Why the Wait?

Why do rape victims let time (and evidence) slip away?

Why do rape victims let time (and evidence) slip away?

A great friend asked what a great many others have asked about the rape allegations against Bill Cosby: Why would a rape victim wait to disclose his/her assault? Further, why would one wait weeks, months, years, even decades, which generally means all evidence has been destroyed. It saddens me that society seems to have fallen so far from empathy that we’re okay with blaming alleged victims for not telling us sooner that they were victimized. It’s hard to tell, though, if that’s resultant from a lack of empathy or an assertion of privilege. Regardless, I’ll share just a few of the reasons I listed for why victims/survivors of rape may delay in coming forward about what is likely some of their most pain-filled and shame-filled life experiences. The highlighted list isn’t exhaustive. In fact, you can find a link below to the Facebook thread for this conversation.

  1. Rape is often THE most shame-filled moments of a person’s life. Rape carries with it the stigma of the victim being damaged goods. In 2014, there are still women being killed (usually termed “honor killings”) because they were raped. I’m aware some are only beaten 😩. There’s a reason only 40% of rapes are reported to the police, and only 3% of rapists ever spend a single day in jail. Do we really believe society is supportive of rape victims/survivors?
  2. Allow me to briefly address the neuropsychology of trauma – bear with me. Many mention the ideal situation, which is that rape victims immediately report the crime to law enforcement and have a medical exam (rape kit) performed. These are logical steps one can and hopefully would take; however, brain scans of individuals recalling trauma have shown the portions of the brain most involved with logic and decision-making tend to be completely bypassed. The left frontal cortex, which I promise you want involved in any wise decisions, appears inactive, and during trauma, we (humans) tend to make decisions for immediate self-preservation (i.e., not long-term). I could bore you with more, but that’s the gist of it.
  3. Rape serves the purpose of disempowering the rape victim. It’s long been established that rape is a crime about power, not sex. Any crime that specifically disempowers the victim makes it less likely that the victim will feel empowered to report said crime. So, rape is a little (a lot) different than say, having your car broken into. I’d hope we can agree that rape is a much more intimate crime than theft, as well, which again makes it less likely that the victim would publicly share the intimate nature of their violation.
  4. When someone’s car is broken into, society’s general response is, “Oh no!” When a woman is raped, society’s general response is, “Oh boy!” (as in “Here we go…”). This response is intensified if the alleged rapist is a popular or highly regarded member of society; thus, the response to the alleged victim is much less supportive and much more blaming. Unfortunately, fear of not being believed is one of the top reasons rape victims don’t disclose. Even within that fear, there are complex variables that make it even less likely that a rape victim would come forward. For example, sexual arousal during the assault, which carries even more stigma, is the reason many victims fear they’d not be believed and the reason many in society don’t believe men can be raped by women (despite men being raped more than women in the U.S., but that’s for another discussion).
  5. I want to also address how surprised people often are when there’s an “avalanche” of victims/survivors coming forward and/or going public after someone else tells his/her story of being raped and/or it becomes a more mainstream story. From a psychological and common sense standpoint, there is strength in numbers. As we see others share their truths, we’re strengthened in our conviction and courage to share, even if it comes with the public ridicule and scorn these women (accusing Bill Cosby) are now facing.

Finally, I want to leave you with the questions I originally asked: Why do we cast a negative light on alleged rape victims possibly having “an agenda” for why they came forward? So what if they DO? Have you considered how many thousands of dollars sexual assault costs victims in medical and mental health bills alone? Never mind decreased productivity due to depression, anxiety, and other trauma-related symptoms. Of similar impact is the relational distress and dysfunction resulting from sexual assault. I’d say an agenda is quite fitting, whether seeking financial compensation, public/private apology or admittance, or legal recourse. CLICK HERE for the Facebook link that included other great responses and reasons some would wait.

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on NOT raising rapists…

Paradigm Shift

Rape Culture Needs a PARENTING Paradigm Shift

“Nobody ever says I wanna be a [RAPIST] when I grow up.” I liked those late ’80s commercials stressing the importance of making early anti-drug decisions by choosing NOT to be a drug-user. As a passionate advocate of abuse prevention, I teach my children, and admonish others to teach their children, NOT to be rapists and NOT to be abusers (sexual, physical, emotional, or otherwise). People usually ask, “How? What’s a practical way?” My response: “Explicitly!” We don’t teach our children much else in vague terms. We don’t JUST say, “Mind your manners.” We say, “Don’t put your elbows on the table.” We don’t JUST say, “Respect others’ things.” We say, “Don’t go upstairs without their permission, or don’t run in their home, or don’t jump on their couch.” Well, I’d much rather your son run across my couch than rape my daughter! Likewise, I’m sure you’d much rather my daughter put her elbows on the table than rape your son (or daughter). Yet, we shy away from telling our growing children such needed truths, like:

  1.  Don’t let anyone hit you.
  2. If someone keeps trying to have sex with you after you’ve said no… 

Oh, wait…

  1. Don’t raise your hands to hit someone unless it’s in self-defense (from some kid who didn’t learn these life skills).
  2. Don’t have sex with someone who doesn’t understand what sex is, whether due to age, maturity, or intellect.
  3. Whether it’s their body, money, or property, don’t take advantage of someone else who’s not as intellectually capable as you.
  4. Don’t have sex with anyone unless you both agree and both understand the purpose and possible outcomes of your actions.
  5. Whomever you’re having sex with should be making a clear, conscious choice – so they can’t be drunk, passed out, unsure, etc.
  6. Don’t blame women when men rape. This includes questioning their dress, company, friendships, consensual sexual history.
  7. Don’t say/think men can’t be raped…by WOMEN. Genital arousal from stimulation does not equate with consent.
  8.  STOP waiting for “No,” and get a clear “Yes.”  Someone not saying “No” is not the same as someone giving consent. “How far do you want this to go?” “You’re good with us having sex?” “I want to be inside you, but only if you want it.” “I want you inside of me, but only if you want it, too.” Very easy phrases to articulate if you’re committed to not sexually assaulting others.

The list really can go on and on, and I’ll likely add to it, but feel free to add more below.

Yes Means Only One Thing

Yes Means Only One Thing

As a Christian mother, I want my children to wait for marriage, but should they choose not to do so, I want them to wait for consent. It’s no different than my not wanting them to drink, but should they choose to do so, I don’t want them to drive drunk. I know I’m weighing more heavily on sexual assault because it’s something I’m passionate about preventing and because I know there are more parents telling their children not to hit than parents telling their children not to rape. I believe both are needed. At any rate, this is the parenting paradigm shift I’d love to see grasped in more homes. I want my daughter and sons to be safe from abuse and/or sexual assault, but I also want my sons and daughter to understand the equal importance of not being an abuser/assailant.

In closing, I’ll leave you some sobering stats:

  • 75% of parents say they have had a conversation with their teen about what it means to be in a healthy relationship

  • YET, Only 28% of teens say they have had a conversation about dating abuse with Mom, and fewer than half as many (13%), say they have had a dating abuse conversation with Dad
  • 71% of teens whose families have been affected by the economy in the past year have NOT had a conversation with a parent about dating abuse
  • In comparison, more than 8 out of 10 of these teens say they HAVE had a conversation with a parent about:
    » Money (92%)
    » The economy in general (86%)
    » Family finances (82%)

At some point, we must admit we emphasize what we value! Let’s value our children, their safety, and their futures!

10 Tips on Rape Prevention

10 Tips on Rape Prevention