Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Best Mothers Day Gift Ever


The word conjures pictures of women beaten or battered into forced intercourse with a stranger, having been caught unawares in a parking lot, a deserted street, a back alley or somewhere she should not have been, alone (as if women should not be able to walk anywhere they choose worry free).
But, here is the reality (Statistics from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network):
  • 1 out of every 6 American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape)
    • All women: 17.6%
    • White women: 17.7%
    • Black women: 18.8%
    • Asian Pacific Islander women: 6.8%
    • American Indian/Alaskan women: 34.1%
    • Mixed race women: 24.4%
  • Approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.
  • 73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.
  • 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.
  • 28% are an intimate.
  • 7% are a relative.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly 6 out of 10 rape/sexual assault incidents are reported by victims to have occurred in their own home or at the home of a friend, relative, or neighbor.
Why am I writing about this? Because I have to. I have not been able to blog about anything recently because every time I sit down, this issue keeps coming to the front of my mind. Recently a dear friend of mine told me about her personal experience. In her teens she was raped during a party. And it made me think about how often I have heard this from the women in my life.

I have been blessed to have many female friends. And, perhaps because I am a feminist, and that somehow comes through, or that I try to be a compassionate person toward all of my friends, I have sometimes been honored with their trust as well, trust enough for them to share their experience with sexual assault. Their experience, belies the statistics given above. The incidence of sexual assault is higher.

I am saddened, shocked and angered by these statistics. Each time I hear that a friend or lover or family member has faced this brutal crime of dominance and power I feel these emotions again. Shock that my loved one was harmed, anger toward the perpetrator, and sadness that despite our so-called advanced society, women, and particularly young girls (most sexual assault takes place against women younger than 18: 44% of all assaults; girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims) still regularly worry and fear for their safety.

I also angers me that we don't talk about the fact that "rape" does not mean violence, and that somehow the false perception that if it did not include violence it is not rape continues to persist. Rape occurs any time a person is forced, coerced, and/or manipulated into any unwanted sexual activity. This includes rape, incest, child sexual assault, ritual abuse, date and acquaintance rape, statutory rape, marital or partner rape, sexual exploitation, sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure, and voyeurism.

It particularly angers me that we don't talk about this with boys. Early and often. There are age-appropriate ways to talk about acceptable touching and unacceptable touching, to talk about boundaries, to talk about consent. Little boys and little girls can learn these concepts and should be taught them. But, because of this country's stupid puritanical roots we are unable to even talk about sex to kids and since most people still equate rape with sex that means we can't approach this issue either.

But, just because we can't talk about this in schools does not mean you can't talk about it with YOUR kids. Or that you can't join me in supporting causes like Men Can Stop Rape or the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Together we can work for a day when the women in our lives, mothers, daughters, friends and lovers can live without worry about their safety.

And, that just might be the best mothers day gift ever.