Rape. There I said it so now we can talk about it.
Last week I was having coffee with a colleague who is a woman, Jewish, and a community organizer. Our conversation wandered from topic to topic including Poland, the Holocaust, Passover, prayer, United Methodism, politics, justice, legislation, and women’s rights. But as our conversation neared its end, I found myself quite animated (probably more upset) as I pointed out how young people are suffering from the effects of sexual violence. More recently, I’ve encountered quite a few college and youth ministry colleagues writing about rape culture.
My case in point was a case of rape in Steubenville, Ohio (for plenty of news coverage just follow the link) where a young female party goer was assaulted by fellow male party goers who played on the local high school’s football team.
The devastation and suffering of the victim was surely exacerbated as videos, camera pics, and text messages amongst Steubenville’s young people recounted the night’s events. One text message can change your entire reputation.
“But the Ohio case, in which Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond were found guilty of raping their victim twice, first in a car and then in a basement, attracted attention not only because of the crime’s callousness, but also the shocking and equally callous manner in which it was documented.
Mays tweeted a photo of the girl naked and passed out. A friend made a video of one of the assaults, then deleted it. That YouTube video, viewed well more than a million times, showed a group of friends joking about the assault for 12 excruciating minutes.
But perhaps nothing speaks to the social media component as much as the way the victim herself gradually learned the details the next day: via text exchanges, forwarded photos, even watching the video.”
It would be so much easier to think and act like Steubenville (read: rape) didn’t happen and doesn’t continue to happen in American high schools and across college campuses. But it does! And the environment that supports hyper aggressive sexuality is never more than a stone’s throw away. Women are depicted as mere sex objects in primetime tv. Advertising (Think Hardee’s commercials with a bikini-clad woman eating a burger) continues to link sexuality with everyday objects that we consume. Even in places of education, reasonable sex education in public schooling now seems out of reach. And young men, yes young men, are abusing power in relationships with friends and girlfriends.
The effects of assault linger in the lives of younger and older women (and maybe men) whom you love:
Victims of sexual assault are (from World Health Organization):
3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.