Important Invention of the Week: Callisto

Callisto is a the third-party sexual assault reporting system that was designed to be used for universities and colleges.

But what makes it so great? It was created with the input of rape survivors and student activists. It was developed after more than a year of collecting feedback from sexual assault survivors.

Callisto allows a victim to file an incident report online, to “receive a clear explanation of their reporting options, and then either directly submit the report to their chosen authority or save it as a time-stamped record.”

The system was designed by nonprofit Sexual Health Innovations who have set up a Crowdrise fundraising page to get the Callisto up and running. The project has currently made over $20,000. However, organisers say they need to raise as much as $200,000  to staff and run it adequately.

The Callisto system is designed to maintain privacy and to prevent false reports by allowing victims to choose to have their perpetrator reported to authorities immediately if they had been reported by another user.

The victim would also receive a notification in the event that an additional report is made. But no other individuals or administrators would have access to the database to see whether any single person is listed as either an assailant or victim. 

“We want to be clear: This is by survivors, for survivors and us understanding and having empathy for the trauma that survivors go through after a sexual assault and just how scary the reporting process is,” said Founder and Executive Director of Sexual Health Innovations Jessica Ladd.

“We want to make it very clear to survivors they control who it’s reported to and when,” Ladd said.

I think this is a really awesome move towards in encouraging survivors to report if they’re originally afraid or hesitant of reporting their sexual assault.

Learn more about Callisto here: http://projectcallisto.org/#about

What do you guys think about this system? Will it help?

It’s Not Just Women: The ongoing struggle of male sexual assault victims.

Most of the discussion around victim blaming is heavily focused on women. I myself am guilty of focusing 90% of my attention towards women with regards to sexual assault and rape culture.  However, it is important to understand that men are also victims of sexual assault and harassment and are even less willing to report their assaults because of their fear of humiliation and shame.

Did you know that:

  • 1 in 5 men have experienced some form of sexual victimization in their lives.
  • 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18.

More than half of military sexual assault victims in the United States are men. According to the Pentagon, thirty-eight military men are sexually assaulted every single day and very few survivors speak out or report their assault.

Why? For fear they’d lose their job, be persecuted against by their peers or simply no-one would believe them.

In a recent GQ article, one survivor admitted to feeling responsibility for his attack, claiming he believed he was responsible because he could have stopped it.

“I still don’t believe I didn’t bring this on. I keep telling myself, If only I hadn’t had a few beers that night. If only I hadn’t invited him back to my room. I tried to resist. He was just so f******g strong,” Jones said. 

It’s these kind of internal thoughts that survivors suffer with after their attack that are repeatedly perpetuated not only by the stigma surrounding the reporting of the assault and how little the military actually do for survivors of assault, but also the consequences on career and personal life that are just too much of a toll on the victim.

Recent studies show that military men are assaulted more than women with nearly 14,000 cases of male sexual assault in 2012 alone. And what makes this situation even more horrifying is that prior to the repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” by U.S. President Obama in 2011, male-on-male-rape victims could actually be discharged for having engaged in homosexual conduct. While these actions are no longer undertaken, the damage has already been done and the numbers show that men are still afraid to report being sexually assaulted.

As the GQ article explains: “An overpowering shame prevents many enlisted men from reporting an assault—a sense that they must somehow be complicit in what has happened to them. Straight men often question their own sexual orientation, while gay men may struggle to find intimacy in relationships because they don’t trust other men (or their own judgment). Telling the secret ruptures families and friendships. So does not telling.”

It’s also a case of the military shoving these issues aside and simply not willing to deal with them. In the article one soldier admits that upon his examination from a doctor after he mentioned his sexual assault, the doctor said to him, “Son, men don’t get raped.”

It’s this blatant ignorance of the issue regarding male sexual assault and sexual assault as a whole in the military that perpetuates this notion of silence where the victim is too afraid to speak out, giving power to the perpetrator and shedding all responsibility from the rapist.

Under no stretch of the imagination is this okay. The military needs to be more proactive in their stance against rape and actively enforce harsh penalties for the perpetrator, NOT the victim.

However, the responsibility does not solely lie in the hands of the military system. People need to be educated about the seriousness of male rape and how prevalent in our society it really is.

We need to teach consent and reiterate that in no way does another person have a right to violate a person’s body or mind without their consent.

For more information visit: http://www.gq.com/long-form/male-military-rape

What do you think about this issue?

Do you think enough is being done to educated people about male sexual assault?

California passes ‘Yes Means Yes’ Law. How will this affect rape culture?

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In a fantastic move towards defining consent in sexual assault cases, California has become the first American state to clearly define when people agree to sex, and when they don’t. 

This law tackles the ambiguities of the original ‘no means no’ standard which made investigations of sexual assault cases difficult.

So what does this mean?

Basically, the law states that a “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent,”  “nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.”

This means that ‘affirmative consent’ cannot be given if someone is asleep of incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.

This is a fantastic move for lawmakers and enforcement who struggle often in determining positive outcomes for the victims of sexual assault cases, particularly when involving alcohol intoxication.

There is an obvious problem within universities and how they handle rape and sexual assault accusations, and this law seeks to improve their systems by requiring the use of  policies from protecting privacy to training campus officials and providing counseling for victims of sexual assault.

“The State of California will not allow schools to sweep rape cases under the rug,” Sen. Kevin de Leon, one of the men in charge of passing the bill, said. “We’ve shifted the conversation regarding sexual assault to one of prevention, justice, and healing.”

“Every student deserves a learning environment that is safe and healthy.”

Yay California!!

I think this a definite step in the right direction, albeit a small one. If the rest of America and the world can adopt such laws we could really shift the conversation surrounding sexual assault, especially in young people.

What do you think about the ‘Yes Means Yes’ law? Will it make a difference?

 

The Problem With Stranger Danger

Did you know that 84 percent of rapes are executed by someone the victim knows?

84 percent.. That means the majority of those who are raped have been done so by a friend, partner, colleague…someone they trust and love.

With only 16 percent of rapes being committed by strangers why do mostly hear about stranger rape?

Is it because we’ve become too desensitised to rape committed by a partner? Or is it the shock factor of ‘stranger rape’ that is more frightening?

Unfortunately, stranger rape in today’s society is far more likely to be seen as the primary type of sexual violence attributed to the perception of rape and sexual assault. With the responsibility partly on our media’s shoulders for the way they report and represent such crimes. The “rapist” narrative perpetuates misconceptions that all sexual assault involves extreme physical force and is mostly committed by strangers unknown to the victim.

Both myths are untrue. And the statistics prove it.

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience violence from their partners in their lifetimes.
  • 1 in 3 teens experience sexual or physical abuse or threats from a boyfriend or girlfriend in one year.

Perpetrators are more likely to target people they know because they know they’re less likely to be reported. And often this is the case. By deliberately refusing to acknowledge or be educated on the realities of rape, by ignoring rape survivors testimonies or belittling their experiences, we’re excusing the act of rape and letting bad people get away with horrific crimes.

If we continue to perpetuate these myths, individuals fail to correctly interpret incidents they observe, with research indicating many young people do not recognise what sexual assault and harassment looks like. And if they don’t recognise what sexual assault really is, how can they stop it if they see it or encounter it?

I recently read a  thought-provoking essay written by Tom Meagher, whose wife was the victim of an utterly horrifying rape and murder in Melbourne, Australia that made headlines in late 2012.

Tom has written a brilliant and brutally honest essay about ‘The Monster Myth’ in rape cases, reminding people that his wife’s rape was a rarity and that most rapists are known and trusted by the victim. I definitely recommend giving it a read, it’s really quite interesting and presents a bleak view of rape culture and consequences for perpetuating such myths.

What are your thoughts on the ‘Monster Myth’? Why do you think we’re so quick to report stranger rape, but less likely to believe someone we know and trust is capable of such a crime?

Read Tom’s essay here: http://whiteribbonblog.com/2014/04/17/the-danger-of-the-monster-myth/

Stop Victim Blaming Campaign Posters

Warren Buchholz recently created these wonderful posters for his Stop Victim Blaming campaign.

What do you think of the posters?

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Source: http://warrenbuchholz.com/post/96372746673/stop-victim-blaming-campaign-poster-series

Victim Blaming 101

Unfortunately, victim blaming is deeply embedded in our culture.

There is a visible and pervasive culture of harassment and disrespect towards victims of sexual assault. It is easier for society to blame the victim than admit overarching systematic problems.

Rape culture can be defined as discourse that unconsciously tolerates and normalizes violence against women and sexual coercion in a way that views rape as inevitable and the victim to blame.

Telling a man or woman they should have prevented their own attack puts the responsibility on the victim, and not the person who SHOULD be held accountable. The problem of instructing potential victims to avoid rape or victim-blaming sexual assault survivors is that it puts the burden of responsibility of preventing rape on the victim instead of the perpetrator.

There is an urgent need to shift the culture away from the ‘myths’ that shame survivors into silence. To change this, we must rethink the way we view victims of abuse both personally and through stories in the media and be aware of the effect such thinking can have on people.

This social project aims to shed light upon this victim blaming culture in an effort to raise awareness and understanding of the effects such thinking can have on victims, potential victims and society as a whole.

Because if we can recognise it, we can stop it.

#thisisnotashamegame