Monday, June 1, 2009

Silence Is The Enemy

I've never been raped, never been sexually assaulted, never been inappropriately touched even. In all honesty, I have never been nervous walking to my car at night, in a deserted parking lot or on an empty street. I've never been concerned about a man or women staring at me in a restaurant or the coffee shop - honestly, I'm pretty oblivious to that sort of thing.

I have however, been the object of wary, nervous glances from women who happened to be walking on the same deserted street I was. I have been an object of fear, because I am a guy and in certain circumstances women should be assuming that I am a potential attacker. Actually they shouldn't, because reality shouldn't require it - but it does and as long as it does they should. I hate being thought of that way - being the type of person that I am, that is the last thing that any women should fear from me. But that's the reality in which we live.

Rape happens here in this corner of the western world. It happens all too often and while we as a society don't approve and indeed consider rape repugnant and vile, women still need to be wary of strangers on the street. Because whether the assault was instigated by a stranger or, more often, by someone the victim knows or is related to, I doubt anyone reading this doesn't know a women who was sexually assaulted - most of us probably know men who have been as well. Even in our western society, with western mores, there are a lot of sick fucking people who do sick fucked up things to other people.

But at least in our society, this behavior is considered vile and repugnant, the perpetrators pathological.

In many other cultures, in other parts of the world this is not the case. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times writes of post-civil war Liberia, where rape has fallen off from 75% of Liberian women being raped during the war. Now the figure is around 12% of "women" seventeen years old and younger being raped - with 33% of those being inflicted on children twelve years old and younger. And this story is echoed all over the globe, in cultures that just accept it as a matter of course.

From Congo, to Darfur, all the way into Latin America, there are places where one can assume that any women you meet over the age of twenty has probably been raped - violently. Those who have not are the exception. And unlike the U.S., the UK, Germany or any other western nation, these women don't have the support of counselors, law enforcement or anyone else outside of their own families and sometimes not even there. It's life and that's that.

Sheril Kirshenbaum and Dr. Isis have teamed up with Scicurious, Tara Smith and Jessica Palmer, in donating their blog income for the next month to Doctors Without Borders. Sheril Writes:
The goal is two-fold: Raising funds and–arguably more importantly–awareness. Since blogging revenue increases with traffic, we hope to get people to keep coming back for more information about what’s going on and thinking about how to make a difference. Do not feel obligated to donate, but it’s one idea. There are many ways to contribute: Write and email Members of Congress (Congressional Directory here), speak at community meetings, encourage others to get involved, or donate to our chosen charity (Doctors Without Borders). Help us maximize our donations by visiting Isis, Jessica, Tara, Neurotopia, and returning here often because every click will help raise money. Spread the word. We want to make sure elected officials at multiple levels realize this is a global issue that matters to a large voting constituency!
There is always something we can do, even those of us who haven't money to help with. If you have a blog, write about this. Whether you do or not, write to the people on your email list - send them to Sheril's blog post, or that of anyone else who's written about this. Hell, copy and paste this whole entry and send it to them. Write your local and federal politicos and pretend they're actually good for something. Talk to the student affairs office, or it's equivalent at your local educational institutions and see about having someone in to speak about it - or even do some research and ask if you can speak. Public libraries are also a good place to try to have a speaking engagement of this sort. Be creative - if you have other ideas, leave them in comments or email me with them.

And if you do choose to write about this at your own blog, email Sheril at and let her know. For that matter, let me know too and I will do my best to put up links as well.

I discovered Sheril's post via Greg Laden's post on this - well worth reading.
And here is a list of bloggers stepping up...Soon to be in Sheril's sidebar.

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