The importance of sexual assault education

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Mara Valdez, Contributing Writer

 

The best thing about the University of Dallas’ campaign against sexual assault is that it raises awareness of the issues of rape and sexual abuse.

Rape has always been something of a taboo subject. People prefer not to talk about it because it’s not a comfortable topic. But if it is never addressed, it is easy for people to think it doesn’t happen.

If we don’t talk about sexual assault – if we don’t attempt to educate ourselves and others – we are feeding what’s been dubbed the “rape culture” (a culture that normalizes, tolerates or even condones rape).

Education about sexual assault shouldn’t be limited to the citation of statistics or to self-defense tactics. An individual might know how to fight off an assailant in a particular situation, but that knowledge doesn’t stop rape from occurring in the grand scheme.

Before learning to avoid being raped, we ought to learn what rape is. You might laugh and think that’s a given, but terms like “sexual violence,” “sexual abuse” and “rape” vary from state to state depending on a state’s laws.

People typically associate rape with images of women struggling to free themselves from strange assailants. Such is the rape people usually read about or see on television. But what people fail to realize is that this is not the only kind of rape that exists. Sadly, 75 percent of assailants know their victims, and 80 percent of rapes occur in the home.

Much confusion has arisen over the issue of consent. Essentially, “yes” is key. If someone doesn’t consent to being touched, you don’t touch. If someone says yes and then takes it back, you stop.

Blaming the victims

Bobbie Villareal, executive director of the Dallas Rape Crisis Center, described some of the most common excuses given by men for the sexual assault or rape of someone:

She was drunk.

She was unconscious.

She didn’t fight me.

She had already said yes.

If she didn’t want it, why did she go with me?

A disturbing, twisted sense of logic is at play when people, as these men do, think that they can blame the victim for their actions. When the Steubenville, Oh, rape case gained media attention, much of the coverage focused on the behavior and attire of the victim, a minor. Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, who were convicted of rape in the case, said they hadn’t realized what they had done was considered sexual assault.

“If that’s true, it shows us that we have done a poor job educating people,” said Villareal.

In failing to educate our society about sexual assault, we’ve made things more difficult for the victims.

“That whore was asking for it,” said Twitter user TheScottyNavy of the victim of the Steubenville assault.

Another Twitter user, PaulyFarris, tweeted, “#steubenville case … She doesnt remember consenting so its automatically rape? Nah. i bet she consented they were all drunk!”

Such comments are indicative of a societal mindset that lays blame anywhere but with the perpetrator.

“[People think that] if you push a boy too far, he can’t physically stop,” Villareal said.

Instead of focusing on the crime, she said, people tend to focus on the “risks” the victim took: Was she drinking? Was she walking home alone? Was she wearing a short skirt?

Statements such as these are absurd, however, when placed in another context, said Villareal.

“If a person is wearing a nice business suit and they’re robbed, do we blame them for wearing a nice suit?” she asked.

 The statistics

Statistics give us a sense of just how prevalent sexual assault is.

In the United States alone, someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes. Statistics show that one out of six women and one out of 33 men in the U.S. have been victims of either completed or attempted rape.

They also give us a sense of gravity of the problem, and how poorly we as a society have dealt with it.

Rape is a violent crime – it’s physical, emotional and mental. Only 46 percent of rapes are reported and, out of those, only 12 percent lead to an arrest. When push comes to shove, only three percent of rapists will actually spend a single day in prison. The statistics tend to encourage a victim not to report a sexual assault, which adds to the danger that they may not mention – out of the fear of what their assailants may do or what other people may say – that an instance of assault ever happened. Some victims may even recant an allegation.

With this in mind, any campaign aiming to confront sexual assault should help the victim, not doubt them. The only person who ought to feel shame is the person who took advantage of another individual. A person’s credibility shouldn’t lie in what they were wearing or the risk they took.

There are many organizations that help women – and men – who have been victims of abuse.

Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR), which was founded by males, understands the role of men in halting sexual violence and supports rape awareness by promoting a “healthy, nonviolent masculinity.”

Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) is a large, anti-rape organization that offers help to victims in need and endeavors to determine what can be done to reduce the number of assaults. The office of student life (OSL) here at UD lists RAINN as a resource for individuals seeking more information about sexual assault.

Dore Madere, director of student life, said the school is searching for organizations that can help host a variety of sexual assault awareness events at UD. The scope of aid would range from consultants to advocates providing specific training to the OSL staff.

Raising awareness of sexual assault and its effects shouldn’t be limited to OSL staff, however. The men of UD can participate in the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, in which men advocate for the end to sexual assault on women and the stigma that the victim is to blame.

If sexual assault is to be eliminated from this campus and from the nation as a whole, everyone must educate themselves.

“[Sexual assault] is not a man’s issue, nor a woman’s issue, but a community’s issue,” said Villareal.

‘I want them to feel like me’

“What fate do you wish upon your attacker?” Reddit asked women who had been sexually assaulted. The following response reveals the anger and severe mental anguish which can affect victims of sexual assault.

Twistyrockets, a Reddit user, responded: “I want them to be walking around in a public place, like a grocery story, and suddenly recognize what they did and dissolve into panicked tears. I want them to lie awake at night and spend hours replaying those scenes wishing through choking, pathetic sobs that they could change the endings. I want them to be terrified of being around the opposite sex because it might happen again. I want them to be so deeply ashamed of themselves that they truly believe their own parents would stop loving them if they really knew the truth. I want them to get the cold sweats and shakes whenever someone mentions the word ‘rape’…

“I want them to feel like I know them better than anyone ever could because I was there, I know what they look like when they rape someone. I want them to feel like I’m inside them, all the time, mocking them for every failure, panic attack and sick day. I want them to feel like trash, actual use-and-throw-away trash. I want them to feel angry and have no outlet for that anger accept their own body. I want them to feel weak and useless. I want them to feel DEFINED by those experiences. I want them to feel like a monster.

“I want them to feel like me.”

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