FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Politicians and Sexual Assault Awareness Month

by

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Far more than a mere chance to don a teal ribbon and say you support survivors, the month is a critical time for raising awareness about rape and sexual assault. On March 31, 2016, President Obama issued a statement acknowledging the continued importance of the month and highlighting some of his administration’s initiatives. As a long-time advocate and activist on this issue, I applaud President Obama’s leadership and am hopeful that the next president will expand them. Unfortunately, should some of these candidates be elected, I fear that sexual assault will receive minimal attention. That would be a tragedy with devastating consequences.

In his statement, President Obama noted that too many women and men are victims of sexual assault and that in far too many cases, they receive little support. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds. Only 68 percent of those sexual assaults are reported to authorities, in large part due to the victims’ fear that he or she will not be taken seriously and will even be judged or blamed for the incident. Repeated studies have shown that the risk is even more acute for college students. Yet many campuses are failing to both adequately respond to sexual assaults and to engage in effective prevention programs, as evidenced by the 197 investigations at 161 institutions as of January 19, 2016.

President Obama’s statement also noted that sexual assault is a significant problem in the military, and he pledged to continue prioritizing this issue. Indeed, one study found that nearly five percent of active-duty women and one percent of active-duty men had experienced unwanted sexual contact. Nearly half of the incidents reported by female victims involved penetration. These are surely underestimates. A 2014 survey found that 62 percent of respondents suffered from some form of social or professional retaliation when they reported a sexual assault.  In 2015, the UN’s Universal Periodic Review Panel denounced the U.S for failing to curtail sexual violence in the military.

Further, Obama noted initiatives he began to help end the backlog on analyzing rape kits and discussed the creation of training and resources for law enforcement that will increase their sensitivity to victims of all genders and cultural backgrounds. It is estimated that more than 400,000 rape kits remain untested around the country, resulting in delayed accountability for offenders and prolonged trauma for victims. Survivors often tell about police officers asking inappropriate questions that clearly imply they are to blame for their own assault. For victims who are transgender, the situation is even worse, as has been documented by human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

What about Obama’s successor, then? Bernie Sanders has been on the record stating that his support for affirmative consent and bystander programs, both of which are best practices according to advocacy groups like Faculty Against Rape. Sanders and rival Hillary Clinton have both called for serious national conversations about sexual assault on campuses, and Clinton has long spoken out about women’s rights as human rights. While neither has made sexual assault a primary campaign issue, both do seem poised to continue President Obama’s initiatives and to take sexual assault seriously.

For the Republicans, Ted Cruz has said little about the subject, but he voted against the amendments to the Violence Against Women Act passed in 2013 with the weasel-like dodge that these should be issues handled by the states. Donald Trump has a terrible track record on pretty much anything related to gender, so it is difficult to imagine his support for survivors or for sexual assault prevention. For instance, Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists, lobbied for zero prison time for his chum Mike Tyson, who was convicted of rape, and his ex-wife Ivana claims he made her feel “violated” during sexual interactions. His special counsel, Michael Cohen, defended Trump and inaccurately maintained that you cannot rape your spouse. In May 2013, Trump tweeted about the scope of sexual violence in the military “What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?” implying that rape is inevitable among a mixed-gender crowd.

There is still time to press these candidates on their positions relative to sexual assault response and prevention.  Given the scope of the problem and its long-term traumatic effects, we must all push our politicians to explain how they can carry on and even expand President Obama’s initiatives.

More articles by:

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail