Topic: Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Trigger warning: This page and its links contain information about sexual assault and/or violence, which may be triggering to survivors.
April marks both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Autism Acceptance Month so we are focusing this month’s educational resources on talking about the various populations impacted by sexual violence. A common misconception is that sexual assault only affects women, but it can happen to anyone regardless of how they identify. While advocates from across the nation have done tremendous work on this issue, coming together to dismantle rape culture, it is important that we recognize all of the communities that are affected by sexual assault and sexual violence. From people who are disabled to men, everyone deserves to be treated with respect rather than experience violation. Our international section has remained the same and focuses on sexual violence in places of conflict.
Understanding the Issues
What's Happening Around the U.S.?
As over ninety four higher education institutions are under federal investigation for violating Title IX in their handling of sexual violence cases, the nation’s attention has turned to sexual violence on college campuses. Advocates from across the nation have done tremendous work on this issue and they are coming together to dismantle rape culture. This is happening in the form of protests, policy changes, student trainings, and major national campaigns. The White House has even launched a public service campaign called “It’s on Us” that aims to build awareness and prevent sexual violence. But despite this progress, there is still so much to be done.
What is Rape Culture?
This is a term we hear often when people discuss the issue of sexual violence in our society. Rape culture is a culture in which dominant ideologies, media images, social practices, and societal institutions support and condone sexual violence by normalizing, trivializing, and eroticizing sexual violence and blaming victims for their own experiences of violation and disrespect. We see rape culture perpetuated on campuses as women who are victims of sexual violence are often blamed for what they were wearing, how much they had to drink, and whether or not they were “leading someone on” - rather than rapists being blamed for rape.
But rape culture is not just about direct sexual violence and rape, it’s also about the subtle ways in which jokes, images, every day interactions, marketing, and media both glorify and trivialize sexism and sexual violence. We still see women portrayed as objects in our TV shows, commercials, and magazine photos- we still hear rape jokes in comedians’ stand up routines- we still hear our friends calling girls sexist slurs (even though they say “I’m just kidding!”). It happens every day, and it’s on us to call people and the media out for utilizing this type of harmful rhetoric and imagery.
Men Experience Sexual Violence, Too
Men and boys are often survivors of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and rape. In fact, in the U.S., about 10% of all victims are male. The term sexual assault refers to a number of different crimes, ranging from unwanted sexual touching to forced penetration. Researchers estimate that 1 in 6 men have experienced unwanted or abusive sexual experiences before age 18.Male survivors of sexual violence are less likely to report and seek support and resources largely because of societal gender norms that perpetuate ideas that men have to be tough, strong, and unemotional. Male victims of sexual assault may feel ashamed because they were overpowered or dominated, and shame may contribute to feeling of isolation and a hesitation to seek professional help.
Sexual Violence Against People with Disabilities
People with disabilities experience domestic or sexual violence at a higher rate than people without disabilities. 80% of women and 30% of men with intellectual disabilities have been sexually assaulted. 50% of those women have been assaulted more than ten times. As many people with disabilities are dependent on caretakers or family members to live their everyday lives there is increased risk of abuse as their are unequal power dynamics within relationships of care and support. The social context of disability, including factors such as inaccessibility, reliance on support services, poverty and isolation, has a powerful impact on individuals’ increased risk for violence. Historically, individuals with disabilities have not been considered reliable reporters of abuse nor have they been given the chance to be self-directed in many domains of their life so many incidents go unreported and survivors are unable to access support.
Campus Sexual Violence
According to the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault at least 1 in 4 college women will experience sexual assault during her academic career. The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network reports that in the United States every two minutes someone is raped, and the chances of being that survivor are four times greater for a college female student than for any other age group. This has a significant impact not only on the spirit and soul of women who experience sexual violence, but it greatly impacts their chances of doing well in school, graduating, and attaining professional goals. That is not to say that all survivors are unable to heal and thrive after experiencing sexual violence- but we must acknowledge the severe impact that it can have on a women who are not only coping with the emotional stress from incidents of rape and sexual assault , but the often intense and complicated process of reporting and pursuing recourse on campus. These high rates of violence against collegiate women are the results of belief patterns, attitudes, language, school institutions, social hierarchies, and accepted action. However, students around the country are organizing to advocate for safe campus and create a culture of consent.
Barriers to Reporting
“Less than 5 percent of rapes and attempted rapes of college students are reported to campus authorities or law enforcement. Investigative reporting by the Center for Public Integrity reveals many barriers to reporting sexual assault, including inadequate university sexual assault policies. As a result, the extent of the problem remains hidden on campuses nationwide. The small number of cases reported on a campus likely does not mean that sexual assault is not occurring, but rather that there are barriers to reporting.” Some of these barriers are a direct result of rape culture. Women often fear that they will be blamed for their own sexual assaults, asked about what they were wearing, how much they were drinking, or told that they are lying. They might just not want to get their rapist in trouble because he (or she) is someone they know.
The U.S. Senate is going to vote on legislation that could help significantly reduce sexual assault and intimate partner violence in schools across America by teaching about CONSENT in high schools!
SIGN THIS PETITION to urge your Senator to cosponsor the bill!!!
Write a love letter to a survivor of sexual violence: http://survivorloveletter.tumblr.com/