couple Jewish guys?” the woman was asked by Katsnelson and Connort.
I’m far more appalled by Katsnelson’s comments than I am surprised by them — rapists generally justify their actions by placing the blame on their victims, and assuring themselves that they never would have raped if only those victims hadn’t failed at preventing them from doing so. Appalled is certainly the right word. Infuriated will also do. Clearly to the point where I felt that it was no only appropriate but necessary to republish the photograph of Katsnelson provided by the Star. But surprised, no.
And far more than I’m surprised by his comments, I’m surprised by the fact that the media seems to be almost as appalled as I am. The statement isn’t just printed in the article, it’s featured in quite a few headlines. His words are referred to as “startling” and the “revulsion” of listeners is carefully noted. And while relieved that for once publications aren’t just parroting back the victim-blaming excuses and framing of a rapist and his attorney, I also simply cannot help but ask myself: where the hell are they the rest of the time?
Where is the shock and outrage when it’s argued that a victim shouldn’t have gotten into a car or entered a building with her assailant? Where is the outrage when it’s argued that if women didn’t get themselves so drunk, rapists wouldn’t rape them? Where is the outrage when it’s essentially stated that sex workers can’t be raped? Why is it not a cause of shock and source of headlines when a sexual assault is explained away as verifying the genitals of a person the assailant suspected was trans*? Where are the expressions of horror when those who failed to stop the reported and ongoing rape of a woman with a mental illness declare themselves to have not been negligent? Where are the editors shaking their fists when a defense attorney goes out of his way to note that an alleged victim was a drug user? Where is the anti-rape media perspective when the assault of a child by an adult is being referred to as “sex”? Where are they? Because nine times out of ten, they’re turning the other way.
Why do they only care when the victims homes were broken into, when one of them didn’t leave the door unlocked herself, when one of them identified at the time of the rape as a virgin?
And where are they now, when the common but nauseating “apology” by a rapist does not center his victims’ experiences, but his own desire to be forgiven?
“I assure I’ll never do anything like this again. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me,” said Katsnelson as he apologized in court to his victims Friday.
“I made a terrible mistake. I am not a violent person.”
Where is the repulsion at the idea that a rapist gets to ask his victims for forgiveness, that he feels entitled to their attention and sympathies, that he thinks it reasonable to frame himself as non-violent, that he believes his supposed need for redemption after raping counts for more than their right to not be raped did? Why is the disgust saved only for the comment about locking one’s door?
The two victims in this case not only deserve all of the sympathy and support they are receiving from the media now, they deserve that and more. I could not be more relieved that their experiences are being taken seriously, and that Daniel Katsnelson’s statements are being treated with the disgust they have earned. To these two victims, these reactions almost certainly matter, and are incredibly important.
But it’s not progress or a means of taking down rape culture as a whole until all such victim-blaming statements are treated similarly. It’s not a victory for social justice until such slander is regularly treat the same when it’s committed against poor women, women of color, trans* folks, women with disabilities, and queer women. It’s not a victory for social justice until victim-blaming is rejected even when the victim was drinking, or had previously engaged in sex with many partners, or had a relationship with the accused. It’s not a victory for social justice until these excuses are just plain old seen as wrong, not wrong only when used against virgins who were sleeping in their own homes. It’s just a (likely pretty empty-feeling) victory for two individual women. And while individual victories are vital, I want to live in a world where we can have both.
Thanks to Sandy for the link.