Some of you may be aware that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. There are actually numerous awareness events going on around campus which you can check out at The Aurora Center and our GLBTA Offices. Something that some may not actually realize is how prevalent sexual violence is – especially on college campuses. We hear about sexual assault assaults and incidents at fraternities (you can see President Bruininks address regarding sexual assault late 2010 here) but the language surrounding the reports essentially blame the victim.
Disclaimer: The following entry contains various statistics, discussions and events that may upset someone who has experienced rape, sexual assault and/or relationship violence. Feel free to stop reading – take a break – find some friends and come back to read it when you’re ready to. There are various statements and conclusions I focus on that can potentially cause feelings previously forgotten. If this is the case, there are various links throughout the page on resources you can contact 24/7 about any concerns you may have. Feisty Femmes is a safe place to talk about issues regarding women, but gender violence is a tough topic to discuss without bringing up a realm of various emotions.In no way am I claiming to be an expert on these issues but I have become very familiar with the statistics and social justice issues that revolve around it.
The following contains explicit descriptions and language.
*I also use ‘she’ most times when referring to the victim/survivor and ‘he’ when referring to the offender. This language is only use to eliminate confusion and also because the majority of rapes are committed by males towards females. Only about 6% of men are rapists – which leaves 94% of men who don’t rape (USA statistic).
I worked at The Aurora Center for a while so I have become incredibly aware of the language used surrounding relationship violence and sexual assault; if I hadn’t been – I would still be overlooking all sorts of language that many use when participating in the paradox of victim-blaming societal behaviors. One of the most recent horrors has been the ‘breaking news’ headliner printed in a national newspaper blaming an 11 year old girl for her rape committed by numerous men (in the previous video). First of all, I’d like to emphasize no matter WHAT clothes a person wears, it does not automatically enter a person into a ‘Rape Me’ contest. That is absurd and absolutely disgusting (and yes, I realize my language is harsh and offensive…but I assure you it is only to show how incredibly livid I am about it). Various other victim-blaming behaviors include: accusing the victim of lying; disbelieving the victim; saying the victim somehow insinuated he/she wanted to be raped despite her ‘playful no-s’; telling the victim he/she should not have drank so much or consumed ‘that item,’ etc.
One of the most widespread examples victim-blaming behaviors that I have encountered is rape with the involvement of alcohol. If a woman is drunk, it doesn’t mean she wants sex. Nor does it mean her ‘no’ means ‘yes’ or her silence means ‘yes.’ One word sums it up:
YES = YES
Nothing else constitutes as a consensual sexual invitation. If the offender or the offended is too inebriated to function 100% – it’s considered rape. While this might be hard for some to grasp – it’s also defined by the state of Minnesota as sexual assault and/or rape. Sexual assault actually consists of many aspects of any unwanted sexual advances. This includes coercion, unwanted sexual advances such as kissing, groping, touching, brushing, etc. and penetration.
This happens at parties, at friends’ places, and sometimes by strangers. But 90% of sexual assaults are committed by acquaintances. Sexual assault and rape happens to men, women, children, teenagers, transgendered individuals, straight individuals, gay individuals, individuals of all religious backgrounds and cultures. It happens to people who are single, asexual, married, divorced and in committed relationships. (Only some states find rape inside of marriage an illegal act). 1 in 6 women in the United States has been the victim of sexual assault in her lifetime; 1 in 33 men have experienced sexual assault, most by the age of 4 years old. ****Another statistic I need to emphasize is victims of rape lie just as much as witnesses of homicide, burglary and other major crimes do – less than 2%.
One might say: we are part of a highly educated campus community where if you “follow the rules” you won’t get raped… right?
Besides emphasizing that these rules (e.g. don’t walk alone at night, carry mace, stay in a group, don’t talk to strangers, etc.) are also examples of victim-blaming – but here’s how it pertains to us:
1 in 4-5 women will experience some sort of sexual assault by the time they graduate. I’m not pulling these statistics from my butt – many are from the Bureau of Justice and also the national network of rape, abuse and incest (AKA: RAAIN) and The Aurora Center also has plenty of these statistics archived (and updated annually)
This is tough. This is tough to read because every time I see that statistic I put it in perspective. Are you ready for it? According to this very realistic one of these women has been or will be assaulted:
Think about it. Think long and hard about it. Because sexual assault isn’t something that only exists in the movies. It’s not something that normally happens at night when a man springs out from the bushes (though this does happen). It happens when you’re at a best friend’s house. It happens with a girlfriend. It happens with someone close and ‘trustworthy’. Sexual assault is real. And it has lasting effects because no one deserves to be violated through violence or otherwise.