Monthly Archives: March 2014

Local 12 year old speaks out against bullying

From our newest staff member, Shawna:

“My name is Shawna Austin, and I have recently started working with SAPARS as the new Northern Oxford County Rural Outreach Coordinator. I would like to share my son’s link on Q97.9’s Q Morning Show from Monday, March 17th. He posted a Facebook status about bullying and judging others. I feel as though his courage to speak out at 12 years old, not knowing how his peers would react, is fantastic. I hope for his message to be shared, and that maybe this will help other children his age speak out against bullying, sexual assault, and/or domestic violence.”

12 Year Old Mainer With Wisdom Beyond His Years, via Q97.9 WJBQ:

Evan Burnell

12 year old Evan felt the need to update his Facebook status…what he wrote has stopped people in their tracks.

“I’m in the mood for a much needed status. It’s about people these days. Well let me just start by saying enough is enough. People judge others by the way they look, what they wear, who they hang out with and what gender they like. You people need to stop and think that maybe that kid you said has no style can barely afford clean clothes. That group of “nerds” are the ones that go to college and make millions of dollars because of their ability to keep their nose in a book and read. And that “Homosexual” you make fun of cries himself to sleep every night. Why can’t people be…. people.. not bullies and stuck up little punks who think they’re the best because they have the best clothes and have the coolest most expensive things in the world. People just don’t get it. If people spent more energy on being a positive person and if people actually realized that everybody should be treated equally no matter what then maybe this world would see more love. -Evan”

Evan’s proud mom Shawna shared this with me, I’m sharing it with you hoping you share with someone too….spread the love.

 

Speaking out over Twitter

Rape Survivors Talk About Why They Tweeted Their Stories, via TIME:

 

A spontaneous conversation about sexual assault on social media sparks a debate over whether public sharing helps victims heal or hurts them.

JoAnne Cusick was wearing a pink floral sundress and jelly sandals when she was sexually assaulted at the age of eight by a group of neighborhood boys. Believing that she was to blame, she kept the secret for nine years until she told a priest about the attack during confession. He assured her that she was innocent in the eyes of God, and the eyes of the world.

Twenty-eight years later, Cusick, now a 37-year-old nurse living in Colorado, shared that secret on social media joining hundreds of other victims who tweeted their stories of assault. These women (and a number of men) were responding to a simple question that went viral on Twitter Wednesday night asking victims what they were wearing when they were assaulted. Within hours, a long list of outfits—ranging from sweatshirts to pajamas to bathing suits—accompanied by stories of rape and assault filled Twitter feeds, replacing the normal news items and GIFs.

The huge response ignited a conversation on social media and blogsamong victims and health professionals as to whether sharing stories on highly public, semi-anonymous social media forums could be a healthy step in the recovery process—a way to make those who’ve been assaulted feel less alone, less stigmatized and shamed. Or does sharing leave survivors open to online shaming and undermine a more traditional route of coping, like therapy?

The debate started when Christine Fox, a young woman who tweets under the handle @steenfox, got into an argument on Twitter with a follower who insisted that women who wear revealing outfits are at fault if they are sexually assaulted. Fox invited those on the social media network who had been victims of rape or sexual assault to tweet the outfits they wore at the time of the attack in hopes of convincing this man not to victim blame.

“I was trying to make him understand that it absolutely does not make a difference, and that the responsibility does not lie on women,” she told The Root. Over the next several hours, Fox received hundreds of replies. With the users’ permission, she retweeted stories as she received them.

The campaign of sorts took on another life when Adrienne Simpson from Philadelphia, who has never been a victim of sexual assault, saw the conversation on Twitter and thought that it could take on a new visual format. “I am a marketer, so I think in campaigns and imagery,” she tells TIME. “I was thinking they need pictures with this because that’s what’s going to drive home the idea that you can have on corduroy pants and a camouflage shirt—there’s nothing remotely sexual about that—and this can still happen to you.”

She created five images from the texts of five tweets that caught her attention: the camouflage shirt and cords a 15-year-old had been wearing; a school uniform (buttoned-up polo, knee-length khaki shorts) worn by a 13-year-old; a sundress a 19-year-old was wearing to Church on Sunday when she was raped by her 50-year-old minister; jeans and a hoodie for a 22-year-old girl who was acting as a designated driver at a party and whose soda was roofied; and—the one that got the most retweets all night—the Barney pajamas worn by a seven-year-old when she was raped.

She added a hashtag: #RapeHasNoUniform. “I think as a victim, when you speak out, you want it to matter. The bigger this gets, the more it matters. I think it should be an organized, public campaign.”

But without expecting attention or publicity, many just tweeted in the hopes of helping others. “[The assault] had nothing to do with anything I did. And I think hearing one survivor being able to say that is a good for people who may still be blaming themselves,” Cusick tells TIME. She has shared her story with friends before, and says she felt comfortable opening up on Twitter.

Sarah Webster said she tweeted with a similar motive. Webster has tweeted about her assault in the past and says that nothing is too private for her to share on her account, which is focused on sex and body image. During the course of the Twitter conversation, the question of whether most assailants are strangers or not arose, and Webster decided it was important to share her story. Webster says she was raped by someone she was very close to and hoped her experience would show others that even those you trust can be perpetrators. “I was sexually assaulted by someone I knew, and at the time I wasn’t wearing anything at all. It was in my home by someone who was never supposed to do that to me,” she says. “I wanted to contribute another side of the story.”

Scott Berkowitz, the President and Founder of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) was not surprised that seeing so many people share the same experience on Twitter motivated people to share their stories for the first time. “Having this whole community of other people who have been through something similar can be really empowering for people,” he says. “I think there’s safety in numbers. We see that in a lot of scenarios with sexual assault survivors. When there’s allegations, say, against a particular priest that becomes public, suddenly many other people who were abused by that person are okay with coming forward.”

Those who posted compared the spontaneous movement to Take Back the Night and Slut Walk—two organized campaigns that have aimed to create safe environments for rape victims to share their stories, debunk the notion of victim blaming and restore safety to campuses and neighborhoods. The popularity of such projects proves that large groups of victims speaking out can bolster other survivors’ confidence. But unlike past movements, this one took place on social media, which can be simultaneously both anonymous and extremely public.

Anyone on the Internet can read your tweets; and anyone on Twitter can respond to them. You can choose how much information you share about your real identity in your Twitter profile. Some shared their experiences anonymously; others had names and faces attached to their profiles and hence, their stories. Either way many thousands of strangers read their tweets, a fact that became controversial when some media outlets reprinted the tweets and were accused of doing so without everyone’s permission. An argument ensued as to whether tweets are public or private and whether extra consideration should be given to sensitive cases such as this one.

The anonymity, after all, is exactly what convinced some victims to share their stories. Many of those who posted who I interviewed said that though Twitter was public, their family didn’t know that they tweeted and were unlikely to see the tweets. Sharing their story on Twitter with other survivors felt safer than sharing on someplace like Facebook where their tight circle, that might include family members who don’t know about the assault or even the assailant him or herself, might be able to see.

RAINN has found that some anonymity helps those who have never shared before. “We launched an online hotline in 2006 to compliment our telephone hotline because we were finding that younger victims in particular just weren’t comfortable picking up the phone and saying out loud what happened to them,” says Berkowitz. “But that sitting in the privacy of their room at their computer with at least a measure of anonymity there that they tend to open up much more.”

But that’s an anonymous hotline. Twitter is a public forum, where there’s always going to be backlash. “In a [therapy] group, you generally sign a confidentiality agreement. There are no agreements on Twitter. Nobody cares about you. It’s the Internet,” says Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi who shared her experience and now runs a women’s abuse support group in Louisville, KY. Along with all the supportive messages came the the kind of slut-shaming that originally spurred the conversation. “I remember someone was tweeting, ‘Look at all the damaged goods.’ That was really hard for even me to read, and I’m pretty far along in my healing process.”

Despite such comments, Aghaaliandastjerdi focuses on the good that came out of it, like her friend who had only shared once before but decided to participate on Twitter. “That was huge for her. For a lot of people, they’re taking back whatever had been taken from them. They’re claiming it and giving the story a different kind of power.”

Indeed, many first-time sharers found safety in numbers. Clifford Johnson, 31, hadn’t shared his story before except with a few close family members. “When I think about it, it kind me feel like a little less than a man—just the fact that it happened.”

But seeing others share their story and the ease of tweeting allowed him to post. “I don’t think I intended to go that deep. I almost deleted it because I didn’t know if I wanted this out there.” But as people began to respond he changed his mind. “It was a forum for the first time I was able to say what happened and get feedback from other people who went through the same thing. Plus, everyone there was a woman, you know? And it just kind of got me to thinking about things that happened to me as a child, and I wanted to put it out there to say, ‘It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. It doesn’t even matter your race or sex. It could happen to anybody.’”

The experience made him want to become involved in advocacy for male victims of rape.

The Twitter conversation was a healing process for many of those who participated. The majority of responses were ones of love and support from strangers.

“What made me feel okay is that it’s so much more prevalent than one might initially think. Even though in my personal network that I follow I didn’t see anyone else respond, the fact that there were so many people responding to the question made me realize it’s not an uncommon thing,” says Ayanna who wanted her last name to be withheld and tweeted despite the fact that her ex-boyfriend and assailant still follows her on social media. “Some women tweeted at me who had been through the same thing. They really identified with what I said and it made me feel validated in my decision.”

Of the seven assault survivors I interviewed, none regretted having tweeted.

“I’m sure hundreds of people probably woke up today with a heavy burden lifted off them,” Johnson says.

 

 

Survivor’s words

A Message to My Assailant: Lessons on Being Human, via The Good Men Project

*TRIGGER WARNING*

It’s been years since we last saw one another in that dated courtroom; I worked hard to avoid eye-contact and I assume you did the same. I held my breath as I slipped past your chair on my way to the stand, trying to protect my insides (yes, perhaps in vain) from the air you exhaled.

When I gave my statement, when I answered your lawyer’s relentless questions, I tried to pretend you weren’t there, five seats away, brooding and breathing.

I looked to my parents and wondered how they did it—how they showed such strength in that room with you, sitting mere feet from the man who had defiled their only daughter, their baby girl.

But that was the last time you saw me, at least to my knowledge. There haven’t been opportunities for us to work through the scars you left me; and I’d have run like hell had you ever proposed the idea. My guess is that you’ve preserved an image of who the teenaged-me was; a static entity—a girl never-aging, just the girl who turned you in.

I have grown and changed in spite of that day.

Twelve years have passed. Twelve entire years since the version of me I had been crafting was derailed. Though still in its rough form, I had a sense for the girl I was, the girl I’d like to be; but I was made to relinquish her. I was made to start with new materials, new shapes, new colors—most not as soft, or as pleasant, or as bright as the old.

That’s the first lesson I have for you, the first lesson on being human: we are a culmination of all the past events that we have experienced. Some we cultivate with intention. Some we strive for. Others… well, others happen like you happened—alone, in the dark, when we’re least prepared for something to go tragically wrong. So to be human in this world, you must understand that.

We aren’t permitted to choose the good memories alone to shape who we are—we must absorb the pain as readily as the joy and allow the course of who we thought we were change ever so slightly.

So, I have been changed. Forever so. And some days I’m alright with that fact, but most days I try to dress that fact up in elaborate costume. Most days I masquerade as a woman who can walk and move and flow. I float through my life with an inflated opinion of how gracefully I have survived you. An euphemistic existence.

That moment lasted mere minutes, but it still lives with me. I remember the pull of my cigarette in that nearly-pitch black room. I remember the sweatshirt I wore and the unease I felt the moment you let the door close softly behind you.

I remember the feeling of you, long before you reached out to touch me—your intentions thickened the room, it hurt to breathe.

But I was a young girl then. I worried about authority and the impressions I left on others. I had trouble disappointing. But you knew that, I think. That’s why I was selected.

When you joined me that day, I shushed the heart that began to implore—I shouldn’t have done that, and I hope she has forgiven me.

If I may: when your heart whispers, quiet yourself and listen. And if you find yourself in the company of a heart who begs of you, you trust her. No matter what you think the cost will be, to ignore her will be a cost far-greater.

You corned me in darkroom—a designated space where a person can develop permanent marks on paper. A photographic scar.

But I was busy picture-taking. Unforeseen images seared into mental film.

You advanced, speaking things—so many things—you offered as flattery. Picture. You inched close enough to upset my pleading heart further. She begged me to move. Do something. Another picture. Your greying breath reached my ear as the words turned to whispers. Picture. You brought lips to mine. Picture. Lips to neck. Picture. To ear. Picture. A stagnant gaze. Picture. Blurred periphery. Wall. Smoke unfurling. Picture. Picture. Picture. Hands to neck. Hands to breast. Picture. Picture. Hands to waist.

And when I felt your hand move to that delicate, middle line, my heart bellowed, terrified—and I broke free.

Sometimes the bravest move is only inches from where you currently stand. Sometimes the smallest falter can offset great force, that’s part of the magic of being human. So my tiny step backward broke your flow, enough to fill the room with a sobering air.

You walked back to the door, slinking out as quietly as you had arrived. And just as my body had relaxed, your face reappeared in the doorway, speaking things again. Just as my heart had implored, there you were, asking me to consider “making an old guy happy.”

And that was that, except it wasn’t. There were depositions to be made, formal charges to be filed, tears to be shed, court dates to be extended.

Today, I am a grown woman. I’ve done work, real work, to rid myself of this pain, of you. I said all of the brave things out loud—things like “I forgive him” and “it wasn’t my fault”—but that moment still claws its way out of me, up my tender insides, penetrating the open air in wails and sobs.

Even after all these years.

Because that’s another thing about being human: those moments we push down, those moments we want to wish away, they don’t die. They hibernate for short spells, but they don’t perish down there in your belly. Instead, they wait till you’ve grown comfortable in your routine. You might forget for entire weeks that you’re broken, that things ever went wrong in this glittering life of yours.

But really, those moments will bleed into your everyday. Those moments will change your behavior in imperceivable ways and they will manifest as pain and problems that you just don’t understand. You’ll feel lost and scared and resentful without warning, a sinking that you can’t quite define. And when someone asks what’s wrong, you’ll say “I don’t know” and it will be truth that springs from your lips in that moment. You’ll question who you are and who you’re capable of becoming. You’ll question if you’re capable of becoming.

So on this human journey of yours, remember that suppression is not the same as expulsion. Ignorance does not replace management.

But because we’re human, we adapt as best we can; we ‘cope,’ we ‘deal,’ we ‘survive’—we do this because we don’t know what else to do. Because things like you happen to people like me—and when things like that happen, fearless living becomes a story you sell yourself amidst reckless distraction.

Twelve years have passed and I’m supposed to be free; I’m supposed to have coped with that day because I’ve grown up, no longer the child you cornered. I’m supposed to be free of you because I have a man now, a real man, who looks after me and honors this heart’s whispers. I’m supposed to be free of you because I’m a mother now—of remarkable little boys who know me for my strength and humor, my dependability and my resilience.

Resilience. Another lesson.

How to endure my senior year in high school when peers were still working out whether or not I was in-fact lying. It wasn’t yet clear if I invented a story about a popular, respected teacher putting his hands, his lips, his intentions against a paralyzed frame.

But all that chatter of where I’m ‘supposed to’ be, that’s another lesson on being human: ‘supposed to’ has no real place in this world. We can use the rational part of our mind to understand the why, but that doesn’t mean our heart has to accept it as truth. ‘Supposed to’ is relative, subjective—oftentimes cruel.

‘Supposed to’ stunts progress, it inhibits our ability to heal.

‘Supposed to’ is a fiction.

Because you were supposed to know better that day. You were supposed to use your authority to shape minds in beautiful ways, not compress them in on themselves. You were supposed to honor the commitment you made to your wife. You were supposed to think of someone other than yourself.

But none of that happened, because ‘supposed to’ isn’t real.

In spite of everything, I convinced myself that I had forgiven, because I had read all the self-help books that told me this was the way to freedom.

You see, by forgiving you, I had forgiven myself. Proclaiming to the world “I have moved on” meant I had permission to heal, to release the red-hot coal.

But, this lesson is important: interacting with other humans changes them long after you part ways. So while you, no doubt, had to deal with your own hardships as a result of this experience, I do not believe you had even the smallest inkling of how far into my future you were actually touching.

I doubt you knew that grown-up me would still be manipulated, still be groped by those hands of yours.

She does.

I do.

And so, being human, I’ve learned, means doing dirty work for the sake of coming clean. To purge myself of you, I must face and feel you again and again and again. I must accept that you are a part of me—even if I hate that this is so. To honor myself, I must honor the part of you that survives—this is what it means to be human. No one said it would be fair.

You made a decision that would forever bind us, and I didn’t ask for that. I didn’t ask for you to stay with me all these years. And because I’m human, I still fight against the ugliness; I struggle to find the language that will free me. I still struggle with the guilt of hating you.

That day in the courtroom, when I had given my testimony, describing every awful detail of the encounter, I was asked how I felt after you had finally left me in that room.

I answered with a single word: gross.

But I don’t think that was true. I think I searched for what someone who had just gone through what I had gone through should feel. And what should I have felt? Fear. Anger. Resentment. Disgust.

But I felt nothing. An empty vessel with a grieving heart.

You took nearly a year to plead guilty, but you did it—the only gift you had left to give me, if that matters at all.

That plea mattered to me, so I thank you.

I needed that plea to reassure me that there was an actual person in there. The one that I trusted—regardless of how that good faith was made to collapse.

Years later, when I was finally willing to face the newspaper articles written, I found a summary of your sentencing. I read that you spoke before the judge, revealing that you “deeply and profoundly” regretted your actions.

And I hope that’s true.

I hope to walk through my life believing those words someday; because I know deep-down that we’re all facing battles, our stories are all complicated and messy—that’s what it means to be human. And we’re all human, aren’t we, even monsters like you.

– See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/attacker-advice-human-scrol/#sthash.6HDgzg7k.dpuf

Ending the backlog

How “Law And Order’s” Mariska Hargitay Is Helping Put Real Rapists Behind Bars, via Think Progress:

Mariska Hargitay is best known for playing a detective on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show that focuses mainly on sexual crimes. But she doesn’t just go after rapists on TV. Hargitay’s efforts to reform the way that law enforcement officials deal with sexual assault are helping convict people who are guilty of rape in real life.

Hargitay’s nonprofit organization, the Joyful Heart Foundation, advocates for ending thebacklog of untested rape kits across the country. In storage lockers across the United States, an estimated 400,000 kits that contain DNA evidence from sexual assaults are collecting dust. Without that evidence, sexual assault cases often stall. By now, some of these kits are 25 years old, and those rape victims haven’t seen justice served.

So now, the actress is partnering with leaders in Detroit — a city that’s working hard to end its own backlog — to push for a new bill to implement a better process for rape kit pickup, testing, and tracking across Michigan.

“To me, this is the clearest and most shocking demonstration of how we regard these crimes,” Hargitay said at a press conference in Detroit this week to announce the new legislative initiative. “One would assume that if someone endures a four- to six-hour invasive examination, that that evidence would be handled with care.”

Reporting rates for sexual crimes are already low, but even among the rapes that arereported to the police, only about one out of four leads to an arrest — and of those arrests, only about one out of four leads to a conviction. Activists like Hargitay point out that’s partly because cities don’t have enough resources to test all of the rape kits they receive. For instance, back in 2009, Detroit law enforcement discovered 11,000 untested rape kits left forgotten in a police warehouse.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who was a victim of sexual assault herself when she was in college, has focused her attention on processing all of those kits. So far, police have gotten through about 1,600 of them. At this week’s press conference, Worthy announced that effort has already identified 100 serial rapists — meaning that DNA was found in at least two different kits, or matched the suspects in other open cases.

On the same day that Worthy and Hargitay joined forces at their press event, a judge sentenced one of those serial rapists to prison for at least 45 years. In response, one of his victims submitted a statement saying her nightmare is finally over. “As of today, the Lord has blessed me with some closure, knowing that the person that created this bad dream is going to pay for his actions,” she wrote.

But there’s still more work to do to get through the rest of the city’s backlog. “I don’t care how long it takes, we’re going to finish,” Worthy said on Monday.

Hartigay’s organization has more work to do in other areas of the country, too. There are rape kit backlogs in cities across the United States. President Obama is proposing $35 million in his 2015 fiscal year budget to help address the issue, and Hartigay is currentlyworking on a documentary to continue to raise awareness.

The character that Hargitay plays on TV actually motivated her to get involved in this work. After she started portraying Detective Olivia Benson, who’s a strong ally to rape survivors onLaw & Order, she started getting thousands of letters from real survivors who wanted to tell her their stories. Many of them had never talked to anyone about their sexual assault before, and most of them had been let down by the justice system. Hartigay says that’s what led her to found Joyful Heart in 2004.

This is what rape culture looks like

25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture, via Everyday Feminism:

Chances are, as feminists and other liberal-minded people, most of you have heard the phrase “rape culture.”

It’s used often in feminist circles, and it describes a very important social conditioning that we experience culturally.

But how many of you know what it actually looks like?

In reading through feminist forums and articles online, particularly in articles about rape or sexual assault, I notice that sometimes in the comments section, people make statements about how rape culture is just a phrase that’s made up to make men look bad or to make it seem like rape is something that happens far more often than it actually does.

And, given, after reading these comments, I could have easily dismissed them as just simply fodder written by online trolls and gone on with my day.

But it really got me thinking.

Perhaps some people truly don’t understand what rape culture is.

After all, if you’re hearing the phrase for the first time, it can be really confusing.

We understand the word “culture,” from a sociological or anthropological viewpoint, to be things that people commonly engage in together as a society (ranging from the arts to education to table manners), and we find it difficult to link the word “rape” in with that concept.

We know that at its core, our society is not something that outwardly promotes rape, as the phrase could imply. That is, we don’t, after all, “commonly engage” in sexual violence “together as a society.”

To understand rape culture better, first we need to understand that it’s not necessarily a society or group of people that outwardly promotes rape (although it could be).

When we talk about rape culture, we’re discussing something more implicit than that. We’re talking about cultural practices (that, yes, we commonly engage in together as a society) that excuse or otherwise tolerate sexual violence.

We’re talking about the way that we collectively think about rape.

More often than not, it’s situations in which sexual assault, rape, and general violence are ignored, trivialized, normalized, or made into jokes.

And this happens a lot.

All the time.

Every day.

And it’s dangerous in that it is counterproductive to eliminating sexual violence from society.

So what, exactly, does rape culture look like? How does it present itself?

Well, to see what I’m referring to, take a look at the examples below.

Because if we don’t understand the meaning behind the concept of rape culture, or if we have a skewed interpretation of the meaning in our minds, we may find it easy to deny its existence.

And you may think that some of these examples are isolated, one-off situations. But in reality, they’re part of a larger societal trend.

That is rape culture.

(Warning: These are not easy to digest, and as such, might make you uncomfortable. But seeing examples are necessary to comprehending fully what we mean when we talk about rape culture.)

Rape Culture Is…

1. A university in Canada that allows the following student orientation chant: “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.”

2. Pop music that tells women “you know you want it” because of these “blurred lines” (of consent).

3. A judge who sentenced only 30 days in jail to a 50-year-old man who raped a 14-year-old girl (who later committed suicide), and defended that the girl was “older than her chronological age.”

4. Mothers who blame girls for posting sexy selfies and leading their sons into sin, instead of talking with their sons about their responsibility for their own sexual expression.

5. Photo memes like this: [click on the article link to view picture]

6. Supportingathletes who are charged with rape and calling their victims career-destroyers.

7. Companiesthat create decals of a woman bound and gagged in order to “promote their business.”

8. People who believe that girls “allow themselves to be raped.”

9. Journalists who substitute the word “sex” for “rape” – as if they’re the same thing.

10. Politicians distinguishing “legitimate rape” and stating that rape is “something that God intended to happen,” among other horrendous claims.

11. Calling college students who have the courage to report their rapes liars.

12. The ubiquity of street harassment – and how victims are told that they’re “overreacting” when they call it out.

13. Victims not being taken seriously when they report rapes to their university campuses.

14. Rape jokes – and people who defend them.

15. Sexual assault prevention education programs that focus on women being told to take measures to prevent rape instead of men being told not to rape.

16. The victimization of hospital patients, especially people with mental health issues and the elderly,  by the very people who are there to protect them.

17. Reddit threads with titles like “You just have to make sure she’s dead” when linking to thestory of a 13-year-old girl in Pakistan being raped and buried alive.

18. Reddit threads dedicated to men causing women pain during sex (I’m not going to give the thread credence by linking to it).

19. Twitter hashtags that support accused rapists and blame victims.

20. Publicly defending celebrities accused of rape just because they’re celebrities and ignoring or denouncing what the victim has to say.

21. Assuming that false reporting for sexual assault cases are the norm, when in reality, they’re only 2-8%, which is on par with grand theft auto.

22. Only 3% of rapists ever serving a day in jail.

23. Women feeling less safe walking the streets at night than men do.

24. 1-in-5 women and 1-in-71 men having reported experiencing rape.

25. The fact that we have to condition ourselves not to use violent language in our everyday conversations.

And the list could go on.

Because examples of rape culture are all around us. They permeate our society at individual, one-on-one levels, as well as in institutionalized, structured ways. That is, after all, exactly how oppression works.

I hope that after reading through the above examples, you have a clearer understanding of what is meant by the phrase “rape culture.” Moreover, I hope that you are more likely to believe in its existence – and to want to fight for its eradication.

Because now that you know what it is, you can work to find ways to prevent it.

What are some other examples of rape culture? Leave them in the comments.

If He’s Sexually Aggressive In Bars, It’s Not Because He’s Drunk, via NPR:

Young women are often the targets of aggression when they’re out in bars, but the problem isn’t that guys are too drunk to know better.

Instead, men are preying on women who have had too much to drink.

When researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of Washington observed young people’s behavior in bars, they found that the man’s aggressiveness didn’t match his level of intoxication. There was no relationship.

Instead, men targeted women who were intoxicated.

The researchers hired and trained 140 young adults to go into bars in the Toronto area and note every incident of aggression they saw. They found that 25 percent of all incidents involved sexual aggression. And 90 percent of the victims of sexual aggression were women being harassed by men.

Almost all of the aggression was physical, with about two-thirds of the aggressors physically touching women without consent. About 17 percent threatened contact. And 9 percent verbally harassed their targets.

Men may perceive intoxicated women either as more amenable to advances or as easier targets who are less able to rebuff them because they don’t have their wits about them, the researchers say.

“There’s no reason that women should be touched against their will,” says Kate Graham, the study’s lead researcher and a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto. Women wouldn’t accept that kind of behavior at school or on the street, she notes, but it seems to get a pass in bars, she tells Shots.

The study was published online Monday in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The researchers also wanted to look into whether unwanted sexual advances were intentional or just a matter of misperception. This study points to the former, Graham says.

“If you walk through a bar and grab a woman’s breasts and then disappear into the crowd, that’s probably not a misunderstanding,” she says. “You don’t actually think that she wants you to do that.”

The fact that men were more likely to take advantage of intoxicated women shows that most of these incidents aren’t well-intentioned, Graham says.

And the bar staff rarely stepped in to stop the sexual aggression. “There should be training for staff on how to intervene,” Graham says. “If [a bar] wants to have female patrons, they ought to make it more female friendly.”

Efforts have been launched in Washington, D.C., and around the country to do just that. They provide bar staff with free training on how to respond when they see sexual harassment.

The observers rated people’s level of intoxication based on the number of drinks they consumed and their behavior. Observers worked in pairs with one man and one woman to reduce potential bias.

Since the observations were made in public places in or around bars, the study doesn’t tell us much about sexual assault or rape that might occur out of public view or after women leave a bar.

But the takeaway, Graham says, is that “people should stop believing that [Robin Thicke] song. The lines really aren’t that blurred.”

End the plague of violence against women

Klara Tammany, Marty McIntyre, Jane Morrison, Kathy Durgin-Leighton: Put an end to the plague of domestic [and sexual] violence, via SunJournal:

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In 2012, Maine police recorded 5,593 domestic assaults. Half of Maine’s homicides are domestic violence-related. It is not getting any better.

Statistics from the Maine Department of Public Safety show that, for the second straight year, domestic violence police reports increased by 4.5 percent.

Safe Voices, our local domestic violence agency, served 6,095 people, provided shelter to 144 clients, and provided 13,000 advocacy hours that included going to court with victims 901 times.

In a 2012 state-wide survey conducted by domestic violence agencies, 74.9 percent of callers said they had been strangled.

In 2013, 447 people received services from the tri-county Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services. Those services included a helpline, support groups, accompaniment to the hospital or police department after a sexual assault, drop-in programs in the high schools, and assistance/accompaniment with criminal and civil court processes.

Both men and women are victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, which can include physical, economic, sexual or psychological oppression. The statistics, however, are staggering for women.

According to the United Nations, one in three women worldwide will be beaten or raped in her lifetime — that is one billion women at risk for gender-based violence. The percentage holds true in Maine, as nearly one-third of Maine women say they have been victims of rape or attempted rape.

On Valentine’s Day 2013, the international “One Billion Rising” project organized women worldwide to stand, dance and raise their voices for change. Our agencies, along with United Somali Women of Maine, spearheaded a day of action here.

This year “One Billion Rising” escalated the campaign, calling women and men everywhere to “RISE, RELEASE, DANCE, and demand JUSTICE!” In response, we have expanded our efforts into a multi-phase campaign to raise awareness about violence against women.

We have two goals: Build an ongoing network of support and advocacy around the issue; and lead people to action steps going forward that will promote long-term change.

The campaign is called L A Women Rising. Our image is a hand, with purple (the color for domestic violence) and teal (for sexual assault). Together they suggest bruises, both those that are visible and those that are on the hearts and souls of survivors.

The image has been printed in the Sun Journal and posted other places recently. It will keep appearing around town in coming weeks. In today’s paper, it is part of a large advertisement with four action steps and contact information.

Domestic violence and sexual assault impact the entire life of anyone violated by it. Here is one story from a woman at The Center for Wisdom’s Women:

Yelling, throwing things, name calling, and the big belt were part of my childhood. When I entered relationships, some of those same things, plus more, happened. I accepted it because I didn’t think I was worth much and thought it was “normal.”

Finally, ending up in the hospital bruised and stitched, I encountered the Abused Women’s Shelter. In classes I was told what abuse was, and that I wasn’t the one who caused it. I was taught human love and compassion and learned that I mattered.

To this day, the words “shut up” send ripples down my back. I hear: “You don’t matter. You are not important enough to listen to. Go away.”

Abuse is hidden behind closed doors because of shame and threats. My sister was murdered by someone she knew. The people who care about us are not supposed to abuse us.

My hope is that every woman suffering behind closed doors has the courage to open the door and come out. You are not alone.

It is time to stop the silence and demand an end to the plague of domestic violence and sexual assault. “Rise Up” and join the campaign.

Our firm belief and commitment, as executive directors of agencies that encounter people daily who are affected by these devastating crimes, is that we will make a bigger difference together than alone.

We all hold the power to stop violence in our hands. We encourage the public to help.

Klara Tammany is executive director of The Center for Wisdom’s Women; Marty McIntyre is executive director of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services; Jane Morrison is executive director of Safe Voices; Kathy Durgin-Leighton is executive director of the YWCA of Central Maine.

To learn more about L A Women Rising and what individuals can do, go to the L A Women Rising Facebook page, then “like” and share it.

L A Women Rising will hold an “It’s No Joke!” rally at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 1, at the Lewiston Public Library.

For more information, go to:

The Center for Wisdom’s Women: wisdomswomen.org

Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services: sapars.org

Safe Voices: safevoices.org

YWCA of Central Maine:ywcamaine.org