Tag Archives: childhood rape

The Louisville Slugger

I did my last three years of high school in a district that was cramped for space. Because there was only an elementary school and a high school, and the district had decided to create a “junior high” category but didn’t have the building done yet, the high school building was used for both groups of students. The high school students started at 6:00 a.m. and were done by 1:30 p.m., allowing us half an hour for lunch. Then, at 2:00, the junior high students came to school. They had to stay late in the evening, and the parents didn’t like it very much, but until the new Junior High building was completed, it would have to do. That’s how I was able to work two jobs in high school. We lived near a mall, so I could be at work by 2:00 every day and work any time on weekends.

In one of the stores, I worked in the credit department, calling customers to remind them their payments were due, stuffing envelopes, and eventually, becoming a supervisor and approving borderline credit purchases when the stores called in to our central location. My other job was in a prominent retail store’s catalogue department, which was located next to Sporting Goods.

That’s where I first saw the display of baseball bats. As soon as I saw them, I knew I had to have one. I let the Sporting Goods manager help me narrow down the selection. I don’t recall whether aluminum bats were available then, but I was convinced that a wooden one would suit my purposes better.

I got permission from my one of my teachers (and the principal) to take Spanish class, which was my last class period of the day, during my lunch period. (They knew I had two jobs so that I could save money to go to college, which my parents and the rest of my family violently opposed, and I think they were trying to help me out.) That released me from school half an hour early, since, technically, my lunch period was at the end of the day. I couldn’t leave the school grounds, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t spend my lunch period outside, at the edge of the parking lot, with my baseball bat. So that’s what I did.

I practiced every day with that bat, slamming it as hard as I could against the trunk of the stoutest oak tree on the school’s property. At first, my arms, shoulders, and neck hurt so bad from batting practice, I thought it would kill me. But when I remembered my plan, I got back to work.

I attracted a lot of attention from some of my fellow students, most of them guys, virtually all of them “dead-heads,” as we called the students who used illicit drugs back then, because they were the ones who skipped their classes but, for some strange reason, didn’t leave school grounds, though they all had access to cars. At first, they just watched me. Then Leo, whom I knew from my Political Science class, sent his girlfriend, Nessa, over to inquire what, exactly, I was attempting to do “by beating that tree to death with a baseball bat.” After she returned with the answer, Leo and several of the boys came over.

They all had girlfriends. They all knew I was a “brain,” a “teacher’s pet,” a “brown-nose,” a “suck-up,” and everything else that the College Prep students got called by everyone in the school because we made good grades. They all knew I didn’t wear make-up, dress in all-black clothes, dye my hair purple or blue with Kool-Aid, or skip classes to roam the hallways or smoke marijuana in the bathrooms. They knew I’d never had a boyfriend and that I didn’t drink, do drugs, or party. In short, I was the complete opposite of all of them.

None of that stopped them from teaching me to correctly use the bat, however.

I slept every night with the bat under the edge of my bed. I’d cleared a wide space in my room so the bat wouldn’t connect with anything except what I wanted to hit. I kept the curtains open, though I found it difficult to sleep with the streetlight shining in, because I needed to be able to see my target. I even practiced reaching under the bed, grabbing the bat, jumping out of bed, and swinging it in that virtually empty room.

When my stepfather Fred finally came for the last time, I heard him sneaking down the stairs to my bedroom, which was now on the lower level of the house, so I was already standing in the dark with the bat. It was the middle of the night, in the middle of winter, in the midst of my most extreme discontent.

He came into my room, dropped his pants, felt around the empty bed, stood up, turned his back to me, and cursed under his breath.

That’s when Mr. Louisville Slugger and I struck.

His bellows brought my mother Maida, who didn’t come near me. Instead, she ran out of the bedroom to call the number Fred gave her. About an hour later, one of his employees came from work. The employee said nothing when he was taken to Fred, writhing, without control of his limbs, on the floor of his stepdaughter’s bedroom. The employee said nothing when he saw me, teeth clenched and eyes narrowed, standing in the corner with a raised baseball bat. He said nothing when he put his hands under Fred’s arms and dragged him, screaming through dishtowels stuffed into his mouth, out of my bedroom, across the laundry room, through the dark garage, down the driveway, and to the bed of the employee’s pick-up truck.

As instructed, the employee drove to work and dutifully deposited my stepfather on an icy bridge over a ravine in the parking lot. Taking Fred’s keys, the employee retrieved Fred’s walkie-talkie from his office. The employee returned to the building in which he himself worked. He dialed our home phone number. Maida answered. She screamed. She ran out of the house, jumped into Fred’s car, and sped off to his workplace, a government installation that required high security clearance.

Here’s how their story went:

The employee, who worked third-shift, had phoned Fred, who was the Manager of Physical Plants and who was always on call in case something went wrong with any of the facilities, to inform Fred that something had happened to one of the generators and that no one could get it started. Later, after Fred had arrived at work, he radioed said employee, informing him that Fred had fallen on the bridge which led from the parking lot to the main building, and hurt himself bad. The employee called Security, who, after finding Fred, immediately contacted the hospital. An ambulance raced Fred  — and the stalwart employee, who refused to leave my injured stepfather — from the ice-covered bridge at work to the emergency room. My mother, who was not legally permitted to even be in the parking lot, accompanied them.

One week later, the stalwart, taciturn third-shift employee, now promoted to day-shift supervisor, came to the house to inform my mother that the company had installed a hospital bed, along with all the equipment necessary to care for Fred, hired several shifts of nurses, and was transferring Fred to the “hospital room” at work. It seems the company was not about to lose its hundred-trillion-hour accident-free safety record simply because my stepfather had slipped on an icy bridge. By keeping Fred hospitalized on its premises, Fred would technically be at work every day. Thus, despite the eight months that Fred would be unable to actually work due to his numerous and complex injuries, the company would not have to re-set its neon Safety Hours sign at the entrance to zero.

Fred’s injuries were reported as having occurred after his falling on ice on the very same metal bridge that Fred himself had apparently reported as “extremely dangerous during inclement weather” several weeks previously, when Fred’s newly promoted stalwart employee had slipped but, fortunately, not been seriously injured. Paperwork detailing Fred’s report concerning this very dangerous bridge as well as the stalwart employee’s minor accident was discovered in Fred’s office files by his equally trustworthy and ambitious personal assistant three weeks after my stepfather’s unfortunate mishap.

My mother bitterly and angrily related all this to me during the period Fred was not allowed to come home because of his grievous injuries, during the many long months she was not permitted to visit him since she did not have the security clearance to see him in the hospital room constructed for him at work.

A hospital room which absolutely no one was supposed to discover, not even his family members, as it was not only illegal, but unethical as well.

Medical Summary of Fred’s Injuries:
Fractured hips, pelvis, upper and lower left leg, upper and lower left arm, left shoulder, left collarbone, both hands, wrists, thumbs, multiple fingers

Words cannot begin to express my severe disappointment.
I’d been aiming for my stepfather’s spine.

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  • This chapter, slightly modified, is an excerpt from my true crime memoir,
M is for Munchers: The Serial Killers Next Door
© 2014, 2017, 2019 by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman.
All rights reserved. No content may be copied, excerpted,
or distributed without the 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, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Memoir, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence

O Coward Conscience

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

O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me…
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.


William Shakespeare
Richard III, 5:3:194, 208-210

In the middle of the night, in the middle of the closet, I pulled down all the clothes from the shelves and the hangers and covered myself with them. As my younger sister Amy slept in the bed next to mine, and our baby brother slept in his crib in the corner of our room, I dragged all the clothes, shoes, and toys over my legs, body, and face. Then I waited. I never knew how long it would take, so I just had to keep on waiting. Though I kept pinching my arms and legs to stay awake, I eventually fell asleep.

My stepfather’s cursing woke me. When I heard the noise of squeaking bedsprings, I knew he was in my empty bed. The lamp got knocked over, and my stepfather cursed again. His footsteps came toward the closet. I put both hands over my mouth to prevent any sound from escaping.

The door opened. His huge hand groped among the toys, clothes, and shoes. My heart was thumping so loud in my ears, I was sure he would hear it. I couldn’t see Fred’s face: just the dark silhouette of his head and body.

“If you’re in here, you better come out,” said Fred.
I didn’t move.

“I’m the one paying for all the food you eat, and I’m not even your real dad, so you owe me,” said Fred. “Your mom tricked me into marrying her, and I had to take you, too, because your real dad didn’t want you: you owe me.”
He leaned further in, yanking at the clothes.

“It’ll be your fault if I have to do Amy,” he said.
Still, I didn’t move.

Eventually, Fred left the closet and got into Amy’s bed. Her cry was immediately muffled by his hand over her mouth. When Fred finished, he said the same thing to Amy that he always said to me and, later, to Jimmy Lee, even though Jimmy Lee was his real son: This means I love you.

After Fred went back to his own room and Amy cried herself to sleep, I hit myself in the head over and over for being such a bad girl. For making him do Amy instead of letting him do me. I was the oldest, I was the biggest, I was the one who should be protecting Amy and Jimmy Lee. That was my job.

Sometimes, though, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

In the middle of my ninth year, in the middle of my first year with a stepfather, when I finally came out of the middle of the closet, my sister Amy looked at me with dead eyes. She never said anything about what Fred was doing: she just ran as soon as he came into a room. Sometimes, she ran so far and hid so well that it took us days to find her. When she was thirteen, she ran away and never came back.

I didn’t blame her.

I blamed myself.

While her own children were small, Amy often complained about Fred’s sexual abuse. I didn’t owe him anything, she said once, and then, one day several years later, without explanation, she simply stopped talking about it.

When I was giving an interview about one of my novels on a radio talk-show, the host asked what had inspired the “intense and unsettling exploration of violence” in my fiction. I told him about the sexual abuse I’d suffered at the hands of my father, stepfather, and mother.

Afterward, Amy called me up, hysterical. She told me that she’d phoned every member of the family and asked whether any of the things I’d said on the radio were true. She claimed that every single person in the entire family remembered things exactly the same way, and that none of it had happened the way I said. Furthermore, everyone said that I was a liar and a storyteller, and that I always had been.

“Were you trying to embarrass me?” said my sister.
“By saying that our parents abused us?”
“Our childhood was perfectly fine and normal,” said Amy.

For so many years, I felt guilty for hiding in the closet when Fred was looking for me. Guilty for hiding in the closet, in the garage, in the basement, in the crawlspace, under the cellar door. Guilty because whenever Fred couldn’t find me, he hurt Amy or Jimmy Lee like he’d been hurting me since I was five. Guilty because even though my own mother knew what Fred was doing, she did nothing to stop him, so I thought I somehow deserved his anger and abuse. Guilty because Fred said it was all my fault for hiding.

But I simply couldn’t stop hiding from him.

After all my years of therapy, I guess I don’t feel guilty any longer. But I still feel sad that I wasn’t strong enough to take it from Fred every night. Every day, too, if that’s what he wanted. Sometimes I think I should have let him do me, and me alone, every day and every night, if that’s what it took to protect my younger siblings.

Even if they say they don’t remember.

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M is for Munchers: The Serial Killers Next Door, chapters 1-6

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My Childhood on Planet of the Apes

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"Damn you," cried the practically naked Charlton Heston as he fell to his knees on the beach in front of the half-buried Statue of Liberty ...
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The Louisville Slugger

The Louisville Slugger

I did my last three years of high school in a district that was cramped for space. Because there was only an elementary school and ...
Continue reading

© 2019 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.
Though this chapter was in the early drafts of my true crime memoir,
M is for Munchers: The Serial Killers Next Door, it is not in the final version of the book.

Share

Leave a Comment

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

Kevin’s Mother and the Pedophile: Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse

Trigger Warning
#CSA

“Oh, my god, I am so angry at Walmart,” said my University colleague — Kevin’s mother — one day. “They had photos of Registered Sex Offenders on their bulletin board in the main entrance.”

“Why are you mad at Walmart?” I said.

“One of the registered sex offenders lives less than two blocks from me,” said Kevin’s mother. “Now I don’t feel safe.”

“I’d think you’d be grateful.”

“Grateful? I know where he lives. I drove by his house last night. He was out in the yard. Some of Kevin’s best friends live next door to the guy.”

“Then you should be really grateful,” I said, “and you should do something to protect Kevin and the other children.”

Kevin’s mother looked confused. I was surprised that she’d never discussed this topic with Kevin, who was eight-years-old. I used to teach my Kindergarten students about Stranger Danger, as we called it then, before I completed my Ph.D. and began teaching at University.

“How far away is the pedophile from the school playground?” I said. “There’s usually a limit to how close a convicted and registered sex offender can go to a school or playground.”

“Just over two miles.”

“I don’t know what the Judge ruled as his limit,” I said, “but you still need to do something about it. Take the photo off the Walmart bulletin board for a few minutes while you go to the copy machine right inside the door [where Walmart let customers make copies for only 1¢ each], make at least 500 copies, show them to Kevin and his friends, show them where the pedophile lives, and tell them never to go near him.”

Kevin’s mother looked doubtful.

“Go to the PTA at the elementary school, tell the parents, teachers, and administrators about the registered sex offender. Then pass out copies of the poster with his photo to all of them. Everyone has a right to know that, and to protect their own children.”

“I can do that,” said Kevin’s mother, apparently thinking that would be easy compared to discussing the situation with Kevin. “Can you talk to Kevin and his friends?”

“No, I can’t. I’m not their parent. You need to do it. If something happens, the children are more likely to tell the person who teaches them to protect themselves in the first place. Don’t you want Kevin to come to you?”

“But how do I do it?” said Kevin’s mother, sounding clearly distressed.

I told her how the teachers of the private Daycare and Kindergarten had done it when I worked there. First, we told the children — as matter of factly as possible — the names of their private body parts, including the names of their genitalia (male and female) and their anuses. Some of their parents had already told them these things; some had not.

We then told them that no one — not even their parents, nurses, doctors, or teachers — was allowed to touch them in their private areas unless they were injured and needed help. Some of the children also knew this, thanks to their parents.

“I can’t touch my own child?” said Kevin’s mother.

“Unless he injures himself on his bike or something, you’d better not be touching an 8-year-old child on his genitals or his anus,” I said. “You don’t give him a bath, do you?”

“No,” said Kevin’s mother. “He doesn’t even like me to see him in his underwear.”

“That sounds normal for a little boy who’s growing up. Parents and step-parents or a parent’s boyfriend or girlfriend can sexually abuse children. Just because someone lives in the same house as the child doesn’t mean s/he can touch the child’s private parts. You need to tell Kevin that.”

sad-eyes-1494027

At the private pre-school / Kindergarten where I taught, we were committed to protecting the children from sexual abuse. After we made sure that the Kindergarteners knew all the names of their private body parts, we explained that older children and grown-ups sometimes did bad things, hurting children in their private parts. We made it clear, without being graphic, that the people hurting the children could use their hands, their own genitalia, or instruments. We told the children that the bad people would hurt the children’s private areas or force them to do something to the pedophile’s genitalia or private areas. (Yes, we used the word pedophile, telling the children it was a person who hurt children in their private areas or made them do something to the pedophile’s privates.)

We informed the children that the pedophiles could be men or women, strangers or people known to them.

We told them some of the tricks that we knew of that were used by pedophiles to lure away children:

  • offering to show the child a puppy or kitten to get the child physically close to them;
  • telling a child that they’d lost their puppy-kitten and requesting the child’s help in locating the pet;
  • asking the child to get into their car or come into their house, to play a video-game or do something else the child would like;
  • offering the child money or some other reward, like candy, for helping them find the pet, getting in their car, or going into their house;
  • asking the child to get into their car and help them find some nearby location — like the school — which the child might be familiar with;
  • grabbing the child when s/he came close to the car to answer a question posed by the pedophiles, usually a request for directions or asking if the child had seen a “missing” pet.

child-1479557

Kevin’s mother did a great job.

After she informed the PTA, the school, and the parents, she talked to Kevin and to his friends’ parents, who talked to their children with her since they didn’t know what to say. The children were all instructed to tell their parents, teachers, nurse, or doctor if someone ever attempted to lure them away, succeeded in getting them into a car or house, or — most important of all — ever touched them in the private areas. Kevin’s mother talked to his classmates after the teacher requested it and sent home permission slips which the parents signed.

Then, to her horror, Kevin’s mother realized that the convicted neighborhood pedophile lived across the street from her Condo Association’s “recreational area,” which included a playground, tennis courts, a swimming pool, as well as an indoor playroom which children used during bad weather. Many of the parents worked, so they took turns “watching” the children in these areas. Any parents with children who used these facilities had to take scheduled turns being a guardian. No child could be there without the parents’ knowledge or without at least one adult guardian.

When Kevin’s mother asked Kevin if the man in the photo, whose name and address Kevin now knew, was ever in the recreational areas. Kevin acknowledged that the man was often there, though he had no children, and was not a “guardian.”

Kevin’s mother went directly to the Condo’s Association and insisted on an “Emergency Meeting” where she passed out even more of the flyers featuring the convicted pedophile / registered sex offender’s personal information. The other parents were understandably outraged: some of them went directly to Walmart to get copies of the other local pedophiles to distribute to their fellow parents.

Eventually, they drove that convicted pedophile out of the Condo Complex, although it took some of the parents’ protesting in front of his house with signs containing his rap-sheet to get him out.

Kevin’s mother and the fellow parents did a fantastic job of protecting the children in the elementary school and in the Condo complex.

Every parent or teacher needs to teach children about sexual abuse, and from an early age. After all, we teach our children to protect themselves from fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, poisons, guns, bullying, and now, unfortunately, shootings or other school violence.

We need to protect them from sexual abuse, too.

image courtesy of Londonberry Sentinel UK

image courtesy of Londonberry Sentinel UK

When I taught Kindergarten, we called the sexual abuse prevention program Stranger Danger, but inevitably one of the children would ask, “What if the Bad Stranger lives in the same house with you?”

Now, as far as I know, children are taught Run, Yell, Tell, which I think is an improvement over Stranger Danger, since we always had to teach the children how to react in those situations in any event, which included shouting “This is not my parent,” fighting, kicking, hitting, biting, and running away as soon as possible, and then telling a trusted adult about what had happened.

Parents may be nervous about talking to their children about sexual abuse. They may not realize the importance of teaching the children to Run, Yell, Tell! Other parents may ask you to do it for them. Give them this a copy of this post, or direct them to the Yell And Tell Foundation.

The need to teach children how to protect themselves against sexual abuse is even more important than any of the Stop, Drop, and Roll of fire drills, or any of the other safety drills they regularly practice, if only because the chance of children’s being victims of sexual abuse is just as likely, if not more so, than their being victims of a natural disaster, yet sexual abuse is less frequently and candidly discussed.

Need help discussing sexual abuse prevention
with your children?
Visit the
Yell And Tell Foundation for advice,
including resources for parents and teachers.

Related Posts

When is Rape NOT Rape?

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

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

Head-Bangers’ Ball:
Escaping Abuse the Hard Way

—–

This condensed version of this post originally appeared in
OnTheVergeWithShareenMansfield (now, OTVmagazine) in April 2016.

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Filed under Memoir, Preventing Childhood Sexual Abuse, Rape, Serial Killers, Sexual Abuse, 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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Leave a Comment

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.

Related Posts

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

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

Share

Leave a Comment

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