Tag Archives: sexual harassment

Abuse, Assault, Personal Safety, and What Everyone Can do to Fight Rape Culture. Part 1: Statistics

Trigger warning: sexual abuse, sexual assault.  This is an important but difficult topic.

I spent the past week in training to become a sexual assault victim advocate.  It’s something I have gradually been getting more involved with over the years – last year I did a ‘train the trainer’ program and learned how to train my coworkers on sexual assault prevention and response, as well as prevention of sexual harassment.  This year I volunteered to get even more involved.

The week of training was tough, but so very important.  It made me angry, sad, and exhausted.  There is an awful lot of evil in this world.  But I also feel empowered now, knowing I have some tools to help people – if only just a little bit.  Even if I’m never called on to be an advocate, I at least want to continue with outreach and education.  Caveat: I am not a professional.  I am a lightly-trained volunteer.  But I will check and provide sources/links for everything I post.

Since there is so much information to share here, I will split this into a series of posts intended to give readers some tools and resources for both preventing assaults and how, if the worst should happen, to help yourself or your loved one.

First, since I am a STEM-oriented person, I’ll share some highly disturbing statistics about sexual assault in this country (source: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) website):

  • 1 in 6 women in the United States will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.  Only 40% – less than half – will report it.  When you add in the other forms of sexual assault (groping, unwanted touching, molestation), this number doubles – about one in three. 
  • 44% of victims are under age 18, and 80% are under age 30.
  • Approximately 1 in 33 men in the United States will be raped and somewhere between 1 in 6 and 1 in 10 will be in some way sexually assaulted in their lifetime.  Very, very few of them report because of various stigmas and social pressures, so we don’t have a terribly good idea of the actual numbers.
  • Three percent of rapists ever get jail time.  That means for every three rapists in jail, ninety-seven rapists are out there, free to rape again.  Most of them are not convicted, and therefore not registered sex offenders, so you won’t know who they are.  Of those who do see jail time, half are arrested again within 3 years of being released.
  • Someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. every two minutes.  So in the time it took you to read this post, at least one person was assaulted.
  • The ‘stranger in an alley’ or ‘masked man jumping out from a bush’ thing is a myth – most rape victims (about 2/3!) know their attacker.  And more than 50% of rapes occur within a mile of (or in!) the victim’s home.

This is a rough subject.  So why am I telling you all this?  Well, this is a blog with a lot of info about parenting, equality for women, and pushing for a better future.  I can’t really think of anything that is more applicable right now.

We live in a rape culture.  It makes me angry, and pretty terrified.  It ought to make you angry, too.  The odds say you personally know several people who have been raped, including someone very close to you (remember, 1 in 6, and probably even more than that since so few report!).  Most likely those friends and loved ones have never told anyone what happened to them.

As we go through this series of posts, I’ll include resources for educating kids both on respecting other people’s bodies, and how to respect and protect their own bodies.  If we are going to change this culture and reduce those painfully, ridiculously high numbers, it has to start with today’s parents.  I hope you’ll help me in the fight to wipe out sexual assault and abuse.

 

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Costume is not consent – or a free pass to behave badly

San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) happening this week has reminded me of something I’ve wanted to write about for a while.  There has been a lot more dialogue in recent years about harassment of cosplayers and the wonderful campaigns to stop that, such as the “Costumes/Cosplay are not Consent” movement – the idea that just because someone is dressed as ‘slave Leia’ or a short-skirted Sailor Moon does not mean that it is ok to ogle or touch him or her.   And more cons are taking measures to enforce safe environments.

There have been some very high profile incidents of harassment of cosplayers in the last couple years, and all too often some even nastier backlash against those who stood up for themselves.  Fandom has seen several new (and growing) movements in recent years to combat discrimination and harassment of many kinds that happens at cons, within professional and fan organizations, and online.  The conversation to date is overall good, and progress is slow but gaining momentum as far as I can tell.

Another, less visible issue, though, is that of certain cosplayers themselves behaving badly towards their fellows – the idea that a costume allows the wearer to get away with things for the sake of ‘being in character’ that are actually unacceptable.  Costumes, especially those that allow some bit of anonymity due to a mask or other covering, can sometimes embolden the wearer and result in behavior ranging from annoying to absolutely reprehensible.

For example, someone dressed as Iron Man might have a bit more swagger than usual, and think it’s ok to actually act like Tony Stark in real life – that’s the minor end of the scale.  On the uglier end, though, the costume is an excuse to harass someone from the same world/book/show/movie/comic.  An Eleventh Doctor cosplayer feels entitled to walk up and kiss a stranger dressed as River Song, for example.  Or a Han Solo thinks he gets to grab and grope anyone dressed as Leia.

In each case she didn’t remotely consent to that, but for some reason a lot of people think it’s ok – both the offender and frequently the bystanders as well.  I even heard a tale this week of a woman who was thrown to the ground and assaulted on stage during a masquerade by a fellow cosplayer, whose excuse was that he was “just re-enacting a scene from the book so the cosplay would be more authentic.”  Except it was without her consent or prior knowledge.  Costume is not consent, and cosplay is also not permission.

Those who use their costumes as an excuse to behave badly or as something to hide behind while they harass or even assault others are cowards.  They need to be held accountable for their actions while they are dressed up – yes, for things they do even while they are ‘in character.’

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