Category Archives: Sexual Violence

The World Breaks Everyone: Horror Film Classic Rosemary’s Baby

#NoSpoilers

The world breaks everyone, and afterward,
many are strong in the broken places.

Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms

It all seems so ordinary and banal. Young couple in New York serendipitously gets the chance to rent an apartment in an elegant old building with an enviable upper west side Manhattan address. Because the apartment’s elderly resident died suddenly and the building is rent-controlled, the struggling, somewhat sporadically employed actor and his pretty, enthusiastic wife can afford to move in, redecorate it from top to bottom, and furnish the looming place, which has 18-20′ ceilings, stained-glass windows in its doors, bay windows with window seats, and elaborately carved, working fireplaces.

The Dakota (exterior only) setting for Bramford, Rosemary’s Baby ©

While Hubby goes to auditions seeking work, Wifey decorates, shops, and cooks, both of them dreaming of — and actively planning for — the little family they want to have. With such a great home in such an exclusive neighborhood, what difference does it make if you can sometimes hear the braying, nasal voice of the Old Lady next door complaining to her husband late at night? All apartments have thin walls and a few annoying neighbors, right? Of course, right.

John Cassavetes as Guy and Mia Farrow as Rosemary, Rosemary’s Baby ©

It is this very banality and seemingly ordinary setting — “like it could be a snippet out of your own life” — that makes Rosemary’s Baby (1968) such a great film. It is one of the best in the horror genre, but not for the reason you might expect. The film doesn’t have any scary special effects: except for the brief “nightmare” scene, there aren’t even any ghoulish costumes. No blood, gore, monsters, or masked villains wielding weapons while dopey teenagers run mindlessly about. Instead, Rosemary’s Baby, based on Ira Levin’s bestselling novel of the same name, concentrates its horror on the fact that virtually everything in the film could actually happen. Young, happy, pretty, and soon-pregnant Rosemary begins to suspect that something is wrong with her husband, wrong with her marriage, wrong with her unborn baby. Even worse, she soon comes to believe that there is a conspiracy to kidnap her baby upon its birth. However, it is because Rosemary is completely correct in her seemingly bizarre fears that Rosemary’s Baby — a triumph of psychological terror — is such a horror classic.

Rosemary’s Baby, first edition

This film is one of the few dramatizations that remains almost perfectly faithful to the novel on which it was based. All the foreshadowing about the neighbors conspiring in a group and doing something more than “not quite right”? In the book. Hubby Guy’s sudden emotional distance and Rosemary’s increasing isolation? In the book. Guy’s escalating psychological manipulation, emotional abuse, and ultimately physical abuse of his pregnant wife Rosemary? That’s in the book, too.

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby (B&W still) ©

But the true horror of both the book and the film is more than Rosemary’s “paranoia and loss of control.” After all, her paranoia is based on subliminal indications about her reality: she is losing control of her own life — and of her baby’s — and other people in the apartment building are conspiring against her. Limiting us to Rosemary’s perspective with its film angles, its close-ups, and its spooky lighting, Rosemary’s Baby “relies on creating an atmosphere and story that speaks to [society’s] deeper, subconscious fears:” isolation, betrayal, and madness.

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

Mia Farrow, a soap-opera actress on Peyton Place who acquired international notoriety when she married famous singer/actor Frank Sinatra, 30 years her senior, does an outstanding job as Rosemary, and not just because she’s so young and waif-thin (okay, bony-thin).

John Cassavetes, Rosemary’s Baby ©

Farrow’s Rosemary is giddy and giggly when she and husband Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) first look at the magnificent apartment available in the Bramford (named, by author Ira Levin, in honor of Dracula author Bram Stoker).

Maurice Evans as Hutch, Rosemary’s Baby ©

She’s slightly amused by her friend Hutch’s (Maurice Evans) tales of macabre deaths, suicides, murders, and cannibalism at the Bramford, but continues eating dinner as if he were discussing the weather.

Ruth Gordon as Minnie, Rosemary’s Baby ©

She’s friendly and pleasant to their nosy neighbor Minnie (Ruth Gordon, in her Oscar-winning role), who looks through the mail before handing it to Rosemary, and who examines the price-tags on the canned goods while the two of them are sitting at the kitchen table.

Sidney Blackmer as Roman, Rosemary’s Baby ©

Rosemary is subdued and slightly bored by the elderly neighbors, Minnie and Roman (Sidney Blackmer), when they invite Rosemary and Guy to dinner that night, and is somewhat surprised by Guy’s sudden burgeoning friendship with Roman.

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

She’s excited when Guy miraculously gets more important acting jobs, attributing it all to his wonderful skill and talent. She works hard decorating the apartment, cooking, doing the laundry, making cushions for the window seats, trying to make friends with the neighbors, and trying even harder to “start their family.”

Ralph Bellamy as Dr. Saperstein, Rosemary’s Baby ©

When Rosemary finally does get pregnant, the real terror of the film begins. Instead of gaining weight, Rosemary loses it. Instead of bouts of morning sickness, she has frightening symptoms and cravings that the congenial obstetrician Dr. Saperstein (Ralph Bellamy) blithely dismisses, telling her — for months — that they’ll “be gone in a day or two.”

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

The scenes with pregnant-Rosemary are some of the most frightening of the film, as are the scenes where husband Guy begins to be more and more dismissive of Rosemary’s feelings, her concerns, even her basic human rights. When she wakes after a nightmare that she was raped, Guy’s response if terrifyingly abusive and distant.

Mia Farrow as Rosemary in Rosemary’s Baby ©

(Guy is undeniably the worst villain in the film, but I won’t get started on any rant about him in this post…)

John Cassevetes and Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

Despite the fact that Rosemary’s health seems to improve somewhat mid-pregnancy, her life gets worse.  Guy becomes more and more controlling, resorting to manipulation, psychological battery, and emotional abuse to keep her submissive, obedient, and “nice.” Whenever Rosemary’s friends try to intervene, things only get worse for the already isolated Rosemary.

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

When Rosemary finally realizes what is happening to her, she desperately seeks help, only to be betrayed in the most frightening way. Though everything Rosemary suspects is happening to her and around her is, in fact, exactly what is happening, she is threatened into compliance by those closest to her. The very people who are supposed to care for her and her unborn baby terrorize her into submission and obedience.

John Cassevetes, Mia Farrow, Ralph Bellamy, Rosemary’s Baby ©

Still, surprisingly, Rosemary isn’t broken. Isolated and imprisoned, Rosemary begins to rebel.

Ralph Bellamy, Rosemary’s Baby ©

When she escapes the apartment and goes into Minnie and Roman’s apartment, where the entire group of conspirators has gathered, Rosemary is still not broken. Not completely.

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

By the last scene, though, which reveals Rosemary’s ultimate reaction to her baby, she is, at last, broken by the evil world that has surrounded her. That is the ultimate horror of Rosemary’s Baby: not necessarily that Rosemary herself is so broken that she might as well have let them kill her. Not that she is no longer naïve, innocent, and trusting. Not that she will never again resist evil. The true psychological horror is not that Rosemary is broken, but how she is broken.

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

Paranoia, loss of control, isolation, and subjugation. Betrayal and sexual abuse. Emotional and psychological manipulation. Fear of madness. Being irrevocably broken by the world. Rosemary’s Baby shows us everything we most fear in life. Through the “lens of realism,” director Roman Polanski, in his first major Hollywood production, created a “brooding, macabre film, filled with the sense of unthinkable danger,” a danger that becomes reality for its protagonist Rosemary, who is forever “broken” by the world in this horror classic.

Rosemary’s Baby is available for rent — $2.99 (SD) / $3.99 (HD)— from Amazon (free for Prime members), YouTube, iTunes, and Vudu.

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Filed under #31DaysOfHalloween, Actors, Books, Classic Films, Film Videos, Films, Films/Movies, Halloween, Horror, Horror Films, Movies/Films, No Spoilers Review, Official Film Trailers, Official Movie Trailers, Official Trailers, Rape, Review, Review/No Spoilers, Sexual Violence

Head-Banger’s Ball: Escaping Abuse the Hard Way

Trigger Warning
This post, though not graphic,
discusses childhood sexual abuse.

Life is unbearable,
but death is not so pleasant either.
Russian Proverb

I was dancing when it happened. After almost four years, I’d just had the braces removed from my legs and, in my joy at being free, I was dancing all around the kitchen and the empty dining room, wearing nothing but my panties and a camisole. My father was there, drinking beer, watching me, following me all around the house. I thought he was impressed with my improvised ballet skills. I don’t remember where my mother was, though I do know that it was late at night.

When my father grabbed me and began kissing me, I squirmed and twisted away. I wanted to dance, not kiss. Besides, I didn’t like the way he was kissing me, putting his nasty tongue all over my face and mouth. I fought hard enough to make him lose hold of me. When he tried to grab me again, I ran to the kitchen and got under the table, trying to hide.

Unfortunately, he found me.

My biological father first raped me when I was 3. My mother walked in when it was happening, and had to beat my father over the head to make him stop. Instead of taking me for medical attention, my mother told me I was a “bad girl” and locked me in the closet until I stopped crying. I don’t know how many days I was in that closet, but it seemed longer than any lifetime. I couldn’t understand what I’d done, but I vowed never to forget.

As soon as I earned my freedom from that closet, I  began telling people that my father had done something bad to me. I told family members, neighbors, doctors, nurses — anyone I thought could punish him. Anyone I thought could make him stop hurting me, which he continued to do. No one listened until I was 4 or 5 years old, when a Judge, in his chambers, asked me to show him — by pointing to my body — where my father was hurting me.

I don’t remember what events led up to that encounter in the Judge’s chambers, only that he was kind and patient, that he actually listened to me, and that after I talked to the Judge, my biological father lost all visitation rights. Furthermore, though I visited my father’s parents each weekend and though he now lived with them, he was not even permitted to be in the same room with me. I never saw my father again.

After my mother divorced my father, I thought I would be safe from men’s violence. Unfortunately, by the time I was 5, my mother was already dating a man who was sexually abusing me in every way imaginable, doing more atrocious things than my biological father had done. At the ripe old age of seven, after an entire lifetime of abuse from my mother, my father, and my mother’s boyfriend (who later became my stepfather), I decided that life was unbearable, so I decided to kill myself.

My only problem was that I wasn’t exactly sure how someone did that. During the last violent fight with my father, my mother had slammed him in the head with a cast-iron skillet. I’d seen him lying motionless on the floor, surrounded by a pool of blood. When the police arrived, my mother told them she’d killed her husband because he’d killed me. Though my father actually survived the assault, he was seriously injured. Because I never saw him again, I thought he was, in fact, dead. Since my mother had “killed” my father by bashing him in the head with the cast-iron frying pan, I decided, at the world-weary age of seven, to become a head-banger.

Swing-sets, telephone poles, brick houses. Fence posts, church pews, marble statues. Bang, bang, bang. Walls, bedposts, porch supports. Basement floors, steel pipes, tree trunks. Bang, bang, bang.

I hit my head so hard so many times in a row that mostly I walked around in a daze. Sometimes I hit my head so hard that I fell asleep. Each time that head-banging numbness rushed over me, I was convinced I’d successfully killed myself, and I was so relieved and so grateful that I could never be hurt again that I slipped into that deadened sleep with something like joy.

Each time, however, I woke up.
Disappointed.
With an unbearable headache.
And with dreadful pressure in my skull.

Although many people know that a baby’s skull plates move — to allow it to pass through the birth canal — they don’t realize that the plates of the skull remain mobile throughout life. The brain and the spinal cord, furthermore, are surrounded by their own pulsing, hydraulic system that does not match the rhythm of the heart, breathing, or any other system of the body. Dr. John Upledger discovered this brain-spinal-cord hydraulic system and named it the “craniosacral system.” Upledger went on to develop a medical massage therapy designed to put the craniosacral system back in proper alignment.

When the plates of the skull are not in their proper position, as from any common injury such as bumping the head hard, then headaches and pressure inside the skull (from the non-circulation of craniosacral fluid) may occur. A severe head trauma, or even a minor fall from a slide or swing, can shift or jam the skull plates, preventing the craniosacral fluid from moving as it is designed to do, creating a tremendous build-up of pressure — and pain — inside the skull. The pain and the pressure will only stop when the skull plates are restored to their normal positions, something that may take many sessions with trained craniosacral therapists, especially if the skull plates have been jammed for years after some serious accident.

Of course, in my case, it was many accidents, some of them caused by my repeated head-banging at age 7, some of those accidents caused by my mother from the time I was born, but one of the most serious head injuries caused by my father during an argument with my mother.

My parents were both drunk the day it happened. They were standing in the living room, quite close to each other, screaming and shoving and hitting each other. My father suddenly shouted something that made my mother jump at him, clawing at his face. Then he began choking her. Since what he’d shouted had been about me, I must have felt, even at three years old, morally obligated to separate them. So there I was, shoving myself between their knees, trying to push them apart so they wouldn’t kill each other and leave me all alone to be sent to an orphanage.

In his drunken rage, my father must have perceived me as quite a pest, something you just fling away from you. So that’s what he did. He grabbed me under the arms, lifted me as high as he could, and flung me away. I remember the sudden rush of air as he swept me upward, the terrible, mind-numbing fear, the choking sensation I felt as he released me and I flew, without a net, across the room.

I remember the horrific jolt of pain as I smashed the upper right side of my head against the marble mantel of the fireplace.

I remember, too, the cold blackness that descended on me in an instant.

By the time my migraines got so debilitating that my family doctor recommended I go to craniosacral therapists, I was over forty years old. As soon as they touched my head, the medical therapists informed me that the right frontal skull-plate was “significantly jammed” under the left one. It was wedged under the other one so tightly, they couldn’t fix it in one treatment. Also, since it was a long-standing injury, they informed me, the muscles of my face and head had gotten used to holding the plate in the incorrect position. They agreed with the doctor that, though my tendency toward migraines was probably hereditary * as well, the jammed frontal skull plate wasn’t making the migraines any better.

The therapists warned me that, as they attempted, over several sessions (which turned into several months), to free the wedged cranial plate from under the other one, my migraines might get much worse before they improved. They were absolutely right. I’d been having about seventeen migraines a month when I went to see them. The first month of treatment, I had twenty-seven migraines. It took them five months of three-times-a-week sessions to get the jammed skull plates back into place.

When the skull plates moved back into their proper positions, the intense and unremitting pressure in my head disappeared. The pressure that I’d grown up with and assumed was normal had been caused by the craniosacral fluid’s inability to circulate freely around the skull plates and the spinal column. As soon as the right frontal plate slid free of the left one, the crushing pressure inside my head disappeared. I lay on the massage table and wept in gratitude and relief.

When I told my psychologist about all the times I’d banged my head when I was a little girl, trying to kill myself, she said she doubted that I’d really been attempting to commit suicide. She said that since I was so determined and so successful in other areas of my life, if I’d really been trying to kill myself, I probably would have succeeded. She said that I’d been in so much emotional and psychological pain that I was merely trying to medicate myself. Since I didn’t have any healthy coping skills, I’d banged my head against the hardest things I could find, to “numb” my pain.

I still maintain that I was trying to kill myself in order to escape the incessant torture from my mother and my rapist stepfather, and to atone for my father’s murder, which I believed I’d caused since my parents had been fighting about me when my mother “killed” my father with the cast-iron skillet.

You see, that day, when my mother killed my father by slamming him in the face with the skillet, they were fighting about me. That day, when my father said the words that sent my other into her uncontrollable rage — making her scratch his face, which then made him choke her — he was talking about me. The words he said were what I myself had been saying to my mother, family members, neighbors, and doctors for some time, though I said it like this: He does bad things to me.

That day, my father said it to my mother himself, despite her already knowing what he was doing to me, but he said it in a way that she couldn’t ignore. I didn’t understand what he meant, but I always remembered his exact words.

“Sascha’s a better fuck than you are.”

Bang, bang, bang.

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Rape is Rape, No Matter the Victim’s Age or Gender



* Familial Hemiplegic Migraines (FHM) are caused by a genetic neurological disorder. I have FHM as well as from Complex Migraines.
(back to post)

Note: a different version of this post was published in March 2017. This version has been updated.

a small portion of this post is adapted from my true crime memoir M is for Munchers: The Serial Killers Next Door © 2002, 2007, 2014, 2017 by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman. All rights reserved. No content may be copied, excerpted, or distributed without express written consent of the author and publisher, with copyright credit to the author. Please don’t support the piracy of Intellectual Property.

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Filed under #CSA, Attempted Suicide, Childhood Sexual Abuse, hemiplegic migraines, Memoir, migraines, PTSD, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence, Violence

Rape is Rape, No Matter the Victim’s Age or Gender

Trigger Warning:
Rape & Sexual Abuse

In May 2014, the White House released an all-celebrity-male narrated Public Service Announcement (PSA) entitled “1 is 2 Many” about sexual assault on college campuses. Having watched the PSA, I have quite a few problems with its script, including its emphasis on, “If she doesn’t consent, or if she can’t consent,” and the male narrators, including VP Joe Biden, saying things like, “If I saw it happening, I was taught to do something about it,” or “If I saw it happening, I would speak up.”

There are also comments about not blaming the victim. Here is the White House’s PSA on sexual assault and rape, 1 is 2 Many, followed by several reasons why it is completely ineffective and will have no impact whatsoever on sexual assaults and rapes — on women, young girls, and men — anywhere in this country.

The accompanying statement on the White House’s page for the 1 is 2 Many PSA directly contradicts or avoids mention of several of the things implied in its own PSA.

Despite the significant progress made in reducing violence against women, there is still a long way to go. Young women still face the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault. In the last year, one in 10 teens have reported being physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. One in five young women have been sexually assaulted while they’re in college. While men compromise a smaller number of survivors, male survivors are no less important.

• There are serious problems with the semantics in this White House “statement,” including the “fact” that “men comprise a smaller number of survivors” — which may mean that fewer men die from the assaults and rapes or that fewer men report said rapes — and the “male survivors are no less important.” No and less are both negative words, so stating that male victims are no less important is, in fact, implying that they are not as important or that they are less important. The statement should have read male victims of sexual assault and rape are just as important as females, or, at the very least, that male victims of sexual assault and rape are equally important.

• The PSA itself never mentions males being assaulted. Both heterosexual and homosexual males can be, and often are, assaulted and raped on college campuses, sometimes because of their sexual orientation, sometimes because the campus has a “Males Can Not be Raped or Sexually Assaulted” mentality, as was true in the case of both Universities where I spent the majority of my career as a Professor (for details, see When is Rape NOT Rape?).

Again, I quote from the White House website:

In response to these alarming statistics, Vice President Biden is focusing his longstanding commitment to reducing violence against women specifically on teens, students, and young women ages 16-24. The Vice President pushed for the inclusion of vulnerable groups in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and he remains committed to supporting all survivors.

• Neither the first nor the second paragraph — and no place in the actual PSA — are any statistics of sexual assault and rape provided. “Despite the significant progress made in reducing violence against women,” we are told, without any numbers or percentages to indicate that any progress whatsoever is being made. Furthermore, neither the statement nor the PSA distinguishes between “violence against women” and reported assaults and rapes, when RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) evidence shows that only an average of 40% of rapes that occurred were reported during the last five years, and of those, only 3% were prosecuted successfully. Furthermore, even when they are reported, they are not always prosecuted or even counted in the statistics, as my own personal experience and my tenure as a Professor indicates. Additionally, the “alarming statistics,” which we have just been told have been significantly reduced, in the first paragraph, and which are causing VP Joe Biden to act, are not stated.

• What about girls and boys under the age of sixteen or over the age of twenty-four? Are they less important or valuable than those between the ages stated? I was first raped at the age of three, by my own father, who raped me for two years. Then I was raped consistently from the age of five to eighteen by my stepfather, as were all my siblings, all younger than I, and some of whom included my stepfather’s own biological children. My mother raped me, with implements, when I was 11 years old, right after I began menstruating, damaging me so severely that I was unable to have children. Yet this 1 is 2 Many never mentions children who are sexually abused. Why are children of all ages and both genders not included in this “Violence Against Women Act”? Why is this not a campaign against RAPE, period, rather than a campaign against violence against women aged 16-24?

The White House statement accompanying its PSA continues:

Vice President Biden also joined President Obama when he created the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, co-chaired by the Office of the Vice President and the Council of Women and Girls. The Task Force is releasing a new initiative, Not Alone, which provides resources to students, advocates, and universities. By targeting the importance of changing attitudes that lead to violence and educating the public on the realities of abuse, the Vice President is leading the way in an effort to stop this violence before it begins.

• We are not told how Students are to be Protected from sexual assault and rape, only that a “Task Force” has been created (which means absolutely nothing since Task Forces traditionally offer only recommendations, and are not endowed with any legislative powers to create or enforce laws). Therefore, this Task Force, whether led by VP Biden for his remaining 2 years in office or not, will have no power to prevent sexual assaults or rapes anywhere.

•  There are also several problems with this White House-promoted all-male-narrated PSA, the first of which is the fact that it is narrated by older, celebrity males who, no doubt, would never even consider committing sexual assault, and not by college-aged males or other men who might be the ones assaulting and raping other college students. It is also not narrated by victims — of any age or gender — of sexual assault and rape, whether or not said victims reported those assaults and rapes to authorities.

• Despite the White House’s page for the release of this PSA, which relates statistics regarding the sexual assaults for girls younger than college age — “1 in 9 teen girls will be forced to have sex” — this fact is never mentioned in the PSA. This is a terribly glaring omission. I was “safe” from sexual assault and rape when I attended college, whereas I had been continuously raped for fifteen years in my own home by my father, stepfather, and even my mother (with instruments). Rape, no doubt, occurs as often, if not more often, but gets reported less, when it is part of incest, is committed by a family member, or takes place in the home by someone known to the victim. The RAINN statistics are chilling.

• Why the change in language, from “sexual assault” and “rape” to “forced to have sex”? The White House, among others, may think that semantics are not important in this instance (which I seriously doubt), but semantics are always vitally important since semantics influences people’s emotions, then their perception of the situation, often without their being consciously aware of such influences. “Forcing someone to have sex” is not as violent as “sexual assault” which is not as violent as “rape.” Why the change in wording? To make rape more palatable? Rape should never be acceptable, and the semantics should not be changed to make it more comfortable for people to talk about or to prevent. Whoever wrote this page for the White House’s 1 is 2 Many PSA knew exactly what he was doing when he specifically and intentionally chose these words to describe rape. Just as the Universities where I taught chose to exclude “Date Rape” and even “Acquaintance Rape” from their statistics when they became legally obligated to report “rape statistics” to the state, the White House is using semantics to soften, if not actually eliminate, the extreme violence of rape in its stated campaign against it.

• The WH’s PSA male-narrators consistently state that “if they saw it happening,” they would “do something about it” or “say something,” or that they “wouldn’t blame her; [they] would help her.” What about someone’s — anyone’s — doing something to prevent the sexual assaults and rapes in the first place? The PSA directly contradicts the White House’s statement that “the Vice President is leading the way in an effort to stop this violence before it begins,” by stating that if these male narrators “saw something happening.” Seeing something happening and then saying or doing something is not action, it is reaction. In any and all cases, acting while or after seeing an assault or rape taking place is not prevention.

My final problem with the White House’s page and its PSA is its title 1 is 2 Many. Because One is not TWO many: One is TOO many. Writing such an important statement as if it were cutesy, harmless text trivializes the entire atrociously violent crime of rape.

Shame on the White House, shame on its widely touted but completely misleading and ineffective PSA, shame on Biden and Obama for their ineffective contributions to preventing rape against every victim, no matter the age or gender.

Related Posts

When is Rape NOT Rape?

Kevin’s Mother & The Pedophile:
Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse
(guest post on OTVmagazine)

I Survived a Serial Killer: My Own Mother
(guest post on RachelintheOC)

Head-Bangers’ Ball:
Escaping Abuse the Hard Way

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Filed under #CSA, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Memoir, Preventing Childhood Sexual Abuse, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence, Violence

When is Rape NOT Rape?

Trigger Warning

As a Professor at a University, you are privy to the underlying, ever-present politics that involve everything from promotion & tenure, to what constitutes “rape” when the institutions are legally required to report crimes at their institutions.

Over the course of my University career, I taught at quite a few universities and colleges, many times as a full-time visiting Professor before I completed my degree since I’d been an adjunct at the university or college that needed someone for a year while one of their Professors went on sabbatical. Even as a visiting Professor who’d only be there for a year, I was expected to participate in all the non-teaching activities that are required of tenured Professors.

At two of those Universities, I witnessed first-hand the metaphorical rape of students and faculty there once the schools became legally obligated to reveal the reported number of rapes at their institutions.

Originally, Ohio universities and colleges, whether 2-year or 4-year, whether private or public (i.e., state-funded) were not required to submit any statistics — to anyone — about any campus crimes, misdemeanor or felony. For some reason, the state legislature changed that law while I happened to be working full-time at two universities, so I was intimately involved in the process, as were all their Professors and administrators (staff-members were never included in these political concerns of the schools, though they, too, were affected by any administrative decisions).

The new Ohio law required all higher education institutions to make their “crime statistics” public knowledge, especially the rates of theft, vandalism, (non-sexual) assault, and rape.

It seemed no one had a problem revealing the statistics of the first three categories because, frankly, even at the schools where I taught (one was among the poorest in the country, the other was one of the wealthiest and most elite), those things simply weren’t a problem. (Although, actually, the wealthy school had a higher incidence of petty theft — from students, staff, and faculty — than did the poorer school.)

Revealing rape statistics, however, caused the administrators at both schools great alarm.

At the state-funded public university, it was decided — almost exclusively by the president — that “date rape” would not be included in the statistics. His reason? It ain’t rape if they’re dating. Male and female faculty alike objected. He threatened us with pay-cuts, no tenure if we didn’t have it already, and no future promotions — ever. To my horror, most of the faculty — especially the males, I’m sorry to say, but a good number of the females as well — were immediately and forever silenced.

The President then changed the definition of “date rape” to include any rape that happened when the boy and girl knew each other, even if they were only in the same class together, even if the girl didn’t know the boy’s name, only his face.

The faculty objected in a body.

It was threatened with being fired.

I would like to say that more than one or two of us continued to object, but it wouldn’t be true.

As a rape victim myself — raped, molested, sodomized, and forced to perform fellatio by my biological father and by my step-father for over 15 years, and viciously raped with sharp kitchen instruments and household tools by my mother when I was 11 and started my period — I continued to protest. I was ordered, in no uncertain terms, as well as in malicious, obscene language, to keep my mouth shut. (I didn’t, but, for some reason, I wasn’t fired; unfortunately, it didn’t change the way “date rape” was defined at that university.)

Of course, male-on-male rape was literally laughed at as a possibility, despite my mentioning that I knew for a fact that one of my students (who was gay, though I didn’t say that) at that University had been raped by several football players. For being gay. I was told that it “didn’t count” because men couldn’t be raped.

In fact, though the term LGBT was not in use at that time, any LGBT sexual assault was dismissed and not included in the statistics at that university because, the President claimed,  “those people asked for it.”

Also eliminated were “gang rapes” where multiple assailants attack one person. No reason was given for this. We could only conclude that it happened far more than the University wanted anyone to know.

Not surprisingly, the President continued to redefine the definition and categories of “rape” until the numbers were so low that no one would consider the campus unsafe. (Rapes or assaults of female faculty or staff members — whether by students, staff, or other faculty — were never even considered, though there were quite a few. Most of those women quit in protest.)

I was livid, not only for my students, but for all women, men, and children who are raped every single day. I was also frustrated since I had no political power or support to change what was being done with the University’s rape statistics.

Though several faculty members repeatedly brought up the fact that reported rapes are only a small percentage of the actual rapes that are occurring, these faculty comments were ignored. (In 2008, nearly 90,000 people reported being raped in the United States, with an arrest rate of 25%. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 39,590 men and 164,240 women were victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault during that same year.) Faculty who brought up that fact were simply told that if the crime hadn’t been reported to the authorities, the school couldn’t possibly know about it or report it in its statistics; while that was true, the administrators were intentionally and deliberately being obtuse about the discrepancy regarding actual and reported rapes in the entire world, let alone on its campus.

The end result? The University had a very low incidence of rapes, so it was a “safe” campus.

Meanwhile, at the private, elite college where I was simultaneously a Visiting Professor for one year, helping out a friend/colleague who was on sabbatical, I expected something quite different. This school was known for its LGBT community (though, again, that term was not in use anywhere at the time, so they were all simply considered “gay” or “bi-“), including many faculty members, students, staff, and even some of the curriculum itself (which embraced LGBT Studies, which it called — no lie — “Queer Studies,” to make the students, many of whom had been rejected by parents wealthy enough to afford its higher-than-Harvard’s private tuition as well as by their peers in high school or in other colleges or universities, feel “safe, honored, respected, and nurtured”).

Except, it became apparent, when it came to revealing rape statistics to the public.

I don’t recall how many sexual assaults or rapes occurred on the actual campus grounds or in its buildings, but I do remember very clearly the number and location of the rapes this college most vehemently wanted to exclude from its reporting.

When this college had been founded, it had been granted over 1,000 acres of green space — in perpetuity, so long as the college didn’t sell the land, develop it, kept it open (free of charge) to the public, and named it after the Donor’s deceased child. The college’s green space bordered 3,000 other acres of public green space. Though all 4,000 acres were closed at night because there were no lights, rivers ran through them, and they were filled with high cliffs and rock walls, some people did go there at night. Especially this college’s students.

Those were the first rapes that weren’t counted in the college’s reported statistics. Why? Because everybody should know better than to go there at night.

And, besides, How did the college know whether the rapes occurred on its 1,000 acres and not on any of the remaining acres since they were indistinguishable and unmarked?

How, indeed?

Next, any rapes occurring at night and on the weekends were eliminated. Why?  Because how do we know how many tourists visited the area and they aren’t students at the college.

I was horrified. I wasn’t a tourist. I’d lived in that village for almost 10 years. I went into that nature preserve — alone — all the time. I used its “public” walking/biking path virtually every day. Until I learned how many rapes, attempted rapes, and sexual assaults occurred to people on the walking path, some of which bordered the 1,000 acres owned by the college and located within the village itself, most of which ran through the more isolated areas of the college’s 1,000 acres. It seems the people using the path were literally grabbed by people who jumped out of the dense woods and dragged the walkers or runers into the isolated areas where they were attacked with no fear of discovery.

19 rapes a month.

(Needless to say, that ended my solo trips into the preserve, and all my walks & runs along the path.)

The college did not want to reveal that figure, as you can imagine. Many of the faculty had been unaware of that number, too, and we were horrified, to say the least. Some of us regularly encouraged our students to make use of the green space for artistic inspiration, meditation, exercise (I was one of those who suggested, to my creative writing students, that it would be a great place to write or get ideas for their projects: that suggestion ended immediately, accompanied by warnings about the rapes).

The college wasn’t happy about 19-rapes-per-month number. And bear in mind, 19 rapes per month was the number after the attacks which occurred on the weekends and after dark were excluded.

The college found ways to reduce the number of its reported rapes.

First, it eliminated any that were between a student (victim) and a non-student (assailant), even when one of the assailants had been a faculty member. Student-student rapes were the only ones to be counted. For some reason, student (assailant) and non-student (victim) rapes were not considered important enough to be discussed.

“Date-rapes” were also excluded, despite the faculty’s objections.

Then the college did something even more outrageous and unforgivable, especially considering its student body, and the sexual orientation of over half of its faculty.

It excluded all LGBT rapes: female-female, male-male, male-female — it didn’t matter. If the rape victim didn’t identify as “heterosexual,” the rape wasn’t included. Not if it took place in the 1,000-acre green space, not if it happened on the college grounds themselves, not if it happened in any of the college buildings, including the dorms and library.

The faculty, especially the women, literally screamed and shouted their outraged protests. They threatened to go public with the information. They threatened to quit en masse. They threatened to tell all the students at the institution the exact number of reported rapes that were occurring on the college’s property (which many of us did anyway as soon as we learned of them). The college would not back down.

Like the other University, it eliminated “gang-rape” from the definition of rape, even if only one person had actually committed the crime and the others had just been observers. In short, it redefined “gang-rape.”

As did the University, the private college did not include reported rapes of faculty or staff members, whether male or female.

Not surprisingly, after so much manipulation of the statistics, the college had a surprisingly low number of reported rapes.

Just like the other University where I taught.

So each of these schools — and I’m guessing many more, besides — redefined “rape” when it reported statistics to the state. I felt like I was a child again, being raped by my father, stepfather, and mother, then ignored or called a “liar” whenever I told someone what had happened.

After submitting their significantly manipulated rape statistics, both schools received a “safe environment” rating from the state; said “safe environment” rating was published in an annual guide to colleges and universities, along with the actual number (and percentage, for comparison) of rapes reported by each school.

When I was young, I was told that only strangers could rape someone, that fathers never raped their own children, and that mothers certainly couldn’t do it even if they used kitchen implements or household tools. As an adult, it became common to hear others telling young men that “if a girl says no, she means no, and that if the man proceeds, it is rape.” Nothing was ever mentioned about men or LGBTs saying No, so I suppose they couldn’t be raped, just as I was never raped throughout my childhood.

Even now, in a blog-post I read the other day, a woman claimed that young women “cause attacks to happen” because of the way they dress, because they sometimes drink or use recreational drugs around other people or in public places like restaurants, bars, and sporting events, because they don’t say No loudly enough, often enough, or they don’t accompany their No with enough physical resistance.

That blogger never called the attacks “rapes” although she was repeatedly discussing the “rape culture” that the young women themselves are creating. She also never mentioned males or LGBTs.

So, I guess I learned something new after reading her post. Just as I did when I was a child and told teachers, doctors, neighbors, and family members what was being done to me. Just as I did years ago while teaching at the University & college where they redefined rape to reduce their reported rape statistics.

I learned there are times when a sexual assault, no matter how violent or vicious, no matter which part of the body is violated, no matter the victim’s gender, is not rape.

When is rape not rape?

When someone more powerful than the victim says it’s not.

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(guest post on RachelintheOC)

Head-Bangers’ Ball:
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Filed under #CSA, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Memoir, Preventing Childhood Sexual Abuse, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence, Violence