As Free as a Bird

Spreading my voice on the injustices of rape culture, misogyny, and human trafficking in an effort to educate others and empower like-minded women.

Archive for the tag “Rape culture”

Domestic Violence Defined

Domestic Violence Defined

It is much more broad and far-reaching than many people realize.

Death is Fashionable?

Trigger warning: Violent and disturbing images

Sometimes I just want to throw my hands up in the air.

I have seen an article before about violence against women in fashion magazines and advertisements, but I looked at it as something that we are moving away from at this point. Obviously I was wrong. Here is a new Marc Jacobs ad featuring a girl who appears to be dead:

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I fail to understand why violence against women is viewed as art. I’m not sure what message they are even trying to send here. They are normalizing and glorifying violence against women, and they are using a young woman who has admitted that she is unstable to carry out that message.

I could argue that these images are actually symbolic of society and the fashion industry, and the real damage that they can cause towards women and young girls. Women are often placed on a figurative scale. As a woman, you cannot be too skinny, because then you don’t have “enough curves”, and you cannot be overweight because that makes you “disgusting”. Why do we care so much about what other people look like or what they choose to do with their bodies? It would be different if comments revolving around weight were actually born out of true concern for the person’s health, but they rarely, if ever, are. I think many people mask their ignorant comments with “concern”.

These photos are why I am honestly feeling deterred from having children. Why would I want them to grow up in world like this? Violence against women is seen as art.

Again, these are really disturbing.

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I don’t see anything artistic about this. This has very little to do with fashion, and a lot to do with violent/gore media. They look like still shots from a horror film. I guess I will never understand the fashion industry, especially when they try to make strangulation look sexy.

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I realize that there are fetishes out there, but I honestly do not think it is healthy to put on display for young girls to see. I do think we should be more open about sexual education, but I doubt Rihanna songs or fashion ads are created for education. It honestly just looks like another image of a man dominating a woman- “putting her in the place”. People seem to think all these images and jokes are harmless, but I don’t see the humor or beauty in violence. The hyper-sexualization and glorification of violence against women is a problem displayed in advertisements and the media on a constant basis. Sometimes it feels as if there is no escape from their onslaught of images. Images like these images contribute to rape culture in America. We are so desensitized to violence against women; it is almost seen as normal, and sometimes goes as far as claiming to be sexy or artistic when women are abused.

That is a serious problem. Yet, how can we change it? It is so engrained in our culture. Are we too far gone?

 

Note:

If you would like to see more images or read more on the topic, here are some sources that I used:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/copyranter/violence-against-women-in-fashion-continues-unabated

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2014/jan/09/female-corpses-fashion-trend-marc-jacobs-miley-cyrus

A Note to Parents

A Note to Parents

A Challenge to Men

Hope for the Homeless?

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This is a subject that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I live in a fairly sizable city in Texas, so we have quite a few homeless people and panhandlers. My parents have always been drawn to those less fortunate (which is probably where I learned my passions for others). Lately my parents have been traveling out to various groups of panhandlers asking what they need. Naturally these people were surprised when someone spoke to them, as very few people engage with them other than slipping them some cash on occasion (if they’re lucky). Out of their surprised state came an outpouring of stories. I remember almost all of their stories, but one stood out in particular.

One of the women in the group under the tree that my parents spoke with confided in my mom. During their conversation my mom asked the woman where she was staying and if she had anywhere constant that she could go. The woman pulled my mom off to the side and whispered to her in a cryptic tone, “I don’t want anyone to hear me, but I live under (a tree by ____ Road). I don’t want them to hear me because sometimes when my husband leaves men will try to come around and I don’t want them to.” I instantly began to weep and asked my mom if she thought the woman had been raped or sexually assaulted before. None of us really know for sure, but it is certainly a high possibility. Even though it probably happens all the time in the homeless setting, it is something I have never really thought about- until now. Here are people that the world views as annoying, gross, or pretty much shit. Yet, they are PEOPLE; they have real problems (obviously, but people don’t seem to care or recognize that fact), real feelings, and multiple dangers. Who knows how many of these women have been raped, and I am sure that they feel like there is nothing they can do about it. Hell, I am some white bread girl, and I felt I couldn’t do anything about what happened to me. I want to research this more, because there needs to be a program for homeless women who have been sexually assaulted/exploited, or who fear sexual assault/exploitation. There may already be one, but this is just the beginning of my research. I want to talk to this woman, and other women like her. There has got to be something I can do for them. It’s terrible enough that most women in general don’t feel they can report or get help, but it is even worse when you’re living on the streets without any real resources (phone, internet, etc). There has to be a way to give them hope/help. Something to think about.

Note: Feel free to add any thoughts or ideas. I’m thinking a special rape crisis center for the homeless, or even something like free self-defense classes. I want to give the homeless some sort of hope that isn’t found in a bottle.

 

Schools and Shaming

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You can read more about slut shaming by clicking on the image.

The question today is, are schools promoting weight shaming and slut shaming?

A few weeks ago I asked my boyfriend’s cousin to stay with me over night so that we could spend some bonding time together. She is a junior in high school and has pretty low self-esteem from what I understand. Since I was bullied and mistreated in high school I have kind of made it my goal to help her and mentor her whenever I can. When she was staying with me she was talking to me at breakfast about school. With teary eyes she began to divulge an all too familiar story about her school administration. She is constantly targeted for her clothing, and I suspect it is because she is Hispanic and does not fit the Barbie mold. She has been told on several occasions that her pants are too tight or that she can’t wear shorts because her legs are too big. A school official has also said to her that certain clothing does not work with certain body types. To me that sounds like they are insinuating to her that she is too fat to wear shorts.  Frankly, that is her decision and own opinion to make, it isn’t the schools’ business to play fashion police. This is a terrible message to be sending a young girl in high school, or any girl for that matter. High school is a time when most girls are insecure, vulnerable, and have low self-esteem. The school is telling young girls that aren’t obese that they are fat, and even if they were actually obese it is still none of their business outside serving healthier foods for everyone at school. Rather than schools standing by their students and encouraging them, they are shaming them for being different. She is constantly targeted for her clothing while the administration looks the other way when it comes to a certain group of girls who wear shorts that are even shorter than what she wears.

Also, wearing leggings without shorts over them is banned from her school, as are yoga pants, I believe. While in some regard I understand why, I don’t think that limiting students’ clothing betters their academic career or causes them to “make better life choices” (and I hardly doubt that is the true reasoning for clothing restrictions). Frankly, it is slut shaming.

When did teaching kids appropriateness cross the line into shaming? This is a tough subject, because in a way I don’t think young girls should be baring themselves inappropriately at school.. but mainly because I know there are creeps out there that have to turn the way you dress into something sexual and run with it. Yes, you should dress respectfully in certain situations, but many of these recent cases of schools and dress codes have truly crossed the line and flew into another atmosphere.

Here are some great examples from an awesome article that you should also read:

1. A middle school in California banned tight pants. At the beginning of last month, a middle school in Northern California began telling girls to avoid wearing pants that are “too tight” because it “distracts the boys.” At a mandatory assembly for just the female students, the middle school girls were told that they’re no longer allowed to wear leggings or yoga pants. “We didn’t think it was fair how we have all these restrictions on our clothing while boys didn’t have to sit through [the assembly] at all,” one student told local press. Some parents also complained, leading the school’s assistant principal to record a voicemailexplaining the new policy. “The guiding principle in all dress codes is that the manner in which students dress does not become a distraction in the learning environment,” the message said.

2. A high school principal in Minnesota emailed parents to ask them to cover up their daughters. A principal in Minnetonka, MN recently wrote an email telling parents to stop letting their daughters wear leggings or yoga pants to school. He says the tight-fitting pants are fine with longer shirts but, when worn with a shorter top, a girl’s “backside” can be “too closely defined.” The big risk of having a defined backside, he thinks, is that it can “be highly distracting for other students.”

3. Two girls in Ohio were turned away from their prom for being “improperly dressed.” Laneisha Williams and Nyasia Mitchell were barred from prom this spring for wearing dresses that administrators considered “too revealing.” The girls say that they didn’t believe they were violating a dress code that said dresses couldn’t be too short or show too much cleavage. But one administrator told local news that the high school girls were only allowed to wear dresses that had “no curvature of their breasts showing.”

4. A kindergarten student in Georgia was forced to change her “short” skirt because it was a “distraction to other students.” It’s hard to imagine that a kindergartener’s outfit could be “a distraction to other students,” but a mother in Georgia told locals news there that her daughter had been outfitted in someone else’s pants — without parental permission — after the principal deemed the skirt the young girl was wearing too short.” The girl had apparently wore the skirt, and accompanying leggings, just one week before without incident.

5. Forty high school girls were sent home from a winter dance in California after “degrading” clothing inspections “bordering on sexual harassment.” A school board member’s daughter was among the 40 girls turned away from Capistrano Valley High’s February dance for wearing dresses that either exposed their midriffs or were cut too low. Before the dance, girls were apparently required to flap their arms up and down and turn around for male administrators’ inspection. The school issues image guidelines for appropriate dress on its website — though the images were nearly all of women, and the only male image depicted proper attire. One girl alleges that the principal told her, “Not all dresses look good on certain body shapes.” A grandmother of one of the girls who was turned away from the dance also said that a teacher remarked about her granddaughter, “What mother would allow her daughter to wear a dress like that?” Apparently the school did receive some praise, though, from the parents of two male students.

So, does slut shaming breed rape culture? Hell yes it does. Slut shaming tells girls that they are the cause of rape, they are seducing the men into action because of the way that they dress or act. FALSE. Rapists rape because they are rapists. Why should we condone shaming girls and placing blame where it doesn’t belong. Our society hides behind this guise of being politically correct, proper, and “appropriate”. Well, if accepting rape is proper and appropriate, I say f*^% propriety. Schools need to be in the business of education, not discrimination.

 

No Slut Shaming

My policy, and it should be yours, too.

My policy, and it should be yours, too

Just because someone is sexually promiscuous, even if they truly are by society’s standards or not, does not mean they are deserving of rape or open property for someone to rape. This also does not automatically make them your open target for harassment and torment. Stop the hate.

Change.org Petition

Change.org Petition

 

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Sign the petition to stand up for a TCU sexual assault survivor who was fired. You can read more about the story when you click the link to sign the petition.

Cyber Bullying

I can remember when I was still in middle school and no one really associated bullying with kids being mean over the internet. Instant messaging was just starting to become popular, and kids were just starting to get deep into the online world of chat rooms. I was bullied online and it was almost completely dismissed by my school’s principal.

Most schools do not handle bullying properly – even at this point in time when bullying, and suicides resulting from bullying, is at a height. Bullying has always been around, but it has migrated to the online world at a rate that has been increasing at an alarming rate. There have been many recent cases where young girls have killed themselves as a result of online torture (many of these attacks started from the girls being sexually assaulted, or exploited over the internet).

As if victim blaming isn’t enough, teens have began to use victim shaming when girls come forward to report their rapists. Rape culture online contributes to the bullying when the media and society sympathize with the rapists.

Example 1:

Rehtaeh Parsons

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Rehtaeh was raped by multiple boys at a party when she was 15, and two years later she committed suicide after being bullied relentlessly. Even though there were photos of her rape that circulated around the community the Canadian authorities pushed her case to the side. She was bullied online and harassed constantly through messaging. enduring constant torment, she was made to feel as if no one believed her, until finally taking her own life. One thing is certain about this case: Rehtaeh was bullied and it resulted in her suicide.

Example 2:

Audrie Plott

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Audrie Plott was assaulted, when she was only 15, by three boys while she was passed out. Photos of the assault circulated online. Because of this Audrie ended her own life. She considered her life to be ruined; she was humiliated by the posting of the pictures online. The images went viral, but Audrie was not alive long enough to endure the torture that would ensue after the pictures were passed around online. She killed herself eight days after her rape.

Example 3:

Jane Doe of Steubenville

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Jane Doe was raped by two football players in Steubenville, Ohio. They were apparently sent to assault Jane Doe by her ex-boyfriend, who posted online saying that Jane Doe would regret breaking up with him. She was then harassed endlessly and threatened online by her peers, and even complete strangers, through Twitter and other social media outlets online. Here are some examples of the bullying she has endured:

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These are classic examples of rape culture, victim blaming, victim shaming, and slut shaming. As if the mental and emotional trauma from the online bullying wasn’t enough, some girls, as you can see above, threatened physical harm to Jane Doe. The cousin of one of the rapists threatened to kill Jane Doe for making her cousin cry in court.

Example 4:

Amanda Todd

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Amanda Todd was not sexually assaulted, in fact she was known for being promiscuous. She showed her breasts online to a stranger, who then stalked her relentlessly, even after she moved schools several times. Her bully would follow her where ever she went, posting the pictures online for everyone to see at each school she attended. She was harassed by her peers constantly. While she may not have been perfect, but nothing can excuse what her bully/bullies did to her. She was harassed, and she killed herself because of it. Amanda was slut shamed. The fact is that it is no one’s business to judge another person’s sex life or sexual preferences. No one deserves the torture that she received.

*Note: Amanda’s case is going to carry me into an article on slut shaming.

If you would like to read about similar stories about bullying, victim blaming, victim shaming, slut shaming, and sexual assault injustices, you can read about it at the following links:

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/03/torringtons-rape-case/63386/

http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2013/05/social-media-gone-horribly-bad-teens-post-rape-on-facebook/

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/05/13/2003771/no-you-cannot-substitute-sex-rape/?utm_content=buffer21e93&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=Buffer&mobile=nc

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2321447/Braylee-Rice-Teen-girl-hangs-middle-school-bleachers-necktie-class-family-says-bullied.html

The point is that we need to do something about this, because these cases keep happening.

Victim Blaming and Victim Shaming

Victim Blaming: The act of insinuating that the victim of a crime is at fault for the crime. This is seen extremely often in rape cases. The victim is blamed for their own rape. In other words, society may accuse them of wearing “suggestive clothes”, drinking “excessively or irresponsibly”, giving “suggestive eye contact”, or acting “suggestively”, claiming that the victim caused the rape to happen because of “poor decisions” or “irresponsible/slutty behavior”.

Victim Shaming: When victim blaming goes a step further. Outside of blaming a victim for the crime committed against them, people may begin to bully the victim for the crime. They may call the victim derogatory names, threaten them for coming forward, gang up on them on the internet, slander them, attack them verbally and physically, and taunt them endlessly.

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Both victim blaming and victim shaming seem to be a current trend in our society. I’m not sure if these situations are just now coming to light in the masses, or if it was always going on. Something tells me it’s been happening for a very long time.

When I was sitting in the police cruiser on the night of my attack the police were grilling me to tell them about what happened and draw up a formal charge. I told them that I did not want to press any charges, and that I just wanted to go home. They acted like they had no idea why I would not want to press charges, but I quickly enlightened them (keep in mind this was much before the Jane Doe, Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd, and other related cases came into the light). I told them that I knew what people would say of me, that they would call me a slut, say I was asking for it, and I would just be the slut in the green dress. They tried to assure me that no one would think that about me, and though I knew that what they were saying was not true, I reluctantly gave my statement and spent the longest 2 hours of my life waiting in the police cruiser.

The police pretty much shamed me for not wanting to come forward, but I think people can see why at this point in time. Jane Doe and Rehtaeh Parsons endured endless bullying from their peers and society. The process of reporting is traumatic enough without rape culture being at a height and extremely public. The police tried to convince me by saying, “Don’t you want to stop him from doing this to anyone else?” If you say anything other than yes you look like a monster, and if you say yes you are damned for life for reporting. No wonder barely any women want to report. People always like to look down on women for not reporting, but I fully understand why they do not want to.

I want to change this society, but I can’t do it alone. We all have to work together to beat it.

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Defining Ourselves

Don’t let the media and society tell you who you are- YOU show them who you are.

How to End Rape

How to Prevent Rape

Blame Misplacement

Blame Misplacement

Rape is caused by the rapist, not the victim.

Hawks

A story on a man who hid behind a uniform of what should have signified safety rather than horror:

http://rt.com/usa/carolina-lawsuit-sexual-predator-361/

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These people are dangerous. Especially when put into any position with power and prestige. They are predators. They hide behind uniforms. They violate every position you should be able to trust – they want your trust. This is why it is so despicable. These men become police, pastors, join the army, become teachers or coaches. Like hawks they loom. Rape culture will protect them. They build up their appearances to the community in order to invalidate any claims someone may make against them. The media may protect them, build them up, sympathize with them. These men are manipulative predators putting on a fake face and false sense of security. Many times they will build up a sense of trust within select victims and strike when the victim is most vulnerable. Is it possible they seek out a specific type of person? A personality type? Can they sense what someone has gone through in their past? I believe that they can read people. They can determine if someone has been a victim. They can read you if you let them. They can tell just by looking at you if you have given in to that victim mentality. Yet this is no reason for women to live in fear. Always tell yourself you are strong. Believe it, exude it. You ARE strong. You are not a victim, you are a survivor. Though that can sound cheesy, it is true. You made it through whatever you have been through in life and you can show the world who you really are-that you can truly prevail through anything. Be free.

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Real Men Get Consent

More on consent

Actually, this diagram even made me feel better. Why is it that victims are made to feel as if we made the wrong decision, we made poor decisions, made him feel it was okay, let things go too far, wore the wrong outfit, etc? The RAPIST is the one who is wrong, made poor decisions, and acted inappropriately. It is never okay to take advantage, no matter what the girl may say, do, or how she may dress. If she can’t say yes, that means no. If she said yes to one thing, that isn’t saying yes to everything. Women are not property, we have the right to say no. We have every right to expect to be respected. Real men get consent.

Informed Consent

Informed Consent

Just because she didn’t say no, doesn’t mean she said yes. Get informed consent, otherwise it is rape.

We Believe You

Finally, someone did what I have been trying to figure out how/what to do for so long. Tell Jane Doe she is strong, that we believe her, and that she is not alone. She’s my hero, because she stood up to say what even I had no courage to say. I AM INNOCENT and it was NEVER MY FAULT.

Sunday Secret

Sunday Secret

Here is a postcard that was on PostSecret this Sunday. I know it is hard for many people to understand how/why someone would blame themselves for their own rape. The best way to understand is to ask. They may feel ashamed or as if they did something to cause the person to think that it was okay to take advantage. They may also feel as if they made poor decisions or that they could have prevented the rape. I am still struggling with this, and I know it can be a comfort to know that people understand you, that they hear you, rather than trying to give you advice from a perspective that does not understand. We are never at fault – THEY should have known better, should have made better decisions, should have prevented themselves from taking advantage, should have been respectful, should have been better.

 

We Demand Justice

“Rehtaeh was fifteen when her mom says she was raped by 4 boys. She was 17 when she took her life this weekend, following over a year of being shamed for her own rape. Her mother’s friend Sherri started a campaign — www.change.org/rehtaeh — asking officials in her Canadian province to launch an investigation into why Rehtaeh’s alleged rapists were never charged.

Can you share this photo to spread Sherri’s call for justice for Retaeh even further?” – as written by Change.org

Her story is very familiar to that of Jane Doe in Steubenville, Ohio. She attended a party, was raped by multiple assailants, and then pictures of the horrific act were posted on social media websites for the world to see. She was bullied, threatened, and shamed for her own rape. Unfortunately there were never any arrests. Later she took her own life and never received the justice she deserves.

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People claim that women have made it a long way, but have we really? Sure, we can vote, we can move up to some positions of power, but we are still shamed for being a victim. We still do not receive the coverage, compassion, prestige, power, or paycheck that men do. I can’t even begin to understand why a woman should be shamed for her own rape. How is it that I live in a country where women are blamed for a crime committed by a man? This is another great example of rape culture. If we are going to have the justice system, media system, and the lack of moral fiber/humanity that we have in this country, then there needs to be a some sort of a system that can also protect girls like Jane Doe, Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd, and Audrie Plott. They need to have somewhere safe to go, a haven, where they can feel safe, heal from what they have gone through, and come out stronger than ever before (this is what I hope to accomplish some day with this blog). I want to start a bed and breakfast, or some sort of getaway, where women can go to stay to heal and move on.There is nothing wrong with running away to survive- I did it after what happened to me and it was the best thing I ever decided to do for myself. I went to stay with my parents on the coast of North Carolina. I was able to heal, forget, and move on in a tranquil and safe environment. Getting out of the situation and escaping the area where it happened- that is the best thing you can do for yourself. It is survival, and no one has the right to judge you for that. You have every right to do what you need to do to take care of yourself- that is self-love. In my personal opinion, if a parent has a daughter struggling with something like rape or sexual exploitation they need to help their daughter escape the situation so that they can heal and overcome it (which can be done after the incident is reported if the family decides that is what is best). They need to get out of the situation so that they are able to get away from any media, or social media, harassment. They need to be shown that life can go on after what happened to them, but there is a healing process that is absolutely vital in the mean time. This nation should be standing behind these girls, helping them, loving them, showing support, but they are condemning them and shunning them. More shockingly in regards to women who are trafficked, they oftentimes end up in jail rather than their oppressor, and even if the oppressor does go to jail their sentence is usually ungodly short. Where is the justice for these women?

*If you would like to help Rehtaeh Parsons fight for justice in death, you can do so by clicking here.

Anonymous speaks out for girls like Rehtaeh and Jane Doe, you can spread the word, too. Use hashtags on Twitter to get more attention.

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Rape Culture

Rape culture is when the victim of the crime is blamed, demonized, and possibly threatened for speaking up. The media will downplay the victim, if the victim is mentioned at all, and sympathize with the rapist. This usually occurs when the rapist is someone who is famous, powerful, a pillar of society, or the “All-American male” (high school football players, someone in the armed forces, involved with a fraternity, etc). The media will downplay the crime and play up the prestige of the guilty parties. They may talk about the sudden loss of their bright futures, or in the case of someone in the military, claim them to be an “American hero”.

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Sometimes it is difficult for family members and friends to understand why a victim may not speak up for a crime, and let’s be honest, people look at you with a weird/judgmental grimace on their face if you say that you don’t want to report or that you don’t want to go to counseling. While I fully support women speaking up for themselves, and strongly believe that they should report the crime, I am the first to admit that I was a woman who did not want to report. Looking at the above chart, one can begin to grasp why. Many rapists will not even go to court. When I was going through the beginning processes of reporting the crime I was made to realize how daunting the process would be. The detective I spoke with said that the process can take at least 3-5 years, and that is if the District Attorney decides that your case is even worth going to trial over. Then even if the case does make it to court the rapist is often sympathized with rather than the victim. I was afraid to go to court because, frankly, I knew I would be treated like Jane Doe from the Steubenville case. Though her case came after I reported, using the case as an example has helped my family and friends understand my hesitation with reporting or carrying on with the case. Rape culture. That is why women do not want to report the crime-not to mention your raw emotions and most private life experiences are put on display for the world to see. The rapists are made to look as if they are heroes for withstanding trial. The real heroes here are the women who are brave enough to report, or even consider it, because, unfortunately, they will be the ones enduring hell on earth-accusations, threats, name-calling, shaming, court. If you made it out, you are the hero. You’re my hero, because I have barely been brave enough to report. I am here to tell you that if you do not want to report, or you are afraid to report, you are not weird and there is nothing wrong with you. You are not any less of the one who was forced to be a victim. The rapist/abuser is at fault. Always. You are never at fault. Even if you danced around naked you are not asking for it. You should be respected; you have value. Do not let yourself be defined by being the victim. Do not let anyone judge you for acting differently than what society portrays how a rape “victim” should behave. Do not let society force you to view yourself in any way other than beautiful.

 

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