BEYOND MERE SURVIVAL


perpetuating rape myths, one child at the time

doing violence prevention work in middle and high school for over a year now, I have seen many scary, inaccurate stereotypes about sexual violence going around, but never like today I realized to what extent the schools are perpetuating false information about rape as part of the educational curriculum. During a break between two classes today I was looking at one of the Health class book for the 7th grade and stumbled upon the chapter on sexual violence. I took pictures, but I am transcribing it for clarity.

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Protecting Yourself from Rape

Rape is any kind of sexual intercourse against a person’s will. Over half of rape victims know their attackers. Whenever a person is forced to have sex, whether with someone he or she knows or with a stranger, a rape has occurred. Rape is always an act of violence, and it is illegal. To protect yourself from rape, you need to recognize and avoid situations that might increase the risk of an attack, here are some suggestions.,

 

  • if you go out alone with someone, make it clear that you are not interested in any sexual activity.
  • Avoid secluded places
  • Don’t drink alcohol or use other drugs or date people who do.
  • Always carry money so you can call home or tae a cab or bus if you feel unsafe.

 

PREVENTING VIOLENCE

 

People across the nation are making an effort to reduce and prevent violence. here are some of the actions they have taken

  • Holding stop violence rallies
  • Supporting stronger gun laws
  • Installing lighting in parks and playgrounds
  • Breaking up gang control of public parks
  • Starting neighborhood watch programs
  • Supporting teen curfew
  • Teaching non violent resolution
  • Assigning more police to street patrols  


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HOME

  • Lock doors and windows when you are alone
  • open the door only to people you know well
  • do not give personal information over the telephone or computer
  • never agree to meet alone with a person you met online
  • if someone comes to the door or window and you are frightened, call 911 or the police
  • never shoot firearms or pick them up, even if they are unloaded
  • when you come home, have your key ready before you reach the door. Do not enter if the door is ajar or appears to have been tampered with
  • never tell a stranger that you are home alone. Instead, say that your parents are busy and can’t come to the door or the phone.

OUTDOORS

  • do not walk alone at night
  • avoid poorly lit streets
  • if you think someone is following you, get into a store or other public place
  • never hitchhike or accept rides from strangers
  • do not look like an easy target. Stand tall and walk with confidence
  •  if someone wants your money or possessions, give them up
  •  if you are attacked, scream and get away any way you can
  •  do not carry a firearm or other weapon.

 

I underlined some the parts I found most appalling, even though much of the premise of the idea of prevention in the book is at best inaccurate, and at worst just plain fucked up. Prevention is only seen as a potential’s victim responsibility, where each person must recognize and avoid danger. No talk of accountability or responsibility on the perpetrator’s part is even mentioned.

 

But besides the theoretical framing of the issue, the chapter is just spreading false information. I have worked as a gender violence advocate since 2005, and I have listened to countless stories of sexual violence, besides being a survivor myself. Most people are assaulted by someone they know, not half like the book says, but more like 70% to 80%. Most times it is a date, or an intimate person that you trust, not a stranger in a dark alley.

 

None of the information provided will be helpful to avoid sexual assault, it will just make the kids (and mostly girls, who feel rape is their problem) scared, and limit their freedom and mobility. How can anyone not look like an easy target? We know that people that are young, or disables, or homeless, are at a higher risk of being assaulted. Are they telling 12 year olds that they should stop looking like themselves? Or that as a disabled person, I should magically rid of my disability?

 

The whole chapter sets up people to feel guilty and responsible for the assault, because they should have seen it coming, or they should have been able to protect themselves. And then there is a subtle (or maybe not so subtle) racist message in the whole bit about gangs and public parks! What are they even talking about?  Yes, gang rape does happen, but it is a much rarer occurrence than people being pressured into sex by who they are dating, or being assaulted by an acquaintance or even a family member.

 

There is no prevention, besides the decision taken by someone to not assault, to choose consensual sex, and to strive for healthy relationships. And better street lights or more cops will not cut it.

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sex ed VS abstinence based
March 26, 2009, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Building Healthy Relationships | Tags: , , , , , ,

while i was in the middle schools today the health teachers were discussing the new sex. ed plan that will substitute the previous abstinence based curriculum. they were shocked at how explicit and crude the information was, how mechanical and graphic. i asked if i could read the lesson plan, and honestly i was surprised. it was very much like reading a car manual, an instruction booklet on sex: this is how you put on a condom. dry? use some lube. oral sex? use dental dam or rubbers.sex_ed_by_boundsparrow

it was full of statistics about who is having sex and how much. graphs, precisely. it was so cold and sterile. i am all for sex ed., but not one that equates knowing how to put on a condom with a safe, healthy sexual relationship.

the two teachers i spoke to at length were both men, and shared some of their experiences. one of them recalled that the only thing his parents told him about sex was to “keep it in his pants, and don’t get in no trouble”. the other teacher had a sister that became pregnant at 15, and remembered feeling safe in the fact that he, as a man, could not get pregnant and “screw his life”. they both thought that the information would not be helpful to the kids, because it was way over their heads, and inappropriate.

i don’t think it’s inappropriate because kids should not know about sex, but because it teaches nothing about the reality of sex. the much needed information is not only how to not get pregnant, or avoid STIs, but the foundation of trust, communication and mutuality that are necessary for having a healthy sex life. it’s either “no sex, you will ruin your life and go to hell”, or a superficial overview of the physiological reality of a variety of sexual acts.

i am nervous that it’s gonna make people feel even more pressured to have sex when they don’t even know what they think of it yet, because they get a sense that everyone is doing it. so many times as an advocate, or just a friend i listened to people that “gave in” to sex because it seemed like what they were supposed to do, or felt pressured by peers and boyfriends ( and sometimes girlfriend), and then felt like shit about it.

in the end it makes sense that the school system is either offering a firm no to sex, or a cut and dry instruction booklet. it’s easy! there is no discussions, or nuances, or difficult conversations about consent and safety. it’s just another sterile piece of information removed from the real, complicated lives of youth.

i am going to look more into this, because i have no idea about who is responsible for choosing one sex ed. program or another, but sitting here and bitching doesn’t feel right.



it finally hit the fan
December 11, 2008, 9:05 pm
Filed under: Building Healthy Relationships | Tags: , ,

i always expected, to a certain extent,to have a parental freak out after one of the school presentations, though it never came, until tuesday. I had been going to one of the middle school for the first two of the five presentations, the ones where i talk about gender expectations, the links between sexism, homophobia, racism and privilege, and the dynamics of relationships based on equality VS the ones based on power and control. no sex ed so far, right?

not according to a parent that called the health teacher (who hosts the presentations during his lesson) freaking out that her kid was getting sex ed without her knowledge. so the presentations were stopped, until all parents could get a detailed letter with the lesson plan.  i feel pretty conflicted. it was a hard class without a doubt, with kids continuously making dumb jokes about being gay, and one kid even writing KKK on the backside of a post it note i had given them for an activity. it was not fun to be there, and i almost felt sadomasochistic in having to go  and do the lessons. i had kids (age 12) that repeatedly told me men should have more power in the relationship because that is what is natural. fuck. what do you do with that?

at the same time precisely because of seeing such a powerful foundation of hate and prejudice i wanted to have a discussion with them, to tease out the roots of those beliefs that lead a person to believe they are better than another, and entitled to control. but nope. apparently i was sneakily trying to teach some -god forbid- sexual education.

i am still figure out how to handle these things when they come up. talk to the parent? i don’t even know if the school would even give me their contact info. anyone had similar experiences ?