The Poetic Injustice of the Non-Ideal Victim
In 2015, the American Broadcasting Company aired an anthology crime drama called American Crime. The second season takes place in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the co-captains of a private school’s basketball team are accused of sexually assaulting a male classmate and posting photographs of the incident online. In the beginning of episode four, we hear Kevin Kantor, a non-binary rape survivor delivering “I Am Sure,” in which they speak poetically about their treatment as a non-ideal rape victim in the United States.
The central theme of “I Am Sure” is the critical victimology of the “ideal victim.” According to Nils Christie’s concept, the ideal victim is a young female who is perceived by Society as being weak. She is further perceived as being in the “right place” at the “wrong time” of her victimization. A female jogger who is overpowered by an unknown male victim on a trail at night and raped is an example of the ideal victim. One should note here that biological women who find themselves in these scenarios are more likely to receive sympathetic responses from law enforcement officers and Society as a whole.
Kantor is clearly excluded from this typology because (1) they are not a biological female, and (2) they do not remember how much they had to drink. What Kantor does remember is how Society downplayed their vulnerability based on the stereotype that biological males are not weak. One should not forget that American law enforcement officers have a history of holding trans and non-binary victims in low regard, and disregard the rape complaints they make. Society has also shown an intolerance for people who get drunk. Indeed, Kantor divulged when they reported being raped the responding officers rolled their eyes. A journalist also asked them if they were sure about being raped (Kantor 0:35-0:45). The officers’ non-verbal actions and the journalists’ insensitivity to Kantor’s experience is often thought of as “secondary rape” because the victim is disbelieved rather than treated as a human who was injured. As can be seen, Kantor is the non-ideal victim.
Although Kantor does not say to us “they didn’t believe me,” their disclosure “Remember how busy you were trying to figure out how they got in…” leads us into the psyche of a rape survivor. It also illustrates how law enforcement officers’ style their investigations around the inconsistencies and mistakes trans and non-binary victims made before their attacker raped them. By doing this, law enforcement officers can justify their hostility and lack of support for trans and non-binary rape victims.
It is quite likely there is a sub-theme in “I Am Sure,” one I found nestled in the following paragraph:
“I am sure I remember it feeling like every room of my home being broken into at the same time…remember how I told you that it felt like every room of my home being broken into at the same time? Remember how busy you were trying to figure out how they got in that you forgot all about the person living there” (Kantor).
The Poetic Injustice of the Non-Ideal Victim – Robbery of the Body
I get the sense that trans women and non-binary people feel as if their body is being robbed, like “every room of [their] home being broken into at the same time.” The breaking into their rooms is an allegory for the stealing of consent. This is discernible from Kantor’s “the trauma of someone trying to take their body from them.” I would even go so far as to say this disclosure reveals how trans and non-binary victims are robbed of their autonomy and the authority of their body. This is what I refer to as “Robbery of the Body.”
Kantor’s soliloquy that law enforcement “forgot all about the person living there” is the bleak emptiness one feels after sexual trauma. This soliloquy also reveals how law enforcement officers raid the non-ideal victim’s thoughts by manufacturing a case against them in order to discredit them. This is done by re-creating the crime scene and fabricating a narrative that harms victims like Kantor. A narrative that individuals like Kantor cannot be raped disregards the traumatic experience, which frequently turns the non-ideal victim’s body against them. This piece screams: trans and non-binary individuals must approach all of their physical or sexual experiences with apprehension! When these human experiences are approached with apprehension, they are snavelled of their enjoyment. This invasion of the human body and self is undoubtedly an experience of emptiness that robs one of bodily autonomy. It is clear from the poem that Kantor was unable to protect those boundaries to secure their bodily integrity (Bernstein 144).
As attested by Bernstein, being raped is traumatic and devastating for victims like Kantor because it means the rape remains imprinted on the body-psyche of the survivor. If we refer back to the soliloquy that law enforcement “forgot all about the person living there,” we hear an immeasurable void within Kantor. We also see how Kantor may be unable to replace what has been taken from the rooms in their home. This replacement would be obsolete for Kantor, had they never been raped.
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Bernstein, J. M. “The Harm of Rape, the Harm of Torture.” Bernstein, J. M. Torture and Dignity: An Essay on Moral Injury. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. 116-172. Print.
Christie, Nils. “The Ideal Victim.” Duggan, Marian. Revisiting the Ideal Victim: Developments in Critical Victimology. Bristol University Press, 2018. 11-24. Print.
Kantor, Kevin. I Am Sure. Ed. Stanley Thai. 29 January 2016. Web. 02 February 2023.
Kantor, Kevin. I Am Sure. Ed. Button Poetry. 15 March 2020. Web. 22 February 2023.
Wikipedia. “American Crime (TV series).” n.d. Wikipedia. Web. 22 February 2023.