Saturday, April 26, 2008

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Gotta get something up before it's over!

So as many of you may know, I am a survivor of childhood sexual assault. In light of this, I like to do something special every April to raise awareness and combat myths as my contribution to sexual assault awareness month.

In lieu of telling my own story this year, I am going to link to a few articles that are pertinent to it or are pertinent to our culture right now.

I think a lot of people are starting to understand and know the Department of Justice statistic that 1 in 6 women are raped over the course of their lifetime (not including sexual assault that did not include penetration or attempted sexual assault). But not a lot of people know how many rapists there are out there, how this number is terrifying to women and why we live our lives in constant fear of being raped. That number, folks, is 4.5%. Another way of putting it: 1 in 25. If you know 25 men, chances are you know a rapist. I'm pretty sure we all know at least one rapist. They are people we love, people we respect, people we loathe, people who hide their misogyny behind charm, good looks, or chivalry. Think 4.5% is a small number? From Alas, a blog:

4.5% of the men in the United States is an incredibly high number - that translates into over six million men.

If you added up every US citizen who was officially unemployed or looking for work in 2001, that would be less than the total number of rapists.

If you added up every US citizen who is Jewish, that would still be less than the total number of rapists.

If you added up every teenage boy who had any sort of job - an afterschool job, a summer job, working full-time after dropping out, including all of those - you’d still have over a million fewer people then the total number of rapists.

There are twice as many rapists in the USA as there are single mothers.

For every drunk driver who is in a fatal accident this year, there are over 500 rapists.

If you take every doctor and nurse in the United States; and you added them to every librarian, every cashier, every cop, every postal clerk, and every bank teller in the whole country; you still wouldn’t have as many people as the number of rapists in the United States.

To relate the fear that women experience on a daily basis because of these rapists (again from Alas, a blog):

Imagine that one out of 25 men have at some point in their lives attacked and tortured an Oregonian. You don’t know which ones had done it - you just know it’s about one in 25. And they had done it simply because they had wanted to, and they consider people from Oregon to be just that worthless.

Now imagine you were born in Oregon.

How safe would you feel in your daily life? What would it do to your feeling of security and safety, knowing that “only” one out of 25 of the men you stand in line with at the bank, the male cashiers you meet at the grocery, the male cops patrolling the streets, the male students you take classes with and the male professors you learn from, and your male co-workers at the office, has attacked someone like you, because they were like you?
Part of my rape was the involvement of pornography. It was used to show me what to do, who I was. Considering, too, that my attacker was under 18, it probably informed him of exactly what females were good for. Porn is very poor sex education, except in my experience most young men learn about sex, at least vis-a-vis what women enjoy, from porn. Talk about missing the mark. "What does porn have to do with rape?" one might ask. A lot. Check out one angry girl's section on porn myths. Particularly, the sections entitled "Porn is harmless and has no effect on the person using it" and "Porn is an outlet or safety valve for men who might otherwise do Bad Things" are eye-opening; they contains findings from decades of research on the relationship between pornography and misogystic attitudes, sexual aggression and addiction. One researcher found that "The relationship between particularly sexually violent images in the media and subsequent much stronger statistically than the relationship between smoking and lung cancer" (Edward Donnerstein). I have ambivalent feelings about porn. On the one hand, a lot of it is disgustingly misogynistic, promotes rape by treating rape as normal sex and enjoyable to the woman, ignores real female sexuality, etc etc. On the other hand, it can be hot to watch two people going at it. In this case, context is EVERYTHING.

Finally, a bit of current events. Something even I failed to consider, when thinking about the War on Terror, is the effect on the female soldiers from the U.S. I figured there would be a huge increase in rape of Iraqi women and girls at the hands of invading and insurgent forces, and there has been, but I didn't for a moment think that this fate would also befall our own soldiers. Indeed, aside from all the KBR madness, it has recently been found that female U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq are more likely to be raped by their "fellow" soldiers than killed in combat. I know, I know, women aren't "allowed" in combat, but this war doesn't have a clear front line, and women are dying in combat nearly every day. That means they are also being raped by their fellow soldiers every day.

Please take some time out of your day to think about these things, without being defensive. Recognize that, if one in six women is raped, and if you include the women who are victims of non-penatrative sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, that means 1 in 4 women is sexually victimized. 1 in 4. Your mother. Your sister. Your daughter. Your wife. Your fiancee. Your girlfriend. Your aunt. Your grandmother. Your cousin. Your best friend. YOU KNOW a woman who has been raped. Sit down and think for a few minutes about how YOU can make this world a better place for all the women in your life, and thank them for being so strong and brave in the face of the worst kind of adversity - physical hatred. Don a teal ribbon, I know I am.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month official website

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) for survivors, their supporters, and those who want to learn more


The Dutchess of Kickball said...

The first time I checked the sex offender registry that shows where these people live I was shocked and appalled at the vast number of people locally. And then I cried when I started looking through it and saw how many were convicted with sexual assault against children.

Tamar said...

Thank you for this.

It's difficult in a society which aggressively normalises pornographic images of women to argue coherently what, exactly, is wrong with porn. I've read that sexually liberated women should embrace porn, but all I know is that what I've seen of mainstream porn has made me feel quite the opposite of liberated.

queenrandom said...

Tam - I think you'd like Robert Jenkins. He does a lot of research on pornography (exhaustive, literally! I saw an interview recently where he talked about how it affected him emotionally). He's got quite a few interesting things to say about pornography and masculinity that, as a woman, I probably never would have even noticed if it weren't pointed out to me.

HeatherAnn Fragglehead said...

When you take that 4.5% and compare it with all of that other stuff, it is mind-boggling just how... common... this is. One in 25. I totally know more than 25 men. It's so sad.