How to Teach Girls How Not to Get Raped

by Charlotte on January 10, 2013 · 31 comments

dont-rape

 

If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s pretty awesome.

Eyes! EYES! Nose! NOSE! Ears! EARS! 

The roar of teenage girls filled the small room at my church last night as we ended our seminar on self-defense. I wish I could say that their roar was defiant, strong, a unified cacophony of empowered (pre) women. But that’s a lot to expect from young girls who’ve just had a lesson on a very uncomfortable subject that skirted all the uncomfortable parts. There was a lot of giggling, play fighting, teasing, bluster and, to my chagrin, very little questioning.

The teacher, a 4th degree black belt from a local martial arts studio, did a great job in the limited amount of time he had. One hour is a pitifully small amount of time to cover something with the implications to be so life changing.  (But one hour is better than nothing, yes?) He was better than most I’ve seen. He was smart, funny, and gave some great tips for physically defending oneself. But as I  stood back and watched – my eyes less on the teacher and more on the faces of the girls watching,  scanning them for any sign of panic or shutting down (there’s usually one set of eyes in every group that looks a little too cynical or a little too wise) – I couldn’t help but be disappointed. It was your standard self-defense for women class. And that’s a shame.

In such a sex-saturated culture, you would think  that having a conversation about relational abuse, sexual assault and how to defend oneself against it wouldn’t be a hard subject to broach. And yet it is. Even  when we’re talking about it,  like last night, we’re not talking about it. We frame the discussion in terms of knees to the groin, keys clenched in fists and rape whistles. We lose so much when we do that. We do our girls a grave disservice when we do that.

Yet I didn’t speak up. I’ve learned from past experience that I’m exactly who they don’t want to hear from. Because I’m evidence that this plan can fail. To survivors of abuse I can sometimes be a symbol of hope – she got through it and has a good life, I can do this too! – but to people for whom this nightmare has not yet entered their waking consciousness, I’m the proof that nightmares sometimes do come true. I’ve found that the girls however are far less reticent to hearing my story than the adults are.  I so rarely talk about my story in a public situation (other than this blog) because generally the grown-ups don’t want me to. I’ve had people tell me “We don’t want to take away their innocence  yet!” (And yet we’re teaching them to kick men in the crotch? For what purpose then?) or “We don’t want to frighten them with things that probably won’t happen.” (So that if it does happen to them they’ll feel like a freak?) or even “We don’t want them to think about it like that.” (Like… the fact that you can do  everything “right” and still have it all end so wrong?)

Besides, we live in an age where two of the biggest new stories over the past month were the rape and murder of an Indian college student on a train and the protracted gang rape and online humiliation of a high school girl in Stubenville, Ohio. Our girls already know these things happen. It’s up to us to teach them how to frame it. And we can’t do that if we don’t talk about it.

But the thing that most bothered me was when the instructor said, “… and then you run away. And you keep running until you get to the authorities and report it. Because if you don’t report it – what if your best friend comes walking along that same path 2 weeks later and gets raped? If you don’t report it then it’s your fault if other girls get hurt.”

I immediately turned to the woman next to me and hissed, “No it isn’t! It’s the attacker’s fault if he hurts someone else!!” I’ve spoken a lot about this before so I won’t rehash my mixed feelings about when I reported my assault to the police and the subsequent trial and aftermath (you can read about it here) but “reporting it” is not as simple as we make it sound. By telling a girl that if she doesn’t report then it’s her fault when someone else gets hurt assumes a lot about the crime that may not be true. At the very least it misses one major thing: it’s a sexual crime. It’s innately humiliating in a way that other crimes aren’t. Reporting what he did also means reporting what happened to you, to your body, inside your body.

Because of the nature of rape and sexual assault, it’s often assumed that you, as the victim, were doing something “wrong”. And, saddest of all, statistics say you probably were. You were in the wrong place, wearing the wrong clothes, at the wrong time of night, drinking the wrong type of beverage, were participating in the wrong kind of sexual activity etc. But there is a difference between doing something that may not be the smartest choice and doing something criminal! You may have made a mistake (or maybe you didn’t) but you didn’t commit a criminal act against someone else. Your attacker did. By teaching girls they are responsible for “saving” others, we’re giving them more responsibility than they truly have. By teaching them only physical self-defense tactics we’re giving them more power over a situation than they likely have. We are making them complicit in the crime against them. “If only you had…” And I cannot abide that.

Am I saying we shouldn’t teach girls self defense? Absolutely not. Heck, I’ve been taking Krav Maga classes for two months now. There is a lot of value in  teaching girls and women fighting skills. But our current method of doing so leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion. I know that it’s much easier to find fault with something than to build something and so I don’t say this with the intention of tearing anyone down or making anyone feel bad about the efforts they are making – anything is always better than nothing and we’re all learning together!

So in the spirit of being helpful, here’s what I wish were different in the way we teach girls self defense:

1. Teach a similar lesson to boys. Yes, I mean that I think we should teach them self-defense too – boys are also victims of assault and rape and generally bear a much higher stigma for it than girls. But I also wish we’d teach boys (and, like Jen pointed out, girls too) how not to rape someone. That sounds so self-evident but our current method of teaching/denial assumes all rape cases are black and white, which they so rarely are. We need to teach boys and girls that lack of consent does not equal consent. That verbally berating someone into doing something they don’t want to do can be just as harmful as literally strong-arming them into it. That giving in is not the same thing as welcoming it and enjoying it. That sexual assault is not a joke, it’s not funny, and participating even as a voyeur by way of texts, e-mails or videos is not acceptable. That she’s still a person even if you don’t know her and even if you think she’s a “slut.” That date rape or marital rape is still rape-rape and rarely looks like the rapes you see on TV.

2. Stop  assuming all  rapes are violent stranger-in-the-alley scenarios. You are far likelier to be raped or hurt by someone you know than by someone you don’t. We know this! We tell them this! And yet we still teach self-defense classes as if stranger rapes are the only kind that happen. Instead of teaching our girls to punch someone in the eyes, what about teaching them to look into a person’s eyes – and if what they see freaks them out, then trust themselves enough to get out of there. Half the battle is giving girls permission to trust their own instincts. (And if you didn’t see it coming? Still not your fault.) Instead of focusing on teaching girls how to kick confidently, what if we teach them to start being confident a long time before a strike is ever needed? (And then if that kick is needed, to kick hard and not apologize!) It’s one thing to train your instincts to react in a sudden, violent attack situation. It’s entirely different to teach a girl how to overcome months (or years) of conditioning that she’s “bad” or “worthless” and “deserves” what is happening to her. It’s much harder to know when to punch someone in the nose when you’ve been dating them, kissing them and – hey – loving them.

3. Offer resources beyond “report it.” Let’s be honest: reporting it primarily serves the benefits of the State and of other potential victims. It rarely serves to benefit the current victim. She’s already been hurt in a very private way and guilting her to go public with it can be immensely painful. Especially when there is a good chance she won’t be entirely believed. But there are resources out there for victims to help with this process – RAINN, victim’s advocates, support groups, help lines, therapies, web sites – and we should make girls aware of them BEFORE they’re ever hurt, so they know they’re out there, and not just after. Let me be clear: I’m not telling any victim she should not report her assault. I did it. And given the situation again I’d probably make the same choice (which isn’t to say that it wasn’t awful and I don’t regret parts of it). But we’ve got to stop telling girls to “report it” like that’s the Happily Ever After ending to the story. It’s the beginning of another chapter and we need to help it not be a continuation of the nightmare. And,  let me say this again,  if you don’t report it and someone else gets hurt it is NOT YOUR FAULT. It’s his. Always was.

4. Focus more on the situation but without assigning blame. Many instructors seem hesitant to tell girls about how the choices they make before a situation occurs can affect how it ends up. To be clear: Nothing you do or don’t do makes being assaulted your fault. It doesn’t mean “you asked for it” or you “deserved it.” But if we move past the assignation of blame, we can do a lot to teach our girls to be safer. Responsible alcohol use, for example. According to the National Institute of Health, over 50% of sexual assaults involve alcohol use - either by the victim, perpetrator or both. And it’s not enough to just tell girls to have a buddy look out for them if they pass out.  We also need to teach girls to control the situation – by refusing to go somewhere they don’t feel safe, by not going out with someone with whom they don’t feel good about, by not being pressured to eat, drink or do something they don’t want to. Teach them what they do have control over and teach them how to make smart choices. It’s not fool-proof but it’s a first step.

5. You can be “not raped” and it can still hurt a lot.  And it’s still a crime. Rape is seen as the worst thing that can happen to you when in reality it’s only one of many things that can happen to you and even if something doesn’t meet the technical definition of rape or seems a lot “less than” rape or doesn’t result in blood and bruises, it can still hurt a lot. It is still a violation. Tell the girls this. Tell them they’re allowed to their own feelings about what happened to them – that just because someone else tells them “it’s not a big deal” doesn’t mean that’s true. And never, ever say “Well, at least X didn’t happen! It could have been worse.” Yeah, we know that. Still hurts. I remember one of the most frightening situations I’ve been in was one night out at a club with some girlfriends, a man grabbed me by my upper arms and slammed me against a wall when I declined (politely, even) to dance with him. There was only a minute of panic while he was grinding against me and I struggled to get away (but without making a scene! ‘Cause, you know, I’m a good girl! Or whatever!) before the bouncer, alerted by my friend, pulled him off me. But that minute was enough to leave me shaky for the rest of the night and in tears on the car ride home. At home, it wasn’t until I stopped telling myself “You’re fine! Nothing happened! What are you so upset about?!” and instead whispered “It’s okay you were scared. You had a right to be.” that I was able to unclench and fall asleep.

6. Don’t assume that no one in the class has ever been a victim. With rape and assault statistics being what they are, it’s hard to get a definitive number but one generally accepted stat is that 1 in 4 women in the US will be the victim of rape or sexual assault. That’s a lot. And sexual assault crosses all boundaries of age, race, social status, nationality and religion. There is a certain pain in participating in a class where the overall message is teaching the other girls not to end up like you. I know that’s not the intended message but as a girl who’s often felt like an outsider at these things, I can tell you that all it takes is just acknowledging that chances are someone in your audience has already experienced your “worst case scenario” and that we are not bad or dumb or slutty – we’re just people, just like you. I think just that little bit of compassion will go a long way in changing the discussion.

7. Teach them that how they talk about others shapes how they feel about themselves. Calling other girls “bitches” or “sluts” may make you feel cool in front of the guys and it may even give you a certain feeling of safety by distancing yourself from them – Well I’m not like her so that could never happen to me! – but using those epithets at all gives them legitimacy. And once you believe they’re true – about anyone – then it opens up the possibility that if something similar were to happen to you then it becomes valid for you as well. We would all so well to remember that “There but for the grace of God go I”.

I’m not saying the class last night was a waste – either for those teenage girls or for me. I’m also not saying that the teacher did a bad job. He did what he was expected to do and what they’d brought him there to do. (And like I said, he was better than most.) But that’s the problem. There is so much more to teaching girls how to defend themselves from sexual assault than knee strikes and biting (although those are good skills to have). Which is why it’s up to those of us leaders, sisters, mothers, friends – all the women who surround them – to teach them.

I feel like this is especially important, and poignant, right now as congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act for the first time since it was enacted in 1994. A reader e-mailed me a month ago to write about this act and link to an online petition lobbying for it but I didn’t realize the time frame was so short and when I went to look for the link today, it was too late. I’m so so sorry for that. We need to step up now more than ever.

What about you – how did you learn about self-defense or how not to get raped? Have you ever taken a self-defense class? If so, was there anything you would change?

Note: As always, this is my personal opinion based on my personal experience and I don’t want to take away from your opinions or experience if they differ from mine. ALL are welcome here. All opinions are valuable to this discussion:)

 

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Abby January 10, 2013 at 10:53 am

A very powerful and important post, my friend. Thank you so much for speaking out and sharing your story each time that you do!

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Leslie Goldman January 10, 2013 at 11:11 am

Great post as always, Char. Thanks for speaking out on this.

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Alyssa (azusmom) January 10, 2013 at 11:22 am

Amen! Amen amen amen, to all of the above!!!!
Women’s rights have taken a huge step backwards over the past decade. It’s time to start empowering ourselves and our daughters (and sons!) again.

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hannahviolin January 10, 2013 at 11:52 am

I just kept nodding my head when reading this. Especially #2–trusting your instincts. We are taught so much to smile and be polite (at least where I grew up) and before you know it you find yourself in some ridiculous situation (which leads to #5, which I couldn’t agree with more as well) which you end up blaming yourself for. GAH. Thanks for writing this.

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Happier Heather January 10, 2013 at 11:53 am

Your point #2 about teaching confidence and trusting instincts is what I think is missing most in the education about assault and rape. It pains me almost daily to know that girls out there are in situations that are unsafe or unhealthy because they’re lacking confidence and/or a sense of self-worth. Heart breaking.

In this culture where offending people is such a hot topic, people need to be taught that it’s okay to trust their instincts, even if it means hurting someone’s feelings or physically defending themselves to be safe.

I just wish I knew how to teach the confidence, sense of self-worth and positive self-image that I personally have. I know it’s kept me out of trouble in the past and I hope it continues to do so.

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Jess January 10, 2013 at 11:57 am

Charlotte, perhaps you should try to put together a self-defense class! (y’know, in all your spare time lol)

It wouldn’t even necessarily have to be “physical” self-defense, but instead teaching about the mental and emotional side of self-defense against sexual assault. I think that would be amazing.

I loved this post, and agree wholeheartedly with everything you touched on!

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Alyssa (azusmom) January 10, 2013 at 12:51 pm

It would be! amazing
The best self-defense class I ever took covered not only which areas of the body to strike, but also common sense ideas (like not leaving the car door open as you settle in and arrange your stuff), not being afraid to yell at someone if you think they’re following you, and, absolutely, listening to your gut.
And not being so dang polite all the time! If someone is touching you on the subway, tell them to stop! If it was inadvertant, they will apologize. And even if they don’t, you have the right to NOT be touched if you don’t want to be. That right supercedes any perceived rudeness.

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Lisa January 10, 2013 at 11:58 am

GREAT POST. I love it. And I agree. It’s not the girl’s fault. It’s the rapist’s fault. And you are also spot on that “date rape” or acquaintenace rape is often more common.

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Helene @healthyfrenchie January 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I have to admit, when I first opened your post I thought “not another one of those lists about what women should do!” I should have known better since I always agree with your opinions on the subject of sexual assault.
Having been assaulted myself, and having been put in a lot of uncomfortable situations myself, I hate the way we “blame” the victim. Guilt was one of the hardest feelings for me to leave behind. And no I didn’t report either of the assaults. I was too scared nobody would believe me! As a 16 years old, I as too scared to go to the police at the holiday place we were staying at. And at 18 I was too ashamed to admit what my date had done to me. And that the number he gave me was a fake, and that I didn’t know if the name he gave me was real.
I made a lot of mistakes and put myself in harm’s way as a teenager because I was in a terrible place. But it doesn’t mean men should take advantage of it! All this happened in France but it doesn’t change the fact that I felt isolated and scared.
Teaching those girls self-defense is a good thing in the sense that they might feel empowered and more able to defend themselves. But as you put it so wonderfully it doesn’t mean they will know who to turn to for help and support, it doesn’t mean they will learn to trust their instinct.
And women and girls should not have to feel like targets. Men and boys should be taught what RAPE and sexual assault is. They should be taught no means no. Some sexual assaults are the product of pathology and some cannot be avoided. But I firmly believe that a lot of sexual assaults could be avoided if men (and women) were taught to respect their partners and what boundaries they should not cross especially when drunk / under the influence.
Sadly, when people see news like what happened in India, they distance themselves from it rather than confront the problem.
Sexual education should be mandatory and should include lessons on assault and how to prevent it both from the victim’s and the attacker point of view.
And thanks again for being so opened about your experience.

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Meghan@themeghamix January 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm

One thing my dad always did (which I used to think was stupid) was make a scene if my mom or I forgot to lock the door of our home or the doors of our car if we were out driving. He always let us know that we were really valuable and he wanted to make sure we took steps to protect ourselves. He also took me on “dates” since I was a tyke and made me feel special by making time for me and telling me I was beautiful. What’s awesome is not only did this build MY confidence, but it set a great standard for both my little brothers who saw from my dad how to treat women.

Not everyone got to have a great dad, but we can all be that person in a child’s life – to show them how to treat other people with value and respect, and how to have confidence and make simple but wise choices about being safe.

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Saskia January 10, 2013 at 1:55 pm

This. (To revert to Livejournal speak.)

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Peronel January 10, 2013 at 1:58 pm

“…if other girls get hurt”. This makes me so angry, because it is the language of passivity, of accident. “The shelf fell off the wall and the cups got broken.” “There was a fire and three people were hurt”.

Rape isn’t a people “get hurt” scenario. It isn’t, “Oops, he fell over with an erect penis and she got hurt”. Rape is “He hurt her”. The hurt is deliberate, intentional, active. There is a hurter, who shouldn’t be edited out by our choice of language.

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Jessica January 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Amazing post. Thank you for writing this. This is so important for EVERYONE to understand. I’m hoping that there has come a turning point in our culture about how we think about and deal with sexual assault.

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Jody - Fit at 55 January 10, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Thx as always Charlotte – tacking the tough subjects! HUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Gaye January 10, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Hey Charlotte,

Wow. This is a really great post. Thanks. I have a personal experience as well, and when I’ve told my friends who have daughters that they really can’t tell them often enough that if something happens it’s not their fault, and to tell someone, and that as parents they have to be hyper aware, 9 out of 10 times they respond, “Oh, I know little Jen/Susie/Holly/ would tell me. We have a great relationship…yada, yada, yada.” And they don’t like it when I assure them that there is a great possibility that even if they’ve been open with their daughters that they still won’t tell. And yet I know it’s true.

So thanks for making everyone think about this very important subject.
Gaye

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Erin D. January 10, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Thank you for being so open and honest about something that is so painful, confusing, scarring, frightening. Your opinions are spot on in my opinion. I live in the college town that I grew up in. The one where my husband and I are raising two teenage daughters in. One who happens to be a college student. The standard practice of “Okay, try not to get raped” vs. “Hey! How bout not raping anyone” was brought up at the beginning of the school year. What about teaching men to be vigilant in regards to other men who “just ain’t right when it comes to views on women”. I’m not a guy, so I don’t really know how Dudeville thinks about that subject.
And you’re so right about the fact that men and boys can be victims.
From hearing about the experiences of others, the court process sounds like an island of pain unto itself. It should be discussed as a process and not something that gets hidden in the attic.
Telling girls that by not reporting an assault then they are responsible for the assault of another is simply irresponsible, irrational and ignorant to the real issues of the crime, that is that it is purely the responsibility of the criminal. Amen. No two ways about it.
Thank you again for giving so much of yourself to help others.

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Sue January 11, 2013 at 3:30 am

I took a series of self defence classes when I was about 14. It was a great one, held by a couple, who were also focusing on how to avoid getting into dangerous situation, being confident to say “no!”, loud and clear, etc. The only problem was, that those classes came too late for me, as I was assaulted at the age of 8. Back then, I had no idea how to handle that situation. How could I!?
So, at what age should we tell our little girls that there are bad, bad people out there? I honestly don’t know.

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Bekky March 4, 2013 at 11:21 am

For those of us who are not broken, it is hard to imagine ever hurting a child in any way so it is easy to think that we don’t need to warn our 5-, 8- or even 12-year-olds about the “bad, bad people out there.” Unfortunately, we live in a world where that is necessary. This site is an awesome resource for teaching young kids how to protect themselves from “tricky adults”: http://safelyeverafter.com/ You can help your kids to be safe without destroying their innocence.

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Naomi/Dragonmamma January 11, 2013 at 6:42 am

I wasn’t going to comment because I’ve never been raped, but then I thought “Wait a sec, maybe I’m a person who should say something!”

When I was a teen working at Montgomery Ward (talk about dating myself!) I had a coworker follow me into the stock room, push me against the wall and try to kiss me. Without even thinking about it I kneed him in the crotch. He screamed and doubled over, and I swiftly but calmly left the stockroom. No, I didn’t report it; there was no awareness of such things back then.

He never bothered me again, and I did not feel the least bit threatened by him; I thought I made my non-tolerance perfectly clear.

I wish, I wish every girl shared my sense of self-protection, but they don’t. I hope that chart of assault prevention tips helps prevent it by shifting awareness to the other side.

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Redhead January 11, 2013 at 6:53 am

I wish it were more like breaking and enterings. If someone breaks into your house when it was unlocked, people shake their head and encourage you to lock your doors and then try to catch the guy who did it instead of saying “are you SURE you didn’t ask him to come in and take your stuff to the pawn shop? Isn’t that what unlocked doors implies?” and while people encourage you to lock your doors after, no one encourages you to sit at home all the time with a baseball bat, waiting, or anything else that completely changes your life to protect your things or keep it from happening again.
A police department here was talking about starting a safe dating class for teens for awhile-warning signs about a date or relationship but also how to interpret signals and healthy communication, that kind of thing, with boys and girls split up to hopefully make them ask more questions and feel comfortable. Don’t know if it ever did get started but it’s a great idea.

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Redhead January 11, 2013 at 7:04 am

Ps-if I remember correctly, part of the class was to counter act a lot of what’s in the media-like all the quizzes and lists on Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health helping you “decode” what the opposite gender “really means” by saying or doing things. All that feeds directly into feeling like we can’t trust our own instincts or interpretations and not taking the other person’s words at their face value-for both genders.

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Geosomin January 11, 2013 at 9:06 am

#5 is so very true. I was assaulted but not raped back in university and when I tried to deal with it and speak to people about it their response “was well be happy you weren’t completely raped, it could have been worse” (yes, they said completely, like partially would have been OK), trying to lessen what happened as something that many girls experience. BEcause, oh, you know how men can be. Like it was almost normal. It was someone I knew very very well and so people assumed it was not what it was…like knowing the person made it less and somehow I had encouraged it and brought it on myself. Rediculous!
I got very angry and although I have dealt with it and moved forward, I know this is still happening to women, even in how we try and teach them to defent themselves. And it shouldn’t. I have some guy friends who are offended by these kinds of ads because they would never do that and resent being assumed to be a leacherous uncontrollable man. Despite that…it needs to be said.
I think it’s important that we don’t just teach girls to defend themselves and get out of situations with strangers. I don’t want to raise a generation of paranoid women, but they have to know when to trust their instincts. If I had, things may have gone differently for me. After talking to many women I know I’m not alone. We need strong confident women who can walk away and feel strong in of themselves.

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Alyssa (azusmom) January 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Sorry, chiming back in: I’ve always thought that if I were a man I’d be HUGELY insulted at the status quo attitude of “boys will be boys.” The idea that men are basically savage beasts who go insane at the sight of a leg or cleavage is so completely emasculating, IMHO.
And telling a victim that it’s her fault if she doesn’t report an attack and someone else is attacked is more of the same blame the victim mentality. It HAS TO STOP!!!!!!!

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GiGi Eats Celebrities January 11, 2013 at 4:50 pm

THe college I went to was and probably still is notorious for harassment and rape cases. When I was a Freshman the first thing I was given, even before my student ID was a rape whistle. I carried it throughout my years at college and I also carried a few pens in my purse too… Because it’s completely legal in ALL 50 states to jab a pen in an attackers eye if they come at you. Luckily I was not a victim at school but of course I am ALWAYS cautious. And now that I live in Los Angeles, I have to be even more cautious. Anyone is a target, which is sad, but being prepared is the best approach to take.

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Becca January 11, 2013 at 7:48 pm

I love this post. Thank you posting the radical idea that perpetrators are responsible for their actions, while also addressing the difficult issue of the victim making mistakes.

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Jess January 12, 2013 at 4:19 am

Thank you for bringing light and attention on this hideous subject, discussion helps promote change. I totally agree that education, currently, is inadequate. I think a lot more time needs to be focused on boys (and girls) to break down some of the learned cultural and social attitudes that enable a person to feel justified to commit these acts. Obviously on the more extreme spectrum the perpetrators are probably psychopaths and I guess all you can do is teach girls to fight as hard as possible. But much more common is ‘date rape’ and domestic violence and assaults, which are usually associated with people who have an underlying sense of “entitlement” and who enjoy power and control.

Sorry for the rant, these issues make me sad and are far tOo prevalent.

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melaina January 13, 2013 at 8:45 am

Thank you for sharing your story and your opinions, you are brave and I agree with you about the need to tell women and girls the while truth. God bless!

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natalie January 13, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I learned from my dating and marriage teacher that rapists like to go after girls who don’t look confident and look like they won’t report it. An easy target. (Well, while I was working on my confidence I remember thinking, “I can at least walk confidently while I work on building my confidence.” This one thought really shaped how I acted in dating. Also coming to the knowledge that God really loved me and if he loved me I didn’t deserve to be treated poorly. I didn’t have that mindset at first, my own father discouraged me from talking poorly about a young man who had tried to take advantage of me. It hurt to think he was more concerned about this young man’s “feelings” than his own daughter’s safety. Really, my knowledge of God saved me and I was able to slowly overcome any false ideas (about how woman should be treated) that I had grown up with.

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Nate January 13, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Nothing that I can say would be a worthy enough comment to grace this fantastic observation but I’m sharing this and will rely on it as my girls (and boy) grow older.

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Danielle January 17, 2013 at 7:53 pm

I believe that one of the biggest things to teach is that you can be raped by someone you know and trust. For me, it was my aunt’s husband (now ex-husband) when I was 12. Also, it’s never too soon to warn about sexual assault… I wish I had known, I wish I was warned, I wish… and then it was too late. and for 6 years I felt it was my fault, my doing and that I deserved that.

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JZ January 29, 2013 at 8:18 am

Awesome post. I’m amazed that even in the comments section of your post, there are implications that people who get assaulted or raped didn’t value themselves enough, weren’t confident enough, didn’t take decisive action, etc. Being in an abusive relationship is completely different than being assaulted out of the blue because it’s an entire relationship, and it takes time to process everything and know what is going to happen.

I was raped and sexually assaulted during a 6 week relationship where I got very little sleep. The sleep deprivation was 90% my choice in the way things are in early 20s. I knew what was going on, and yet I was completely exhausted, and it was hard to take action until I had a moment of clarity from the endorphins from a minor bike accident. Nothing but my bike got hurt, thank God, but suddenly I had clarity to end the relationship, and I did the following day.

Twice, I dated men who pushed me — not hard, not even slightly hard, just a weird push to the shoulder during an argument, and it only happened once each. Was that enough to conclude that these men are inveterate abusers? It’s impossible to know. In one case in my early 20s, it was at the beginning of getting to know him, so I called him out on it and stopped spending time with him. Since then he’s had lots of other relationships, and now is married, and I suspect that he is not abusive, although I have no way to know.

In the other case, in my early/mid-30s, it was 4 months in, and at times it was a really nice relationship, and he was the only guy I’d ever dated who looked like a model, but he’d already been unkind to me in various ways, such as coming over to dinner and refusing to eat, and not saying a word to my friend who flew in for the weekend, and I had seen his mother emotionally abusing his father (saying in front of me on my first visit to them home, “Joseph, you can stop talking; no one cares what you have to say.”), but I still didn’t break up with him for 2 more months because all of this came in context of an entire relationship.

So, men and women, please stop making excuses. You think it could never happen to you because you have better judgement or are smarter or more confident or value yourself more, but that’s not the difference between us and you. The difference is that by chance, it just happened never to happen to you.

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