1. ‘You’re So Inspiring!’
Of all backhanded compliments, this one is probably the most common.
I recently participated in a protest that aims to evoke discussion about sexual violence and serve as a way of healing those who have been violated. At the protest, I met someone who said he enjoys participating in the protest because he’s always “inspired” by the bravery of those who have experienced sexual violence.
Immediately, I started panicking. I was planning on talking about my rape on the evening of the march. What if my story was too sad? Not inspiring enough? What if I make people feel bad instead of good about themselves?
Then I reminded myself that I shouldn’t be worried about that. My story is sad – I shouldn’t make it sound more happy or positive than what it is solely to help other people.
I tell my story to heal myself, not to inspire others.
As I’ve written before, people are often expected to talk about their experiences of sexual violence in order to inspire others.
This can be incredibly problematic: Not only do we dehumanize people when we reduce them to sources of “inspiration,” but we also often end up silencing those who want to tell their story but don’t feel that it’s inspiring or positive enough.
If you like being around those who have experienced sexual violence not because you want to support us, but because you want us to inspire you, please rethink your motives.
It’s one thing to be positively moved by someone’s story; it’s another to reduce them to a source of inspiration.
Our value as humans should not depend on how inspiring we are.
Value me on the days I conquer the world, but value me on the days I can’t get out of bed, too. Value me when my story makes you feel positive and comforted, but also when it shakes you to your core and reminds you that the world can be a really cruel place.
Value us not because we inspire you, but because we’re human.
2. ‘You’re Not a Victim – You’re a Survivor!’
I’ve written about labels before. While I focused then on the queer community, some of those ideas apply to nearly all marginalized groups: Self-identification is a powerful and necessary tool in healing and fighting oppression.
And this applies to people who have been sexually assaulted, too: Choosing to label ourselves and our experiences in a certain way can be really empowering.
Some people who have experienced sexual violence use the term “survivor” – and many sexual violence organizations opt to use this term, too, which is why so many well-meaning people use it.
And for many people, it feels empowering to use the term “survivor.” It reminds them that they have overcome a difficult experience.
In many ways, using the term “survivor” to describe those who have experienced sexual violence is powerful and beautiful. But it’s important to remember that some people don’t identify with the term – and it’s crucial we don’t impose that label on them.
I personally understand the appeal of the term “survivor,” but I’ve never identified with the term. On the other hand, I don’t mind using the term “victim” because I was, indeed, the victim of a horrific crime. I’m not ashamed of the fact that a crime was committed against me, simply because it wasn’t my fault.
So when people inadvertently demonize the term “victim,” it makes me – and many others – feel really uncomfortable. It feels like we’re having a label taken away from us, and another label imposed on us.
Category Archives: sexual assault
1. ‘You’re So Inspiring!’
Final report: It’s On Us Summit and Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
January 05, 2017
FACT SHEET: Final It’s On Us Summit and Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault
Since the beginning of this Administration, the President and Vice President have made it a priority to root out sexual misconduct wherever it exists, especially on our nation’s college campuses. Students have played a significant role in carrying out the Administration’s vision for having educational institutions that are free from violence. Around the country, college women and men are taking active roles in ensuring that their schools have robust and comprehensive plans to better understand and prevent sexual misconduct.
Today, the White House is proud to host its final event focused on stopping sexual violence against students, the It’s On Us Summit. The Summit will bring together student leaders, campus, community, business and media partners, and federal colleagues. Attendees have gathered from across the country to hear from members of the Administration and outside stakeholders about the work that is being done to address campus sexual assault and to engage in a dialogue about the future of this work, both on college campuses and in communities across the country.
The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault Presents its Final Report
In April 2011, Vice President Biden and the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, introduced comprehensive guidance to help colleges and universities better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to sexual assault on campus. Building on those efforts, in January 2014, the President and Vice President established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault (Task Force). The Task Force, co-chaired by the Office of the Vice President and the White House Council on Women and Girls, has since worked diligently to assist schools in addressing campus sexual assault.
In collaboration with Federal partners, the Task Force has produced a number of practical tools that are readily available to students, administrators, faculty, campus police, health care professionals, and others who play key roles in these efforts. Today, the White House will release The Second Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. This second and final report builds on the recommendations and lessons learned from the first report of the Task Force, Not Alone, released in 2014, and documents the advances that have been made throughout this Administration to address sexual misconduct in higher education. It also highlights some of the innovative and forward thinking initiatives that have been undertaken by campuses around the Nation.
In conjunction with the report, today the White House will also release Preventing and Addressing Campus Sexual Misconduct: A Guide for University and College Presidents, Chancellors, and Senior Administrators (Guide). The Guide serves as a foundation for campus leadership to develop, or further hone, comprehensive responses to sexual misconduct at their institutions. Through its final report and the Guide, the Task Force underscores the importance of university leadership sending a strong public message of support for these responses – and the faculty, staff, and students who help develop them – and championing a culture shift that promotes safe campuses that are free from sexual misconduct.
For a full list of products, tools, and research findings on campus sexual assault produced during the Obama Administration, click here.
It’s On Us
After scores of listening sessions with students across the country, the President and Vice President launched It’s On Us in September of 2014.
It’s On Us is a movement aimed at fundamentally shifting the culture around sexual assault. It’s a rallying cry, inviting everyone to step up and realize that the solution begins with all of us. The campaign works to educate, engage, and empower students and communities across the country to do something, big or small, to end sexual assault. The campaign has three core pillars – consent education, increasing bystander intervention, and creating an environment that supports survivors. Over the past two years, almost 400,000 people have taken the It’s On Us pledge online and students have hosted almost 2,000 events on over 500 college campuses nationwide. The campaign has 95 partners, including MTV, Snapchat, and Major League Baseball.
The Vice President has traveled to numerous college campuses to talk with students about the responsibility we all share to step in and prevent sexual assault when we see it happening. As a lifelong champion for ending violence against women, he has shared this message of engagement and support for survivors with diverse audiences, including at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles in March 2016, and the NCAA Final Four Tournament in Houston in March 2016.
This year, It’s On Us launched several new programs including a nationwide Student Engagement Program structured into eight Regional Teams of student leaders. This spring, each Team will host a Regional Summit to build upon the work of the campaign over the past two years. These Regional Summits will bring together students, advocates, community leaders, and campus administrators on the local level to focus on coordinated prevention strategies and messaging. Through this series of local summits, It’s On Us will train and educate over 800 leaders on consent, bystander intervention, and creating an environment that supports survivors.
Additionally, It’s On Us recently launched two new programs: a Greek Leadership Council comprised of fraternity and sorority leadership, and a Campus Innovation Program to partner directly with college and university administrators. Over the next year, It’s On Us will continue to grow these programs, as well as launch new initiatives and critical partnerships focused on engaging the athletic and entertainment communities.
Because of the dedicated student advocates and the leadership of our partners, we are confident that the work to prevent and respond to sexual assault on campuses and in communities across the country will continue. Join our effort by taking the pledge at ItsOnUs.org.
If you or someone you know is in need of support, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
Anti-sexual assault work is a part of domestic violence work because domestic violence often includes sexual abuse.
View the slideshow for more information.
President Obama Issues Proclamation Declaring April 2015 as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A PROCLAMATION
As Americans, we each have the power to shape our country’s course and contribute to the extraordinary task of perfecting our Union. For more than two centuries, progress has been won by ordinary citizens — women and men who joined arms and marched toward justice. This month, we are once again reminded that we can change our culture for the better by standing together against the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and refusing to accept the unacceptable.
Nearly one in five women in America has been a victim of rape or attempted rape. Every year, too many women and too many men are sexually assaulted and abused. This is an affront to our basic decency and humanity, and it must end. Sexual assault harms our communities, weakens the foundation of our Nation, and hurts those we love most. For survivors, the awful pain can take years to heal — sometimes it never does. When an individual’s possibilities are limited by the scars of violence and abuse, our country is deprived of enormous potential. Sexual assault takes a collective toll on all of us, and it is everyone’s responsibility not only to speak out, but also to take action against this injustice.
More than two decades ago, then United States Senator Joe Biden did both. At a time when many victims were stigmatized or left to suffer in silence, he authored the Violence Against Women Act, which would forever improve the way our country responds to sexual assault and domestic violence. In the decades since, our Nation has built on that progress. We have taken strides toward changing the way people think about sexual misconduct, making it clear that every person has the fundamental human right to be free from sexual assault and domestic violence.
Thanks to the work of advocates, community leaders, public servants, and courageous survivors who shared their stories, our Nation has come an incredibly long way. But from schools to military bases and throughout all communities in America, we must do more to end the crime of sexual assault. My Administration has made this a priority since day one, beginning with the establishment of the first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. And we will keep fighting as long as it takes.
We have taken action to strengthen our criminal justice system, uphold the civil rights of victims and survivors of sexual assault, and ensure that all people can live free from sexual violence. Now in its second year, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault is helping schools live up to their obligations to educate students in safe environments. We continue to address the impact of sexual assault on persons living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS. I have also made clear that violence and abuse have no place in the finest military this world has ever known. And last fall, we launched the “It’s On Us” campaign to let people know everyone has a role to play in preventing and effectively responding to sexual violence.
It’s on parents and caregivers to teach their children to respect and value others. It’s on teammates, classmates, and colleagues to recognize sexual misconduct and intervene to stop it. It’s on all of us to work for the change we need to shift the attitudes and behaviors that allow sexual assault to go unnoticed, unreported, and unpunished. During National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, let us commit to being part of the solution and rededicate ourselves to creating a society where violence is not tolerated, survivors are supported, and all people are able to pursue their fullest measure of happiness without fear of abuse or assault.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2015 as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. I urge all Americans to support survivors of sexual assault and work together to prevent these crimes in their communities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
Intimate Partner Rape is one type of sexual assault.
Rape by an intimate partner is a an abuse of power by which one spouse attempts to establish dominance and control over the other. Marital rape is a form of intimate partner violence.
• Results of a large study showed that more than 7 million women have been raped by their intimate partners.
• Women who are victims in physically abusive relationships are especially vulnerable to rape by their partners, and rape in marriage may occur more often than has been estimated.
• Women who are marital rape victims are more likely to experience repeated assaults than other rape victims; in fact, among battered women, sexual assault may be a routine part of the pattern of the abuse.
• Women who are raped and battered by their partners experience the violence in various ways. Some are battered during the sexual violence or the rape may follow a physically violent episode where the husband wants to “make up” and force his wife to have sex against her will.
The traditional definition of rape in the United States most commonly was, “sexual intercourse by a man with a female not his wife without her consent” which meant that a husband was allowed to rape his wife without fear of legal consequences. By 1993, largely in response to the women’s rights and equality movement, every state and the District of Columbia had passed laws against marital rape.
However, Marital Rape is one of the least reported crimes. A victim may find it difficult to define what happened as rape, or to identify someone she is married to as a “rapist.” And it’s often still harder for a spouse rape victim to prove that she didn’t consent to her husband than it would be to prove non-consent with a stranger.
Victims of domestic violence, including marital rape, in Northeast Colorado can get help by calling toll-free 1-877-867-9590.
Sexual assault is a serious public health issue that affects all communities.The impact of sexual assault can be wide-ranging and can have long-term impacts.
One in five women and one in 71 men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Sexual Assault Awareness Month calls attention to the fact that not only is it widespread, but sexual assault impacts many segments of the population. It calls all of us to work together to increase awareness, provide services for victims, support survivors, educate our communities, and speak out against harmful attitudes and actions that allow sexual assault to continue.
Some types of sexual assault include:
Child sexual abuse. One in four girls and one in six boys will experience a sexual assault before the age 18. Young people experience heightened rates of sexual violence, and youth ages 12-17 were 2.5 times as likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault.
Sexual abuse and teen dating violence. Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Nearly one-half of adult sex offenders report committing their first sexual offenses prior to the age of 18.
Sexual assault on campus. As many as one in five women have been sexually assaulted in college, and one in 16 men in college have been victims of an attempted or completed assault.Creating a comprehensive approach to ending sexual violence on campus involves awareness, risk reduction, response, and prevention.
Intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Intimate Partner Rape, also called Intimate Partner Sexual Violence (IPSV) or Marital Rape, is a rape or sexual assault that occurs between two people who currently have, or have had, a consensual sexual relationship. Intimate Partner Rape may occur in relationships that have an existing pattern of domestic violence. Most states now recognize that rape within a marriage or long-term intimate relationship is illegal and can be prosecuted.