Monday, March 31, 2008

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 44

Welcome to the Mar. 31, 2008 edition of the carnival against sexual violence.

Thank you to everyone who nominated a post or who wrote a post against sexual violence whether it was nominated/selected or not. Nominations that came in after the nomination deadline will be considered for the next edition of the carnival.

If you support the purpose of the carnival, you can help get the word out about it and all of the posts included in the carnival.

Blog Against Sexual Violence logo

Before I get to carnival entries, I want to encourage everyone to participate in the 2nd Blog Against Sexual Violence Day. While the theme is sexual violence in the workplace, participants are not limited to blogging on that theme. So put the BASV logo on your blog now (the code to do so is in the announcement post) and mark your calendars for Thursday April 3, 2008.

So far we are below last year's numbers so please join us.

Here are the selections for this edition of the carnival against sexual violence:


In Friends and Waiting posted at Mortality's Thoughts, we get a discussion of what it means when women won't reveal who raped a vulnerable woman because “... these guys are our friends! You can’t report them to the police!”

In Problems in Sex Crime Policy Advocacy posted at Sex Crimes, we get a discussion about differing agendas and how people who are very different can agree on certain issues.

In Sexual Harassment Grievances During War: Military Bases, Rural Places, and Silent Spaces posted at Feminist Legal Theory, we get an examination of the grievance procedure and where there is room for administration “muck up,” or where it is fairly easy to “look the other way.”

In 'Lenient' sentence for paedophile who raped 10-year-old girl posted at PUBLIC EYE, we get a discussion of the sentence given by Judge Julian Hall to Keith Fenn who blamed his young victim for allegedly looking older and more sexual than most girls her age.

In The CSI Effect posted at Voir Dire, we get a discussion of research related to the impact of shows such as CSI on how jurors view evidence in real life.

In Don't Click that Link posted at Sex Crimes, we get a discussion of the FBI's use of what Internet users are led to believe is a child porn video and the legality of subsequent search warrants looking for child porn.

In What's in a Name? posted at Crime and Consequences, we get a discussion about the view of some sex offenders as being mentally ill.

media watch

In "Incest/rape/abuse is boot camp for prostitution." posted at Women's Issues?, we get a discussion about the ABC 20/20 show "Prostitution in America, working girls speak."

In Debunking Buchanan: Violent crime and racial fearmongering (Post 5 of 5) posted at The Jed Report, we get a discussion of the crime statistics used and ignored by Pat Buchanan to turn blacks into the worst racists beginning with, "As for racism, its ugliest manifestation is in interracial crime, and especially interracial crimes of violence."

In Through Reading Twisty posted at RQ, we get a discussion about how rape and prostitution share the same ugly root..

In Your Sexual History, Alcohol Consumption, Clothing and Location: Reasons Why You’re to Blame for Being Raped posted at Menstrual Poetry, we get a discussion of the results of a recent Irish Examiner survey which found victim blaming to be common.

In What is this “rape” of which you speak? posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion of an article in the March 17 issue of Time magazine about the Darfur conflict, and how the lines between “good” guys and “bad” guys are blurring.

In Finding Angela Shelton posted at Menstrual Poetry, we get information about the new autobiography of the creator of the documentary of the same name.

personal stories

In How Did You Know? posted at A Secret Chord, we get the answer to the question, “But…if you knew them, how did you know it was rape?”

In It Wasn't my Fault! posted at Mortality's Thoughts, we get a reminder of how persistent self-blame can be.

raising awareness

In Speaking Around Rape posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss an anonymous letter to the editor from a rape survivor published in the Daily Pennsylvanian which includes descriptions which omit the most traumatic actions.

In University of Virginia turning its back again; rubs salt in blue and orange wound. posted at Liz - Not Ranting, Just Saying., we get a discussion about alumni lists and a rape survivor alumni.

In Ending Violence Against Women posted at Between Us Girls, we get a discussion about why violence against women isn't just a personal experience for some, it is a worldwide epidemic which impacts us all and which all of us can help fight.

In A REQUEST TO ALL RABBIS posted at BARBARA'S TCHATZKAHS, we get a request that asks rabbis to send messages of healing, empowerment and growth to those who are who are suffering the life long effects of surviving sexual violence.

In Rape Is A Social Issue posted at The Feminist Pulse, we get a discussion about how societal attitudes contribute to rape and how a change in societal attitudes can help reduce the number of rapes.

In Clothesline of t-shirts from Rape survivors on campus posted at Eyes n' Lens, we get a series of pictures from a college rape awareness event.

In Let's Show Al Sharpton That We Are Our Sisters' Keeper posted at Something Within, we get a call to action for women of color in response to efforts by Al Sharpton and the local chapter of the NAACP to see the defendants in the Dunbar Village gang rape case given better treatment.

In Some People Should Stay Single posted at Mortality's Thoughts, we get a discussion of behavior which excuses disrespect and domination because the person disrespected can't or won't stand up against that disrespect and domination.

In When Submission Becomes A Routine posted at World Divided, we get a discussion about how a mix of religion and tribalism has always produced the most vicious and evil combination. This mix contributes to 70 percent of women in parts of Niger who find it normal that their husbands, fathers and brothers regularly beat, rape and humiliate them.


In The Sin of Forgiveness posted at BARBARA'S TCHATZKAHS, we get a discussion about the pressure to forgive which comes with a lack of accountability for the forgiven.


In The Truth About Prostitution posted at Menstrual Poetry, we get information about prostitution which needs to be kept in mind when considering what position to take on prostitution, especially the average age of entering prostitution which is 13.5 years.


In male support group for sexual assault posted at a males life after rape, we get a discussion of a new group formed in Alachua County, Florida.

In Advice For Rape Survivors: Personal Safety posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss personal safety by first focusing on the behavior of all those who will exploit the trauma that follows rape.

In Launching Child Safety and Child Sexual Abuse Series posted at Telling It Like It Is, we get a discussion about the danger which comes from parents deciding to turn away from sex abuse prevention because they view it as a rather dark and depressing subject.

That concludes this edition of the carnival against sexual violence. Thank you for taking the time to visit this carnival and thank you to the authors of all the posts included in this edition.

The next submission deadline is Apr. 12 at 11 pm and the next edition will be out on Apr. 15.

To nominate a post (your own or someone else's) to the next edition of carnival against sexual violence, use the carnival submission form. If you have any problem with the form, please let me know so your submission can be considered for the next edition.

Links to everything related to the carnival can be found on the blog dedicated to this carnival,

Marcella Chester

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:08 PM   2 comments links to this post

Rape Liar Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

To those he met, Daniel Avidan said he was a lot of things: lawyer, doctor, stockbroker, Israeli soldier, commando trainer. He had studied, he said, at such places as Oxford University in England and Northwestern University in Chicago.

But a Madison woman, a prosecutor and a Dane County judge know him only as a rapist.

Despite denials that he raped anyone, Avidan was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for second-degree sexual assault for what Assistant District Attorney Doug McLean characterized as the "date rape " of a woman in August 2006.

This case is an extreme example of the arrogance which I see in those who commit rape against those they know. Despite a pattern of proven lying by this man and others like him who fabricate basic facts about themselves, most people don't include these types of men in those they describe as "rape liars."

"Rape liars" is usually limited to those who report being raped and is frequently spoken with no proof that the "rape liar" actually lied. This limitation speaks as loudly about those who use this terminology as Avidan's behavior during his trial speaks about him.

Avidan decided to represent himself at his trial.

"His tactic has been to attack the victim, " McLean said. Though it was Avidan 's right to cross-examine the woman, he said, Avidan "went well beyond his right and took the offensive against the victim. His objective at the trial was to humiliate and punish the victim."

"Reducing her in your mind to something less than a human being for your personal pleasure, " said Dane County Circuit Judge Patrick Fiedler, "that speaks volumes. "

What Avidan did through his questions alone was demonstrate that the charges against him were credible and that his defense was not.

Those who aren't on trial who similarly attack those who reported being rape victims also speak volumes about themselves. Their disclaimers that they are not pro-rape are as meaningless as Avidan's defense.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:59 AM   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Prostitution Recovery

I blogged about the show on Oxygen channel called "Sex Workers or Victims" which is hosted by Lisa Ling that is on tonight, but I won't be watching it because unfortunately I don't get the Oxygen channel and the local friends I've talked to also don't get this channel.

If you do get this channel please watch this show if you can and let me know what you thought of it.

This topic reminded me of several programs in Minnesota that I know about which help women successfully get out of prostitution. And by successfully get out, this means dealing with issues like substance dependancy, education and life skills. With the average age of entry being estimated at 13 years old there is a lot of healthy development these people didn't get and now need to catch up on.

Too often parole officers are the defacto prostitution recovery specialists. The prostituted in my city rarely enter the criminal justice system through a prostitution charge, most often they come into the system because of drug convictions. Most of these girls and women have been betrayed too many times by multiple systems to have an attitude of gratitude toward those who tell them they want to help them.

The prostitution recover program I am most familiar with is Breaking Free located in St. Paul which "serves women and girls involved in systems of prostitution/sex trafficking and other battered women who have been involved in the criminal justice system." They are an Afro-centric social services agency and serve a woefully neglected population. I haven't been to their facilities in St. Paul, but I have attended several presentations given by their staff so I know they have a knowledgable and caring management.

The other one I am aware of is the Women's Recovery Center in North Oaks, MN.

In the City Pages Bill Nelson is interviewed about his work as a private jailer which preceeded the creation of the Women's Recovery Center which focuses on those who are still chemically dependant. He also discusses the documentary Prostitution: Beyond the Myth which aired last September on Twin Cities Public Television 17.

I've heard Nelson speak and I liked the way he and those he worked with approached both the need and the common sense behind creating programs to help the prostituted. It costs less money to help them out of prostitution and substance dependancy than it costs to punish them for the crime of prostitution or for the crime of drug use/possession.

Here's a YouTube video about that documentary:

There may be other programs in Minnesota that I'm not aware of. If you know of more please let me know. Also if you know of good programs in other states or countries also let me know.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:35 AM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Socialization Which Sets Up Sex Predator/Passive Victim Model

I received an email from a woman named Elizabeth regarding my post Speaking Around Rape and it contained such useful insight that I am reprinting portions of her email here with the permission of the author who has asked to be identified by her first name only.

Dear Marcella,

We condition girls from the very start. Then we tell them to get over everything, including the conditioning.

I am the mother of two daughters, age 10 and 6. My older daughter was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when she was very young, and as a result I have paid close attention to the process of how girls are socialized -- closer than I think I might normally have, even as a mother of daughters. It was with my younger daughter, though, that I had the lightning flash moment of insight into the sort of silent suffering described in your post, and how it might begin.

When she was a toddler, a couple lived across the street whose only child was a boy the same age as my younger girl. His method of saying hello to my daughter involved jabbing at her with his fists or hands, pushing her down or grabbing her roughly.

When this sort of thing happens the first time you meet a kid that age, boy or girl, it's not unheard of to give them the benefit of the doubt. Even the sweetest-natured two-year-old might be aggressive if they're short a nap or a meal. The second and third times, it's obviously a problem that needs addressing.

The mother of this particular boy would address it by saying, "Oh, that wasn't nice, say you're sorry." The boy would mutter "Sorry," and nothing would change. Because of this, play dates stopped after the third or fourth time -- the behavior was escalating, was clearly a pattern and I wasn't making headway with getting the parent to see it was wrong.

On the last get-together with my daughter, this boy and another boy, the aggressor kid got my daughter IN A HEADLOCK. No doubt about it -- he was throttling her. She protested, pushed him off and ran to me, crying and saying, "X is a bad boy! He's mean!" (Or something of that sort.)

The other two mothers came hovering in to comfort her, but their idea of comfort was an eye opener: "Oh, honey. Don't cry. He's not mean. Stop crying. He's not bad. He didn't mean to hurt you. He doesn't know any better. Boys play rough sometimes. You're not hurt. You'll be all right."

Those words are not paraphrases. I might not have the order exact after four years, but I remember the words very clearly. And I remember thinking: Well. My kid's just been caught in a headlock and all their energy is being spent explaining to her that it's *not a big deal.* That's interesting.

What I said was, "You know, I don't think it's her job to worry about why he did it. She's not all right, she's pretty upset right now and we're going home." He probably was coaxed into another meaningless apology but it really didn't matter at that point, we were done. And at home I made a point of telling my daughter that he WAS being bad and it WAS wrong, and that's why we weren't playing with him any more.

I think the reason I was able to have this epiphany was that by this time, I'd already had some eye-opening encounters involving my older girl. She is not a hugger, wasn't even cuddly as a baby. Maybe it's Asperger Syndrome/sensory defensiveness. Maybe she just doesn't like the damn hugs. She's a loving kid without hugging, but grownups took her distaste for hugs VERY personally. Her kindergarten teacher actually complained to me about it. Apparently it was the woman's habit to hug each child at dismissal time, and my older daughter would recoil and say, "Please don't hug me."

I was pleased she articulated her feelings so well -- hey, the speech-language therapy paid off! But to her teacher, she was being unacceptably standoffish -- strange, even. It was something that needed looking into. I asked, "But isn't it impolite to hug somebody without their permission?" And I pointed out that it was going to be pretty weird to square this with the "Don't let anyone touch you without your permission" lecture, which is also mandated for kindergartners. See, I said, she's AS, and she's very logical about this stuff. To her, permission is permission. It doesn't get waived just because it's you.

We sell little girls this bill of goods ALL THE TIME. *It's your job to be huggable.* And worse: *You're not really hurt.* *What happened didn't really matter.* *Your job is to be nice, forgive, play nice.*

And of course, triplicate that message if it comes from a person of high authority or social standing.

Then, I guess when they hit puberty, we expect them to develop assertiveness, aggression and a huge sense of personal boundaries, apparently overnight. Otherwise they're whores.

No wonder that poor kid [who wrote the anonymous letter to the editor] didn't know what to do except suffer. No wonder that when she does speak out, she can barely find the words. It's how we train them.



Thank you, Elizabeth.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 4:37 PM   8 comments links to this post

Man Acknowledges Arguing With Girlfriend Who Needed To Be Hospitalized After Their Argument

Here's a story from the Boston Herald which many people who grumble about the unfairness of men being accused of rape against their girlfriends need to read before they open their mouths again about how date rape cases detract from real rape.

A 24-year-old New York City man is being held without bail on charges accusing him of holding his girlfriend hostage for hours and raping and assaulting her with several objects. Michael Molina was arraigned in Gardner District Court on Wednesday on charges including attempted murder, aggravated rape, armed kidnapping with sexual assault, assault to maim, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. [...]

Defense lawyer Joseph Solomito said his client does not remember the alleged events but acknowledges arguing verbally with the woman.

This acknowledgement is a meaningless insult, but it is easy to classify as such when the alleged events left the alleged victim in the hospital. All defense acknowledgements need to be viewed as reliable as this one.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:17 AM   1 comments links to this post

Friday, March 28, 2008

Utah Sex Offenders And Their Victims

This 4-part series of articles entitled Secret shame: Utah's sex offenders and their victims was written by Lucinda Dillon Kinkead and Dennis Romboy and published in the Deseret Morning News.

Part 1: Utah'a sex offenders and their victims

They are grandfathers, uncles, teachers, boyfriends, baby sitters and husbands. A few are women. Authorities say 80 percent of them know their victims.

"It's more likely to be uncle so-and-so rather than someone who grabs them," said Jeremy Shaw, a Adult Probation and Parole supervisor in the sex offender unit.

It is a dirty, exhausting, secretive, heartbreaking phenomenon, says Heather Stringfellow, who took over the helm of the Rape Recovery Center of Utah after nine years as a sex crimes and domestic violence detective.

And Utah is up to its neck in it.

Yet in Utah there is no state funding to help victims recover from their trauma. Unless that victim goes on to become a sex offender then there is a little funding for help and a lot of funding for incarceration.

Part 2: 'They're all nice guys'

UTAH STATE PRISON — Larry Burt groomed his young victim to always do what adults told her to do. [...] "I know I tried to make her believe that it's OK, I'm not physically hurting you," he said in an interview at the Utah State Prison, where he has spent the past 6 1/2 years. "You don't take into consideration it was hurting her emotionally and mentally."

Many others likely don't take into consideration the lingering and real impact of Burt's strategy when they scold rape victims for not screaming when they are raped as teenagers or adults. This scolding makes as much sense as scolding those who have had their vocal cords cut for not speaking clearly.

Part 3: Lifelong impact — Victims, families, society cope with effects of abuse

Is she a victim or isn't she? Julie is 26 now. It's been more than 20 years since the first sexual assault happened, but she still struggles with that question.
Is she a victim or not?

This question relates to sexual abuse which was started by her teenage stepbrother when she was 3 or 4. According to the denialists' logic if she can't accept that she was a real victim then we must respect her by viewing her as someone who was not the victim of multiple sex crimes.

What this shows is that victim blaming directed at certain victims affects all victims.

Part 4: Keeping watch — Sex offenders face lots of supervision

Eric Hammon, clinical director for a center that does sex-offender treatment, says he would have no problem with an offender living on his street. "If he's been through treatment, there's much more danger from someone who hasn't been caught than from someone who has."

With intense supervision this is likely true on average because awareness of a danger is important to prevention, but some treated sex offenders will do more than repeat old crimes, they will escalate.

With the danger from known and unknown sex offenders the lack of prevention funding makes no sense. Yes, talking about this stuff is difficult but silence is seen by many sex offenders as opportunity. As long as people pretend they aren't there these sex offenders can feel they will never get caught.

This is a great series because it gives readers some insight into the complexity of issues so that effective laws will be opposed by fewer people because they seem soft on crime.

hat tip: Sex Crimes

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:16 AM   1 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 27, 2008

For Those Who Get The Oxygen Channel

I'm definitely going to watch this show:

Oxygen's Special Presentation
Sex Workers or Victims

The sex trafficking epidemic has inspired federal legislation to protect young women who are trafficked from other countries. But what about the thousands of young American girls who are manipulated or coerced into the commercial sex industry each year?

Lisa Ling investigates. 1 hr. (TV-PG)

Sunday March 30 9 pm Eastern 8 Central

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:56 AM   0 comments links to this post

Seeking Nominations And Participants

Tomorrow night at 11 pm is the next deadline for the Carnival Against Sexual Violence so please take a few minutes and nominate a post you've written or a post you've read.

A few people have had trouble with the official nomination form, if this happens to you, please let me know by email (my address is in my profile) with a subject line of carnival nomination or leave a comment with a link to the nominated post as soon as possible.

Also don't forget that Thursday April 3, 2008 is Blog Against Sexual Violence day. We still need more participants in order to make this year's event bigger than last year. The theme for A Day To End Sexual Violence is workplace violence, but you aren't limited to blogging on that theme.

Please join us if you haven't already.

If you have announced your participation on your blog and you aren't on the BASV blogroll (in the sidebar) leave a comment and I will add you.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:13 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

1 In 4 Blame The Victim

From the Irish Examiner:

ONE in four people believe women who have been raped are partly to blame for the crime because of how they dressed, their sexual history or how much they had to drink.

An Irish Examiner/Red C national opinion poll on people’s attitudes to sex crimes found a core section of our society think rape victims are totally or partially responsible for being attacked.

Many of these people who blame some rape victims would be appalled if they fully realized how their attitudes are fuel for all rapists. If a woman doesn't want to be raped then she shouldn't flirt. If a moral woman doesn't want to be raped she shouldn't walk through a deserted area. In these scenarios the rapists and the victim blamers are of one mind.

What victim blamers don't think about is that once rapists start viewing themselves as innocent or no more guilty than the rape victim that is very dangerous for all of us -- including for those who blame certain rape victims. For example, a rapist could have been taught that sexism is wrong and eliminate it from the victim blaming which they accept. For them the men who walk through deserted areas or who drink or who flirt or who have had multiple sex partners are equally responsible for their own rapes as their female counterparts.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:58 AM   1 comments links to this post

How Dare We!

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Speaking Around Rape":

"boys are socialised into believing they are entitled to sexually coerce or force females into unwanted sexual acts." [from comment by Jennifer Drew]

Evidence please? They believe they are entitled? How idiotic, how childish is that supposedly self-evident generalization. Puh-lease! Talk about unfair gender stereotyping! That sort of unsubstantiated blather might play well in a women's studies class, where respected scholarship is unheard of, but you have just disparaged an entire gender with rank nonsense -- and you do your own gender a grave disservice with your comments by furnishing no authority beyond your serene ipse dixit.

Disgraceful. And don't hide behind rape victims when you so cavalierly brand a "male" as you call this boy guilty, based on your say-so.

How dare you!

It was no surprise when I looked at my site statistics and discovered that this Anonymous arrived at my blog by searching for "false rape."

The evidence that this man seeks is contained in his own comment. How dare anyone apply a negative label like rapist to a boy who repeatedly coerced his ex-girlfriend into unwanted sex!

That's entitlement.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:37 AM   2 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

An Evolution Of Spousal Rape Laws

The article An evolution of law: Spousal rape recently prosecutable by Thadeus Greenson published in the The Times-Standard which serves Eureka, California and the northern California coastal area does a wonderful job of addressing the relevant issues while keeping those harmed front and center.

Here is the opening:

If Blue Lake Police Chief David Gundersen's wife had made the same rape allegations 30 years ago that she made last month -- or in some other states -- Gundersen wouldn't have been charged with a crime.

Spousal rape laws, or even the concept of raping a spouse, are pretty new developments. In fact, until the late 1970s, spouses were typically excluded from sexual assault laws.

Go read the whole article.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:12 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 24, 2008

Speaking Around Rape

Ann Bartow of Feminist Law Professors found a recent letter to the editor in the Daily Pennsylvanian difficult to read and comprehend, but when I read the letter I immediately understood the anonymous author's words and experiences. More importantly, because of my experiences with rape I understood why the anonymous author used descriptions which left so many gaps.

Here is some of what Bartow found confusing:

During my junior year [of high school], I found myself suddenly thrust into a relationship with a reasonably attractive and yes, popular athlete from a neighboring high school. Obviously, it didn't last (and neither did my virginity). But what should have ended neatly instead turned into weeks of mute suffering and months of extreme depression.

The facts were simple. He came over after the breakup, wanting gratification, which I was less inclined to provide. I was the weaker sex. He apologized. I forgave. Pause, rewind, play. Repeat for three months.

I told no one. The traditional aspects of my heritage dictated that dating without intention of marriage was tantamount to prostitution, and so I decided that any alternative was preferable to having my parents discover the truth.

As a result, word spread that I was a willing participant in these acts, that I was a straight-A whore. I did nothing to dispel the rumors; if anything, I condoned them.

The gaps relate to sexual contact and they are there because of trauma. Not just any trauma. Trauma from multiple rapes.

In the first quoted paragraph the word thrust indicates coercion or a failure by this boy to even ask her if she wanted to be his girlfriend. A truly mutual relationship isn't something you are thrust into. From reading the entire letter I believe she lost her virginity through rape and that is why she was no longer in the relationship.

A commenter on Feminist Law Professors made the incorrect assumption that this woman gave her ex-boyfriend pity sex which assumes legal consent, but that is wrong. This ex-boyfriend raped her repeatedly. And he knew it -- otherwise there would have been no apology and no request for forgiveness.

For anyone who doesn't acknowledge it already forgiveness is not consent and does not nullify the crime of rape.

Look at the second quoted paragraph without the euphemisms:

The facts were simple. He stalked me because he wanted sex from me even after I thought I'd escaped the relationship, sex which I didn't want. He was bigger and stronger than me and I couldn't stop him from taking the sex he wanted. He apologized. I felt obligated to forgive him. I endured this for 3 months.

This was no lovelorn suitor, but a socially-acceptable predator who picked someone he was sure would feel so much shame that she would confide in nobody and who would blame herself for his crimes because she didn't know how to stop him.

As extra insurance against accountability if she ever found the words to report him this boy deliberately smeared her reputation so she would be called a liar if she went to the police. This smearing of her reputation would also increase the chances that she would be targeted by those boys and men who take this sort of smear campaign as the only form of sexual consent they need. If other boys raped her and bragged about their conquest then she would have even less credibility if she reported him or another rapist to the police.

Her refusal to explain that she was raped after rumors were spread about her comes from the same trauma that has her talking around rape. She likely believed that her best defense was to appear like nothing anybody said about her character could hurt her. Confirm nothing. Deny nothing.

She wanted the girls who knew her best to know that the rumors were false without having to relive her trauma and without giving any of those girls information which could be twisted into a confirmation of the rumors. But they didn't stand by her.

If she rightfully claimed to be a victim of rape, the rumors weren't likely to stop and the attacks against her would have doubled or tripled. When there has been any dating relationship -- abusive or otherwise -- many people refuse to believe that a report of rape should be treated like a report of a real crime.

Because of the harmful power of these types of rumors many girls know that if they stick by the target of these rumors that they will also be targeted. Hearing, "Are you Rumor-Girl's friend?" from some boy and then answering yes can be very dangerous in an environment which actively denies the danger and which refuses to tackle that danger head on.

Too often in these denial-rich environments the best protection for girls is to be as close to invisible sexually as possible. This explains why boys may not abandon the girl who is the target of these types of rumors the way girls will. They have no safety fears which are triggered anew because of those rumors.

I've lost count of the number of times somebody has said or written, "If it happens more than once it was consensual." These people don't know or don't care that they are encouraging rapists to never stop at one rape per victim. This also directly explains why if this dating relationship ended after one rape that her ex-boyfriend would not leave her alone or take a firm no as her final answer. The more times he could take her sexually, the more protection he would have against rightful charges of rape. This reality is inexcusable.

Yet people keep excusing it and they keep denying it.

So for those who see these gaps and find them confusing, please understand that there is serious trauma involved.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:29 PM   5 comments links to this post

Friday, March 21, 2008

Advice For Rape Survivors: Personal Safety

This is the next in my series of posts with advice directed at other rape survivors.

What made me think about personal safety is that some rape survivors unfortunately become repeat rape victims with different perpetrators. I don't talk about it much but this happened to me in the months after my first rape. Years later during my time as a victim advocate I talked to other rape survivors who also experienced multiple unrelated sexual assaults.

This is more than random bad luck. However, too many people are quick to blame the rape victim if later rapes don't get classified as random violence such as a robbery and rape. Saying that certain rape victims did something wrong which invited rape is a dangerous mistake and it is one that victims can also make. I certainly made this mistake until I was finally able to view the days and months after my first rape without being overwhelmed by emotion.

While this repeat victimization isn't your fault there are some things you can do to increase your personal safety after rape. What doesn't help is the typical victim-blaming safety advice like don't drink, don't go to parties, etc. This advice/lecturing focuses on the rape victim's behavior when what is needed to improve your personal safety is to focus on the behavior of rapists and could-be rapists and to have allies who will genuinely do the same.

Nobody sensible would blame a bleeding carjacking victim who is shoved out into a crime-ridden area if that crime victim were subsequently raped. Yet wrongful blaming is what happens to many rape victims. The trauma of rape can leave victims disoriented and defenseless.

Despite what many victim blamers want people to believe, when it comes to rape there is no neighborhood or place which is guaranteed rapist-free. Rapes happen at wild parties and rapes happen in churches by those who are in positions of trust.

The vulnerability which comes from a stabbing is something that most rapists would not exploit because they accept that raping someone who is bleeding and in desperate need of medical attention makes them repugnant and no jury would buy their lie that "it was consensual." A large percentage of rapists view the rapists who would rape a bleeding woman as "the real rapists."

Their hatred of these "repugnant" rapists makes sense since it helps them feel like their violence cannot rightfully be called real violence. This can result in "good" rapists who will demand the death penalty for rape. Real rape. If they have any self-disgust they direct it at those other rapists and at fake rape victims -- like all those they raped.

Even if a man who focuses on limited real rapes has never been accused of rape, for my own safety I need to assume that this man will rape if the chance ever presents itself. Any person -- man or woman -- who talks about certain sex crime statutes harming real rape victims by diluting the definition of rape is a person I will never trust with my physical safety.

This type of person could witness a rape done without a knife or a gun and refuse to help because they believe that the victim could escape if she really wanted to or because they believe that the rape victim's willing presence at the location of the rape is blanket consent for sex. If that rape were reported, this type of person would testify that there was no rape and that the rape victim is a liar or delusional.

If I previously trusted any man who expresses these attitudes that talk would immediately end that trust. This isn't paranoia. Not all of these men are rapists but sharing many beliefs with rapists is a danger signal. My safety is a higher priority than some man's hurt feelings.

Any man who demands that I put his feelings above my safety is only reinforcing my reasons to distrust him. My boyfriend used the request for me to trust him as a weapon. If he had been ethical he would have respected areas where I didn't trust him. Instead he used my feelings for him against me.

Those who try in any way to undermine a rape survivor's personal safety efforts may mean well but they aren't reliable. Reliable allies don't undermine a survivor's hyper vigilance or ask to be exempted from those viewed with less trust than before a rape.

Some of the "I'm not a rapist" guys may believe they are doing nothing wrong if they sneak into a rape survivor's bedroom and rape her as she sleeps or as she is lost in her pain while she tries to sleep. Rapists who know that someone was raped before may rationalize their rape as an act that provides comfort and helps a rape victim learn to enjoy sex again.

If they were unable to deny their actions they might defend what they did by saying something like, "Her rapist was violent but I was gentle. I knew if she was fully awake that her fear would get the best of her. If she had said stop I would have. I'm no rapist."

Making sexual decisions for someone else is rape. The creation of "pure" motives is nothing more than the selfish rationalizations of a rapist. If that rape victim says nothing afterwards that is not a sign that the rape victim consented or approved anymore than if a hospitalized rape victim were quietly raped by a doctor, nurse or other hospital employee and then says nothing afterwards.

A repeat of a quiet rape is another rape and is not a sexual relationship. Because of the trauma rape victims have experienced and the muddiness that can come from that trauma many rape victims may question their perceptions. Their rapists have a clear motivation for trying to distort reality and they have the benefit of not being traumatized.

An unfortunate reality is that what was a safe neighborhood or a safe person before rape may not be afterwards. This includes the rapists who view their rapes as therapeutic. Their rationalizations eliminated many girls and women from being the target of rape attempts.

My first rapist after my boyfriend said, "It's not like you're a virgin" before taking me without my consent. He was nothing like my boyfriend/rapist. Where my boyfriend had been an adult, this rapist was a boy no older than me. Where my boyfriend was about a foot taller than me, this rapist was no heavier than me. I viewed him incorrectly as posing no danger to me since he didn't put any sexual moves on me. Both of us needed a friend and I didn't see any danger when we got drunk together. When he brought up sex in a general sort of way I remember clearly expressing disgust and I may even have said, "I hate sex."

To him this was great news since it gave him the permission he needed.

Before being raped the very first time, I likely would have immediately recognized warning signs in this boy's words or his behavior. I certainly would have said no when offered alcohol. When I met this boy, I was still deep enough in post-rape trauma that I wasn't fully present. My mind kept drifting. This continued through the rape which wasn't as traumatic as my previous rapes because the alcohol numbed me and because I was relieving that first rape in my brain.

I got drunk many times in the summer after my first rape and most of the boys and men who were near me never attempted to rape me because of their ethics. It didn't matter to them that I wasn't a virgin or that they could have gotten away with rape. Several men told me flat out that they wouldn't touch me even if was consenting as long as I was jail bait.

Some men didn't have this level of ethical behavior and took my passivity which came with ineffective coping mechanisms as permission to use my body. Because the focus of sex education I had received was on saving virginity for the wedding night there seemed to be no reason to make a fuss. Also I had learned that rape didn't hurt as much if I didn't try to fight it. At that time only drunkenness turned off my anxiety and all of the related thoughts until I felt like I could be as happy as I was before my first rape.

During my teenage years there was only one guy who required enthusiastic consent and verification with a clear opportunity for me to safely change my mind. Now I won't settle for anyone less respectful or less ethical.

Because my family didn't know I had been raped they thought I was going through a normal teenage rebellion. When they tried to get me to stop rebelling, I couldn't hear their words or their meaning with clarity. I saw their efforts as controlling and if they ever talked of love for me I would have a visceral reaction that made me want to escape. Consciously I had blocked my rape, but unconsciously love became linked with rape. I ran from them with the same panic as I would have run from my boyfriend if he tried to rape me a third time.

If my parents knew why I changed so suddenly they would have had a better chance to successfully help me remain safe through the rest of my teenage years. There may have been resources I wasn't aware of which could have provided me with safer ways to cope with my post-rape anxiety than going out and getting drunk.

All the factors which put my safety at risk after my initial rape are rooted in so much of what people still say about rape and who is a real rape victim. People still excuse the rape of girls under the age of consent because the girls shows signs of being sexually mature. Like the boy who decided that he didn't have to stop because I wasn't a virgin, these people don't care if abuse or rape caused those girls' sexual maturity. If she's not a virgin, she is fair game in the opinion of too many people.

Sexual assault awareness efforts are therefore a critical element in improving the personal safety of rape survivors. To be most effective these efforts need to be as pervasive as the rape-excusing statements are.

Any discussion of personal safety for rape survivors must include dangers which have nothing to do with alcohol. Rape victims who avoid alcohol and stereotypical dangerous places can be in as much danger as those who get drunk and pass out at a party.

It is the vulnerability due to trauma which brings out so many predators.

Unethical professionals such as clergy members and counselors have raped those they are sworn to help. Some of these rapists rationalize that they are better people than rapists who took advantage of rape victims like me. Because the rape survivor may still be lost in the trauma which follows rape, alcohol and overt violence may not be needed.

Quietly raping a sober survivor who barely knows which way is up is real violence. I have heard of some men who told rape survivors that reconstructing their rape, with the him as a safe stand-in for the rapist, will be therapeutic. Those who call rape survivors stupid for cooperating with someone who turns out to be a rapist are wrongly dismissing the impact of real trauma.

These professionals are likely to call their rapes and other sexual abuse an affair or a sexual relationship. This is a lie. In some states certain professionals are forbidden by law from having any sexual contact with their clients because of the level of danger for those clients. These criminal statutes don't allow consent as a viable defense.

My advice for rape survivors who are still deep in trauma is to realize this danger and respect any sense that something isn't right. Better to bolt from a room because something innocent triggered you than to stay because what is troubling you might be nothing. These types of rapists are likely the type who will use manipulation and isolation to disable you.

Any professional who asks a rape survivor to keep any secret about what the professional is doing or saying raises serious red flags. If helping professionals get offended at not being given the rape survivor's complete trust, my advice is to find another professional.

Personal safety for rape survivors isn't limited to sexual violence.

My level of perception was so low after being raped that I didn't know or care that I was in danger in non-sexual ways. Most evenings in the summer between junior and senior high I was in a car with a drunk driver at least twice. If I ever wore my seat belt under those conditions I don't remember doing so.

About a year after my first rape 2 guys I barely knew poured enough alcohol down my throat so that I likely would have died of acute alcohol poisoning if I hadn't been taken to the ER and had my stomach pumped.

There were times that I know I didn't really care whether I lived or died because during those times it seemed like death was the only way to make the constant hurting go away. Despite not knowing what had happened to me, my family helped me through those times because deep down I knew they loved me. Now I know that death wasn't the only way to stop the pain and that real lasting happiness is possible without chemical assistance.

Not disclosing my rape stopped those who truly loved me from helping me maintain my personal safety. I'm lucky I survived the aftermath, but others who are raped shouldn't have to rely on luck.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:19 PM   5 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Women If You Are In Town When Your Husband Cheats It Is Your Fault

While the AP, CBS, ABC and other news organizations don't explicitly blame Hillary Clinton for her husband's old betrayal in the latest news stories that is the message which comes across loud and clear from an analysis of 11,000 pages of records. Why was Hillary at fault?

Because she was in town on a half dozen days when her husband had sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky in the White House. This unstated blame is the only reason these facts are breaking news.

Bill Clinton in an interview explained his betrayal. He did it for the worst possible reason. Because he could. This is the same reason why those with more than enough money, which they earned honestly, decide to steal. They could steal that money, they could rationalize that theft and they hoped that they would get away with it.

But it's much more tantalizing for journalists to speculate about Hillary's sexual behavior or lack of sexual behavior. From there people can baselessly turn Hillary into a political leach who didn't have a real marriage. Then they can attack the speculative image of Hillary that they have created and act like their attack is legitimate.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:51 PM   0 comments links to this post

Failure Of Feminism Or The Failure Of A Feminist Critic?

Elizabeth Wurtzel, the author of Prozac Nation, is only the latest to answer that question. She states in a LA Times Op Ed "Feminism, which was meant to be fun, has lately started to seem so sour."

Wurtzel has proven with one sentence that she doesn't understand feminism in any meaningful way. To see this all you need to do is replace feminism with civil rights which applies to all US citizens. "Freedom, which was meant to be fun, has started to seem so sour."

Since Wurtzel focuses all her ire at women, it would likely be more accurate for her to write, "Being a woman, which was meant to be fun, has lately started to seem so sour."

Yet for all the women she is sour about, Wurtzel is proud that Katie Roiphe wrote her rape denial book The Morning After. My belief is that a woman is not practicing genuine feminism when she dismisses women's trauma from rape by relabeling it bad sex and declaring that women are no longer victims.

Maybe Roiphe was having fun, and she likely felt liberated when so many people cheered her unfounded attacks against other women, but none of that has anything to do with upholding the heart of feminism.

The reality is that Wurtzel's rant against women sells better if it marketed as a critique of feminism. Without the references to feminism we get an op-ed which begins with:

"Am I the only one who feels that last week's news events prove that women have failed?"

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:29 AM   2 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Advice For Rape Survivors: Know That Many Police Officers Believe It Is Ethical To Lie To You

This is the next in my series of posts with advice directed at other rape survivors.

I encourage reporting to the police whenever possible, but unfortunately the police can be an ally to rapists through incompetence or through bias against certain rape victims.

Investigating rape cases completely and competently takes money and some police officers will view a report of a criminal sexual assault which meets the jurisdiction's statutory requirements as not worth the money if the rape victim isn't shot or stabbed or if the rape victim somehow seems suspect or not sufficiently traumatized.

To be in compliance with the US Violence Against Women Act, rape victims cannot be asked by investigators to take a polygraph test. Even if a polygraph isn't presented as a requirement for the investigation to continue, my recommendation is to never take a polygraph for one simple reason.

A police officer can lie to you after you've taken the polygraph and tell you that the polygraph proves that your story is a lie and use that lie to coerce you into recanting your report of rape.

Some officers wrongly believe that if you are telling the truth that their tricks won't work on you. Other officers simply don't care whether you are a real crime victim or not. An officer who wants the rape investigation stopped cold may use the threat of criminal charges against you and an offer to let the matter drop so that recanting seems like the only way out of a nightmare.

What person who has been raped would want to face this sort of treatment even if they believe that no jury would believe this lie? This investigative approach signals that your rapist is going to get away with raping you so you may naturally feel despondent. Many of us who have been raped feel crazy already and may question our perception. If we are presented with "proof" that we were not raped from someone we are taught to trust completely we could voice uncertainty about whether we were raped or not.

This uncertainty is proof of nothing except the power of an authority figure to use their position to coerce you into questioning what you know to be true. Yet it will be used as proof by rapists defense attorneys and rape denialists who openly acknowledge the existance of false confessions.

If you are being threatened with criminal charges demand a lawyer. Ignore any chatter about how that might make you look guilty. If they are going to treat you like a criminal then they need to give you all the rights that a criminal gets.

Rape victims can prevail over a biased system that seems determined to harm them and they can see their rapist convicted. But none of us who have been raped should have to prevail over the very systems which are designed to keep us safe.

If you know that those who are charged with upholding the law can turn on real victims then you can go in with a plan of what to do if you get an incompetent or malicious investigator. If there is a victim's advocate agency in your area I strongly encourage you to contact them before reporting and ask to have an advocate go with you to law enforcement. They can even help you get any information you need before deciding whether or not to report your rape.

A victim's advocate can help prepare you for questions which might seem hostile but which are part of an ethical and competent rape investigation. For example, if you get a rape kit done the police will need to know if you had consensual sex within a certain number of days and with whom. This is done not to embarrass you or shame you, it is done so that the DNA evidence which is collected can be matched to its owner.

I don't want to discourage you from reporting, but I want you to report with insight into bad police practices. Once you recognize that a trap can be set for you then you can know what is going on if that happens to you. I suggest logging details from all contact with law enforcement including the name of any investigators you talk to so that you can report that person's actions if necessary.

If the agency you are reporting to is large, request to speak to an investigator who is trained in sex crime investigation. If they have such an investigator, but that person is unavailable until the next day then wait if possible. If the agency is small, ask the investigator what specialized training he or she has. Make a note of this.

At all times please keep your personal safety in mind. This safety includes not only attacks from others but the impact of external actions on your ability to cope safely.

My local police force has worked extensively to improve their response to rape reports and to treat all those who report rape with dignity. I've been with victims as they reported and I never saw any investigator cross ethical boundaries. However, if I were ever raped again, even with everything I know, I would not report without a victim's advocate at my side. I would also not go to follow up meeting with law enforcement without an advocate. This is true even if I would be talking to the best sex crime investigator out there.

If you are treated like a criminal by an investigator after being raped know that it isn't you who is causing this. It is the investigator who either lacks training or ethics.

There are people who are working to make the criminal justice system stop being hostile to rape victims and many of these people are part of the law enforcement system. Look for those who understand this problem and then let them know what happened to you if you can.

If you have worked with respectful investigators or have received help dealing with bad investigators share that whenever appropriate especially to those who make funding decisions. Let those who control law enforcement funding know that specialized sex crime training is money well spent if you are safely able to do so.

If, like me, you did not report your rape or you cannot report your rape for whatever reason you are not guilty of any crime if or when your rapist decides to rape again. The barriers between most rape victims and justice are real and those who work to keep those barriers in place are the ones who have some responsibility for the continued success of serial rapists.

Correction: In certain situations you could be charged with a crime because of your rapist's actions. This can happen where your rapist is your husband or other family member and where later victims are children considered under your care. For more on this, check out Prawfs Blawg's series: Punishing Family Status.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 2:29 PM   4 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Advice For Rape Survivors: Accepting Your Trauma As Real Trauma

After yesterday's musings I wanted to focus on some of what I've learned since I was raped, including from my worst decisions and experiences post-rape. So this is the first in a series of posts on that topic directed specifically at other rape survivors.

I learned that the worst way to get over rape is to "Just get over it already!"

This advice is packaged as a way to get rid of the effects of rape, but in reality it asks you and other rape victims to keep the poison of rape locked within you. Once you do this that poison will fester.

We understand that those who are victims of shootings and who have shrapnel inside shouldn't just cover their wounds and get on with their lives. We understand that telling these crime victims "just get over it already" is either incompetent or malicious advice.

When a shooting victim goes to the ER we understand that this person is not wallowing in victimhood. They have the right to effective treatment and they have the right to expect the police to take their shooting seriously. Same goes for you as a victim of rape.

If you don't or didn't feel like you could safely exercise that right then you have to make the best assessment you can. I suggest preserving all of the evidence that you can so you will have the maximum number of options later. Put any small items which may contain DNA evidence in a paper bag and mark it so that the contents won't be washed or thrown away. Get any medical treatment you need whether that relates to obvious physical injuries or your possible exposure to sexually transmitted diseases.

If you live in the US, you can contact an advocate through RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network). They have a toll free number and an online service.

You have the right to the expectation of being treated like a victim of a real crime even if your rights are violated by the police or by someone you trusted. It doesn't matter what you did before being raped. While people can be shot in self-defense nobody can be raped in self-defense. Those who justify rape in any way are part of the problem and are not reliable sources of any true wisdom. Don't take anything they say about you as a person as undisputed truth -- even if you love that person.

Don't automatically despise those who say horrific things since so much that is horrific -- such as the idea that almost all rape victims could have prevented their own rapes -- is pervasive and seemingly benign when people don't think about the ideas they have accepted.

Most rape victims don't look like shooting victims and therefore victims of rape and others will often reject the validity of the shooting analogy. So I will expand it. We understand that a pedestrian who has just been the victim of a hit and run but who isn't bloody and who can stand up and move around still needs to be checked for internal injuries.

Someone who doesn't look hurt can die. This might happen quickly as in the case of internal hemorrhaging or it may happen slowly as a vital organ breaks down post-injury.

Just as with the victim of a hit and run, the assessment of injury to rape victims cannot be made by just anyone and even the most skilled observer cannot make a correct assessment with a quick glance. Just as the victim of a car-pedestrian crash needs to respect their pain -- in the immediate aftermath and in the long run -- so too do you as a rape survivor need to respect your pain.

Pain after trauma is often your body's way of requesting the help it needs.

If the hit and run driver comes back upon seeing that the victim got to his feet we understand that this driver will be quick to assure everyone that no real harm was done. Witnesses are also not qualified to make this assessment so their opinion is no official second opinion. If those witnesses are friends of the driver, their assessment is even less reliable.

If those witnesses are friends of the driver and the pedestrian, it is easy for the pedestrian to think that their self-perception is what is in error. It would be easy to think, "If I was really hurt they would know it and they would help me."

Rejecting the common advice to "get over it already" doesn't mean that all routines of normal life should stop. The normal routines of life can be a very important part of surviving. But some normal routines will be lost and others will be changed forever. This isn't fair and it is important to grieve these losses without feeling like they reflect on you in any way.

The seriousness and symptoms of sexual trauma are real and they need to be respected. Those who interact with you as a rape survivor may sometimes make you feel crazy, but that is a sign that the messages you are being sent are inconsistent or flat out wrong. You can't make sense of what truly doesn't make sense without twisting reality until you feel crazy.

If your injuries are such that treatment requires a break from your normal life in order to give you a chance of returning to sustainable normal life then that detour is a good one if you can take it and not a sign of weakness. Some of the coping mechanisms which help survivors seem normal are very unhealthy. I found temporary relief in alcohol but that relief created more problems than it solved.

We understand that the shooting victim and the victim of a hit and run can have trauma which isn't physical. The pedestrian may have been hit during what was a daily walk to work. The shooting victim may have been at the mall when a suicidal man opened fire without warning. Those experiences will impact those victims' sense of safety during what the rest of us assume are safe activities.

Few people would look at these victims natural reactions and use that as an excuse for name calling. When this happens to you or to other rape survivors by those you know remember that those who do the name calling are revealing important information about themselves and are telling you nothing about yourself. Many people who are viewed as decent human beings hold very undecent attitudes.

Even though I didn't recognize that I was as real of a rape victim as any girl who was raped by a stranger, I did try to reach out to professionals in several fields. Unfortunately, none of the professionals I reached out to were skilled enough to find out the real cause of my distress. I internalized their failures and by the time I turned 18, I stopped trying to reach out for many years. Please realize this can happen and don't assume that this internalization is accurate.

It is better to deal with your post-rape trauma on your own -- at least temporarily -- than to stick with a helper who makes you feel crazy or hopeless. However, keep in mind that working on your trauma can uncap pain which was locked inside and there can be a strong temptation to put the cap back on that pain.

Any pain should be in service of recovery much like post-shooting surgery which will extract pain-causing shrapnel. Sometimes those who have been physically injured go through a series of treatments and sometimes treatment is delayed until the victim is strong enough to go through a particular treatment. If you feel like your recovery from rape is too slow remember that sometimes slow is what you need to get the best possible outcome.

While you may feel alone remember that you are not alone. Others have made it through what you are experiencing. Also remember to celebrate each step of your recovery much like a shooting victim celebrates each step they take in their healing. Hope is important but it isn't always easy or painless.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 4:02 PM   5 comments links to this post

Monday, March 17, 2008

It's My Blog Birthday And I'll Muse If I Want To

I know the exact date I started blogging against sexual violence, 2 years ago today March 17, 2006, because I can see the date listed on my first post which explained the purpose of this blog.

That date changed my life as have other dates which I don't have on my calendar. The date I first answered my local rape crisis line, the date I first went to the hospital to advocate for a woman going through the forensics exam, the date I reluctantly stopped answering the rape crisis line after taking so many 9, 15 and 24 hour shifts where I had to be able to drop everything and get to the hospital or the law enforcement center. So many dates.

The date I was first raped by my boyfriend.

This one date which I don't remember by the exact date because my shock was so great that I couldn't even think to look at a calendar. That anniversary which I know is approaching because winter is fading and spring is on the horizon. I think I was raped in April or May, probably May because I remember feeling totally carefree while eating lunch with friends in the warm grass as we talked about our last summer break before high school. I had a boyfriend who I had known seemingly forever and I had a boy in my class who I thought might have a crush on me and who I would have wanted to date if I wasn't already in love. I was going to get my learner's permit as soon as I was eligible and spend much of the summer learning to drive. Life seemed as close to perfect as it could get for a 15 year old girl.

I remember going back to school the next day feeling so sore from being raped that I ached with every step I took. I remember thinking that what had been done to me had to be as obvious as a flashing light and I remember that surreal feeling when everyone else acted as if this were just another school day between them and summer vacation.

By noon on that first school day after being raped I felt completely alone.

The days that followed were surreal in a vague sort of way. My clearest thought was over my fear of pregnancy and the backlash I would face for the result of something I hadn't wanted. My boyfriend was sweeter than ever. He would never intentionally hurt me. He still loved me and he still wanted to marry me. Because of my numbness I somehow ended up alone with him again. This time I didn't comply with any of his requests for contact. The thought of even kissing him turned my stomach. I sat next to him in his car as stiff and frozen as a block of ice. And he raped me again as quickly as he could. This rape hurt as much as the first one.

I might have been trusting because I knew him nearly my entire life and I might have still been in shock, but twice indicates a pattern and this one was going nowhere I wanted to go. I didn't break up with him, but I refused to be alone with him where he could have any chance of forcing himself on me again.

I remember the school year was almost over when a girl in my geometry class asked me the last name of my boyfriend whom I had talked about in glowing terms -- until he raped me the first time. If I talked about him at all after that it was likely responding to my friends questions and likely something about him wanting to marry me.

When I told this girl my boyfriend's last name, I remember her breaking the news to me that my boyfriend had another girlfriend who lived in a small town to the northeast of us. I remember a rage rising up in me pushing the numbness out. The nice girl inside me who couldn't accept the reality of being raped was shoved out. My rage wasn't over his cheating. It was a rage over the knowledge that he was a coldblooded liar as well as a rapist. All those words about how he was motivated by love which couldn't contain itself were lies designed to help him succeed at getting close enough to force himself on me. Twice.

I remember staying late after school that day and writing a Dear John letter on a page of spiral notebook paper then I remember striding home and going straight for my mother's writing cabinet and grabbing an envelope and stamp before leaving the house again. I had to walk the short distance to my boyfriend's house to get the house number before dropping that Dear John letter in the corner mailbox.

The next time I saw my ex-boyfriend he was the one who looked traumatized and maybe even scared. I didn't realize that I could report him to the cops, but looking back I think he knew I could do just that. He was 19 and I was 15 so even though the cops wouldn't likely view him as the real rapist he was, they could have viewed him as a statutory rapist, which he also was.

If he had been a stranger to my family and not one of my 2 brothers closest friends I think I would have told my parents and I think I would have been willing to go to the cops and report him. But he was one of my brothers' closest friends and it was no secret that we had been going out.

Then there were the unknown number of days where shock kept me silent. I knew that the delay in disclosing could be used against me. My Dear John letter could be used to make me look like nothing more than a liar motivated to get even with a cheating boyfriend.

In that regard little has changed since the spring of 1974. Shock and paralysis are still taken as proof of consent or proof that a true allegation is nothing more than a vindictive lie. Even those who don't buy this nonsense know that the general attitudes among potential jurors make justice for rape victims attacked as I was highly unlikely.

Rapists like my ex-boyfriend know this. But for many rapists and their friends justice which is highly unlikely isn't good enough. They want justice for these rapists to be impossible.

This is part of the reason why I've been blogging these last 2 years, searching for the right words to tell the truth about all aspects of a crime which many people avoid thinking about. But out of sight does not mean out of existence.

We can't just ignore rape away.

This is part of the reason why I will continue to blog and why I will be doing more outside of the blogosphere such as interview I did for the Orange County Register and my letter to the editor published in the LA Times and I will be working on a non-fiction book proposal.

Writing has helped me and through my writing I know I have helped others. Yet I know writing alone isn't enough.

I have a new goal. I want to reach as many people as the popular rape denialists reach, but rather than soothing people with the lie that rape is rare I want to share with people the sustainable hope I have that rape can become rare in reality and not just in the fiction created by rape denialists.

This will be a definite stretch for me. In some ways I am still that girl who was too scared to disclose.

I know that I will be accused of egomania, profiting from rape and a laundry list of tired old accusations with greater vigor. I also know that I am free enough from the abyss which came as a result of rape that I can be peaceful while under attack.

Sexual violence is something I think about daily, but I am the happiest I've been in my life.

Since I decided to break my silence by writing the book which turned out to be my novel, Cherry Love, one by one I took out all the landmines set by my rapist and those who intentionally and unintentionally aid rapists like him and I've exploded every single one of them. Doing that hurt, sometimes unbelievably so. But living landmine free is glorious.

I want to help other survivors do that without the decades of silence and isolation and without the dangerous attempts at self-medication. I want to help those who are now only would-be rapists change their attitudes so they will not become rapists even if they get into a position where they could rape and get away with it.

I have hope and insight and I'm going to spread both where I can. I'll figure out the how as I go along with the help of those who know where I'm coming from and who believe in where I'm trying to go.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 4:33 PM   8 comments links to this post

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What Causes Taint To Stick After Rape Allegations?

Allison Hope Weiner at the HuffPo has a copy of the 31 minute recording made in 2001 by private investigator Anthony Pellicano, who is on trial in Federal court for racketeering and wiretapping, of a phone conversation Pellicano had with Chris Rock.

The conversation relates to allegations by a woman who Rock acknowledges knowing and acknowledges having sex with. Her first allegation was related to paternity and when it was proven that Rock was not the father, she made a police report alleging rape.

AP: We're going to get her one way or the other...

CR: Rape is just fucking, buzz, you know?... Once you're accused of rape, you're just F[***]ED, you know?
AP: That's why i want to blacken this girl up, totally. I want to make her out to be a lying, scumbag, manipulative cocksucker... Stupid bitch

What Chris Rock doesn't realize and what Anthony Pellicano likely doesn't care about is that this strategy is one of the key reasons a rape accusation can leave a taint on the person accused that just won't go away.

If Rock had admitted guilt to the rape charges, either directly or indirectly, I believe Pellicano's suggested course of action would have been exactly same.

Comedian Gary Shandling testified in Pellicano's federal trial that he was subjected to a smear campaign after Pellicano was hired by a Paramount Pictures executive and an entertainment attorney. That means this suggested course of action by Pellicano given to Rock looks to be business as usual -- maybe even his greatest asset to potential clients -- and not something done in a desperate last ditch attempt to help clear the name of a falsely accused man as many defenders of this practice like to spin it.

This scorched earth strategy is objectively meaningless to those who understand how this strategy works and who recognize when this strategy is in play. Yet when this smear campaign is used in rape cases against rape victims many people shrug this off with lame excuses for unethical practices ("a man's life is at stake") and with no care about whether those behind the smear campaign crossed the line into illegal behavior. To these people rape victims become nothing more than collateral damage. One man's desired outcome is all that matters.

That is the same mindset which is needed for a man to become a rapist. Only what he wants matters and the harm caused in the process of getting what he wants is of no importance.

Whenever I see this strategy in play in rape trials, I'm left with the impression that the evidence of guilt is so overwhelming that only slander of an alleged victim's entire life has a chance of obscuring that evidence. This isn't the belief the truly innocent want, but the guilty won't care what I think as long as this strategy allows them to escape justice.

Those who support smear campaigns against alleged rape victims will often extend the range of their scorched earth assault. Whenever someone claims I'm a man-hater, that person has completely undermined the credibility of everything they say about sexual violence and about any case.

If they then go on to praise someone else, they are actually creating a negative impression of that person -- not a positive one. If that person is someone wrongly accused of rape, the aggressive defender becomes an aggressive underminer of the wrongly accused.

These aggressive defenders are the ones who leave a taint on all those who have been accused of rape but who are innocent of those charges. But for most people it is easier to blame feminism or those who speak out against the injustices done to victims of sexual violence.

The reality is that Pellicano has left a taint on Chris Rock that the original allegation did not.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:15 AM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 43

Welcome to the Mar. 15, 2008 edition of the carnival against sexual violence.

Thank you to everyone who nominated a post or who wrote a post against sexual violence whether it was nominated/selected or not. Nominations that came in after the nomination deadline will be considered for the next edition of the carnival.

If you support the purpose of the carnival, you can help get the word out about it and all of the posts included in the carnival.

Blog Against Sexual Violence logo

Before I get to carnival entries, I want to encourage everyone to participate in the 2nd Blog Against Sexual Violence Day. While the theme is sexual violence in the workplace, participants are not limited to blogging on that theme. So put the BASV logo on your blog now (the code to do so is in the announcement post) and mark your calendars for Thursday April 3, 2008.

Here are the selections for this edition of the carnival against sexual violence:


In The Truth About (Rape) posted at PC Bloggs - a Twenty-first Century Police Officer, we get a discussion about the irreversible impact hostility against those who report being raped can have on those who seem like they have experienced no trauma.

In For Those Who Say Non Stranger Rapists Shouldn't Be Viewed As Violent Offenders posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss a Washington state gang rape case where police found correspondence between several of the defendants and friends which discussed killing the alleged victim if she reported.

In Your First Amendment Right to Anonymous Free Speech posted at Feministe, we get a discussion of motions being made in the AutoAdmit case where anonymous commenters want to remain anonymous because their sexually threatening statements were just a matter of silliness.

In Minnesota Girl: Golden Gopher Sexual Assault Trial Reveal Differences Between Federal and Minnesota's Rape Shield Rules posted at EvidenceProf Blog, we get a discussion of the admissibility of evidence including cell phone video and sexual contact which preceded the alleged rape.

In Sex Offender Ghettos posted at Sex Crimes, we get a discussion of a current side effect of sex offender residency restrictions.

In Disturbing Behavior: Court of Appeals of Kansas Finds Trial Court Failed To Apply Constitutional Exception To Rape Shield Rule posted at EvidenceProf Blog, we get a discussion about rulings about the admissibility of other reports of sexual violence by the alleged victim some of which were substantiated.

In Exoneration Of Mother Imprisoned For Daughter's Murder posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss a case where the exonerated woman believes that her ex-boyfriend who was given immunity in exchange for testifying against her is guilty of rape and murder.

media watch

In Report It Now! posted at Menstrual Poetry, we get information about an awareness campaign which uses an online form to collect reports of sex crimes to show how pervasive sexual violence really is.

In What Really Fuels Rape Denial? Part 1 posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I begin a 3-part series which looks at why a wide variety of people -- from those who rape to those who are raped -- will practice rape denial.


In CDC Study Finds STI Rate Among Teenage Girls is One in Four posted at Our Bodies Our Blog, we get information about a new report which raises questions about the impact of abstinence only sex education.

In REQUIEM FOR A TRUSTED COUNSELOR posted at BARBARA'S TCHATZKAHS, we get a discussion about victim-blaming statements which were made after the murder of Dr. Kathryn Faughey, a New York counselor.

In I (heart) Lesbians, and other thoughts in the K-Mart parking lot ... posted at Delaware Libertarian, we get a discussion about the projections which follow the reading of slogans others display.

In Morality in sex education posted at Adolescent Sexuality by Dr. Karen Rayne, we get a discussion of incorporating values and respect into sex education.

personal stories

In Rape Myths posted at Random Bitchery, we get a reaction to a friend who repeated the myth that most reported rapes are false accusations.

In My Story posted at Family Times, we get insight into how a family dealt with disclosure of sexual abuse by an extended family member.

raising awareness

In How Sexual Violence Really Happens (potential trigger) posted at Change Happens: the SAFER blog, we get a response to the victim-blaming explanations for how rape happens which focuses on the victim's choices and look at how rape happens by focusing on the rapist's choices before, during and after rape.

In Reclaim The Night North posted at The F-Word Blog, we get a discussion of an anti-violence event in the UK.

In George Bush Thinks Poverty, Death and Abuse are Blessings of Freedom posted at Menstrual Poetry, we get a discussion of the way the conditions women of Afghanistan face suddenly become non-problems once a country is declared free.

In Information about rape statistics posted at Astraea's Scales, we get links to studies related to the rate of sexual violence and attitudes about sexual violence which can be useful when citing statistics or when responding to inaccurate statistics.


In Book Review - Trauma Through A Child's Eyes posted at Adoptive Parenting Blog, we get information about about which is extremely thorough and clinical yet highly readable and accessible.

In I ’should’ heal and grow. posted at Loving Awareness, we get a discussion about how true change will not occur unless and until you are connected to your inner Self and the desire to change comes from there and not from the external messages about what you should do.


In How does one respond to rape in distant places? posted at Change Happens: the SAFER blog, we get a discussion about why it is important to listen to what is happening in other countries and we get a discussion about what specific actions people can take which has a real impact.

In Real Campus Safety Tips posted at Change Happens: the SAFER blog, we get advice which focuses on the behavior of those who are violent or who rationalize away violence and which addresses the reality that most of those who are sexually violent are known to their victims.

That concludes this edition of the carnival against sexual violence. Thank you for taking the time to visit this carnival and thank you to the authors of all the posts included in this edition.

The March edition of the Carnival Against Child Abuse is up at Enola, go check it out.

The next submission deadline is Mar. 29 at 11 pm and the next edition will be out on Apr. 1.

To nominate a post (your own or someone else's) to the next edition of carnival against sexual violence, use the carnival submission form. If you have any problem with the form, please let me know so your submission can be considered for the next edition.

Links to everything related to the carnival can be found on the blog dedicated to this carnival,

Marcella Chester

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:08 AM   0 comments links to this post