Shirley Rivera is the Founder and President of the Ateístas de Puerto Rico. The intent is to learn about Puerto Rican atheism and culture, as an educational series.
Here we talk about modern social movements.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, we are a couple of years or more into the more prominent #MeToo movement starting with Tarana Burke. Also, it took off with some boost from Alyssa Milano. Now, this is a general cultural problem indicating some social pathologies, where women did not feel heard. Therefore, they spoke out.
At the same time, there can arise other issues. In general terms, what are some of those other issues? How are we finding this out in real-time?
Shirley Rivera: Basically, since this #MeToo movement came up, it is taking more of an irrational side, avoiding, naturally, the way we are, how we relate, how couples relate, how male and female relate. I think when you touch that, when you cut that natural flirtation. The way males and females interact.
It is the way people start. They approach each other in a certain way. In this, it comes to #MeToo. You go on a date with someone. You meet them on the internet. They are not having this natural way in life in which people interact. So, all types of interactions become bad, become harassment.
I see a male tell me a compliment. That’s harassment. What is harassment? What type of compliment is harassment? What type of compliment is not harassment? I cannot tell someone that they have pretty hair because this means that I want to fuck her. [Laughing] where do you put that line?
I am confused. I am a female. In the #MeToo movement, I think it is not working. I think it is coming into how male and female interact in a natural, proper way. You make a date and discover, and meet, that person. It is as if all types of approach are wrong.
I wish that I can know which is the right way to approach somebody and the wrong way to approach somebody. It looks like all forms of approach are wrong. Because you have to ask for consent. How will I know? Will I have to call my lawyer to say, “Good morning”? Do I need to call my lawyer to say, “Your hair is beautiful”? What is harassment? What is not harassment?
We have to start with that. What is harassment? Because a white male said something to you. What if a Mexican or Dominican, or Puerto Rican? If a white guy, you have a 90% probability of being burned. If you say any type of normal comment, you let somebody know that she is pretty.
That becomes harassment. So, where is the line? What is harassment and not harassment? I think that will be a good conversation, an open one. Because, at the beginning, all these harassment movements were because some females had to do certain stuff to reach a status or a position.
A male will follow or harass in an industry. If you do not consent or you do not want that person or reject them clearly, and if they are persistent, then that will be harassment. But if someone thinks you’re pretty sporadically or approaches, and if you say, “No,” or if they say, “I want to meet you,” then that person continues that becomes harassment.
If a boy told me, “I think you’re pretty,” and asked for the phone number, I have two answers, “Yes,” or “No.” If I say, “No,” he has to stop. If he doesn’t stop, then it is harassment. It is pretty much in that line.
Jacobsen: What about the different forms of consent? You asked the question, “What is consent?” I have heard many definitions of it, what has been seen as a major, medium, and minor issue depending on the context.
Rivera: Body language can count as consent. Continuing to approach a person can be consent, if we are in the bed, and I have my clothes off, and if I decide that I do not consent, you have to get out of the room. If I do not consent, and if I continue to have a relationship with someone, I will not believe you.
If you do not have consent and do not believe in that guy, why go to his house? Why keep dating him? No, I think it is body language. We feel. We assume. If I approach this guy, and this guy talk back to me, and if this guy takes me out to dinner, then this will tell me that this guy has an interest in me.
Maybe, I can get what I want from him. Maybe, I can go home tonight. This is how people approach each other. This is natural. You want to talk with him, have sex with him. But in his mind, it is “just, just, just.” It means that in his mind; he has a probability of being with the girl.
I think this is all about it. We all assume because this is what always happened. With all this now, and with all these different interpretations of consent, everyone gets confused. To me, it can be physical or an approach consent. I keep dating with you, keep talking with you.
If I am going to go to a room with you, it is clear you want to have sex with me. If you do not give consent, then you are not clear on having sex with the person. If you want to have sex with the person, then you need to be more clear. If you want to have sex with the person, it doesn’t mean that he can do anything with that person.
But I need to be more clear about what I want – to go home and have some drinks or watch a movie. We can give all the responsibility to the males. “Okay, I go to your house and am unclear why I went there. He went to touch me.” He was assuming. He will feel guilty.
I don’t think it is good to put the whole guilt on one person. I think more people need to be more clear and express themselves from the beginning and be very clear. I don’t think it is fair when a male go to a female’s house, watch movie, and then they change their mind.
I don’t think it is fair for either. I think males and females need to be more clear. Most of these cases have the female claiming, “He has power. I don’t need to say, ‘No.’” Because I don’t know. I am currently President of the Atheists of Puerto Rico. The men cannot say, “No,” to me because they are intimidated. If he forces you to go to his house, then it is assault, rape.
This is the tricky part, where I don’t see how males can protect themselves in these situations. Now, guys don’t want to date or go out with us. We don’t get invitations. They don’t know what to do with us. It comes to the pointing of messing with human relationships, with male and female relationships.
It is ruining everything. A guy may not want to go home with a person because he might get accused of sexual assault. Maybe, it is not the case with me. But other people will think about that. I see guys, now. They use Tinder because they don’t want to meet anybody in person. They just want someone who wants to have sex.
Now, we are turning relationships into sex, not feelings, not meeting a person in a coffee shop, or falling in love. Because both are scared. She is scared that he is a sexual predator. He is scared that she is complaining about everything. So, we are killing all of that.
Of course, in the meantime, it was not fair. We still see females getting raped. But if you see the rape, it is always in the house, the same family members. You don’t see this common thing about a guy who drinks and then rapes you. It happens, but it is not common.
Your uncle, your grandfather, your stepfather, that is more common. Most of the females who have been raped have been because of family members. How do we translate this into this? Why do we not focus on statistics? They say girls 12-16 are the majority victims of the rape. Why do we not focus on them?
It doesn’t make any sense.
Jacobsen: How can we use the empirical evidence that we have now, and various statistics – one of the aforementioned, to build targeted concerns rather than general concerns? Everyone would agree, probably, that sexual assault or sexual violence against men or women, by men against men, by men against women, by women against women, by women against men, is a problem.
The question then becomes in what way and what demographics given the evidence that we do have. Of course, for men and women, there will be underreporting. There will be botched handling of some cases. In the terms of using the evidence that we have, or that’s known to you, what will be a way to use that to make our concerns more concrete, more precise, and more scientific?
Rivera: I think the statistics are there. We have to know how to target those real victims. Education starts from there. If we do the whole movement, then we will focus on sexual harassment in labour. Human resources already do all of that. Why the levels of child pornography to minor? The real ones.
We can say, “Most females are less interested in filing a complaint or an allegation.” Or we can say, “Males who rape. They are more interested in younger girls because they have no way to defend themselves. They are an easy target to them,” which makes sense.
Because these people who love to do this. They are looking for domination. A little 16-year-old girl, he can dominate her. She will not talk about it. In the case of a female with 25 or 30 years, it is highly probable that she will talk about it. She will report. She does not have to go tom the parents. She can feel that she can go to straight to the company.
It is about what is easy. All female do these complaints. Most of the focus is on the older females. Something is wrong there. When you continually see this focus, it is a campaign of anti-males. It is not about women’s rights (at that point). As if, we just hate them. We want you to hate them too.
Jacobsen: Can you break that down more?
Rivera: From my perspective, as I have seen over the last, probably, 5 years, it is not about if my co-worker is told by the boss. If she does to have sex with him or does not go on the date, she will not get a promotion in the job. That is not the case. If that happened, she can go to human resources, the police. She can do all this.
This does mean this guy in the bar who asked for your number is harassing you. He just approached you. If you say, “No,” then that’s it. The cases that they’re trying to bring up. It doesn’t match to me with the movement. If it is labour harassment, you have places to complain about it.
If it is rape, you have places to complain about it. What are you attacking? You are attacking regular approaching of males and females. The normal approaching to me. Because, these are how humans approach one another without computer, internet, or phones.
How 500 years ago did a male state to a female? Did they send an email or in person? You are killing. This movement is killing that. That’s not healthy. We will end up like Japan. No one wants to get married. No one has any kids. The population is decreasing.
People are renting one-room apartments, living by themselves, working 12 hours, and are depressed, killing themselves. They do not live a normal life. This is not about being conservative. This is about what is the reproduction cycle or the life cycle, so we can continue. You can see a normal life in certain things.
I don’t want everybody to get married to have a ‘normal’ life. But in certain things, it is healthy. It is natural. It is why we are here. Evolution makes this romantic live for a purpose for the parents to raise the kids and for the kids to have protection and safety.
That’s the reason for romantic love. Otherwise, we will be like dogs [Laughing]. All of that. In humans, it is different. We have this romantic attachment. This romantic way of how we stay together for 10, 20, or more years. Your body makes you feel attached to the other person.
That guarantees those kids will be protected and be raised together. Of course, it is being raised with parents. Those raised with both parents are more successful. The studies show this. They do not do drugs. They do not drop out of school as much.
It is a lifestyle because evolution ‘wants that.’ Again, I am not saying everyone has to get married or have kids. What I am saying is that the approaching is natural, it is not when one part says, “No,” and the other side continues. If someone says, “I do not want to talk to you anymore,” or, “I do not have an interest in you.”
The other person has to understand this and then move on. If it is continuing the approaching, then it is two people consenting to the approaching. Then I think it is unfair for the other person to complain afterwards. Why didn’t you say something?
In most of these cases, what is interesting, after having the relationship, you just say that you didn’t consent. That is what bothers me more. How do I know if that guy wants to do things with me if he is doing everything with me? We hang out. We have sex.
3 months late, I say, “I did not consent. I was not making good decisions.” The decisions you make need to consequences. If you change your mind after, it doesn’t mean that you can ruin somebody’s life because he was thinking it was right. I think females need to think about this.
If you date with a guy, putting the female perspective forward, if this guy buys you jewelry, buy you clothes, take you to dinner at a restaurant, take you to a house, hang out with you, go out with you, what do you think, female? You would think he is in love with you and wants to be with you.
The same happens to the male side. If she accepts his presents, if she has sex with him, if she have an approach with him – meaning conversations, move forward another step, then he will think everything is good. That he has a green light to continue.
When you think you do not want anymore, you have to stop. Otherwise, it is rape. But if you continue, you are giving physical consent. I don’t want the guy saying, “Hey, can we stay together?” It is awkward. Of a guy asking, “Hey, Shirley, can I have consent to have your number or have sex with you?”
No, please, please, it is ridiculous. I understand women have been raped. But it is not because they have been asked for the phone number at the bar. If he wants to rape you, he will wait until you walk alone from the bar to the car. It is common sense.
Statistics, they don’t say the guys who ask or your number 90% want to rape you. No, it’s not the case.
Jacobsen: In conversations with women friends, has this only put tensions on relationships?
Rivera: I don’t think it is only that. I think it is a cultural thing. I think females who say these things may have interpersonal problems. What is a healthy relation? What is a good approach? They have a distortion of this because they have been loved. They have been having a healthy relation.
They could be raped in the past. Two of them I know, they have been raped when they were little. So, they do not understand what is a healthy relationship. All these approaches. They do not know what is a healthy approach. I have never been in that situation.
So, maybe, for me, it will be okay if a guy asks for my number and wants to try to date me. So, I probably what is a healthy consent, and approach, or non-approach, for a relationship. Maybe, these girls have social skill issues, or may have been abused in the past.
They may not understand what is a healthy approach or not. I think that’s the case. I see this more in the white community than the Hispanic community. In the Hispanic community, for us, it is probably normal because, I think, Latino males are more fresh. They can say things to your face.
For others, it cannot be that open. But in the culture, it is more normal. I don’t know if it is normal, if it’s good or bad, in the Hispanic community. But you just walk away, whatever. Here, you need to write on Facebook, write about it, “Oh my gosh, he told me that I am pretty. He said, ‘I am pretty.’ Oh my gosh.”
I do not want to say that they are overreacting. But I do not think it is proportional hat we doing with that thing. I do not think it is proportional or working. All of this cultural stuff. It is bad. Some people like it. Some people don’t like it. People need to understand, “I don’t like you. I don’t want to date with you.”
Please don’t go to his house. He might understand. Men cannot assume. But don’t be with him if you don’t want to be with him! I am telling you. If this guy takes me to meet his mom, if this guy takes me to dinner, if this guy buys me presents, I think everything is progressing.
I would assume it. If the next day, the male say, “Oh, Shirley. I didn’t want to fuck with you. You raped me.” I was like, “What did I do?” I would be confused. I would think everything is fine. He never said, “No.” He bought me this stuff. He invited me to places. What did I do?
It is the same for the male side.
Jacobsen: Tarana Burke lamented the characterization of #MeToo as a vindictive plot to take down powerful men. Some of her concerns are being raised in a counter-response without realizing that she raised these a while ago. Noam Chomsky, in some of his commentary, noted the pointing out of the real “social pathology” (the sexual misconduct).
At the same time, he wanted to make a distinction between allegation and demonstration. The allegation of a crime. The demonstration of a crime occurring. How do these two considerations of prominent people, considered moral people generally, play into your perspective in this ongoing and developing cultural phenomenon?
Rivera: Allegation and demonstration, I have a live video days ago about it. I did not mention allegation or demonstration. But I talked about a formal complaint. It can be a good term. Allegation, demonstration, I will talk about what we have right now.
Hopefully, I do not move out of the topic. It is not just the fact that you say something. It is good. If something happened, say something, but if you throw out everything out, you can use the right process in the right pattern. We are lucky. We have places to go to do this stuff.
It is not just a demonstration. It is difficult to demonstration these harassment situations. It is difficult to demonstrate a sexual harassment with a rape kit months later. It is how you are for real complaining. If you do an accusation, don’t give it on Facebook, a blog, go to the police, I will take into consideration those allegations.
They went to the police. She is looking for justice because she went to them. But if you are going to the public place without an alternative for investigation, and if trying to make a demonstration with opinions! You’re not doing anything. I will not believe you.
I will not take consideration of your allegation because demonstration. Where? Where are you demonstrating? And what? The police or your friends in a blog? Demonstration, you have a bunch of evidence. You have friends who make comments about it.
It is not a demonstration. It is shocking. You have to go to the right place to demonstrate with the right people with the right place to do the right investigation to see if a rape happened 10 or 5 years ago. We will have to go very deep. But I don’t think there is a demonstration with opinions because they are just opinions about an event that happened with uncertainty if people were there.
Allegation, where did you do the allegation? Where? Demonstration, who were the people demonstrating this? Is it just people make an opinion about this? You are not demonstrating anything. Allegations, again, where – in a police department or a in a blog? Demonstration, who – the police or your friends making opinions about this? Everyone then judging and making conclusions about the issue. You didn’t demonstrate anything.
Jacobsen: What about the poor processing of rape kits by the authorities, police, and so on
Rivera: I work in these areas. 75% of the population, I work with sex offenders against minors and adults. Rape kit, probably, 24 hours after the event. You can take the kit. You cannot take a shower. That is the best thing. Most victims are not able to take this in 24 hours. Most of them hide themselves, insulate themselves. I don’t know how you say this word in English.
The victim avoids people, that’s the first thing with rape. They avoid people. Nobody knows anything. It is difficult until you get a sample of a rape kit because you can prove that contact. After that, it is very difficult to prove rape. There is no evidence, except testimonies. Or probably, people who see you together with them.
If there is no rape kit, then there is no evidence. It is hard to believe. I have people who have been out of jail because the person changed their mind later. Everyone thought that he actually raped her, for 8 years. 8 years later, she decided to talk. They dropped his charges. For 8 years, people thought these he did because her testimony looked real, feels real. I share this story from days ago.
In this county, 44% of the cases, it was just false testimonies. If we put this at the big scale, what number would you have? 44% is a lot. It is a lot.
Jacobsen: Is this after or before considering under-reportage of men and under-reportage of women victims?
Rivera: Females, females.
Jacobsen: I guess, this would apply to men as well. In this sense, is this before the consideration of under-reportage? So, of those reported, the 44% number comes up.
Rivera: The reportage, it was all females.
Jacobsen: How serious is eye-witness testimony taken in the United States of America?
Rivera: Most of the testimony, pretty much all of them, are minors. It happens with parents in the house. Most of these events, the child says, “This just happened to me.” Most of the cases, honestly, they let the parents know right away. But the parents do not prevent this from happening. They bring people over.
They drink. It s a party. Then this stuff happens. It is weird. But most of these cases for adults, they were dating. It is a pattern. It is the same characteristics when they happen. For minors, it happens in the house, always alcohol is involved. When it is adults, usually, they are dating or are going to hang out.
Jacobsen: It is alcohol or an intimate partner, or both.
Rivera: Never a stranger in most of the cases that I’ve seen.
Jacobsen: Again, to repeat, this is based on professional work experience for you. You work in correctional facilities with sex offenders.
Jacobsen: Many people don’t want that job.
Rivera: [Laughing] yes. It is what it is.
Jacobsen: It’s true.
Rivera: That’s I tell you. It is never strangers. It never people who are strangers to you. It is always people you know and who you bring to your house. I want evidence because I can ruin someone’s life with words.
Jacobsen: What are the best forms of evidence in these extreme forms of sexual violence allegations?
Rivera: Right away, get a rape kit, don’t shower, you have more than 24 hours if you do not shower.
Jacobsen: Why is it 24 hours?
Rivera: Because of the fluids. The fluids from the person who raped you from his body. All of that. It is better to check in before 24 hours. After 24 hours, or if you shower, it is going to be gone. If you scratch the person, the touch will stay there. Of course, we can find saliva in the genitalia if he forced oral sex on you.
There are plenty of ways that you can prove that.
Jacobsen: Are there any weaknesses in the forms of rape kits that we have now? Is there only one type? Or are there different types? Is there more than one form of rape kit or only one generic form?
Rivera: Usually, when they do penetration or sodomy, there is a separate way of judging them. Then when they ask for oral sex from the young, it is, usually, a stepfather or people who you bring over to the house. People have to be careful who they bring over to their house. Sometimes, get too drunk and go to sleep with strangers in the house, you give your kids to the predators. You are doing it.
You are responsible. Or it is the stepdad. People have to avoid this. They are sick. They do not understand. They do not understand a healthy relationship. That’s how they understand things. They think this is normal. They will do it. We have to prevent it. We have to put them on that situation. Because there is no way to stop that.
I have a friend telling me in Puerto Rico that they do not do the rape kits. We have them in the United States. Most of the hospital emergency rooms have the rape kits. If you get raped or are forced to do sexual contact, you can go to the emergency room. Most of the hospital have a rape kit. I do not know how it is in Canada.
Jacobsen: The processing time is 24 hours for a rape kit.
Rivera: It can be longer, just don’t shower.
Jacobsen: There is no issue to do with the processing time of them in certain areas of the country, maybe, being lackadaisical in terms of the processing time for them or the backlogging of them.
Rivera: Like the time?
Jacobsen: Let’s say a hypothetical case of a police department being overdrawn in terms of their internal resources, so they deal with other cases. The rape kit cases get delayed.
Rivera: You can go straight o the emergency room. Even if you do not want to make an accusation, you can go there. If a minor, they will call the police. If an adult, then you can go to the emergency room and have the rape kit done. It is optional to do the complaint to the police.If it is a minor, then the police can do the complaint directly because the child can be raped by their own parents. But the rape kits, you can go straight. I say that.
If somebody rapes you, go straight to the emergency room, you do not have to go to the police. Make them get the rape kit for you, talk to somebody there, get your testimony from someone, they can be a testifier for you. Doctors have to testify when they get a patient like that. But if you go to the police, you will lose hours there.
Your evidence will be lost there. It is better to conserve the evidence and go to the hospital.
Jacobsen: Of all of the sides in the public conversation being talked about by lay people without necessary experience in law and law enforcement, in legal contexts, in experience, in knowing someone who has gone through that experience, and so on, what is one nuance that you just never see talked about in the public?
Rivera: Wow – something I never see talked about in public. When we are talking about rape things, I wish people being raped by people who are in the house. The offenders are in the house. The majority of the rape cases, the offender lives in the house. They are there with the child. Nobody will talk about it.
If you have your uncle, your stepfather, with the kids, those can be a predator. The problem is that people leave and the kids are there. Nobody says, “If you leave the stepfather or the uncle with the kids, they can be the predator.” They leave for work. No one can say anything while out at work. The kids say nothing because they are scared.
We need to talk more about what happens in the houses.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Shirley.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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