Click to visit the event for 'Take Back the Night.' (Pictured: Flyer for event)
“Statistics show that only 3-6% of rape accusations are false. The overwhelming majority are real.” Click to image the campus event for ‘Take Back the Night.’ (Pictured: Flyer for event)

By STEPHANIE COSBY, Staff Writer

One in four women will be raped or sexually assaulted in her lifetime. That’s one in four women regardless of race, ethnicity, education, economic status or sexual orientation. With statistics like that, chances are you know at least one person who has been assaulted or abused. But unless it happened to you or someone you’re close with, however, it’s pretty likely that you haven’t heard about it. Why?

We live in a culture that downplays the seriousness of domestic and sexual violence. It’s brushed off or joked about, explained away with a common myth or labeled a personal problem or “women’s issue” and ignored. The victim’s credibility and actions are questioned. Such negativity and apathy does not create the most supportive atmosphere in which survivors can speak out and heal. It makes solving this very real problem much more difficult.

Now, I’m not saying everyone is like this. There are plenty of informed, empathetic people who are seeking to raise awareness, to offer support to abuse survivors, and to fight against domestic and sexual violence. But when I look around at our media, our government officials and law enforcement, and our general pop culture dialect, I see a lot of ignorance and disdain.

Mainstream media ignores it or glosses over it. When Chris Brown physically and verbally assaulted Rihanna, TV stations and gossip magazines obsessed over the gruesome details and leaked the police photo of Rihanna’s facial injuries, but shied away from any analysis of why it happened or how common it is. Comedians like Daniel Tosh joke about rape without a second thought and are rarely admonished afterward.

While great strides have been made with the Violence Against Women Act and issue-oriented lawmakers, judges, police, and more, there is still a lot of ignorance or apathy toward domestic violence as a crime. Take Detroit for an example. There were over 11,000 untested rape kits, dating back to 2009, collecting dust in Detroit police departments until prosecutor Kym Worthy started making noise about it. As Jezebel reported, Worthy had to fight for months to get the police department to care and to get funding. I get that Detroit has a lot of problems to deal with and does not have much money to work with, but the fact that it took so much effort for anyone to notice tens of THOUSANDS of untested rape kits just seems absurd.

While media and law enforcement play a large role in how we perceive things, I think the most important, and most damaging, effect comes from people we encounter in our daily lives. There are several myths about domestic and sexual assault floating around that make it easy to downgrade the problem and silence survivors.

The most common misconception I hear is the “it was her fault” rationale. Upon hearing about a girl that got raped, people might think or say something like, “Oh, well did you see what she was wearing?? She was practically asking for it” or “She was super drunk and all over a bunch of guys that night, she should have known that would happen.” I’ve also actually heard someone say, “well, the way she was talking, she deserved to get hit.” I have one thing to say to this mindset: No. Just, no.

Regardless of what a person wears, says, or does, that person does not deserve to be violated or harmed. He or she is not asking for that kind of emotional and physical pain, he or she does not deserve it.

The next step in that argument is usually something like, “Well, why didn’t she stop it? She could have said no or left or gotten away somehow.” In a perfect world, yes. But it’s never that simple.

Illinois-based organization Rape Victim Advocates explains it well: “Assailants overpower their victims with the threat of violence or with actual violence.” In addition to violence, the assailant can shame and isolate the victim to the point that he or she feels like there is no way out.

I’ve also heard people questioning the truth of an accusation. People ask if the woman has something against the assailant or wonder if she just wanted attention. They think she might be lying about it. Despite the frequency with which people question accusations, statistics show that only 3-6% of rape accusations are false. The overwhelming majority are real.

Taking all of this into account, it’s easy to see why survivors rarely speak up and why it isn’t seriously discussed in the mainstream. There are ways you can help bring the issue to light though. You can throw your voice in with others fighting for justice and you can lend your empathy and support to survivors.

The easiest and soonest way to help is by attending one of the events hosted by Women In Learning and Leadership, the Women’s Resource Center and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Stop by 1225 UC at 3pm on Tuesday, Oct. 9 to eat pizza and talk about men’s roles in rape prevention.

And definitely check out Take Back the Night on Wednesday, Oct. 10 from 6-9pm in Kochoff Hall A. Take Back the Night involves creative performances, a panel discussion, a rally around campus, and a speak-out where survivors and supporters can share their story in a safe environment. It’s the best way to learn what domestic and sexual violence is and how deeply it impacts those involved. There will also be resources on hand if you need more information or if you want to volunteer at local domestic violence shelters like HAVEN and First Step.

At the very least, be conscious about this issue. Recognize domestic and sexual violence for the serious problem it is and do what you can to fight it.

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