Knowledge is Power

Join us, the Butler County Rape Crisis Program, in giving voice to our concerns, opinions, experiences, and resources when it comes to stopping rape and sexual assault in our communities. We'd love to hear from you!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pain or Pleasure?

I’ve been thinking a lot about porn lately. How’s that for a confession? But it’s true. Whether it’s a work related video, article, news story, or personal conversation, porn seems to be popping up all around me (similar to being on an unprotected website).

With so many different views and opinions, it is sometimes hard to choose a concrete stance where pornography is concerned. I used to feel pretty undecided at times about whether I thought it was harmful versus liberating, degrading versus empowering, or encouraging versus discouraging of “delinquent” sexuality. However, the more I am exposed to the truth about the industry and its effects on society, the more disheartened I become. The documentary that I recently watched, The Price of Pleasure, left me tearful and disturbed. The images it showed got so grotesque and traumatizing that I couldn’t even make it to the end of the video. Apparently violence and torture (although already more than prevalent) are the future of pornography and I will never be able to get those images out of my head.

No matter how a person feels about pornography, I do not understand why or how violent and degrading actions against women (or anyone) are enticing. It changes the way men view women, sex, intimacy and decency. A psychologist at the University of Alabama, Dolf Zillman, found that watching violent pornography produced some behavioral and attitudinal changes among young male viewers. They were more likely to subscribe to various rape myths (such as women say no when they mean yes, and that women eventually like it when they are forced to have sex) and they were more likely to acquit rapists in mock trials. That is so discouraging! As the fight for women’s rights and equality grows stronger, it seems that porn is an ever strengthening, damning undercurrent in the battle. How do we respond? How can we fight back? These are the questions that follow me home when I leave work at the end of the day.

I like this quote by poet David Mura. He writes, “Underneath all the assertions of liberty and ‘healthy fun’, lie the desperation and anxiety, the shame and fear, the loneliness and sadness that fuel the endless consumption of magazines and strip shows, x-rated films, visits to prostitutes”. Are these the issues that lie behind the growing demand for pornography? There has to be a better way to cope with the difficulties in life than turning to violent, degrading, and dehumanizing depictions of women.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Easy as one, two, three?

I hate math. No offense to any numerical-loving people out there- I am, in fact, very thankful of your existence because that means someone else has the desire to do what I cannot. I know enough to get by; I can read a graph, follow a recipe, and add up my work hours, but I make it a point only to involve math when absolutely necessary. How does this even remotely relate to this blog, you ask? Well, allow me to further explain my unfortunate relationship with numbers.

I see a lot of statistics. About rape, child abuse, dating violence, incest, recidivism...and so on and so forth. And while I think statistics are very helpful in identifying the scope of an issue being studied, I also think they sometimes allow us to separate ourselves from the reality. This sounds counter-intuitive, right? Like, if someone is encountering the vastness of a problem, wouldn't they be more likely to see its relevance and reality? But, I would argue that whatever the issue, when it is reduced to numbers, the PEOPLE involved cease to be actual faces or personal stories and become a singular, over-whelming statistic that is hard to understand.

When I stand in front of a classroom and tell the students it is estimated that one in four women and one in ten men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, they generally respond with blank stares. However, when I tell them a specific story about an individual that was raped or sexually assaulted, they visibly respond with shocked expressions or audible gasps. It becomes personal. And unfortunately, it becomes even more personal when it is someone you know, someone you love, or you yourself. There is no substitute for personal experience and no number can capture that kind of pain. While I would rather no one ever witness the reality of rape, I do wish people would allow themselves to see the humanity behind the numbers and be affected. What if it was one of the four women in your family, one of the ten boys in your classroom, or one of the four women you work with? Would you be more likely to take action? More likely to notice the societal norms that contribute to oppression? More likely to talk about such an “unpleasant” issue? Math is great for perspective and shedding light on real life issues, but without recognizing the personal impact on real individuals, it is just a number and lacks the necessary motivation to get people involved.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Household Harmony?

Last week at the Juvenile Detention Center, I was talking to the kids about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Their responses to the topics we discuss are sometimes appalling, sometimes insightful, but always interesting. This past week, one of the boys made a comment to which I wasn't quite sure how to respond. In the previous class we had watched a video about dating violence and one of the men portrayed in the video talked about his patriarchal upbringing and his responsibility to "discipline" his wife and family. While all of the boys agreed that this statement was ridiculous and they would never hit a woman (thankfully!) one of the boys said he understood where the man in the video was coming from. He did not agree with taking it to a physical level, but he too was raised in a family that believed men to be the head of the household and the ultimate authority. I tried to get the class to brainstorm how a family could operate under that belief but still allow the wife to be an equal and respected partner in the relationship. Due to the general argumentativeness of the group, we did not reach any concrete solutions.

Because of the lingering societal notions of the male bread-winner, female home-maker, and historical Judeo-Christian family archetype, this young man's way of thinking is not uncommon. And while I am certainly not arguing for or against one belief or the other, this conversation at the JDC left me wondering whether or not the two very different views of feminism and patriarchy can harmoniously exist. Can a man be "head of the house" and still include his wife as an equal? Can a family be considered a patriarchy and allow feminist convictions as well? Is there a way to preserve tradition while still advocating for reform? I would like to say “yes” to appease my own beliefs and desires, but it is ultimately a question that needs to be decided on an individual level. However, I think we can all agree that when taken to extremes, patriarchy can absolutely contribute to harmful notions and violence against women. There is no belief, tradition, or excuse for verbally, emotionally, sexually, or physically abusing another person. Period.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I was recently watching a documentary online about child sex trafficking and prostitution (just one example of the uplifting topics that occupy my thoughts and time). Unfortunately, we know this phenomenal crime is widespread and increasing and that humans have become the number one trafficked “commodity” in the world…even surpassing drugs and weaponry. We have at least made strides in awareness of the topic, but some of the comments in this documentary affirmed my concerns that there is still much to be desired in understanding and preventing the crime as well as the way in which people respond to victims. Here is one example of an extremely frustrating quote from the movie: “The hardest thing to understand is why [Jane] and girls like her would keep going back.” Really? That’s the hardest thing to understand? What about why men are interested in purchasing sex from young girls or why statistics show there is only one offender prosecuted for every 800 victims? To me, those facts are harder to understand than a brainwashed, vulnerable, drug-addicted girl thinking that her best option is to stay and live rather than risk death by trying to escape. This is the same question that we hear all the time. It is, “why do women stay in abusive relationships” instead of “why do some men abuse”? Why the rape victim went out drinking instead of why the perpetrator thought it was okay to have sex with an unconscious, lifeless body? I guess for some people, these questions are too hard to ask or understand. But if we continue to question the victims rather than the perpetrators, we continue to incorrectly place the blame as well as perpetuate passivity, inaction, and abuse.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


"Just gonna stand there and watch me burn? Well that's all right because I like the way it hurts". What do these lyrics communicate to you? Love? Violence? Or worse yet, both? The new Eminem and Rihanna song, "Love the Way You Lie", has been a source of frustration and irritation for me since the first time I heard it on the radio. The catchy, gets-stuck-in-your-head-all-day tune (I actually just started singing it as a result of writing this and both my co-worker and I are now furious!) combined with the outrageous stardom of the performing artists has caused this violently charged song to continue to rise in popularity. Adding insult to injury, the music video displays some lovely images of abuse, sex, and flames all coordinated with heart-felt lyrics like:
I'm tired of the games
I just want her back
I know I'm a liar
If she ever tries to f****** leave again
I'mma tie her to the bed
And set the house on fire

So, this is how the youth of our culture is learning about what a "romantic" relationship looks like. The fact that Rihanna "likes the way it hurts" also reinforces the stereotype that violence and aggression are what women want from their men and thus, how men are expected to behave. But, I won't let Rhianna and Eminem take all the credit. Songs like "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and "Hurt So Good" have more than paved the way for this kind of mentality among popular music. Is it any surprise that dating abuse and sexual violence among youth seems to be increasing? Our communities are outrage by the stories we hear on the news about rape and assault, but we continue to allow songs like this to gain in popularity and profit. Now, I love musical talent and thought provoking lyrics just as much as, if not more than, the next person, but not when they perpetuate harmful beliefs and stereotypes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Who knows?

I guess I should start by introducing myself and my agency. My name is Rachel and I am the newly hired Community Outreach and Prevention Educator at the Butler County Rape Crisis Center. Our agency seeks to provide support, advocacy, and education to victims of sexual assault and the community as a whole. We (myself and the six other wonderful women I work with) travel to hospitals, schools, courthouses, police stations, and lots of other places where our services are needed. We also have many dedicated, volunteer victim advocates that give of their time and energy as well. Small, but mighty, we are a 24/7 victim support service that is changing the world one work day at a time! :)

We are always looking for new resources, stories, information, and ways to partner with people to prevent the epidemic that is sexual assault. Through this blog, we would love to interact with and hear from other people out there that wish to do the same. Please share your knowledge with us and the rest of our community through your posts, comments, articles, books, videos, and more! I look forward to blogging with you!