America’s Culture Of Rape

It seems everyone has an opinion about what happened at Steubenville and I’d like to add my thoughts to the mix.

First of all, let’s address the “sympathy” CNN’s Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow showed for the perpetrators.  I think it’s important to note that Candy Crowley is a mother and has a son because this can affect the way women look at this kind of offense.  It seemed to me she set the tone going into the segment for Poppy Harlow or maybe it was simply an attempt at unbiased reporting.

You might say she should be a professional and being a mother shouldn’t affect her on the job but our life experiences color all of our reactions and being a mother is a powerful driving force.  I’ve seen it before on a more personal level and mothers of sons seem to want to see young men as children, regardless of size, just as they do with their own.  If there is an unwanted pregnancy they will often blame the girl.  If a girl claims he forced her they would like to think she “asked for it” somehow or there was a “misunderstanding” because the alternative is just too much for them to accept–that even though these young men seem to be children, and legally might be, they have the bodies and strength of a grown man and if they have a predator mentality they are dangerous even if they aren’t legally of age yet.

I happen to be the mother of a girl who was kidnapped by two young men, held at gunpoint and raped and tortured for hours at the age of 14 so my viewpoint is colored by that.  It’s colored by the fact that my daughter spent three months in a mental hospital and the person she was before that event is dead.  She has fought through PTSD and suicidal compulsions and tried to go on with her life but the person she was before is gone forever.  They murdered my young girl’s innocence and condemned the woman who survived it to a life of nightmares and horror.

These two young men got 1-5 years and yes they will be labeled as sex offenders but that girl is serving a life sentence so let’s put our sympathies where they belong and try to do something to readjust the way they think about women, besides just incarcerating them, before they are free again.  They asked for their fate, she did not.

Another aspect of this people seem to be unaware of is that according to some statistics sexual assault victims are 67% (and some show even higher rates) more likely to be victimized again.  That leads people to think it’s about risky behavior.  Some of these victims start to blame themselves and think they must be doing something to bring it on.  However, if you think about the book written about Jerry Sandusky and child victims and how predators select vulnerable children you have to wonder if it isn’t because they can somehow spot the ones who’ve already been a victim and see them as vulnerable–an easy target.  So this assault not only changed her forever but probably also made her more vulnerable to this happening to her again for the rest of her life.

Decades later when my daughter had finally regained some sense of herself and was moving on with her life she was assaulted again.  She’s a Level I trauma nurse and had taken a travel assignment in Yuma County, AZ because there was a neurosurgeon for her daughter in Arizona.  She was kidnapped out of a public parking lot off of a main street just after lunch time in broad daylight.  She was taken down to the river, assaulted and beaten horribly.  He was a body builder so it’s a miracle she got away alive again and she has permanent damage to her hips and back.

She hadn’t been able to even testify the first time so she was determined he wouldn’t walk away free to victimize other women.  She went to the ER immediately and went through the trauma of a rape exam.  She had bite wounds as if she had been attacked by a wild animal and a concussion from him beating her head on the door of his truck.  She stayed 9 months waiting for the trial, relived it three times on the stand and then they turned him loose, frankly because the prosecutor didn’t bother to bring the case.  It nearly destroyed her.  A woman who had been a trauma nurse for 16 years, had been raising a critically ill child since she was only 17 herself, with a record so clean she didn’t even have a speeding ticket vs. a three-time felon with a record as long as your arm…and they  let him go.  I don’t know if she will ever recover from that.   That betrayal has broken her worse than the assault did and that is a major reason women don’t even report it.  And it’s because of this rape culture we refuse to acknowledge exists.

She couldn’t understand why she was a victim again and thought somehow she must be doing something to draw these maniacs.  However, the rape crisis center there was wonderful and explained to her that they don’t even understand why but once a woman is sexually assaulted it’s almost certain to happen again.  I personally believe it’s like the Sandusky book and they can see the wounds on someone’s soul when they’ve been hurt like that before.  I think it’s like sharks being drawn to the scent of blood in the water.

I’m going to talk about some statistics but it’s important to remember that the great majority of sexual assaults go unreported, sometimes in the worst cases because the victim is too traumatized to testify, so the true numbers are even more devastating.  That’s due to a number of reasons.  For one thing, sexual assault is the only crime where the victim wears the shame and is the one left feeling “dirty.”  It’s such a personal, private attack that it’s very hard to talk about even among the people who love them and quite often family members don’t even know for years–if the woman can ever bring herself to talk about it.  Add the fact is that most of the ones that do get reported aren’t prosecuted and convicted, making the victim feel as if it will do no good to put herself through hell and thus we have a horrific, violent secret that needs to be exposed and dealt with before it destroys us.

I agree with Henry Rollins that we have to look at where this mentality comes from because we definitely have a mentality that encourages this kind of behavior.  The fact that we’re No. 6 in the world for sexual assaults, even with the great majority of cases going unreported, says we have a serious problem.  Then we have the Jerry Sandusky case, the scandal with Catholic priests and the recent explosion over sexual assault in the military.  That shows us we have a serious problem in our culture that has to be addressed.

We also have the issue that evidently two other teenage girls, and possibly a boy, appear to have harassed and even threatened the victim.  I might understand another male friend not wanting to believe his friend guilty of such a crime, but what about the girls?  What makes girls and women side with the perpetrator when he’s just as much of a threat to them?  Was that because of the football culture and the fact that they were football stars at their school, as well as good students, so they assumed that meant they couldn’t be predators?  If history has taught us anything it’s that a predator can be hiding behind any mask.

Or maybe it’s because when many people hear the word rape, especially if the accused is someone they know and like, they have a mental picture of a situation where things got hot and heavy on a date and maybe there was a misunderstanding about her wishes, with a little alcohol thrown in to boot, and maybe he really wasn’t a predator.  The whole idea that there is a “point of no return” for a man is ludicrous.  You can bet if someone put a gun to his head he’d stop so you can bet he can stop whenever she becomes unwilling…he just doesn’t want to and his want overrides hers resistance.

We have to wake up and realize that rape is never about sex.  It’s about power, control and abuse.  Eighty year old women get raped in their apartments.  I think we have a distorted view of rape and this GOP/Tea party crowd being so obsessed with the topic and trying to deny the reality of it shows us how pervasive this way of thinking is.  The trash talk about rape we’ve been hearing out of them is indicative of the problem.

I believe this is the root of the problem and goes back to a patriarchal society where women were guarded by another man, their father or a brother or both, until they were handed over to the protection of another man.  They had to have an escort everywhere they went to be safe.  It seems to make people blame the girl’s family because she wasn’t being guarded well enough, or even the girl herself, when in a civilized society we shouldn’t have to hide our daughters under the bed for them to be safe from predators.

There are so many underlying problems it’s impossible to pin it down to one thing we can do, but education is a big piece of that puzzle.  It’s about how we raise our boys to think of women.  We need to understand that he won’t always be just 2 ft tall, that he will have a big, strong man’s body by the time he’s a teenager and he will be as dangerous as a loaded gun if he isn’t taught an innate respect for women and children.

I watched their apologies to the court and frankly, tears or no tears, I saw a disdain on their faces that showed me their repentance wasn’t sincere.  I believe the judge saw it too and did what he could to impress on them the gravity of what they had done.  The fact that they saw what they did as some kind of game, taking pictures of her and humiliating her during and after the fact, shows the mentality they have toward women.  That in itself is more telling than what they actually did to her.

I have a relative who is serving time as a child predator.  When both of our children were very small I walked into his grandmother’s kitchen and saw his father with porn magazines showing them to this boy when he was only 5 yrs old.  My little girl was there and I threw a fit about that kind of demented thinking.  But that little boy is now so distorted in his thinking he’ll likely spend his whole life in prison, and probably has to for children to be safe from him.  It’s sad because I loved him as a little boy and it wasn’t his fault his mentality got twisted from the start by his own father.

People want to blame the alcohol but the fact is you couldn’t have given my brother enough booze for him to violate a girl or a woman at any age.  But growing up in a small house I overheard some of the talks my dad had with him as he was coming of age.  I remember hearing him tell him that he should treat every girl as if she were his mother or his sister.  He was taught that women are not only people, but special people that a man should protect and have respect for.  I believe that kind of teaching, especially from father to son, is a key element in how boys view girls and eventually women when they become a man.  Unfortunately, some men teach younger men and even little boys the same twisted thinking they have about women and much like racism is passed from generation to generation.

I also think there’s a “hero” complex element that seems to come into play with aggressive sports.  How many times have we seen this related to football?  And the scary part is how when it’s a “star” it’s often swept under the carpet just as it was for over a decade with Jerry Sandusky.

We had a case not long ago of a massive football player, probably weighing over 250 lbs., caught in a hotel with a 16-year-old girl.  She managed to get away from him and get help but he claimed she was a prostitute and it all just faded from the public eye.  Let me point out that there is no excuse for him hurting her no matter her age.  Let’s also remember she was just 16 yrs old and it shouldn’t have mattered what pimp sold her to him.

We take these young boys still in stages of puberty, surging with testosterone, pump up every aggressive instinct they have and don’t teach them how to temper that and keep it within the game…that it is a game.  Then when they misdirect their aggression it’s often winked and nodded at as if that is expected and should be tolerated.  And we have such a distorted sense of hero-worship the girls want to date the quarterback even when they see his current girlfriend coming to school with black eyes.

We also have the cases with our military where women usually don’t even report it because they know the “chain of command” will protect the predator.  Let me be clear here because I know that the vast majority of our heroes in uniform would have no part of this and are as horrified and shamed by it as I am.  But the fact is that senior officers are covering it up, winking and nodding at it, and letting it continue unchecked.  Why?  Maybe it’s because of this rape culture we have, that it wasn’t really rape he just misunderstood her wishes, or maybe it’s because we have a misplaced hero-worship.  This seems to be especially prevalent when it’s someone we consider a “hero” for some reason…a solider…a coach…a priest.

These kinds of predators are not heroes just because they are good at warfare, can make a touchdown or even claim to be a man of God.  A true hero is a man of honor and character that doesn’t victimize women and children just because he’s bigger and stronger and knows he can.  A true hero would defend the victim not the perpetrator.  A true hero carries the women and children out of fires, or moves the women out of the line of fire as our Navy Seals did during the Bin Laden raid.  We need to cull these predators out of the herd, especially in our military, so our true heroes are not tainted by the stench.

I find this particularly horrific in the military because they are victimizing women we should see as heroes too, women who are willing to fight and die the same as the men to protect our freedom.  Their fellow soldiers should have their back rather than using and abusing them.

I tried to enlist in the Marines when I was 18 yrs old but I had a Marine recruiter take me to a roadside park to explain to me that there was only one purpose for women in the military and what that purpose was.  I knew even then that was a case of an individual’s actions so I didn’t hold it against Marines as a whole but that was 4 decades ago and it seems not much has changed  at all.

We also need to think about the fact that when we send troops into a war zone the rule of law can break down and women and children are vulnerable because of it.  We shouldn’t have these predators victimizing the innocent whether they are their fellow soldiers or “the enemy.”  If we want to be respected around the world and be an influence for good we can’t allow this kind of behavior.  These men think like animals and need to be removed from the ranks of the real men and real heroes.

It’s not just about how men think.   It’s also about how women think that’s a problem.  Candy Crowley needs to examine her own reaction to a few “crocodile tears” and why her sympathy seemed to be with the perpetrators instead of the victim.  We all need to examine how we think about this kind of crime, educate ourselves about what it is and stop turning a blind eye no matter how much it repulses us to look at it.

We have redefined “rape” at the federal level and that is a huge step even thought the Tea Party crazies still seem to want to define it as not being rape unless it is “forcible.” I guess means she has to be beaten half to death to prove she wasn’t willing.  Of course, then the explanation is it was just “rough sex” and she liked it that way.

No doubt the perpetrator has a sickness regarding the opposite sex and we can find many legitimate reasons for that.  We have to look at all aspects of it and try to change not only the way we think but the way we raise our boys and girls to think.  Once someone is nearly grown can we change the innate way they think about women and children when they learned it from childhood?  I think it’s very difficult, but I certainly hope so because the only other alternative is to lock these predators up for life to protect everyone else and that isn’t fair if we raised them to think the way they do.  I do believe from what I’ve seen that this is truly about nurture not nature and that we can raise our children with respect for their fellow human beings regardless of their sex.

References

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/03/19/174728448/two-steubenville-girls-arrested-after-allegedly-threatening-rape-victim

Rape Statistics | Statistic Brain. (n.d.). Statistic Brain | Numbers  |  Percentages  |  Financials  |  Rankings | Statistic Brain. Retrieved March 19, 2013, from http://www.statisticbrain.com/rape-statistics/

Rollins, H. (n.d.). Henry Rollins Comments On Steubenville Rape Verdict | Under the Gun Review. Under The Gun Review. Retrieved March 19, 2013, from http://www.underthegunreview.net/2013/03/18/henry-rollins-comments-on-steubenville-rape-verdict/

SAVAGE, C. (n.d.). Federal Crime Statistics to Expand Rape Definition – NYTimes.com. The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Retrieved March 19, 2013, from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/07/us/politics/federal-crime-statistics-to-expand-rape-definition.html?_r=0

wiesel, d. (n.d.). Center for Problem-Oriented Policing | Tool Guides | Analyzing Repeat Victimization . Center for Problem-Oriented Policing | Home. Retrieved March 19, 2013, from http://www.popcenter.org/tools/repeat_victimization/

What say you, the people?