POINTS OF VIEW
Sexual Assault, Silence Are a One-Two Punch
By Susan Landgraff
The campaign is based on the idea that sexual assaults are happening in epidemic proportions, but almost never talked about. There is a high chance that you know, work with, or teach someone who is a survivor of sexual assault. The combination of widespread sexual assault, and silence about it, affects us all.
Many people do not realize how prevalent sexual assault is in our community and in the nation. One out of every four women will experience a sexual assault or an attempted sexual assault perpetrated by a man by the time that she graduates from college, according to surveys done at colleges nationwide by Mary Koss and Bonnie Fisher in 1987 and 2000, respectively.
Of the 50 sexual assaults reported to the UCSB Rape Prevention Education Program every year, 98 percent are perpetrated by someone the survivor thought she could trust. The national surveys tell us that these reported assaults represent about 5 percent of the actual number, mostly due to survivors’ fear of being blamed, ostracized, or not believed. We all have a duty to work toward eliminating sexual assault and the rape culture that perpetuates it.
April 17th through 21st, Students Stopping Rape will be handing out free, bright blue “It Affects Me” t-shirts, and will be asking that staff and faculty wear them. This year, many of the week’s workshops will be co-sponsored with other campus organizations, including Mujer, Queer Student Union, SCORE, INDUS, Womyn’s Commission, CIA, Take Back the Night, and Men Against Rape. There will be a student-led rally on the Women’s Center lawn on Thursday, April 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and a concert by Medusa in The Hub on Friday, starting at 9 p.m., will end the program.
In addition to attending these events, you can create change on your own by realizing that what you say, as well as what you allow others to say, may have a negative impact on sexual assault survivors and others affected by such assaults. Sexual assault is part of a sexual violence continuum that includes verbal harassment and any type of unwanted sexual contact.
Comments supporting myths about sexual assault, such as “women always lie about it,” “only certain types of people are assaulted,” and “if she hadn’t been wearing that/dancing like that/drinking that she wouldn’t have been raped,” perpetuate the rape culture by blaming the victim of the crime. At the same time, this type of thinking releases a perpetrator, who is usually male, from personal responsibility for his decision to harm another human being.
Most UCSB faculty members and staff supervisors have recently completed sexual harassment training that underscores the role of communication in illegal and demeaning behavior.
For information on the workshops or for resources regarding rape and sexual assault, contact the Women’s Center at x3778. For information about sexual harassment training programs for faculty and staff supervisors, go to <http://www.sa.ucsb.edu/women/index.aspx
Susan Landgraff is assistant director of the UCSB Rape Prevention Education Program.