three decades of public focus on violence against women, rape
and its victims remain hidden in the shadows of myth and taboo.
Discussions of violence
against women, whether in classrooms, media, church groups, or
public forums, tend to center on domestic violence. The punches
and kicks of domestic violence are more readily molded into gender
neutral discussion of violence in general. Rape, however, doesn't
blend so easily into any other human experience. Once unveiled
from myth and taboo, rape starkly exposes the violent oppression
of women by men in no uncertain terms. The resistance to opening
that view remains strong.
The media attention
to high profile rape cases in the last decade, rather than shedding
light on the subject, has served to reinforce the old myths. The
William Kennedy Smith rape ran under the old banner of ` rape
is an easy charge to make and a difficult one to prove. The Mike
Tyson rape played heavily to racist stereotypes of the black male
rapist. The coverage of the sexual assault and murder of Polly
Klaas honed in on the stranger danger fears, driving hard on the
need for patriarchal protections at home. Or, as in the extensive
coverage of law enforcement failures leading up to the murder
of Teresa Macias, the charges of sexual violence that Macias had
brought to authorities were all but ignored by the press. Attention
was given to restraining order violations instead.
thirty years ago, Susan Brownmiller took these myths and denial
to task in her groundbreaking analysis of rape, "Against our Will."
To be sure, there's been progress since then. It's no longer said,
for example, as it was before, that women
enjoy rape. And if a rape victim looks hard enough, she can find
support. Yet today in the year 2001, the vast majority of forcible
rape victims in the U.S. still don't report the crime for fear
of the very real ostracizing, victim blaming, and stigma of rape
that remain in force.
Just last year 2,000
we saw TV video of New York police ignoring women's pleas for
help even as women en masse were being sexually assaulted right
in front of the officers' eyes. In Philadelphia, investigative
journalists revealed that the Philadelphia Police Department was
systematically burying literally thousands of rape cases. And
in Sonoma County, Catholic church hierarchy were exposed for a
massive cover-up of its priests' sexual assaults of children and
parishioners under their care.
the revelations themselves should provide some faith in progress.
But it's hardly progress enough to bring justice to victims of
rape, and nowhere near enough progress to prevent the scourge
of rapes that continues to constrict women's freedom and lives.
It's time to talk about
rape! The following is a rape quiz that we hope will help facilitate
discussions of rape and question the myths. After you've looked
at the quiz, please pass it on to teachers, counselors, and clergy.
In using this quiz,
we've found best results if you break the group into smaller groups
of three of four persons each. Have each smaller group discuss
the questions among themselves for a few minutes. Then have one
person from each small group report their groups' response back
to the larger group. This fosters a range of well thought out