Blood of Emmett Till


How The Blood of Emmett Till Still Stains America Today

A new history of the most famous lynching in the country provides context on how racism continues to work in the present.

Emmett Till is shown lying on his bed.
Emmett Till is shown lying on his bed.Bettmann / Getty

What does American tyranny look like? In the past few months, fears about the collapse or degradation of the American democratic system have led many to engage in the grim exercise of game-planning the endgame of tyranny. For some, dystopian novels ground that exercise. Some take stock of the rise of authoritarian powers in the past. Others rely on expert realpolitik analysis from political minds like my colleague David Frum. Regardless of the source, we have arrived at Belshazzar’s feast. The writing is on the wall: It could happen here.

Or, it could happen here again. After all, it wasn’t too long ago in American history that millions of Americans were trampled under the heel of a repressive, anti-democratic kleptocracy and faced economic reprisals, violence, or death for any dissent. And nowhere was the iron grip of that system—known as Jim Crow to some of us—stronger than in Mississippi. That grip manifested itself most notoriously in the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy, in 1955. That year, Till was tortured and lynched by white men after allegedly making lewd comments toward a white woman. His mutilated corpse became one of the first mass-media images of the violence of Jim Crow, and the trial of his killers became a pageant illuminating the tyranny of white supremacy. And through protests across the country, Till’s broken body became a powerful symbol of the civil-rights movement.

In his new book, The Blood of Emmett Till, the historian Timothy B. Tyson revisits the circumstances of Till’s death, and brings to bear a wide scope of reporting, historical research, and cultural analysis. It’s not a definitive history of the Till case; other works have synthesized more primary sources and firsthand accounts. Rather, The Blood of Emmett Till is focused on the historicity of race in America: It posits that Till’s death is an emblem of the ways in which American tyranny works. To that end, the climax of his book comes not in the death of Till, in the ensuing sweltering court proceedings, or in the backwoods thriller of the black Mississippi Underground that investigated the case, but in the present.Tyson tells the story of how a young Chicago boy’s summer sojourn in Mississippi ended with him kidnapped, beaten, shot, and tossed into a river by Roy Bryant, J.W. Milam, and a group of others. The historical context Tyson provides often dwarfs the actual tick-tock of the case: An account of Mamie Till-Mobley’s childhood and her close bond with her son is wrapped in a narrative about the Great Migration of black people from the South to the West and North in the mid-20th century. Till’s lynching is backgrounded by an instructive history of the genteel and intellectually racist Citizens’ Councils and how they fueled the raw violence of a white proletariat. The surfeit of contextualization verges on digression at times, but serves the ultimate purpose of giving Till’s life weight six decades after his death.
The effect of Tyson’s wide-angled framing is especially pronounced in the bombshell revelation that Carolyn Bryant—the white woman who originally claimed Till grabbed and sexually harassed her in her husband’s store—lied about those claims. Media coverage has focused on that explosive admission and the conversation around redemption that it seems to spark, but Tyson’s book, in the end, is largely unconcerned with that line of inquiry. Bryant’s testimony on the stand and her later admission have little to do, in this narrative, with her own battle with guilt; rather, they serve to advance Tyson’s thesis that culpability for Till’s death rests on millions of shoulders. The unlikely thing, he argues, was not that Emmett Till was lynched, but that his lynching actually stirred a national response.
Tyson takes great pains to illustrate how the mechanisms working in Jim Crow Mississippi in 1955 still animate life today, and how America has never really found justice for Till. He details the rise of the civil-rights movement and how Till’s death helped to forge a common purpose for the wide-ranging and often contentious factions of black activism. He describes how white supremacist organizing arose in direct response to that mobilization. And he examines how school desegregation and black suffrage undergirded the social tensions of the Jim Crow era.
Perhaps most importantly, Tyson considers all the ways in which an American populace was complicit in its acceptance of violence against black people—and then considers all the ways in which it is still complicit in the deaths of people of color today. For instance, in his examination of the Citizens’ Councils’ literature, which fomented mass fears of black criminality and fantasies of rampant black sexual deviancy, Tyson also shows how poor white “peckerwoods” were loathed by wealthier white people, and manipulated into doing the bloody business of physical violence. In this, he provides a thinly veiled parable for today’s politics in how the rhetoric of white supremacy—even in its subtlest dog-whistle form—is used to radicalize people, and how the uneasy detente between classes of white people is often maintained by propaganda built around the threat of the other, even as the culpability is passed to the lowest rungs. “We blame them,” Tyson writes about those radicalized perpetrators of physical violence, “to avoid seeing that the lynching of Emmett Till was caused by the nature and history of America itself and by a social system that has changed over the decades, but not as much as we pretend.”In service of his analysis of the present, Tyson also compares the “Emmett Till generation” of civil-rights leaders that developed after Till’s death to the Black Lives Matter movement that gathered force after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. In The Blood of Emmett Till, that comparison is not just a coincidence, but, rather, the end result of a social system that continues to perpetuate injustice today. “America is still killing Emmett Till,” Tyson writes, “often for the same reasons that drove the violent segregationists of the 1950s and 1960s.”The Blood of Emmett Till is a critical book not just because it provides a good reason to revisit a foundational moment in American history—though it manages that feat in spades—but also because it manages to turn the past into prophecy and demands that we do the one vital thing we aren’t often enough asked to do with history: learn from it. In firmly tying Till’s legacy to protests over black bodies, re-segregation, voting-rights struggles, hate crimes, and the creeping reemergence of bigotry today, Tyson implores readers to learn that American tyranny already has a face, has already left millions of victims in its wake, and doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to fathom. Perhaps the dystopia we envision isn’t some far-off future, but simply a return to the past.

 

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It is still Black History Month and I feel that this is an important subject. America is racist and many Americans are racist. We all, despite color, need to read and be honest with ourselves when we take a closer look at who we are and what we believe. Many Americans do not think they are racist, the society that they were raised in often hides racism as jokes, small glitches and not being understood by another race of people.

 

People have begun to trash the concept of “being politically correct” and there are many reasons to be politically correct. If you look back perhaps three decades or more, you hear words being used that are hurtful and fuel buried feelings of inadequacy and fear. You used to hear: wop, spic, mick, jungle bunny and an assortment of others. White people who tend to enjoy using labels that are not politically correct are afraid of others. They are not afraid in the sense of physical fear but if this black man or that Asian, or those Muslims can come to America and accomplish that great job, the huge home and the brand new Lincoln Town Car, why am I in this dead end job? Why do I drive a used Ford? Why do I live in a nice middle class neighborhood but wish that I lived in an exclusive area?

 

When a racist type of person compares themselves to other people of color, they feel anger if the others have accomplished more in life than they have. The average white middle class male goes to work, comes home and lets the dog out. He eats the dinner his wife has prepared, sprawls out on the couch to drink beer and watch TV. Mindless TV that does not challenge him mentally or morally. Beer is the perfect anesthesthetic to forget he saw a guy he went to high school with today and he is black. Not a bad guy but he now has the job he always wanted. It makes him feel very bad about his own life.

 

His job could be done by anyone, though he would never admit it to another living soul. He is comfortable in his middle class life because it asks nothing further of him. He never talks about the future or plans anything. To do that he would have to look at his life and admit that there had to be something more. Perhaps he should go back to school. What is he good at now? Could he get an online college? No, he’d have to give up Thursday bowling with the guys and Sundays at the Sports Bar to watch the game with his buds and drink beer. These are his social activities. He thinks maybe he should get a motorcycle. That would be cool and he’d be the envy of all his friends.

 

Does he do any of this? No because it would take effort and he probably couldn’t get the grades if he went back to school. People would laugh at a guy almost fifty going back to school. It could be very embarrassing and he sure doesn’t need that. Maybe the wife should go back work full-time. Yeah, that’s a good idea. She is putting on weight anyways. She could take some of the burden off of his shoulders of supporting this family. Then he would feel better. He is just overwhelmed with too much responsibility. He could get the motorcycle with the money she earns. Yep this is a good plan. He’ll tell her tomorrow. Right now, he needs another beer. Survivor is coming on…

 

The successful person of color who accomplishes all that the American dream promises, is a threat to this man. A serious threat to his sense of entitlement. His Dad had a good life and he didn’t have to go to school. The president is the problem. They are shipping too many jobs overseas. The president isn’t doing enough for the real Americans. Guys like him. America is for guys like him.  The people of color are taking the really good jobs. Next election, he plans to vote for a no nonsense candidate. Someone who will shake up Washington and get things back where they used to be. And get rid of that Affirmative Action stuff, those jobs belong to the real Americans.

 

Well, he’s done that: voted for the “outsider”, the guy who promised to get rid of political correctness, promised to keep out all the “others” and talked about watching “certain areas” for voter issues.

 

And now, that white man on his couch is watching, and waiting, with a growing sense of dread, most likely, as he looks around and sees that things aren’t getting better, that the swamp isn’t being drained, and that the rights of his wife, his friends, and neighbors are being slowly eroded.

 

Perhaps by the next election — in 2018, not 2020 — he’ll realize being politically correct wasn’t the problem.

 

The problem is, he got conned.

Letters to a rapist


Read The Harrowing Letters 2 Women Wrote To The Man Who Raped Them

Daniel Drill-Mellum was sentenced to 6 years in prison.

09/01/2016 04:32 pm ET | Updated 4 hours ago

THE HUFFINGTON POST
Two women who were brutally raped and assaulted by Daniel Drill-Mellum read impact statements in court.

It’s become an unfortunate trend for young, white men to serve little to no prison time for sexually assaulting a woman. Daniel Drill-Mellum is the exception.

The 22-year-old former University of Minnesota student was arrested in December 2015 for allegedly raping two women on two separate weekends in the fall of 2014.

Drill-Mellum was charged with first, second and third-degree criminal sexual conduct in one case, and first and second-degree criminal sexual conduct in another case. He was facing up to 15 years in prison.

On Tuesday, Drill-Mellum was sentenced to six years in prison and registered as a lifetime sex offender after pleading guilty to two of the five felony counts of sexual misconduct he had been charged with.

The two assaults, which occurred on Oct. 31, 2014 and Nov. 8, 2014, were described in detail by the victims to police.

The first victim, an 18-year-old female student, told police she met Drill-Mellum at a fraternity party on Halloween. Drill-Mellum led her into a laundry room at the party where they began to kiss, she said, and when she tried to stop him he didn’t listen.

According to Fox 9:

She tried to stop him while he pushed her against a wall then he tried to force her to perform oral sex. When she turned away and tried to get off her knees, he pushed her to the floor and said “I know you want this” and “You’re so turned on right now” and raped her. She told her roommate what happened the following morning and was treated at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. She did not report the rape to police at the time.

The young woman didn’t initially report her assault to the police. It wasn’t until a year later in 2015, that she found out that Drill-Mellum had raped another woman just a week after in the fall of 2014.

Due to this second assault, Drill-Mellum had been banned from campus by the University of Minnesota until 2019. The first woman who he assaulted spotted Drill-Mellum trespassing on campus and that’s when she called the police to report his trespassing and her assault.

The second victim, a 19-year-old female student, told police Drill-Mellum assaulted her in his own apartment:

[She] said she met “Dan” at the Freund Haus Apartments, where he asked if she’d leave the party and go to his apartment for more alcohol. Once inside, they kissed, he tried to take off her clothes, she told him no and said she wanted to go back to the party.

“When the Defendant persisted, the victim provided the Defendant with oral sex, hoping that it would only take a few minutes and then the Defendant would allow her to return to the party,” the complaint said. She told him she did not want to have intercourse but he ignored her and “told her she would like it,” and left her with abrasions and lacerations.

HENNEPIN COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE
22-year-old Drill-Mellum’s mugshot. 

Although the second victim had filed a police report in 2014, prosecutors initially declined to press charges. Once both women came forward with their stories, Drill-Mellum was charged with five felony counts of sexual misconduct.

Both survivors testified against Drill-Mellum in court, noting that there are other victims out there who have yet to come forward against him. The two women also read powerful impact statements in court to their attacker.

The first survivor’s impact statement, which was obtained by BuzzFeed, is absolutely gut-wrenching. The young woman described not being able to pay for a rape kit because she didn’t want to use her parents’ insurance, for fear they would find out what had happened. She detailed the horrible PTSD and panic attacks she endures every day because of the assault.

I’m reading a “victim impact letter” right now but Daniel Drill-Vellum did not “impact” my life; he completely uprooted and altered it.

“I’m reading a ‘victim impact letter’ right now but Daniel Drill-Vellum did not ‘impact’ my life; he completely uprooted and altered it,” she read in court.

The young woman reminded everyone in court ― including Drill-Mellum ― that she is “not just a victim of rape,” unlike Drill-Mellum who is and always will be just a rapist.

There are two of us brave enough to stand in front of him today and face him. Two of us, but there are so many more girls that he violated and assaulted… I will never be defined by him and what he did to me but he will forever be defined by me and the other girls he raped. That will stay with him forever. I am not just a victim of rape. My identity consists of so much more. But Daniel Drill-Mellum will only ever be a rapist. That is where the description of him stops. He put me through two of the hardest years of my life. This process is exhausting, but unlike him I can say that I came out the other end of this a stronger and better person. I am in control now, I write my own story and define my own life. I am capable, I am confident and I define myself.

Her impact statement is in full below.

The second impact statement is equally as devastating as the first.

In her letter to the court, which was obtained by Fox 9, the second survivor described being assaulted by Drill-Mellum and the horrific aftermath that ensued. She said that she was repeatedly victim-blamed by cops, endured an uncomfortable rape kit and still struggles with the PTSD from the night of the assault.

THE HUFFINGTON POST
The second survivor described the rape as “a life sentence” for her.

“I’ll always wish I had fought back stronger, I’ll always replay the whole situation and think about what I could’ve done to stop it, even though I’ve repeatedly been told by some very helpful people that it wasn’t my fault,” the young woman’s letter reads.

She described the rape as “a life sentence” for her. She went on to talk about the moment she realized she was in trouble:

I remember thinking “just close your eyes and you can get out of here soon.” I didn’t even realize I was crying until he asked me if I was; except it wasn’t in a caring tone. The tone was mocking, aggressive, and I defiantly said that I wasn’t and continued sobbing into the pillow. Despite my protests, he raped me anally as well. He told me that he was going to finish inside of me. He stuck his fingers inside of me and then shoved them down my throat, tearing what I think is called a frenulum. I felt like I couldn’t breathe as he forced one arm down on my back and shoved the other hand down my throat as I choked. I thought I was going to die. I kind of hoped I was going to die.

The survivor described coming home from the hospital and feeling like her “body didn’t belong” to her. The physical reminders of the assault are all over her, she said, adding that the Drill-Mellum’s attorneys’ character assassination of her throughout the trial have only magnified her PTSD.

I can’t brush my teeth without seeing the part of my mouth that he ripped apart when he shoved his fingers down my throat. I can’t look down at my chest without noticing an indent that wasn’t there before he repeatedly bit my breasts. I can’t look down at my stomach without remembering the panic I felt looking down at my naked body while I struggled to get away from him, before he raped me a second time. I can’t wear blue underwear because I remember what it looked like as I struggled to pull it on as I ran away from what he had just done to me.

Her full impact statement is below.

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As with so many victim impact statements, the importance of these women’s words cannot be overstated. Their letters are powerful and serve as a voice to every survivor who was never able to come forward and get justice.

As Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman said after the sentencing was announced: “It doesn’t matter where you come from, you don’t rape women period. And when you start doing some real time, on campus the word should spread.”

Let’s hope he’s right.

 

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As respect for women decreases, violence against women grows. A rapist, whether male or female must be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Rape isn’t about sex. It is about power and control. If a rapist picks a drunk woman or drugs a woman he is responsible foe his violent act. She is not. Let us not re-victimize the victims. It doesn’t doesn’t matter what she wears or the way she walks. It doesn’t matter if she flirts with you. NO MEANS NO.

Remembering the Names


I wasn’t going to publish the names…there were so many. Then I decide that they deserved to be remembered, indeed honored. Each of then was young, at the beginning of this sojourn. Careers and school waiting for each of them. The name I won’t say is the perpetrators because I don’t want to encourage those unstable minds who commit crimes so history will remember them. I am sorry that their families and friends are experiencing this overwhelming grief and sorrow. Though a widow, I can only express a tiny bit of the hell you must be suffering. I am sorry.

 

 

For those on the fence about LGBT members of society, each of these people were in school or working. Let us remember the injured also. There is a large list of people who need your healing prayers. Their doctors need prayers for steady hands, wise decisions, and an angel on their shoulder. It will take the loving hearts of many people to get the injured up and about. They may face some discrimination. Pray that people will look at them and just see an injured human being. For their families and friends, I pray for you that you will have the strength to give them all the care they will need. May people remember that you will need care also. May you be able, in time, to forgive the shooter and the NRA.

 

May God bless and heal you.

May your lives be surrounded

with love, harmony and peace,We live in peace and harmony

May your hearts

 

strengthened and goodness come

to you for the remainder of you lives.

—The Rebel

 

 

We need harmony

Profiles of the People in a Domestic Violence situation


Emotional abuse often contains yelling and more

Emotional abuse often contains yelling and more

In any Domestic Violence situation there are so many emotions filling the air. There is anger, fear, control, terror. For children watching the violence play out, it is a horrifying experience. Children often feel it is their faults.

 

Profile of a Victim 

Has low self-esteem

Believes all the myths about abusive relationships

Is a traditionalist about the home; strongly believes in family unity and the prescribed feminine sex role stereotypes.

Accepts responsibility for the batter’s actions.

Suffers from guilt, yet denies feelings of terror and anger.

Presents a passive face to the world but has the strength to attempt constantly to manipulate her environment enough to prevent further violence.

Has severe stress reactions, with psychophysiological complaints.

Uses sex as a way to establish intimacy.

Believes that no one will be able to resolve her predicament except herself.

 

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Profile of the Batterer 

Has low self-esteem.

Believes all the myths about abusive relationships.

Is a traditionalist, believing strongly in male supremacy.

Blames other for his actions.

Presents a dual personality. He/she is charming and social and upbeat out in public and at home he/she is controlling, angry, blaming.

Has severe stress reactions, during which he abuses his partner/children/and often uses alcohol and/or drugs to cope.

Frequently uses sex as an act of aggression to enhance self-esteem.

Does not believe his/her violent behavior should have negative consequences.

 

Who are the People who Batter?

 

People who batter come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, races, religions and walks of life. The abuser may be blue collar or a white collar worker. They may be unemployed or highly paid. He/she may be a drinker or a nondrinker. Batterers represent all different personalities, family backgrounds and professions.  There is actually no “typical abuser.”

 

This means that a Congressperson can be a batterer and there have been more than one member of Congress who was a batterer. A priest or pastor could batter. Your funny and kind postal service person, the server at your favorite restaurant might abuse. Your neighbor, a police officer, a fire person or a librarian could go home and hit their intimate partner. Your favorite doctor or dentist could batter. Your car mechanic or the person who plows snow from your driveway could also hit, punch, slap, kick their partner. Domestic Violence is found everywhere. That is what makes this such an important issue. It is a global epidemic.

 

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Protests against Cologne Sex Attacks


Violence and fear are the way some people try to control others.  Woman are often the victims of male hatred. Rape has no connection to sex. It is a political weapon in times of war. In the everyday, it is all about power and control. It is also part of the global war against women. Middle Eastern countries often want complete control of women and that is what they are trying to accomplish.

When a woman is raped she feels violated, humiliated and shamed. Some are angry and some feel that they are dirty. Some will report a rape and some are too ashamed. Some don’t want to be near even a husband or a boyfriend.

All are victims and not to be blamed. None of them should have to hear “you shouldn’t have been there” or “your skirt was too short” or “a group of women out like that, in the night, are just asking for it”. She shouldn’t be shamed, must not be blamed for the power hungry cowardly acts of the men who treat women like possessions and do not recognize that women are people to be treated with respect. The women raped in this story will need time and support to heal from this trauma.

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Police clash with protesters angry about Cologne sex attacks

Updated 6:55 PM ET, Sat January 9, 2016

Berlin (CNN)German protesters angry about the New Year’s Eve mob sex attacks and muggings in Cologne, Germany, clashed with police on Saturday.

Cologne police responded with tear gas and water cannons after right-wing groups threw beer bottles, firecrackers and stones at officers in riot gear. Several officers and a freelance journalist were injured, police said, though the extent of their injuries were not known.

About 500 of the approximately 1,700 demonstrators supported Pegida, an organization that opposes immigration of Muslims from the Middle East, police said. A counter protest against Pegida was also held.

Fifteen people were arrested but that number may grow as videos are viewed, police said.

Many of the protesters were angry at police response to the attacks as well as the influx of migrants and refugees into Europe.

“Where were you on New Year’s Eve?” one protester yelled at police “Why didn’t you protect those women?”

Thirty-one people, most of them North African or Middle Eastern countries, have been charged in the attacks. Of those, 18 have been identified as asylum-seekers.

Cologne police said they received a total of 379 complaints about New Year’s Eve in Cologne, with about 40% being investigated as sex crimes. Other European cities reported similar rashes of sex crime reports.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the attacks in Germany as “disgusting, criminal acts” deserving of a decisive response. But she did not back down on her commitment to welcome refugees who obey German laws and pledge to integrate into German society.

In Cologne, where many of the attacks took place, a police spokesman confirmed that Chief Wolfgang Albers was fired Friday. Albers’ dismissal came amid criticism of his department’s handling of the violence.

One victim of the Cologne violence told CNN there were too few police on the streets to prevent attacks.

“We ran to the police. But we saw the police were so understaffed,” the victim said. “They couldn’t take care of us and we as women suffered the price.”

Spiegel Online reported that groups of men prevented officers from reaching those crying out for help.

“The events of New Year’s Eve like a spotlight once more highlighted the challenge we face in a new aspect that we had not really looked at before,” Merkel said Saturday in Mainz, at a meeting of her conservative CDU Party.

Merkel garnered international acclaim for her decision to welcome many of the hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners who have made the journey to Europe this year in search of safety, food, work and a better life.

But Merkel stressed Saturday that Germany’s welcome was not unconditional.

“We, of course, expect from the refugees who come to us, those seeking protection, that they have the will to integrate, that they strive for integration,” she said.

Her response showed a determination to avoid repeating what are broadly viewed within Germany as the mistakes officials made with regard to Turkish “guest workers” after World War II. Because it was assumed that arrangement was temporary, virtually no attempt was made to learn (or teach) the language, customs and mores of the new home country.

The mistakes of that era echo through Germany to this day. Generations later, some families of Turkish origin living in Germany do not speak German, and forests of satellite dishes are all aligned to receive Turkish TV broadcasts. Many young third- or fourth-generation Turks lack a sense of belonging, a sense of being German, even though their grandparents were born in the country.

Cologne mayor criticized for advice to avoid men

And Merkel continued to say the newcomers were welcome.

Tough prosecution of wrongdoing, she said, “is in the interest of citizens of Germany, but it is just as much in the interest of the large majority of refugees who are here with us and, therefore, it is absolutely right.”

Those who break German laws may forfeit their right to residency and to asylum, she said.

Germany is going through experiencing recriminations over who should have prevented the attacks and whether someone was asleep at the wheel.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has criticized the response of Cologne police, and German Justice Minister Heiko Maas was among many who expressed disapproval of Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker for advising women to keep “more than an arm’s length” away from unknown men.

Reker later said the comments had been taken out of context.

Cologne police spokeswoman Christoph Gilles told reporters Friday that 170 criminal complaints had been filed related to the apparently coordinated attacks, “at least 120 of which have a sexual angle.”

An 80-person investigative team is looking at 250 videos with about 350 hours of footage, Gilles said.

The 31 suspects charged include nine Algerian nationals, eight people from Morocco, five from Iran and four from Syria, German interior ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said. Two are German citizens, while one each comes from Iraq, Serbia and the United States.

Other German cities experienced similar attacks the same night, including the northern city of Hamburg, where more than 50 incidents were reported.

9 Myths of Sexual Assault


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

Shutterstock

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.