Tag 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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Truth. Respect. Communication.

Print ad, created by the team at Campbell Ewald, for the "Nice Guy" campaign.

Print ad, created by the team at Campbell Ewald, for the “Nice Guy” campaign.

Guest blog by: Jim Feltz, Senior Copywriter, Campbell Ewald

There are a lot of ingredients that go into a healthy long-term relationship. Trust. Respect. And certainly among the most important is good communication.

Over the last 15 years, HAVEN and Campbell Ewald have been working together to raise awareness and reach victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Oakland County. It’s an enormous issue that affects one in three homes. And with each and every piece of communication that we develop as a team, another message of hope and healing is spread throughout the area.

From creating invitations and materials for fundraising events to developing full PSA campaigns, our relationship has really made a positive impact on the community. And while all of the advertising HAVEN and Campbell Ewald have collaborated on over the years has put the mission of awareness and support first, the “Nice Guy” campaign does so by staring abusers right in the eye.

Together, our team developed a strategy to show who abusers really are and what their internal justifications sound like. We knew that, as hard as it may be to see and hear, when people were presented with the real words between the lines, they might be encouraged to offer a little help — or perhaps seek it for themselves.

That simple, truthful insight led to the creation of a fully integrated campaign — print ads, online banners, posters, billboards and more. Each piece of communication sends a powerful message, encouraging victims to seek help and safety from violence.

As HAVEN and Campbell Ewald worked to create this awareness campaign, we had the opportunity to build more relationships with generous and talented people who donated their time and efforts to this cause. One relationship in particular was with the director of our television spot — two-time Academy Award winner, Angus Wall.

This television commercial was an intense piece of communication. It’s a startling face-to-face with an abuser — we see who he is, how he uses manipulation as a threat and how dangerous a villain like this can be. We identify him directly. It’s a perfectly clear communication, not only to victims, but abusers as well.

The campaign was a huge success, resulting in a huge spike in donations to the Capital Campaign — a fundraising effort for the new HAVEN facility. It’s also earned several awards and a lot of national buzz — including AdWeek’s “Ad of the Day.”

While awards and recognition are a great pat on the back for what HAVEN and Campbell Ewald did together, the more important part about it to us is that the message was communicated to a much larger audience. Because when more people are aware, the stronger and more effective we can be as we work to eradicate domestic violence and sexual assault. We helped spread that message together.

And all that is made possible through having a healthy relationship — a long-term relationship that gets stronger every day that we work together. One that really embraces the true power of communication.

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Can You Pass This Pop Quiz?

What causes rape?

A.  Being flirtatious
B.  Wearing a short skirt
C.  Drinking too much
D.  RAPISTS

As the leader of an organization that provides education and treatment for rape I think it’s important to remind everyone whom the guilty party is when it comes to this horrific crime.  Time and time again, individuals, including news reporters and even judges, do not focus on the one who has committed the crime in the first place but rather turn their sights on the survivor.

They want to know what she was wearing?  Was she drinking?  Did she leave with him? Why was she out so late?  What is her reputation?  And the list goes on….

This damaging mentality, called victim blaming, occurs all-too-often and has been very obvious most recently in the high-profile Steubenville case.  Why does it happen?  A victim-blaming mindset allows individuals to distance themselves from the realization that they too are vulnerable to such a crime.  By holding the person that has been violated as partially responsible they reassure themself that since they are “not like” the rape survivor rape could not happen to them.

Rape is already a violation of someone’s body and spirit.  Why must we follow up with an assault on the survivor’s dignity by questioning what she was wearing or why she chose to stay out late?  For our own self-assurance?  Imagine if the types of questions that are asked of rape survivors were asked of a robbery victim.  Click here for an interesting exercise depicting this idea.  Absurd isn’t it?

Many times rape survivors, who may be already facing a myriad of feelings, including shame and guilt, don’t come forward, for fear of the reaction from others, making it one of the most unreported crimes.  HAVEN’s Safe Therapeutic Assault Response Team (START), made up of forensic nurses, physician’s assistants, and HAVEN advocates has also seen an increase in survivors choosing not to file a police report.

In 2012, START served approximately 200 victims of sexual assault with about 25% of them in their early to mid-teens.  The patients received both emotional support by the advocate and therapeutic medical care in a safe environment.  Even with emotional support and medical care, some survivors still find it too difficult to press charges for fear of social rejection and the stigma associated with rape.

During this Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I urge you to review your own actions and words when it comes to rape.  When you hear of one of these life-altering, horrific crimes do you question what the rape victim did or didn’t do that could have caused the rape?

Instead of contributing to this problem, be part of the change and challenge victim-blaming statements when you hear them.  Don’t revictimize a survivor for a traumatic event that was out of their control.  Your show of support and respect to survivors is what will lift them up on their road to recovery.

If you or someone you know needs help or would like more information about START, call our Crisis and Support Line at 1-877-922-1274.

Don’t forget!  Help raise awareness of sexual assault by donning your favorite blues on Denim Day held April 26, 2013.  For more information about participating in Denim Day or making a donation to support victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, contact HAVEN at 248-334-1284, ext. 346.

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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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On healing and triggers, or for survivors, it’s always sexual assault awareness month

By Cristy Cardinal, Program Director, Prevention Education

My 20th high school reunion will be in November.   And, up until recently I was nothing but excited about it. Of course, excited mixed with dread at seeing people I haven’t seen in 20 years-people who have a memory of a certain me that involved giant hair and lip gloss, and people who I have a certain memory of that is probably not part of the current them either. To some extent, Facebook has eliminated some of those mysteries for folks, but there are exceptions, people who’ve managed to resist the Facebook borg or for whatever reason aren’t my friend there (I can’t imagine why).

The organizers (brave souls, them) of the reunion have posted several lists of people they have yet to get in contact with, and at some point, the name of the man who raped me showed up on a list. And someone said they could call him and get his info for the reunion folks.

For some time afterward, I could not stop thinking about this. It got in the way of my productivity at work, for sure, and likely caused me to be a negligent listener or life participant in other ways too. Of course, I think about rape all the time-it’s my job. And because it’s my job, I’ve dealt with my past. I have juggled those demons into an orderly pile and put them to good use as a sexual assault and domestic violence prevention educator. That experience, when that man raped me, is one of the handful of lynchpin moments in my life that gave birth to my own personal brand of feminism. I am not ashamed of it, nor am I proud. It is an experience I share with millions of women and girls the world over, but it is a sisterhood I don’t wish on anyone. But it did propel me forward into this life I lead, this work I do.

Even still, I don’t think about him. That man who did that most vile thing to me. I do think about rape, I might even think about the fact that I was raped, often. But I don’t spare him a thought. On a regular, day-to-day basis, not sparing him a thought has created in me the very indifference that I needed to move on and heal. In the 20 years since he raped me, I have worked hard to not give him any further power in my life. He had all the power in the world over me for one night in 1990, but it has been the ebbs and flows of my own power that has consumed me in the 20 years since.

But then I saw his name. On a list of people invited to the same big party I was invited to. And I’ve had to think about him. I’ve been thinking about that I might see him there, and that I might be put in the position of having to talk to him. I doubt he knows he did anything wrong, as that’s the MO of men who believe and act as if they are entitled to women’s bodies. So, he may want to actually speak with me, this girl he “had sex” with back in the day, and tell me my kids are cute and make uncomfortable small talk. It would likely be a five minute interaction.

It would be five minutes that recreates that feeling of powerlessness I felt 20 years ago, that recreates desperation to do anything to make it stop. I get it, you know? I understand that rape is an interpersonal act that has global repercussions in the lives of women and girls, that rape is the largest, most violent and effective weapon men have to keep women in a place of subservience and subjugation.

And yet. And yet, this man has come back into my consciousness to consume my thoughts in a way that he should not. He doesn’t get to do this to me anymore, but he is. This is how rape works, and keeps on working.

I was debating whether to even go to the reunion after that moment when his name scrolled by on my Facebook. I even considered asking one of the organizers to “accidentally” not get in touch with him. But this is part of the dealing with it. I was wrong to think I had dealt with it, as in done.

There are always going to be little triggers, or even big ones, that I have to face because he raped me. Seeing his name was a little one, and potentially seeing him is a big one. I don’t want to see him. I don’t want him to say my kids are cute, or tell me about his job or some such nonsense.

What I do want, though in this world I live in, is to not hurt about it. This, too, is a fantasy. There’s no way to stop hurting about it, because of those triggers that are out there that I have no control or even predictability about. But I can have the hurt, and I can hold it with my strength, and I can move through it and let it go with each breath until it passes from me, and try to be grateful for the feelings I do have, because those feelings mean I am alive.  And being alive is the very essence of surviving.

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