Myth: If a woman is raped, she probably asked for it in some way.
Fact: Only the perpetrator is responsible for the decision to violate someone.
This myth restricts women’s behavior and places blame on survivors rather than perpetrators. Women and those who identify as female are often expected to dress or behave in certain ways and to follow strict but contradictory rules to protect themselves from harm. This myth perpetuates the double standard that reinforces an expectation of male aggressiveness and the perceived responsibility of women to avoid any behavior that could be seen as provocative.
This myth also helps distance non-survivors from survivors. By insisting that a survivor played some role, others can alleviate their own fear of assault by assuming that certain behaviors will protect them from a similar circumstance. For example, if you believe women are partially responsible for being assaulted if they were drinking, then you can take comfort in the idea that you are not at risk if you don’t drink too much. Or if you believe women are partially responsible for being assaulted if they were dressed provocatively, then you can take comfort in the idea that you are not at risk if you dress more modestly.
But offenders select their victims not based on the way they dress, but rather on their perceived vulnerability. Rapists target people who seem vulnerable to assault and who seem less likely to report them.
Asking potential victims to be responsible for protecting themselves from victimization is a form of oppression. Only perpetrators are responsible for their behavior, and they should be held accountable. Even if you believe that women should adhere to certain behavioral standards – how they dress, how much they drink, who they spend time with, etc. – the consequences of not meeting these standards should never be rape. No one “asks” to be raped, and no one deserves to be raped. There is never an excuse, an invitation, or a justification for sexual violence. Bottom line.
This myth serves to blame the survivor. It increases suspicion and hostility toward people who come forward. Although there are isolated incidents where people have lied about being raped, these are the exception rather than the norm.
One major reason that Americans believe that rape is often falsely reported is that the media sensationalizes false reporting stories, while it minimizes or fails to cover the hundreds of thousands of true stories that happen every year.
Another major reason this myth is so commonly accepted is the misconception that rape is “easy to claim and hard to dispute.” But this is far from the truth—many survivors describe their experience of pressing charges or reporting their assault to law enforcement as a “second rape.” Reporting a rape or assault is a difficult and lengthy process. The survivor must share very personal details with complete strangers, undergo a traumatic evidence collection process, and will likely be subjected to a great deal of scrutiny or suspicion. Most survivors experience negative impacts, such as trauma from re-living/re-telling violence committed against them, victim-blaming comments that compound self-blame, and a general lack of support. It is unlikely that someone would go through this long and painful process if their story was not true. In fact, the reality is that rape is extremely underreported — most survivors never report their experience, especially on college campuses.
To start, I am a man — a white heterosexual man to be exact. I am probably not the first image that comes to mind when talking about an advocate at a rape crisis center. But here I am, volunteering with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center as a Companion for survivors of sexual violence. In sharing my story of how I got here, I hope that other men will read this and consider getting involved, either within our community or by taking a firm stand against sexual violence.
When I was finishing my final year of my undergraduate career, I began to take an interest in women’s issues. To this day I cannot pinpoint what started it, but I do remember reading more blog posts and articles through Facebook about women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted, as well as more generic commentary about the everyday discrimination women encounter. By the time I was in graduate school, my awareness of the frequency of sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, led me to change my academic focus toward women’s rights and gender equality. Although my studies focus on the global stage, my conviction that women’s issues needed to be addressed only grew.
I volunteered as a Companion to learn more about sexual violence and how to combat it from a third party perspective. Reading about instances of rape left me feeling angry that such actions occurred with stunning regularity, and frustrated that people could either brush it off or treat it as “just the way things are.” While I am grateful for the training provided by the Center and have enjoyed my experience so far, I cannot deny that it has been emotionally trying. Exposing myself to a subject that I could not personally relate to was difficult. I certainly cared about what happened, but I understood very quickly that I could never fully comprehend the harassment, the violence, or the subtle discrimination because I was born a man. Continue reading “Why I Decided to Become a Companion”
Over the last thirty years, our Safe Touch program for children and our Start Strong program for teens have helped prevent child sexual abuse by teaching children and adolescents to identify inappropriate behavior, to develop an understanding of consent and healthy relationships, and to stand against sexual violence in their schools and communities. These programs are designed for continuous learning, which means that students in every public school in Orange County will receive Safe Touch (preK through 5th grade) or Start Strong (7th and 9th grade) programming year after year, so the skills and knowledge they gain are consistently reinforced and built upon. Conversations that start with learning your own bodily autonomy and boundaries eventually shift to how these ideas apply to treating and respecting others. Continue reading “Purple Ribbon of Excellence”
Many parents speak to their children about protecting themselves from unwanted physical contact. However, it is important to consider unsafe, uncomfortable, or unwanted interactions online as well. These interactions may take the form of sexual harassment, cyberbullying, or a person asking for too much personal information or pretending to be someone that they are not. In honor of International Internet Day, here are some tips for talking to your children about internet safety.
Talk to your child about internet privacy. Advise your child not to share their personal information – such as full names, parents’ names, phone numbers, addresses, schools, locations, passwords, or even pictures – with anyone online or through social media sites. Remind your child that nothing they share on the internet is ever completely private.
Caution your child that while it is okay to have online friends, people are not always who they say they are. If an online friend asks to meet in person, wants to keep the friendship a secret, or asks a lot of personal questions, these are generally warning signs. Ask your child to tell you if their online friend wants to meet them in person.
Encourage your child to tell you if something that is said to them or something that they see online makes them uncomfortable. Ask your child to print a picture of anything that makes them uncomfortable and show it to you in case comments or pictures are later deleted. Remind your child that if someone online says something that makes them feel uncomfortable, upset, or scared, it is not their fault and that you will support them.
Ella Baker, an unsung hero of the Civil Rights movement, once said, “The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on is when the reins are in the hands of the young, who dare to run against the storm.” As a sexual violence prevention educator and youth co-conspirator, I feel the wisdom in these words every time I have the opportunity to witness young people working toward justice and asking for what they need. In fact, youth have been at the forefront of most of the major social movements of the past century.
In the summer of 2015, Anaja McClinton and Erin Thompson approached the Center for support around creating a sexual violence prevention workshop for her friends and peers at school. Anaja knew young folks who had been directly impacted and she felt like the issue sexual violence was not being addressed at school. When we met with Anaja and Erin, it was clear that they were fired up and ready. They wanted to see change for the benefit of their friends, fellow students, and future students. And they were ready to work for it. Without any hesitation, they approached their parents and caregivers, asking them to support their efforts, and they directly communicated their desires and needs with the principal at their school.
By the end of the fall semester, Anaja and Erin had the full support of their principal. Moreover, they requested that the district consider sexual violence prevention programming at both of the high schools in Orange County Schools. Continue reading “2016 Teal Ribbon Award Winners”
[HB 2] overrides a recently passed LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in Charlotte, prevents local governments from enacting a range of nondiscrimination and employment policies, and requires all public facilities, including schools, to allow restroom access only on the basis of “biological sex.” This bill specifically excludes LGBTQ people from legal protections and jeopardizes billions of dollars in federal funds that NC schools receive under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination against transgender students.
A central argument in this case was about the prevention of sexual violence and the use and safety of public bathrooms. NCCASA is deeply committed to the prevention of all sexual violence, and it is essential that any efforts to do so are rooted in fact. What we know to be true is that the majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by someone the victim knows in a familiar place, rather than by a stranger in a public place. 200 cities across the nation have protections in place similar to the Charlotte ordinance, and none of them have reported an increase in sexual violence related to these protections.
On the other hand, physical and verbal assaults on transgender people in public bathrooms are not rare, and over 50% of transgender people have experienced sexual violence. We cannot end sexual violence unless we are committed to ending sexual violence for all people. What will actually prevent and end sexual violence is for us to create a culture in which respect for the identities and bodily autonomy of others is a deeply held value. Policies prohibiting discrimination based on one’s sexuality and gender identity, like the one passed in Charlotte, are a positive step toward ending sexual violence.
The Center maintains a commitment to providing excellent and culturally competent services to survivors of all genders, including support for survivors of gender-based or trans-phobic sexual harassment and specialized support groups for LGBTQ survivors of sexual violence.
During a national town hall meeting on guns in January, President Obama was confronted by a survivor of rape for his stance on gun control. Kimberley Corban, now a mother of two, argued that the gun restrictions proposed by the Obama administration would prevent families from being able to protect themselves. She contended that it is her “basic responsibility as a parent” and as a survivor to carry a gun so that she and her children would not be victimized again.
Sexual violence happens in private businesses, private residences, and public spaces. We are striving to create a community where sexual violence is not tolerated in any environment. Private business owners who maintain a liquor license can help make this happen by setting clear expectations for their patrons and empowering their staff to a model positive behavior for our community. Private businesses have the ability to prevent sexual violence from happening at their establishments as well as after their patrons leave their business.
Alcohol is the most common substance used in drug facilitated sexual assault (DFSA), making bar staff particularly crucial allies in preventing sexual violence. Since we cannot identify perpetrators of DFSA by the way they look, we have to pay attention to their behavior. A perpetrator may take advantage when someone chooses to use drugs or alcohol, or they may intentionally give someone drugs or alcohol. For example, a potential perpetrator may pay a lot of attention to someone who is intoxicated, continue to buy drinks for that person, or try to isolate them away from their friends. They may also test boundaries, and ignore when someone says or acts like they are not interested. Bar staff may witness any of these behaviors and have the power to intervene before a potential perpetrator can harm someone.