When 28-year-old actor Shia LaBeouf, star of movie franchises that’ve included “Transformers” and “Indiana Jones,” spoke up this month alleging he’d be raped by a woman during a performance art exhibition titled “#IAMSORRY,” he was quickly bombarded with the same kind of rocks that have been thrown at victims of sexual assault for ages.
“He must’ve loved it!” “Why didn’t he just make her stop? This is such a load of bs.” It seems like the people who’ve always cried “Men get raped too!” were suddenly silent or the ones cracking jokes and lambasting the actor’s character on social media.
LaBeouf described the incident in an interview with Dazed magazine, “One woman who came with her boyfriend, who was outside the door when this happened, whipped my legs for 10 minutes and then stripped my clothing and proceeded to rape me.” Luke Turner and Säde Rönkkö, two artists who collaborated on “#IAMSORRY” with LaBeouf confirmed the alleged rape, saying that “As soon as we were aware of the incident starting to occur, we put a stop to it and ensured that the woman left.”
Later, LaBeouf’s girlfriend arrived after the incident occurred. “I couldn’t speak,” he said. “So we both sat with this unexplained trauma silently. It was painful.”
Once again, the incident and its subsequent reaction proves that too many people are incapable of talking about rape without retrieving an imaginary list of qualifications, a certain quota they save for victims to determine whether what they’ve endured is in fact real or not real. So many of us are a familiar with this drill: it couldn’t have been rape if it wasn’t forceful or if the victim knew his or her rapists, it couldn’t have been real if the victim didn’t immediately report the rapist to the police or seek professional help. The list goes on.
Former CNN news reporter Piers Morgan even chimed in to slam the allegations tweeting, “Shia LaBeouf’s claim to have been ‘raped’ is truly pathetic & demeans real rape victims. Grow up, you silly little man.” He then added, “People are actually defending Shia LaBeouf. The world’s gone mad. He’s invented a supposed ‘rape’ for cheap PR – utterly shameful.”
“Some even insisted that without witnesses, it couldn’t have happened,” writes Holly Eagleson of TakePart.com, despite the confirmation from LaBeouf’s collaborators, while others claimed that “Rape can’t really happen to a guy – who wouldn’t love that sexual attention?”
But there’s something more important to remember and that is abuse of any kind doesn’t have to adhere to any imaginary list of qualifications. Lenika Cruz of The Atlantic writes, “Men can be raped by women, and they do not need to fear physical force for rape to occur. Piers Morgan’s comments that LaBeouf’s claims are ‘absolutely baloney’ echo the all-too-frequent refrains aimed at female and male sexual assault victims who are told their rapes aren’t real.” —because they don’t fit some imaginary criteria.
If the reaction to LaBeouf’s claims proves anything, it’s that the public seemingly doesn’t want to hear abuse stories unless they’re spotless, foolproof and adhere to their imaginary quota.
The only way to cure the horrible stigma surrounding rape is to speak up, make this a larger forum and cut it from its taboo roots. It’s a trauma that affects men and women, of all ages and races, and from all different kinds of backgrounds and the topic needs to be addressed and spoken about on a global scale.
It needs to move beyond being gender biased and those who’ve been brave enough to speak up should be applauded, for their voices could inspire other victims to shed light on their own trauma. LaBeouf isn’t the first man to speak up about being raped, and he should certainly not be the last.