By Gaetana Drake
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed in 1994 and seeks to improve criminal justice and community based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States. Federal funds are used to educate the public about sexual assault and provide support programs for victims. Since its passage it has been re-authorized and re-approved in 2000 and 2005. However, Congress has failed to re-authorize it in 2012. Consider the following statistics:
1 in 3 women in America will be the victim of a completed or attempted rape.
Every 2 minutes someone is sexually assaulted in America.
It is estimated that only 46% of rapes are reported (207,754 reported last year, actual rapes probably around 400,000.)
44% of rape victimes are under age 18.
97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail!
2/3rd of assaults are by someone known to the victim (a friend of a friend).
38% of rapists are actual friends or casual acquaintances of the victim.
6 of 10 rapes occur at the home of the victim or the home of a friend, relative or neighbor of the victim.
1 in 15 rape victims will become pregnant as a result of the rape.
1 in 15 rape victims will contract a sexually transmitted disease as a result of the rape.
The United States has the highest incidence of rape of any country that reports such data. The rate of rapes in the U.S. is thirteen times higher than in Great Britain and twenty times higher than Japan.
A woman in the United States is more likely to be raped than to die in a car accident.
For the past several years we have been teaching girls and women how to protect themselves from rape. We have all learned the following:
*Bring a friend if you are going to a party or event at a strange place. If you can’t bring a friend, tell one where you will be and to expect periodic calls from you to let them know you are okay.
*Keep an eye on your drink. Never go back to a drink that has been left unattended. Don’t accept drinks from strangers unless you see them being made.
*Walk or jog with a friend, especially after dark. If you must go alone, stay in populated and well-lit areas.
*Stay alert. Wearing headphones will prevent you from hearing someone approach you from behind. Hats with brims may prevent you from seeing someone approach you from the side.
*Carry a key between your fingers when walking through a parking lot and be ready to gouge the eyes of an attacker.
*Move with confidence. When walking through a parking lot (or anywhere else), walk briskly and keep looking around you. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Assailants want targets who are vulnerable, not someone who is paying attention.
*Always check the back seat of your car before getting in.
*If someone car-jacks you, drive into the nearest vehicle. It’s better to have a car accident than be kidnapped, raped or murdered.
*Learn basic self-defense. Go for the eyes, stomp on the feet, kick back at their knees, pull hair and scratch, and always aim for the sensitive area, and kick and hit as hard as possible.
*Make as much noise as possible.
*Never, ever open your door to a stranger.
*Realize that you don’t have to win in a fight. You just need to break their hold on you for a second so you can get away.
Yes, it’s good that girls and women have been taught these strategies to stay safe and protect themselves. But I look forward to a time when we don’t have to teach women how not to be victims, because we’ve taught men and boys not to be assailants.
Young boys should all be taught the following:
*Respect for females of all ages.
*If you see a woman being bullied or harassed, get involved, even if it’s only to make it clear to the attacker that someone is watching. Use your cell phone to take pictures and call 911.
*It is NOT okay to put drugs into someone’s drink.
*It is NOT okay to have sex with someone who is unconscious.
*It is NOT okay to take advantage of a woman who has had too much to drink.
*A woman’s clothing is not an invitation to rape.
*If you have friends who bully or harass women, tell them it’s wrong. Going along with it is wrong.
Rape victims are still held responsible for what happens to them. You will still hear people say “she was asking for it”. I grew up being told that “good girls don’t get raped”. None of that is true, but we have a long way to go before victims are no long stigmatized.
You may wonder after reading these statistics, why Congress has failed to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act. It’s for a very simple reason. The act has been expanded to provide protection to lesbians, illegal immigrants and mail-order brides. Re-authorization was approved overwhelmingly by the Democrats, but voted down by the Republicans. You would think they don’t have mothers, sisters, wives or daughters, wouldn’t you?
Someday women might not be afraid to go out after dark or to walk to their cars in a dark parking lot after work. Someday…if we teach our boys well.