Tonight I watched The General's Daughter. It raises a slew of very interesting questions and moral dilemmas for further research. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
1. The film attempts to portray a victim of gang rape reclaiming her sense of self and self confidence through engaging in the dominant role of BDSM-type relationships. She also becomes very promiscuous. Is this accurate to some responses of rape victims or not? (My assumption without researching is most likely not)
2. The film includes the victim of gang rape choosing to replay her rape, this time hoping for a different response and reaction from her father, who betrayed her. Is this (rape replay) actually therapeutically helpful? If yes, when is it used? If not, why isn't it used?
3. The film attempts to claim that an individual's pain takes precedence over all the consequences that might occur due to a public announcement of that pain. The General is denounced for covering up the gang rape and telling his daughter 'It never happened.' However, in his mind he was preserving the reputation of West Point. He assumed her rapists would never be found (this was before the days of DNA) and that in light of this, 1000 graduates of West Point did not deserve to have their reputations tarnished (as they would be considered potential rapists in the eyes of the world). Also, the presence of women in the military would be set back by decades as women would be afraid to sign up. So: is an individual's pain worth these far-reaching consequences or not?
Given the famous Duke lacrosse team case, where all the members of the team were found guilty in the court of public opinion- while later it was proven that the stripper simply made up the entire scenario- one must wonder about this last.
What I figure is that the matter should have been discreetly investigated and they should have attempted to have found the rapists. They should have tried to keep it quiet so that the media would not find out and hence the consequences they worried over would not have occurred. The general should not have denied that the rape ever happened. At the very least he should have told his daughter that the rape DID happen but that she should consider the potential consequences for the army and West Point as a whole before pressing charges, thus leaving the decision up to her.
I was thinking that to some extent the scenario was similar to allegations of incest or abuse. Sometimes a parent can be the abuser and the other parent can be aware of the abuse but denies it to himself/ herself and to the child, if confronted. So the child is not protected by the parent and their pain is considered non-existent and is denied outright. The film claims that this 'betrayal' is what is worse than rape. But I don't think betrayal is the right word. I would argue 'denial' is.
Denial is a powerful form of demoralizing, degrading and demeaning victims. Denial is saying their pain is not real or valid, the episodes they report never occurred and that they have no excuse for being victims at all. It was not the father's betrayal of his daughter that hurt her. It was his denial that the rape had even occurred at all, and that her subsequent psychological problems were real.
Denial invalidates one's feelings and also casts doubt upon their mental state. If it didn't happen, perhaps you made it up. And if you made it up for no reason, that suggests you are troubled. It's a form of psychological warfare to deny that trauma occurred. It is in fact a more extreme form of gaslighting. What the general's daughter couldn't forgive is that her father told her what she had been through didn't exist, that the pain wasn't real, and that her subsequent behavior was not connected to it. She wanted acknowledgment of the truth and she didn't get it.
The sad thing is, too many victims don't.