Category Archives: Sexual assault

Censorship and Sexual Violence in China

About a month ago, this article was published on The New York Times website. It takes a look at how the #MeToo movement has impacted China and how it relates to perceptions on sexual violence. What makes this article interesting is that it informs readers about how the movement has affected people outside of the U.S. as well as informs us of how the lengths the Chinese government has gone to silence victims. As women have come forward to speak out on social media platforms and in their everyday lives, they are met with criticism and censorship.

How do these perceptions on sexual violence compare cross-culturally? What can activists in the U.S. do to fight rape culture and censorship at home and abroad?

Umoja – a village with no men

http://www.umojawomen.or.ke/

Umoja is a village in Kenya, I had seen a video on Facebook and decided to do a little more digging into this village. The name of the village in Swahili means “unity”. This village has banned men from itself, it was founded in 1990 by female survivors of rape and sexual violence, but also is a safe haven for women who flee these situations; they also welcome women who are fleeing genital mutilation and child marriage but also anything that causes harm emotionally or physically to women. The village only consists of 20 women and 200 children.

Umoja has inspired other women-only villages within Kenya.

“Building community through peace, love and understanding rather than fear and violence.”

 

Personally I thought this video was amazing, to find out that these women, even what they’ve been through have found strength to fight to get their lives back and help other women in Kenya and other fleeing women to do the same; it’s inspirational.

R*pe Culture: How Larry Nassar’s Trial Shows Us the Reality of Victims in the US

This is a Trigger Warning regarding the nature of this blog post and article. Contents discusses rape, sexual assault, and the trauma resulting from it based on an article about the recent trial of Larry Nassar.

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In the article that I am sharing with you today, we are able to see the harsh reality of rape culture through the eyes of Rachael Denhollander, one of Larry Nassar’s victims. She uses the New York Times as a platform to speak upon her own experiences as well as advocate for victims who dealt with the same criticisms she faced. Denhollander informs her audience about the reality of rape culture, providing sufficient examples of its existence as well as offering ideas on how we can begin destroying the culture.

For those of you who are unaware, rape culture is the system of ideas, opinions, beliefs, and stigmas regarding victims of sexual assault. This usually includes people making excuses for the predator, placing blame on the victim by telling them what they should or should not have done, and even go as far to claim that the victim is lying. It is this culture that prevents victims, regardless of gender, to come forward. With the trauma they have already experienced, they often face more after revealing their stories. According Denhollander, the attacks she faced were “crushing.” Through her testimony, she explains how she became scrutinized by the public and lost her privacy, which is a common factor found in other victims’ stories.

Denhollander finishes the article by explaining how we can prevent rape culture and, thus, avoid silencing and harming victims any further. At the end, she questions her audience: “How much is a child worth?” As more people come forward about their experiences, it is necessary to recall this question and understand the reality of rape culture and its affect on victims.

Click here to read the article.

-Lizz Grimsley

“Medical policies that stripped athletes of the right to say no to him”

I have decided to attach two articles because they each speak on different problems that are relevant to this specific problem. When I first learned about Larry Nassar, I was watching a video of Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentencing him to 175 years. Without context to go with the video, I read a comment about the video that stood out to me, “I wish they would charge murders as seriously.” To hear someone be sentenced to 175 years in prison, it is hard not to have an interest. After searching his name and immediately seeing a reference to sexual abuse, my first thought was that I am glad that someone was getting a more severe punishment for a crime that I felt did not often receive a just punishment.

 

Upon reading the two articles, I was astonished to read that a medical professional had used his power to manipulate over 150 women. I have always known that sexual assault and abuse were prevalent in the world but to hear detailed stories of abuse that was so obviously hidden, makes me sad, but gives me a renewed sense of confidence for women. People are so unaware of the frequency of sexual abuse and assault and I believe that the bravery of these women is beginning a revolution to towards the ultimate goal of ending this serious problem.

 

Some significant points that I want to highlight from these articles provide a good perspective of the attitudes towards sexual abuse had by the parties involved in this case. The first comes from the President of Michigan State University, Lou Anna K. Simon who is quoted saying, “As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger.” To me, she  omits any fault through this statement and takes no responsibility for the crimes committed under her leadership. Another significant quote, referenced in my title is: “The cost of gold medal pursuit was signing medical policies that stripped athletes of the right to say no to him.” A major reason that the abuse continued for so long was because the women were only allowed to receive medical treatment from Larry Nassar if they wished to compete. As one of the gymnasts says, “He had been doing it for so long, and he had done it to so many of us, that we thought if it was really wrong he wouldn’t be doing it,” she said. “He was the ‘Olympic doctor’ and everyone praised him.” They had no idea what was happening was wrong because similar abuse had been done to each of his patients. To think that no one else had any knowledge that over 150 women were being abused is naive and others agree and are pushing for an investigation into others who were negligent during the decades that Larry Nassar served as a doctor.

 

A final quote that I wish to end with that stuck with me most comes from Larry Nassar in his letter in which he retracts his guilty plea, claiming that he was forced. He is quoted writing “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” in an attempt to argue that over 150 women, many of whom were children at the time of the abuse, came to him because they enjoyed the methodology of his treatment. All in all, fortunately, the judge saw through the unethical doctors lies and gave him a “death warrant.”

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/former-u-s-gymnastics-doctor-larry-nassar-sentenced-to-up-to-175-years-for-sexual-abuse-1516815868

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/us-sports-officials-promoted-a-child-molester-for-30-years-now-they-must-testify/2018/01/25/a9912030-01e8-11e8-8acf-ad2991367d9d_story.html?utm_term=.e2ebfc5dec17

 

Taylor Hilliard

Censorship of the #MeToo Movement- China

As detailed in the article, Me Too,’ Chinese Women Say. Not So Fast Say the Censors, ” women in China are facing extreme pressure not to take part in the #metoo movement. Women who have experienced sexual assault or harassment are told to keep quiet and are often threatened or told that they will ruin their reputation by reporting. The government is playing a critical role in censoring the public, treating activists as traitors and deleting posts or petitions online dealing with sexual assault or harassment.

 

Culturally speaking, this censorship makes some sense to me. China is a collectivist culture that focuses on family values, respect, tradition, and putting others before yourself. However, it seems as though these women are feeling as though a cultural shift needs to occur and their bodies need to be respected. Do you think it is possible for a collectivist culture to recognize individualistic needs, especially with the government suppressing the movement so much?

 

Theoretically speaking, I think it is interesting that China is a communist country, yet women are so oppressed. Marx (and Mao, as the article points out) called for the equality of women. The article states that, “The Communist Party often embraces gender equality as a propaganda theme, noting the strides women made in the first decades of its rule.” I would have thought that with the theoretical backing and the branding of the party, there would be a little less suppression with this movement. I guess Marx would comment that this is because China is not truly a communist country. What are your thoughts on how theory plays into this?

 

–Hannah Morris

Considering Taboos Among #MeToo Campaigns in West Africa

In October of 2017, #MeToo Challenges Taboo Against Admitting Sexual Abuse in Africa was released as a brief conversation around #MeToo and its “success” as a campaign in west Africa. While the movement does suffer negativity in its western presence (that is, within the U.S.), even more backlash and controversy surrounding the conversation exists in its west-African locales. In African and African-cultural discourse, it has been argued that the imposition of western ideals – and, indeed, the terminology employed in its expression – seeks to imply the continuation of colonial and occidental practices as “proper” among non-industrialized communities. Through this concern, a dialogue regarding the understanding of cultural and religious practices within those bodies finds its genesis.

This article elaborates over particular concerns of the #MeToo campaign within Senegal and Nigeria. As a community of sociologists-in-training, and as a generation that is growing to pride itself as the catalysts of social justice and reform, it is critical that we understand the breadth of the religious and cultural practices that influence our positions on justice and reform in certain settings. Though the U.S. does waiver often in its understanding and, subsequently, its conviction of sexual misconduct cases, the populace and its government have sought to outline what defines such instances. These definitions are established through our cultural understanding of what is “sexually deviant” or “sexually unacceptable.” In this regard, most of those definitions chiefly exist as the result of some religious conviction that determines what is irregular among society–this especially holds true within the U.S., where a nation has rallied around the concepts of Judeo-Christian ethics and their meshing with law. Yet, in Nigeria, where indigenous religious practices have been hosted long before the advent of Christianity, the comprehension of sexual misconduct is informed by its traditional values.

The #MeToo campaign – in such settings – may forget the significance of cultural and religious taboos that impact its purpose; this results from its formation within a nation that cannot (or, rather, will not) identify with the indigenous needs of such places. How do we translate such campaigns in places where the language of expression is accompanied by misguided nuances, or is altogether unidentifiable with the environment’s unique, culturally-charged plights? In a campaign that lives in an effort to unify victims of such terror (both nationally and internationally), we must recall the implications of using westernized language in broad, general senses. It is not always applicable, and too often we forget that the same ethos that drives our reasoning does not indefinitely guide all reasoning, universally. We cannot apply such limited considerations to campaigns that expand beyond our borders of conversations.

In keeping with the theme that culture and religion largely influence the salience of such suffused causes: the local populations must be involved in such processes in order to ensure success. With particular emphasis on this article, the taboos associated with sexual assault or harassment within those cultures stigmatizes its victims–it is not beyond us to understand why the stigmatization of those victims (by their family, their community, etc.) would prevent their coming forward. Removing the colonial, westernized relationship with such instances, we must push for the conception of their fears as they have been founded by their cultural and religious traditions. It is futile to assume that those experiences in our environment are equivalent to all other experiences. Perhaps allegorical in some senses, this article contributes to these foci; it argues that greater issues exist for those individuals (especially women) who are the victims of sexual misconduct in regions that are not governed by the decidedly Judeo-Christian legal foundation that hallmarks the United States.

Is Speaking Out Enough?

In her book, The Road of Lost Innocence, Somaly Mam writes that she knows the clients who pay for child prostitutes and they are mostly ordinary, Cambodian men. She asks the question about why, in Cambodia, men feel justified in treating women and children this way? She also points out that most programs to deal with sex trafficking target the women—by rescuing and helping the victims. While this is important, Mam notes that these initiatives do not do anything to stop the problem. She designed a program to reach out to men and get them talking. She had young girls who had been trafficked talk to the men about the rapes and violence they had endured. She reported that many of the men in the audiences would break down and cry. Many of them had used child prostitutes like these girls, but somehow it never occurred to them or they avoided thinking about, how the girls were being treated. Mam taught the men about what life in the brothels was like for the girls and asked if they would want their daughters to be treated that way by other men.

I was thinking about this approach in light of the current sentencing hearing occurring now for Larry Nasser, the man convicted of abusing hundreds of young female gymnasts. The judge in the case, Rosemarie Aquilina, is allowing the victims plenty of time to speak about and describe the abuses and the effects on their lives, and the perpetrator has to sit and list to them. The judge, taking an unusual role, is also offering supportive comments and advice to the victims, reaffirming that they are strong and can rebuild their lives. So here is my question to all of you: while the act of speaking up and sharing abusive experiences can be therapeutic for those who have been affected, does this process affect the seemingly “ordinary” people who engage in the abusive behaviors? Or does it require more than just speaking up?

Larry Nasser’s abuse went on for years and was enabled by a host of men and women who worked around him and in some cases, by the parents of the victims. These people did report allegations against him, even when required to do so by law, shamed or intimidated some of the victims into silence, or ignored the issues altogether. I am thinking about this in light of the #MeToo movement as well. We are already beginning to see a backlash against it with women being accused of “going too far.” How do we change the hearts and minds of those who engage in sexual harassment and abusive behaviors as well as those who enable such behaviors being complicit or remaining silent?

 

–Holly Mathews

 

Following the #MeToo movement

Time Magazine Person of the Year: “The Silence Breakers”

I will start the semester off with this developing story, that will likely follow us through the semester. I want to call our attention to some interesting sociological questions:

–Why now?

–Why such a rapid fall from grace (job/career loss, even company bankruptcy) immediately after the reports come out?

–Why is there already a backlash among some women to this “moment” or “reckoning”?

–What are the possibilities of this and barriers to this as a global movement?

–Are all victims being heard? or just those with access to a megaphone?

And… this is an interesting editorial: what about the excuse that men didn’t know what the rules were, or that the rules have suddenly changed?

Susan Pearce

 

Punishing Rape with More Rape? DRC Trauma Stories

Last week, Lauren Wolfe of Women Under Siege wrote about the rape and violence of everyday life in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This violence is tearing families apart. Men, women, and children are caught in the horrors of war and the men are fighting for a sense of control. Husbands of women who have been raped often choose to leave their wives because these women have “lost their value.” 43% of men surveyed thought men whose wives had been raped should leave. Those women whose husbands choose to stay are often beaten or raped again. More than half of these men reported perpetuating some form of violence against their wives. Rape among civilians has increased 17-fold and violence, trauma, hunger, and poverty are rampant and studies have found that men are dealing with the trauma by inflicting more violence, usually on their wives and children. Researchers state that “Family has become the battlefield where men try to regain control and power that is lost elsewhere in life.”  Lindsay Cortwright

Living Peace is an organization that is trying to promote community support for families that have experienced trauma because of the war and giving hope to these scarred communities. You can read the full article here.

University Of North Carolina Routinely Violates Sexual Assault Survivor Rights, Students Claim

There are two articles I found pertaining to this issue. The Huff Post article goes into detail about how UNC is violating all sorts of laws. The first victim Andrea Pino suffered from PTSD after being assaulted at a party, and the school refused to let her withdraw medically.

Landen Gambill reported to the honor court that her abusive ex-boyfriend was stalking her. She had to tell the court intimate details about the relationship, and the court then sent all of the information to her parents, whom she had not told and in direct violation of the law. According to the yahoo news article the school is now charging Landen with an honor court violation for speaking out on social media about how she was basically ignored.

Pino, Gambill, and Annie Clark along with 64 other sexual assault victims are filing a formal complaint saying the university violated the sexual assault victims bill of rights, clery act, FERPA, title IX, the civil rights act, and the Americans with disabilities act.

I would like to know why the honor court was handling sexual assault cases in the first place? This is a criminal matter and the university police should be handling, not ill-equipped students with no knowledge of the law or victim counseling. These articles reminded me of the chapters about rape kits, and sexual assault in the book. Why do we continue to blame the victim, protect the abuser, file charges against the victim for speaking out, and ignore the larger issue of sexual assaults on college campuses? Maybe this will be a wake up call for other colleges and universities in the UNC system, and nationwide to take a stand against sexual assault and other violence against women on their campuses.

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