Category Archives: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault on College Campuses

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Guest post by Meghan Talbot

Nowadays, when incoming freshmen enter college, they are not just nervous about making friends, doing well in classes, and adjusting to life on their own. A study showed that college students are more afraid of being raped than they are of being murdered. And unfortunately, that fear isn’t completely exaggerated. Sexual assault is becoming an epidemic in the college setting, as an estimated 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted as undergrads. It is reported that college freshmen are the most likely to be sexually assaulted (though researchers are not completely sure why this is). Most rapes occur at college parties where drinking is involved, and by someone the victim knows. However, the crime can happen to victims of all ages and in a variety of settings. It is also important to understand that no colleges are excluded from this epidemic — high percentages of sexual assault occur in both rural and urban schools, co-ed and single gender, large and small, secular and religious.

Though sexual assault is extremely common in the campus setting, very few cases are reported to the authorities or to school officials, and even fewer will result in judicial action. Victims may keep silent about what happened as they often believe it’s their fault- because of what they were drinking or wearing, or for voluntarily going out with the assailant. They also may fear unsympathetic treatment from officials, interrogation from police, or retaliation by their attacker. In addition, because the majority of reported sexual assaults do not result in prosecution, victims often decide it is not worth the trauma of going through a judicial hearing.

Because victims often keep silent about what happened, they are more likely to suffer from mental health conditions such as depression or PTSD. Over 30% of victims say they have considered suicide after their attack, and many have succeeded.

Colleges are becoming more aware of the epidemic and are trying to prevent sexual assault in a variety of ways. In 1972, the Title IX law was passed in order to prevent gender discrimination in athletics, but is now being reinterpreted to protect victims of sexual violence in college. Through the law, students are allowed to change class schedules or housing arrangements after an assault in order to avoid their attacker if need be. Victims may also be provided counseling and assistance reporting the crime under the law. However, the law is controversial and a number of universities are under investigation for violating the law.

Schools are taking other steps to prevent sexual assault. Prevention techniques are often taught to incoming freshmen during their orientation week and sorority and fraternity members are often required to take a course in alcohol safety and consent. In addition, a variety of student organizations exist for victims to get involved on campus and heal together. It is the hope of many that through education and protection sexual assault will become less common in the university setting.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, HAVEN can help. Call the free and confidential 24-hour Crisis and Support Line at 877-922-1274.

 

 

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Don’t Forget to Remember

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Guest Post by Nkenge Burkhead, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

When you are a woman much of your day is dedicated to minimizing your risk of being sexually assaulted. Sometimes we do this wholly unaware of the lengths we go through to minimize risk. We don’t move about saying, “I’m going to go to the gas station while there’s daylight, to minimize my risk of being attacked by a rapist.” We simply run our errands while the sun is up; ask our partners to escort us to our cars; text our friends “made it home safe”; wear shoes we can run in, remember that anything in our hands (keys, ballpoint pen, fingernails), may need to transform itself into a weapon of defense. I think back to high school where the girls were taken to a safety assembly and instructed to yell “FIRE!” instead of rape if someone was attempting to assault us. Research shows that the general public is more likely to respond to fire than a sexual assault.

By the time a young woman begins middle school she has already started to practice her “stranger danger” rape avoidance rituals. Sadly, even if these rituals protect her from strangers lurking in dark alleys, we know that 4 of 5 sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows and often trusts.

While most men don’t practice any safety measures to prevent being sexually assaulted, in fact, many men don’t think about sexual assault at all. Women, on the contrary, began to carry out these protection practices unconsciously, as if it is our responsibility not to get assaulted, or believe that sexual assault is a natural consequence of an action or inaction. We’ve accepted that this is, just the way it is.

We can avoid a conversation altogether, or accept the ‘responsibility’ of protecting ourselves until we (personally), or someone we know and love, is victimized. We do not have to wait for a crisis to bring awareness or support survivors. We do not have to wait for the perfect moment, situation, or day!

If you are looking for a starting point, April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The first step we must take in eliminating sexual assault is remaining aware and refusing to accept its existence quietly. Awareness is the ability to perceive, feel, or be conscious of events, objects, emotions, or sensory patterns. Awareness is being mindful. We must use this month to remind ourselves that our protection rituals are in response to the countless attacks survivors have endured. When we ask our husbands, sons, and friends, to walk us to our cars, we must engage in an honest conversation with them about why you feel this is necessary. Collectively we can practice mindfulness, acknowledge survivors, and help create a survivor supportive culture.

We can do this during SAAM by:

  • Reaching out to a loved one who is a survivor (remind them it is not their fault, or simply spend time with them)
  • Write your legislators concerning sexual assault laws
  • Write your legislators about mandating an affirmative consent standard
  • Volunteer at a rape crisis hotline or women’s shelter
  • Donate money or necessities to organizations that work with survivors (most have a wish list on their website or call the organization)
  • Attend one of the many local Take Back The Night (TBTN) rallies and marches

HAVEN’s annual TBTN will be on April 30th from 1 to 4:30 at Five15 in Royal Oak. For more information contact the Prevention Education Department.

If you or someone you know is a victim of intimate partner violence or experiencing power and control dynamic in their relationship that feels abusive or unsafe HAVEN is here to help. Our crisis and support line is always open for you 877-922-1274. 

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Together We Can ‘Take Back the Night’

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Guest post by: Averett Robey, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

When having conversations about sexual violence and consent, in the community and with youth, it can be difficult to talk about the prevalence of sexual violence in our world. Often they will tell me that they know it is easy to secure a conviction, and a lot of times the survivor just does it to get money and sympathy. The unfortunate reality that I share with them is that 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail, and the attention survivors receive is in no way supportive or caring. The statistics are astounding. According to the CDC, one in five women and one in seventy-one men experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. However, what we know about those statistics is that most sexual assaults go unreported. They go unreported because we create an environment that glorifies and portrays sexual violence as inevitable and a fact of life. Then we shame and blame people when they are assaulted, making it difficult for survivors to heal and go through the legal process.

One of the many avenues created to enact change around this reality are the global events known as Take Back the Night. It is unclear as to when the first official Take Back the Night took place, but some assert that it began with meetings of tribunal councils in Europe to discuss the safety of women as they walked down the street. The revolution eventually spread to San Francisco in 1973 as people took to the streets to protest pornography. In the US, the first “Take Back the Night” marches occurred as a response to the murder of Susan Alexander Speeth who was killed while walking home alone in Philadelphia in 1975 . Take Back the Night was born out of the need to address and prevent the violence women were experiencing traveling on the streets at night. Today, the enduring revolution stands as a movement to support survivors and eliminate all forms of sexual violence.

Take Back the Night is a way for communities to come together and speak out against sexual violence, support survivors, share their stories, and promote awareness. It is a way for us to create a culture that starts by believing survivors, one that does not tolerate sexual violence and holds perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Join the movement to eliminate sexual violence. Attend our annual Take Back the Night event Saturday, April 30th from 1-4:30 pm at Five15 in Royal Oak because together we can take back the night.

For more information, contact our Prevention Education Department at arobey@haven-oakland.org or visit our website here.

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A Call to Campus Leadership: End Sexual Violence!

Guest Post by: Kristopher Kole Wyckhuys, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN
When sifting through the news, these headlines have become all too common.

Statistical evaluation reveals that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 33 men experience attempted or actual rape throughout lifetime and a staggering 1 in 3 women over the course of her college career. Since fewer than 5% of assaults are reported, these statistics simply don’t reflect the astounding reality. Nearly 25% of women who reported rape were under the age of 25 when assaulted, 85% of the victims know their attacker, while nearly 99% of people convicted are men.

Universities have an ethical and legal responsibility to provide safe educational environments and confronting sexual violence must be part of that. Campuses should not only be responsible for working to prevent these incidents, but in the event an assault occurs the administration needs to investigate and work to ensure justice is sought. As seen by the headlines above, there are a good number of campuses not responding well or even at all to assaults. So how do you create a culture of consent?

Sexual assault prevention involves interventions at various levels. We can stop crimes before they are committed in while reducing the damaging consequences after the fact and while also holding offenders accountable. The implementation of prevention strategies often hinges on understanding that if we can inspire women and men to work collaboratively – we can shift the paradigm that supports sexual violence. We can educate students about ethical consent while teaching bystander strategies to safely confront potentially violent situations, while also transforming culture. Jackson Katz, a frontrunner in the effort of engaging men in ending violence said it well in this TED talk.

The prevalence of assaults within sports culture reflects a critical need for every institution to mandate sexual violence training for all student athletes. We’re not suggesting single session sensitivity trainings; however, we’re advocating for multi-session trainings founded in empirically researched strategies demonstrating long-term culture change and accountability.

That this is not standard practice within every athletic department reflects a profound failure on the part of leadership within higher education institutions.

RAAIN Statistics
In a recent report, The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAAIN) issued a statement denouncing the feminist theoretical concept that we live within what’s defined as Rape Culture. They concede that it’s helpful to recognize systemic barriers, while not losing sight that rape is not the result of cultural implications, but is the result of deliberate choices of a small number of rapists, to rape.

Rape is absolutely a choice that one individual makes in order to gain power and control over another individual. This choice is influenced by culture and is hidden in plain sight by a society that allows rapists to exploit cultural narratives and escape accountability. Holding rapists accountable necessitates uncovering the campus climate through which they’re able to conceal themselves. This climate allows for personal beliefs that they’re not rapists at all. Accountability requires pulling back the curtain and uncovering common rape myths, flipping the script on victim blaming, and engaging in a cultural shift that calls for universal unified understandings of a very specific definition of consent. This is an ethical consent that is conversational, engaging, participatory, sober, and only yes means yes.

To effectively prevent rape on campuses, and alter the attitudes and behaviors that lead rapists to believe they can get away with rape, we must also drastically alter the environment within which they live and thrive.

At HAVEN we seek to develop partnerships with institutions to implement best practices in prevention solutions. Prevention work includes education for students, professors and administration at levels of engagement ranging from awareness-raising, to comprehensive education, to building healthy relationship skills and ends in legislation and policy design. We create programs adequately addressing these levels of engagement while also addressing underlying causes. We encourage institutions to partner with local domestic violence agencies to bring together components of expertise while designing comprehensive prevention strategies that produces a paradigm shift that never accepts or tolerates sexual violence, ever.

Kristopher Kole Wyckhuys is a respectful and optimistic voice within an intersectional social justice movement. As a Prevention Education Specialist at HAVEN, he focuses on redefining healthy masculinity and works to engage men in ending gender-based violence.

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How Would You React?

Guest Post by: Diane Zalecki RN, Program Director, Safe Therapeutic Assault Response Team (START), HAVEN

There is no shame in grieving the loss of a loved one. No guilt when your home is broken into and your most treasured mementos are stolen from you. No one doubts your injuries when you are in a car accident. So why then are rape victims doubted? Friends, family, coworkers, law enforcement and even health care providers doubt them, their story, or maybe even their judgment.

Rape is just as unpredictable as any other tragedy that happens to people. In each case, the victim didn’t ask for the devastating tragedy, didn’t deserve it and may spend the rest of their life reliving the event trying to heal from it. Victims of tragedy often ask themselves, “Why me?”  Victims of the tragedy of rape ask the same question.

So the question becomes why do we hold rape victims to a greater scrutiny? Rape can happen to anyone, much like most life-changing tragedies. It is certainly a frightening thought but every two minutes another American is sexually assaulted. It happens at an alarming rate in every corner of the country and yes, in Oakland County too.

It happens to every age group and to both men and women. The victim can be rich or poor, old or young. Statistics tell us there are more women than men that are victims of rape. In fact, in her lifetime, it is estimated that one out of six American women has been the victim of a rape or an attempted rape. The only common statistic between them is that none of these victims deserved what happened to them. The fault lies squarely on the perpetrator of the crime but yet, we hold the victims of rape to a different standard. They deserve better than that, much better. They deserve to be believed.

Friends and family are typically the first people a rape victim seeks out after the terrifying violation of rape and sexual violence. What the victim needs is to be believed, simply believed. The biggest predictor of how a person heals from rape is the way the first people they tell react to what happened to them.

In many incidences, a victim notifies the police or goes to the nearest hospital and they are met with raised eyebrows and aggressive questioning. The victim begins to shut down and these reactions will live in their memory and further violate the victim. Many victims take back their accusations or recant. Then many professionals step back and say, “See, I didn’t think the rape really happened.”

The reality is that rape victims make a false report about as often as people report false robberies. But all reports of robbery are taken and then investigated. It would be hard to believe that a police officer would question a car accident victim in the Emergency Room about why they were driving on a particular road on the night of their accident. Why then are rape victims asked those same types of questions: “Why were you at that party?” or “Why did you talk to that stranger?”

Driving on a particular road, going to a party or speaking to a stranger is never the reason for tragic events that follow. That called is victim blaming. Blaming someone for what wasn’t his or her fault and denying the victim support is inexcusable. Victims are actually survivors who need support, starting with the simple act of believing them. Believing in the survivor is critical to healing process.

The month of April is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is a time set aside for reflection on what we as a community can do to address sexual violence. As an individual, I urge you to seek to understand your role in prevention and educate yourself on how to support a survivor.

HAVEN offers medical forensic examination for sexual assault survivors, including support, safety planning and counseling. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault please call our 24-hour Crisis and Support Line at 877-922-1274 for help. All survivor services are free of charge.

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Beth Morrison, HAVEN CEO

The classmate who raped my college roommate 30 years ago was never held accountable for his behavior. The business man who molested a relative of mine decades ago was never held accountable for the crime he committed. The professional who sexually assaulted a friend of mine 10 years ago never served even a moment in jail. The high school student who recently raped a fellow student will never be formally charged. One wonders how many other assaults were or will be perpetrated by these men?

Not surprising, and not acceptable.

First, it is estimated that sexual assaults are one of the most, if not the most, underreported of all crimes.  Second, when a crime is reported few rapists are arrested, even fewer are prosecuted and then even fewer are convicted. In a recent analysis of data from various reports, RAINN estimates that out of every 100 rapes only 3 rapists will ever spend a single day in prison. Or in other words, 97 of 100 rapists will walk free!

So what do we, as a society, need to do to change this unacceptable statistic?  We first need to create a community in which a rapist will be held fully accountable. We will have educated law enforcement officers, prosecutors, court personnel and jurors. All who understand the dynamics of sexual victimization and will apply their knowledge to hold all perpetrators accountable for their actions and choices.

By creating a culture that emphasizes perpetrator accountability we will have created a safe environment for victims of rape to be able to reach out for help after an assault.  An environment where they know they will be supported, believed, trusted and cared. A space in which they will experience professionalism and support by each individual they will interact with as a result of their victimization – law enforcement, their employer, high school counselor, medical professional, prosecutor, spiritual leader, parents and others in their circle of family and friends.

What can you do today to help create such a culture? First, become educated on the facts of sexual violence.  Second, take a stand against sexual victimization by speaking out against the rape culture and the root cause of sexual violence. Let advertisers, entertainers, members of the media, elected officials and individual community members that you will not tolerate misogyny and victim blaming.

Join HAVEN in speaking out against rape and sexual assault. Join us in creating a world where everyone has a right to live without fear.


*Editor’s note: Please join us on April 17 for Take Back the Night at Oakland University, and join us on April 25 by wearing jeans for Denim Day.

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Let’s have a conversation about what is NOT rape.

By Cara Lynch, HAVEN therapist

As many of you may know, April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Maybe you have seen an inordinate amount of teal ribbons lately or posters tacked up all around town for local Take Back the Night rallies. Maybe more than one person has approached you with frightening yet true statistics that say 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in the United States have experienced an attempted or completed rape and nearly two-thirds of rapists know their victims (unless the victim is a minor, in which case that number jumps up to 93%)[1]. Or maybe you have just randomly stumbled across this blog and I am the first person to tell you that April holds any significance other than its famous “showers that bring May flowers.”

Whatever has brought you to this blog in this moment in time, I am glad you are here. However, in the essence of full disclosure, I should tell you that I have no intention of defining sexual assault for you today or telling you how many women and men and children were raped in 2010 or teaching you how to spot a rapist just by looking at him or her (hint: you can’t.) No, instead I want to focus on something new, something different this April – Let’s have a conversation about what is NOT rape.

Slang and vernacular language in the United States are constantly evolving. A particularly distressing part of this evolution has been the use of the word “rape” to describe things and events that are in fact not rape at all. For example, I will even admit to sometimes lamenting in my younger, less-informed days, “that test just raped me”, by which I meant, “man, that test was really hard! I might have totally failed it!”
Some of you may be familiar with this practice, some of you may have no idea what I am talking about, but fear not – I have compiled a list (that unfortunately is not an exclusive or finite one) for the ease and convenience of this discussion. So let’s get started:

    Taxes are NOT rape. Laws you do not like are NOT rape.Legislation you disagree with is NOT rape.

    Hard tests are NOT rape.

    A bad grade (even if you think it is unfair) is NOT rape.

    High gas prices are NOT rape.

    High credit card fees are NOT rape.

    Expensive phone bills (or any kinds of bills) are NOT rape.

    Being fired or laid-off is NOT rape.

    Being yelled at by your boss is NOT rape.

    Being criticized or even insulted is NOT rape.

    Proving something right or wrong is NOT rape.

    Bad publicity or even slandering someone in the media is NOT rape.

    Not getting something you want is NOT rape.

    Losing at a sports game is NOT rape.

    Losing at a video game is NOT rape.

    Having your NCAA Tournament bracket busted is NOT rape.

    A routine, consented-to prostate exam is NOT rape.

    Pollution or other non-environmentally conscious practices are NOT rape.

    Natural disasters are NOT rape.

    Gentrification is NOT rape.

    “Illegal” immigration is NOT rape.

None of these things is rape. Let me repeat that for clarity and truth – None of these things is rape. You may not like the price of gas right now (I know I don’t), but your feelings about high gas prices are not the same as what someone goes through after another person has violated their physical, emotional, and sexual boundaries. The tsunami and earthquake that recently devastated Japan is an utter tragedy, but it is not the same thing as engaging in any kind of sexual act with someone without their expressed (and enthusiastic!) consent. Both are bad things, but one does not equal the other.

Now I am sure there is someone somewhere who will be quick to argue, “no, I’m not talking about that kind of rape; I’m just using the alternative definition of the word.” And yes, it is true that depending on which dictionary you use, “rape” may also be defined very broadly as “to seize and take away by force[2]”. Let’s be honest, though – nobody uses the word “rape” in that sense. And nobody perceives the meaning of the word “rape” in that sense either. It is the same thing as people who insist that the word “gay” also means “happy” when they are called out for using the word in a derogatory way or as a synonym for “uncool” or “stupid”. Yes, it is true that this alternative definition exists, but nobody uses it. Period. To suggest otherwise is simply being deliberately obtuse.

The fact of the matter is this: rape is rape. And it exists all around us every day. Remember that statistic at the beginning of this post about how 1 in 6 women in the United States have been victims of an attempted or completed rape? What those figures are suggesting is that if you think of six women you know, one of them – statistically speaking – is a sexual violence survivor. So keep that in mind when you decide to make that hilarious joke about being raped by your phone bill. Think about that idea the next time you or someone around you complains that they just got raped on their taxes. Think about what it might feel like as a rape or sexual assault survivor to hear someone have the audacity to compare losing the Superbowl to the hell she or he endured.

You never know who is listening to you or what the life experiences of those around you have been, but it is simply not an excuse to say “oh, I never would have made that rape joke if I’d known that a real person who experienced a real rape was listening.” The English language has more words than most of us know what to do with, so trust me when I say that retiring “rape” from your repertoire of hyperbolic metaphors will not suddenly leave you without any ability to make such metaphors. In the end what I am suggesting is this: Before you jokingly (or truthfully) whine about how Butler totally raped your March Madness bracket, just ask yourself first if what you are about to say is more likely to make a rape/sexual assault survivor feel comfortable or a rapist feel comfortable. If the answer is the latter, just stop. Make the choice not to be one more person that makes this world a safe place for rapists.


[1] All statistics retrieved from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network website, at http://www.rainn.org/statistics.

[2] Retrieved from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rape[2].

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