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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Chrissie Hynde Rocks. Literally.

Since the late 70s, Chrissie Hynde she has been the one constant of the English-American group The Pretenders. She also rocks as a woman who knows who she is, where she's been, and handles criticism for speaking her mind.

The criticism comes, ironically, from proponents of women speaking their mind. Apparently we're supposed to say whatever we want unless it goes against the current notion du jour.

Hynde's 2015 memoir, entitled Reckless: My Life as a Pretender, Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Vogue, the New York Times, and other popular, well-respected outlets: "frank," "well-written," "humorous". But because of one small part, one tiny episode of transparency and personal honesty, that goes out the window with some folks, and she's come under fire.
has gotten rave reviews from the

Hynde's sin is that she is audacious enough to accept some of the responsibility for being raped.

That goes against the notion that No Means No (which it does!) and that rapists should receive consequences for their actions (they should!). There are lots and lots of generalities with such things, but occasionally, we need to realize that some circumstances are different.

M. Emmett Walsh, as Dr. Bass in "A Time to Kill."
Remember the scene in the movie "A Time to Kill" where a doctor's testimony is completely
discounted because he'd been arrested for statutory rape? What the jury didn't hear was that the girl was a few days shy of the required birthday to get married, and the couple stayed together forever. I may have the details wrong, but you understand the point. Sometimes, the facts don't add up to the underlying truth.

Hynde's rapes are unfortunate, tragic, emotionally harmful, criminal -- just like all sexual assaults. What makes her comments in her memoirs troubling to some is that she admits that she wasn't caught off guard, or stalked, or drugged against her will. Her eyes were wide open when she began hanging out with a motorcycle gang known for sexual misbehavior. She knew the lifestyle, she was aware of the risk involved, and when the inevitable (in her own thinking) took place, her response was philosophical.

"Technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing and I take full responsibility. You can’t f--- about with people, especially people who wear ‘I Heart Rape’ and ‘On Your Knees’ badges," she wrote. In a later interview she stated, "You can’t paint yourself into a corner and then say, 'Whose brush is this?' You have to take responsibility. I mean, I was naive. If you play with fire, you get burnt. It’s not any secret, is it?"

Yes and no. And I get that.

When I was 16, I was molested by a family friend. In one respect, I should have seen it coming, and in another respect, I wasn't surprised when he made his first move. Because when I was 14, he'd made an inappropriate remark. I was offended. Red flags went up. I even rehearsed a confrontational conversation with him which I never (unfortunately) delivered.

Could've. Would've. Should've. We can't go back. We mustn't beat ourselves up for choices we made or opportunities we didn't take. But that doesn't mean we can't acknowledge the fact that we played a role in what eventually transpired.  I should have repeated the remark to my parents, rather than plan on handling myself. There's no way of knowing if that would have changed the future, but it might have changed ours. I should have, when he said what he did, told him it wasn't funny, and I didn't like it. That  one thing might have stopped  him from what he did later.

Because I never confronted him or told a responsible adult what he had said, and later, what he did, I had a part in all that happened beyond simply being a victim. No, a survivor. I refuse to let him have any more control over my thoughts, behavior, emotions, whatever. But I also know, honestly, that I wasn't beat over the head and dragged into the woods, either.

I was manipulated, seduced, deceived. That was my own scenario. A smart, modest, raised-right teenager, and I still fell victim. Was it my "fault"? Not at all. I'm not blaming myself, simply owning the part I did play. I could have avoided what happened. I didn't act on the red flags. I didn't alert anyone of the subtle manipulations, because I was too immature to recognize them as such. But there was a time, when I knew something was "wrong with this picture," and I never followed through.

Today I see young women, teens, pre-teens, dressed provocatively, knowing that there are predators who would love nothing more than to rob them of those scanty clothes and what innocence is left. I worry about them. And I also know that some of them are actively asking for trouble, as Hynde admits she was.

Those who aren't...the girls and women who say they can dress however they please and it doesn't matter... I would suggest using a little personal restraint, a little common sense. Open those beautiful eyes a little more and really see where you're walking, and who you're walking with.

Rape isn't about lust, but control, they say -- but there are also plenty of lusty guys who think that what a girl wears on a date is the fashionable equivalent to putting out the welcome mat. Making out (which a girl may hope for and encourage) can easily become a rape... call it date rape if you must, but if a girl or woman doesn't consent to intercourse, it is rape. Report it, prosecute it. But also... avoid situations in which it is even possible.

My granddaughter and I went through a R.A. D. program at our local Sheriff's office. That's Rape Aggression Defense. The very first and most important training is self-awareness. Know who you're with, even in an elevator. Look at people. Look around. Check out your surroundings.

But back to Hynde: she went out of her way to find surroundings that were dangerous. She sought out people who were criminals. And so, she wasn't particularly surprised when they committed crimes and put her life in danger. She'd walked in with her eyes open.

I think it's grand that she can own her part in that. She would have completely avoided being raped (most likely) if she had avoided the rapists. Instead, she waltzed into a house on fire and got burned. She knows she was unwise to be there, and she's honest enough to acknowledge it.

That doesn't make her own rapists innocent nor blame other victims. But it does reflect the honesty of a woman who knows herself, and doesn't mind letting everyone else know her for who she is, not for who they want her to be.

Now, having said all that, let me also say this: it would have been appropriate, and better, and right, if Hynde had reported the rapes, if those guys with the horrible t-shirts and worse behavior had ended up behind bars. Acknowledging that she played a part by simply being around those types of people in no way implies that rape is acceptable. If you have been assaulted, molested, raped ... please talk to someone.

The national Rape Crisis hotline number is 800.656.HOPE (4673). Where I live, the Sexual Assault Assistance program provides victim advocates who will stay with you and your family through the entire process. The Inner Truth Project provides outlets for help and overcoming. Here are some links:

Being a victim of rape, incest, or molestation is never the fault of the victim, but if you can avoid being a victim, doesn't that make sense? R.A.D. teaches to run away from trouble, if possible. I think that's what Hynde is saying, that she could have avoided what happened, because she knew the risks, knew the environment. 

We don't always have prior information. When we do, we should make the most of it. Run. Avoid. Be aware. Use wisdom. And if things happen anyway... get help. Make noise. A lot of noise. By yelling, and telling, by prosecuting if that's possible, you're helping not only yourself, but future possible victims.

Chrissie Hynde bashers should get over it, already.

(c) Ellen Gillette