rape

The Most Hated Man In The World

The self-professed American dating expert Julien Blanc has been banned from Britain. The UK has declined to issue a visa to Blanc, an executive coach at Real Social Dynamics (RSD), a group that charges clients thousands of dollars to learn what have been described as sexist, misogynistic and violent acts towards women. He claims to teach clients how to approach women, but his tactics are often described as offensive and abusive. Earlier this month, Blanc was forced to leave Australia after an online campaign pushed venues to cancel his bookings, and authorities to revoke his visa. 150,000 people signed a change.org petition to ban his entry to the UK. Petitions also call for him to be barred from South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and Iceland.

Blanc said he felt like he was the most “hated man in the world”.  When I heard him say that, I snorted out loud and actually said “cry me a river”. Of course a man who teaches such atrocious things will gain criticism and rightful so. It is horrible to promote rape- to teach rape- and think it is okay. Julian Blanc isn’t sorry for his actions or thoughts he’s sorry he’s gotten caught and became infamous worldwide.

However, his bar from Britain is an important victory for feminists in Europe. It is critical to set the message that rape or violent behavior towards women will not be tolerated. By preventing him from entering the country, Britain took the first step towards changing misogynistic thoughts and anti-feminist ideals. Teaching men to rape women is not an art form or any type of seduction it is just simply rape, and it is very wrong. Other European countries can follow Britain’s lead and not allow Blanc to get a visa into their countries. With the issues of women’s rights in the spotlight, especially due to the oppression in the Middle East, it is critical that democratic, idealistic, European countries take the initiative to dissuade anti-feminists and people like Blanc who believe it is okay to hurt and humiliate women.

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Columbia University Student Carries Around Mattress To Protest Sexual Assault

Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz is carrying around a mattress to every one of her classes until the man who allegedly sexually assaulted her over two years ago leaves campus as her final thesis project.

The art major is calling the performance art piece “Mattress Performance,” or “Carry That Weight.”

“It’s an art piece, but also a protest,” she said.

“I’ll do this until he leaves on his own or if the school expels him — anything that means we’re not going to school together. But I’m prepared to do it until I receive my diploma,” Sulkowicz told BuzzFeed.

Two other women have made accusations against the man that Sulkowicz says raped her in her bed when she was a sophomore. She said that he hit her face, choked her, and held her down when she wouldn’t comply with him.

The art student says a fellow student raped her in her dorm room bed on Aug. 27, 2012, the first day of her sophomore year. She reported it to campus authorities in April 2013.

Sulkowicz said she waited until the end of her sophomore year to file the report because she was hesistant and scared, and she made her decision after she spoke to other women who said they’d also been sexually assaulted by the same student.

enhanced-4298-1409708626-1Sulkowicz carrying the mattress
Photo Courtesy of Buzzfeed 

As for why she chose to carry around a mattress. The idea seemed symbolic for Sulkowicz. She said, “I was raped in my own dorm bed, so I think the idea of carrying the mattress represented, in my mind, carrying the weight of the memories that I have of that night and carrying the weight of how the school dismissed not only me but the other two women who reported against him, and the way the police harassed me when I reported my case.”

Sulkowicz told the Columbia Spectator that the extra-long, twin-sized mattress is the right size to draw attention to the issue — light enough to manage, but “heavy enough that I continue to struggle with it.” She says it also represents private space being dragged into the public.

“Rape can happen anywhere,” she explains to the Spectator. “For me, I was raped in my own dorm bed. Since then, it has basically become fraught for me, and I feel like I’ve carried the weight of what happened there with me everywhere since then.”

“The past year or so of my life has been really marked by telling people what happened in that most intimate private space and bringing it out into the light,” she says. “So I think the act of carrying something that is normally found in our bedroom out into the light is supposed to mirror the way I’ve talked to the media and talked to different news channels, etc,” she told The Huffington Post

According to Sulkowicz, the accused attacker was allowed to postpone his hearing for about seven to eight months, which dragged through her summer vacation and gave enough time for one of the other women who filed a complaint against him to graduate.

She states that many people have been supportive. “The only reactions I’ve really received have been via email, text, and Facebook, and everything has been extremely positive — I’ve only received one really negative response to my piece,” she stated.

Sulkowicz told BuzzFeed that she hopes colleges will admit that their policies concerning sexual assault aren’t working and that they will take steps to improve communication between student activists who want to change how rape culture is dealt with at universities.

The college handled the case very insensitively. For example, when Sulkowicz’s case made it to a university hearing seven months after the actual incident occurred, administrators were confused about how anal rape could happen and she had to draw a diagram.

The piece not only protests rape, but how colleges deal with it. Many women, especially on Columbia’s campus all believe their cases were mishandled, in part by mistake-riddled record-keepingon the part of university authorities.

Columbia is choosing to make some changes. In response to a Title IX protest by 23 students, including Sulkowicz, they made changes to their policies dealing with sexual assault on campus. In response to the mattress protest, Columbia University Director of Communications Victoria Benitez said in a statement:

“The University respects the choice of any member of our community to peacefully express personal or political views on this and other issues. At the same time, the University is committed to protecting the privacy of students participating in gender-based misconduct proceedings. These matters are extremely sensitive, and we do not want to deter survivors from reporting them.”

Sulkowicz acknowledges the new reforms, but says they aren’t enough. She plans to continue carrying her mattress to every class until the university takes action against the student she says got away with rape.

“I will carry a mattress for every day I go to school with him this next semester, everywhere I go on campus,” she said. “The administration can end my art piece at any moment by just expelling my rapist.”

Her protest is amazing. It can clearly inspire change. Now, it is up to Columbia University to choose to re-evaluate their policies. No one should feel unsafe on campus, regardless of gender. It’s horrible that women across the country have to constantly worry about sexual assault. Not only do they have to worry that they will be assaulted, but that their attractors will remain unpunished and on campus, constantly close by and ready to rape again. Sexual assault is a horrible crime that should be punishable. Instead of blaming the victim, universities should investigate all claims and treat everyone with respect.

Anti-Rape Nail Polish: Great Protection or Unnecessarily Promoting Rape Culture?

Nail polish is not considered an essential object. The popular beauty product has been around since 3000 BC, when it was invented by the Chinese. Now, it is getting completely re-invented by students in the Materials Science & Engineering department at North Carolina State University. They have created nail polish that could save lives.

They have invented a nail polish that can help stop sexual assault. Called Undercover Colors, this polish will change color when it comes in contact with certain drugs often used to drug women, including Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB. In order to detect the chemicals, the person wearing the nail polish has to use their finger to stir their drink. If the drink has a date rape drug in it, the nail polish changes color.

This invention could changes the lives of women throughout the country, especially on college campuses. The Washington Post reports that 55% of about 1,570 colleges and universities with more than 1,000 students received at least one report of forcible sex offense on campus in 2012. From 2010 to 2012 there were 14 forcible sex offenses reported on N.C. State’s campus.

“Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime,” the team behind Undercover Colors said on their Facebook page.

At first glance, this seems like a great idea! A perfect way to keep women safe! 

263973-nailpaint
Top: The four NC State students who developed the polish
Bottom: The nail polish will change color when it is exposed to date rape drugs
Photo Courtesy of Buzzfeed

If you dig beneath the surface, this is not the case at all. 

There are many flaws in the polish- it would need to be able to detect drugs in food, which can also be spiked. Additionally, what about men? According to The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report 1 in 71 men – or almost 1.6 million – have been sexually assaulted during their lives.While the pictures of the product show a bight fuchsia that would appeal to many women, the majority of men are not going to wear fuchsia nail polish. The company should offer clear polish that changes to a darker color, so that men can equally protect themselves.

Furthermore,a study of American college students put the rate of attacks carried out on people who have had their drink spiked at around 5 percent. While that should be noted, it is clear that the most commonly used drug to sedate women and rape them is alcohol. Not spiked alcohol, not alcohol with crushed pills- plain alcohol handed to women by people they assume are their friends but actually rapists just waiting for their chance. 

The fact that men know that they can get away with rape, without being blamed– that’s the real problem. Whether or not a women’s nail polish detects date rape drugs or not, the fact that people, in 2014, think it’s okay to take advantage of someone without their consent is not okay. 

Many people question why it was more important to create a nail polish that detects these drugs, rather than focus on a way to end the rape culture that we live in. They question how this nail polish is any different from variations of the same “anti-rape” concept. Previously, “anti-rape underwear” and “Rapex” a female condom that would insert tiny hooks into an assailant’s penis, have been market towards women. Some feel that by promoting these things, whether it be the modern chastity belts or color-changing nail polish, it is actually promoting rape, by suggesting that rape is inevitable.

Jessica Valenti of the Guardian ponders “Why is it easier to invent anti-rape nail polish than find a way to stop rapists?”

She states in her column: 

“Even if a woman were to wear special nail polish or anti-rape underwear, or if she listens to common – but misplaced – advice about not getting drunk and always walking home in a group, all she’s supposedly ensuring is that she won’t be attacked. (And even then it’s not real security, because women who do all the “right” things get raped too) What about the girl at the same party who decided to have a few drinks that night? So long as it isn’t me isn’t an effective strategy to end rape.

Prevention tips or products that focus on what women do or wear aren’t just ineffective, they leave room for victim-blaming when those steps aren’t taken. Didn’t wear your anti-rape underwear? Well what did you expect?

That’s a familiar refrain. In a Bloomberg article last week, for example, one Stanford student compared women who get raped to unlocked bicycles…The problem is that simply being female in public remains an undue risk. Do we really believe that half the population should be required to avoid parties, socializing, drinking, cute clothes and walking alone if they don’t want to be raped?”

According to Eyewitness News, Lisa Vetten, a gender researcher with the Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research, questioned the need for women to be constantly taught ways on “how not to be raped.”

She told the Eyewitness News, “If you look at the kinds of jokes that people tell, the kind of language that they use, the imagery, the advertising, everything that we see around us – it requires us to take a more critical look. It is for us to say what is that sustaining? What is that supporting? Should we be challenging not just each other but our broader social institutions to change how they encourage us to think about sex?”

While the team says, “Through this nail polish and similar technologies, we hope to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught”, with such a high percentage of rapes every year, it is going to take more than just nail polish to stop sexual assault. It is going to take an entire shift in culture.

I think Audrey from Autostraddle said it best. In this clear, concise and informative article, she sums up the problem in the best way possible.

She states:

“The products perpetuate victim blaming by making it easier for others to turn to the victims of assault and ask “Well [product] exists; why didn’t you use it to prevent this from happening?” On their Facebook page, the creators say they “hope to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught.” What about making potential perpetrators afraid to rape a woman because when she tells someone about it, they’ll believe her and seek justice? What about creating cultural shifts so that people don’t become violent assailants at all? Date rape drugs are just a tool, and if would-be rapists find it to be a less effective one, they’ll find another. The issue isn’t date rape drugs; the issue is rape culture.”

People are going to need to stop blaming the victims and encouraging both women and men to take extra precautions.

As Know Your IX founder Alexandra Brodsky said to Think Progress, “One of the reason we get so excited about these really simple fixes is because it makes us feel like the problem itself is really simple. That’s a comforting idea. But I really wish that people were funneling all of this ingenuity and funding and interest into new ways to stop people from perpetrating violence, as opposed to trying to personally avoid it so that the predator in the bar rapes someone else.”

Rape is simply not okay, taking advantage of someone when they are drunk is not okay, and it shouldn’t be expected that both men and women have to constantly worry about protecting themselves when they are out at a party. The problem isn’t that women are not aware that drugs are going into their drinks, it is that drugs are going into their drinks in the first place.

While the nail polish is a valiant effort to help women, it is not going to solve the problem- in the end it is just perpetuating the cycle of victim-shaming, limiting actions and rape culture. 

It’s that simple.

Stop blaming the victim

It is horrible hearing the details of a Rape on television, but what is even more horrifying is how people continue to blame the victim.

Recently, Asha Mirje, a leader of India’s Nationalist Congress Party and a member of a women’s commission, made public comments about the 2013 gang rape of a Delhi medical student that were completely unsettling.

Last December the 23-year-old, known to the nation as “Nirbhaya,” was returning home from a movie theater when she boarded a bus carrying her rapists. The men beat the male friend Nirbhaya was with with a rod until he lost consciousness. The men then took turns raping her for an hour in the moving bus and then dumped both of their naked bodies on the side of a road. The woman died of grievous body injuries 13 days later.

In a four-page statement given a few days before she died, the victim pleaded with authorities to “burn them alive.”

The judge found all the men guilty  on eight counts, including rape and murder. He said the crime had been committed on the “defenseless” woman in a “premeditated manner”.

While most of the country is outraged by the rape, Mirje implied that the victim had is coming to her.

“Did Nirbhaya really have go to watch a movie at 11 in the night with her friend?” questioned Mirje. She also commented on the notorious rape of a 23-year-old photojournalist, who was raped in a deserted mill that she was photographing for the magazine she interned at. Mirje questioned “why the victim [went] to such an isolated spot at 6 p.m.?

Mirje defended her views in an interview with the Hindustan Times. “I just said that although men are responsible for rapes and molestation, women too need to take more precautions in order to protect themselves,” she said.
enhanced-buzz-24762-1391046874-8

enhanced-buzz-24336-1378823268-8Citizens protesting for harsh punishments of the Delhi rapists.
Photos Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Regardless of whether or not Mirje intended on promoting the “blame-the-victem” attitude, she did. Women take special precautions at night- carrying keys, pepper spray or other defensive mechanisms in their hand before walking alone at night. It is no accident that the Delhi victim was walking with a male counterpart. Often times, women choose to walk with male friends or in a large group to get “safety in numbers”. It is ridiculous that women need to take precautionary measures and constantly be “on alert” when walking at night.

7c67c68a11864395d74062475601eb91A woman protesting at an anti-rape rally.
Photo Courtesy of Pintrist

The above photo is one of my favorites. It completely debunks the “she was asking for it” myth. Who cares what a woman is wearing? Wearing a low cut dress or a tight blouse doesn’t mean that sex suddenly doesn’t have to be consensual. Everyone can be a victim of rape- children, men and woman. Instead of teaching our children to cover up, we should be teaching our children to not rape and promote safe, consensual sex.

In her shoes

Unfortunately, it is common for women to experience sexual harassment. In the US, every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey. While that may seem high, it is even higher in Egypt, where 99% of women have reported being sexually harassed. NGO’s and human rights groups are now describing sexual harassment in Egypt is often described as an epidemic.

The most common form of harassment, according the Daily News Egypt, was inappropriate touching: 96.5 percent of the women who’d been harassed said they’d been physically assaulted.

The women in the study reported being harassed everywhere, from malls to markets to public transit, and just out on the street. Women were whistled and yelled at, touched and stalked, subjected to sexual innuendo and to men exposing themselves.

According to that same report, nearly half of the women experienced harassment on a daily basis, while 75 percent were harassed at least monthly. The women reported that in the vast majority of cases—84.6 percent—passers-by did nothing to stop the harassment or support the woman.

06_12_2014_egypt-1.jpg__800x600_q85_cropA woman raises a knife and shouts slogans against then Egyptian President during a march against sexual harassment and violence against women in Cairo.
Photo Courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine

A lot has been done to prevent harassment in Egypt. There has been national protests and rallies, along with HarassMap, lets women plot locations where they have been harassed and upload information about their attackers.

Now, the United Nations group has made a video showing Egyptians what a day in the life of a woman on the streets of Cairo feels like (Click here to watch the video).

This video shows, from a woman’s point of view, how complicated doing daily tasks can be due to the unwanted sexual harassment.

A woman cannot take public transportation, due to the unwanted touching she receives from a male. She can’t even walk down the street without being catcalled.

The video shows women, both in secular and modest religious dress, emphasizing that sexual harassment happens to all women– regardless of what they are wearing.

Since its debut in December, the video has been viewed over 600,000 times. This video is shocking, allowing everyone on the planet to step into the shoes of Egypt’s women and discover how difficult life can be. With the awareness the viral video is creating, more attention has been drawn to the unwanted harassment the women receive.