I still never talk about rape or rape culture with my dad. I don’t know how to—it feels so hard to even start. In our culture, talking about sex is taboo. Really taboo. We don’t even really have sex education here. When a friend of mine was 20, her mom give her a copy of Cosmo so she could learn about sex from there. It goes that far. I think my dad’s parents never talked to him about this either, so I can understand why a conversation about sex might never happen between me and my dad. Besides, almost all Indonesians are Muslim and we’re taught that sex before marriage is a sin in Islam. Parents here tend to believe that their children are “good” children; they just believe that their kids would never do anything bad, so they don’t talk about it. Parents don’t believe that their child could ever rape–but they could be wrong. We’ll never address these issues if we never talk about them. But at the same time, I feel like if I did try talk to my dad about rape culture, he would worry about me too much. He’d prohibit me from going out late or at all and make me stay home instead. He’d limit my freedom.
As the trial in Steubenville begins before a national audience, we will hear about the violent and horrific experiences of a teenage girl, assaulted by local football players during a party weekend. We also know that one in four women and girls will be raped or assaulted by the time they turn 18. As a nation, we have a history of overlooking assault when it’s committed by athletes, from the high school level to university programs to professional sports. But most athletes and coaches, like most men and most people, think sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence need to stop. Empowering coaches, who are mentors to young men, to begin difficult and complex conversations about sexual violence could create long-lasting change in communities across the nation and lead to curbing, and even ending, sexual violence. Behavior and attitudes change when important information on the topic comes from a trusted source. Students are willing (and often eager) to listen, but often only to people they respect.
We are asking the National Federation of High School Associations, which offers annual required trainings for coaches in order for them to remain accredited, to partner with nationally recognized activist organizations to develop a course on sexual violence prevention for high school coaches. Coaches must be provided with the opportunity to learn how to foster a violence-free culture among their athletes in the locker room, on the playing fields and also in school hallways and weekend parties. As local “heroes” and role models, we need athletes to lead their communities toward a rape-free climate, and we expect coaches to be prepared to initiate and foster dialogue with their athletes around issues of sexual violence that are productive and educational. The role coaches play in the lives of athletes - as role models, mentors, and thought leaders to a large portion of the youth community - is invaluable. By training coaches to understand how to address this issue with young male athletes, we can make valuable steps toward safer communities across the United States.
In Sacramento, a county judge has taken “victim-blaming” to a whole new level, ordering that a rape victim be jailedwhile awaiting the trial of her rapist.
The 17-year-old had failed to appear for two previous court dates to testify against Frank William Rackley, 37, who is accused of abducting and raping her and is believed to be a serial rapist. Judge Lawrence Brown claimed to be “terribly sorry” about the position the young woman is in, but his sympathy didn’t stop him from ordering that she remain in a juvenile detention center until April 23, Rackley’s next trial date.
Rape trials are notoriously traumatic for victims; frequently, the attempts to discredit a rape victim’s credibility and character leads her to feel that she is actually the one on trial. Victims’ fear of further violations they will receive at the hands of the justice system—from inappropriate and irrelevant questions about their sexual histories to accusations that they are simply lying—is undoubtedly one of the many reasons why rape is already one of the most underreported crimes, with only 46 percent reported to police and only a small fraction of those ultimately going to trial. And it is highly likely that fear is precisely what prevented this young victim from showing up for two previous court dates. But rather than striving to create an environment in which she could testify comfortably and safely, Judge Brown decided to take punitive action against her instead.
In fact, what’s most troubling about this everything-old-is-eww-again trend is its underlying lack of concern for women. The message isn’t preventing even one rape. It just (thinks it’s) encouraging the individual female reader to not be the girl who gets picked. Because, in the vast majority of cases, rape isn’t an accident, or even a crime of opportunity. Researchers have estimated that over 90% of campus rapes are committed by a tiny minority of guys who know what they’re doing and attack over and over again, specifically because we’re too busy warning women about their drinking habits to figure out how (or even try) to stop them. That means if they’re looking for a drunk target, and you’re not it, these guys will just find someone who is. And then all that focus on who’s “smart” enough not to over-imbibe will translate into a collective finger-wag at anyone “stupid” enough to do otherwise, and instead of working together for our collective safety, we’ll again be too busy blaming each other to deal with the actual rapists in our midst.
Researchers gave a group of men and women quotes from the British lad mags FHM, Loaded, Nuts and Zoo, as well as excerpts from interviews with actual convicted rapists originally published in the book The Rapist Files. The participants couldn’t reliably identify which statements came from magazines and which from rapists — what’s more, they rated the magazine quotes as slightly more derogatory than the statements made by men serving time for raping women. The researchers also showed both sets of quotes to a separate group of men — the men were more likely to identify with the rapists’ statements than the lad mag excerpts. The only slightly bright spot in the study: when researchers randomly (and sometimes incorrectly) labelled the quotes as coming from either rapists or magazines, the men were more likely to identify with the ones allegedly drawn from mags. At least they didn’t want to agree with rapists.
The full story includes quotes used in the study, and they are profoundly disturbing. We couldn’t read the whole list.
Despite hundreds of thousands of people asking Facebook to remove pages that condone and encourage sexual violence and violence against women, the company has refused to take action. They’re defending these pages (which violate their own terms of service) by saying that “what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining – just as telling a rude joke won’t get you thrown out of your local pub, it won’t get you thrown off Facebook.”
Today is Change.org’s Twitter action day. Using the #notfunnyfacebook hashtag on Twitter, join us in sending Zuckerberg & Co. a message: sexual assault is NEVER funny, rape is NOT a joke, and violence against women is a serious problem.
While the prevalence of street harassment may be new to many men who read or hear about it, it’s not to women. For generations, grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and older sisters have shared tips and advice to girls to try to keep them safe from men: Don’t go out alone after dark. Memorize a fake phone number. Carry mace. Dress conservatively. Ignore them.
But it’s time to go beyond that well-intentioned advice which makes women feel less safe and often doesn’t work. Given how widespread street harassment is, those tips have the effect of limiting women’s access to public spaces. It keeps them on guard, off the streets, and dependent on men as escorts. No country has achieved equality and no country will until women can navigate public places without experiencing or fearing street harassment.
In short, street harassment must end.
I do not care if your eight year old is wearing wildly inappropriate clothing, adult men do not have the right to ogle her. I do not care if your 13 year old looks “grown up” and might be mistaken for the ripe old age of 16. She is a child and should not be touched. “Skanky little girls” (and how I detest all that implies) deserve defending with the same vigor as a nun or an asexual old woman.
Right now, we need the police, but after the events this summer, I don’t trust the NYPD. Kenneth Moreno, Franklin Mata and Michael Pena, three NYPD officers charged with rape while in uniform, have made our streets less safe for women. What they have shown us by their actions, is that we women cannot expect protection if we need it. These officers collected salaries and pensions, swore to serve the community, but they raped us instead.
NYPD – what can you do? Educate your officers about sexual assault, make the education effective, mandatory and often. Meet with survivors, activists and allies; we will help you get educated. Make sure your officers have empathy, and weed potential perpetrators out of your ranks. The majority of police officers follow the rules, identify the ones who don’t and get ride of them. Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly: protect the citizens of South Brooklyn, beef up police presence in our neighborhood, but only if you are preventing violence within your ranks.
What can we do? Neighbors, we need to be vigilant and look out for each other. Make signs alerting the neighborhood to recent attacks, make eye contact, talk to each other. Local businesses need to be allies, post our signs, talk to your patrons, make sure they have a way to get home, offer information about car services and bus schedules. If someone calls for help, come to his or her assistance. We have learned from Kitty Genovese, and we will not be passive bystanders. As a community, we can actively participate in making streets safer for women, and we can take rape seriously.