Monday, April 17, 2017

Title IX

I enjoyed Ms. Kobus’s lecture today and I think that the movie she showed was very informative. I think that, at least for myself, it was very hard to watch and to hear the stories of those victims and the trauma that they were put through after the fact. They were hammered with questions like, “Were you drunk?”, “How much and what did you drink?”, “What were you wearing?”, “Why didn’t you say no more?”, Why wouldn’t you fight back?”. All with the underlying message that it was somehow their fault. That somehow they were the ones to blame. That they should have tried harder to advocate for themselves, or had less to drink, or worn less revealing clothes. This concept of victim blaming is present everywhere. The fact that in a Sexual Assault “prevention/awareness” seminar for D1 male athletes they gave multiple lectures on false rape accusations and how to avoid them. I understand that yes in about 2% of all rape accusations they are found to be false, but what about the other 98%? And what about the 88% that are never reported? Should we not be focused on preventing those rapes rather than teaching college-aged male athletes, the most common rapists on college campuses, that they may be falsely accused and lecturing them on what their steps should be after being falsely accused. Essentially that's teaching 9.8 out of every 10 students in that room what to say to try to talk their way out of an accusation since 9.8 out of every 10 are actually sexual abuse. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but it still amazes me that even today with all of the awareness surrounding sexual assault on college campuses there is a seminar that focuses a large portion of its lecture on false rape accusations. This type of behavior and this type of mindset is what perpetuates rape culture and what creates a stigma around rape and around coming forward as a victim. The fact that you are going to, “ruin his whole life”. That comment is the one that gets me the most upset and I have seen it in numerous news articles stating that the rapist is now going to face serious criminal charges and that his life is over. What about the victim? What is his or her life going to be like now? How is he or she going to move on or going to survive every day?
There was a book written in 2005 called Voices of Courage, which included the stories of 12 sexual assault survivors and their journey from a traumatized and helpless victim to the strong and courageous survivor who is now able to talk about what happened to them. I found this book through an organization called the Date Safe Project which pledges, “To talk and intervene and build a culture of consent and respect”. I think the most accurate analogy that I have come across for a survivor of sexual assault was in the first chapter of this book. It was a story from a woman Barb and she talked about the expectation of a rape survivor compared to the expectations of someone who has just lost a close relative. She said that people who have been raped have lost a big piece of themselves and that when they find a way to get heal it doesn’t not mean that they, “restore”, their former self. Healing is rebuilding and finding a way to live your life but not necessarily as the same person you were before. She talks about her own experience of the response she got when her sister passed away as a way to show how people respond to death, but they do not have that same response to when people are raped.
“I often hear, “I just want her to be like she was before.” I hate to be the one to break the bad news, but that’s not going to happen...People seem to be more understanding about other kinds of tragedies...I am not the same person I was before experiencing her death; I am not able to look at the world the same way. I was immediately and forever changed by the loss of my sister, and people understood and accepted this. No one expected that I would go on as if nothing had happened. No one expected me to be “normal.” No one expected me to be in class the next day and to keep up with my academic work. My friends knew that I would have days when I was overwhelmed with pain and angst. My family expected that I would have nightmares. It was okay that I would need to speak of that experience again and again. No one expected me to “just get over it;” they understood that it was only natural that I go through the grieving process. Why should the process of grieving the loss of the girl or woman you were before the rape be any different?”

I included this whole paragraph from her because I think that it shows an important concept surrounding rape culture and it applies to the response of school authorities as well. Title IX says that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Barb’s story in Voices of Courage discusses the extensive impact that rape has on the victim. She talks about the fact that it changes who you are and she compares it to losing her own sister. She says that just like with death there are going to be times when you fall apart and can't function, and that some days you can’t do anything. She is saying that it is not something you can put a bandaid on and pretend that you are find. Title IX says that no one can be excluded from the benefits of educational programs or activities on the basis of sex. A woman being raped is a basis of sex. Being unable to function or go to school or focus on learning or leave a dorm room without falling apart is excluding that person from educational programs and activities, and that is why Title IX is relevant in sexual assault cases.
The article “The College Rape Overcorrection Excerpts” brought up an interesting point, but I am not sure that I completely agree with the author. I think that her point that says, “procedures are being put in place at colleges that assume the guilt of the accused,” is not sufficient evidence for the, “abrogation of the civil rights of men” she points to in the next line. I think that when 98% of sexual assault accusation are found to be true we can lean towards believing the victim. Of course each and every person deserves a fair chance to defend themselves and to prove that he or she is not guilty, and that is where I agree with the author. Each person has a right to due process, but it seems that more cases of rape accusations are swept under the rug to avoid a media frenzy then there are cases that “abrogate,” the rights of men by not giving them their right to due process.
I think that it is hard to find the balance, just like Afoma said in class. How do you keep in mind those cases in which there is a false accusation while not ignoring the cases in which a woman or man was actually sexually assaulted? I don’t think we can truly achieve that balance. No system is perfect, and this system at schools is certainly far from perfect. I think that the best way to do that is to consider every case and every accusation so that no case is ignored, but so that no case just assumes the guilt of the accused person. There has to be adequate investigation into the accusation.
This topic is scary, and it is especially scary as a young woman going to school next year. I think that it is important to talk about and not to avoid. We have to know what we are going to be faced with next year and we have to be realistic about it. The more each college student knows about it the more we can do to prevent it. The more awareness we raise for it and the more conversations that we have about it the more we can do. It takes all of us to do something about it. And Afoma also made the point that an individual can have an impact and can create change just as those two victims did at UNC, but it also takes more to keep forcing change and for holding rapists and colleges accountable. It takes victims standing up and sharing their stories and demanding change. I don’t think that it is something we can ever fully prevent. In Voices of Change there is a quote from one of the victims that reads, “Suddenly, I was faced with my own vulnerability; there was no way to deny that the same man or some other man could do this to me again.”. There truly is no way to fully stop rape and sexual assault, but we can change how victims are treated and what repercussions there are for the rapist.

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