Tag Archives: rape

Women: Second Class Citizens

First off- my apologies for the lack of updates; I’m still adjusting to my new work schedule- finding time for updates had been on the back burner. Now on to the infuriating article ahead.

For those of you paying attention to political parties these days, or to new and interesting laws seeming to creep up without the public ever knowing about their creation, this article will serve as a blood-boiling recap of the absurd and disgusting politics surrounding women and women’s health. If you have not been paying attention- hold on to your pantyhose, because you are not going to believe this sh*t.

10 Reasons the Rest of the World Thinks the U.S. Is Nuts

This week the Georgia State Legislature debated a bill in the House, that would make it necessary for some women to carry stillborn or dying fetuses until they ‘naturally’ go into labor. In arguing for this bill Representative Terry England described his empathy for pregnant cows and pigsin the same situation.

I have a question for Terry England, Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and too many others: I have three daughters, two of them twins. If one of my twins had been stillborn would you have made me carry her to term, thereby endangering both the other twin and me? Or, would you have insisted that the state order a mandatory fetal extraction of the living twin fetus from my womb so that I could continue to carry the stillborn one to term and possibly die myself? My family is curious and since you believe my uterus is your public property, I am, too.

Mr. England, unlike the calves and pigs for which you expressed so much empathy, I am not a beast of burden. I am a woman and I have these human rights:

The right to life.
The right to privacy.
The right to freedom.
The right to bodily integrity.
The right to decide when and how I reproduce.

Mr. England, you and your friends do not get to trade these rights, while “dog and hog hunting,” in return for a young man’s chickens.

My human rights outweigh any you or the state corruptly and cynically seek to assign to a mass of dividing cells that will eventually turn into a ‘natural’ person. Personhood-for-zygote based bills and related legislation, like Georgia’s and hundreds and hundreds of others, bills and laws that criminalize pregnancy and abortion and penalize women for being women, violate my human rights.

Just because you cannot get pregnant does not mean I cannot think clearly, ethically, morally, rationally about my body, human life or the consequences of my actions. Just because you cannot get pregnant does not mean that I do not have rights when I am pregnant. I have responsibility but am powerless. You have power but are irresponsible with my rights.

By not trusting me, you force me to trust you. And YOU are not trustworthy.

I gestate humans, you do not. I know how it feels to be pregnant. You do not. I know what happens to a fetus in a womb. You do not. I have carried three fetuses to term. You have not. What I experience when I am pregnant is not empathy. It is permeability. The fetus is me. And the state is you, apparently. But, no matter what you say or do I have fundamental human rights. What makes you think that you, who cannot have this fully human experience, can tell me anything about gestation or how I experience it? Especially when you compare my existence and experience to that of brutish animals.

The rest of the civilized world thinks this country has lost its mind. It’s no wonder. Look at this list of frenzied misogyny:

1. Making women carry still-born fetuses to full term because cows and pigs do. This week, Mr England, you supported a bill, the net effect of which, taken tandem with other restrictions, will result in doctors and women being unable to make private, medically-based, critical care decisions and some women being effectively forced to carry their dead or dying fetuses. Women are different from farm animals, Mr. England, and this bill, requiring a woman to carry a dead or dying fetus is inhumane and unethical. By forcing a woman to do this, you are violating her right not to be subjected to inhuman treatment and tortured. And, yes, involuntarily carrying a dead fetus to term, although not torture to you or to a pig, is torture for a woman. It is also a violation of her bodily integrity and a threat to her life and as such violates her right to life.

2. Consigning women to death to save a fetus. Abortions save women’s lives. “Let women die” bills are happening all over the country. There is no simple or pretty way to put this. Every day, all over the world, women die because they do not have access to safe abortions. Yet, here we are, returning to the dark ages of maternal sacrifice. Do really have to type this sentence: this is a violation of women’s fundamental right to life.

3. Criminalizing pregnancy and miscarriages and arresting, imprisoning and charging women who miscarry with murder, like Rennie Gibbs in Mississippi or at least 40 other similar cases in Alabama or like Bei Bei Shuai, a woman who is now imprisoned, is charged with murder after trying to commit suicide while pregnant. Pregnant women are becoming a special class subject to “special” laws that infringe on their fundamental rights.

4. Forcing women to undergo involuntary vaginal penetration (otherwise called rape) with a condom-covered, six to eight-inch ultrasound probe. Pennsylvania is currently considering that option along with 11 other states. Trans-vaginal ultrasounds undertaken without a woman’s consent are rape according to the legal definition of the word. This violates a woman’s bodily integrity and also constitutes torture when used, as states are suggesting, as a form of control and oppression. Women have the right not to be raped by the state.

5. Disabling women or sacrificing their lives by either withholding medical treatment or forcing women to undergo involuntary medical procedures. We impose an unequal obligation on women to sacrifice their bodily integrity for another. For example, as in Tysiac v. Poland, in which a mother of two, became blind after her doctor refused to perform an abortion that she wanted that would have halted the course of a degenerative eye disease. If my newborn baby is in need of a kidney and you have a spare matching one, can I enact legislation that says the state can take yours and give it to her? No. We do not force people to donate their organs to benefit others, even those who have already been born. One of the most fundamental of all human rights is that humans be treated equally before the law. Denying a woman this right is a violation of her equal right to this protection.

6. Giving zygotes “personhood” rights while systematically stripping women of their fundamental rights. There is too much to say about the danger of personhood ideas creeping into health policy to do it here. But, consider what happens to a woman whose womb is not considered the “best” environment for a gestating fetus in a world of personhood-for-zygote legislation: who decides the best environment — the state, her insurance company, her employer, her rapist who decides he really, really wants to be a father? Anyone but a woman.

7. Inhibiting, humiliating and punishing women for their choices to have an abortion for any reason by levying taxes specifically on abortion, including abortions sought by rape victims to end their involuntary insemination, imposing restrictive requirements like 24 hour wait periods and empowering doctors to lie to female patients about their fetuses in order to avoid prosecution. In Arizona, Kansas, Texas, Virginia, Colorado, Arkansas and other states around the country bills that make women “pay” for their choices are abounding.

8. Allowing employers to delve into women’s private lives and only pay for insurance when they agree, for religious reasons, with how she choses to use birth control. In Arizona, which introduced such a bill this week, this means covering payment for birth control as a benefit only when a woman has proven that she will not use it to control her own reproduction (ie. as birth control). As much as I am worried about women and families in Arizona though, I am more worried about those in Alabama. You see, as recently revealed in a public policy poll in Alabama, conservative, evangelicals who support “personhood” related “pro-life” legislation and are fighting for their “religious liberty” — 21 percent think interracial marriage should be illegal. So, what if they decide that an employee involved in an interracial marriage should not, by divine mandate, reproduce? Do they switch and provide birth control for this employee? Do they make contraception a necessary term of employment for people in interracial marriages? This violates a woman’s right to privacy. My womb is one million times more private than your bedrooms, gentlemen.

9. Sacrificing women’s overall health and the well-being of their families in order to stop them from exercising their fundamental human right to control their own bodies and reproduction. Texas just did that when it turned down $35million dollars in federal funds thereby ensuring that 300,000 low-income and uninsured Texas women will have no or greatly-reduced access to basic preventive and reproductive health care.

10. Depriving women of their ability to earn a living and support themselves and their families. Bills, like this one in Arizona, allow employers to fire women for using contraception. Women like these are being fired for not.

You presume to consign my daughters and yours to function as reproductive animals.

This is about sex and property, not life and morality. Sex because when women have sex and want to control their reproduction that threatens powerful social structures that rely on patriarchal access to and control over women as reproductive engines. Which brings us to property: control of reproduction was vital when the agricultural revolution took place and we, as a species, stopped meandering around plains in search of food. Reproduction and control of it ensured that a man could possess and consolidate wealth-building and food-producing land and then make sure it wasn’t disaggregated by passing it on to one son he knew was his — largely by claiming a woman and her gestation capability as property, too.

This is not about freedom of religion. If it were, we would, for example, allow Christian Scientists to refuse to pay for coverage of life-saving blood transfusions for employees. Religious freedom means I get to chose whether or not to be religious and if so, how. It does not mean that I get to impose my religion on others. Paying for insurance is part of the way we compensate employees, even when they use their insurance in ways we don’t agree with and are in contravention of our own personal beliefs. I think that it is stupid, dangerous and immoral to chain smoke, especially around children whose lungs it irreparably harms. But, I still have to pay for an employee to have access to lung scans, nicotine patches and oxygen tanks. I do not get to say that my religious beliefs, which include keeping bodies as healthy as possible, make it possible for me to withhold payment of this employee’s insurance. Guaranteed coverage of contraception and reproductive health care has overwhelming benefits for society, including reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortions. By inserting your religious beliefs so egregiously into government legislation and my life, you are imposing your religious beliefs on me. You don’t like mandated insurance coverage for basic reproductive health humans with two X chromosomes? I don’t like being bred by state compulsion like Mr. England’s farm animals. I have a MORAL OBJECTION to being treated like an animal and not a human. You do not have to use contraception, you do not have to use birth control. But, that does not mean you have any right to tell me that I cannot if I chose. That is my right.

Property, control, sex, reproduction, morality, defining what is human. Sounds a lot like issues surrounding slavery 170 years ago. It is no surprise that of the 16 states that never repealed their anti-miscegenation laws, but rather had them overturned by the Supreme Court in 1967 more than half have introduced personhood bills. Like anti-miscegentation laws, anti-choice laws and bills that humiliate women, that treat them like beasts, that violate their bodily autonomy, are based on ignorance, entitlement and arrogance. These laws are not about “personhood” but “humanity.” That women of color are massively, disproportionately affected by these assaults on their bodies and rights should also come as no surprise – their rights and their bodies have always been the most vulnerable assault.

This is about keeping women’s wombs public and in other people’s control — the exact opposite of private and in their own control.

And, yes, I do know how complicated the ethics, bioethics and legal arguments related to these decisions are. You, apparently, do not. If you were truly concerned with sustaining life and improving its quality or in protecting innocent children, you would begin by having compassion and empathy for living, born people that require and deserve your attention. You feed them, educate them, lift them from poverty and misery. You do not compound these problems as you are with twisted interpretations of divine will. Only after that do you have the moral legitimacy to entertain the notion of talking to me about my uterus and what I do with it. By then, fully functional artificial wombs should be available and you can implant your own, since you are so fond of animal analogies, as was completed with this male mouse. What you are doing is disgraceful, hypocritical and morally corrupt.

And, no, I am not crazy. I am angry.

Mr. Santorum, Mr. England and Mr. Brownback and Mr. Perry you should consider not clinging so dangerously and perversely to the Agrarian Revolution ideas. Birth control and safe abortions are life-saving technologies. These archaic bills and laws, wasteful of time, money and lives, obscure an enduring and unchangeable truth: safe and effective family planning is the transformative social justice accomplishment of the 20th century. They will not go away. This is a revolution, too.

In an 1851 speechin which she argued for equal rights for women, Sojourner Truth said the following: “The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble.”

Do you, Terry England, Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum and friends even know who Sojourner Truth is?

This post has been updated since its original publication.

 Follow Soraya Chemaly on Twitter: www.twitter.com/schemaly



New Laws Imposed on Women

I understand that many people are against abortion and would like to see abortion become illegal across the United States- I am not one of those people. I believe all options (and education) should be made available for women to promote healthy and responsible decision-making. Virgina, however, a state that is loath to provide abortive services to begin with, thinks that the best way to end abortion is to forcibly assault the woman seeking such abortive services. Continuing our look into women’s health we find this gem of an article and new bill that PASSED through legislature forcing women to undergo an invasive procedure before they are permitted to receive abortive services. So Virginia, does raping women (potentially women who are trying to abort a rapist’s fertilized seed) make them understand that you think abortion is bad? So criminal sexual contact makes women less pregnant? Unbelievable.

Virginia’s Proposed Ultrasound Law Is an Abomination

Under the new legislation, women who want an abortion will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. Where’s the outrage?

By Dahlia Lithwick

This week, the Virginia state Legislature passed a billthat would require women to have an ultrasound before they may have an abortion. Because the great majority of abortions occur during the first 12 weeks, that means most women will be forced to have a transvaginal procedure, in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced. Since a proposed amendment to the bill—a provision that would have had the patient consent to this bodily intrusion or allowed the physician to opt not to do the vaginal ultrasound—failed on 64-34 vote, the law provides that women seeking an abortion in Virginia will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. I am not the first person to note that under any other set of facts, that would constitute rape under state law.

What’s more, a provision of the law that has received almost no media attentionwould ensure that a certification by the doctor that the patient either did or didn’t “avail herself of the opportunity” to view the ultrasound or listen to the fetal heartbeat will go into the woman’s medical record. Whether she wants it there or not. I guess they were all out of scarlet letters in Richmond.

So the problem is not just that the woman and her physician (the core relationship protected in Roe) no longer matter at all in deciding whether an abortion is proper. It is that the physician is being commandeered by the state to perform a medically unnecessary procedure upon a woman, despite clear ethical directives to the contrary. (There is no evidence at all that the ultrasound is a medical necessity, and nobody attempted to defend it on those grounds.) As an editorial in the Virginian-Pilot put it recently, “Under any other circumstances, forcing an unwilling person to submit to a vaginal probing would be a violation beyond imagining. Requiring a doctor to commit such an act, especially when medically unnecessary, and to submit to an arbitrary waiting period, is to demand an abrogation of medical ethics, if not common decency.”

Evidently the right of conscience for doctors who oppose abortion are a matter of grave national concern. The ethical and professional obligations of physicians who would merely like to perform their jobs without physically violating their own patients are, however, immaterial. Don’t even bother asking whether this law would have passed had it involved physically penetrating a man instead of a womanwithout consent. Next month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument about the obscene government overreach that is the individual mandate in President Obama’s health care law. Yet physical intrusion by government into the vagina of a pregnant woman is so urgently needed that the woman herself should be forced to pay for the privilege.

The bill will undoubtedly be enacted into law by the governor, Bob McDonnell, who is gunning hard for a gig as vice presidentand has already indicated that he will sign the bill. “I think it gives full information,” he said this week on WTOP radio’s “Ask the Governor” program. “To be able to have that information before making what most people would say is a very important, serious, life-changing decision, I think is appropriate.”

That’s been the defense of this type of ultrasound law from the outset; it’s merely “more information” for the mother, and, really, what kind of anti-science Neanderthal opposes information? Pretending that this law is just a technological update on Virginia’s informed consent laws has another benefit: You can shame and violate women, while couching it in the language of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s gift that keeps on giving—his opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart. That opinion upheld Congress’ partial-birth abortion ban on the grounds that (although there was no real evidence to support this assumption) some women who have abortions will suffer “severe depression” and “regrets” if they aren’t made to understand the implications of what they have done.*

Never mind that the evidence indicates that women forced to see ultrasound images opt to terminate anyhow. According to the American Independent, a new study by Tracy Weitz, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, shows that “viewing an ultrasound is not an indication that a woman will cancel her scheduled procedure, regardless of what emotional response the sonogram elicits.” Weitz summarized her findings in 2010 when she said that “women do not have abortions because they believe the fetus is not a human or because they don’t know the truth.”

Of course, the bill is unconstitutional. The whole point of the new abortion bans is to force the Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade. It’s unconstitutional to place an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, although it’s anyone’s guess what, precisely, that means. One would be inclined to suspect, however, that unwanted penetration with a medical device violates either the undue burden test or the right to bodily autonomy. But that’s the other catch in this bill. Proponents seem to be of the view that once a woman has allowed a man to penetrate her body once, her right to bodily autonomy has ended.

During the floor debate on Tuesday, Del. C. Todd Gilbert announced that“in the vast majority of these cases, these [abortions] are matters of lifestyle convenience.” (He has since apologized.) Virginia Democrat Del. David Englin, who opposes the bill, has said Gilbert’s statement “is in line with previous Republican comments on the issue,” recalling one conversation with a GOP lawmaker who told him that women had already made the decision to be “vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant.” (I confirmed with Englin that this quote was accurate.)

That’s the same logic that animates the bill’s sponsor in the House of Delegates, Del. Kathy J. Byron, who insisted this week that, “if we want to talk about invasiveness, there’s nothing more invasive than the procedure that she is about to have.” Decoded, that means that if you are willing to submit to sex and/or an abortion, the state should be allowed to penetrate your body as well.

I asked Del. Englin what recourse there is for the ultrasound law, and he told me that the governor, while unlikely to veto the bill, still has the power to amend it to require the patient’s consent or say that physicians can opt not to do the vaginal probe. One might hope that even the benign act of giving women “more information” not be allowed to happen by forcing it between her legs. Or is that what we call it these days?

Whatever happens in the commonwealth, it’s fair to say it’s no accident that this week the Legislature also enacted a “personhood” law defining life as beginning at conception—a law that may someday criminalize contraception and some miscarriages as well as abortion. Today was not a good day in the War on Women. Abortion is still legal in America. Physically invading a woman’s body against her will still isn’t. Let’s not casually pass laws that upend both principles in the name of helping women make better choices.

Corrections, Feb. 16, 2012: This article originally misidentified the Virginian-Pilot as the Virginia-Pilot. The article also mistakenly characterized Gonzales v. Carhart as striking down the partial-birth ban. It also misidentified Del. David Englin as a representative.


Slut Shaming

What is slut shaming? Chances are you’ve done it before- and someone has probably done it to you too… but what is it?
I found this excellent video explaining the details in a very straight-forward manner. More to follow! I’m BACK this week.

Women’s “m.powerment”

I do a lot of things with my time- one of those things is work for a company that has an initiative to help end domestic violence and partner violence through educational programs and grants. (I keep a link on the right hand side of this blog that will bring you to that site.)
Wednesday night I was briefly featured on News 12 NJ for my work with mark and the m.powerment campaign. Here is a (poor quality) video of that news story:

If you would like to take part in the m.powerment campaign I want you to know- 100% of the proceeds from sales go to the campaign and NOT me. I do not make money off of m.powerment campaign, I promote it because I believe in it’s message.

What Your Ad is Really Saying

And the victim blaming continues. I understand that the central message behind this campaign is ending dangerous drinking behaviors- but this group is going about this message very, very incorrectly. This article is reposted from ‘Feministing’.

PA Liquor Control Board to teens: Rape is your fault, and your friends’ fault!

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board recently released a new ad campaign, Control Tonight, that attempts to curb teen drinking. Their case? Don’t drink too much, or else you’ll get raped, but hey–that’s your fault, because we warned you!

One ad features a young girl’s legs, underwear around the ankles, as she lays on what appears to be a bathroom floor. The text reads, “She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t say no.”

The campaign even blames the victim’s friends–the Control Tonight website reads:

“Calling the shots starts with you. What if you didn’t watch out for your friends during a night of drinking?”

The campaign blatantly shifts the blame onto victims and friends, and away from the very person who deserves it: the rapist.

While the board may have had good intentions, these ads show that rape culture is alive and well in our society. Alcohol is definitely a huge factor when it comes to sexual assault, but in no circumstances is it ever the victim’s fault. Again we see our culture continuing to teach “Don’t get raped!” instead of “Don’t rape.” And instead of teaching people how to make sure they’re properly getting consent from someone they’re hooking up with, our society perpetuates a mindset that makes women feel guilty for a crime committed against them.

Call or email the PA Liquor Control Board and ask them to pull the campaign: 1-800-453-PLCB (1-800-453-7522), or contact@controltonight.com

The ad:


Source: http://feministing.com/2011/12/07/pa-liquor-control-board-to-teens-rape-is-your-fault-and-your-friends-fault/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Get Over Rape

A friend posted this piece from the Huffington Post website. I unfortunately do not have a direct link, so I cannot provide the source link for you, but I do have the author’s name: Ms. Eve Ensler.  I find her words to be strong, direct, emotional and biting… and also true. Being exposed to women and men who have had their lives shattered by assault and rape allows you to see a side of the world that most people never seem to even acknowledge. Seeing the writing of women like Ms. Eve Ensler moves me and nearly compels me to believe that there is hope for change in the attitudes surrounding assault. The change I hope for can only be brought about by all of us- all of us who stand against rapists, not victims.

“I am over rape.

I am over rape culture, rape mentality, rape pages on Facebook.

I am over the thousands of people who signed those pages with their real names without shame.

I am over people demanding their right to rape pages, and calling it freedom of speech or justifying it as a joke.

I am over people not understanding that rape is not a joke and I am over being told I don’t have a sense of humor, and women don’t have a sense of humor, when most women I know (and I know a lot) are really fucking funny. We just don’t think that uninvited penises up our anus, or our vagina is a laugh riot.

I am over how long it seems to take anyone to ever respond to rape. I am over Facebook taking weeks to take down rape pages.

I am over the hundreds of thousands of women in Congo still waiting for the rapes to end and the rapists to be held accountable.

I am over the thousands of women in Bosnia, Burma, Pakistan, South Africa, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Afghanistan, Libya, you name a place, still waiting for justice.

I am over rape happening in broad daylight.

I am over the 207 clinics in Ecuador supported by the government that are capturing, raping, and torturing lesbians to make them straight.

I am over one in three women in the U.S military (Happy Veterans Day!) getting raped by their so-called “comrades.”

I am over the forces that deny women who have been raped the right to have an abortion.

I am over the fact that after four women came forward with allegations that Herman Cain groped them and grabbed them and humiliated them, he is still running for the President of the United States.

And I’m over CNBC debate host Maria Bartiromo getting booed when she asked him about it. She was booed, not Herman Cain.

Which reminds me, I am so over the students at Penn State who protested the justice system instead of the alleged rapist pedophile of at least 8 boys, or his boss Joe Paterno, who did nothing to protect those children after knowing what was happening to them.

I am over rape victims becoming re-raped when they go public.

I am over starving Somalian women being raped at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, and I am over women getting raped at Occupy Wall Street and being quiet about it because they were protecting a movement which is fighting to end the pillaging and raping of the economy and the earth, as if the rape of their bodies was something separate.

I am over women still being silent about rape, because they are made to believe it’s their fault or they did something to make it happen.

I am over violence against women not being a #1 international priority when one out of three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime — the destruction and muting and undermining of women is the destruction of life itself. No women, no future, duh.

I am over this rape culture where the privileged with political and physical and economic might, take what and who they want, when they want it, as much as they want, any time they want it. I am over the endless resurrection of the careers of rapists and sexual exploiters — film directors, world leaders, corporate executives, movie stars, athletes — while the lives of the women they violated are permanently destroyed, often forcing them to live in social and emotional exile.

I am over the passivity of good men. Where the hell are you? You live with us, make love with us, father us, befriend us, brother us, get nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us, so why aren’t you standing with us? Why aren’t you driven to the point of madness and action by the rape and humiliation of us?

I am over years and years of being over rape.

And thinking about rape every day of my life since I was 5-years-old.

And getting sick from rape, and depressed from rape, and enraged by rape.

And reading my insanely crowded inbox of rape horror stories every hour of every single day.

I am over being polite about rape.

It’s been too long now, we have been too understanding.

We need to OCCUPYRAPE in every school, park, radio, TV station, household, office, factory, refugee camp, military base, back room, night club, alleyway, courtroom, UN office. We need people to truly try and imagine — once and for all — what it feels like to have your body invaded, your mind splintered, your soul shattered.

We need to let our rage and our compassion connect us so we can change the paradigm of global rape.

There are approximately one billion women on the planet who have been violated.


The time is now.

Prepare for the escalation.

Today it begins, moving toward February 14, 2013, when one billion women will rise to end rape.

Because we are over it.”

Aside from the advocacy and women’s self defense, I also take part in an initiative created by mark cosmetics- an initiative called m.powerment.  M.powerment is a philanthropic initiative dedicated to breaking the cycle of dating abuse and partner violence. Since its creation in 2008, m.powerment by mark has raised over $750,000 to support programs that provide preventative training and education. Currently mark offers 4 items for sale to support this cause- 100% of the net proceeds of each item’s sale is donated to the m.powerment campaign- and a Domestic Violence Resource guide is sent out with each item purchased. If you would like to support the m.powerment campaign please click here.

“Slut Walks” Aim to Stop Blame

This story is making waves across television, radio and print- it has even inspired sister protests across the country, and across the sea in India. Miranda Nichols has organized a protest against sexual assault in which she hopes to both; end victim blaming and reclaim the word “slut”. Though I’m not a supporter of reclaiming this word, personally I feel a hate-slur can never change it’s connotation, I am completely in favour of bringing victim blaming to an end. I cannot tell you how many survivors have blamed themselves for someone else’s actions. The sooner we being blaming and punishing the attackers the sooner we can begin to make change for women of abuse and assault. Article featured on Inkkc.com, written by Brianne Pfannenstiel.

SlutWalks aim to take blame off victims of sexual assault

  • Miranda Nichols did not ask her friend to sexually assault her.She did not give him permission to climb on top of her as she slept, and she did not tell him to try to fight his way into her jeans.

    But he did, she says.

    “You wanted this,” she remembers him telling her as she struggled.

    She kicked. She fought him off. But with one simple sentence, he neutralized any mental courage or strength she had left. What had she done to invite this?

    In the days that followed, her friends would ask her, had she been drinking? What was she wearing?

    Unintentionally but effectively they asked, “What did you do to allow yourself to be assaulted?”

    And for a long time, Nichols asked herself the same questions.

    Yes, she had been drinking. But they were in a friend’s apartment, not on a dark and lonely street corner. She was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. She had thought it was safe.

    Nichols, a Kansas City resident who was 19 at the time, decided not to file a police report — a decision she still regrets at times — because she knew the officer would ask about the alcohol.

    Yes, she was drinking underage.

    Would ask if he had succeeded in raping her.

    No, he hadn’t.

    She was fearful of having her character put on trial through the legal system. Of being labeled a victim. Damaged goods. A slut.

    She had not wanted this.

    And with that realization, that acceptance that this was not her fault, Nichols got angry.

    She got angry at her attacker, and she got angry at the culture that asks not “Why did you rape?” but instead “Why did you let yourself get raped?”

    And then she realized something else: Other women were angry, too.

    In April, women and men gathered in Toronto to organize the world’s first ever SlutWalk, after a police officer told a group of students that women should avoid dressing like “sluts” to protect themselves from rape and sexual assault.

    Thousands took to the streets in April to protest the officer’s sentiment and the underlying cultural problems it implied. No matter what a woman is wearing, they said, she does not deserve to be raped.

    It was not a quiet, solemn protest. Women, men and transgendered people marched in solidarity, wearing everything from lingerie with the word “slut” plastered across their bodies to T-shirts and jeans. They carried signs with slogans such as “Ask me what I’m asking for” and “Don’t tell us how to dress. Tell men not to rape.” It was loud, it was shocking, it was intentionally scandalous, and, more than anything, it was angry.

    And it spread.

    SlutWalks began to pop up all over the world: Boston, St. Louis, New Delhi, Seattle, London, Montreal, Seoul and Edinburgh.

    Now, two years after her assault, Miranda Nichols, along with four other Kansas City residents, has decided to bring the movement to Kansas City. They are planning a march tentatively scheduled for Sept. 17 after permit issues forced them to reschedule from their original July 30 event date. They say they hope to see more than 800 people gather at the J.C. Nichols Fountain on the Country Club Plaza to march to Theis Park for SlutWalk KC.

    “An article about SlutWalk really hit home for me especially because of all the victim-blaming comments I got,” Nichols says. “I know so many men and women and trans-men and women … who have been affected by sexual violence. I thought ‘this is something that is not Toronto’s problem. This is a problem collectively in Western society.’ ”

    They are encouraging participants to wear whatever they feel comfortable in — whether it be a sexy dress, underwear or sweatpants — to make it known that rape is unacceptable and cannot be excused by calling the victim a slut.

    Jaclyn Friedman, a writer, educator and feminist activist who spoke at the Boston SlutWalk, which drew about 2,000 people, says labeling women as sluts marks them as easy targets for violence. Sluts are never you or me, she says. Sluts are those “other women” who get themselves into trouble. Sluts — by wearing revealing clothing or drinking too much alcohol — entice male attention and invite sexual advances. If a slut gets raped, it was her own fault. If a slut gets raped, it’s not society’s problem.

    Friedman has a term for this phenomenon. She calls it “social license to operate.”

    “We know from research that many rapes are perpetrated by guys who do it again and again and again,” she says. “And the reason they can do it so many times is because we let them. We say, ‘well, she was leading him on’ or ‘it was just a misunderstanding,’ and we excuse it in some way or another. … Unless it’s a stranger jumping out of the bushes with a weapon and unless the victim is unimpeachably innocent, we make excuses. We give the rapists a social license to operate.”

    Angie Blumel, director of community services with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, Kansas City’s sexual violence crisis center, says it’s important to note that slut-shaming language is especially harmful to public discourse because it contradicts research that shows rapists, more often than not, choose their targets based on how vulnerable they are, not how physically attractive they are.

    “What we know based on research is that people rape for reasons related to wanting power and control and to harm others,” she says. “There’s a myth in society that it’s about wanting sex or wanting to engage in sexual activity with others when really it’s about power.”

    But, she says, for people who don’t understand sexual violence, it’s much easier to explain the situation by finding something the victim did wrong than to explain why somebody would choose to rape.

    Friedman says another reason people engage in victim-blaming is to help themselves feel safer.

    “I think a lot of people do engage in victim-blaming for reasons that I empathize with,” she says. “Women are totally guilty of slut-shaming each other. They think there is a set of ways to behave that’s right, and if you don’t behave that way you make yourself a target. The whole reason that’s appealing is it makes you believe you can stay safe. ‘If I behave this way I’ll be OK, and if I don’t, that’s when I’m in trouble.’ ”

    However, she says that mindset lures people into a false sense of security and propagates the problem by ignoring what’s really going on — by ensuring that rapists continue to have a social license to operate.

    SlutWalk attempts to put an end to that social license by reclaiming the word slut so that it can’t be used as justification for sexual violence. By marching together under the banner of sluthood, these women say that if you dare to call one of them sluts, you must call all of them sluts, thereby showing the ridiculousness and ambiguity of the term.

    “It’s kind of an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment,” Friedman says. “It’s a movement of mass solidarity.”

    Nichols says she thinks language can shape realities and the way people perceive problems, and it’s important to take a minute to stop and think about what message you convey by the words you use. She says she frequently stops conversations to point out when friends use victim-blaming or slut-shaming language.

    “If you ask 10 different people for a definition of ‘slut,’ you’ll get 10 different answers,” she says. “For a word that doesn’t even have a concrete meaning, it sure has a lot of effect to it.”

    However, some women aren’t ready to reclaim the word “slut.” For them, it’s an unredeemable word that should be banished, not reclaimed. But organizers hope that won’t prevent those women from joining the march.

    “Maybe this isn’t the movement for a lot of people,” Nichols says. “I just think that even if you don’t want to reclaim it, you can still walk with us in solidarity as targeting that aspect of rape culture.”

    Others, women and men alike, don’t want to have anything to do with SlutWalks. The organizers of SlutWalk KC say they have to pay especially close attention to their Facebook page to remove vulgar images and disturbing comments; one user recently posted an image of a vagina filled with worms.

    “We have a lot of trolling on our site,” says Alexandra Aldridge, one of the organizers. “And the sad thing is, you’d expect it from males, but it’s a lot of women. For me, getting it from women is more upsetting. … Recently, we had a woman go off and tell us how ridiculous and extreme this is and how we’re just asking for it and how women who dress like this should be preyed upon.”

    Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, infamous for picketing soldiers’ funerals, are expected to be on hand to protest the protest.

    “My stomach dropped completely (when I first heard they were attending),” Aldridge says. “But my other reaction is that we must be doing something right if we’re getting their attention.”

    Nichols says she hopes the march gets the attention of someone else as well: her attacker

    “I hope he squirms,” she says.

Read more: http://inkkc.com/content/slutwalks-aim-to-take-blame-off-victims-of-sexual-assault/#ixzz1Tl6RTAR9

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