Tag Archives: violence

Sexual Violence and (Non) Survivors’ Guilt

The title of this post is confusing because when we talk about “survivors” in the context of sexual violence, we are talking about people who have survived it. When we talk about “survivors’ guilt,” though, we are talking about someone who narrowly escapes the primary impact of a tragedy.

I read and write about rape and rape culture A LOT. And that’s partly because it’s impacted me personally. I can name fifteen people who have been victims of sexual violence off the top of my head without thinking too hard (but I won’t, because outing survivors isn’t cool), members of my biological and chosen family. But one name that ISN’T on that list is mine.

I have never been the victim of any kind of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, or sustained sexual harassment, and sometimes that makes me feel guilty like I survived a car crash that maimed and killed everybody else.

Admitting that feels insulting to my friends who have been victims of violence, the way admitting you feel bad for walking away from the car crash feels insulting to your friend who lost his legs. But that’s exactly why I feel so bad – because there is not one goddamn thing that makes me better or smarter or more deserving of keeping my metaphorical legs than my friends who were raped and abused.

And guilt is an insane thing to feel! Because it’s not like I was driving my rape culture truck down the street and crashed into one third of the population. And the asshole drunk driving the rape culture truck doesn’t feel bad at all – he’s sitting in his jail cell (because drunk driving is more jailable than rape) going, “man, this is bullshit, why can’t you just let me live my life” and crying because his football career is over. And I am sitting in the hospital waiting room feeling guilty because I’m not in critical condition. Where’s the sense in that?

File this under “depressing feminist thoughts that saw the light of day because of wine.”

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Follow Up, Victim Blaming at Pitt

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So yesterday a whole bunch of people shared my column on rape and victim-blaming on college campuses, which is unbelievable and I am so grateful.

Sadly, the column could have been better if I’d read the paper thoroughly last Friday, when the Pitt Police ran the “crime tip” featured above. For anyone who can’t read it, it says:

CRIME TIP

The Pitt Police Department has recently received reports that female students have encountered some dangerous experiences while drinking at local bars. We have heard the following scenario: A female student under the age of 21 produces a fake ID to the bouncer at the front door of the bar and enters. The female student is intentionally separated from her friends or may be alone when she purchases an alcoholic beverage. She then has no recollection of events until the next day when she wakes up in a strange apartment with an unknown male.

The purpose of this tip is to alert other female students to be on guard when socializing with alcohol.

Things To Consider

  • Don’t place yourself in danger; use your instincts.
  • Fake IDs are illegal and punishable under the law. This can jeopardize your future employment.
  • Don’t be separated from friends. Always arrive and leave with your friends and keep your beverage in your control at all times.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, remember you have options:

Contact Sexual Assault Services 412-648-7856

Contact Pitt PD 412-624-2121

The victim or witness is not required to leave a name or phone number.

So, the tip never mentions sexual assault – in fact, they dance so far around it that it looks ridiculous. “dangerous experiences”? – until the very end when they list the hotlines, which is strange, since usually they list the crime in question up front (i.e. “CRIME ALERT: ROBBERY.”) For that matter, I have never learned from the Pitt Police whether a kid who was mugged had been drinking, whether they were underage, how much loot they were carrying, or whether they were foolishly walking alone at night. I have CERTAINLY never seen a robbery tip say “Don’t place yourself in danger; use your instincts.”

The ad veers toward the absurd with the “don’t get separated from your friends” tip, listed right underneath the fact that the perpetrator is intentionally separating victims from their friends. That is like describing a kidnapping where some thugs dragged a woman into their car, and then coolly advising, “Don’t get into a stranger’s car.”

It honestly reads like a moral tale the police made up to discourage women from using fake IDs – I’m confident that it’s not, but it does read like one. The focus on the fake IDs is so prominent that it nearly obscures the rape – in fact, the ad even goes out of its way to remind us of the penalties for getting into a bar with a fake identification, without even a nod at the perpetrator with a refresher course on Rape Is A Felony.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think victim-targeted warning messages are appropriate sometimes. I do not, for example, think that whatever serial rapist/group of rapists is drugging women on my campus would likely be dissuaded by a newspaper ad telling them to please not do that.

I would actually VERY MUCH APPRECIATE a newspaper ad warning me about a recent spate of drug-assisted rapes on my campus, if it said something like this:

CRIME ALERT: RAPE

The Pitt Police Department has recently received several reports of sexual assaults with similar features. The assailant(s) are targeting female students in bars, separating them from their friends and possibly altering their drinks with [insert whatever the Pitt Police knows, if anything, about what was actually put in these women’s drinks.] The perpetrator may be targeting students using fake IDs.

PPD is investigating these claims. In the meantime, we urge students to practice extra caution when drinking, and keep a close eye on their friends and their drinks.

If you have been a victim of sexual assault, or have more information about these incidents, please contact:

Sexual Assault Services 412-648-7856

Pitt PD 412-624-2121

The victim or witness is not required to leave a name or phone number.

Do you see what I did there, with the treating sexual assault like an actual crime? Do you see how it WASN’T THAT HARD?

Bad Pitt Police. No biscuit.


My Past Work: Miscellaneous Roundup

I posted a few other roundups, but here are some highlights from my other work!

 

When the perpetrators of unpleasant historical events don’t look — or practice religion — like the archetypal God-fearing white American, we’re all too eager to ensure that their trespasses are, to paraphrase the famous slogan, “never forgotten.” Yet we’re happy to forget decades of colonialist military interventions in Latin American countries, the colonialist intentions and white supremacist flavor of the Mexican War and the deportation of countless Mexican-American citizens in the 1930s to free up jobs for white men.

“Stop Censoring History in the Classroom,” January 2012.

 

At first glance, this policy doesn’t seem to be in anybody’s interest. But upon closer inspection, the rapid expansion of prisons does benefit some.

For instance, it can benefit politicians to have prisons in their jurisdictions. Prisoners are counted as being registered in the district where the prison is located, which inflates the official population of those districts, giving some rural areas more districts, and thus more votes and more power; this is known as prison-based gerrymandering.

Primarily, though, the fast-growing prison system benefits corporations, who use the incarcerated as a source of cheap labor.

“Decarcerate PA: Fighting the School-To-Prison-To-Exploited-Labor Pipeline,” January 2012.

 

To those familiar with the realities of poverty and food insecurity in America, that a recipient would feel compelled to explain that food stamps don’t buy a life of luxury seems a bit strange – one would think it obvious that people who receive government assistance aren’t exactly “living large.” But with his remarks about food stamps – particularly food stamps and the African-American community – Gingrich is building on the foundation President Ronald Reagan laid when he invented the “welfare queen.”

The phrase “welfare queen” has decidedly ignoble origins. During his administration, President Reagan often illustrated the need for welfare reformby telling the story of a “Chicago welfare queen” who collected over $150,000 from the government using “eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards, and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she’s collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, is getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names.” He continued to refer to this woman as a classic example of welfare abuse in America even after the press corrected him that the woman he was referring to was convicted in 1977 of using two names in order to collect $8,000.

“Gingrich Food Stamp Remarks Reflect Common, Harmful Misconceptions,” February 2012.

 

What would it take to turn the Violence Against Women Act, which enjoyed overwhelming congressional support since Bill Clinton first signed it in 1994 and helped increase reportage of domestic violence by 51 percent, into partisan legislation?

Simply put, not much. The new incarnation of the Violence Against Women Act, sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Michael Crapo (R-Idaho), who is not, passed the Judiciary Committee earlier this month on a party line vote of 10-8. Apparently, expanding visa options for abused immigrants and forbidding domestic violence centers that receive government funding from turning away victims on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are so controversial that not a single Republican in the Committee could bring himself or herself to reauthorize the Act.

“GOP Opposition to Violence Against Women Act Reprehensible,” February 2012.

 

The participation of fathers in the “child care arrangement” formerly known as “parenting” has been increasing rapidly since women entered the workforce, with 32% of children with working mothers being looked after full-time by their dads in 2010, as opposed to 26% in 2005. The leap from one in four fathers acting as a primary childcare provider to one in three, over the course of only five years, is absolutely significant.

But the Census Bureau undermines the good news by continuing to assign the label of “designated parent” to the woman in the house, for no statistically valid reason. It’s great to study “gender norms” and their evolution over time; it’s irresponsible to actively reinforce them in the process, and the United States’ biggest and most powerful data-collection agency should know better.

“Census Bureau: Mom is Designated ‘Parent,’ Dad is ‘Childcare Arrangement’,” February 2012.

 

Under the “Stand Your Ground Law” in Florida, one is immune from prosecution for use of lethal force under such circumstances as when one “reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

To say that Zimmerman is exempt under this law is to say that it is reasonable to believe that an unarmed black teenager walking through a mostly white neighborhood must be about to commit a forcible felony. It’s saying that it’s reasonable to pursue said juvenile with a gun and, when a physical confrontation does or does not ensue — depending on whose witnesses you choose to believe on that point — to shoot him fatally. To allow Zimmerman to go free based on the “Stand Your Ground Law” is to publicly state that a 17-year-old black male, by his very nature, may reasonably be considered a threat so great as to justify the use of lethal force.

“Stand Your Ground” is meant to allow a person to defend himself in places other than his own home; it is not a declaration of open season on anyone that any armed person finds suspicious-looking. It’s all well and good to presume Zimmerman innocent until proven guilty in court. But by failing even to arrest him at the scene of the crime, the Sanford police went well beyond presuming Zimmerman innocent; they actually presumed Trayvon Martin guilty.

“Race Plays An Important Role in Trayvon Martin Case,” April 2012.