violence against women

We Should All Be Pro-Women *Trigger Warning*

“Oh, if I could but live another century and see the fruition of all the work for women!

There is so much yet to be done.”

Susan B. Anthony

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I am going to do my very best not to fly into a feminist rant, but it’s very difficult not be offended as a woman, survivor of abuse, and human being when a “respectable” (see George Will, I can use snarky quotations too) publication like The Washington Post publishes this kind of anti-female garbage.

In his “opinion” article Pulitzer Prize–winner Mr. George F. Will claims:

“Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.”

He goes on to attack the “supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. ‘sexual assault’” by providing an example of a college student who was forcibly held down and raped by someone she had been previously “hooking up” with.  Despite the fact that this woman clearly reported she had said no, Mr. Will apparently believes this doesn’t count as a sexual assault because she didn’t physically try to stop him?  Or because she waited six weeks to report the incident?  Or maybe because she had previously had sexual relations with him, so that meant she was fair game?  Or was it because she was asking for it since she was lying in bed with him?

I’m not really sure exactly what Mr. Will is asserting as justification to how this isn’t sexual assault.  Perhaps he would like to clarify.  In fact, maybe he would like to do so to the parents of the girl he just publicly ridiculed for reporting a rape (because obviously she was doing it for the coveted victimhood privilege… gosh I wish that existed when I was in college… I would totally have made up a story about being assaulted)

Then, not having dug a deep enough hole for himself, Mr. Will then goes on to criticize the utilized definitions of sexual assault referring to them as:

capacious definitions of sexual assault that can include not only forcible sexual penetration but also nonconsensual touching. Then add the doctrine that the consent of a female who has been drinking might not protect a male from being found guilty of rape.”

Capacious indeed.  I could see where it is a real stretch to consider “nonconsensual touching” and having sex with a woman too drunk to give consent under the umbrella term of sexual assault.

In truth, I don’t find it surprising at all that conservative white man with an ivy league education would find it difficult to understand let alone empathize with the amount of unwanted sexual advances that the young women of this country experience on a regular basis. Of course he would find it offensive that women wish to pursue higher education without fear of being groped or raped by their coeds.  It is a totally unreasonable request.  Why should we as women expect to have access to education without having to fear for our virtue when we clearly belong barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?  If we all just accepted our place in society, we would be safe at home under the protection of our husbands.  We clearly have brought all of this on ourselves.  Right George?

What I do find surprising and downright offensive is that The Washington Post would publish this kind of damaging misinformation.

In a single, narrow minded and uninformed article, this man has undermined the issue of rape on college campuses, claimed that the prevalence of rape is grossly overestimated without any actual data to back his claim (beyond statistics from a single university which did not include any surveys of women on campus, but solely reported cases), and openly shamed victims of sexual assault by claiming that victim privilege encourages false reporting.

I think my head may just explode from the total lack of sense this article makes.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE someone take this man and put him in a room of survivors of rape.  Make him listen to their stories and hear first hand what it is like to be re-victimized by society.  Let him get an idea of just how traumatic it is to be betrayed and violated sexually by someone you know and trust.  Maybe then he will understand that trigger warnings are not a measure for “students whose tender sensibilities would be lacerated by unexpected encounters with racism, sexism, violence (dammit, Hamlet, put down that sword!) or any other facet of reality that might violate a student’s entitlement to serenity.” 

Better yet, have him watch The Invisible War or read When Women Refuse, just someone please educate him.  Then while you are at it, please educate society.  This type of propaganda is not okay.  It only serves to set women back; and when you set back women, you set back society as a whole.  We make up half the population.  Women’s issues are Society’s issues.  It’s time for society to start caring about violence against women.

There are good reasons why only a small fraction of assaulted women come forward.  The first is that due to lack of education and awareness, many women don’t realize they have been assaulted immediately.  This does not make what happened to them less of a crime.  The second is the overwhelming and pervasive victim shaming and blaming that goes on in our culture of which Mr. Will has so eloquently and graciously provided an example.  The reality for survivors is a far cry from any coveted privilege.  Rather it is an anxiety ridden time filled with despair and self loathing which is only coupled by prevalent public shaming and ridicule.

The only privilege I have ever seen associated with being a survivor of violence against women is SURVIVING because there are many women who don’t.  But then, they were probably all asking for it too, right Mr. Will?

There is a reason the #YesAllWomen campaign exists.

I’d just like to ask Mr. Will when the last time was that he felt he needed to carry mace?  A rape whistle?  How about have an escort walk him to his car (for protection, not as a paid service)? Watch his drink to avoid getting roofied?  Or watch his alcohol intake in general? … the list goes on and on.

My point is, George Will, that you have a lot to learn about the other half of the population before you start accusing us of lying to seek out a privileged victimhood.  Walk a few miles in our shoes and then come back and tell us how coveted it is to be a survivor of sexual assault or violence against women in general.

PS.  Just in case you think this backward thinking is an isolated incident, check out this other gem from the Washington Post.  They have concluded that the answer to ending violence against women is to marry… which someone should have told my ex husband because I’m pretty sure he became physically violent after we were married.  He must not have read their article.

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Denial…

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
       – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sometimes I try to convince myself that I am not suffering from PTSD because I have never officially been labeled.  In fact, every therapist, counselor, and psychiatrist I’ve seen has told me that I was experiencing “a completely normal response to a traumatic event” and insisted the anxiety and difficulty sleeping would improve with time.  No one ever uttered the term PTSD.  They looked at me as functioning normally and assumed I was ok despite the fact that I told them otherwise.  The truth is, there is a huge grey area between being functional and well.  People can function without sleep, when they are sick, or even when they are suffering, and it doesn’t mean they are at their baseline.  It wasn’t until I spent time around other individuals suffering with PSTD that anyone pointed out the name for my symptoms.

Then the more I read about other people’s struggles with PTSD, the more I realized I could identify.  I felt guilty because it seemed like my “trauma” was so trivial compared to others.  There are people who have seen loved ones murdered, been to war, and been in terrible, horrific accidents; and all I went through was 5 years of ridicule.  Doesn’t quite seem to measure up.

Here are the DSM IV criteria used to diagnose PTSD.  I have highlighted the ones that apply to me:

Diagnostic criteria for PTSD include a history of exposure to  a traumatic event meeting two criteria and symptoms from each of  three symptom clusters: intrusive recollections, avoidant/numbing  symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms. A fifth criterion concerns  duration of symptoms and a sixth assesses functioning.

Criterion A: stressor

The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both  of the following have been present:

  1. The person has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.
  2. The person’s response involved intense fear,helplessness, or horror. Note: in children, it may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior.

Criterion B: intrusive recollection

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in at least one of the following ways:

  1. Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: in young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.
  2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: in children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content
  3. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes,including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated). Note: in children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur.
  4. Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
  5. Physiologic reactivity upon exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

Criterion C: avoidant/numbing

Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and  numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the  trauma), as indicated by at least   three of the following:

  1. Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
  2. Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
  3. Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
  4. Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  5. Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
  6. Restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
  7. Sense of foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

Criterion D: hyper-arousal

Persistent symptoms of increasing arousal (not present before the trauma), indicated by at least two of the following:

  1. Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  2. Irritability or outbursts of anger
  3. Difficulty concentrating
  4. Hyper-vigilance
  5. Exaggerated startle response

Criterion E: duration

Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in B, C, and D) is more  than one month.

Criterion F: functional significance

The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or  impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of  functioning.

Specify if:

Acute: if duration of symptoms is less than three months

Chronic: if duration of symptoms is three months or more

Specify if:

With or Without delay onset: Onset of symptoms at least six months  after the stressor

While many of these symptoms have improved or are improving, everyone that is in bold I have had (and many still have) during the past 2 years.  It is plain as day, and yet denial is a powerful thing.  I can attest, though, that knowing the name and reason for the way I react to stress (or perceived stress) has made it tremendously easier to deal with.  In  a sense, the therapists were right, my symptoms did improve a lot with time (something I am incredibly grateful for!); but I continue struggle with nightmares and hyper-vigilance.  I am sharing this post because I know that there are other victims of violence and abuse who discount the trauma they experienced and are not getting help when they need it.  Everyone is entitled to a happy, productive life- acknowledging the problem is part of the path of getting there.

Resources (just a few of the many) for PTSD:

Department of Veterans Affairs

National Institute of Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Anxiety Disorders of America