I recently told the staff coordinator for our Men Against Sexual Violence program that I would do a blog entry. I have been Executive Director at MOCSA for over 20 years, my career has been devoted to helping victims of violence, and I have a husband and a 25-year-old son whose values I admire.
I should have lots to say….and I do. I’m just a little boggled by all that’s evolved in recent years, and I’m not sure of the right message. There has always been the issue of “he said, she said”, but now a crime victim is called “the accuser”. The job of law enforcement is to establish that a crime has occurred, thus establishing victim status, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference when rape is the crime. There are judges who refuse to have the word rape used in the courtroom, despite the fact that an indictment has preceded the trial.
The September Cosmopolitan, has an article that coins the term “gray rape,” but proceeds to describe instances where the victim clearly said no. In one instance, the woman described how she had invited a friend to be her “platonic date” to a sorority function. Following that, they made out, but she said sex was off limits. He proceeded to force sex, and she said no. However, she blamed herself for not saying no forcefully enough.
What we at MOCSA and everyone who deals with sexual assault knows, is that victims blame themselves. Even if a stranger jumps out of the bushes, a victim will question whether she should have been walking in that area, whether she should have fought harder, etc., etc. We don’t need popular magazines coining phrases that discount victims or their experience.
Rape is not “gray”. Rape has devastating and long-term effects. Lives are changed. Clinical depression, suicide ideation and attempts, and coping through alcohol and substance use are just a few of the effects. One study revealed that 60% of marriages or long-term relationships ended within a year of a rape.
I applaud the men who are associated with MOCSA and similar organizations for committing to address this issue. It is a difficult issue, and I know of some who questioned and felt badly about actions that they were involved with earlier in their lives.
What I think about for these men is how we help victims. It is important to move beyond denial, acknowledge and grieve the violation, and regain a healthy and empowered approach to living.
The men who volunteer for MOCSA’s Man Up! committee have committed to reaching out to boys, young men and their peers to promote respect and positive communication. Typically, they are fathers of both boys and girls and recognize the importance of developing healthy relationships based on trust and mutual respect. This is clearly what our society needs.
-Palle M. Rilinger, Executive Director of MOCSA