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Prevent Domestic and Sexual Violence

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Hans Magnus Enzensberger once said, “Culture is a little like dropping an AlkaSeltzer into a glass-you don’t see it, but somehow it does something.” Indeed, there is truth in this statement. How do we, as human beings, seem to innately know how to behave in certain situations, how to dress, the appropriateness of our conversation, etc.? Our cultural influences dictate many of our mores. We have all been conditioned and socialized in various ways to possess certain behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge about the world around us. The culture in which we have been socialized often serves as the foundational basis for these elements. “Culture,” as described by Enzensberger, is often something intangible that has a large impact. The elements and nuances of the culture in which one is involved are powerful; powerful enough to shape and mold pieces of a person’s identity. Here in the United States, we often hear of various crises and problems with what has become known as “American culture.” What we don’t often hear of though, is the incredibly overwhelming presence of a rape culture in the United States today. Rape Culture is an environment in which “rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety” (

April 2013

by Daria Odegaard

Some examples of Rape Culture: • blaming the victim (saying things like “she deserved it” or “what did she think was going to happen?) • trivializing sexual assault (the “boys will be boys” attitude), • sexually explicit jokes • wanton sexual violence on TV and in movies • teaching women to avoid getting raped, instead of teaching men not to rape • music that glamorizes sexual violence or degrades women • pressuring men to “score” • pressuring women to be “easy”

The nature of rape culture in America today has never been clearer. Take, for example, this year’s Oscars Awards Show. Host Seth McFarlane, drawing on his penchant for crude and immature “comedy,” performed a song entitled “We Saw Your Boobs.” The premise of the song was for McFarlane to count off a number of actresses and the movies in which they disrobed. Let us not forget many of the actresses mentioned by McFarlane in his song were portraying rape victims in the films McFarlane chose to highlight. Let us also not forget the many laughs and raucous applause McFarlane ...continued on next page

PO Box 2984 Fargo, North Dakota 58108 • 701-293-7273 • 800-344-7273 •

Rape Culture

received while performing his song and after. Certainly, there has been outcry and backlash against the song and McFarlane (and rightfully so), yet the bigger picture needs to be looked at. First is the fact that McFarlane even dared to write the song. Second, producers of the Oscars approved the song for performance. Third, a whole process was put into place, involving dancers, a choir, cameramen, etc. and at no point did anyone stop to question the song or speak out against it until AFTER it was performed. Further, even if the song didn’t contain references to rape scenes and characters who had been victims of rape, would not McFarlane’s song still have been misogynistic and indicative of a rape culture? I’d say so. How’s this for another example? In a article entitled “Can Men be Taught Not to Rape?” Zerlina Maxwell, a survivor of rape, recounts her experiences with rape culture. She tells salon about her experiences as a television guest on Fox’s “Hannity,” where she suggested that men need to be educated on how to not be sexually aggressive. She stated “I don’t think that we should be telling women anything. I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there.” What followed was shocking. Maxwell’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have been inundated with threats, the use of vicious and vile names, and comments urging and promoting the idea that she deserves to be raped again. She states, “I don’t want anybody to lecture a rape survivor about anything. And I don’t want anybody telling women that if you don’t wear a skirt or don’t drink at all you’re going to be safe. That is a lie.” Because she dared to challenge the status quo, that rape is an everyday occurrence and is not the fault of the victim (most often women); Maxwell has experienced harassment, hatred, and threats. Is the backlash and pushback received by Maxwell indicative of a rape culture? I’d say so. And finally, one more example; a Facebook picture and PLENTY of “likes” and comments about a bottle of UV Grapeflavored vodka. The issue is that someone has scribbled out the “G” in the word grape, thus turning the bottle into “UV Rape”-flavored vodka. Some of the comments posted next to the picture read “It tastes like roofies,” “It tastes like lonely strippers at the bar,” and “I would


like 1 Mustachatory Rape please.” One of the comments posted was even by a business, implying that they love rape. Indicative of a rape culture? I’d say so. So, how do we combat Rape Culture in the United States? Is this even something we can begin to fix? The answer is yes, but it’s going to take both men and women working together to shift the social paradigm and challenge social norms. It’s important that we analyze our own language and put an end to using terms and phrases that are offensive and derogatory to women. We must also begin using our voices to speak up and out about jokes or comments that are made regarding rape. We need to let others know that we aren’t going to stand idly by and allow our silence to be interpreted as complicit acceptance. This has been done here in the F-M area. Members of the Men’s Action Network, after reading about the backlash experienced by Zerlina Maxwell, took it upon themselves to personally contact her and let her know of their support for her stance and the comments she made while being interviewed on television. These men have commented on how and why they feel it’s important for them to let Maxwell know that they, as men, stand with her in solidarity. Additionally though, we also need to start thinking critically about the media we consume and the messages it contains about men and women and the relationships between them. We can start small, and move to larger steps to create a world free from domestic and sexual violence.

PO Box 2984 Fargo, North Dakota 58108 • 701-293-7273 • 800-344-7273 •

Guest Author

by Billy McDonald

“If I could get my hands on that guy, I’d teach him a To tell you the truth, when I hear of domestic and sexual lesson he’ll never forget.” – Anonymous violence in our community I am concerned for both the victim and the aggressor, as they were both part of a I know there is something wrong with me, but I just love tragedy. Yes, their outcomes were different, but both have gas station hotdogs and eating after 9:00 p.m. seems to be a been introduced a negativity that may very well define them hobby of mine as well. So after a late night of work I decided for the rest of their lives. They have been defined for the rest to stop and grab a couple 12-hour-old hotdogs from a gas of their lives by a single moment. station in downtown Fargo. Let me now say something that may ruffle some more As I pulled into the gas station I witnessed a 6’ 6’’ giant of feathers… If you are willing to hit a man out of anger you a man wind up and hit a woman like I’d never seen before. could just as easily hit a woman out of anger. Anger is an She couldn’t have been a third of his size. They fled almost acceptable and understandable emotion, but don’t allow immediately, thankfully in different directions. I called the yourself to act rashly out of anger. That is what the guy in cops. They came, and with no disrespect to Fargo Police, the parking lot did that night. there was nothing they could do. They had disappeared into So the next time you hear someone, ANYONE, respond to the night. the news of sexual or domestic violence with more violence I think we can agree this is a sad story, but it gets sadder. ask him or her how that helps anyone. Explain how their After giving my report to the officer, I proceed to get my response only continues the cycle of domestic and sexual hotdogs. As I approached the counter to pay for them I violence in our community. Share with them that even the overheard the male attendant talking to a male customer aggressor is not a monster, but most likely a person trapped about the incident. They were furious with the guy that in a lifetime of pain. Indentify with them on their concern hit the woman. They began to discuss the terrible, violent for the victim. things they wanted to do to him. One of the men said, “If I ….but first, you have to get your own immediate response could get my hands on that guy, I’d teach him a lesson he’d of violence in check. In fact, that is what inspired me to never forget.” write this article. I failed to mention that when I witnessed How sad that as men we feel the proper response to violence the violence that night, I was tempted to run him down with is… violence. The man that hit that woman is most likely my car. It scares me to think I was a half second from doing the result of someone, “teaching him a lesson he’ll NEVER so. Then I, too, would have been defined by one moment in forget.” my life.

PO Box 2984 Fargo, North Dakota 58108 • 701-293-7273 • 800-344-7273 •

Local Prevention Efforts

Three events were held in March 2013 to further the prevention of domestic and sexual violence. On March 12th, the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center facilitated a community planning process designed to begin the development of a three year community prevention plan for intimate partner and sexual violence. This effort is a follow-up to the community summit, It’s Everyone’s Business, held on September 18, 2012. This plan will focus on addressing social norms and creating large scale social change. The event was held at the Family Health Care Center. A prevention workshop for college students and community members featured Chuck Derry, Ed Heisler, Oliver Williams, Sasha Cotton and Kathy Smith was held at Minnesota State University – Moorhead on March 7th. This workshop, The Best Party Model, was sponsored by Kappa Sigma Fraternity and coordinated by Samuel Williams. Chuck and Ed presented a similar program on September 18, 2012 at the college summit titled “It’s Our Business: Prevent Sexual and Dating Violence. Sam Williams is a self-described “junior-senior” at Minnesota State University – Moorhead where he majors in Illustration and Drawing. Sam states he has long had an interest and involvement in issues related to violence against women. When he was quite young one of his art pieces was used in a major campaign addressing violence against women. As a teen Sam was involved with the Liz Claiborne dating violence prevention effort entitled Love is Not Abuse. He credits this interest to his parents who are both Social Workers. His father, Oliver Williams, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, and a Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota, in St. Paul. He is also the Director of the Safe Return Initiative that addresses the issues of prisoner reentry and domestic violence. Dr. Williams has worked in the field of domestic violence for more than twentynine years and is a speaker at the event on March 12th. Sams’ mother, Sonia Davila Williams, is an assistant professor at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Sam states he initially had plans to enter a “helping profession” and his first areas of study were Psychology and then Art Therapy. He decided to change his major and focus strictly on art as a profession. Sam says he still has a drive to help others so he decided to propose an event to address intimate partner and sexual violence to his Kappa Sigma Fraternity brothers. The Fraternity has four guiding pillars: Striving for excellence in Fellowship, Leadership, Scholarship & Service produces Brothers who are involved in all aspects

by Kathy Smith

of campus life; who excel academically as students and professionally upon graduation; who develop lifelong bonds with those around them and who support those peers; and who serve their colleges and communities. A recent post on the Facebook page for the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at MSUM reads “the men of Kappa Sigma want to do our part in bringing awareness about women’s abuse” and “discuss how to prevent domestic violence and rape.” Congratulations to Kappa Sigma for hosting this event. The third annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” was held at Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) on March 24th. The event asked men to walk in women’s shoes for a day to declare their support for the prevention of sexual violence. Two hundred thirty people registered for the event, most of them men. The event donated the proceeds to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. Greg Diehl, Executive Director of the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, explains that while women have been delivering the same or similar messages for years, it’s important for some people to hear them from a man. “Being of the male gender, I have to assume responsibility on behalf of all men for the fact that we didn’t seem to care that much. It took, for the most part, strong, determined women to say enough is enough, 35-40 years ago,” says Diehl. He says the men he knows and works with are aware of and grateful for the work women have done to raise awareness and prevent violence against women, and they don’t want to come across as trying to take over – they just want to add their voices and work on the problem together. Diehl says “It seems clear that it’s my gender who are the primary perpetrators of this violence, whether it’s against men or women. It’s also up to us to try to stop it as well as just make sure there are services available after it happens”. The “Walk a Mile” event is just one way men are getting involved in the F-M area. Aaron Lund, a graduate student at MSUM who’s coordinated all three “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” events, started a new student organization called Extraordinary Gentlemen this semester. One of the goals of the Extraordinary Gentlemen group is to challenge thinking by countering mainstream messages about gender, sex and violence. Their efforts are aimed at creating a culture of honesty and respect toward women. Greg Diehl has been running the Men’s Action Network since 2008 and hopes to implement the Minnesota Men’s Action Network MENding program here. The MENding program is a way for men to get involved in repairing the harm that other men have inflicted on women and children. Look for articles on the Extraordinary Gentlemen and the MENding program in the next prevention newsletter.

PO Box 2984 Fargo, North Dakota 58108 • 701-293-7273 • 800-344-7273 •

It's Everyone's Business-April 2013  

Newsletter on Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence