Posts Tagged ‘date rape’

Power to the Word? Or Power to YOU?

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

The other day, I was talking to a young lady who was interested in taking my Women’s Self-Defense class. She wanted to know if I thought it would be a good idea. “Absolutely. You’re in high school, you’re starting to go out on dates, to parties with lots of people you might not know well, and you’ll be around people who are drinking alcohol.”

“You teach how to fight?” she asked. When I told her that we do, her excitement grew. “Cool! What else is in the class?” I described that we cover the mindset of the attacker, how to recognize threatening behaviors… rape…

“RAPE?” She threw her arms out in front of her, then turned her head away from me and hugged herself, shutting down any further conversation. The word scared her so much, she no longer wanted to know how to protect herself, how to fight off an attacker, or how to be safe just walking through a parking lot to her car.

As a RAD Instructor, I get this response from women fairly frequently. But here’s the thing: Rape is a word. So is igloo; so is fern. But these other words don’t strike fear in a woman’s heart, don’t send chills up her spine, like the word rape does. Clearly, this is because when we hear the word rape, we imagine the crime that it names. We think of the terror, the violence, the degradation inherent in the act, and we want to distance ourselves from it as much as possible. It’s a natural survival technique.

Unfortunately, it’s also harmful, and can lead to death by extreme violence, or physical, emotional, and psychological damage that can last a lifetime.

RAD stands for Rape Aggression Defense. Our techniques combat the kind of assaults women encounter against one or more perpetrators who use anything from verbal coercion to physical violence to commit the crime of forced sexual relations. And the word RAPE is right there in the center of our logo. Anytime a RAD Women’s Self-Defense class is being held, participants will see that logo–and that word–on our registration forms, self-defense manuals, class eval sheets, and on the uniforms we wear as Instructors. Some women cringe at it. Others have asked RAD directly to remove it from their logo, because of the negative reaction it causes.

And that’s exactly why RAD put it in their logo to begin with–and why it stays there. The point is not to upset the women in our classes (some of whom are rape survivors). It’s to take the power away from the word. Think about it: if just seeing the letters R-A-P-E renders a woman so fearful that she freezes, what will happen to her when an attacker grabs her and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t do exactly what he says? RAD’s point is this: if you can’t say even the word… if you won’t acknowledge that it exists… you can’t fight it.

RAD takes the strength away from the word RAPE and gives that power to women.

No Such Thing as Date Rape

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

A student at American University in Washington, DC has written in his school newspaper that in his opinion, women who have been victims of date rape “asked for it.” Twenty years old and generously sharing his insight on the subjects of women in society, sexuality, and interpersonal communication, Alex Knepper writes:

“Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI [fraternity] party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK?”

This presents an interesting interpretation of events. While on-campus socializing may be fine, he seems to think that going to a party at a frat house is engaging in foreplay. And drinking alcohol–a perfectly legal activity for anyone in this country over the age of 21–further “lubricates” the process, shall we say?

Then there’s the clincher: walking back to a boy’s room. This signals a woman’s desire for sex… how? Has the boy (we would hope for a man, but Knepper must know of what he speaks) become a mind-reader during the stroll through campus? Can he tell by looking that she is thinking, “I want to have sex with this guy as soon as we get to his room” ? Is there no other reason why she choose to spend time with him? I imagine that, if Knepper had asked some women what reasons they’ve had for going to a man’s room, he would have learned several.

If the confused young man in the above example wants to know what the enigmatic female is thinking, he should ask her. If he wants to know how the rest of the evening will proceed, he should ask her about that, too. He needs to hear her speak the words, “Yes, I want to have sex with you,” or “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” Trying to guess her thoughts or interpret her actions leaves him open to gross misunderstanding–and to jail time. Rape is a crime, no matter how horny he may be.

As Katherine Hull, spokesperson for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) explains, the issue at the center of rape is consent: “Even if you drink and wear short skirts — that is not consent. Even if a woman gave consent previously, it does not mean consent for right now.” Further, she clarifies that consent can be compromised due to excessive alcohol or drug consumption. What this means for those who adhere to Mr. Knepper’s reasoning is, “If someone doesn’t have the capacity to consent, they can’t.” Therefore, the inability to say “no” should not be taken as “yes.” Rape is not excused when it is a crime of opportunity.

Knepper disagrees. He writes that women give “implied consent” by putting themselves in the “sexual arena” at a party where there are expectations of drinking and sex. He states, “In that situation, men can only know the information that is given to them.” My question is, why do these men have an expectation of sex? A party is just that–a party, a social event. It’s taking place in a frat house, not a brothel. If the entire evening is a set-up for having sex, why not just skip the small talk and the accoutrements, and cut right to the chase? Stand on the front porch and call out to all who pass by, “Hey! Wanna get laid? Come on in!” That way, the intent is clear, and no one can accuse anyone else of misunderstanding. Or, maybe the problem is with the expectations of these men who equate a woman’s presence at their little soiree as desire on her part to mate with them.

During training to be a RAD Women’s Self-Defense Instructor, my fellow candidates and I were presented with two scenarios. In the first, a man and a woman go out for dinner, then to a movie. Afterward, she walks with him to his apartment. Once inside, he rapes her. We were asked, “What’s this called?” Date rape?

In the second scenario, a man and a woman go out for dinner, then to a movie. Afterward, she walks with him to his apartment. Once inside, he murders her. We were asked, “What’s this called?” Date murder?? No. Murder is murder, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. The same holds true for rape. “Sexual intercourse without clear consent” is rape–regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. Tacking on the word “date” does not lessen the violation, shock, fear, and betrayal of trust that a woman suffers at the hands of the rapist. Whether he jumped out at her from a dark alley or forced her onto the mattress in his dorm room, there is no such thing as “date” rape; there is only rape.

Cover Your Glass

Friday, March 5th, 2010

There’s a problem in Aspen, Colorado. Someone is slipping drugs into drinks and putting innocent people in danger. There have been nearly a dozen reports of men and women who blacked out after going with friends to bars. They woke up in strange places, sometimes with injuries, and no memory of how they got there. Some have gotten frostbite from “coming to” outside in below-freezing temperatures without proper clothing. One man awoke with bruises and a broken nose, in a barn. He had no idea how he got there. A woman woke up in a motel room 40 miles from the club she had gone to with friends. She had reportedly been sexually assaulted.

Police believe the blackouts are being caused not by alcohol, but by the addition of Rohypnol (roofies) to the drinks, because this commonly-used “date rape” drug works quickly and leaves its victims with no clear memory of what happened.

Keeping in mind that there are unbalanced people out there who think copycat crimes are a kick, and because Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine (other date-rape poisons) can be found everywhere, I offer the following tips for when you go out clubbing with friends. These are not style-cramping, fun-sapping precautions; just a few suggestions so you’ll stay safe:

  • Don’t accept or share a drink from anyone you don’t know and have good reason to trust.
  • In a bar, always get your drink directly from the bartender–and watch him/her as they prepare it. Do not order a drink through a waiter/waitress.
  • At parties, only accept drinks in unopened containers, such as bottles and cans.
  • Hold your drink in your hand; don’t put it on the bar or a table and turn away from it.
  • If you do put your drink down and turn away from it, get yourself a fresh one.
  • Do not drink from open punch bowls, pitchers, or tubs. (RAD refers to these as “the community trough,” and if that doesn’t make you lose your appetite for the whole thing, I don’t know what will!)

As Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor says, “I think a lot of people come here to escape from reality and to relax and have a good time and I think often in that situation, people’s guards do come down… but when you’re talking about personal safety, that’s something that everyone should be aware of.” Cheers!