In honor of Stalking Awareness Month, I’d like to explore how stalking and other forms of sexual harassment are depicted and discussed through the media we consume. Countless media portrayals regularly misrepresent stalking and other forms of violence, leading to victim-blaming, minimization, and disbelief from society at large.
These misrepresentations can often wildly skew our understanding of offender typology; this is especially true of films such as Fatal Attraction, Misery, and Swimfan – in which the main offenders are women, distracting audiences from the fact that men make up nearly 90% of stalking perpetrators. Beyond even misinformation, the media’s biggest blunder when it comes to stalking is its tendency to minimize and even romanticize stalking behaviors. While this problem spans a wide variety of popular media, I’d like to focus on music.
More so than movies and television, music has constantly attempted to explore the themes of sex, relationships, and love. And as we all know, where there’s love, there’s also the misapplication of it. While there are literally countless examples of romanticized violence in music, I’m going to focus on only two recent songs and their respective music videos: Maroon 5’s “Animals” (2014) and Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” (2008). I’ve chosen these two due to the extreme disparity in their styles, just to highlight the spectrum of these misinterpretations.
As the leaves begin to change, sweaters come out, and warm beverages become the norm, make sure to remember National Domestic Violence Awareness month. Whether your discussion is over a pumpkin spice latte or while raking leaves, it is up to our network of allies, survivors, and advocates to raise awareness of interpersonal violence. It’s important that we talk about the wider implications of violence, prevention mechanisms, and how to be effective allies.
Initially created by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981, DVAM is an opportunity to unite survivors, advocates, and community members. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines intimate partner abuse as “physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.” Moreover, the Department of Justice notes that domestic violence, the pattern of abusive behavior “used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner,” extends to physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse.
It’s time to dive a bit deeper into the nuances of sexual violence and how it differentially affects certain groups of people. Although I’ve been involved in the anti-violence movement for about 5 years, something you may not know is that I’ve also done a lot of work to support folks in our community who have developmental and/or intellectual disabilities. Having the opportunity to work with folks with an array of different levels of ability, both cognitively and physically, has only increased my passion for raising awareness about the intersection of sexual violence and disability status. Based on extensive research, we know that people with disabilities are at heightened risk to be sexually victimized. I hope to highlight some of what we know about this issue.
Many of us have heard the line “sexual violence does not discriminate,” and it affects people of all races, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, religious affiliations, and other forms of identity. However, though this violence affects us all, it does not do so equally. Research consistently shows that people with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities are at increased risk to experience sexual violence in their lifetimes.
In 2001, April was first declared Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. Sexual assault is defined by the Department of Justice as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Read below to learn more about sexual assault, what you can do to prevent it, and how the Center can help.