Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Welcome to my Violence Against Women Soap Box

Did you know that one in three women are assaulted during their four years on a college campus.  1 in 3.

I am just going to let that sink in.

Our sisters, our daughters, ourselves. ONE in THREE.

Most of those assaults were not done in back allies by strangers.  They are not the violent acts we see  in movies or on the news, supposedly preventable by mace and rape whistles.  They are exactly, EXACTLY what we are seeing play out in the news from Steubenville, Ohio.  The only difference is that all these girls, these one in three, wake up confused and unsure or embarrassed of what happened to them, and their attacker was a person not stupid enough to take pictures and send social media blasts about how funny it is to "be raping a dead girl".

I know people want to feel bad for the boys as they sob about their lives being over after the verdict.  As they beg for forgiveness. It reminds me of someone we know who killed a person while driving drunk.  This wasn't a bad guy, but he made a hell of a bad decision.  When your terrible decisions dramatically effect the path of another persons life, then you must be held accountable for them.  Are these two guys sexual predators or were they caught up in a crazy night and did something completely stupid?  Time will tell, but for now it doesn't matter.  If it was their first time or their 20th time, they did this. They dramatically effected the path of her life, and there are consequences for these actions.  One year, two years, 100 days in jail.  Registering as a sex offender.   These are the consequences.

The fact that she was drunk doesn't matter.  Would people feel different if they sexually assaulted a drunk boy in front of people?  Would they?  If one of their fellow players was blackout drunk, and they did these same things to him, would we say that they were just boys being boys? That the blacked out kid couldn't say no, so maybe he wanted it?  Do people really think she wanted THIS?  Her naked in the middle of a room, completely unaware while they joke and sexually assault her for the crowd?  Really?

My practicum for my masters was with the violence prevention research team here at UK.  We worked with the Green Dot team, which is working to change the mentality of violence against women on college campuses.  The idea is that if a violent act is about to occur, it is not up to the girl to get herself out of it, it is not up to the perpetrator to realize he is wrong and stop, it is up to the bystanders to stand up and say "I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS"

This is what failed to happen in Ohio. This is what fails to happen again and again on high school and college campuses around the nation. The Bystanders stand around and watch, feeling powerless to be the one to stand up and say "Look guys, I really feel like this is wrong".  And that's truly because the larger the group, the less likely a person is to stand up and complain. The more pressure everyone feels to go with the flow, to just assume that everyone else is okay with this, so it must be okay.

It's not okay.  It is never okay.  She was drinking, she was drunk, she.. what?  Deserved it?  How do we get there as a culture?  How do people make that jump.  Nobody deserves to be sexually assaulted.  Nobody is asking to be naked and taken advantage of in a crowd of people while blacked out.  And yet we see that victim blaming, even now.  CNN says "how sad for these boys with promising futures".  NBC news laments their promising football careers.  USA Today stresses again and again that she was drunk. 

We are victim blaming.  And if we want to break this pattern, we need to stand up together and say "I am not okay with this."

If one and three girls are assaulted, are one in three boys predators?  Of course not.  Studies show 2% of college campus men are predators, and yet 33% of college women are assaulted.  And those boys do this again and again and again. Let's stop blaming the victim and start prosecuting the attackers.  Let's be aware as bystanders to listen to the voice in our head that says "This doesn't feel right" and actually do something about it.  I am sure every person at that party now wishes they had stood up and said "this isn't right".

If you want to know more about the Green Dot program, which is amazing and inspirational and a complete rethinking on how to approach violence prevention in schools and across the nation, you can read more about it here.  



  1. Preach it, Sarah. Who gives a shit if she was drunk? Or they were? It was wrong, and they knew it. They did it anyway, and didn't care about the consequences. And they still don't (I just read an article where one of the boys still claims he didn't rape her). Until we change as a society and stop blaming the victim, situations like this will keep occurring.

  2. Stories like this make me so ill. Maybe I live in a bubble, but I just kind of assume that youth know what rape is and that it is a crime. Aren't they taught by their parents? Don't they see it in the media? Isn't it discussed at school?

    It's particularly bothersome that, so often, it involves sports teams. And if not the team, the coach.

  3. And THAT is why rape jokes aren't funny and we shouldn't "lighten up". When there's an attitude that women are sexual objects, folks who laugh uncomfortably or try to change the subject are read by bros as agreeing with their attitudes.

  4. HEAR HEAR!!! These kind of stories send chills down my spine (and not the good kind). We still have to come a long way as society, so yes, please stand on your soapbox and shout!