Thursday, December 03, 2009

MN Summit on Sexual Violence Prevention Kicks Off Today

I'll be attending this evening's reception which kicks off the Minnesota Summit. While I won't be attending tomorrow's full day session, it will be well represented by both topic experts and community leaders.

I'm thrilled that both the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press published opinion pieces supporting the effort of primary prevention.

In late November the Albert Lea Tribune published a guest piece by Patty Wetterling about the primary prevention of sexual violence and the Minnesota Summit. She was also in the St. Cloud Times.

Too often when sexual violence is the focus in the media it is about what goes horribly wrong or it involves statements that get the reality of sexual violence appallingly and dangerously wrong such as the recent Ask Amy column in the Chicago Tribune.

Primary prevention of sexual violence is not an insurmountable task. Research has shown that rapists make choices to rape. Those choices can be supported by pervasive victim blaming (rape as a lesson to teach women and girls not to drink and rape as something victims ask for in some way, for example) and they can be supported by denial of rape by those who are not obvious monsters.

However, those choices can be opposed while only choices which respect other people's bodily autonomy are supported. All sexually violent actions can be seen as unacceptable with no excuses allowed.

This contribution for or against sexual violence is within each person's control. The power of this contribution is immense. Those who sexually harm others or who are tempted to do so are listening, hoping for you to support them. Just as I know that disclaimers are meaningless so do they. When people say, "I don't support rape, but ..." rapists anticipate the help they are about to get.

We need to be as passionate about this effort as we are when a high profile attack happens after a systemic failure because that's the context of most acts of sexual violence. We cannot be complacent just because most failures are pervasive rather than specific such as then Gov. Huckabee commuting the sentence of Maurice Clemmons who went on to rape a girl and murder 4 police officers.

Huckabee supported the release of rapist Wayne DuMond who after his release for raping a distant relative of Bill Clinton raped and murdered at least 1 woman. DuMond was awaiting trial on a second woman's murder when he died in prison. The reasons for Huckabee's bad decisions which contributed to innocent people's murders reflect on what so many people believe such as letting who the victim is and letting the perpetrator's visible signs of remorse or repentance overwhelm the facts of those cases.

Primary prevention is about preventing perpetration rather than being focused on preventing victimization. The second focus leaves the core problem of sexual violence intact and too often causes people to be tightly focused on judging the actions of sex crime victims sometimes to the point of making those who choose to be sexually violent passive agents while victims who are publicly condemned or worse the sexually violent can be positioned as victims of the victim's choices.

Victims don't tempt people into rape. Society does when rapists are excused because they raped someone who committed the non-crime of flirting.

We need a no tolerance policy for the excuses which empower rapists and anyone who commits sexual harm.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:36 AM   0 comments links to this post

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