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Male victims and rape culture

6 Ways Jokes About Violence Against Men Harms Male Victims, via Good Men Project:

There’s a meme going around these days about a man who buys his wife a mood ring so he’ll know how she’s feeling. When she’s in a good mood, it turns green. When she’s in a bad mood, it leaves a big red mark on his forehead. That’s got to be the most literal punch-line I’ve ever seen.

Maybe you find that funny.

Perhaps you caught Bill Maher’s commentary on a recent study revealing that boys and men are sexually abused at much higher rates than Americans expected. He joked that they weren’t abused, they just “got lucky” and mocked them for not understanding that.

Maybe you find that funny.

You’ve surely heard jokes about male prisoners who smell bad because when they drop the soap in the shower, they can’t bend down to pick it up.

Maybe you find that funny.

Although it’s fiction, Any Dufresne (Tim Robbins In The Shawshank Redemption) may well be the only guy you know who’s been in prison. You probably didn’t find his attempted rape funny.

Many people were shocked when we learned about priests molesting and raping boys. I don’t know anyone who thought that was funny.

When Ivan Lopez opened fire at Fort Hood a few weeks ago, he killed three men: Sergeant First Class Daniel Ferguson, Staff Sergeant Carlos Lazeney-Rodriguez, and Sergeant Timothy Owens. I’m guessing you don’t think that’s funny at all.

The moral of our story seems to be that it’s funny when men are the victims of violence, as long as the victim isn’t innocent and no one gets killed.

I’m sure a meme that joked about a woman ending up with a welt on her forehead from her husband’s ring would be reported as offensive. I know a comedian who joked about a woman getting raped would be damned all over the Internet; just ask Tosh. Violence against women isn’t funny, but violence against men is hilarious. WTH?

When we publicly laugh at male victims of violence, we’re mocking them for being victims. That sends a pretty clear message, and one that’s a central pillar of the manbox: Don’t be a victim.

Rapper Chris Brown got the message. In an October interview, he revealed that he lost his virginity at age 8 to a girl he thinks was 14 or 15. He talked about this as a conquest and took it as evidence of his sexual prowess—he was irresistible at age 8. I suppose Maher would agree. But many writers called it rape and rightly pointed out the double standard: no one would dare suggest that an 8 year old girl who had sex with a 14 or 15 year old boy got lucky; they’d call it rape.

The double standards and the jokes hide male violence from view and are part of the reason that the US doesn’t really deal with male victims on a national level. You’ve probably never seen these stats:

  • Men and boys make up approximately 75% of the victims of homicide, triple the rate of women and girls, a ratio that has remained fairly constant since 1980 according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  • The 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey revealed that approximately 6% of men—one in 20—has either been raped or forced to penetrate someone else. Christopher Anderson, executive director of Male Survivor, reports that when all forms of sexual violence are combined, the rate is almost 25% of men. (see comments.) The rate of 1 in 6 men is also commonly reported.
  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) estimates that 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner every year. Assaults are committed by gay and straight men, known intimates and strangers.
  • In the US Military, men “are an estimated 53% of victims, and yet nobody seems to be paying attention to them,” according to Chris Kilmartin, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Behavioral Science and Leadership at the United States Air Force Academy. Kilmartin notes that the chance of any given man in the military being sexually assaulted is lower than for any given woman, but since men make up more than 85% of the military, the total number of male victims is higher.
  • In the study that Maher mocked, Bryana French and her colleagues surveyed nearly 300 high school and college males. More than 40% had been pressured to engage in sex they didn’t want to have; half of them, approximately one-fifth of all the guys who completed surveys, ended up having sex when they didn’t want to. Isn’t that the basic definition of rape: being compelled to have sex when you don’t want to?

So what? Why does it matter that we don’t take violence against boys and men seriously? A few reasons. And let me acknowledge up front that most of the individual effects aren’t unique to men.

  1. It reinforces our cultural notion that any male should be able to protect himself against any attacker. At this level, it tells us that any male victim is at least partly responsible for what happened. This same logic that says a woman who wears a short skirt is partly responsible for being raped. And if you’re partly responsible for your own victimization, then you don’t really deserve our sympathy or help.
  2. Despite the numbers, we don’t really devote national resources to solving the problems. All of the attention to sexual assault in the military has been about female victims. Discussions of male-on-male homicide only gets systematic attention as “black on black” or “inner city” violence, limiting the problem to a particular ethnic group or geographical setting. Yet boys and men of all ethnic groups and in all locations are homicide victims.
  3. Humor is one way we relieve stress. By telling jokes about male victims, we don’t have to deal with something that might be difficult, we can just relieve our anxiety and move on without thought.
  4. For individual male victims, it reinforces the notion that any male victim is less of a man because he couldn’t defend himself. Many victims are ashamed at having done something stupid that may have contributed to their victimization, but it’s often compounded for guys because they’re ashamed that they were unable to defend themselves.
  5. For male victims, this all makes it harder to admit they’re victims and get help. That means much less support from friends and family members. It may also mean a shorter lifespan, as Will Courtenay argues in Dying to Be Men.
  6. For male victims, the unhealed trauma often leads to decreased empathy for others. That’s one piece of the puzzle that’s common among school shooters, family mass murders (or “domestic terrorism” or “household terrorism”), and other acts of mass violence.

When you make a joke or laugh about male victims, you send a message to victims that you’re not entirely trustworthy. You are literally laughing at their pain. So next time you’re contemplating making fun of male victims, or laughing when someone else makes fun of them, ask yourself if that’s really the message you want to send. Maybe it’s not funny after all.

In response to Dylan Farrow

What Would Make You Believe a Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse? via HR Reality Check:

I don’t know if you know an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I don’t know if you know what an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse looks, sounds, or acts like. So let me tell you who I am, and let me tell you what I am like.

I am a 30-year-old white woman who lives in Austin, Texas. I have bleached blonde hair with a coral-toned streak in the front—it’s short, but I’m trying to grow it out (god, I wish it would grow faster). I work from home, but unofficially I office out of the back patio of a craft beer bar. I have a graduate degree in cultural anthropology. I am heterosexual and I am married, and together with my husband I own an old-ass house with a recent raccoon infestation. I have three cats who are named after boozy drinks.

I am an only child and I have awesome, twangy Texas-raised parents who Texas-raised me. My best friends are brilliant academics who sort of hate academia. I am overly friendly in awkward situations. I am funny and I love Star Trek. I throw big parties. I do yoga at home so I can skip savasana. I talk too much.

And when I was a kid, a relative sexually abused me. I don’t know how long it went on. It started before I entered kindergarten but stopped sometime in elementary school. I remember feelings—dread, shame, embarrassment, panic, guilt—better than I remember incidents, but I remember some incidents too.

If you had asked me three or four years ago: Andrea, have you ever been sexually abused? I would have said absolutely not. Because it took me more than 20 years to admit to myself that what happened to me as a child was real, that it was abuse, and that it was not my fault.

Why 20 years? Why so long?

My abuser made me afraid of my own capacity to experience memories. My abuser made me afraid of what the inside of my own mind looked like. I built—like, really, purposefully built—delicate, intricate, elaborate mind-paths, each of which navigated away from and around one thing: my abuse. I did it consciously at first, and then as I became older, my brain seemed to do it for me, automatically.

Whenever anything would trigger an abuse memory, or memory-feeling, I would start down a pathway to, well, wherever: a song, a poem, a saying, a dance routine, lines from a play. Anything that was not the memory, or memory-feeling. Eventually those pathways filled up, and stacked these little piles of songs-poems-sayings-whatever between my present and that thing I never wanted to think about.

Maybe I could have lived my whole life like that. Maybe I would have, if I hadn’t discovered feminism, if I hadn’t discovered anonymous message boards, if I hadn’t married someone I trust with my whole heart. But feminism, and the Internet, and being in an incredible relationship conspired together in this wonderful way and empowered me to say a combination of words I never thought I could say: I was abused as a child, and it was real, and it was not my fault.

Those are the hardest things to say, because I am saying them to the most scared, most ashamed, most terrified little 5-year-old version of myself, and she is so scared and ashamed that she can’t hear it, refuses to hear it, because hearing it means it is real. My 5-year-old self is going to live 20 years before she lets herself back into her mind and her memories. Now, all I can do is tell her, over and over again: Yes, he hurt you. It was real. It wasn’t your fault. It is a strange cycle; it is all over, and yet it is ongoing.

Despite what was done to me—I don’t say “what happened” to me, because my abuse didn’t “happen,” it was done to me by another human being—I always get the impression that people are a little surprised when they hear about it, as if I am not the adult survivor of child abuse they were expecting. Should I be wafting around like some kind of hollow-eyed ghoul? Should I be especially brave, especially vocal, stumping about my abuse at every opportunity? Should I be significantly fucked up in some easily recognizable way? Would that make it easier for people to believe that I was abused, that abuse exists, that adult survivors walk among us, live among us, drink craft beer among us?

Because what I am seeing, with Dylan Farrow’s recent open letter concerning the abuse she says she suffered at the hands of her father, deified American film director Woody Allen, is that a lot of people do not believe that we adult survivors live among them. That there is something adult survivors can do that will make us believable, but that one of those things is not, it seems, recounting our own stories and speaking out against our abusers. Especially if our stories contain, I suppose, “palpable bitchery” and not the correct, carefully measured amount of humility appropriate to a child who has had her entire life torn apart by the very people tasked with protecting her from harm.

Strange, how credible evidence against an abuser rarely seems to include the testimony of survivors, but frequently does include the “expert” opinion of people who were wholly absent from the situation, or of abusers who have a vested interest in, say, not being imprisoned. No, if we survivors remember too much, we are clearly sticking too close to an easily fabricated story, but if we remember too little, we are suspiciously devoid of all those details people say they hate to hear, but which people really, secretly like to hear.

I hear people say that Dylan Farrow must be lying—after all, it took her 21 years to write an open letter in the New York Times! Well, it took me about that long to write an open letter to my own soul. I hear people say that Dylan Farrow must be lying—after all there is a video of her as a child, unable to recount her abuse in vivid detail, from start to finish, in one defiant take!

Oh, I cannot hear that one. I cannot hear it. There are no lengths to which 5-year-old Andrea would not have gone to prevent the details of her abuse from becoming known to others. In fact, every time I had a clear opportunity to out my abuser, and to detail my trauma? I denied it even more, created elaborate excuses, let details slip but then refused to cooperate. I lived in abject fear of being punished for what another human being had done to me.

I believe 7-year-old Dylan just as I believe 5-year-old Andrea, not because our stories seem to have a couple of parallels, but because I listen to survivors, and because of that, I believe survivors. I don’t think, in the wake of Allen’s recent Golden Globes accolade, that Farrow is being opportunistic. There is no such thing as an opportune time to have been sexually abused by your father, one of the most famous film directors in the world. There is no opportune time to have had notable public figures debating the possibility of your sexual abuse in glossy, thinky magazines, really trying to get to the crux of the question: Are you, or are you not, the calculating, lying daughter of a vengeful, spiteful actress?

Perhaps I am harming Woody Allen, and all his friends, by believing his daughter. Well, that’s fine. If my belief in Dylan Farrow’s story of abuse takes a little bit away from Woody Allen’s lifetime of lifetime achievement awards and fawning hordes of celebrity fans, I think that is something Allen can spare. And if I’m wrong, and Allen is falsely accused? I ask you: If this is what Woody Allen’s career looks like, having been damaged so egregiously by spurious accusations that he is a child abuser, what precisely do you imagine an untainted Woody Allen career would look like? Dude gets his face on an officially minted piece of U.S. currency? We rename the moon “Woody”?

Some research seems to suggest that rates of child sexual abuse are declining; while that is heartening, the truth is that however the numbers play out, child sexual abuse is shockingly common and grossly underreported. I believe Dylan Farrow not only because I find her testimony to be credible on its face, but because chances are, Dylan Farrow isn’t lying.

Maybe some folks think it’s a fun intellectual exercise to pick apart some kind of “he said, she said” brain teaser about the sexual abuse of children. How satisfying it must be for those folks to feel really confident in settling in for a gander every time Midnight in Paris comes on TNT. What a reward for running a 7-year-old girl through the ringer; how lucky we all are to have solved the mystery of Did Woody Allen Or Didn’t He? Oh well, Annie Hall is on!

Here is what I know: I spent the last few days trying desperately to distract myself from just about everything besides my closest friends and most beloved books and activities, because I could not bear to watch my friends and family members tear Dylan Farrow apart on Facebook or Twitter, call her a liar, call her a fool, call her an opportunist. I am still fragile when I think of my own abuse, and I do not know who in my life I might lose to an errant rape joke or a speciously timed Woody Allen oeuvre fest. I hate that this is a fear I must live with and mitigate, daily. But this is the reality of rape culture.

I know there are lots of those people—people who would give the benefit of the doubt to literally anyone besides a scared, confused child or an adult survivor just coming to terms with their past. I wonder why there are so many of those kinds of people who seem unable to, simply, listen to survivors without transporting themselves into some crudely imagined, hyperbolic Law & Order: SVU episode full of idealized victims and nefarious abusers.

I wonder how we can change that, and I believe part of the solution is to help people who aren’t survivors learn to hear stories of survival in productive, non-victim-blaming ways. We need to change the paradigm of reception, to empower people to hear the words “I was raped” or “I was abused,” so that they can hold them and experience them without defensiveness, panic, or pity. If we do this—give listeners a cultural script for hearing these stories—I think we will go a long way toward empowering survivors to tell these stories.

As an adult, after I had privately come to terms with myself about my abuse, I still feared—deeply, viscerally—talking about that abuse to someone else. I still have trouble disentangling it from victim-blaming language; in this very essay, I had to stop myself from “admitting” my own abuse, as if it is for me to seek absolution for a crime someone else committed against me. I dreaded the withering experience of managing other people’s pity, other people’s scorn, other people’s discomfort.

I very rarely talk about my own abuse, but whenever I do, I talk about it with a mind toward making other people comfortable with my story. I wish I didn’t have to, but I’m doing it for myself as much as I’m doing it for them. If we are going to do right by survivors, then we need to empower those who can support them. And to do that, we need to give our friends, family, and loved ones the tools they need to hear our stories.

The more stories survivors tell, the less aberrant we will be—though I contend this is an imagined aberrance. If we can tell our stories, and if those stories can be heard, we may someday stop this relentless “he said, she said” tug-of-war where no victim is ever perfect enough, no accused ever quite guilty enough. But I could not tell my story until I believed that there were people in my life who could hear it without putting me away in some cramped card catalog drawer, something marked under “T” for “tragic.”

This is a gift I wish I could give all survivors: a place for their stories to live that isn’t in their head or on a police report or court petition. A place where their stories can be spread among other people, diffused, made real through their voluntary, consensual telling, to be heard by people who will not immediately file them under “L” for “liar,” or “O” for opportunist, or “B” for “bitch.”

This is the enduring story of rape culture, the eternal lie: Give us the perfect victim, and we will believe you! That’s all they’re asking for—just one perfect victim, and then we can talk about all of this rationally! Send us someone we don’t have so many concerns about! This is a great deceit, and it is borne out of a cultural narrative that has no place for listening, only a place for victim-blaming, only a place for reinforcing stories that do not too terribly upset our Friday night movie binges.

I’m not asking you to decide, today, whether Woody Allen is a child abuser, or to preach fire and brimstone the next time someone picks up a copy of Manhattan. I am asking you to do something more powerful, more long-lasting, more revolutionary: Listen to survivors. Understand that our stories are not sad addenda, but part of our whole being, part of the people you love or hate or see in the elevator sometimes at lunch. See us not as victims, or characters, or some unidentifiable, sad and tragic “other,” but as the whole people we are, moving in and out of your lives.

Listen to us, so that we can listen to ourselves.

Survivor, Courtney Andrews, speaks out

“It’s OK to take the time you need to heal. OK?” via Feministing:

*trigger warning*

[Please click the following link to watch the powerful video associated with this article] http://video.msnbc.msn.com/mhp/53651444/#53651444

Yesterday, Melissa Harris-Perry and her team – including friends of the show producer Jamil Smith and MSNBC reporter Irin Carmon – did something remarkable. They had an honest, heartfelt, wrenching conversation about sexual violence, and about surviving sexual violence, that wasn’t sensationalized, but that fully conveyed the pain, outrage, and fear that so many survivors and their loved ones feel.

Courtney Andrews was raped three times by the same man. Earlier this month, an Alabama judge ruled that her rapist would serve no jail time, and sentenced him to just two years in a community correctional facility, and three years of probation. For raping a child. Repeatedly. The ruling has, understandably, sparked outrage.

There aren’t a lot of people who could have handled interviewing Andrews and her aunt with the compassion that Harris-Perry, who is herself a survivor of rape, displays in this segment. This is one of the conversations we need to be having about sexual violence – about the myth of the perfect victim and about the incredibly light punishments, institutional and otherwise, that we hand out for inflicting that violence, and about the remarkable courage of the people who come forward and say, in public, “this happened to me.”

Transcript available here.

3rd annual Wine Tasting in Franklin County

Our wine tasting is in two days! Please join us at the Holman House in Farmington this Thursday, September 26th for wine, food, music, and mingling…all for a good cause! There will be a raffle to win gift certificates to The Homestead, Calzolaio Pasta Co., The Roost, The Dugout, Farmington House of Pizza, and GrantLee’s.

About our musical guests:

Plinksters at Norlands

The Merry Plinksters Ukulele Group is the ongoing year-round extension of a 4-week Ukulele 101 class that is offered twice a year at RSD9 Adult Education in Farmington. Facilitator Michael Burd is also the Technology Instructor there. The group, founded in 2010, has an extensive and unique catalog of songs spanning many decades and genres. Burd supplements his instruction time as a professional bassist; recording and touring nationally. The Plinksters are comprised of up to a dozen or so vibrant members at any one time. They meet weekly at 7PM Tuesday eves at the Adult Learning Center, and the first Tuesday of each month is open to anyone to attend at no charge. The Plinksters are also available for select events. Contact Mike at the Adult Ed office, 778-3460, for more details.

Also, during the wine tasting, original pieces of artwork from “Portraits of Courage” will be on display. These paintings are to honor survivors and their advocates.

POC photo w-text








If you are unable to attend this fundraiser, but would like to make a donation, you may do so at our website www.sapars.org. Thank you!

This event is sponsored by Rons Market.

Portraits of Courage – Kickstarter

POC photo w-text

“Where do you find your strength, and how did you find the courage to walk toward healing?”

Please take a moment to view the 2 1/2 minute video on the following link to learn more about how you or your organization can participate in this important, uplifting, and inspirational project – Kickstarter page: Portraits of Courage.

An Invitation: Penny Hood Artist/LCPC from Farmington has launched a series of portraits honoring the Strength and Courage of survivors and their advocates. The goal is to create 30 “Working Portraits” as a traveling exhibit, to raise awareness, and shift our current conversation on violence. The first eleven portraits have been on display at the Franklin County SAPARS office, and the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area in Farmington, and could be at your venue in the coming months!

These survivors and advocates have given us the gift of their own strength. Please help make it possible for others to do the same.

For more information, please go to Penny Hood Artist/LCPC’s website, and if you would like a peek at how one of these portraits came about, click here.

Thank you for your interest, support and courage.

Portraits of Courage

Thank you, Penny, for sharing your inspiration, your talent, and your vision of this amazing, powerful project with us!



Portraits of Courage exhibit on display at The United Way
Lewiston Sun Journal 

FARMINGTON — Portraits of Courage: Where Do We Find the Strength, an exhibit or original artwork honoring survivors of violence and their advocates, is on display at the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area on Broadway.

Two years ago, Penny Hood of Farmington, an artist and a licensed clinical professional counselor, stumbled upon an image of a 16-year-old girl from Afghanistan who had been raped by her next-door neighbor. The man was also the chief of police, who intended to intimidate her family and take their property. Her expression was blank, traumatized and hopeless.

As an artist, Hood felt drawn to paint her portrait and in doing so found that she had straightened her spine and put steel in her eyes. She had been transformed and Hood wished she could have shown her the image, perhaps allowing her to see a different future.

Hood couldn’t help but ponder the question of how survivors get from one place to another. Teaming up with SAVES, the local sexual assault prevention and response agency, she launched the art project this past spring.

Focusing on what recovery looks like in the lives of people who are (or work with) survivors of abuse, Portraits of Courage inspires and encourages those who have not yet found their own strength, to reach out for help. It includes screened participants who are willing to lend their voices and offer hope in a public venue; confidential interviews focused on the question: “Where did you find the strength to walk toward healing?”; the choice for participants to not tell their story and remain anonymous. The witnessing that occurs for the participant is translated into the portrait.

Portraits are then made available for display in public venues along with brochures of support services and mental health providers who facilitate recovery.

Hood intends to create 30 portraits for a rotating traveling exhibit. Eleven portraits have been on display at SAVES in Farmington and are also on display at the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area from Aug. 6 to Sept. 20.

They can be viewed online at www.pennyhoodart.com. For information, Hood may be contacted at phood.6.2013@gmail.com.

Healing from a sexual assault

Healing from a sexual assault takes time, and the journey is different for everyone. Please do not rush yourself, and know that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

The Stages of Healing:

  • The decision to heal happens when a person chooses and is willing to change.
  • The emergency stage begins when memories and suppressed feelings start to emerge.
  • Remembering is the process of getting back both memory and feeling.
  • Breaking silence is a powerful healing force that can dispel the shame of being a survivor.
  • Understanding that it wasn’t the survivor’s fault places the responsibility directly on the offender(s).
  • Making contact with the child within (for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse) helps a person feel self compassion, anger at the offender, and greater intimacy with others.
  • Trusting oneself is the best guide towards healing.
  • Grieving and mourning is a way to honor individual pain, let go, and then move into the present.
  • Disclosures and confrontations are not necessary for healing, but can be important for some survivors.
  • Forgiveness of the offender is not an essential part of the healing process. The only essential forgiveness is self-forgiveness. It is important for a survivor to accept that it is okay not to forgive the offender, even when the offender is a family member. The choice to forgive or not is always personal.
  • Spirituality is a uniquely personal experience that can be an asset in the healing process.
  • Resolution and moving on allows a survivor to come to terms with the offender and while it does not erase history, it will make deep and lasting changes in a survivor’s life.


(Source: Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault – Help in Healing: A Training Guide for Advocates)