2013 In Review

Despite appearances, the blog is not dead or forgotten despite the slow year. I hope to begin blogging on some new, current topics in 2014, such as online harassment, street harassment, teen sexting, online bullying among children and teens and other relevant topics.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Oops, I Raped You — Sorry About That

Oops, I Raped You — Sorry About That, It Was An Accident, I Didn’t Notice You Were Frozen and Crying

Date rape is extremely common among types of rape. Date rape is also referred to as acquaintance rape, and it encompasses being raped by your official date for the evening, being raped by an acquaintance, being raped by the guy at the bar who chivalrously pulled your chair out for you and bought you a drink, and more.

Here, Here’s a Handy Excuse for Every Situation

By far the most common justification for this type of rape (as well as any other types of rape — it can work with anything!) goes like this: “She never said no.” Or words to that effect. It sets up the classic he said/she said situation in which it is almost impossible to prove rape no matter how much physical evidence may exist. Semen is explained away as the simple result of consensual sex; bruising and other marks are just “rough sex, because she wanted it.”

In the media, we rarely hear about ordinary date rape cases. For one thing, most of them are never reported to the police. Of rapes that are reported, most never make it to court — and by far the majority of cases we hear about in the media are the ones where the legal system and media declare them false or non-credible accusations. As long as this is true, we will continue to overestimate the number of false accusations and underestimate the incidence of date rape.

Be aware, at this point, that a significant number of cases that don’t make it to court end because the rape survivor ended them. The legal system records this as a false accusation or a non-substantiated accusation. That’s not accurate, but it’s the way things are done. The desire to not have your whole life, particularly your sex life, paraded before the country for everyone to see and brutally judge — as well as dread of having to face your attacker in court when you’re likely to lose anyway — these account for many rape cases that end because the survivor weighed her options and didn’t find any good ones.

Rape by Miscommunication

“Rape by miscommunication” is false.  Check out some articles here and here and here and here, and a study here (that several of the articles refer to), on subtlety vs. a plain No as it relates to sex. This article also hits on the subject. The study, and the articles, were done on men discussing getting consent from women.

I would be interested to find out about any similar studies done on women getting consent from men. I’m pretty certain there would be some major differences, and a study on that topic would be fascinating.

I’m Smart and Subtle, Till I’m Not

The bottom line is that men communicating with women understand subtle interpersonal messages from women, and indeed practice subtlety themselves — including not saying a direct “No” to sex. That’s right — men were subtle and indirect about saying No themselves. However, this skill in being subtle and in understanding subtlety only extended until a rapist wanted sex.

Suddenly, confusion entered the picture. Suddenly men in these studies (it wasn’t just rapists, but the men in general) began to talk about women failing to look them in the eye and say a direct No, even though the men themselves did not do that. Suddenly, they professed not to understand subtle messages anymore.

This is a loud, flashing red alarm in a country and culture where 1 in 5 – 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted in some way during their lifetime (1 in 7 – 1 in 5 men are too, but that was not the subject of these particular studies).

So What Are We Supposed to Do About It?

The Affirmative Consent article referenced above suggested that education is key, suggesting that college students should be educated on the subject. The study I linked to earlier, here, says this:

“[I]n presenting this research, and its associated transcripts, to young men and women, we have found that by drawing attention to our shared commonsensical knowledge of how everyday refusals are normatively done, and then to how this knowledge is often then patently discounted in favour of the interpretative repertoire of miscommunication . . . young people become engaged in an active discussion of how it is that both sexual consent and sexual refusal are actually negotiated.”

I will add here that I would like to know more about female rape of males. I can make an educated guess about some of the differences between male-on-female rape vs. female-on-male rape, but I haven’t yet seen a study on it. The female-on-male rape rate is far lower than vice versa, but it’s good to recognize that male victims are just as traumatized as female victims. Probably different strategies of prevention would apply.

The blog post Talking Past Each Other asks why, when it’s such a small percentage of the male population that commits the vast majority of rapes, do other men defend them and make excuses for them? If that stopped happening, if men who would never ever commit rape stopped covering for rapists in any way, I’ll bet that  — not just education — would have a major impact.

I’m Having Sex For a While, Without Ever Noticing My Partner is Terrified and Not Into It

I have wondered myself why a rapist thinks it’s a good excuse to say, “Well, she didn’t say no, and she didn’t push me away, so I thought she wanted it.” That small subset of men — rapists — sincerely don’t care one way or the other.

When a normal man (that is, a non-rapist) has sex, he notices if his partner is silent, stiff, unresponsive, crying, frozen in fear, pushing him away — he notices a negative response. A guy looking for “Oh yeah!” is going to instantly notice “I just want to go home. Can I go home now?”  or anything said with fear. A normal guy would be very unlikely to even reach that point, because he cares what his partner is feeling. Most men would be horrified to literally push themselves on a partner that so obviously didn’t want to have sex with them.

A rapist can read a woman’s signals just as well as a normal man; the difference is that he doesn’t care.

I’ve thought about how long it takes to rape someone. It’s not an instantaneous act. How is this guy, in the middle of raping a clearly miserable, distressed, terrified partner, overlooking her fear and misery? How is it possible that he can’t see what’s in front of him? The real answer is that he can see. He has simply decided that his desire for sex outweighs her humanity, and he knows that his chances of being sent to prison are ridiculously slim. All he has to do is say he thought it was consensual, and he’ll be off the hook. Based on actual records of rapists, they are able to do this time and again, usually dozens of times, before anything ever sticks legally.

What person is willing to push someone into sex under circumstances that he himself says were ambiguous? If there’s any room for misunderstanding, then don’t have sex. This is not complicated.

Some say, “Well, but women might act one way and mean another thing, and they might be saying no but then all flirting with you…” I have no sympathy for these excuses. If a woman is giving a man mixed signals, or negative signals, or if there’s any doubt at all, then don’t have sex with her. If she wants him, believe me, she will figure out how to be clear. But he already knew that. He just didn’t want to hear the word No. Not verbally, and not nonverbally.

So if you’re a normal guy who has ever spent a moment worrying about false accusations of rape, here’s a tip:

Don’t have sex with anyone who doesn’t give you enthusiastic consent. There you go. The end of all possible misunderstandings.

Rather than setting the bar as low as possible for consent (“Well, she didn’t fight me off, right?”), set it high. If someone is sending you mixed messages, don’t have sex. If she’s saying No, but obviously trying to bait you into making a move, don’t have sex. Set the bar high: Do things like ask her outright and see if she responds enthusiastically. Or flirt with her and see if she makes the first move — and then check with her verbally to be sure. I advise women to do the same thing with men — it eliminates excuses and can help eliminate game-players, always a good thing.

So this whole line of thinking, “She didn’t say no, I mean she said no but then looked away in that flirty way girls do, or she pushed me away but you know how girls are, they want to just act reluctant…” is bogus. If you’re not a rapist, no amount of fudge factor will turn you into one.

It’s impossible to not notice a woman’s lack of enthusiastic consent while she’s being raped. And beforehand. So put away your excuses. We know who you are and we know what you are doing. And today, more and more often, people of goodwill of both sexes are willing to call you out for it. Don’t rape people. Don’t support people who joke about it. Just don’t.

BLOG BLACKOUT TO PROTEST SOPA/PIPA

I support all our representatives in voting NO on SOPA/PIPA and Internet censorship. Today will be a blackout day on this blog.

Links to All New Social Media

Stylized red drawing of person with arms raisedI posted these last week but they bear posting again. Go to FB and Like the page, or go to Twitter and Follow. Or both. It’s a quicker, easier way to keep up with new posts!

Facebook Page (under the name Zoe Mars)

Twitter account (ForTheRecord2)

What I Wish They’d Invent

This is one for you to respond to! I’ll start us off with a couple of ideas. This is all pure imagination. (I believe I’ve mentioned my idealistic bent.)

  • You know those radar guns police officers have to check your speed when you’re driving? I wish they’d invent one of those that women could carry to point at men and figure out which ones are dangerous. You know what would happen if women had those? They’d be as nice and trusting as men could ever want (to the good men, that is). If there were a special alarm for a man who just specifically targeted you for rape, well, I’d pay a lot extra for that feature. These devices would be good for men too.
  • A Violence Policy, liability insurance that men who kidnap/rape/beat/harass women have to buy before attacking anyone. Then women could drive up the premiums by taking self-defense classes en masse. Again, this could apply to men.
  • Self-defense classes for girls in every middle school and high school, as part of the curriculum.
  • Classes (or at least a semester’s worth of study) on boundaries and respect between the sexes, taught to both boys and girls in middle school and high school.
  • Teachers, parents, and society setting an example of respectful, non-sexist behavior by men toward women.
  • An organization specifically for open dialog between men and women. No insulting, derailing, blaming, etc. allowed. There’d have to be certain rigid conversational rules in place for this to work, and I imagine it should be by invitation only to prevent the organization from attracting haters of both sexes, who would ruin it for everyone. We all have questions and ideas. This would be a safe space to (respectfully) converse, debate, and exchange ideas.

Are you laughing your head off? Yeah, me too. So let’s hear your ideas. Brainstorm. Toss ’em out. The stakes are low here.

Updating and Adding Pictures!

Blog lettering surrounded by nuts, bolts, and toolsYes, I am still doing that 31-posts-in-31-days blog challenge. I decided to add pics to all my posts and update them all. Since there are something around 40+ posts on this blog so far, it takes time.

The social bookmarking links on the oldest posts are gone. Remember those lines of tiny logos at the bottom of each post? Remember all the ones that broke over time? I used to have to add each bookmark manually, to every post! Now you click on a post and proper bookmarking automatically appears, according to my specifications, at the foot of each individual post.

This isn’t a brand-new WordPress feature, but it’s one of several I’ve discovered since largely falling off the blogging wagon in 2010-11.

Then there’s the updating. I started this blog over on Blogspot (now Blogger) in, what was it, 2006? I’ve gone back and updated a number of posts to reflect new information.

Yes, that means I’m going back and reading through every single post, removing bookmarks, updating, and adding pics. Now you know why I haven’t posted yesterday and today.

Enjoy the updated look and easier social bookmarking!

What To Do If You Suspect Your Significant Other/Family Member of Sexually Abusing a Child, Part IV

My Child is Safe Now — How Do We Deal With the Aftermath?

This is the final post in this series on child sexual assault.  Here we’ll talk about what to do for recovery — your child’s treatment, your own processing of the events, and some of the logistics.

I mostly use “them” and “they” when talking about a child because it’s awkward to read “him/her” over and over again. I also tend to use “he” when talking about the abuser, not because women don’t abuse, but simply based on statistics. If you are a male victim of a female abuser, switch these pronouns around and the information will still be accurate.

(Last, and still least: I’m often a fan of readability over grammar. There will sometimes be dangling participles and such, and we will leave them in peace.)

The legal system

Talk to police and social services about whatever legal actions they are taking against the abuser. If you have access to a lawyer — either formally or informally — call them up and ask for a consultation. Having access to a child services lawyer is especially valuable for answering questions, and it’s good to have someone on your team who’s focused on your child.

Police will focus on catching the molester, and the legal system will focus on prosecuting the molester, which is how it ought to be — we want the molester caught and prosecuted. That does mean that the lawyer may be the only part of the legal system whose primary focus and goal is looking out for your child. Ask about the legal process. Ask all your questions.

Child Protective Services (CPS) may be involved if it is determined your child may still be in danger — for example, if the abuser is Mom’s boyfriend, or is a family member, or is someone who lives in the same house with the child. If the abuser lives elsewhere, though, and CPS is confident you will protect your child, they may be involved very little.

A child’s therapy

We discussed in the previous post how to choose a good therapist for our children. Once in counseling, your child (and you, as you may also need and want counseling to work through this experience) will be working through feelings like guilt, fear, feelings of betrayal, lack of trust, being too much into sex too early, body image problems, and more.

Continue to believe and support your child in this. Sessions with the therapist and your child will be confidential so that your child can feel safe expressing anything they may be feeling. Respect this confidentiality in the interest of helping your child work through what happened to them. Do ask questions, gently, to make sure nothing is amiss in the therapist-patient relationship, but don’t push your child to tell you details from therapy.

Rebuilding boundaries

A child who has been sexually abused has had their personal boundaries violated, by force and/or by adult manipulation. These healthy boundaries need to be rebuilt, and you play the largest role in that.

Give your child emotional and physical privacy. Keep the lines of communication open by conversing with your child, but don’t press them. Give your child the right to say Yes or No to what they want and don’t want, what they like and don’t like. Give your child choices about what to wear and what to do, and remember that they have a sovereign right to think what they think.

Encourage your child to make plans and carry them out and to take action on what they want rather than waiting for it or waiting for others to give it to them. (These are all good skills for any child — much more so for a child who has been molested.)

Safety skills for children

Teach your child:

  • …That people in general don’t have a right to touch the child’s private parts (teach what those are) without their permission.
  • How to say No to an adult, and assure the child you’ll support them when they set this personal boundary. If they think they’ll get in trouble for saying No to an adult, they likely won’t, and they’ll be back where they started with the molester (adults have control of my body and I don’t).
    • I can remember being chided for not wanting adults to hug me or kiss me, and the message was very clear: That adults’ social needs took precedence over my bodily sovereignty. That if an adult felt like touching me, they had the right to touch me at will, and I had no rights over my body at that moment.
    • Understand, these were very normal social values at the time, but it also helps explain why I put up no resistance when I was molested in childhood. I had learned that children don’t have rights to their bodies when adults want to touch them. Teach your child differently.
  • To trust their instincts.Children often sense when something is not quite right. They don’t know what’s wrong or how to explain it, but they may feel hesitant, uncomfortable, or fearful. Encourage them to pay attention to these feelings. There’s no reason to force them into the company of people who twang their instincts and make them worry, at some level, about their safety.
    • I can say from my own experience that when my family put me in the company of people I was uncomfortable with, I felt twice as scared — I thought they were not looking out for my safety and that I was on my own. This is a very scary prospect for someone in the single digits in age who already feels powerless in the world of adults.
    • We don’t want our children to be crippled by a naturally shy personality, either, so pay attention, talk to your child, and find out what’s really going on inside them. If they trust us, they’ll tell us.
  • General safety rules. Don’t answer the door when home alone. How to answer the telephone. How to call 911 and tell the operator their home address, phone number, and parents’ names (and workplaces).
  • Whom to go to for safety. Is there a neighbor or close friend who’s safe? List those people and their phone numbers by the phone as a support system for your child in times of need.
  • How to take action if someone approaches them in an uncomfortable way. They can run, scream, yell “This is not my mom!”, any number of options. Assure your child of your support in doing this.
  • To know that some people will do nice things only for the purpose of getting the child to trust themand go with them. Have practice conversations with your child as a way of communicating to them some of the things that predators might say:
    • “Your mom got hurt, she’s in the hospital, and she sent me to come pick you up.”
    • “Your dad is running late today at work and asked me to come get you.”
    • “I’m [other child]’s dad and we just forgot to invite you to the party this afternoon. Come on, you can still come.” And so on.
  • To have a safe wordthat’s private between your child and you as parent(s). You can also have a safe word with friends who are authorized to pick your child up from school, and this “approved list” and safe word can be arranged with the school.
    • If someone shows up to pick up your child and doesn’t know the safe word, even if it’s someone you or your child knows, teach your child to absolutely refuse to go with them.

Molesters make excuses…

…It’s a law of nature. If the molester is a family member, a friend, or someone living in your home, the excuses will begin immediately. They may include, but are not limited to:

  • I was drunk (or high).
  • She came after me, not the other way around.
  • I was abused as a child.
  • I just did it, before I even knew what I was doing. I’ll never do it again, I promise.
  • I was only trying to show him what to watch out for.
  • What am I supposed to do? You never want any!
  • Look, we’re family. You’re not going to turn me in, are you? I’m your [brother, father, husband, fiancée…]!
  • What, you believe the word of a kid over your own [brother, etc.]?

No matter what the child did, no matter any other factors, molesting a child is entirely the molester’s fault. Blame for molesting the child can’t be laid at the child’s feet, the non-abusive parent’s feet, or bad circumstances of the molester’s childhood. Guess whose mind made the decision and whose hands carried it out. That’s where the blame lies. (Incidentally, this also applies to the rape of adults.)

If the molester is your spouse, family member, friend, or fellow church member, it may feel overwhelming to actually hold that person responsible. Historically, people have thrown their children under the bus (figuratively speaking) and let the adult go in order to save his marriage, his career, his ministry, or whatever. Today we as parents know we have a higher responsibility to our children.

This is where you as a parent may feel the need for a therapist and/or support group to help you get through this extremely hard time. Keep in mind that whatever you do or don’t do, your child is watching and will remember and be grateful for your protection and love in a time of intense vulnerability, betrayal, and need.

Abusers don’t molest once and then quit

The average child molester has molested dozens of children over a period of years before being caught — and that’s just the ones who get caught. Sexual attraction to children is a totally separate thing than a normal sexual attraction to adults. People don’t go back and forth between them.

The molester will tell you otherwise, but based on what we know from sky-high recidivism rates (the rate at which a criminal coming out of the legal system commits the same criminal act again) and from therapists who treat offenders, this attraction doesn’t change, and it seems to be very difficult for offenders to stop offending. In an overwhelming majority of cases, they re-offend.

“I don’t know what happened” (yes, they do, they did it on purpose) — “and it’ll never happen again” (yes, chances are excellent that it’ll happen again, and equally excellent that it has happened before too).

Child molesters interviewed in prison have told their interviewers what they’re looking for when they’re out trolling for children, and how they prepared the children to not protest or resist being molested:

  • Ready availability — a child they already know or have access to.
  • Emotional need. They looked for children who had been taught to be compliant to adults, and children who were emotionally needy.
  • Establish a relationship. The predator took time to get to know the child, bought presents, listened and showed caring behavior.
    • At the same time, the abuser emotionally manipulated and set up the child by subtly encouraging trust in himself and distrust in the child’s parents and other adults.
    • This way, if the child ever protested, the abuser had an array of strategies: He blamed the child. Or he told the child that if anyone found out, he’d go to jail, or that the child would lose her family, or that everyone would blame the child.
  • Condition a child to touch. With the caring relationship in place, the predator would start touching the child, first in innocent ways, then gradually sexually. This included wrestling, tickling, hugging, stroking the child’s back, etc.
    • Because of the friendship, when touching turns sexual, it’s confusing to the child. This is someone who cares about them, so it must be right, right?
  • Get the child alone. It’s obvious why the abuser would want to do this.

Resources