Explain sexual assault. What behaviors count as sexual assault? What role does consent play in assault?
Sexual Assault is an umbrella referring to ANY unwanted sexual contact. Behaviors can include kissing, a hand on your lower back at the club, groping, intercourse, etc. Sexual assault includes rape, sexual abuse of a child, forcible rape, sexual violence, sexual harassment, and stalking. Consent plays the most significant role. I always use the example of Law & Order: SVU; I know it's TV, but she makes Olivia makes it so black and white. She asks if the survivor consented to whatever the behavior was. When they answer, "No," she states in some form or another that it was rape, and they are going to catch the person. The "tea video" is another way to make the issue of consent and whether or not someone wants to engage in sexual activities black and white. I have been showing my son (just turned 20 years old) the tea video since he was 13. He doesn't want to see it anymore. He tells me he gets it. Consent is not a gray area; it is black and white. More people need to learn this. (Inserting my opinion because I'm extremely passionate about this; Consent Education needs to start in middle school).
What are the impacts of sexual assault? What are some examples provided by survivors in the videos?
Some impacts of sexual assault include:
Increased likelihood of substance abuse. This is used as a way to cope and/or numb the feelings. I recognize this from own experience in 1995.
Increased mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. I recognize this one too. I was scared for "no reason" (how it felt), I was suicidal, and I felt like I was suffocating. (all this is from 1995)
Sexual and relational issues: some survivors participate in more risky behaviors; others have difficulties being intimate.
Economic and social deficits: they incur costs because of their victimization, there is stigma and exclusion.
In the video, the survivors shared different triggers for them. One young man talked about someone at his local grocery store having the same haircut as the man who raped him, so he avoided the grocery store. One woman spoke about being hyperalert and always scared even though her rape occurred by someone she knew; she was always thinking, what if this happens to me now. They shared stories of anxiety and fear that didn't exist before their assaults.
Discuss how victims/survivors are portrayed and treated in society and the criminal legal system. How do victim blaming and rape myths impact how victims/survivors are treated?
The Criminal Justice System was designed to punish criminals not help victims. Rape is the only crime where police question the survivor of the crime about what they did wrong. I produced this analogy a couple of semesters ago. If I call the police to come to my house because someone broke in and all my TVs are gone, they do not instantly accuse me of insurance fraud. Maybe I buried all the TVs in my backyard and plan to defraud the insurance company, but the police take my report and start checking pawn shops until they have cause to believe that I am up to something. In sexual crimes, survivors are asked what they wearing, why they were running in the park late at night, why did they have so much to drink, etc. When the police do not believe you or victim blame you, this feels like a second victimization.
Victim Blaming and Rape Myths stop survivors from reporting to police. I couldn't believe the statistic shared on the video: in 2017, 40% reported then in 2018, 25% reported.
In the legal system, it appears that the accused has more rights than the accuser. The Constitution guarantees those on trial so many rights, but the survivor of the crime is not considered. Very few reports lead to arrest, fewer make it to trial, and even less receive a conviction. It looks and feels defeating.
How can we help support survivors of sexual assault? What is the #metoo movement and how has it helped survivors?
The first thing we can do is believe them; I can't even recall if that was in the content, but we need to listen and believe them.
I was familiar with the hashtag #metoo because I used it when Alyssa Milano put it out there. At that time, I didn't know about Tarana Burke. I just joined in the hash tagging on social media. Fun fact: there have been 3 other hashtags; I wrote an "article" about women use hashtags to fight rape culture online.
A couple of years ago, Tarana Burke came to SHSU to speak at the Diversity Conference. I learned all about her and the original movement. Some things in the video that stood out to me are:
It's a movement to support all survivors of sexual violence.
The movement is about the far-reaching power of empathy.
Movement activates possibility.
We need to dismantle power and privilege in it's current context; power and privilege can be used to serve and build.
Restoration of humanity of survivors is part of the #metoo movement.
We owe future generations a world free from sexual violence.
I look at all these things as her mission statement and the purpose behind all her work. She is trying to make the world better. She spoke about how exhausting it is; I am also often exhausted, but the work is important. If we keeping moving, it is possible to make change.
Reflect on your learning experience for this module
I've shared several examples of how I relate to this content. As a survivor, I relate to a lot that was said and was familiar with many of the videos (not all, but several). I speak at colleges and share my story in the hopes of helping others. It is how I have made sense of what happened to me; it happened and now I have a job to share to help others. In the very last video, Chanel Miller was talking about how it is not the job of survivors to relive their traumas to educate others. I thought about her statement. Sometimes, putting together my speech (I always write it down because I need to have the words), I feel like I am reliving my trauma; some images come back to me and stick in my brain for a couple of days. I find the actual getting up and sharing empowering. It's somewhat draining, but it's powerful. Everyone needs to handle their trauma in a way that is best for them, but her words stuck with me and made me think about it being worth it to relive the traumas to speak. Does the good outweigh the bad?
In one of the earlier videos that provided sexual assault statistics for different groups, there was a line that stood out to me. She speaker said, "We do not live single issue lives." This is true. It goes back to the previous modules and the overarching goal of the course: intersectionality. Depending on the cross section of the groups you belong to, you chances of being sexually assaulted rise. It is important to learn more about these groups and do our best to help them. That makes Tarana Burke's #metoo movement very important.
I enjoyed all the interactives. The first set of videos was the most difficult to consume. I took a couple of days off from the content after watching, but other than that, I enjoyed learning about different perspectives. I'm going to buy Chanel Miller's book.