Use It In A Sentence: Sexual Assault and the Approach Needed

Bystander intervention is important in our efforts to help stop sexual assault by making individuals aware and able to intervene in situations where others need help. The message bystander intervention sends is a powerful one, in showing less complicity perpetrators are theoretically less likely to commit sexual assault due to social acceptance. John Kalin explains that there is a difference between advocacy and prevention. Kalin begins by explaining his “why’s”.

This is important because an individual must have a “why” to initially become an advocate and help in prevention. When people share their “why’s” for advocating against sexual assault (challenging in many cases) it has a humanizing effect where relatability can become possible. Individuals instill a reason for their friends to have a “why” and the ripple effect continues. Advocacy becomes a larger focus as people begin to question why events like sexual assault happen and how they can support the efforts against it. Each individual has special roles through their own unique intersectionality.

Kalin however makes a crucial observation in that in raising support for advocacy people who are not already passionate about sexual assault can become overwhelmed with large rallies or copious amounts of information, thus “meeting people where they are”. In order to create a larger influence approaches cannot be overwhelming in the sense where they instill a helpless or hopeless view. Increasing your audience by changing expectations can be as simple as changing the question. This is where positive prevention comes in. Instead of telling people what they must be fearful of or scared of in abstracts, like asking question “how do we make sexual assault stop?” into “how do we make prevention cool?”.

The answer is to simply and approachable through accessibility. In doing this, discussions become easier to have. These discussions are then brought into the homes and lives of the people who are able to have them and instills a greater awareness of the daily issues of sexual assault.


[WS301 – 9]

Side Effects: Victim Cycles

According to statistics men are most likely to suffer both physical and sexual violence at the hands of other men. Men are also at higher risk during childhood and adolescents when looking at rates of physical abuse committed by both female and male caretakers (Hattery, Angela, and Earl Smith. The Social Dynamics of Family Violence. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2017. Print. 538) The increased chance of early victimization for men while they are still considered boys may contribute to higher rates of adult male perpetrators seen later in their lives. I take issue with the statement “men rape because they can” as I have heard expressed by individuals in my other courses. The idea behind this statement explains how the legal system allows for unlikely just punishment and low social reprisal for the perpetrator in the way of victim blaming in the rape-culture society we live in. This reason does not however explore why men are decide to commit such high rates of sexual violence? The previous is an entirely separate question from, why does the justice system allow for male violence?

In the fight for gaining equality of the sexes, the treatment of women and also the opportunities given to young girls has been focused on and rightfully so. A victim does not deserve any less, the issue I find is that the perpetrators are also victims. Sentiments of, raising young boys to treat young girls with respect are common lessons in our society. Jackson Katz in his talk explains that when we move “John” from the beginning of the sentence, “John beat Mary” to the end of the sentence “Mary was beaten by John”, we shift focus from John who is the perpetrator of violence, to Mary who is the victim of this violence. Going further this shift of focus from John to Mary can be seen as a side effect of a larger structural issue. The acceptance of male emotional inferiority. Mary is now analyzed but she is not the issue. (Jackson Katz, 2017)

While I read Betrayed by the Angel: What Happens When Violence Knocks and Politeness Answers? By Debra Anne Davie I found to my own surprise wondering, “well why would a girl allow for a boy to jab her so much?” the thought I should spend more time focusing on is, “why is that boy jabbing his sharp pencil into that girls’ arm?” The girl in the story was the victim, and with risk of sounding detached, her situation is the side effect of a toxic male expectation that is upheld by other men and women in the form of androcentrism. Although her story is important and must be shared, it can only accomplish the identification of who is being victimized and how. With little boys being cited as “more likely to bully than girls and to bully other boys” (Hattery & Smith, 540) the behavior of their actions should be analyzed due the statistic that boys are as we have talked about in class, at a higher risk to commit violence after witnessing violence in the home or among people in the boy’s life.

Davis does a phenomenal job of relating early childhood experience as possible influencers in later abilities to handle an event. Through her story as a young girl she outlines her acceptance of the irritating behavior reinforced by her superior, in this case a substitute teacher who takes a lacks approach to Davis’ complaints of getting poked with a pencil by her male classmate. Later while she recounts her rape, she highlights the thoughts running through her mind. They comprise of not being rude, or deciding whether it was okay to be impolite while this tragic event is occurring. She makes the acknowledgement that despite the fact that she did not struggle, allowing minimal force exuded by the perpetrator, that he was extremely angry with her to which she could not figure out why. (Hattery & Smith, 572)

When Davis asked little girls, what did your parents teach you? What will you decided to teach your kids and what will you not teach them, the startling answer of not wanting to continue the idea of being kind to everyone was stated. Davis speaks about her own uncomfortable encounter and that her rape caused her to be rude to strangers in her situation men. Davis ends her story with multiple questions but I do not believe those are questions an individual must seek to understand why there is a larger system causing the outcomes of male aggression.


[WS301 – 8]

Louise M. Wisechild: The Silent Scars Of A Female Body

  1. Louise Wisechild has to work through a lot of body shame.  What was it about abuse that caused her so much shame and disconnect from her body? –

In The Missing Piece: Bodywork for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Shirley Vanderbilt states that during the mid-1970s into the 1980s there was an influx of child abuse identification and reporting. Not all of these disclosures came from children but from adult survivors. These adults were accessing memories from their childhoods that had been previously locked away. Scientific research has shown evidence of “a neurobiological response to trauma and the fragmentary way in which trauma memory is stored in the body”. According to Christine Courtois, Ph.D., clinical director of The Center: Post-traumatic Disorders Program at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington in Washington D.C, particular types of trauma past the elements of violation and control that also add a betrayed relationship to the situation, someone the child or victim trusted and intensified entrapment over time, can lead to responses of “repression, denial, or dissociation. The victim in turn makes a psychological escape whereas the body remembers the traumas it has experienced. This can cause a great amount of turmoil for the individual who is wanting to feel as what we would describe as “normal” but the memories held within the body disallow this unity my mind and body.

Louise Wisechild was not only sexually abused at a very young age beginning with her grandfather’s years of molestation when she was just 5 years old, she was also continuously, repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped by her Uncle Kevin and stepfather Don throughout her adolescent and teenage life. The coping patterns that form due to young age and repeated frequent abuse according to Psychiatrist Judith Herman caused Louise to form and deform her personality while she was still a child. Louise never internalized a healthy understanding of sex because of the abuse she endured. She was taught to believe she could to be used, and to never speak for what they they molesters the rapists insisted she liked. She came from a family who treated female sexuality as “bad”.  Bad, being the term she continuously uses against herself as her memories written by her in her book The Obsidian Mirror, relive childhood experiences for her that she now looking back has the chance to understand. She never expressed a love for her body because she was never taught to by her mother and the other adults in her life. She was shown that her body was hers, not for the use of others. Louise also struggled with seeing her lack of agency in a situation when she was being abused. As a child her agency was not hers yet. Later as an adult she internalizes that choices people are because they want to make them. She feels as if, because it happened to her, such a horrible experience and repeated by multiple men in her life, that there must have been something she did to cause it. Through teachings of her grandmother and mother women were always responsible for the bad things that happened, no matter what.

The shame Louise felt was greatest when she recounted that one morning she had an organism while Don was rapping her. She felt the burst of sensation met with confusion. To Louise this meant war against a body, a body that expressed desire for something that was bad. Her body responded in a way that she did not agree with. Louise’s experiences taught her that her sexuality was bad. Louise never understood how to be in charge of her sexuality because she was never given the tools to accomplish this in a healthy way, to be confident in her sexuality, and to view her sexuality for herself. Until she could relearn through bodywork and therapy that the actions taken against her were not her fault that they were in fact the crimes of the adults in charge of her care was she able to start the healing process of releases pains where memories were demanding to be understood.


[WS201 – 7]

Sexualized Violence For More: An Epidemic In The DRC

As Marc-André Lagrange, (international crisis group member/DRC senior analyst/expert in African conflicts) responds to questions about the current state of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) he exclaims, “you cannot have peace without justice”. I began to question what “justice” actually would look like for a country with such intertwined, multilayered disparities? Who would justice be for? Who would it be against? After so many years of war and conflict was peace obtainable?

In the DRC more than 400,000 women are raped each year according to the 2011 study done by, The American Journal of Public Health. According to the United Nation figures, this statistic makes the DRC the rape capitol of the world with also 1 in 3 Congolese men having admitted to committing sexual assault and/or rape. In Gloria Steinem’s show WOMEN, a docuseries premiering with the issues occurring in the DRC, Steinem states that, to date 1.8 million people have been targeted of brutal sexual assault in the eastern region of the DRC and now that boundary of sexualized violence is leaking into further areas outside the considered combat zone carrying with its migration the implications of impunity. More than 20 years ago Rwanda invaded the DRC, battling for power over the mineral rich resources in the eastern region that include coltan, the mineral responsible for making your laptops, tablets, and cell phones. Ranking among the top 5 producers of coltan in the world the DRC is considered highly viable in the global economy.

The late Maskia Katsuva who passed away suddenly in 2016 due to malaria complications was an activist working in the village of Buganga. The village of Buganga acts as a shelter for women and children who have been rape or victims of various forms of sexualized violence like Katsuva herself, and her two daughters who were attacked at twelve and fourteen years of age. While listening to Gorgeta a woman who recently made it to Buganga after a horrific gang rape where she was awoken during the night. She was cut and burned while 20 men raped her over her dead husband’s body then the assailants proceeded to kill her children in front of her. Gorgeta explains they did this because her husband was apart of an opposing militia. It is clear the devastating long lasting effects sexualized violence causes to not only women but to the whole of a society. Gorgeta is quoted saying she “lost her mind” after two days waiting for help, unable to move from the attack. Many people are cited as saying they lost their minds during the horrific experiences they endured. Over the 15 years Katsuva worked in Buganga she personally saw 10,123 women all affected by brutal sexualized violence. Issues also included the contraction of HIV and AIDS, which were cause of death for many if initial injuries did not kill the victim first. Ferole Mac a rebel who was a farmer, now a head of a local militia exclaims quiet simply “its either I die today or my child dies tomorrow”. He believes the rebel groups like M23 and the Tutsis (Rwandans) aim to provoke them to fight through the rape of their women and children with the land being the ultimate goal.

Justice begins with immediate action for the women of the DRC. It begins with increased protection at the ground level from allies who have voiced their support but have not back it by action. These women after being abandoned and shunned from their communities due to the stigma of rape, find work digging for minerals but are left in the open, unable to defend themselves from possible attacks. Marie-Roger Biloa, (editor of Africa International/President Club Millennium/Political Commentator) emphasizes the importance of recognizing the psychological severity that is impacting the victims in the DRC. I agree with her criticisms that although the UN and other smaller organizations have expressed effort in helping the Congolese government it has not been enough. The rate of sexualized violence continues to increase in practice while decreasing the age of who is at risk. She exclaims that we do not see the larger effort and implementation that a situation like this demands for from the developed countries who possess resources that can control the rebel groups such as M23 where its apparent the Congolese government is struggling. The mentality of the government through statements given to troops explaining, “you have a gun you don’t need a paycheck” must be stopped, this is where power and committing violence are being interlaced as one. As an example to her claim, in 2012 in the city of Minova troops swarmed in and raped well over a hundred women and girls. According to the survivors the attacks were not from militia or opposing forces but the DRC’s own troops. The government made an usual move and held a trial where 39 soldiers including 5 high ranking officials were included but resulted in just 2 junior solider convictions. In the eyes of the North Kivu Vice governor, Feller Lutaichirwa this was a great success. Biola’s concerns are made valid, she explains that what we are getting wrong here is the thinking that there is a current Congolese government who is even capable in the reform of justice or military reform at this present time.

In Bukavu city in the South Kivu Province, Dr. Denis Mukwege a Noble Peace Prize Nominee, has worked at the cities hospital for 32 years. He deals with the most severe and brutal rape cases in the region. He explains throughout his years that currently he is seeing the highest occurring, most serve levels of child sexualized violence in his experience as a doctor. During Vice reporter Isobel Yeung’s visit, Mukwege explained, while simultaneously comforting a distressed mother before inspecting her child who at only 6 years of age had been confirmed as a victim of rape, that this phenomenon is rising and must be paid attention to. Lagrange explains that long standing policies of militia integration into the countries army to accentually buy peace from the militias is causing the degradation of the countries military. Military and governmental reform must be prioritized. Ida Sawyer (DRC researcher HRW/documented atrocities in the DRC/human right’s advocate) states the UN’s key role in working with the Congolese government however late it may be, must commit to punishing senior officials for the sexual violence being committed. Taking away wealth and benefits given to “leaders” can be one way to hopefully sway the appeal of violence. Putting pressure on Rwanda as well Sawyer states is crucial in alleviating the eastern region of the high levels of violence.

Sawyer and Lagrange both heavily focus on the need to indict more senior high-ranking officials. Jason Stearns (Rift Valley Institute Director – leading think tanks of Sub-Saharan Africa) agrees with this sentiment explaining the competing narrative the UN is currently in. Part of the UN mandate explains that they will support the Congolese effort contingent upon the factor of human rights infringements. Stearns explains that to cut off support by which groups are committing crimes would be impossible. By sanctioning head authority figures the UN and supporting groups can provide more of an incentive against this behavior. Lastly the condemning of rapists is not enough. There must be a rehabilitative aspect. Due to the decades of war and sexualized violence, extreme psychological problems as Mukwege noted are rampant. Once soldiers were unarmed after the “end” of the war there was no psychological support. These psychological issues the men carried/carry with them act as a virus toward society. Where rape culture exists, rape babies will grow up to know nothing better than the violence and suffering they have been created by and experienced since they day they were born.

*Full episode on Viceland online


[WS301- 6]