Wednesday, 16 April 2014
The Worst Four Letter Word: Rape
I know that I don't often discuss social issues here and most of what we write is either informational, self-reflective or light hearted. Today as I was watching television there was new evidence released regarding the handling of the rape investigation of a star college athelte. The news regarding the lack of care and concern for the alleged victim in the case relative to how the case was investigated both by the school and by the police was rather appalling to listen to.
I was thinking to myself, "why is this such a common story?" I also wondered about all those unreported rapes. The social stigma that falls on the victims of rape is often so great that victims are fearful of coming forward. There are not too many other crimes that I can think of where the victim is not always the sympathetic figure. I know that proof of rape crimes is part of what makes the crime so difficult to punish. So how do we change it? To me the answer may not be "easy" but it's obvious; through education.
Where should that education begin? It needs to start in the home and it needs to start with fathers talking to their sons. As parents are often tasked with talking to their children about sex, when they have any discussion about sex part and parcel of that discussion should be a talk about respect for women and the importance of respecting your female partner. I think fathers best foster that idea by the way they treat their spouse in the home. A husband who is respectful of his wife in the home will have a much greater chance of having sons who will be respectful of their partners. The old cliche "actions speak louder than words" is true. Words, and to speak to someone is also an action though and as much as I believe a father should instill respect for women in his sons through his actions I think dads today should take the time to talk to their sons about rape and what a despicable crime it is as well.
There is another place education about rape needs to happen and that's in school once students are of school age to take part in sex education courses. I know that my school had a sex education course when I was in middle school but I do not honestly remember if rape was ever discussed. Not every child is going to have a father who is a good role model or a father who is even there. That's not to say that mothers can not talk to their sons about rape and violence against women, I'm just guessing the message resonates a bit more when it comes from the same sex. The fact that not every student is going to have a parent who teaches respect for women makes it vital that schools take on that role as educators.
I also think that sex education should be required three times. In middle school. In high school and if you attend college, in college as well. I'm not saying that it needs to be a semester long requirement in high school or college, but perhaps a required week long refresher type course would not be such a bad idea. Sex education is going to also resonate differently with middle school kids, high school kids and college students. A more mature understanding happens with the more mature we are when we have those discussions. Sometimes I wonder why the only time I had a sex education course was when I was in middle school. Sure it's the time when boys are first getting interested in girls, but even I knew I was not ready for sex at that age. I think the course at that age was a good idea, but I think in high school they should require it again. For freshman in college when many men will be living away from the home and their parental influences for the first time and when students will be exposed to more frequent interactions with alcohol would be another smart time to have required sex education. I'm not sure how many if any schools do that.
I also believe that having any brave rape victims and even convicted rapists who are remorseful and wish to rehabilitate coming into schools during the high school and collegiate sex education courses to discuss rape and all it's social and criminal implications could be a real wake up call for some. Schools already do it with drunk drivers when advising students of the dangers of alcohol. I KNOW it would be viewed as controversial. It would take a strong administration, especially in a public school. Private schools and certainly colleges would have a little more leeway in creating such an educational agenda. I know the raw emotion of those testimonials would agitate parents, but if it educates, and resonates and spares a rape victim... well, I think it's worth risking the controversy.
Obviously we're not going to stop the rapes that are commited by most of your serial rapists who have a deviant nature. So many rapes though, have been and continue to be date rapes, commited by boyfriends against a date or a girl friend. They do not likely derive out of a desire to commit the crime or the desire to disrespect. They derive out of a sexual urge and a lack of understanding or appreciation for the nature of the crime.
This type of continuous education that I propose might also help once it comes time to investigate these cases. The prosecutor, the lead investigator and most of the college board that I talked about in the opening of this discussion were all men. Men who obviously did not take an allegation of rape seriously enough, because they did not respect the ramifications of the crime enough on the victim. I think it is imperative to do everything we can to help our young people appreciate the seriousness of the rape crime. When those young men become adults and are in the position to investigate or prosecute these crimes they just might be more invested in finding justice for the victim then all the political and social implications of rape.