Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rapes by teammates unfortunately more common than you think....

I am very sorry to say, a number of women have shared stories with me about how they were raped by their BJJ training partners.  I believe this is to be expected, because for one, rape is common.  Of course, it SHOULD be less frequent in the BJJ community than it is in the "real" world-- but perhaps that is wishful thinking. 

For another, I do think the BJJ community is a fundamentally male-oriented group, with roots in a fairly misogynistic era and society, that is struggling to find ways to include women.  Before you jump all over me about the misogynistic roots of BJJ, I think I read that very few women in the Gracie family trained BJJ.  I believe Kyra's mother Flavia trained, but Kyra is the only blackbelt in that family.  I know, I know, there's a ton of really talented Brazilian women in jiu jitsu now... but even so, they're a small fraction compared to the number of men who train and compete.  In any case, I think that part of the problem is that some men really didn't even GET that they were committing rape.  And that kind of ignorance is sadly more common in the predominant demographic of many jiu jitsu academies-- young men.  I'm not making excuses, it's still morally bankrupt-- but it's sometimes just sheer stupid thoughtlessness as opposed to malice.  If I had a nickel for every time a guy has said to me "If she's really drunk and coming on to you [or doesn't say no] and passes out, then it's not rape", I'd be a rich woman.  And I think that kind of attitude is a misogynistic one.

Anyway, I'm sharing with you one of these ladies' experiences, with her approval, in the hopes it may help someone else.  She wrote this herself and asked only that I not share her name.

"Three years ago, Halloween of 2009, I was invited by a teammate to his house party. I had only been training for a few months at this point and thought it was a good way to hang out with some of the guys. At the party, I ran into a couple other teammates, ended up having a fantastic time. Naturally, I drank, took shots, the whole shabang. At the end of the night, I was drunk... I also ended up driving. One of the guys I was hanging out with needed a ride home b/c he was stranded - his ride ditched him. He was also a teammate, so I didn't think anything of it. I drunkenly drove him home, I don't know how. This was probably the worst night of my life. I could have just as easily killed myself that night driving under the influence.

We arrive at his place in one piece, and he invites me in to crash because I was clearly drunk. The rest of this night is in bits and pieces. I remember laying on his bed passing out, I remember him getting a condom, I remember myself saying "no, no, no." I remember him pulling my stockings and underwear down as I was too helpless to stop him. At this point, I passed out. I don't remember the penetration, I just remember that it happened. I woke up in the morning, horrified. He was passed out next to me in his underwear. I had such a feeling of guilt and shame that I bolted, as I was also late for work. I saw him Monday afternoon, at training. He had the nerve to ask me, "Did you make it home okay?"

The thing is, for a long time I had to question myself. I felt blame, I felt ashamed, I felt like a piece of trash. Was it my fault? Was I dressed like a slut (I was actually wearing something past my knees, not exposing cleavage)? Did I imagine myself saying no? Did I really want it? Did it really happen? The last question... Was I raped? Until the DC rape happened, and until I talked to Georgette about it, I still felt ashamed, and felt like it was my fault. I have not confronted my rapist, nor do I think I ever will. I had seem him from time to time, and even had to train with him. I had told a trusted "friend" what happened that night, only to hear he was telling other guys at the gym that I "drunkenly had sex" with the teammate. Way to go, team!"

I hope any survivors of sexual assault reading this who harbor their own flavor of self-blame will let it go and realize it wasn't their fault either...

One more interesting tidbit:  here's the Fightworks Podcast post on Ryan Hall's departure from TLI some 4 years ago.  Have you read Ryan's open letter yet? 


Anonymous said...

Reading the above put a scary thought in my mind, are we naively placing trust in team-mates above that of let's say a normal guy friend? So when things like this happen it shocks us to the very core? When in actual reality, we should be just as wary of our team-mates as we are of normal guy friends.

Most guys would find it easy to say "Yeah of course I won't rape some girl in the parking lot let alone a team-mate!". So we look at something like the TLI case and say that "Hey that's not normal, it's not even something that a guy friend should/would do and as BJJ familia even more so and since they are familia we should be above that".

But if you were to deliver a drunk girl (who is not in the right frame of mind to even reject him or comprehend what's going on) in a controlled environment (his house, apartment, etc...) to a guy, I bet you most guys wouldn't bat an eyelid to sleep with her and the saddest thing is most guys wouldn't even see this as rape! Taken advantage of? Perhaps but not rape. They'll say "But she wanted it too, we were both drunk, she flirted before yadi yada etc..."

So yes I think it is naive to think that just because a guy's a team-mate means that we females should automatically trust him more than the average guy

I guess the lesson is until we live in a less misogynistic era where both scenario 1 (TLI) and 2 (drunk scenario) are seen as rape, we as females need to take our safety in our own hands and don't easily trust guys that easily regardless if they're a BJJ team-mate, close guy friend, distant relative etc... whatever.

Shark Girl said...

Many thanks to that brave woman for sharing her story.

There is also another situation that most men (and women)do not consider rape, but is on the fringe and I consider it "coercion." If a man has a woman alone, and he repeatedly asks for sex and she says no, then if he continues to ask or move forward (getting a condom, etc.), sometimes a woman will "agree" not because she genuinely wants to, but because she is afraid that if she continues to say "no," that the man will rape her, or because at that point "consent" is preferable to rape, because clearly the man is not taking "no" for an answer. Men need to remember that they (usually) have strength on their side and this can be scary to a woman who finds herself alone in a situation with someone who turns out not to be who she thought he was.

Jennifer Fremon said...

I can't say that I am surprised to hear this but it is a shame nonetheless. When I was younger and coming up through the ranks in karate I once attended a party with many of the men and women with whom I trained. At the end of the night, I went over to a friend's house for a few more drinks, and one of our male friends came too. We ended up all falling asleep on her futon. I am sure at some point the man was lying there thinking wow, I am in a bed with two women! This is hot! What did he do about it? He rolled over and went to sleep!
Just because the situation presents itself does not mean it is ok to take it.

Anonymous said...

Women coming forward...I am glad. I was in Kung Fu for a brief period and in my internetting about those topics it was a monthly (at least) occurrence that an instructor was caught
involved in something fairly nasty(there are standing threads on some forums discussing it to raise awareness), so it was weird to me for all these people to be so shocked that a martial artist would do something wrong. It, quite frankly, seemed like
magical thinking of the variety "that happens to other people". More specifically "BJJ is better than those other martial arts". I hope this rattles people out of that way of thinking,
as martial arts, as a subculture, attracts (usually) young men who seem to think that fighting will prove something, and MMA has done literally nothing to stop that way of thinking.
In fact, more strongly, MMA has actively promoted that idea. This, combined with the fact that BJJ is indelibly tied to MMA (much to my chagrin) for the foreseeable future, means we will
get young men in this position. Combine this with some mental instability, a lack of education, and limited financial resources and you have a nice recipe for some real problems. Drug abuse is just pouring gasoline on this.

This is not an isolated issue, many other subcultures that satisfy those criteria (mental instability, economic instability, lack of education) suffer from the same problem (anime conventions, I am looking at you).

As for punishment...I am really not sure where the role of BJJer's lies, and it is an interesting ethical question. I will never train with them, or with Lloyd Irvin, or with his direct affiliates that do not disown him(and even then, I am going to be cagey)
Do I think they should never be allowed to train again? No, they can do what they want(as long as they don't hurt people). Are they worthless as humans? Not in my opinion(although they clearly hurt someone grossly, and obviously have severe ethical issues which may make them untenable in free society)

I do hope the women involved are able to move past this and not live their life in fear. I also intensely dislike any instructors who prey upon this fear.

Anonymous said...

I'm on the "it's not rape although the guy is a dick" side of things. As you said you've heard this a lot so I'll forgo my reasons here. Whether that's mysogyny or not we'll just have to disagree. And I'm ok with that. :)

I will clarify that I don't think she wanted it nor deserved it. It shouldn't have happened and it's a shame it did.

I will also say I believe they both (particularly she) committed a much more egregious act that night by driving drunk. Not just drunk, which is the worst, but black-out drunk.

All that aside, there is one idea I'd like to put forward I just thought of. In Gracie BJJ we are taught about conflict management. In this we are generally taught the best rule is avoidance or diffusion. I think this can be applied to many situations, perhaps here as well.

As some others have said these kind of guys are a dime a dozen. There are some easy tips one might be able to practice to help reduce the risk of such things happening. Things like 1) a designated sober driver; 2) don't drink until you black out unless you are with an absolute best friend; 3) don't assume "I see this person often" is the same as "I know this person and trust them with my well-being". Things like this.

It's too easy to blame one party exclusively and lift the burden off the other. However, it's possible to take responsibility for the parts you can control.

Everything related to this entire rape thing is a sad story.

Unknown said...

If she said no or was incapable of responding and the guy had sex with her anyways, that's still rape. The law was changed so that "Well I didn't hear her say no" isn't a defensible excuse.

Date rape is still rape, and this guy deserves to be in prison as much as Nick Schultz and Mat Maldonado.

Megan said...

@roaminsticka I have to admit I'm curious if a guy is just "a dick" if a gay teammate decided to have his way with one of the guys. Serious question...trying to get to the root of your thought process.

Megan said...

I VERY much agree with this though...

"3) don't assume "I see this person often" is the same as "I know this person and trust them with my well-being". Things like this.

It's too easy to blame one party exclusively and lift the burden off the other. However, it's possible to take responsibility for the parts you can control."

Anonymous said...

So, I'm going to preface this comment with "I'm the girl who wrote that story."

@roaminastick - if a girl says no as has been covered, doesn't matter what the state of mind is for either party because that's forced penetration, it's rape. I agree with you, that was the stupidest night of my life as I mentioned - my first and only time drunk driving, it was idiotic.

I absolutely agree with number three though. If anything, learn from your mistakes and I have definitely learned from mine. You need to control the situation you are in, and that involves keep a clear state of mind, not a cloudy one. It's unfortunate that women can't trust men enough to go out without worry, though.

Georgette said...

Thank you to all for sharing your comments.

I just want to address "roaminsticka" (whose name sounds to my suspicious ear like "Roam and Stick Her")

I don't think it's too easy to blame only one party. There is nothing morally wrong with getting drunk. Nothing morally wrong with trusting a friend. Nothing morally wrong with saying no just once. Nothing morally wrong with passing out, or not fighting back. There is everything morally wrong with having sex with a woman who is trusting, intoxicated, and unwilling or unable to consent. Therefore, blame appropriately is assigned to just one party.

Agreed, morally blameworthy to drive while drunk. Separate issue.

And Gracie Jiu Jitsu and its praise for conflict avoidance is wonderful- but has nothing to do with the way we live in the real world. In other words, women should not have to avoid all behaviors and places that might could lead to rape-- because then even dressing like nuns, living in lockboxes etc wouldn't be enough. Conflict avoidance in the Gracie Jiu Jitsu context is mainly intended for interpersonal confrontation, like "hey, you spilled my drink/looked at my girlfriend" type of interactions. Not a restriction imposed on women making them partly responsible for their own rapes.