The Importance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By: Adriana Miranda

TW: sexual assault, violence

Did you know that 1 in every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape? But this doesn’t just affect women. Men who are students and 18-24 years old are FIVE times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than men of the same age who are not students. Transgender, genderqueer and nonconforming (TGQN) students are also at higher risk than other college students (source for all of these here). And these are just reported cases; who knows how much larger the number is for people who don’t ever talk about their assault? That being said, SA is something that affects us all. If you have friends who are women or TGQN, there’s a high chance they’ve experienced some form of SA. If you have male friends there is a chance they’ve experienced the same.

This is why SA Awareness Month (SAAM) exists. It’s a time for us to come together to raise awareness and to take action against sexual assault.

The Women’s Center is dedicated to spreading awareness about SA and this SAAM. As part of our programming, we participated in Denim Day on April 26, 2022. Denim Day began as the result of a court case that victim-blamed a woman for her assault. Why? The Italian Supreme Court ruled that her jeans were too tight for her rapist to remove by himself, so she must have helped remove them.  This past Wednesday, we also shared a“What Were They Wearing” display to share the stories of SA victims, heard from a survivor speaker, and finished out the event with healing arts and snacks as a break from the heavy subject matter.

 

When Will Victim-Blaming Stop?

By Kristina Gardner

You’ve heard about it. These awful cases of victim-blaming; from the case of the Toronto Police Officer telling girls to stop wearing skirts to school or they will get raped, to the New York City Police Officer warning women to stop wearing revealing clothing on the streets of Brooklyn (and in general) or they will get raped, to the newest piece that came out about the Radio Host blaming the Occupy Wall Street protestors for getting “raped and groped”. Why would you ever even think to blame the victim of a rape or any kind of sexual assault for the action of the person that did that to them! I don’t think women go around saying “I hope wearing this very cute skirt to go out with my friends doesn’t attract rapists.” No, she’s thinking about having a night on the town with her girlfriends, and looking good to have a good time. Or whatever the reason – because let’s face it, skirts are pretty comfortable—she should be able to wear that skirt or “revealing clothing” without any worries about being sexually assaulted. But I digress.

We have got to stop blaming the victims of these sexual assaults, stop asking them what they could have done to prevent it, blaming them for wearing that skirt, or low cut shirt, and start blaming the people that are doing these crimes! And doing something about it! These police officers should not be worrying about what the women were wearing, but rather worrying about getting the person that raped them, or preventing the possible rapes.

So, what if a horrible thing like sexual assault happens? What should we do as a friend to the person that has been sexually assaulted?

What to do…

if someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, domestic/relationship violence, or stalking:

  • Believe them. People rarely lie about dealing with these issues.
  • Listen and concentrate on understanding their feelings.
  • Allow them to be silent; you don’t have to talk every time they stop talking.
  • Ask how you can help.
  • Don’t ask questions that imply that the rape, abuse, or stalking is their fault, such as “Why did you go to his room?”, “Why are you staying with that person?”, or “Why didn’t you run away?”
  • Offer to accompany them to the police, to seek medical attention, or to seek counseling.
  • Help them regain a sense of control by letting them decide what to do. Help them explore the options and then support them in making their own decisions about how to proceed.
  • Remind them that rape, abuse and stalking are not their fault.
  • Offer shelter or companionship, so they don’t have to be alone.

UMKC Violenc Prevention and Response

MOCSA

 

 

 

Is It Because They Are Athletes?

By Emily Mathis

I like sports as much as the next person. Well, okay so I most likely won’t watch football on Sunday  unless I’m at my parent’s house, but come the big exciting championship, I am there. And as anyone who knows me can attest as long as it’s hockey, I’m there. However, I have noticed a disturbing trend recently of male athletes who are accused of sexual assault or domestic violence. Not only are they getting away with it, but the media and a lot of sports fans turn the tables around and use victim-blaming as the main defense.

As much as it saddens me to bring this up, since my family is Spartans all the way, the worst case of this “free pass” for athletes lately happened at Michigan State University. According to reports, two male basketball players sexually assaulted a young woman at a party. The article states that even though one of the two players agreed with the victim’s account of what happened, no chargers are being issued.

This is not the first instance of athletes not getting charged or just receiving a “slap on the wrist”. This past year Ben Roethlisberger, the winning quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was accused of rape. After the allegations, which were never prosecuted due to negligent investigating, Roethlisberger received a six game suspension that was taken down to a four game suspension for “good behavior.” In addition to the lack of seriousness afforded to the situation, Nike and others came to his defense.

Why is it that these athletes are able to get away with crimes that should be prosecuted? If it’s not victim-blaming techniques, the police don’t take the allegations seriously and don’t treat the players like other men, or for some reason the county or state’s attorneys decide there is “not enough evidence” to file charges.

In the case of the MSU players, I am really confused why no action is being taken. When one of the players corroborates the victim’s charges, shouldn’t that be a red flag that maybe a crime actually did take place?  And why wasn’t Roethlisberger’s case handled better? Maybe it’s like some of the other examples of sexual assault cases not being handled properly. But maybe it’s more than that.

Perhaps our society does give sports figures a “free pass”. I think that it’s a combination of sexual assault allegations not being handled the way they should and the fact that there is somewhat of a “boys will be boys” mentality when it comes to athletes. It seems that sometimes in our society there is a tendency to overlook bad behavior from star athletes precisely because people want to keep them in the winning column and you can’t do that if they are getting arrested or worse actually serving time in jail.

In addition to many people not wanting athletes to have to deal with the consequences of their actions, there seems to be the continuing problem of victim-blaming. There is the type of victim-blaming that is evident in the MSU allegations: they were at a party, the girl had been drinking, she went upstairs with them, etc, so obviously no crime could have been committed. These are classic victim-blaming mentalities. But what struck me about the Roethlisberger case and other high profile sexual assault cases, like the Kobe Bryant case, is that it seems there is a different type of victim-blaming that occurs and that is this idea that any girl would obviously want to have sex with a famous athlete and therefore these girls must being lying so they can get publicity and/or money. It would seem that it is too hard to imagine that a beloved figure like a quarterback for a Super Bowl winning team would actually rape women. But some people forget rape is not about sex or desire; it’s about power. So just because someone like Roethlisberger or Bryant probably has a lot of opportunity to have sex with a lot of women, it doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of rape.

As with so many aspects of how our society deals with sexual assault, this tendency for overlooking valid information as it pertains to athletes has got to stop. I am by no means saying that all athletes are perpetrating crimes and that none of them receive punishment. I am saying that it seems like if the crime in question is sexual assault, it tends to go unpunished. It seems like the struggle for understanding of what sexual assault and rape is still continues, not only in society, but in our law enforcement communities as well. But most importantly it seems some men need to understand that women need to be respected not violated.