One thing I find encouraging is at least more people are talking about the rape culture. That includes the presumption that somehow the victim "deserves" to be assaulted, based on what s/he wears, or behaves, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like the Congo, or Latin America, or being a boy on the grounds of Penn State in the company of a pedophile.
In a nutshell: Jerry Sandusky, who was the Defensive Coordinator for the Penn State football program for many years, was investigated in 1998 for inappropriate sexual conduct with young boys. He was not formally charged, but he did retire in 1999. (See timeline on Huffington Post.) As an alumni, he continued to have access to the grounds, an office on site, and other perks.
He had regular contact with young boys via a charitable organization he created in the 1970's called The Second Mile. This program targeted children with absent or dysfunctional families (which made them particularly ripe for being victimized by someone with ill intent). These children were taken by Sandusky to football games, guested for overnight visits in his home, given lavish presents, and brought onto the grounds on Penn State University on a regular basis.
According to the report of the Grand Jury, in 2002 a then graduate assistant (28 years old, 200 lb former quarterback) testified he walked in on Sandusky anally raping a ten-year old boy in the showers of the football building. Said GA did not rescue the child, or call the police, but did call his daddy for advice, and then reported what he saw to Joe Paterno the following morning. Who did not call the police, either, but kicked it upstairs, to his superiors. Somewhere along the way, the anal-raping was minimized to "a little fondling." (After all, everyone knows it's perfectly normal and socially acceptable for a grown man to take a boy into the showers and fondle him, right?) PSU took Sandusky's keys away, and sternly told him - no more bringing boys onto the grounds!
Nobody called the police. Nobody tried to track down the victim to find out if he was okay. Nobody contacted The Second Mile, where Sandusky continued to "mentor" more young "friends," to suggest that maybe somebody should keep an eye on him. Nobody said word one when for years afterwards, Sandusky squired other young boys from The Second Mile on outings, sat with them in the stands, brought them to the dinner table for meals with all his Penn State U buddies, including Paterno. Somehow, nobody expressed the slightest squicky feeling about this whatsoever.
When arrests were being made and the stink about this got too big, the Penn State trustees fired President Graham Spanier and JoePa, and while there hasn't been much of a backlash about Spanier, a number of students are very upset - about Paterno. How could they fire him - and so ignominiously? After all, he wasn't a molester - he's just one of several people who didn't call the police. He didn't see it himself, he was simply told by someone (trustworthy, who also relied on his judgment). JoePa was a decent, honorable guy, who continued a relationship with the alleged molester and his young "friends" in the following eight years or so.
Can you imagine? Somebody has come to you and said, "I saw this guy raping a ten year old in the showers," and being able to turn off that visual? To share a meal with this guy, even as he's got another ten year old sitting right beside him? "Pass the salt, please, Jerry." But this is what happens in families where there is incest, there's this weird doublethink going on where everyone pretends it's not really happening, la-la, I can't hear you.
Something like this happened in several families I know, where many family members were more upset about the incest or domestic violence being made public by the victims, than by the actual incest or violence itself.
This is typical of rape culture - an acknowledgment of the victim(s), almost in passing - yes, wasn't that dreadful? and then a quick mental shift to salvage and protect the reputation of the accused - or the institution they represent.
In an (even more) appalling note, right now at Penn State some of the students are making jokes about "being Sanduskied." In front of, though they don't know it, the sister of one of the victims.
This is why it is so hard for rape victims to come forward. Rather than the blame being cast upon the rapist, quite shortly the victim's life gets put under a magnifying glass. If s/he has not led a spotless life, then somehow s/he was "asking for it." Or, there's evidence, perhaps, but not enough evidence. Dominique Strauss-Kahn ring any bells?
People who are assaulted are almost always in a position of much less power than their rapist. They may be children, smaller, drugged, or under extreme economic pressure; they may be on the losing end of a war or weapon. Those who do come forward, against the odds, are incredibly brave souls.
Nobody wants to imagine himself being assaulted in a shower, or anywhere else. It makes sense that we want to find reasons/excuses to put the victim at blame. Because, if in some way, the victim made it happen - then we can simply not do what they did, and we will be safe.
The ugly truth is, no matter how careful we are, no matter how we dress or what we drink or how carefully we choose our dates, we, or those we love, could still be raped or assaulted at any time. So how do we deal with that without freaking out?
Partly, by fighting back. By saying, this may be how it is, now, but it isn't the way it has to be. This is part of what SlutWalk is about, to start bringing about a change in the social consciousness: Rapists, not victims, cause rape. If we want to end rape, instead of trying to teach women and children 120 ways to Tuesday to protect themselves and not "cause" a rape, we need to end rape culture. We need to end a culture that says it is acceptable, even rewarded, when we take from or bully those who are weaker than ourselves. Whether it is a 50-something man raping a 10 year old boy, or corporations that take government subsidies to move American jobs overseas (and to pay their top execs huge bonuses), it must become socially unacceptable for the strong to victimize the weak.
|Image by Getty Images via @daylife|
|PSU Students gather to express |
solidarity & support for the rape victims
And on bystanders... We need to make bystanders more interested in doing what's right, than doing the minimum amount required by law to cover their own a$$ (if they even do that). We need to stop demonizing and punishing those who "squeal," "snitch", or "rat out" people who are behaving badly.
Then there was an interesting take on this by "Marna Nightingale," one of the commenters on the thread below (Omelas State University) on why the grad student didn't intervene when he saw the child being raped, or do more to speak up afterwards, when his father and everybody else was telling him, hey, no big deal:
I DO feel genuinely badly for that grad student, and I absolutely could have been one of those adults and I am grateful to God that I am not.
I hope to Hell I never am, but I have to say that looking over my past life, the times I’ve most obviously failed to act on a moral imperative have been those times when I’ve seen – something that I knew was wrong, and I was sure of my facts, but I was also up in a situation where this had been going on for awhile and so everyone around me was Utterly Sure That Everything Was Normal and Fine. And I am sure anyone looking at me would have said that I was obviously Utterly Sure That Everything Was Normal and Fine, too, while my brain was slowly turning Oh My God That Is Horrible What Do I Do into Everyone Is Calm and Cheerful so That Can’t Have Been What Happened, Right? Right? Please Let That Be Right, I Don’t Know What To Do Or How To Start Doing It.
And after a few hours or days or weeks, somehow… Everything WAS Normal and Fine. Except… not.
I’m not terribly brave. All I can do is to try to remember that I do that, and admit that if I do that and fail to act I deserve to pay the price of that.This is a mindset I think we all need to be conscious of. That horrible things, done over time, and with the agreement and apparent social pressure to act like everything is fine, just fine, can innure us to terrible injustice.
Just because it's been like this for a long time, doesn't mean it has to stay like this. We can all think, we can all act responsibly. We can all speak out against injustice, even if it means people won't like us. Even if it costs me my job, I hope I've got enough moral fiber to not see a child being raped, and just close the door - literally or figuratively.
I can't get out of my head the testimony that the GA opened the door to the showers, saw the child and his rapist, and then left the room. Maybe he was in shock, okay, he still could have dialed 911. According to his testimony, he thought they both saw him. That poor boy must have thought/hoped he was going to be rescued. What must he have gone through, when that door closed again? And all the poor kids that received "personal attention" from Sandusky, afterwards. How can we possibly make it up to them?
What's your take on this?
Do you have a rape victim or bystander horror story?
Do you have a rape victim or bystander horror story?
Have you had to share meals with an abuser?