I had the pleasure of speaking at St. Joseph's College in Brooklyn on Monday.
My first lecture was to the Freshmen and they were just a delightful audience. They participated fully, they laughed with me, they leaned in and listened when I was vulnerable. And many of them did not want to leave when it was over.
And, this happens every single time I speak: several young women came up to me, asked to speak to me alone, and told me that they had been sexually assaulted and had never told anyone until now.
I always feel a mix of intense feelings when this happens.
I thank them for trusting me and having the courage to be open with me.
I tell my contact at the school what they shared with me, so that we can get them help.
It makes me really sad that they've been walking around with this shame and secret, all alone.
And their stories fuel my passion to continue talking about sexual assault on college campuses.
Their stories make me wonder how many more are out there, walking around with this shame, feeling all alone.
There is a professor, David Lisak, who studied at Duke and taught at Harvard. He has published many, many articles about his studies of undetected rapists, assault, domestic violence. He has devoted his entire life to this subject.
The article that I am referring to today is: "Repeat Rape And Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists." He published this article when he was a professor at University of Massachusetts at Boston, and his co-writer/researcher was Paul Miller, a professor at Brown University, School of Medicine at Providence, Rhode Island.
This study went on for 20 years. They studied convicted rapists who were still in prison. They also studied a cross section of men not in prison. What they found out was shocking to me, but it makes so much send now.
They found out that there are men who are committing what is legally defined as rape/sexual assault. But these guys do not think that they are doing anything wrong.
Let me explain. There is a stereotype going on. Most people, when you hear the word RAPE, you think of the guy in the bushes with the ski mask, who just jumps and rapes whoever is passing by. Rapists are the guys who do not know their victims. Those "stranger rapes" are what happens all the time. Just like on Law & Order.
What is fascinating and horrifying, is that there is a whole other category of rapists who go "undetected". These are the ones that rarely get reported.
Because these "undetected" rapes are committed by someone who knows the victim.
The undetected guys do not wear ski masks or hide in the bushes. These are the fellow students, athletes, fraternity guys, party friends, work friends, someone's cousin, etc.
Mr, Lisak asked the men in his study to answer a series of questions. They did a lot of questionnaires. He used questions that described the act of sexual assault, but he never used the word rape or sexual assault.
Have you ever been in a situation where you tried, but for various reasons did not succeed, in having sexual intercourse with an adult by using or threatening to use physical force (twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.) if they did not cooperate?
2. Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did no want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances (e.g., removing their clothes)?
They answered yes.
So how did we get here? With the stats of 1 out of 4 females and 1 out of 6 males will be assaulted on campuses?
Well, one reason is because sexual assault is so hard to talk about, colleges try to sugar coat the expression.
They use words like: Sexual misconduct. acquaintance rape, sexual behavior.
The last college where I spoke, the small conservative Catholic college in Montana, where the women out number the athletes 3 to 1. The President is a conservative who kept getting confused. He'd say sexual behavior when he was referring to sexual assault.
He did not want to even admit that any of the students were having sex of any kind. So how could he even deal with sexual assault. Or that the athletes on his campus are having lots of sex with lots of different partners. (My source shared all of this with me over lunch.)
Sexual assault is not a fun subject. The second I get into that part of my program, the energy and the oxygen go out of the room. People stop breathing. They literally start holding their breathe. They go into fight or flight. It's primal. It's violence. It goes against our humanity.
Our culture makes it ok to be violent against women. Look at the American Apparel ads. Look at Dolce & Gabanna fashion ads where one woman is on her back, surrounded by a group of men who look sinister. Look at the sexualization of children, which seems to be getting younger and younger.
When I met one of the top designers of a huge brand, DK; I asked her what had happened to fashion?
She said: Well Calvin did it first.
(I had to bite my tongue not to laugh at her)
Then she said that because everything is so fragmented these days, they'd rather make a bad impression than no impression.
So they are doing whatever it takes to sell their shit, I mean clothes, at whatever the cost.
It's all about making money and who cares if you are messing up the minds of our children or pre-teens or adults too?
I am a fan of capitalism, but at what cost?
Where do we draw the line?
And it's not just fashion. It's the media too. Facebook keeps allowing sexually violent pictures to be posted and remain up. Every time a reporter or news anchor reports about a sexual assault and someone says: Well, what was she wearing? Was she drunk?
What message are they giving out?
There are fraternities who did a mock protest on their campus screaming: No means Yes,
Yes means Anal. Why was this allowed?
There are emails going around about how to do a date rape.
There are t- shirts where a woman is being roasted over a fire like a pig.
Another t shirt that states: Keep Calm and Rape On.
We have gotten so used to this. We have become desensitized. We have lost our humanity.
Which brings me back to one of my favorite sayings: How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
And that is how we can change our culture, one word at a time; one ad at a time; one t shirt at a time. Stop shopping at American Apparel and really any store that has raunchy ads.
Stand Up and Speak Out.