An Uncomfortable Subject

Sophia Carroll, a HuffPo blogger, posted a blog today about a near-disaster that happened to her just over a week ago: she strongly suspects that was drugged at a party, with the intent of sexual assault.  Luckily for Ms. Carroll, she left the party before the drug took effect.

Unluckily for Ms. Carroll, and thousands upon thousands of other women out there, she was informed at the hospital the next day (after an emergency room trip for extreme nausea and vomiting) that there are no tests available for the so-called “date rape” drugs.   Through her own research, she found that such tests are available to the general public, and they’re not terribly expensive, although due to the labrynthine and deplorable nature of medical insurance and healthcare industry, they may not be considered financially viable. . .which is only the start of the tragedy called “rape treatment” in this country.

Two months ago, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wrote an op-ed piece about how rape is treated in this country, noting the indifference rape cases receive from the justice system at large, citing as evidence the huge backlog of untested rape kits in this country (12,669 in LA County alone).  The indifference in the justice system and in the medical profession are only indicators of a much larger problem in our society, though.

Why are we so uncomfortable with rape?  It happens, more often than we’d like to admit, and given my own knowledge of how many cases go unreported, I would say it happens way more often than we would ever want to even try imagining.

Why is our society so indifferent to rape?  Why, in so many rape cases, are the victims blamed?  I asked those questions together because, to me, the answers are related.  As Kristof pointed out in his article, the sentiment that the victim must have someone deserved it or provoked it may not be stated as frequently as it used to be, but the lacksadaisical action in testing rape kits and prosecuting rapes (only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) would seem to be the actions that speak louder than the (lack of) words.  One of the commenters on Ms. Carroll’s post, “been2there,” gave a great explanation as to why the victim tends to be blamed:

The blame the victim thing is a side effect of trying not to become a victim. If one admits that the victim is in no way to blame, one must also admit that such victimization could strike home. Rather than face the fear of being raped, people blame the victim.

I hope it really is that simple, because fear alone is far easier to overcome than willful ignorance and entrenched stupidity.  (For men, I think the reasoning would be that such could happen to the women they care about if they admit the victim was entirely innocent and the rape unprovoked, or maybe even themselves; according to RAINN’s statistics, 1 in 33 men will be the victim of rape as well.)

So what can you do?  You can follow in my footsteps and sign up to volunteer for a RAINN-partner rape help center near you, or you can make a monetary donation.  You can talk honestly with your children, your friends, your relatives, anybody about rape.  You can get involved, you can fight back against the monsters.  They thrive in silence and and profit from their victim’s shame; take these things away from them and drag them into the light.

Change in society starts with change in individuals, and changing our attitudes towards rape needs to happen.

VS 7.12.09


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