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Rape Portrayed as Redemption

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"Anyone who watches soap operas knows that the quickest way to turn a bad girl into a sympathetic heroine is to have her raped."

One day a bad girl traipses into town. She could be a snotty trouble-making type, a Femme Fatale, a woman who's seen as "too outspoken," the Alpha Bitch or a member of her Girl Posse, a woman who doesn't conform to societal expectations, or just a woman with overly healthy appetites for sex, power, or both. She spends the next few months making life interesting for the guys and infuriating for the parents/good girls.

And then she is raped. Or in tamer stories, rape is attempted and she either fights off her assailant(s) or gets rescued right before she's violated.

Who is doing the rape is not important. What's important is that, rape being as traumatic as it is, the girl is completely broken by her experience; she begins along a slow, steady path to recovery, often aided by a gentle male soul who often charms her, or a gentle female soul who teaches her empathy. However, when all is said and done, she is no longer a "bad girl"; she has become the sweet heroine at the center of the show. Even if the dialogue goes out of its way to say that the woman isn't at fault, the personality changes that result in making her more docile are a big reason why she goes from bad girl to beloved. In short, getting raped was the best thing that ever happened to her. Could also be related to The Woobie.

Alternatively, either a specific man or the entire male gender (or both) need to be taught a lesson. If the man is being raped by a woman, it is often used to make a statement for sexual equality, sometimes for strange values of "equality". If the man is being raped by another man, it's usually punishment for being a rapist or not being sufficiently sympathetic to female rape victims, or sometimes to punish him for being gay.

One particularly disturbing version is where a Heteronormative Crusader rapes a gay person, justifying their crime with claims that the sex act will "cure" them of their homosexuality. Modern works will usually cast the rapist as a villain, but in earlier works, the rapist may very well be the hero, and (due to contemporary misunderstanding of what homosexuality was) the cure may very well work.

Regardless of how well the story is told, this trope may have Unfortunate Implications. There is a sense that the person is being punished and that they need to be "taught a lesson", in regard to their sexuality or assertiveness, or "put back in their place."

The female version is also very popular in Fan Fic, especially with the Alpha Bitch of any show as the victim. Can overlap with Karmic Rape if the rape is portrayed as a form of karmic justice. Contrast Freudian Excuse, when rape and other traumatic incidents make someone a villain or a Jerkass.

Due to the nature of this trope, Examples may be NSFW. You have been warned.

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Rape of Women by Men

    Anime & Manga 
  • Anaru from Anohana The Flower We Saw That Day is an extremely passive girl who goes with the crowd. The flaw steadily gets worse throughout the series, up until the climax for her story arc. Here, her "friends" leave her out with a known creep, and he takes her out to a love hotel, implying that he wants sex. Anaru gets socially trapped and due to her passive nature was unable to escape the situation on her own. Fortunately, Yukiatsu comes out from around the block, and manages to deescalate the situation and helps Anaru go back home. Anaru is more assertive of herself after the event. This opens up Yukiatsu and Anaru, and the two are able to begin communicating with each other. Ultimately, the whole cast's problem is lack of communication, and it is because of the Yukiatsu rescue that these old friends (and eventually the whole group) are able to make amends with each other.
  • In Arachnid, Setsuna Dinoponera is a lonely girl who is too violent and prideful to make any friends. After beating up several people in the Arachnid Hunt battle royale and being defeated by the heroine Alice, Dinopo is ambushed by another assassin under the orders of the man who called her there in the first place and is tossed to a crowd of rape-zombies while paralyzed. In the sequel, Blattodea, it is revealed that Alice forcing Dinoponera to sting herself with ant venom made her resistant to the zombifying virus and that she did have a friend, Chiyuri, the whole time. This convoluted plan to make Dinopo a Living Macguffin forces her to learn humility and empathy so she can work with Chiyuri to stop the zombie outbreak.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: Miyabi's Attempted Rape marks a turning point in her personality, from Alpha Bitch to Defrosting Ice Queen. After that, and especially after the end of the Mayu arc, she has a noticeable personality shift now that she's alone against Onizuka, and is forced to admit to herself that he's not such a bad person, given he rescued her from that attempted rape and shows her kindness when she runs away from home.
  • The Rapeman, a Black Comedy manga, took this to its logical conclusion: A superhero who raped female criminals in order to make them peaceful, law-obeying women. Though it only ran for 9 issues before being canceled (though it remarkably spawned both an anime and four live-action movies), the sheer absurdity of its premise nonetheless earned it a sizeable cult audience in the USA — including music producer Steve Albini, who named a noise rock band after it.
  • A strange variation takes place in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, of all places, where Anzu is depicted as hostile to Jonouchi and Yugi until she gets blackmailed into going to the school gym where a perverted gym instructor starts videotaping her. After she gets knocked unconscious against a wall, Yugi shows up and stops the situation by mind-crushing the man. After this, Anzu becomes a lot nicer. In the US version, it is depicted as Yugi rescuing her from a mugger... probably a good place for a Macekre if there ever was one.
    • In the manga, she was always Yugi's friend and nice to him. She defended Yugi from Jonouchi when he picked on Yugi. She was more concerned about Jonouchi/Joey telling everyone since they didn't get along and she thought of him as a blabbermouth punk, but once he makes it clear that he would sincerely never do that, she is put at ease. Likewise, the incident with the gym instructor didn't happen.

    Comic Books 
  • A variation occurs in Runaways. Molly Hayes and her new friend Klara Prast (who happens to be an 11-year-old stuck in an abusive marriage to a much older man) have a falling out after Klara learns that Molly is living with a lesbian couple because Klara is a devout Calvinist who believes that homosexuality is a sin (Molly points out that what Klara's husband is doing to her might also be considered a sin.) At the end of the arc, Klara reappears, having been beaten up by her husband for attempting to run away. Naturally, Molly and the other Runaways are quick to offer her a spot on the Leapfrog. It is never explicitly stated that rape was one of the ways that Mr. Prast chose to punish Klara for trying to run away, but since she'd earlier revealed that he forced her into "marital duties"...

    Fan Works 
  • Happens in a surprisingly high number of Fanfics involving Bellatrix Lestrange.
  • Also occurs in Shinji And Warhammer 40 K in the prologue, with Shinji's childhood crush as the victim.
  • In the Galaxy Rangers Fanfic Isn't Life Strange, this hits Daisy O'Mega. While she was on her way to exchange information on an impending Crown attack for a pardon of her impressive rap sheet, being caught and brutalized by her former partner-in-crime Macross along with being tossed in the Psychocrypt was enough for her to give up crime and go back to bounty hunting for the good guys after her pardon went through.
  • A few fanfics giving this treatment to Daria's bitchy sister, Quinn, were famously a source of much controversy within the fandom.
  • Hivefled; Mindfang, as in canon, mind-controls and rapes her slaves, while under the impression it's helping them by letting them have some "fun". She then gets psychically and situationally manipulated into unwanted sex herself and realises it doesn't feel helpful at all. Whether the lesson actually sticks has yet to be shown, though, and her current favourite slave is still angry about her treatment.

  • In Goldfinger, James Bond's triggering of the mandatory High-Heel–Face Turn comes dangerously close to this, which is a softening from the book, since in the original he rapes Pussy Galore out of her lesbianism.
  • This is one major weak point of the movie Hounddog. The director clearly stated that the movie is about Lewellen (12-year-old girl) "overcoming" her rape, but the effect is not that. Rather, she becomes a much more wholesome character (including not being fixated on her body anymore) and generally looks like a better person.

  • Flannery O’Connor was a big fan of this one. Although few instances of rape exist in her fiction, she nonetheless typically regarded extreme acts of violence against prideful, self-righteous people as acts of salvation — something to snap them out of their foolishness. See "Good Country People" and "Revelation", for examples.
  • Interpreter of Maladies has the story "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar". Bibi suffers from frequent seizures and illnesses, and while the townspeople try to provide for her and even throw out her relatives who abuse her, they don't enable her to provide for herself. It is only after she is raped and impregnated that they give her the resources she needs to care for her children, and Bibi is able to overcome her illness to become successful. This, of course, is at the cost of her dignity.
  • Diana Mayo, female protagonist of The Sheik. It's not-so-subtly implied that her repeated rape and the subsequent Stockholm Syndrome that cause her to become more subservient and feminine are karmic retribution for being so "unnaturally" cold and "unfeminine".
  • This was a common trope to Germanic epic narratives.
    • The Nibelungenlied plays this straight with Brunhild, who needs a Cyrano figure not only to woo her but to rape her into submission, as well. However, once Brunhild finds out what happens (from Siegfried's boastful wife), she is out for blood and sets in motion the plot to assassinate Siegfried, and once that is achieved, she disappears from the story, leaving Gunther without a wife but with a sister now hellbent on avenging Siegfried. In some versions, e.g. the Fritz Lang/Thea von Harbou film, Brunhild commits suicide once Siegfried is dead.
    • This theme is played more subtly in Beowulf, which includes a side-story about an evil princess named Modthryth who tortured people for looking at her the wrong way. Naturally, she becomes a fantastic queen after being married off.
  • Averted in Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, which has Lisbeth Salander playing the bad girl doing bad things bit perfectly. She's raped by the person designated as her primary caretaker-twice. Instead of reforming or becoming a broken bird, she submits her tormentor to the same torture he put her through and then tattoos "I am a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist." on his chest and stomach before threatening to destroy him if he ever crosses her again. She never tells anyone about the rape (until it comes up in her trial), and she doesn't soften up.
  • In Death: Carly Landsdowne from Witness In Death: She starts out as hedonistic and a Jerkass. Then Eve reveals to her that her birth father is none other than Asshole Victim Richard Draco, who she had sex with. Carly displays appropriate Squick reactions to that revelation. The last that was seen of her, she was having sessions with professional psychologist Dr. Mira.
  • Michael Moorcock's Gloriana ends with the titular queen being raped by her sometime-lover and sometime-enemy; this is portrayed as a spiritual cure for a lot of things that have been plaguing her life, and they marry and live Happily Ever After. When a feminist friend pointed out the Unfortunate Implications to Moorcock, he agreed, facepalmed, and rewrote the ending so that Gloriana's redemption comes from her standing up against her would-be rapist, asserting her power, and making him realize that he loves her and doesn't want to hurt her, and then they have mind-blowing consensual emotionally-healing and curse-breaking sex. Subsequently, Moorcock became a crusader against gratuitous violence against women in fiction.
  • L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth series has Soltan Gris involved in this. They later keep him prisoner and force him to have sex with them.
  • This is what most people believe of sorceri in Frostflower and Thorn, since these men and women will lose their unholy powers along with their virginity. Subverted very hard in the novel itself, as sorceri are innocent victims of bigotry and the Virgin Power thing isn't real, just an excuse to rape them out of hatred.
  • In the Wagons West novel Nebraska! Eulalia Woodling had a major personality change for the good after being used as a sex slave by Indians for months.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A standard plot of many Soap Operas:
    • Promiscuous troublemaker Marty Saybrooke on One Life to Live was the centerpiece of the multiple Emmy-winning gang rape storyline back in the early 1990s and promptly became the show's heroine in the aftermath—her rapist all but lampshaded this by suggesting that she be grateful to him for her change in status.
    • Elizabeth Webber on General Hospital. Originally, she came to town as the overlooked younger sister, seething with jealousy over her seemingly perfect sister, Sarah. At first, the show started a Betty and Veronica with brunette troublemaker Elizabeth, golden girl Sarah and nice guy Lucky Spencer. Fast forward to the Valentine's Day rape and Lucky finding the brutalized Elizabeth in the park. Within months, Sarah is gone, Elizabeth and Lucky are bonding, and Elizabeth becomes one of the show's central heroines.
    • Averted the first time, but played straight the second time with Days of Our Lives Sami Brady. In 1994, Sami was already developing a reputation as a troublemaker (having switched a paternity test on her baby sister and then kidnapped said baby sister, as well as trying to steal Austin Reed, her older sister's boyfriend). When the character was raped, the character became even worse and ended up being the show's secondary villain. In fact, less than a year after her own rape Sami was resorting to drugging Austin into sleeping with her. Fast-forward to 2007 and Sami is forced to have sex with EJ Welles in order to save her fiance Lucas' life. This time the rape is used to complete Sami's Heel–Face Turn. Later Sami was forced to divorce Lucas in order to marry EJ, but then eventually chose EJ over him.
    • In As the World Turns, Emily, a scheming vixen who was eventually raped by her partner-in-crime when she expressed disgust as some of his actions. Although she did spend several months dressing very conservatively and shunning romantic relationships, it wasn't long before she returned to her old ways, eventually pursuing the husband of a woman who had befriended her after they met at a rape crisis center.
    • Gloria Marsh on All My Children came to town as a scheming, conniving, lying con artist who blackmailed her former partner and lover into resuming their affair by threatening to tell his wife Dixie about his past. Much like many of the women subjected to this trope, she'd actually begun to show hints of her humanity before the attack, which kicked the Heel–Face Turn into full gear. Several years later, a similar character, Kit Fisher showed up in town as an already reformed con artist whom no one wanted to give the benefit of the doubt. Sure enough, she became the town heroine once she was raped.
  • Paige on Degrassi: The Next Generation. Before the episode in which she was raped, she was your typical bitchy popular girl. She had also shunned Ashley and started treating her badly. She ended up becoming much nicer to the other students, welcoming Ashley back into her circle of friends, and becoming friends with less popular ones.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Deconstructed with Number Six. All the many Six duplicates start being portrayed more sympathetically after we're introduced to one of them named Gina, who was gang-raped by the crew of the Battlestar Pegasus. Before that, they were typically hard-core in their evil blonde robotness. Nicely addressed in an essay here. However, Gina is sympathetic but not necessarily "good". She was so traumatized by the experience that she did still blow a bunch of people up in the end.
  • Bree Van De Kamp in Desperate Housewives continued her downward spiral of taking random men home from bars every night only to encounter a not-so-friendly prospect in the parking lot. She is rescued by Orson, immediately drops the habit and returns to her former conservative demeanor.
  • The writers on Game of Thrones get a lot of flak for their perceived over-use of rape and sexual violence against women as a dramatic device.
    • Averted numerous times with Cersei, who is shown to get sexually humiliated or raped multiple. She's raped by Jaime in front of her dead son's corpse on-screen. (The writers and directors, however, swore up and down that they didn't intend it to come across as a rape scene and insist it was consensual in-universe.) She's sexually humiliated when she's stripped and made to walk naked while a crowd of commoners scream insults and throw things at her. In each occasion, she briefly comes across as more sympathetic and vulnerable, but will almost immediately do something terrifying (for example, setting off fire-bombs in a church filled with mostly innocent people, and the audience is reminded that Cersei is still a terrible, terrible human being.
    • Played straight with Theon, who is subject to sexual humiliation and castration by Ramsay. Whereas in the books his torture and rape-by-proxy were meant as a Be Careful What You Wish For challenge to the readers who wanted some retribution for his evil acts; in the show, it's played very straight.
  • On Veronica Mars, Parker is an annoying ditz and seen as promiscuous until she's raped. Afterward, she's more mature and becomes a good friend to Veronica and Mac.
  • Gemma in Sons of Anarchy is softer after her rape in season 2
  • A unique inversion happens with Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Attempting to rape Buffy after she ended their destructive romance led him to realize just how evil he was. Spike immediately set out on a redemption quest to regain his soul and complete his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Invoked in The Handmaid's Tale as the process behind the titular Handmaids, who are selected among "fallen women" (prostitutes, lesbians, adulterers, mistresses, etc.) that happened to be fertile and then they are indoctrinated in Gilead to become breeding slaves for the Commanders in hopes of being redeemed.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • While it was merely an Attempted Rape, the 'going after' of Elizabeth Patterson in For Better or for Worse has undertones of this since this is the main impetus that got her back into the arms of her high school sweetheart Anthony, who saved her. Considering Anthony's the Creator's Pet, though.... (also considering he asked her to wait for him, as his divorce hadn't gone through yet...)


    Web Original 
  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Not rape per se, but the experience of nearly having her dickish boyfriend sell a sex tape of them notably calms down Lydia Bennet, and she becomes a somewhat more thoughtful character.

Rape of Women by Women

    Anime & Manga 
  • A variant of this trope happens in Infinite Ryvius: Kozue whose boyfriend counts as privileged on the ship, infuriates people around her with her spoiled and selfish behavior (she's not doing it on purpose but fails to read the warning signs). In the end, a group of girls assault her and it's implied that she's raped. After this, her behavior changes dramatically, but she doesn't recover from the trauma — especially as the incident makes her boyfriend react in a way that has horrible consequences for everyone on the ship. She does not "improve" after the incident.

    Comic Books 
  • In Alan Moore's erotic comic Lost Girls, Alice Liddel tenderly begins kissing Wendy while they're alone. When Wendy is disgusted and tries to leave, Alice becomes angry and forcibly seduces Wendy (who starts enjoying it partway through). This is portrayed as Wendy being freed from the shackles of her repressed middle-class life and serves as a bonding experience with Alice, who becomes close friends with Wendy.

  • The Vagina Monologues includes a section ("The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could") where the speaker reminisces fondly about getting drunk and being seduced by an older woman (statutory rape instead of non-consensual rape). This section proved controversial for this reason and the victim is commonly either aged up in productions, or the scene is skipped entirely.
    • Although the "redemption" isn't about the character getting over being a bad person, but rather getting over hating herself and her own body.

Rape of Men by Men

    Fan Works 
  • There are like a million "Light gets raped" fics.
  • The entire purpose of the rather infamous "Financial Crisis Gang-Bang" request for the Hetalia: Axis Powers Kink Meme was for America to be punished for screwing up the economy via a horrific gang rape from the leads. Many of the follow-up fanfictions focused on America being the subject of sympathy for both Nations who weren't aware of the gang bang and those that were. Many of those fanfictions showed America winning said sympathy by being incredibly broken, withdrawn, calmer, and generally the opposite of his canon self (in other words, the self who was a hothead who was to be taught a lesson via the gang banging).
  • Way too much Star Trek: The Original Series K/S Slash Fic depicts Spock raping Jim Kirk, or vice versa, to teach him that he was gay all along. Sondra Marshak, author of several professionally published Star Trek novels, began pushing the idea that Kirk secretly wanted to be raped by Spock to the Star Trek creators and people involved with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, to the point that she and her partner Myrna Culbreath were banished from the Paramount offices and lot.
  • House whump fanfics, or at least the more famous ones, have him being raped to Break the Haughty. Slightly included in the series proper too, as he goes to jail after season 7 and gets abuse including unshown but mentioned rape, and is a slightly nicer ass in season 8.

  • The movie Sorority Boys combines this trope with Disguised in Drag, where circumstances force a sexist fraternity brother to dress in drag and pretend to be a woman. One of his fraternity brothers feeds him a roofie and anally rapes him (believing him to be a woman throughout).
  • The climactic scene of Butch saving Marcellus Wallace from being raped by the hillbillies in Pulp Fiction plays with this trope, since this scene is more about Butch's redemption than Marcellus'.
  • American History X: After Edward Norton's character is prison raped by his "comrades" for associating with a black inmate (ironically, the man who rapes him deals with a Mexican), it's one of the turning points for him abandoning his Neo-Nazi ways. The rape occurs because Edward Norton's character, as a Neo-Nazi who got his start before going to prison, disapproves of the prison Neo-Nazis associating with non-whites. They later rape him to teach him a lesson.
  • The award-winning short film series The Puppet Rapist has the titular puppet rapist find redemption by raping a puppet (but this time for the right reasons).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Prominent in prison dramas.
  • This could be the point of the Carver arc in Nip/Tuck: The Carver selects beautiful models (both female and male), brutally rapes them and disfigures their faces. In one case, the Carver rapes a male victim, hinted to be a jerkass prior to the rape, making him pathetic, broken and emasculated.
  • In The Rape of Richard Beck, the titular character is a detective who thinks rape victims bring it on themselves but has a change of heart after he himself is raped by two criminals he was pursuing.

  • Wicked Lovely: Niall's backstory. The rape showed that he did in fact care for the mortals, and his self-sacrificing (perhaps overly so) nature. His attitude towards being a survivor is also largely responsible for him being a good-ish person.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: We never find out all the details of what Ramsay Snow, the Bastard of Bolton, did to Theon, but it is very heavily hinted that there was at least some kind of sexual abuse involved (not even counting what we see outright on Jeyne's wedding night). Sure enough, Theon, who spent the last book where we saw him being thoroughly loathsome, becomes the Woobie. The torture helped, but the sexual abuse was the horrible icing on the cake.

    Web Original 

Rape of Men by Women

    Fan Works 
  • In Knowledge is Power Ron gets this at the hands of Millicent, with whom he subsequently falls in love. "Humour/Romance" indeed.
  • A Rabbit Among Wolves: Downplayed. While not a bad person, Jaune was incredibly naïve about the discrimination faunus face, and only helping them out of pure self interest. Being nearly raped by an SDC manager while pretending to be a faunus is what makes him wake up to the brutal treatment they face.

  • Wedding Crashers is about two friends who crash weddings and have sex with women they find at said weddings, the theory being that watching a marriage makes women much easier targets than, say, in a bar (open bars help too). One of Vince Vaughn's conquests turns out to be a nutcase who won't let him go and does increasingly insane things to him, including rape. Keeping in line with the trope, he goes from being an unrepentant womanizer to falling madly in love with her and marrying her by the film's end.
  • The Most Fertile Man In Ireland: When the most fertile man in Ireland refuses to use his new-found ability, a woman whose husband is sterile and whose religious beliefs deny her artificial insemination sneaks up to his room in the middle of the night and starts graphically raping him in his sleep. The incident served only to make him realize he can't deny his potential. He decides to at least grant his consent from then on by charging money from the other willing local women.
  • Toward the end of Oscar And Lucinda, Oscar is raped by a woman who's supposed to be looking after him. She dies in childbirth after Oscar's death, and her son is raised by Lucinda.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Detective Stabler is unsympathetic to and dismissive of a male stripper who had been raped by three female clients, refusing to believe that a man can be physically overpowered by women. Later in the episode, two of his female coworkers demonstrated how two of the women worked together to disable and murder the third woman, using Stabler as the victim. While he was not raped, the disquieting demonstration was clearly meant to teach the unsympathetic alpha male a lesson about gender equality.
  • Weeds: U-Turn has Clinique give Sanjay his first taste of woman more or less at gunpoint. To make it more Unfortunate Implications, he's gay.
  • Jason from True Blood is kidnapped and gang-raped by at least a dozen women. He seems to think of it as punishment for all of the casual sex he was having. The payoff for this storyline was him getting together with Jessica.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy
    • With the use of shadows, in which a sex-deprived Lois forces herself onto Peter (who's taken to abstinence). It doesn't take much for him to give in. It Makes Sense in Context. Peter had missed the point of why some people choose abstinence, and so it was Played for Laughs.
    • In a later episode where Peter's boss is sexually harassing him, Lois doesn't believe him because men can't be abused. Both in this episode and "Lethal Weapons", it is expressed as something that Peter does not want to do, but it probably wouldn't matter if they were called out on it, because they don't see it as something wrong.

Mixed Examples

    Anime & Manga 

Alternative Title(s): Rape As Redemption