Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Report On Sexual Violence In Minnesota And Call For Action

From a Minnesota Dept. of Health press release:

A recent review of five sources of data on sexual violence in Minnesota revealed mixed news. While hospital treatment and criminal arrests have increased in recent years, reports to law enforcement of sex offenses have remained stable, and two self-report surveys indicated a decrease in victimization.

The data are included in the new report, Violence Data Brief: Sexual Violence, 2002-2007, from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). It is available at www.health.state.mn.us/injury/pub/ViolenceDataBrief_2002-2007.pdf.

"Sexual violence is a major public health issue, resulting in significant and rising costs to our health care system," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Sanne Magnan. "While MDH is helping to coordinate statewide prevention efforts, everyone can contribute to the solution. Creating policies at work and school, engaging in discussions with family and friends, and making sexual violence prevention a priority in all communities are a few of the strategies that will help reduce the problem."

This last part about what each of us can do to increase our safety and reduce violence is so important and is often overlooked.


It isn't enough for each of us to declare ourselves against rape. Even the worst rape apologists do this right before they explain why all but the most blatantly horrendous sexual assaults shouldn't be considered crimes.


We must be clear about our demand for the ethic treatment of people and we must understand that instructing children and adults to abstain until marriage communicates nothing about ethical sexual interactions. This vague command leaves children and adults vulnerable to those who use respect, trust and shock as weapons. It can also help exploiters rationalize their violence if they target those they view as no longer innocent or of low sexual morals.

We must abandon the phrase, "She's no innocent victim," when talking about prosecuting sex crimes -- even statutory sex crimes. The reason we must do so is this phrase contributes to individuals being repeat victims of sex crimes. The first sex criminal who targets a small child is rightfully seen as a danger, but the sex criminals who ride that first offender's coattails are often wrongfully seen as no threat to anyone's safety. If a child reacts to systematic sexual abuse by abusing alcohol our collective attitudes can help protect that child or it can leave that child defenseless and scorned.


This abstinence demand also leaves people vulnerable to having their trauma intensified if they become victims of a sex crime. When abstinence-only educators use the dirty toothbrush analogy they are reducing victims of sex crimes to dirty toothbrushes.


Without a comprehensive understanding of sexual ethics abstaining until marriage only delays sexual violence until it can be directed at a spouse. This in no way strengthens marriage.


Most rapists would never and will never brake, grab and rape a random stranger because this behavior is rarely or never defended or excused. We must each work to get to this same place with non-stranger rape. While we cannot make other people personally stop excusing or minimizing sexual violence we can work to change policies so that excusing and minimizing sexual violence becomes harder to do successfully.


The data provided by MN DOH can help make the excuses and minimization harder to get away with. For example, almost all victims of sexual violence who are seen at hospitals are treated and released. Only around 2% require hospital treatment beyond the ER. This means that if people use the lack of hospitalization as a reason to suspect a report of rape is false they are basing their conclusions on bad data and are likely helping rapists get away with their crimes.

If people cling to their denial about non-hospitalized rape victims despite data such as this then that communicates something important about that person's ethical set point. Since these people are often vocal in their denial then it is important for those of us who don't practice denial to highlight our ethical standards.

We can also highlight how dangerous it is to continuously look the other way until a sex criminal inflicts undeniable physical injury such as causing victims traumatic brain injury or death.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:13 AM   3 comments links to this post

3 Comments:

At May 24, 2009 5:27 PM, Blogger Prudence said...

Hi,

Like you I denied for years that I had been raped, because I had been in a less than clear-cut situation when it happened. Like you say most rapists don't just stop the car and grab someone, or as I say when I talk about it he didn't just jump out of a bush. It was a seemingly non-threatening situation which developed in a way which just looked like he was a chancer and had just pushed me a little too far, under the cover of alcohol, but now I look back it was purposeful.

He started from the basis that he could get away with any advances which weren't violently objected to. That the answer was "yes" unless it was too difficult to push it anymore. It was inevitable in the end that he'd get his way - unless I'd been some secret strong woman. In the end he didn't really need to use violence to get me to comply, that's not what I'm saying, but what I mean is that I didn't really have a hope of stopping it in the end.

If the message was clear that an emphatic "Yes" was needed, that this was the only way that consent was to be given, then things would maybe have been different. I don't suppose it would have stopped this particular man getting what he wanted, but it would have been clear in my mind that it was wrong, because the problem is that in order to survive at some point the victim gives in and complies (well most of the time) which can lead to feeling like you consented. If the line was clearly drawn at the requirement for positive consent then this wouldn't happen, and more women would be clear that they had been victims of a crime.

Check out my blog furter for my story and my observances on this:

http://onewomanmanytruths.blogspot.com

 
At May 24, 2009 6:09 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Prudence,

Thanks for sharing your story which shows why prevention directed at potential victims does little to prevent rape and much to cause rape victims feel responsible.

You are right that a shift in thinking would make major changes even when individual rapists refuse to change their behavior since their excuses would be gone.

I went over to your blog and encourage you to nominate a post to the next Carnival Against Sexual Violence.

 
At May 25, 2009 12:06 PM, Blogger Prudence said...

Thanks so much for the advice, I've submitted my first article as I think that one was better, plus people will see both if they visit.

 

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