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News & Events

Raped Again

"No wonder, considering what has happened since". those were the words Washington Post columnist, Ruth Marcus, used to describe why a US Naval Academy alleged rape victim was reluctant to cooperate in the investigation of the incident. The scene described is all too typical of so many sexual assaults...a party gone bad with alcohol-fueled decisions, pervasive sexual license, social media drama, morning-after realizations, and life-changing consequences for all involved persons. This incident involved military recruits, but the same scenario gets played out every week with college students, high school students, athletes and business associates.

We weren't present the night of the incident, so we don't know if the victim was forcibly raped, too incapacitated to consent, or a willing participant. Those decisions require more detailed facts than the news reports offer. Journalists protect the identity of this rape victim by not releasing her name but, without question. we've already formed our opinions of her. Consider:
  • the court process itself is invasive, publicly humiliating and re-traumatizing  for the victim. Many victims have said, "On the stand, I felt like l was being raped again." 
  • even before a verdict has been determined, there is often more judgment about the victim than the accused. 
From just the limited information in media coverage of the case, we're already forming opinions about the alleged victim. Consider:
  • all news stories indicate the victim was drinking excessively and the next morning had limited recollection the night before
  • during the hearing she was asked  whether she was wearing a bra or underwear, how wide she opens her mouth during oral sex, and if she had consensual sexual relations the next morning with another Academy football player in the same house where the alleged assault took place
  • new reports indicate she is being disciplined for underage drinking 
  • her credibility has been cast as questionable as she initially was reticent to cooperate  fully with the investigation, then later testified that a medical exam did not result in any diagnosis, and
  •  that she has been pressured and harassed in person and via social media since making the allegations.

Contrast this with what we know about the men accused of gang raping this woman:

  • their identities are not protected, thus we know their names. This is embarrassing, will follow them throughout life and is unquestionably career changing. But it also humanizes them. We've even seen their photos, clean shaven men in military dress uniform
  • they are football players
  • all 3 accused men are older than the victim, thus not guilty of underage drinking. The question of whether they provided alcohol to the inebriated underage victim, a criminal activity, has not been addressed
  • one of them had a previous 'casual sex' relationship with the alleged victim in the past and asked her to lie to his current girlfriend denying a sexual encounter on the night of the alleged rape.
  • all three men have denied any wrongdoing.
When I look at media coverage of sexual assaults, it disturbs me how the focus right from the start is often more on the victim and her character and decisions than on the accused. Even when a guilty verdict is rendered, so often it's the actions of victim that we recollect. It's no wonder victims are reluctant to report and cooperate in the prosecution. No wonder they feel "raped again."


Raped Again

"No wonder, considering what has happened since". those were the words Washington Post columnist, Ruth Marcus, used to describe why a US Naval Academy alleged rape victim was reluctant to cooperate in the investigation of the incident. The scene described is all too typical of so many sexual assaults...a party gone bad with alcohol-fueled decisions, pervasive sexual license, social media drama, morning-after realizations, and life-changing consequences for all involved persons. This incident involved military recruits, but the same scenario gets played out every week with college students, high school students, athletes and business associates.

We weren't present the night of the incident, so we don't know if the victim was forcibly raped, too incapacitated to consent, or a willing participant. Those decisions require more detailed facts than the news reports offer. Journalists protect the identity of this rape victim by not releasing her name but, without question. we've already formed our opinions of her. Consider:
  • the court process itself is invasive, publicly humiliating and re-traumatizing  for the victim. Many victims have said, "On the stand, I felt like l was being raped again." 
  • even before a verdict has been determined, there is often more judgment about the victim than the accused. 
From just the limited information in media coverage of the case, we're already forming opinions about the alleged victim. Consider:
  • all news stories indicate the victim was drinking excessively and the next morning had limited recollection the night before
  • during the hearing she was asked  whether she was wearing a bra or underwear, how wide she opens her mouth during oral sex, and if she had consensual sexual relations the next morning with another Academy football player in the same house where the alleged assault took place
  • new reports indicate she is being disciplined for underage drinking 
  • her credibility has been cast as questionable as she initially was reticent to cooperate  fully with the investigation, then later testified that a medical exam did not result in any diagnosis, and
  •  that she has been pressured and harassed in person and via social media since making the allegations.

Contrast this with what we know about the men accused of gang raping this woman:

  • their identities are not protected, thus we know their names. This is embarrassing, will follow them throughout life and is unquestionably career changing. But it also humanizes them. We've even seen their photos, clean shaven men in military dress uniform
  • they are football players
  • all 3 accused men are older than the victim, thus not guilty of underage drinking. The question of whether they provided alcohol to the inebriated underage victim, a criminal activity, has not been addressed
  • one of them had a previous 'casual sex' relationship with the alleged victim in the past and asked her to lie to his current girlfriend denying a sexual encounter on the night of the alleged rape.
  • all three men have denied any wrongdoing.
When I look at media coverage of sexual assaults, it disturbs me how the focus right from the start is often more on the victim and her character and decisions than on the accused. Even when a guilty verdict is rendered, so often it's the actions of victim that we recollect. It's no wonder victims are reluctant to report and cooperate in the prosecution. No wonder they feel "raped again."


Welcome to college?

St. Mary's University in Nova Scotia achieved a moment of infamy when their students' Frosh Week bonding activities included a rally with a planned, scripted chant about rape.
 
SMU boys... we like them young
Y is for your sister
O is for 'Oh so tight'
U is for underage
N is for No consent
G is for grab that ass
 
What's the point of Frosh Week? To orient new students to school, create social connections, and set the tone for the year. 80 student leaders lead hundreds of incoming freshmen joined in the chant... but no one ever considered the message they were giving to new students... that forced sex is fun and part of the college experience. This wasn't a sudden 'What was I thinking?' slip;  one of the student leaders says he's been shouting this same chant since he was a freshman in 2009. Welcome to college life!
 
One in four college women is sexually assaulted; one-third of those are freshmen. The period between freshman orientation and Thanksgiving is the highest risk period for sexual assaults on college campuses. Much energy on campus goes into awareness and rape prevention activities...but how can they possibly be effective when, from the moment students set foot on campus, there are clear message from  that rape is just part of the college experience? St. Mary's isn't the only college with these traditions. After a student's blog brought the St. Mary's incident such international attention, students at other colleges in Canada and the US have talked about similar experiences.
 
There's a good side to this story. St. Mary's (and I'm sure many other universities) will be taking a hard look at freshmen orientation practices. That's good. But I continue to be perplexed. From the time they're in elementary school, students are showered with programs on character education, bullying, and being an ally... how is it that 800+ bright kids and youth leaders can shout joyously about rape- year after year!- and only one student  speaks out against it?
 
Related posts:
Talking to Teens about Sexual Assault

Welcome to college?

St. Mary's University in Nova Scotia achieved a moment of infamy when their students' Frosh Week bonding activities included a rally with a planned, scripted chant about rape.
 
SMU boys... we like them young
Y is for your sister
O is for 'Oh so tight'
U is for underage
N is for No consent
G is for grab that ass
 
What's the point of Frosh Week? To orient new students to school, create social connections, and set the tone for the year. 80 student leaders lead hundreds of incoming freshmen joined in the chant... but no one ever considered the message they were giving to new students... that forced sex is fun and part of the college experience. This wasn't a sudden 'What was I thinking?' slip;  one of the student leaders says he's been shouting this same chant since he was a freshman in 2009. Welcome to college life!
 
One in four college women is sexually assaulted; one-third of those are freshmen. The period between freshman orientation and Thanksgiving is the highest risk period for sexual assaults on college campuses. Much energy on campus goes into awareness and rape prevention activities...but how can they possibly be effective when, from the moment students set foot on campus, there are clear message from  that rape is just part of the college experience? St. Mary's isn't the only college with these traditions. After a student's blog brought the St. Mary's incident such international attention, students at other colleges in Canada and the US have talked about similar experiences.
 
There's a good side to this story. St. Mary's (and I'm sure many other universities) will be taking a hard look at freshmen orientation practices. That's good. But I continue to be perplexed. From the time they're in elementary school, students are showered with programs on character education, bullying, and being an ally... how is it that 800+ bright kids and youth leaders can shout joyously about rape- year after year!- and only one student  speaks out against it?
 
Related posts:
Talking to Teens about Sexual Assault

Fear and Everyday Heroes

It's 9/11.

Forever that day will have a haunting meaning for Americans. We've healed, for the most part, since that September  11th, but we still carry scars that have changed us . Since then there have been many other tragedies, most recently the bombing in Boston. Everyone responds differently. For some  people the sense of loss, violation and fear permeates every aspect of their daily lives...  and others reach toward healing and understanding.

I just watched a video on Upworthy   that at times makes me cringe, makes me want to cry, helps me understand how difficult it is for people of certain ethnicities to carry on each day in the US, and leaves me absolutely inspired and in awe of how every day people stand up for what's right. They are our heroes.  Don't miss the inspiring words of the soldier at the end; his words echo with the principles upon which this country was built.

All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to stand by and do nothing.
Edmund Burke
 
Share the video. We need to see the struggles and the scars and how we can make a difference.

Fear and Everyday Heroes

It's 9/11.

Forever that day will have a haunting meaning for Americans. We've healed, for the most part, since that September  11th, but we still carry scars that have changed us . Since then there have been many other tragedies, most recently the bombing in Boston. Everyone responds differently. For some  people the sense of loss, violation and fear permeates every aspect of their daily lives...  and others reach toward healing and understanding.

I just watched a video on Upworthy   that at times makes me cringe, makes me want to cry, helps me understand how difficult it is for people of certain ethnicities to carry on each day in the US, and leaves me absolutely inspired and in awe of how every day people stand up for what's right. They are our heroes.  Don't miss the inspiring words of the soldier at the end; his words echo with the principles upon which this country was built.

All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to stand by and do nothing.
Edmund Burke
 
Share the video. We need to see the struggles and the scars and how we can make a difference.

America Wants to Know

George Zimmerman is having more than his 5 minutes of fame lately. After the Trayvon Martin trial ended, we've heard he was pulled over for  speeding, and now the news reports that his wife called 911 because of a domestic incident in which he assaulted her father and threatened her while holding a gun. The news coverage of the domestic incident even has the recording of the 911 call for us all to hear her terrified call for help.  Why do we listen to the call?  Simply because we're curious.

I recently read a Dear Abby column that addressed a serious concern. Some victims may be reticent to call 911 because they don't want their call to  become public knowledge. Abby took a hard stand that safety is far more important than privacy. But I think the issue is much deeper. Why do we feel we need to know the details of crimes... even at the expense of the victim? I often notice that whenever a local paper covers a rape, the public clamors to know the details, Why was the victim in that location? Why was she out so late? Often the on-line chatter is focused almost entirely on the victim, instead of the assailant.

Sometimes victims of relationship and sexual abuse choose not to engage the criminal justice system, simply because by doing so their very private victimization will become public. A rape victim may feel that a trial will not guarantee justice and will instead keep the assault present in her life for the months, sometimes years, until the case is closed. For some victims healing means moving on, and the court process not only hampers this, but continually re-traumatizes  as the rape is repeatedly revisited.  These are hard choices victims need to make--- justice in time (maybe) or closure now. But they have the opportunity to  make this choice about their privacy.

Not so when the crisis is happening. When someone is in fear and calls the police, they don't have time to consider if that call will jeopardize their privacy. More and more, the news reports provide the details of these calls... or as happened with Sheila Zimmerman, we hear the victim's frightened voice as the actual 911 recording is released to the public. When a victim calls in crisis... in fear, she/he presumes communication with an emergency responder... not with every person who watches the news or reads the paper. Would the caller make that same choice knowing that their fear and the very private details of how they were violated might become tomorrow's headline story?

America wants to know... but do we need to... and should we? At the expense of the victim?

America Wants to Know

George Zimmerman is having more than his 5 minutes of fame lately. After the Trayvon Martin trial ended, we've heard he was pulled over for  speeding, and now the news reports that his wife called 911 because of a domestic incident in which he assaulted her father and threatened her while holding a gun. The news coverage of the domestic incident even has the recording of the 911 call for us all to hear her terrified call for help.  Why do we listen to the call?  Simply because we're curious.

I recently read a Dear Abby column that addressed a serious concern. Some victims may be reticent to call 911 because they don't want their call to  become public knowledge. Abby took a hard stand that safety is far more important than privacy. But I think the issue is much deeper. Why do we feel we need to know the details of crimes... even at the expense of the victim? I often notice that whenever a local paper covers a rape, the public clamors to know the details, Why was the victim in that location? Why was she out so late? Often the on-line chatter is focused almost entirely on the victim, instead of the assailant.

Sometimes victims of relationship and sexual abuse choose not to engage the criminal justice system, simply because by doing so their very private victimization will become public. A rape victim may feel that a trial will not guarantee justice and will instead keep the assault present in her life for the months, sometimes years, until the case is closed. For some victims healing means moving on, and the court process not only hampers this, but continually re-traumatizes  as the rape is repeatedly revisited.  These are hard choices victims need to make--- justice in time (maybe) or closure now. But they have the opportunity to  make this choice about their privacy.

Not so when the crisis is happening. When someone is in fear and calls the police, they don't have time to consider if that call will jeopardize their privacy. More and more, the news reports provide the details of these calls... or as happened with Sheila Zimmerman, we hear the victim's frightened voice as the actual 911 recording is released to the public. When a victim calls in crisis... in fear, she/he presumes communication with an emergency responder... not with every person who watches the news or reads the paper. Would the caller make that same choice knowing that their fear and the very private details of how they were violated might become tomorrow's headline story?

America wants to know... but do we need to... and should we? At the expense of the victim?

This is Worth a Minute of Your Life



According to the A.C. Nielson Co. the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV daily  In a 65 year life that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.*

 By 65, the average person will also have seen 2 million TV commercials. With an average length of 30 seconds, that means we spend about 1 million minutes of our lives watching TV commercials... wow!  Would I actually choose to spend 1 million minutes of my life watching ads for fast food restaurants, the latest new med to bring you up, down or asleep, big powerful trucks, or beer? Unlikely.

What if watching a  commercial made you want to be a better person. The folks at Guinness have done just that. Watch this touching and unforgettable commercial. It's a beautiful way to spend a minute of your life. You can't often say that about a beer commercial. Sláinte!


*Norman Herr Ph.D, California State University, Northridge

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