9 Myths of Sexual Assault


9 things people believe about sexual assault that don’t make any sense

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With the recent wave of new rape allegations against Bill Cosby, and the controversy surrounding a Rolling Stone article alleging that a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house went unpunished, sexual assault has been in the headlines more than usual.

Unfortunately, the reinvigorated conversation around the topic has included a lot of stubborn assumptions about rape and harmful stereotypes about victims.

These misconceptions perpetuate a culture in which sexual assault too often goes unreported and perpetrators go unpunished. Here are nine of the most common myths about sexual assault*, and why they’re simply not true.

Myth #1: You can’t trust rape allegations because they’re so often false

There’s some debate about this, but it’s generally estimated that between two and 10 percent of rape allegations are false, according to various studies and interpretations of FBI data — not a very high percentage, and certainly not high enough to support the widespread skepticism that tends to surround rape allegations. The exact percentage of false allegations is hard to pin down because there’s so much debate about how exactly to determine which reports are false.

But really, even if the number were much higher, it wouldn’t provide a good basis for the assumption that any individual victim was lying about her experience. After all, people have lied about having their cars stolen plenty of times, but this doesn’t lead us to question everyone who makes this claim.

The bottom line is that it makes sense to approach individual rape allegations based on their particular facts, not assumptions about what typically happens that could discourage rape victims from reporting the crime.

In one 2010 study, researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and Northeastern University found that out of 136 cases of sexual assault reported to university over a 10-year period, eight were coded as false.

In a 2010 study from Massachusetts researchers, eight out of 136 cases of sexual assault reported to a Northeastern university over a 10-year period were coded as false. (Jody Sieradzki / Dadaviz)

In a 2010 study from Massachusetts researchers, eight out of 136 cases of sexual assault reported to a Northeastern university over a 10-year period were coded as false. (Jody Sieradzki / Dadaviz)

“The stereotype that false rape allegations are a common occurrence, a widely held misconception in broad swaths of society, including among police officers, has very direct and concrete consequences,” the authors wrote. “It contributes to the enormous problem of underreporting by victims of rape and sexual abuse.”

Myth #2:  Sexual assault happens because of the way women dress

There’s a widely held belief that a good strategy for people — especially women — to avoid sexual assault is to wear clothes that will make them less sexually attractive to potential attackers. For example, conservative radio host Laura Ingraham has suggested that encouraging girls to forgo “immodest” clothing could help to avoid rape.

EXPERTS SAY SEXUAL ASSAULT STEMS FROM A PERSON’S DETERMINATION TO EXERCISE POWER OVER SOMEONE ELSE

But it’s absurd to think that style of dress would ever invite or excuse a crime (Is a man with an expensive watch asking to be robbed? No.)

Experts say sexual assault stems from a person’s determination to exercise power over someone else, not from being uncontrollably aroused by their victim’s appearance. Plus, most of the time, it’s planned in advance, a fact that pokes another hole in the theory that attackers simply see provocative clothing and are unable to control themselves.

Last March, women on Twitter challenged this myth by describing the clothes they were wearing when they were sexual assaulted — jeans, t-shirts, kids’ pajamas, sweats, school uniforms, etc. — to make a statement about the absurdity of blaming victims’ clothing for their attacks. The only meaningful risk factor is the presence and conduct of a rapist or sexual predator.

Myth #3: Sexual assault happens when someone is uncontrollably aroused

Underscoring the point above — that women can’t prevent rape with their style of dress — is this: sexual assault is an act of physical violence and domination, not a “crime of passion” that is motivated by sexual attraction. We know that rape is a crime of violence using sex, not a crime that is primarily motivated by sexual desire, and that most perpetrators of sexual assault have access to sex with someone other than their victim.

THIS IS PRETTY BASIC: ALMOST EVERYONE HAS SEXUAL DESIRES, AND NOT EVERYONE COMMITS SEXUAL ASSAULT

This is pretty basic: almost everyone has sexual desires, and not everyone commits sexual assault. Neither men nor women physically need to have sex after becoming sexually excited. We’re all very much able to control ourselves after becoming aroused, if we choose to do so. Belief in this myth can lead us to blame the victim and not hold the rapist accountable for his or her actions.

Myth #4: It’s not rape if you’ve dated or had consensual sex before

It’s not unusual at all for a victim and attacker to have had a previous relationship. Scrutiny of what the victim did before the alleged rapeplaces the responsibility of the offender’s actions with the victim and takes the focus off of whether she consented to the sexual activity that’s in question.

So whether a victim went to her attacker’s home or dorm room, or whether she previously consented to or engaged in some sexual activity, does not tell us anything about what happened in the moment she said she was assaulted. Consent to sex is something that can be given at one time, and withheld at another. No matter what the relationship, or what happened before, sexual activity forced upon another without consent is sexual assault.

Myth #5: Real sexual assault victims go to the police right away

This belief is dangerous because it creates skepticism about claims of victims if they’re not voiced immediately after the alleged assaults. But it’s not true that most victims contact law enforcement, and it’s even less true that they do so immediately after being attacked.

According to the Department of Justice, it’s estimated that a full 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. There are plenty of good reasons a sexual assault victim might hesitate to go to the police: the stress of talking to a stranger about a traumatic experience, doubt that the accuser will be held accountable, anxiety about participating in a trial and having to face an attacker, not knowing that the incident qualified as sexual assault, misplaced shame — and of course, concerns about not being believed. A person’s choice not to report an assault, or not to report it immediately, can mean a lot of things. What it definitely doesn’t mean is that the assault didn’t happen.

Myth #6: Rape is easy to avoid if you stay away from dangerous places and suspicious strangers

There’s a myth that most sexual assaults occur at the hands of deranged men who attack women they don’t know. This idea is perpetuated because stranger assault is more widely reported in the media and to the police than assault that occurs between people who know each other.  But rape and sexual assault can occur at any time, any place, to anyone, and by anyone.

RAPE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT CAN OCCUR AT ANY TIME, ANY PLACE, TO ANYONE, AND BY ANYONE.

According to a report based on FBI data, almost 70 percent of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement occurred in the home of the victim, the offender, or another person. Sexual assault can be committed within any type of relationship, including in marriage, in dating relationships, or by friends, acquaintances or co-workers. Sexual assault can occur in heterosexual or same-gender relationships. It does not matter whether there is a current or past relationship between the victim and offender; unwanted sexual activity is still sexual assault and is a serious crime. So the idea that avoiding sexual assault is matter of avoiding strangers who jump out from behind bushes in high-crime areas simply doesn’t hold up.

Myth #7: If a person doesn’t fight back physically, she wasn’t really raped

The FBI recently broadened its definition of rape to ditch the word “forcible,” reflecting the modern understanding that sexual assault doesn’t always involve a victim who was physically overpowered by her attacker. Unfortunately, some people still believe that women who really don’t want to be raped use all of their strength and self-defense skills to stop their attackers.

CNN’s Don Lemon seemed to endorse this view recently when he said to Joan Tarshis, a woman who said she was raped by Bill Cosby in 1969, “You know, there are ways not to perform oral sex if you don’t want to do it,” suggesting that she should have used her teeth as a weapon. This “if you really didn’t want it, why didn’t you fight back harder?” position ignores that there are actually many ways that rape can occur, and many reasons it might be imprudent or impossible for a victim to attempt to physically overpower her attacker. An attacker might threaten his victim with a weapon or with other consequences if she doesn’t submit.

This type of submission — often done for survival — is not the same as consent. In fact, studies have shown that women who fight back aremore likely to be seriously injured by their attacker.

SUBMISSION — OFTEN DONE FOR SURVIVAL — IS NOT THE SAME AS CONSENT.

In addition, in cases like Tarshis’ account of what happened between her and Cosby (which he’s denied, along with the rest of the rape allegations against him), the victim might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and physically unable to resist. Relatedly, there is no “right way” to react after a sexual assault. Sexual violenceexhibits a spectrum of responsesto the assault. They might be calm, withdrawn, hysterical, angry, apathetic, in denial, or in shock — just like victims of any other crime. In fact, their reactions may be even more complicated because of attitudes toward sexual assault that make them feel particularly traumatized or ashamed.

Myth #8: Only women can be victims of sexual violence.

In another myth that’s fueled by media portrayals, many people imagine that rape is only committed by straight men, against straight women.  But sexual assault is not defined by the gender of the perpetrator or the person who is victimized. In fact, this is another clarification made by the FBI’s recently updated definition of rape, which now has no mention of gender.

It is true that in the majority of cases of reported rape, the victims are women. In fact women are 10 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than men. Still, it is estimated that about one in thirty-three men have experienced attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

It’s also possible for women to rape men. “Often, male survivors may be less likely to identify what happened to them as abuse or assault because of the general notion that men always want sex,” said Jennifer Marsh, the vice president for Victim Services at RAINN, an anti-sexual violence organization saId in an interview with CNN. Plus, “males have the added burden of facing a society that doesn’t believe rape can happen to them … at all,” said psychotherapist Elizabeth Donovan.

Meanwhile, some believe that rape only happens to men in prison. While this is a serious issue, it’s not the only place men are victimized. A related myth used to shame and silence male rape victims is that orgasm means coerced sexual activity was actually consensual. In fact,orgasm does not mean that someone “enjoyed” the sex, or that they wanted it. It can be a natural biological reaction that a male rape victim cannot control.

Myth #9: Sex with someone who’s too drunk or drugged to agree to it is okay

There are an incredible number of cultural references — from jokes about “roofies” to modern song lyrics about drugging women into sexual submission — that some might be confused and think it’s a normal practice for men to have sex with women who otherwise wouldn’t consent to sex, but have lowered inhibitions thanks to drugs or alcohol. Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not an invitation for non-consensual sexual activity.

Under many state laws, a person who is cognitively impaired due to the influence of drugs or alcohol is not able to consent to sexual activity. The act of an offender who deliberately uses alcohol as a means to subdue someone in order to engage in non-consensual sexual activity is also criminal.

A related myth is, “If you wouldn’t have been drinking, you wouldn’t have been sexually assaulted.” Consider this explanation from the University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Center: “Alcohol is a weapon that some perpetrators use to control their victim and render them helpless.  As part of their plan, an assailant may encourage the victim to use alcohol, or identify an individual who is already drunk.  Alcohol is not a cause of rape; it is only one of many tools that perpetrators use.”

ALCOHOL IS NOT A CAUSE OF RAPE; IT IS ONLY ONE OF MANY TOOLS THAT PERPETRATORS USE.

California’s new Yes Means Yes law— along with many college and university policies across the country — explicitly states that people who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol are incapable of providing the consent required for sex.

*Note: The exact definitions of “rape” and “sexual assault” differstate by state. This piece uses them interchangeably and discusses myths that apply to all unwanted sexual contact.

Colleges and schools are required to protect students from sexual assault under Title IX

Title IX is best known for the effect it had on women’s athletics because it required that colleges provide equal opportunities in sports to men and women. After it took effect, female participation in college and high school sports more than quadrupled.

But Title IX is more than that: passed in 1972 as part of a broader education law, it prohibits any discrimination in education based on sex. Schools and colleges that receive federal funding can’t deny opportunities to students based on their gender.

The Obama administration has used the statute to examine how colleges handle accusations of sexual assault. The Education Department sent a letter in 2011 reminding colleges of their responsibility to deal with allegations of sexual harassment and assault that they either know about or should reasonably know about. Since then, the department has opened investigations into more than 50 colleges for alleged mishandling of sexual assault on campus.

Many of the allegations are at high-profile elite colleges:

  • At Yale, just one student found responsible for “nonconsensual sex” in the first half of 2013 was suspended; the rest were given written reprimands or no punishment at all, the Huffington Post reported.
  • At Brown, a student found responsible for sexual violence was suspended for a year, even though that meant he and his victim would be on campus at the same time after he returned.
  • When a freshman at St. Mary’s College was sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player and reported the assault to Notre Dame campus police, the university didn’t begin an investigation for more than two weeks. During the delay, the student killed herself.

Colleges theoretically are at risk of losing their eligibility for federal money — a significant threat given the size of the federal student loan and grant programs — if they’re found to be in violation of Title IX . But when the Education Department has found violations of Title IX in sexual assault cases, it has reached voluntary agreements with the colleges on remedying the situation. One agreement, at Tufts University, was revoked in April 2014.

A low proportion of sexual assault victims report their experiences, meaning colleges have a hard time determining the scope of the problem. Sexual assault can have an impact on students’ academic experiences, making them more likely to skip classes or drop out. It has many other long-term effects on survivors, including increased risk of depression, substance abuse, and self-harm.

 

Is it glamourous to be a victim?


These days there are two kinds of women who are victims. One is the woman who has been sexually molested. The other are women who have been in a battering situation. Both type of woman has been violated. The violation is physical and emotional and mental.

 

The first time a man hits a woman, she is in shock. She can’t believe this person she loves would have raised his hand and hit her. Hit her so hard her lip bled and her jaw cracked. The pain is excruciating. He is screaming at her and calling her stupid and ugly. Her mind freezes. This is a nightmare. She must be dreaming. She must. This can’t really be happening.

 

When a woman is a victim or rape or molestation, the man and society often try to tell her it is her own fault. She shouldn’t have been where she was, her skirt was too short, she is a tease. Violence goes with the unwanted sex. Rape is often happening at the same time as she is tied up, he talks trash to her. Rape often includes inanimate objects which can cause severe injuries that will require surgery or leave permanent injuries.

 

There is no perk to being victimized. None. Some women are stronger than others, they can walk away the first time they are battered. For some,  the emotional abuse wrecks their self-confidence and his words begin to play over and over in her head. With time that voice is louder than the voices of the people around her.

 

A woman who has been raped, she knows what kinds of things that may be said about her. She was asking for it. She really wanted it. In truth, rape has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power and control. The rapist needs that power and control to perform. Often a rapist will threaten to come back and kill her if she tells anyone. He often has a gun or a knife in his hand. So, many young women hesitate to report the rape.Some can take a month or two to find the courage and conquer the shame before they can report it.

 

Both types of victims feel shame, guilt and fear. Battered women live with the abuser and fear more abuse. Often, when they leave, it is in the middle of the night and they flee for their lives and the lives of their children. Many have no job skills, or access to credit. This is why battered women’s shelters are so important. It is important that shelter locations remain secret to protect the women and children who are staying there and also to protect the staff. Taxi drivers know where they are.

 

There is nothing to be gained by being a victim. Helping a woman to listen to her own voice and not the voice of her rapist of batterer is important but it often takes quite a while. There is no status in being raped or beaten. Society needs to remember that these women are someone’s daughters, sisters, cousins, mother and friends.

 

So please don’t judge. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Take in consideration that she is vulnerable and frightened. Scorn from people in her life will only increase her fear and vulnerability.

 

 

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Rape Hotline

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No one wants to be raped or molested.

No one wants to be raped or molested.

 

Survivors get a second chance.

Survivors get a second chance.

 

 

Domestic Violence is a crime. You can't hit another person,ever.

Domestic Violence is a crime. You can’t hit another person, ever.

 

Domestic Violence is found in every level of society.

Domestic Violence is found in every level of society.

The Spoils of War


We are ending ten long years of war. Wars not won but thousands of people dead. Now we are putting ourselves into Syria to protect the citizens and the Western world. Peace isn’t being spoken about at all. Yet, there are many of us who know that peace is the only way for us to go.

 

As sides line up and stories begin to flow out of the war torn countries, we will find that not only will there be deaths and emotional scarring but there will be a huge amount of using women to shame their families and themselves. The countries in Africa and the Middle East are finding that their women and children are in particular danger due to all the wars around the world.

 

Raping women and girls has become an important aspect to war. It is part of the plans for winning wars. The Democratic Republic of Congo is known as the “rape capital of the world.”  Women and children are enslaved and gang raped. If they conceive, they are killed.  Why rape women and children?  If women can escape, their husbands and families don’t want them. They are dirty and full of shame.

 

Women and girls raped in war are far more likely to die due to pregnancy and childbirth complications. Young women who are impregnated during war do not receive prenatal care. They are owned, after all. The death rate increases by five times for these young women. It would have been kinder if we could have provided abortions for those that wish them. These babies represent the horrors of their rapes and /or gang rape. All monies going to war-torn countries from America cannot be used to provide a compassionate abortion for these women who have suffered the worst thing that can happen to a women.

 

So, US aid is prohibited from being used for abortions and they can’t even be discussed. Today’s wars continue to use sexual violence as a tool to win battles and even wars. It is part of genocide. To contaminate the gene pool of a country has a devastating effect on its citizens.

 

Currently in Syria, reports have found that armed men, often many at a time, kidnap, rape, torture and kill women and girls. One of the primary reasons for human displacement during this conflict has been fear of rape. The Global Summit held in London this past summer, rape as a tactic of war was discussed.

 

Because we do not provide abortions for rape victims, we are re-victimizing these poor women and children. The United Nations and the Security Council have urged countries to take steps to help these women. Because the US forbids any of its monies from being used for abortions in these cases, America is in violation of the Geneva Conventions policy to comply with the human rights of women and children.

 

President Bush’s administration specifically forbade funding for rape survivors and child slaves. The Obama administration can take steps to address this injustice but hasn’t so far. The administration has yet to abolish Bush’s unfair restriction.

 

When applied to women and girls raped in war, the abortion ban not only denies them their rights to all necessary care under the Geneva Convention, it also interferes with the way the aid is distributed by countries that do allow abortion.

 

For young girls, their bodies are not developed enough to give birth. Young girls who do manage to give birth and live, face long-term economic and psychological trauma. Again, we are re-victimizing these human beings.

 

Save the Children’s “Unspeakable Crimes Against Children: Sexual Violence in Conflict” report says that these children are being condemned to a lifetime of extreme poverty, illiteracy, increased vulnerability to risky or exploitative economic practices as children and then as adults. Poverty will spread across generations.

 

Female bodies must not be used as a background in war.

 

 

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            We are all one family and we are all the same species

 

Guatemalan-rape-victims-006                   Victims of rape during war.

Beyond “No means No”


Beyond ‘no means no': the future of campus rape prevention is ‘yes means yes’

Originally posted at the Guardian.com  by Jessica Valenti

Survivors from California to New York say universities are failing students. But a once-in-a-generation moment might be upon us

 Emma Sulkowicz is one of 23 students who filed a federal complaint over Columbia’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases. And Columbia is one of 67 schools facing such accusations. Photograph: Kristina Budelis for Guardian US Opinion

Emma Sulkowicz is one of 23 students who filed a federal complaint over Columbia’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases. And Columbia is one of 67 schools facing such accusations. Photograph: Kristina Budelis for Guardian US Opinion

While most students at Columbia University will spend the first day of classes carrying backpacks and books, Emma Sulkowicz will start her semester on Tuesday with a far heavier burden. The senior plans on carrying an extra-long, twin-size mattress across the quad and through each New York City building – to every class, every day – until the man she says raped her moves off campus.

“I was raped in my own bed,” Sulkowicz told me the other day, as she was gearing up to head back to school in this, the year American colleges are finally, supposedly, ready to do something about sexual assault. “I could have taken my pillow, but I want people to see how it weighs down a person to be ignored by the school administration and harassed by police.”

Sulkowicz is one of three women who made complaints to Columbia against the same fellow senior, who was found “not responsible” in all three cases. She also filed a police report, but Sulkowicz was treated abysmally – by the cops, and by a Columbia disciplinary panel so uneducated about the scourge of campus violence that one panelist asked how it was possible to be anally raped without lubrication.

Apparently even an Ivy League school still doesn’t understand the old adage of “no means no”.

So Sulkowicz joined a federal complaint in April over Columbia’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases, and she will will hoist that mattress on her shoulders as part savvy activism, part performance art. “The administration can end the piece, by expelling him,” she says, “or he can, by leaving campus.”

Her performance may be singular, but the deep frustration voiced by Sulkowicz is being echoed by survivors across the United States. Despite increased efforts to curb campus assault and hold schools accountable – the FBI has changed its once-archaic definition of rape, a new White House task force wants answers, and schools likeHarvard and Dartmouth have promised new policies – the nation’s university administrators are still failing young people in their care. In the last year alone, 67 schools have had students file federal complaints accusing their own colleges of violating the Clery Act or Title IX.

With the start of school underway, however, the biggest paradigm shift on rape and sexual consent in decades may just now be emerging in California, where “yes means yes” – a model for reform that feminists like me have been pushing for years – could soon become law.

Late last week, the first state bill to require colleges to adopt an “affirmative consent” model in their sexual assault policies passed the California senate unanimously. The legislation, which is headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for approval by the end of this month (his office declined to comment), effectively requires the presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no” – or else withholds funding from the nation’s largest state school system.

The legislation additionally clarifies that affirmative consent means both parties must be awake, conscious and not incapacitated from alcohol or drugs – and that past sexual encounters or a romantic relationship doesn’t imply consent. The California bill also, importantly, specifies that “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent”.

It seems like a no-brainer to only have sex with conscious and enthusiastic partners, but detractors say the standard “micromanages” sexuality. The truth is that a “yes means yes” policy “helps to create a shared responsibility, instead of the responsibility falling on women to say ‘no’,” says Tracey Vitchers, chair of the board at Safer (Students Active for Ending Rape). Anti-violence activists are clearly excited about the bill, which – if all goes well – could be adopted by more states with large public university systems.

Sofie Karasek, a senior at the University of California at Berkeley and co-founder ofEnd Rape on Campus, also supports the new bill. Like Sulkowicz at Columbia,Karasek filed a federal complaint after she said Berkeley didn’t take sufficient action after she reported a sexual assault. As her first week back on campus was winding down on Friday, Karasek told me she thinks the California model has “created an important conversation about consent in the media and public, and I think with affirmative consent, more students will be talking about it as well.”

Indeed, a lot of students – male students, included – already are. Gray Williams, a senior at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, says he likes the “yes means yes” standard. “It’s not that big of a deal, and I appreciate having an unambiguous ‘yes’ or ‘no’ instead of having to read her body language,” he told me. Roo George-Warren, a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University, thinks some young men might be skeptical, but he insists part of the problem is that the “discourse around consent in day-to-day conversation is so unsophisticated.”

And this is what makes the legislation so important for colleges: mandating “yes means yes” in sexual assault policy puts the onus on colleges to give comprehensive consent education. If students are to abide by that standard, they need to know what it means.

So California could lead the way in redefining how we think about sexual consent. But as promising as this overdue measure may be, state legislatures and university administrators alike need to make sure they’re being as thorough as possible in this moment when real reform, for once, doesn’t seem impossible. The legislation doesn’t clearly specify whether affirmative consent means verbal or nonverbal communication. Do students need to say “yes”? Or is clear body language sufficient?

Should Gov Brown sign “yes means yes” into law, I agree with Slate writer Amanda Hess, who believes the standard going forward should itself be more sophisticated and include nonverbal cues – not just because they present a more realistic vision of how we experience sex, but because we need to talk about body language that can mean “no” as well:

If we can admit that enthusiastic consent is often communicated in body language or knowing looks, then we must also accept that the lack of consent doesn’t always manifest itself in a shouted ‘no’ or ‘stop,’ either. It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the uninterested party to speak up during a sexual encounter.

At Berkeley, Karasek said she remained worried that such ambiguity could be used to further hurt survivors and that requiring verbal consent would make it easier to “avoid the ‘he said, she said’ that college administrators try to make rape cases out to be.”

emma sulkowicz photo portrait

An estimated one in five women is sexually assaulted during college. Emma Sulkowicz says she was raped in her own bed. Photograph: Kristina Budelis for Guardian US Opinion


We’ve come a long way in the last four decades on sexual assault, but this necessary shift to “yes means yes” will not be an easy one. (Let’s also not forget that it was just four years ago when male students from Yale University were caught on tape chanting “No means yes, yes means anal.”)

The feminist movement of the 70s shined a light on “date rape” – the most common kind of sexual assault that once went ignored is now widely-understood to be a pervasive problem. Twenty-one years ago, marital rape was still legal in some states, but now legislation decries the idea that marriage equals constant consent. Today, politicians and activists alike increasingly recognize that everything we did before is simply not enough: despite these shifts in policy and public perception, rape is still far too common – approximately one out of every five women is sexually assaulted in college.

And that’s just what’s reported, according to the White House. That’s just in America. That’s just in college.

When I spoke to Sulkowicz about her unofficial senior project – she calls it Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight – the brave 21-year-old said something I think most people who care about the issue of violence against women can relate to. “It’s going to be an endurance piece,” she said. In some ways, battling rape always has been.

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I applaud this brave young woman, and throw my support behind “Yes means Yes”, in addition to “No means No”. 

 

I also want to point out that this not a solely American problem.  Rape is rising around the world.  There are those who would say that reported rapes are up, and they would be correct, but this should not be taken to mean that unreported rape is down.  No statistic has been provided to indicate this.
The bottom line is that as long as Women are treated as Second Class Citizens; as long as there is no Equality in fact of Law, or in action, or in religious dogma, women will be raped and men will not be held accountable.  As long as men are allowed to consider women to be property, they will continue to use women however they wish with conscience or consequence.  We cannot force men to have a conscience, but we can make a consequence for their wrong actions, and this cannot be a slap on the wrist, it must be a steep penalty that will have repercussions in their lives.

 

Every 3 Minutes – Every 5 Minutes


With No Immediate Cause

by Ntozake Shange

 

every 3 minutes a woman is beaten

every five minutes a

woman is raped/every ten minutes

a lil girl is molested

yet i rode the subway today

i sat next to an old man who

may have beaten his old wife

3 minutes ago or 3 days ago/30 years ago

he might have sodomized his

daughter  but i sat there

cuz the young man on the train

might beat some young women

later in the day or tomorrow

i might not shut my door fast

enuf/push hard enuf

every 3 minutes it happens

some woman’s innocence

rushes to her checks/pours from her mouth

like the betsy wetsy dolls have been torn

apart/their mouths

menses red & split/every

three minutes a shoulder

is jammed through plaster and the oven door/

chairs push through the rib cage/hot water or

boiling sperm decorate her body

i rode the subway today

& bought a paper from a

man who might

have held his old lady onto

a hot pressing iron/i dont know

maybe he catches lil girls in the

park & rips open their behinds

with steel rods/i can’t decide

what he might have done i only

know every 3 minutes

every 5 minutes every 10 minutes/so

i bought the paper

looking for the announcement

the discovery/of that dismembered

woman’s body/the

victims have not all been

identified/today they are

naked and dead/refuse to

testify/one girl out of 10’s not

coherent/i took the coffee

& spit it up/i found an

announcement/not the woman’s

bloated body in the river/floating

not the child bleeding in the

59th street corridor/not the baby

broken on the floor/

“there is some concern

that alleged battered women

might start to murder their

husbands and lovers with no

immediate cause”

I spit up i vomit i am screaming

we all have immediate cause

every 3 minutes

every 5 minutes

every 10 minutes

every day

women’s bodies are found

in alleys & bedrooms/at the top of the stairs

before i ride the subway/buy a paper/drink

coffee/i must know/

have you hurt a woman today

did you beat a woman today

throw a child across a room

are the lil girl’s panties

in yr pocket

did you hurt a woman today

 

i have to ask these obscene questions

the authorities require me to

establish

immediate cause

 

every three minutes

every five minutes

every ten minutes

every day.

 

 

Born Paulette Williams in Trenton, New Jersey, Ntozake Shange took her pseudonym as an expression of her anger at the dilemma of being a black woman. In Zulu the name means “she who comes with her own things.” / “she who walks like a lion.” She was educated at Barnard College and the University of Southern California.

 

 

 

Black and White photo of Pacific coast.

Pacific Ocean

Speak UP


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So often in life, we give others advice. Some of it is solicited and some not so much. Advice often comes in a small package of two words: “Speak Up”. I have even said it on my blog. I have been told to speak up, but usually, by the time some one tells me to, I already have.

So why are we discussing it today? I will explain. There are not many times when women have stood up and spoken. Since we were little girls, we were taught to be “ladies” and to stay clean and don’t be too loud. Actually, these admonitions have been around for centuries. The words were packaged differently but the ultimate meaning was the same.

By the 1800’s, many women had had it with  the second class, stay-in-the-kitchen-and-keep-having-babies mentality that surrounded them. Women were treated like birds in a cage. They were to look beautiful and be charming and witty.

Long before the 1800’s, there was domestic violence in America.  The Pilgrims brought it with them, and it came over with immigrants from England, and Scotland and Ireland and Germany — from everywhere, really, because it was at that time the norm to beat your wife.  The first laws of this brand new country called America were based on English jurisprudence.  It was considered legal to beat your wife, for correctional purposes, so long as you used nothing thicker than your thumb.  It could be metal, but not thicker than your thumb.

In the 1800’s, as I have written about many times in the past, the Suffragettes came together and began to hold meetings because they wanted to be able to Vote.  The men felt this was extremely funny,  I have read diaries from women written in that time, talking about how hard it was to be woman living with a man who felt you were too stupid to know which candidate to vote for.  Here job was to have the children, raise the children, feed the family, clothe the family (all with the man’s money) and, often, take care of the livestock and help in the fields.  For more well-to-do married couples, there were servants to do many of these chores, but the only activity left for a woman was needlepoint, pianoforte, reading, and of course, being charming and witty.

Even after the end of the American Civil War and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the black man was free but black women were in the same position as white women or Asian women or any other women.  They were not allowed to vote; they were not equal citizens even to a greater extent than the black man was not an equal citizen.

Suzanne B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the women who lived in and around Seneca Falls, NY, and decided that they wanted the right to vote.  They also put out a newspaper that referred to women’s issues of the time, which helped to prove that they had the intelligence to vote, as they had a higher level of literacy than many of the male voting public.  Oh, and they found a way to use their own money to support all these efforts, not the money of the men in their lives, taking in washing and doing mending and other “womanly” chores to support their Women’s Cause.  These ground-breaking women also get credit for women being allowed to wear trousers, called bloomers at the time; they got rid of corsets, which these women (rightly) believed to be bad for the health of women who wore them; corsets were a major reason for women “swooning” all over America and Europe because they simply could not get enough oxygen and passed out as a result.

If you are interested in more information about the Suffragettes and how they got women the Vote in America, I would suggest the book Founding Sisters and the Nineteenth Amendment by Eleanor Clift, one of the many books available on the subject at your local library, bookstore (brick or online) and e-reader source.

You also may refer to one of the several blogs I have written on the subject of Suffrage for additional resources and information.

In the 1960’s and 70’s, women began to Speak Up again.  A feminist woman named Betty Friedan wrote a book called The Feminine Mystique.  As women across America read this book, more and more of them found that the book reflected their inner most secret feelings about being a woman — that basically, it was not a really great deal.  Women’s place had stayed in the home, except during World War II, when they were sent to the factories to make war planes and ammunition when the men were sent to fight.  Many women found this to be a heady experience of independence, being able to earn money on their own for the first time and to work outside the home.  When the War ended, and the GIs came home to return to their jobs, women were sent back to the kitchen.

A lot of women who had tasted independence in the 1940’s had daughters in the 1960’s to whom they expressed their discontent at being still trapped in the home.

In the 50’s and 60’s women still wore a strand of white pearls, white gloves, a hat and a dress that was below the knee.  When I was in high school in the 60’s the teachers measured the lengths of our skirts and if they weren’t long enough, you were sent home.  In public school.

As the women began to deal with their discontent and the feeling that their minds were withering inside their skulls, small groups began to pop up across the nation, in every state; groups of women only, where women could talk about their experiences, how hard it was to have a college education and never be allowed to use it.  They wanted more.

This was the beginnings of the last Women’s Movement.  Women were not called Suffragettes this time.  This time, they — we — were called Women’s Libbers or Feminazis, bitches or even lesbians because that, to men, was the worst thing you could say to a woman.

It was during this period of time that we were able to finally get Domestic Violence on the books as a crime which carried a fine and often a jail sentence.  Shelters were opened across the country to help victims of domestic violence and, copying the successful Underground Railroad that, a century before, had moved black slaves to safety in the north, a new Underground Railroad was created to move women and their children to places where they can live in safety without fear of being found and further victimized by their abuser.

Traditional laws based on the British jurisprudence that our founding fathers adopted was no longer an acceptable defence for beating your wife or girlfriend, or sister or mother.

Rape Crisis centers were opened in the 70’s and women were trained as counselors in Domestic Violence and Rape.  Women began returning to college and we began to stand up for our reproductive rights, something that never was addressed by the 19th century Suffragettes, even though Elizabeth Cady Stanton had 11 children.

We are now facing a time in the 21st century when an American woman is beaten every 9 seconds.  Rape is on the rise and, once again, men are trying to blame the woman for his inability to “control his passions”, forcing him to rape her, when in actuality rape has nothing to do with sex:  it is an act of power and control.

So, women in this country can vote.  We have places to go when we are afraid and in danger from our domestic partners.  Think how many years it that has taken.

Now the men want to take away our ability to control our own bodies and our own reproductive systems.  They want to control their own sexuality (often through artificial means) as well as ours.

Last but not least, is the fact that women of any color who are citizens of the United States of America are not legally equal.  If you think that begin legally equal is not of vital importance, ask the next black man you meet.  Despite an increase in racism in our country, at least on paper, black men are equal.  It is only women who are full citizens, often college educated, running businesses, teaching in Ivy League colleges, going into space, working to find a cure for cancer, who are not, in the eyes of the law, equal.

Once again, we women have our work cut out for us.  And once again, I will say Speak Up.  You can bring about changes.  Writing, emailing, Twittering your Senators and Congressman, and the White House — these are all ways that you can Speak Up, even when your life is crazy and there are not enough hours in the day.

Do it in memory of your mothers; do it for your sisters; do it for your daughters and your granddaughters.

Let’s make Congress give us Legal Equality this time.

Speak Up.  Settle for nothing less.

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Betty Freidan, author of the Feminine Mystique

Betty Freidan, author of the Feminine Mystique

Alice Walker, feminist and author

Alice Walker, feminist and author

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Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the first ladies who was a feminist

Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the first ladies who was a feminist

Equality for women

Equality for women

Quote by Desmond Tutu

Quote by Desmond Tutu

 

 

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The Continuing War on Women


Women need to unite to regain our rights.

Women need to unite to regain our rights.

Despite the persistent gender gap in opinion polls and mounting criticism of their hostility to women’s rights, Republicans are not backing off their assault on women’s equality and well-being. New laws in some states could mean a death sentence for a pregnant woman who suffers a life-threatening condition. But the attack goes well beyond abortion, into birth control, access to health care, equal pay and domestic violence.
Republicans seem immune to criticism. In an angry speech last month, John Boehner, the House speaker, said claims that his party was damaging the welfare of women were “entirely created” by Democrats. Earlier, the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, sneered that any suggestion of a G.O.P. “war on women” was as big a fiction as a “war on caterpillars.”

But just last Wednesday, Mr. Boehner refuted his own argument by ramming through the House a bill that seriously weakens the Violence Against Women Act. That followed the Republican push in Virginia and elsewhere to require medically unnecessary and physically invasive sonograms before an abortion, and Senate Republicans’ persistent blocking of a measure to better address the entrenched problem of sex-based wage discrimination.

On Capitol Hill and in state legislatures, Republicans are attacking women’s rights in four broad areas.

ABORTION On Thursday, a House subcommittee denied the District of Columbia’s Democratic delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, a chance to testify at a hearing called to promote a proposed federal ban on nearly all abortions in the District 20 weeks after fertilization. The bill flouts the Roe v. Wade standard of fetal viability.

Seven states have enacted similar measures. In Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a law that bans most abortions two weeks earlier. Each measure will create real hardships for women who will have to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy before learning of major fetal abnormalities or risks to their own health.

These laws go a cruel step further than the familiar Republican attacks on Roe v. Wade. They omit reasonable exceptions for a woman’s health or cases of rape, incest or grievous fetal impairment. These laws would require a woman seeking an abortion to be near death, a standard that could easily delay medical treatment until it is too late.

All contain intimidating criminal penalties, fines and reporting requirements designed to scare doctors away. Last year, the House passed a measure that would have

Stop. Stop trying to control women

Stop. Stop trying to control women

allowed hospitals receiving federal money to refuse to perform an emergency abortion even when a woman’s life was at stake. The Senate has not taken up that bill, fortunately.

ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE Governor Brewer also recently signed a bill eliminating public funding for Planned Parenthood. Arizona law already barred spending public money on abortions, which are in any case a small part of the services that Planned Parenthood provides. The new bill denies the organization public money for nonabortion services, like cancer screening and family planning, often the only services of that kind available to poor women.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature tried a similar thing in 2011, and were sued in federal court by a group of clinics. The state argues that it is trying to deny money to organizations that “promote” abortions. That is nonsense. Texas already did not give taxpayer money for abortions, and the clinics that sued do not perform abortions.

Last year, the newly installed House Republican majority rushed to pass bills (stopped by the Democratic-led Senate) to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X. That federal program provides millions of women with birth control, lifesaving screening for breast and cervical cancer, and other preventive care. It is a highly effective way of preventing the unintended pregnancies and abortions that Republicans claim to be so worried about.

EQUAL PAY Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, the epicenter of all kinds of punitive and regressive legislation, signed the repeal of a 2009 law that allowed women and others to bring lawsuits in state courts against pay discrimination, instead of requiring them to be heard as slower and more costly federal cases. It also stiffened penalties for employers found guilty of discrimination.

He defended that bad decision by saying he did not want those suits to “clog up the legal system.” He turned that power over to his government, which has a record of hostility toward workers’ rights.

President Obama has been trying for three years to update and bolster the 1963 Equal Pay Act to enhance remedies for victims of gender-based wage discrimination, shield employees from retaliation for sharing salary information with co-workers, and mandate that employers show that wage differences are job-related, not sex-based, and driven by business necessity.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE Last month, the Senate approved a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, designed to protect victims of domestic and sexual abuse and bring their abusers to justice. The disappointing House bill omits new protections for gay, Indian, student and immigrant abuse victims that are contained in the bipartisan Senate bill. It also rolls back protections for immigrant women whose status is dependent on a spouse, making it more likely that they will stay with their abusers, at real personal risk, and ends existing protections for undocumented immigrants who report abuse and cooperate with law enforcement to pursue the abuser.

Whether this pattern of disturbing developments constitutes a war on women is a political argument. That women’s rights and health are casualties of Republican policy is indisputable.

—Excerpted from the New York Times

This is the second time we have picketed many of our issues

This is the second time we have picketed many of our issues

There are no doubts that there is a War on Women. There was one in the 60’s and 70’s. We protest to Take Back the Night. These protests are organized because women need to be able to be out at night without fear of violence, such as rape. 95% of rape victims are women. When a woman says no, it is no. Forcing sex on her is a crime. If a woman has too much to drink or has done some drugs, if she says no, it is no. A woman wears a mini skirt to a party? She is not advertising, she is being a fashonista. She has the right to say no. There is never a reason for a man to ignore a woman saying no. You wanting sex with a woman in these circumstances is not because you are a stud, she is too hot to leave alone. It has to do with the perp’s need for power and control. It makes you a sexual predator.

Domestic Violence is also a crime. There is never a reason to hit a woman. Abuse can be physical such as slapping, pinching, hitting, punching, kicking, or twisting limbs. Abuse can also be verbal and emotional. This includes demeaning words, telling a woman how stupid she is. It is telling her she is ugly and no other man will want her. It is manipulating her to do what you want her to do. Please refer to previous blogs that you will see in my sidebar for October, 2013. If you are being hit, save some money and keep it hidden well. Call your local hotline for your city. Leave and take your children and go to the shelter. You will receive all you need to be free. You never have to live in violence ever again. Women have legal recourse and you will have support getting a protection order or a restraining order.

Equal pay for equal work. People often think this is funny. But woman work as hard as a man and sometimes harder. Even with the Equal pay law that President Obama has signed and it is law women earn less. This is left over from the sixties and seventies. Corporations  felt men where heads of households and if the wife was working, then she was just doing it for “pin money?” When we worked to get women the right to leave the house and go to work it was so that every woman had a choice. That she had the right to do what would make her happy. So staying home raising kids was fine and so was going to work.But our wonderful corporations made it almost necessary for a woman to work. Two incomes are needed to survive.

Sexual harrassment is a federal crime. If you have a supervisor or someone else and they want sex from you and you are not interested just say no. If he makes it plain that your job or salary or promotion are at risk you are being sexually harrassed. Go to Human Resources and file a complaint. It is your right. You can’t be fired because you said no. They may try to tell you that but it isn’t true. Get a lawyer.

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Remember that being a woman is something to be proud of, just as being a man is something to be proud of if you are not sexist or racist. You have the right, as a woman, to live freely in a place where you or you and your children are safe from violence.

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