Advocacy for Rape prevention

From unknown source…not mine & some of I’m just unsure about – especially the FBI stats…some of it seems vary facebook-y type lore.  Very interesting though!

Over the last 30 years, a lot of groups have made a lot of inroads into how to mitigate and stop abuse and rape in various communities, with the understanding that each of these communities have their own unique challenges. College campuses, for example, are places of learning, but also places where people aspire to have fun on their time off, where a very loosely knit set of connections make for communities. Military installations deal with complex hierarchies and have the responsibility to military law. BDSM and fetish communities have to deal with the reality of being outed outside the community, which can lead to loss of jobs and even legal action despite the consensual nature of the behavior. And many other communities have their own distinct challenges, some specific to them, some universal

I reached out to friends working in the anti-rape movement at various organizations all over and asked them what the one thing was THEY could think of that has most successfully helped stop rape and abuse in any one of these communities, given all those unique challenges. I recognize I certainly don’t have all the answers. But the people who have been working in this field now for a long time have some pretty amazing suggestions. I didn’t write these but I compiled them.

1. Present a United front
The most successful programs to stop rape and abuse, in any community, are the ones where men and women participate equally. The truth is that the law, and awareness of it, is considerably less successful at managing abusive behavior than community opinion is. All the tools for generating community opinion, from the web to newsletters, to magazines, to campus radio, etc. can either feed into a consolidated story that rape and abuse are worth minimizing, or they can go the other way, making fun of the issue, diminishing it, and making it clear that people tolerate it to some degree or another. Guess which is more effective.

2. Focus on offenders and offenses
Many groups working on these problems in the 80s and 90s discovered that there was a ceiling for effectiveness in programs that specifically dealt with potential victims. Education programs forcusing on teaching people how NOT TO BE RAPED were only so effective and saw a diminishing return. This was specifically because rape and abuse are behaviors that are not dependent on circumstance so much as they are on the behavior of rapists and abusers. People of all ages, cultural backgrounds, social classes, and of all sexual lifestyles are equally likely to become victims of sexual assault. Focusing on educating people NOT to abuse, on identifying abusers and offenders, and clarifying what constituted offenses has a much greater return on investment. And building that focus BEFORE people had the opportunity to abuse even more so.

3. Believe and Support.
The FBI is clear that the instances of false accusations of rape hover around 2% — the same percentage as any false eyewitness account of a crime. As well, people who were raped before are seven times more likely to be raped again. The reasons for this are diverse, but the core one is that people who are raped and not believed lose social standing by significant amounts. And many abusers target people of lower social standing, particularly ones that are already classified as unbelievable. What is telling, though, are the repercussions for not believing. According to a study done by Ubuntu, a Durham-based movement, led by women of color and survivors of sexual assault, being believed by your immediate community is the number one factor in a healthy recovery for a survivor of sexual assault.

4. Never blame the victim
Communities that blame victims and put the onus on survivors to have done something differently to ward off their abuse create complex rape apologetics that actually infringe on individual freedoms. “It was dumb for you to have been drinking,” “you shouldn’t have been dressed that way,” or ‘You shouldn’t have said that when you knew it made x angry,” all shift the responsibility toward “hiding” survivor policies as opposed to “Responsibility-based” abuser policies. If people want to live in a world where someone can feel comfortable dressing the way they want, drinking as they want, expressing themselves as they want, it may require that potential abusers and the people around them exercise real personal responsibility. No amount of hiding, on the part of a rape or abuse survivor, will work as well as the attacker just not abusing.

5. Recognize what is silencing
In almost every case, people who silence others will tell you they never silenced anyone. That is because the models for silencing are often hard to identify and are casually done. Making fun of the issue, stating that this is not the right place to discuss it, stating that this is an unproductive place to discuss it, trying to shame speakers, trying to make them less credible, the use of words that they themselves didn’t choose to describe their behaviors, like slut or whore, even, sometimes, just talking over them, being louder than they are, all of these things can be silencing. A common tactic in military installations is to change the subject to something more ‘important.” A common tactic in colleges can be to change the subject to something understandably LESS important, as a way to show contempt for the conversation. We can’t address silencing until we recognize that it isn’t always just “shut up”.

6. Build Advocacy Models
One of the very first and most important steps to opening up the way for survivors to find healthy resolution to abuse issues is the advocacy model. Trained advocates in a community are important—people who are able to speak to people easily and immediately about abuse issues they may have. Identified advocates make it possible for new survivors to clarify what happened to them and make real, intentional, decisions about how they want to proceed. (note: Places like rape Victims Advocates will train advocates in communities for free. Training is about 35 hours and very simple)

7. Identify when Mediation Is helpful/harmful
One of the triumphs of Al Franken’s round of legislation creating safer military bases is that he targeted mandatory mediation that hamstrung new survivor’s ability to manage their case the way they wanted. Most sex educators agree that sexual assault is not the type of situation mediation was designed to handle. The same is true of physical and emotional abuse. It is VITAL that no one is pushed into any kind of mandatory process that will override their abilities to make real choices. However, there is a very real place for voluntary mediation in situations where new survivors and advocates feel that no one has acted in bad faith and that the relationship with the person in particular is worth saving. This is complex, obviously, and not applicable in situations of obvious abuse and rape. But in communities that create grey spaces around issues intentionally, such as BDSM communities, the clarification provided by mediation can be effective. In cases like this, mediation is, of course, voluntary, non binding, and focused on helping the people involved discover what they believe happened and how to proceed. Many communities have found that in cases where what happened is 100% definitively rape, mediation is harmful and unneeded. In situations where the new survivor is conflicted and chooses it, mediation can help clarify and create opportunities for resolution. (note: Places like the Chicago Center for Conflict Resolution will train mediators in communities for free. Training is about 50 hours and very simple. They do require 50 hours of volunteer work in exchange. )

8. Identify Legal Options and restore choice
Rape is about power and the theft of choice. A rapist has taken away perhaps the most fundamental right that any human being has: the right to control one’s own body. The impacts of this theft of choice can last a lifetime. Because of that, the communities that most successfully mitigate rape and abuse are those that create choices and opportunities, not mandates. These are the communities that understand that new survivors may sometimes be loud and messy in how they communicate what happened to them. And these are the communities that recognize that legal paths can be vitally important to people. (note: Places like the Ilinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault will meet with people to discuss legal options for free. They work hard toward legal battles like ending the backlog of rape kit processing in Illinois so as to speed cases. )

9. Be ready to listen
One of the things that has worked the most consistently across communities is the willingness to listen to problems that crop up in those communities, sometimes before they are damaging, before they are trouble. Communities that can discuss uneasiness in certain environments, institutionalized support for abuse and rape, Rape culture artifacts, unsafe areas, etc. are, statistically, the ones with fewer incidents. It is important to not judge the expressions that break the silence. People who have been abused may need to rage; they may need to cry; they may need to write; they may need to clean the house. They may need to do anything other than think or talk about what they have been through. There is a limitless range of responses, and they all need to be honored and supported. Except in cases of threats of suicide or other self-destructive behaviors.

10. Don’t be satisfied
It’s no surprise that communities that recognize there is a problem and work to fix that problem are ones that experience fewer rapes, fewer instances of abuse and assault and are more successful at stopping these. Communities that attempt to promote collaborative models for consent are even more successful. This starts at the very beginning and goes throughout the process. For example, the need to proposition people in a way that makes them feel SAFE SAYING NO can stop the question itself from being coercive. Finding collaborative consent doesn’t need to be scary or create an atmosphere of untouchability. It’s meant to encourage good sex, by ensuring that two people (or three or more) who want x are able to get x while those people over there who want y are able to get that. If we can consistently enjoy our communities while making sure we are never satisfied that they are the best they can be, we have hit a great equilibrium.

These are certainly not the only ways. But I very much appreciate all the people who have helped me compile this and spent their time adding to it.

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