New Stuff in the Media

Today I have time to post some articles and things that are relevant to the topics we discuss here. I collect links to data, articles, and resources that would be good to use on this blog, so you may see some of these materials explored more in 2012 posts. Survivors, please note that there may possibly be triggers in these pieces, especially in the comments sections.

Thanks for checking in today. The next installment of the series on what to do if you suspect your SO of sexually assaulting a child is in progress and should be up by the end of the evening today. (I go late into the evening.)


Marital Rape

speak up against marital rape posterMarital or spousal rape is rape committed by one spouse against the other. This type of rape has been controversial in the modern era because of the historical assumption that marriage takes away the woman’s right to refuse to have sex.

As you read the following paragraphs, you may think to yourself, “Where did this information come from? What’s the source?” There are so many sources on this subject that I’ve chosen to list a number of them at the end of this post rather than insert them within the text.

The “ownership” view that rape couldn’t exist within marriage was upheld in British and American common law for a long time, based on legal opinions such as this: “But the husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract” (Sir Matthew Hale’s History of the Pleas of the Crown, 1736).

Additionally, even atheists will point to the Bible as an example of “common sense”: “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:4-5, NIV).

They interpret this to mean that neither spouse can ever say no to sex — and in an ancient patriarchal culture, the real effect was to give the husband sexual autonomy but not the wife.

Conveniently, people often skip the very next verse, verse 6: “I say this as a concession, not as a command.” They also skip over the numerous passages throughout the Bible regarding the mutual love, respect, understanding, and gentleness that are actually supposed to characterize marriage.

Even today, when laws against marital rape exist in all 50 states–historically a very recent development–the cultural assumption of sexual “ownership” presents a massive barrier to better laws and enforcement, and to providing support and care for victims of marital rape. The reflexive, unthinking assumption is that when two people get married, the wife no longer has a right to say “no” or to own and control her body.

Commenters on the Internet are quite frank: “If she didn’t want to have sex, she should’ve have gotten married.” Assumption: When a woman takes marital vows, she gives up her free agency, sexual autonomy, and sexual power of choice as a human being forever. Or until divorce.

The more “civilized” version pressures women to simply “choose” to not have a choice — to always have sex according to her spouse’s will — and then crows that the woman has made this choice herself. This is not genuine free choice either.

Both spouses should be able to say No to each other. Both spouses should respect the other person’s No and not punish them emotionally or physically for it. Spouses who are not free to say No are not free to fully love.

Today, when we have the benefit of more knowledge and of studies on the subject, we also know that men don’t always want sex either. I’ve focused on women not because rape of husbands doesn’t happen (it’s rare, but it does happen), but because historically the husband’s sexual agency and his ability to say No, own his body, and set his own sexual agenda were not interfered with. In general, married men still had control over their bodies; married women explicitly did not.

Here are key facts about marital rape law and the realities of marital rape.

  • Until 1976, rape laws in all 50 states contained a Marital Rape Exemption specifically to prevent husbands who raped their wives from being charged with a crime.
  • As of 1996, only 17 states and the District of Columbia had abolished this exemption completely.
  • While all 50 U.S. states have laws against marital rape, 33 of the states consider marital rape a lesser crime than other types of rape–typically they charge the attacker with spousal abuse or battery instead of rape.
  • Studies show that marital rape is the most common type of rape. Ten to 14 percent of all completed rapes are committed by husbands or ex-husbands, and in keeping with rape reporting statistics nationwide, experts believe this is an underestimation of the actual incidence of marital rape.
  • Marital rape involves extreme trauma. Many people consider marital rape less traumatic than other types of rape, but studies show the opposite is true (see this example of information, and there’s plenty more with a simple Internet search or your local library). Being raped by a spouse is a betrayal of one’s trust, one’s humanity, and of the relationship. This is a whole other level of trauma not found in stranger rape or even date rape–our trust in a stranger or a date is far less to begin with, and our personal investment in them minimum to none.
  • Victims of marital rape have very little of the support that other rape victims can access. Many people around the victim may not believe it was rape at all. Victims of marital rape, far more than victims of other types of rape, find themselves having to cope in nearly total isolation.
  • It wasn’t until 1993 that marital rape nationally became a crime in the United States. For many years the U.S. legal system allowed a loophole in the marital rape law having to do with whether the spouses were actually living together at the time of the rape. If they were, the perpetrator got off. Additionally, when it’s already so difficult to secure a rape conviction for any type of rape, convicting rape within a marriage based on evidence is vanishingly unlikely.
  • One of the most common myths about marital rape is that it happens when the wife withholds sex from her husband. Research and evidence demonstrates decisively that the wife’s withholding sex is not the cause of, and doesn’t lead to, marital rape. Interviews with attackers and other evidence have all pointed to marital rape as a demonstration of control and power or an outlet for the attacker’s rageaholism.

Bottom line for both spouses: How much respect and autonomy and ownership of your own body do you want? Give that same level to your spouse. Let’s be clear: We’re not saying to demand as much sex from your spouse as you want yourself. We’re saying to extend to your spouse the same level of self-ownership and freedom you want your spouse to extend to you. Full agency = full love relationship. There are no shortcuts.

Helpful sources of information include:

If you’re a victim of marital rape, you can access the same social services resources as all other rape victims. (See this earlier post on what to do if you’re raped. Also check the blogroll on this blog for RAINN, AARDVARC, and other resources for domestic violence and sexual assault.)

Be aware that individual members of law enforcement may still harbor prejudice about marital rape and may even encourage you not to report or not to get evidence collected at the hospital. Please don’t let this stop you. Someone has committed a rape against you, and that’s a crime–you have every right to protect yourself, gather evidence, and get help.

If you’ve forced sex on your spouse, whether by verbal pressure or threats, brandishing a weapon, or physical violence–get help now! Don’t do it even one more time. Contact any rape support group or resource, and they’ll willingly point you to the help you need. Or contact SHARPP in the list above and check the resource list at the end.

Washington State’s Confidentiality Program

Address label with address crossed outAddress Confidentiality Program

I just became aware of a Washington State service called the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP). If you’re fleeing from domestic abuse, stalking, or a sexual assault, you may be able to access this program to keep your new address and contact information strictly confidential.

There are certain requirements you have to meet–the Confidentiality Program has to be only one strategy in an array of strategies to keep you safe. Essentially, they don’t want you to use this program as your only safety strategy while ignoring the other safety guidelines given to you by police and other agencies. They want you to be really serious about staying safe.

To access the Washington program, call 1.800.822.1065 or visit the Confidentiality Program web page. While you’re there, click on the More Services for Crime Victims link for more Washington resources.

Available in other states

The better news is that there are ACP programs in 31 states. View a PDF document with program addresses and phone numbers here. You may also want to do an Internet search, because most of these programs also have a web page somewhere with more information. Why the URL isn’t listed along with address and phone number, I don’t know.

Getting safe and getting help: Sexual Assault

Stop Rape Now graphicWhen you’ve just been sexually assaulted there are only three basic things that absolutely have to be done, and it applies to both male and female survivors:

  • Get away from your attacker
  • Go to a safe place
  • Call 911 for help (it’s extremely helpful to also call a supportive friend or family member at this point)

But here’s a more complete list of steps that will make this miserable experience easier on you. It’s a long list–very few people are going to come up with everything they need right after being raped.

That’s why it’s such a good thing to call a friend or family member who can be your supporter and who will remember things for you. Or perhaps, after reading this, you’ll find yourself being called to help someone else, and you’ll be able to make sure your friend gets everything she or he needs.

  • Get away from your attacker.
  • Go to a safe place.
  • Call 911 for help.
  • To save evidence for the police, don’t change your clothes, shower, wash your hands, or brush your teeth. Don’t eat or drink anything until the mouth swab has been done at the emergency room. You may not want to report the attack at this moment, but why not leave yourself the option?
  • Call your local rape hotline and ask them to send a rape advocate to meet you at the hospital. Not all cities will have this available, but it’s so valuable that you should always call and ask — immediately after you get safe. The advocate will know your legal and medical rights and will give you support. She/he will also refer you to support services and probably give you some brochures.
  • Call a supportive friend or family member. Don‘t call anyone who’s likely to blame you or second-guess your actions.
  • When you get to the ER, ASK FOR
    • a full rape kit,
    • to be tested for STDs (gonorrhea, HIV, chlamydia, etc.),
    • a pregnancy test,
    • and a prophylactic (like the morning-after pill).

    Of course, male rape survivors will only need the first two. In today’s legal climate, you may find yourself at a hospital where the staff can refuse you some of these necessary items and tests on religious grounds. But they are obligated to refer you to a place that will give you service if they refuse you service.
    This is another reason to call the rape hotline immediately after the attack — they will send someone who is trained to be your care advocate to the hospital and knows your rights.

  • Not all ER personnel may know your rights or their obligations. You may need to persist. Again, the victim advocate is very helpful here.
  • If you haven’t called for a rape advocate by this point, ask someone at the ER to call a rape victim advocate or someone from the local rape hotline to come and help you through it. (In my area, they make this call automatically when a rape victim is brought in.) If such a program exists in your area, you have the right to have the advocate with you throughout the rape exam and police interview. The police cannot kick the advocate out if you want her with you. She is not with law enforcement and is there solely for you, to support you, help you, and give you information about resources.
    • I speak from personal experience here, having trained and served as a sexual assault and violent crime victim advocate here in my local city. Rape advocates are trained volunteers.
      Be aware that some rape advocates are men. They too are volunteers–they’re the really, really good guys in this world. If you request a woman, they understand that. But you may find it helps your recovery to have a supportive, good man there with you after you’ve been attacked. It’s your call, no matter whether you’re a female or male rape survivor. You’re equally entitled to services, in case there’s any question.
  • After the rape kit is complete, a nurse will give you new clothes–usually a sweatsuit or a set of scrubs. Your clothes go with the police as part of the evidence. Ask the nurse, your friend/family member, or your rape advocate for help if you don’t have a way home.
  • After the police finish interviewing you, ask them what security measures you should take until they catch your attacker.
  • You do not have to press charges, even if you saved evidence for the police. The police sincerely want to do their job on your behalf, and they really don’t like rapists, so help them all you can. But you don’t have to go to court if you don’t choose to. You must weigh your personal needs and sense of responsibility to decide what’s right for you.
  • You are entitled to money from the Crime Victims Compensation fund (CVC) if you lost money due to the crime (for lost wages, counseling, lost child support, medical bills, etc.). This fund automatically pays for sexual assault exams, but beyond that–be aware that you can only receive money from the CVC if you report the crime promptly to the police. Many areas have a 72-hour reporting deadline.
  • The CVC is administered state by state. Visit the program directory to find the program and website for your state (or the state where the crime occurred, which is generally where you file for compensation).
  • Be aware that officers who come to the ER to interview sexual assault victims may be  members of a special sexual assault taskforce, which is a smaller group within the police department–it’s generally a volunteer specialty. Give them all the help you feel able to give.
    They have to ask questions that are sometimes very personal, and those questions (probably) aren’t intended to doubt your truthfulness or to humiliate you–it’s to pin down the details of the attack so that it stands up in court, and also to get details that may help them catch your attacker.

    • Having said that, let’s be honest: There are people out there, including police officers, who will treat you badly and won’t believe you unless the rape happens in front of them. Even then, these people will find a way to blame you for it. You wore the wrong clothes, you smiled at someone, you shouldn’t have been there, you shouldn’t have been out so late, you had a drink, and so on into the infinitely stupid.
    • Since it’s not constructive to flip these people off, especially if it’s your interviewing officer, just know that you have the right to be treated with respect. If your interviewing officer of either sex is being rude, blaming you, or behaving inappropriately, speak up right away. Remind the officer that it’s not his/her job to judge you, but to do a careful and professional interview.
      If the officer is simply unwilling to do the job without badgering you or emotionally assaulting you all over again, you can request a different officer. This will lead to a wait on your part, but it’ll be worth it if the new officer will actually do the job. You also have your advocate/friend/family member as a witness.
    • Personally, if my first interviewing officer was such a wash as a professional that I had to request another officer, I’d consider lodging a complaint with the department regarding that one officer. There may be other complaints against the officer, and your action may help empower the department to straighten out a Neanderthal (and they come in both sexes).
      You also have to consider that this is the department that’ll be working on your rape case. So if you do file a complaint against an officer, don’t go in screaming obscenities. Be courteous, calm, and cooperative, and if there are questions or pressure, don’t back down from your decision to (calmly!) file.
      We can hope this would never happen in your local police department. There are many outstanding police departments across the country where this would simply never happen. So when your officer arrives and begins to interview you, proceed on the assumption that this officer is one of the good ones unless the officer proves otherwise.
  • If you live alone, have someone stay with you at least that first night, perhaps for several nights. Whatever safety tips the police gave you, follow them if you’re able. For your own feelings of security, you may want to stay with friends or move to a hotel temporarily. Do what you need to do to feel safe, and to be as safe as you can.

Having said all of this, here’s the single best book I’ve ever read about personal safety. You’ll feel safer after reading it even though you haven’t done anything concrete yet–because you’ll know what’s going on around you and you’ll have confidence in yourself. You won’t live in fear after reading this book. It’s called The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker. Purchase it today.

One of the golden things about this book is that the author understands how totally different women’s and men’s worldviews are where safety is concerned. He gets the greater danger in being female, smaller, trained to be nice, etc., and he addresses it effectively, without leaving out basic safety that applies to everyone.

Likewise, if you have children, purchase the companion book, Protecting the Gift, on keeping your children and teens safe in today’s world. He addresses everything from choosing babysitters to Internet safety. I was stunned at how much of the usual wisdom is wrong and how simple it is to do safety right for children.

Define Sexual Assault

I wish some of this material could be posted directly here, but it is all under full copyright. Resources are not available to purchase the material or the rights to republish it. But here are direct links to the exact information.

Definition of Rape

Any type of penetration (using body parts, objects, etc.) of any body orifice (nostrils, anus, etc.) perpetrated by one person on another by the use of intimidation, force, violence, or victim’s lack of consent (i.e., a person who is drunk, drugged, or developmentally disabled, for example).

Differentiating between the terms rape and sexual assault

The word rape has been used historically to refer only to penile-vaginal rape. Today it is often replaced by the term sexual assault to apply to a wider range of types of assaults committed by both sexes, on both sexes. Groping and harassment are defined as types of sexual assault, but they’re not types of rape. So the difference between the terms is technical: Rape in its strictest sense refers to penile-vaginal or penile-anal rape, while sexual assault has a much broader meaning and includes all kinds of sexually-based attacks. All are devastating.

Be aware that in many cases, the two terms are used interchangeably. If you’re attentive to context this won’t be a problem.

Definitions and research

The American Medical Association has prepared a terrific report defining and describing sexual assault. Read the first paragraph of the report on page 4 in particular. About 20 percent of women–one in every five–have been sexually assaulted by age 21. This is based on estimates, because the reporting rate on rape is so much lower than the actual number of rapes that occur.

Also read the Medem article from the ACOG Educational Bulletin called “Definitions of Sexual Assault”–at least the first few paragraphs–to learn more about the definition and get statistics about different kinds of sexual assault. (ACOG stands for American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists–the first national medical group of its kind to recognize rape as a public health issue.)

The information founds at these links above will tell you that not all rape is committed by men, and that is true. The vast majority of rapes are committed by men, but a small minority of rapes are committed by women. I can’t help thinking how much money the U.S. (government, companies, communities, and individuals) could save if we could find a way to use funding to prevent men from raping women, instead of just helping victims recover after the fact.

As a country, we’re spending a truckload of money on all sorts of victim assistance programs–worthy programs that currently need to continue–but I can’t find any federal bills like this aimed at actually preventing men from raping women. No training programs, no national tours by respected male athletes or other public figures, no TV commercials, nothing. It all seems aimed at women. Research shows that that’s because women listen. They need to listen for their own safety. Men as a gender won’t go to a “Stop Rape Now” type of event because they don’t need to–they’re generally not in danger of being raped. And a rapist is certainly not going to attend. Other solutions have to be created and funded.

A couple of years ago I conducted a highly unscientific straw poll of my male friends, asking them what could be done to prevent male sexual assault of women (not merely treat the victims afterward). One said there wasn’t any way to prevent it. Another suggested that the only way to get to a rapist before he raped someone was to “train him from birth.” A third thought a moment and said, “A gun.” All took the issue seriously, but none were even willing to go as far as confronting other males on sexually entitled behavior, assaults with alcohol, or sexual bullying. Male-to-male confrontation is a vital part of the fight against rape.

Although this was unscientific, it was exactly the correct first step we need to take in the U.S. (Our country is very near the bottom of the list among First World countries for its high sexual assault rate, rape penalties, and conviction rate.) Ask men how to prevent rape, including (especially) asking rapists. Listen to their answers. Begin formulating plans.

Whatever our views, we can contribute very effectively to this issue for the future by

  • raising our sons never to commit or accept violence against women, and by
  • raising our daughters to expect never to be violated, and to reject permanently and at the first occurrence all men who do violence to them. That’s right–no second chances. Your daughter is worth it. Your mother, your sister, your girlfriend or wife, is worth so much that she should not tolerate violence. Period. This doesn’t cut the man off from having love in his life. It gives him the chance and the motivation to change his ways, find another person to love, and not do violence to her.
  • It has come to my attention that the above concept wasn’t explained or clear for marriage or a committed relationship. Within that type of relationship, you wouldn’t necessarily end the entire relationship with the first episode of violence. But you would leave immediately for your own safety. Then, as is commonly and wisely advised, you would communicate to the violent partner (be prudent–just leave a letter behind) that if they want the relationship to continue, they must go to individual therapy, join in couples counseling when the therapist says they’re ready, and not pressure you to return to the relationship. The goal here is a permanently zero-violence relationship–a completely reasonable requirement of any civilized partner who truly loves you. A therapist of course can’t guarantee zero violence, but can work extensively with the violent partner to develop new and better habits and make sure those habits are in place before putting you two together again. When the therapist indicates the time is right, you should begin couples counseling together at the same time your partner is still in therapy for the violence. The two of you will probably be advised not to live together until both types of therapy have progressed far enough.
  • Please note: A violent partner’s promises to stop being violent or go to therapy are not an acceptable substitute for actual therapy. Study after study has shown that the violence continues. Sadly, in many cases, the violence only ends with death. You must leave. This keeps you (and your children, if any) safe, and it puts the pressure of the violent relationship on the violent partner, where it belongs.
  • A note for anyone who has experienced partner violence: Nothing you do excuses your partner’s violence, and you don’t deserve it. If your partner blames your behavior for his/her violence, that’s a way of making you take the responsibility and pay the price for someone else’s actions. It’s the equivalent of a three-year-old hitting his mother, and when his mother says, “No, you mustn’t hit Mommy,” the three-year-old replies, “Bad Mommy!” Blaming the victim is classic behavior for a violent partner.
  • The zero-tolerance policy never changes–no one gets a free pass to be violent to you–but your handling of the situation will be different depending on the relationship.

If we trained our children with the “zero tolerance for violence” policy, it would make a tremendous difference in our national crime statistics for the next generation.

Here are outstanding books I’ve personally read on the subjects of self-defense. I can also recommend from personal experience the Impact/BAMM self-defense courses.

For emergencies, crises, referrals, or emotional support (all confidential):

  • Emergency number: If you are assaulted or in imminent danger, call 911 directly.
  • (For the record: If a man is standing outside your locked door–especially if he’s armed with a gun or knife–trying to break it down and yelling that he’s going to kill you, that’s imminent danger. Call 911.)
  • (For the record 2: If a man is standing outside your locked door, unarmed, trying to break it down and yelling anything threatening whatsoever at you, that’s imminent danger too. Call 911.
  • National rape hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). For TDD call 1-800-787-3224.
  • RAINN national rape hotline (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network): 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
  • SARA hotline (Sexual Assault Resource Agency): 1-434-977-7273.
  • Disturbing statistics on their home page, unfortunately accurate.
  • Victim hotline (National Center for Victims of Crime–open for calls from 8:30 am-8:30 pm Monday through Friday): 1-800-FYI-CALL (394-2255)

Help for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Black sign w/red letters: "Rape Survivor"[Originally posted on Friday, August 04, 2006 at 8:14 PM PDT]

This information is taken from the Office for the Victims of Crime website. You can find the information below by clicking here. According to the website, “These documents may be freely distributed and used for non-commercial, scientific and educational purposes.” For information on rights and services provided to victims of sexual assault and rape, contact the following organizations:
An abuse, rape and domestic violence aid and resource collection website, which provides links to the stalking laws in all 50 states and other information about stalking.
Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence
The Center provides training and consultation to religious communities on issues of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

It Happened to Alexa Foundation

This Foundation helps support rape survivors and their parents by easing the financial burden they face while attending the criminal trial. Financial assistance covers the expenses of a support person or persons who will accompany the rape/sexual assault victim to court. Check their website for details on eligibility requirements and allowable costs such as housing and transportation.

National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR)

This online, searchable database of sex offenders is the result of a cooperative effort between the state agencies hosting public sexual offender registries and the Federal Government. The Federal site centralizes the different sex offender registries built and maintained by State and territories and provides real-time access to public sex offender data nationwide with a single Internet search.

NSOPR allows parents and concerned citizens to search existing public state and territory sex offender registries beyond their own communities.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

This information and research clearinghouse also offers direct victim services and training to sexual assault providers at the national, state, and community levels.

Promote Truth provides support and information about sexual violence issues for teens and their communities. Their Web site offers information and online services, including anonymous use of message boards for targeted audiences: teens, parents, teachers, and other professionals.

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)

RAINN operates a 24-hour hotline for victims of sexual assault. Callers are connected automatically to their local rape crisis center for counseling. More than 800 centers participate in the network.

Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center (RTC)

The RTC provides comprehensive treatment for victims of sexual assault, including emergency medical care and forensic exams, counseling, and advocacy; training for providers of rape victim services; and prevention/education programs and publications.

Witness Justice

Witness Justice provides trauma victims and their loved ones with resources that promote physical, psychological, and spiritual healing. The site features access to experts, message boards, and other print and electronic victim resources.