Why do you support survivors of sexual assault? #BadgersIntervene
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Mark your calendars…April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month!
Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (via seebster)
[Trigger Warning] When [an abusive man] tells me that he became abusive because he lost control of himself, I ask him why he didn’t do something even worse. For example, I might say, “You called her a fucking whore, you grabbed the phone out of her hand and whipped it across the room, and then you gave her a shove and she fell down. There she was at your feet where it would have been easy to kick her in the head. Now, you have just finished telling me that you were ‘totally out of control’ at that time, but you didn’t kick her. What stopped you?” And the client can always give me a reason. Here are some common explanations:
"I wouldn’t want to cause her a serious injury."
“I realized one of the children was watching.”
“I was afraid someone would call the police.”
“I could kill her if I did that.”
“The fight was getting loud, and I was afraid the neighbors would hear.”
And the most frequent response of all:
"Jesus, I wouldn’t do that. I would never do something like that to her.”
The response that I almost never heard — I remember hearing it twice in the fifteen years — was: “I don’t know.”
These ready answers strip the cover off of my clients’ loss of control excuse. While a man is on an abusive rampage, verbally or physically, his mind maintains awareness of a number of questions: “Am I doing something that other people could find out about, so it could make me look bad? Am I doing anything that could get me in legal trouble? Could I get hurt myself? Am I doing anything that I myself consider too cruel, gross, or violent?”
A critical insight seeped into me from working with my first few dozen clients: An abuser almost never does anything that he himself considers morally unacceptable. He may hide what he does because he thinks other people would disagree with it, but he feels justified inside. I can’t remember a client ever having said to me: “There’s no way I can defend what I did. It was just totally wrong.” He invariably has a reason that he considers good enough. In short, an abuser’s core problem is that he has a distorted sense of right and wrong.
I sometimes ask my clients the following question: “How many of you have ever felt angry enough at youer mother to get the urge to call her a bitch?” Typically half or more of the group members raise their hands. Then I ask, “How many of you have ever acted on that urge?” All the hands fly down, and the men cast appalled gazes on me, as if I had just asked whether they sell drugs outside elementary schools. So then I ask, “Well, why haven’t you?” The same answer shoots out from the men each time I do this exercise: “But you can’t treat your mother like that, no matter how angry you are! You just don’t do that!”
The unspoken remainder of this statement, which we can fill in for my clients, is: “But you can treat your wife or girlfriend like that, as long as you have a good enough reason. That’s different.” In other words, the abuser’s problem lies above all in his belief that controlling or abusing his female partner is justifiable….
Based on the recent media surge regarding allegations that Woody Allen sexually assaulted his stepdaughter Dylan Farrow, we wanted to discuss the problematic media rhetoric that sexual assault charges are often filed as a form of revenge or because of regret.
Where we’re coming from
It is important to first recognize that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 19 men will experience sexual assault at some point in their life. Most of these cases are never reported to the police, and 97% of rapists will never face any jail time. Source.
Why it’s problematic
As demonstrated above, most convictions (not even considering those cases that are determined to have insufficient evidence or are discontinued due to other reasons) don’t amount to any real jail time. There is a popular belief that accusing someone of sexual assault is more about tarnishing the (alleged) perpetrator’s reputation than seeking legal justice. In reality, the person accused of assault is rarely the one whose reputation is destroyed.
Additionally, most people are assaulted by someone they know, and that can make it very difficult to report. There is increased pressure to remain silent if the alleged perpetrator is a public figure. If you are unsure why, you can find countless articles, videos and postings written by unqualified individuals who feel they are entitled to attempt to poke holes in the story and accuse the victim of lying. Considering these examples, it should not be surprising that sexual assault survivors have an increased risk of suicide compared to the general population. If the survivor does choose to report the assault, there may be additional consequences.
As many survivors know, going through the reporting process can include having to describe a traumatic event dozens or hundreds of times (oftentimes to strangers, i.e. police officers, lawyers etc.) as well as having your sexual history examined, scrutinized and made public. Some of the more extreme cases have included:
What you can do
If a survivor confides their story in you, there are some very simple things you can do to help them. The first is to listen. Listen to as much or as little as they are willing to tell you, and don’t press them for more information. Refrain from asking them questions. Even though they may be well intended, they may come off as victim blaming (i.e. “Why did you drink so much?” “What were you wearing?”). After they confide in you, it is very important to thank them, because it took a lot of courage and trust to share their experience with you. Another way to support your friend or loved one is to offer resources. It’s important that you don’t make any of the survivor’s decisions for them; they have suffered a loss of power and control, and they can regain some of that power by making their own decisions on how to handle the situation. However, you can be there for them, and let them know of the options available. The last thing you can do is respect their privacy by not sharing their story with anyone else. It is their story to tell, not yours. All of these things can help you become a much-needed ally to survivors.
With all of this being said, we would also like to note that the level of support offered by each administration, police department and community is different and we do not want to discourage anyone from reporting if they feel that is the best avenue of healing for them to pursue.
For more information on resources or if you have any questions, please reach out to Aly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by our very own peer facilitators, Maja and Hannah.
Now that the FBI has included men as victims in the definition of rape, more rape cases are being reported.