Tag Archives: sexual assault

A Need for More Emergency Phones

If you have ever been on Radford University’s campus for any lengthy amount of time then you have probably seen the emergency telephones with the blue lights scattered around campus. These phones are there for any student to use if they are in need of police assistance or if they feel unsafe walking around campus. These phones are there to help people whenever they need it. However, there are relatively few around campus and given that the size of Radford’s campus is not insignificant, we could use more of them.

emergency phone
“Adding more of the emergency phones could help make people feel safer and even work as a deterrent for anyone planning to assault someone.” Photo from: http://www.luc.edu/media/lucedu/campussafety/images/bluelighttall-420×420.JPG

While Radford University’s campus is on the smaller size for a college campus, it can still take a fair bit of time to traverse and there are many places around campus where emergency phones are not nearby/easily accessible. Adding more of the emergency phones could help make people feel safer and even work as a deterrent for anyone planning to assault someone. The phones provide a large enough light source so it is easier to see (and therefore makes it harder to sneak up on someone). Also, if a phone is nearby then a potential victim has a better chance of contacting the police and getting help. The more difficult it is for a potential perpetrator to attack someone, the less likely they are to attempt it.

One of Radford University’s top priorities should be the safety of their students and the university should always be trying to find better ways to improve that safety. While an increase in emergency phones might not completely stop all assaults from happening, it could certainly result in a lower risk of assault or sexual assault. Students are given a lot of freedom while they are away at college. Part of that freedom is being able to go wherever they want whenever they want, and that comes with a lot of inherent risk, especially for people who are out alone.

The Trouble with Trump

Our newest president is always making headlines, ever since he began running for office. It is not uncommon for his name and his face to be the first thing anyone sees when they look at the news. Unfortunately, this is rarely, if ever, a good thing for him or for us.

trump tweets
“It is no secret that when any source of public media makes negative comments about Trump, regardless of the form they take, he immediately responds via Twitter.” Photo from: www.occupydemocrats.com

Donald Trump has had one scandal or public media blowout after another. One of the most significant issues has been his various sexual assault allegations and his gross mistreatment of women. For example, everyone has heard of (and many have seen) the footage where Donald Trump has talked about “grabbing (women) by the pussy,” something that sparked outrage among many (as it rightly should). There have been at least 15 women who have accused Trump of sexually assaulting them (including one of his ex-wives), which is more than enough to cause serious concern. If anyone, regardless of who they are or whether they are male or female, receives sexual assault claims from that many people, then that person needs to be investigated, especially if they are the President.

Another issue with Trump is his rampant Twitter rants and tantrums. It is no secret that when any source of public media makes negative comments about Trump, regardless of the form they take, he immediately responds via Twitter, usually with pathetic name calling and/or slander. In and of itself, this is not a terribly big deal. The issue is that this is the leader of our country, arguably the most powerful man in the world. He is a man with access to nuclear weapons and the entire U.S. military, and he is easily upset over the speech of an actress or a comedy sketch from a TV show that is known for its parodies of pop culture and politics. The question becomes: Why is he so concerned with these people, who he claims are hacks, when he has a country to run? One would think he has better things to do with his time besides respond to these people who he claims to thinks so little of. Trump is far too easily provoked.

There is also Trump’s habit of calling news sources that make negative comments/stories/articles about him fake news. Frankly, this is ridiculous. If Trump has an issue with a news source or believes they are unfairly representing him, then fine. He has every right to combat these claims. But all he does is call them fake news; if he doesn’t like it, then it’s fake news. If the news that these people are sharing is worth garnering Trump’s specific attention (and I’m not saying it is worth it, he has more important things to be worrying about as President), then he could actually provide evidence and make compelling arguments against the stories. Instead he just calls it “fake news”. This man is our President but he’s still acting like a toddler and shouting “Wrong!” at whatever he doesn’t like.

 

Why Your Response to Sexual Assault Matters

As college students, we’re all at least marginally familiar with the concept of sexual assault. We’ve been taught to avoid it. We’ve been taught to help our peers avoid it. But it is still common to encounter people who treat it as a non-serious issue. Additionally, these people often question the victim’s shortcomings (failure to immediately accuse, to seek out help, etc.) instead of feeling appalled that an assault was committed.

I was sexually assaulted two years ago. After it happened, the only thing I wanted was to feel safe again. I didn’t want to discuss the incident. I didn’t want to tell the world what my classmate had done to me, especially since he was popular and well-liked at my former school. To this day, my own parents still don’t know that I was assaulted.

girl
“There’s still a degree of shame attached with being the victim of a sexual assault.”

And you know what? That’s still exactly the way I want things to be. Despite the most valiant efforts of various organizations, there’s still a degree of shame attached with being the victim of a sexual assault. You feel weak—like you couldn’t protect yourself. If the assault is committed by someone you know (which is common and what happened in my case), you feel betrayed.

Why am I quiet?

Why don’t I come forward?

I am quiet because of the girl in my class last fall who claimed that if she were ever assaulted, she would go straight to the police and a hospital and do all the “logical” things I failed to do.

I do not come forward because the person who assaulted me was popular and well-liked in a community where I was an outsider. No one would have believed me.

A small part of me still believes I did something wrong. Logically, I know the only one who did wrong in this situation was the person who assaulted me, but I still hear on a regular basis that it was my fault because I had been drinking.

Even if you’ve never experienced sexual assault, your opinion on it matters—especially in college. If you think sexual assault is the result of the victim drinking too much or wearing promiscuous clothing, then you are empowering and vindicating would-be assaulters.

So, when you are speaking about sexual assault, please do so gently. You never know who might be listening. Your words have the power to either prevent or encourage sexual assault victims to speak out.

 

 

I stand with Kesha

On Friday, February 19, singer and songwriter Kesha Rose Sebert (better known as Ke$ha) lost a bid to be freed from her contract with Sony. Kesha has been in this legal battle for quite some time now and has been fighting hard against a producer that she alleges was both sexually and mentally abusive.

Kesha was a model student in high school. She had perfect SAT scores and was even taking online courses through a nearby university. Kesha dropped out of high school at the age of 18 when she met Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, a world-renowned music producer.

Dr. Luke has worked with many other big names such as Katy Perry, Miranda Cosgrove, and Jessie J. Dr. Luke promised Kesha fame and fortune, recognizing the musical ability she had.

Celebrities on Twitter "stand with Kesha" after the court's decision. Image from mashable.com
Celebrities on Twitter “stand with Kesha” after the court’s decision. Image from mashable.com

Although Dr. Luke delivered his promise when Kesha hit it big with her multi platinum single, “Tik Tok,” Kesha was extremely unhappy with Dr. Luke as her producer.

In details of the lawsuit against Dr. Luke, Kesha was reportedly raped by the producer when he forced her to snort illegal drugs and later gave her “sober pills” which were actually a date-rape drug. Kesha woke up the following afternoon “sore and sick” and immediately called her mother and was taken to the emergency room.

Although it’s not clear why this was never reported to the police, other details in the case may be a sort of breadcrumb trail. Along with the alleged rape, Kesha claimed that Dr. Luke was mentally abusive. He repeatedly called her “fat,” eventually causing her to develop an eating disorder.

Kesha spent time in a rehab facility which specializes in eating disorders and was warned by doctors that Dr. Luke was a toxic force in her life and she needed to stay away from him. However, this is virtually impossible as Dr. Luke holds Kesha’s music career in his hands and avoiding working with him would be extremely difficult.

Kesha has been fighting hard to be freed from her 6-record contract with Sony so that she doesn’t have to work with her alleged rapist and abuser.

Kesha’s bid to be freed from the contract was turned down on the grounds that Kesha has the opportunity to record without having direct contact with Dr. Luke. However, even if Kesha doesn’t have to physically be near Dr. Luke, he would likely produce most of the songs on any new album, meaning they would have to be in contact.

Photos of the singer in court have been making their rounds on the internet. One photo in particular shows a tear-soaked Kesha crying in the back of the courtroom next to her mother as the ruling is announced. One particularly touching photo shows Kesha crying  with a fan in a strong embrace as she exited the courtroom.

Despite the disappointing ruling, the outpour of support for the singer has been overwhelming. Demi Lovato announced her support for Kesha via Twitter, while Taylor Swift reportedly donated $250,000 to Kesha, since her work has been put on hold. Social media has been a vital tool in the growing support for Kesha, with the hashtags #FreeKesha and #IStandWithKesha going viral and producing thousands of memes showing support for the singer.

Although this is one rape case out of many that may never get justice, this case is especially complicated as Kesha’s entire career and livelihood is essentially being held for ransom. Kesha has been extremely strong in the way she’s dealt with the case and offered up details that may have been extremely hard to come to terms with.

So why is it so important that we stand with Kesha? Although her sexual assault may not have been dealt with legally, one can tell that something has been done to Kesha that is causing her to fight so hard and be so visibly emotional.

This is an extremely high profile case, and with that comes people of much less stature who have experienced similar situations who are being exposed to the details of this case. To see Kesha’s strength and to offer support for her is vital not only to the singer, but to rape and abuse victims everywhere. If Dr. Luke weren’t guilty and if he had even an ounce of human decency, wouldn’t he simply step away and allow Kesha to work with a different producer?

Along with rape and abuse, there is a much larger picture we must look at: how the music industry treats its women. Rapper Chris Brown plead guilty in 2009 to a felony charge of assault against his ex-girlfriend, singer Rihanna.

Despite being a violent felon who has committed a heinous crime against another human being, Brown still has a thriving music career and his fans have largely forgiven the incident.

On the other hand, Rihanna said in a 2015 interview with Vanity Fair that she felt she has been repeatedly punished since the incident. For example, the NFL declined to use her and Jay-Z’s hit song, “Run this Town” during an opening-weekend broadcast of a game.

This happened around the time of the Ray Rice incident and many speculate that they didn’t want to use Rihanna’s song because she, like Rice’s wife, was a victim of domestic violence. Also, Zayn Malik, the now ex-member of boyband One Direction was freed from his contract simply because he wasn’t happy in the band anymore.

So why isn’t Kesha being given the same graces? Although there is an outpouring of support for the singer, there are also many harsh criticisms.

As with most unsolved rape cases, many are asking why the rape was never reported to police. Some arguments that I’ve seen against Kesha include allegations that the singer is only bringing up the lawsuit for money. Others criticize her for not continuing to make music, although she does have the option to record.

These criticisms show that there is a still a massive misunderstanding of rape in our culture. Rape often isn’t something that someone can just get over and move on from. Many times, victims experience extreme trauma following the incident. Along with that, it seems Dr. Luke has an extensive history in abusing Kesha. You know when doctors are saying she should stay away from him that there is a real issue.

Despite the fact that the universal understanding of rape is probably very far away, fans and supporters of Kesha need to remain strong. Our justice system has a long history of letting down rape victims, typically because of a lack of physical evidence. However, we need to be vigilant and stand up against a system that has largely failed.

Stand with Kesha, stand with sexual abuse victims.

Not all men, but all women

The other night on Radford’s Yik Yak, I saw a post about a sober young man who was confused — if not a little bitter — as to why a drunk girl wouldn’t let him help get her home safe.

As a woman who is well aware of the sexual assault statistics in the U.S., especially the ones between college kids our age, I was appalled by just how upset this anonymous poster seemed, and even more slack-jawed when I read the comment on the post and saw the 25 thumbs up rating, all of which confirmed the chastising of the girl for not taking the offered help, and praising the man for taking such a chivalrous action.

1 in 5 college women. Graphic from Mother Jones
1 in 5 college women. Graphic from Mother Jones

Of course, I stepped in and offered my two cents: the statistics show that 1 of five women in college alone will be sexually assaulted and that fact alone only confirms what’s been imprinted in a woman’s mind; that men are very dangerous entities. In the end, I received three thumbs up and two thumbs down, coming to an exasperating +1. This leads me to wonder just how many people know the true inner workings of the female mind.

Lately, the word on everyone’s lips has been feminism. Whether seen as a generally good term or a generally bad term — depending on who you are, where you come from, and what your directions your life has been led — tons of women, especially celebrities, are picking up the “f” word. However, it seems that many are still missing the point. We can look anywhere and find slut shaming. It’s a notion that starts in girls from an early age; we see women who are promiscuous and automatically equate them to lesser, dirty beings who aren’t worth what we are. It’s depicted in movies, it’s talked about in the streets, and it’s incorporated into our vocabulary. “Whore,” “slut,” “hoe,” have all become slurs that adults and children use on the daily to describe women they don’t like, without really understanding the negative and frankly dangerous effects it has on society. For this, women are often blamed for things they have no control over, one of the biggest being sexual assault.

According to RAINN, the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, an astounding 68% of sexual assaults are never reported, while a heartbreaking 98% of rapists walk free. And people continue to wonder why women find men so terrifying?

News Discovery has reported that the odds of a shark attack is 1 in an estimated 11.5 million, while rape statistics such as the ones reported from One In Four USA say that one in four women will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. And yet, it is more ‘rational’ to have a fear of sharks than to have a fear of men. Now, don’t get me wrong. All women know that not all men are dangerous, but it doesn’t ever help that most rape and sexual assault reports come from people we know.

So guys, next time you wish to shame a girl for not taking offered help while she is at her most vulnerable, walking home alone, in the dark, drunk out of her mind, remember what world she lives in; where she’s not even safe from the people she trusts the most.

Are universities beginning to handle sexual assault better?

In recent years, the way sexual assault is handled on campus has come under intense scrutiny. At Radford, for example, many people were up in arms about the fact that the school had addressed sexual assaults on campus in a manner that seemed to blame the victim, saying that students should be aware of their surroundings and take preventative measures.

However, a recent sexual assault on campus may show that Radford’s attitude towards sexual violence and misconduct has changed in a positive manner. Students are always alerted to incidents on campus that involve sexual violence, as required by The Clery Act.

In the past, the school has addressed these situations by giving tips on preventative measures, focusing on how students can avoid becoming a victim. This time, the school said in their email to students, “the only person responsible for sexual misconduct is the perpetrator. It is a violation of university policy to engage in sexual activities without affirmative consent from your partner. Someone incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs cannot consent to sexual activity.”

This is a huge change compared to how the situations have been handled in the past. For once, the school addressed the fact that the victim is never to blame. They also made clear that being accused of sexual assault has consequences, expressing that students can be expelled if they’re believed to have committed acts of sexual violence. Recently, a member of the Stanford swim team was caught sexually assaulting a woman on campus. Two students riding bikes saw Brock Allen Turner on top of an intoxicated woman and stopped him, holding him until campus police arrived.

Turner was not only charged for sexual assault, he has also single-handedly ruined his career. Turner was a star athlete on his high school swim team, ranked 10th in the nation. Turner will likely not be allowed to reapply to be a member of USA Swimming, nor will he be able to compete in the Olympic Trials, which are USA Swimming-sanctioned.

This was a kid with a lot of potential and now he’s ruined what could’ve been an amazing and fruitful career. Assuming he’s guilty of the crime, I believe he deserves to have lost that career.

In light of recent events at UVA, Universities are realizing that there needs to be better support for victims, and that victims need to know that what has happened to them isn’t their fault. RU has also made it clear that students will be held accountable for their actions, which is something that hasn’t been done before.

The university also provided helpful statistics on sexual assault, stating, “It is estimated that nationwide 20 percent of women and 6 percent of men experience sexual assault or attempted sexual assault during their college years. Data reveal nearly 50 percent of transgender people experience sexual violence. No matter the demographic, the most common type of sexual assault is not committed by a stranger but by someone known to the victim, typically a date or other acquaintance.”

It’s extremely important that students, and victims, are aware that this is a common occurrence and they’re not alone if they’ve experienced sexual assault. They also need to be made aware that the perpetrator will be punished if the crime is reported.

I’m extremely proud of the way that Radford has handled this situation. It makes me proud to be a Highlander and gives me peace of mind knowing that there’s help for victims, should I or anyone I know become one. I feel safe knowing that the university sincerely cares about the well-being of their students and won’t tolerate any actions which could harm them.

 

From Our Perspective: Yes Means Yes & Campus Safety

 

In our first podcast of the semester, we tackle the issue of sexual assault from all angles. We’ve got a little bit of the celebrity nude leak, we’ve got a little bit of the Californian ‘Yes Means Yes’ law, and more.

Most importantly of all, we beg the question, do you feel safe at night at Radford? Send us your feedback and you might just get a shout-out on our next podcast!

We are talking about California's "Yes Means Yes" law. Graphic from Kalb
We are talking about California’s “Yes Means Yes” law. Graphic from Kalb

Let’s kick sexual assault in the face

Calling all heroes: it’s time to stop sexual harassment right in its vile tracks. I’m not talking to Batman here, guys. It’s up to all of us to prevent campus attacks. That’s the message the White House’s new project is trying to get across. The program is called, “It’s On Us,” and its goal is to stop sexual assault, primarily on college campuses.

Although the campaign is less than a month old, it has an already established website full of very informative content. When entering itsonus.org, you’re given the freedom to either scroll and view the material or use the top menu, which includes: Take the Pledge, Watch the Videos, Get the Tools, Meet the Partners, and Donate.

Take the pledge! Graphic from Kezi
Take the pledge! Graphic from Kezi

When choosing to scroll down, we’re met with the pledge. The pledge asks visitors of the website to pay attention to their surroundings to prevent incidents of sexual assault. Not only can you take the pledge to join the cause, but there’s an option to show your support through advertising. To do this, simply take the pledge by filling out some optional information about yourself (kind of like filling out a petition) and transform your profile picture on Facebook or Twitter into an “It’s On Us,” badge.

Playing the advertisement for the cause in the video section of the website will give you a bit more insight. The video is about thirty seconds long and includes celebrity endorsements from actors like Joel McHale and others. At the end, Obama makes his appearance. Not only is the Hollywood crowd promoting this, but there are dozens of partners as well such as iHeart Media, MTV, tumblr, etc.

The website also provides safety tips under the “Tools” section. These also include additional resources: notalone.gov and the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE). These tools are meant to help any victims of sexual assault crimes. You can also use “#ItsOnUs” to participate in the conversation on twitter.

While staying vigilant to help others, don’t forget that there are many resources to keep us heroes safe on campus too. The RU police department is available 24 hours a day, so don’t be afraid to ask for their help. If you’re feeling unsafe use the police escort service and have a cop walk you to your car (540-831-5500). If your cell phone is out of juice, don’t worry. There are blue emergency telephones located in many outdoor locations around the campus.

Should we publicly humiliate sex offenders on campus?

If you’ve been going to RU for a year or more, you know what happens when an incident occurs on campus. We get a vague email describing the incident and stating that more information will be provided, although it rarely comes. When one of these incidents involves someone being sexually assaulted, there’s always a little warning on the bottom of these emails that says something along the lines of, “stay aware of your surroundings and always tell someone where you’re going.”

Although I realize that there are terrible people in the world, I can’t help but wonder— if we publicly embarrassed the scumbags who commit these crimes instead of punishing them privately, wouldn’t that deter people from committing these crimes?

police
“Although I would be satisfied if the assailant’s punishment was plastered all over the news as a warning.”

I know that those who are apprehended for sexual assault face big consequences,  but we usually don’t hear about them. I would appreciate it a lot more if RU sent emails once the criminal was caught with a picture and name attached. I know this is probably against some privacy policy, but these bastards have invaded privacy in the most extreme way and don’t deserve for anything that happens to them to be private. In my dream world, those who commit sexual assault would be either exiled or castrated. But we don’t live in the medieval ages, I suppose. Although I would be satisfied if the assailant’s punishment was plastered all over the news as a warning. Regardless, something needs to be done other than telling girls to be “aware of their surroundings.” No one should have to live in fear when they step out of their home.

Going beyond just warning girls to be safe, why are women who are assaulted always asked what they were wearing when the incident occured? I know of several cases where people I know personally have been attacked, and one of the first questions they’re asked is, “were you drunk?” It shouldn’t matter what someone was wearing or if they were black-out drunk. Just because a girl shows some skin doesn’t mean she’s “asking for it.” And if anyone, male or female, is too drunk to give consent, they should be taken home or somewhere safe, given a glass of water and some Tylenol and be left safe in their bed (unless, of course, they’re throwing up.)

With the recent assumed abduction of a female University of Virginia student, many people are posting on Facebook warning others to “always tell a friend where they’re going.” I usually try to text a friend and let them know where I am in case I have a little too much to drink and need someone to help me walk home, but I’m never thinking, “in case someone abducts me.” It’s more or less so I don’t get in trouble myself (sorry, mom).

Although attacks do happen at RU, I’ve always felt safe here. Maybe I’m just naive and like to believe the world’s a safe place, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to feel that way. I think the justice system should make us feel safe, not leave us wondering if we’re safe or not because these people who commit such heinous crimes aren’t being punished publicly. I truly believe making consequences public can deter criminals and make people realize they can’t ignore their mistakes.

Sexual assault and survivors

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month; it’s only appropriate to explore the effects of sexual assault on that victim’s mental health. Individuals who have experienced sexual assault are three times more likely to develop a psychiatric disorder. These disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Continue reading Sexual assault and survivors

Women’s Resource Center remains strong despite poor economy

As the oldest domestic violence program in Virginia, the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley has offered over three decades of service to the City of Radford and the four surrounding counties. Through the recession of the past few years, the organization has managed to not stray from the programs and services it provides to a growing number of people in the NRV every year. Continue reading Women’s Resource Center remains strong despite poor economy