See the first post in this series, “This Is About Us.” This post is longer than most, but I ask you to stay with such an important conversation.
A month ago I wrote about a highly publicized trial in Nashville of the rape of a 21 year old student by members of the Vanderbilt football team.
The big picture of the problem of sexual assault requires looking at our culture and all levels of our society – not just colleges and universities. I plan to write several more posts on this topic and its various sub-topics.
The young college student who was assaulted at Vanderbilt did not report what happened for a variety of reasons. First, she had no memory of the previous night, and then the young man who gathered his football buddies around for the assault called her the next day with a fabricated story that caused her to believe that she had just been sick the night before. Evidence in the case uncovered a systemic cover-up among all those involved.
Our moral standards have historically first placed blame on the victim of a sexual assault. In casual conversations we ask each other, while shaking our self-righteous heads:
- how was she dressed?
- how much did she drink?
- was she in the “wrong place”?
These questions can be asked in court by a defense attorney. How many crime TV shows have you watched that reinforces this thinking? My spiritual upbringing stressed this to young women: dress modestly, don’t tempt a man with how you act. Those ideas certainly no longer fit in this culture, but generations of us have those lessons ingrained in our DNA.
I wonder why I never heard a lecture or warning to the young men about their responsibility in regard to the treatment of women.
How Many Sexual Assaults Occur Today?
According to studies cited in “Tool Kit: Join the conversation and Help End Sexual Violence” by the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville, TN
- 19% of undergraduate females experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college.
- 1 in 20 women and men in the US have experienced sexual violence.
So why don’t women report rape?
- It rarely leads to a conviction, but almost guarantees profound embarrassment. Out of every 1000 reported assaults on women, ONLY 3 LEAD TO CONVICTION.
- The victim is often treated with suspicion rather than protection.
- The honesty of the victim, especially if a report is not made immediately, will be questioned by authorities, family, friends, etc.
Here’s a surprising statistic to me:
False reports of rape are rare, occurring less than 6% of the time. Lisak, D., Gardinier, L., Nicksa, S. & Cote, A. (2010). False Allegations of Sexual Assault: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases. Violence Against Women, 16(12), 1318-1334.
That means that 94% or higher of victims of reported rape are telling the truth!
So how do we change this? I have found some excellent resources from the Sexual Assault Center’s website, so I’ll share key points on this one piece of the larger picture on sexual violence.
- Stop victim blaming.
- Change our focus to placing blame and responsibility in the hands of the offenders.
- Understand the meaning of Consent
- The absence of “no” is not a “yes”. Non-consensual sex is rape.
- Silence is not consent.
- No amount of alcohol equals consent.
- No length of skirt equals consent.
I leave you with these thoughts from Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience.
Instead of making someone’s uncomfortable pain invisible to us, we should say INJUSTICE is intolerable to us.
Cultural change doesn’t happen by us throwing stones but by us becoming rock solid in our commitment to personal change.
This is a story that begins within us.
I am thankful today for victims who have had the courage to sit in court every day to face their rapist.
I am thankful for the media attention of recent cases of sexual violence which has pricked our souls to change a culture