Thursday, August 01, 2013

SAPR Fun and Frolics

Our agency had a SAPR down-day, beginning with a mandatory (for military) “Awareness Walk”, followed by a mandatory (for everyone) commander’s lecture (which I nonetheless weaseled out of) on the evils of sexual assault (and “sexual assault”), followed by office-level “discussion groups” (which, in a petty act of rebellion, our office convened at Hooters*) on sexual assault prevention.

The agency-provided talking points contained this:

4. (10 minutes) We don’t blame victims of robbery as having “asked for it”; why is it common to blame the victim of a sexual assault?

I dispute the premise.  “You have the right to walk wherever you choose!” is advice given to no middle-class white person ever; instead we warn them, “stay out of bad neighborhoods, especially after dark.”  Come to think of it, it is well-established psychological observation that people reflexively look for reasons to blame victims for the misfortune that befalls them.  This is a routine feature of the military’s investigations into accidents of all kinds, e.g.:  was the individual wearing proper reflective clothing when he was run over by a drunk driver who crossed 30 feet of shoulder to get to him?  That kind of thing.

It’s only when the issue is rape and “sexual assault” that this response has become politically incorrect, even when (as usually turns out to be the case) the “victim” drank herself into a stupor at an orgy.

* No, not actually Hooters, but mildly in the same spirit.

6 comments:

Elusive Wapiti said...

My $.02:

"Blame" strikes me as the wrong word to use, and 'blaming the victim' is a feminist strawman.

Admonishing a white who strayed into the ghetto after dark and got mugged/robbed/beat down as a result isn't 'blaming the victim'. It's still the hoodlum's fault for attacking the vic; rather, the admonishment is more along the lines of 'you made a poor risk decision'.

The military also engages in a lot of risk-reduction (or 'blaming the victim', depending on one's POV) for motorcyclists. They have to take safety classes, carry their training card on them, and wear brightly colored/reflective clothing at night. A lot of harassment just so cage drivers might hit them in traffic a bit less.

So: counseling a young lass not to wear a whore's uniform, or get sloppy drunk at a bar or frat party, and/or engage in out-of-wedlock sex isn't blaming the victim, it's helping her exercise better judgement and reduce her risk of becoming a victim herself.

Which is what I'd like to think is the whole goal, but instead we get "I can wear or do whatever I wanna!" as if choices don't have consequences.

sofiathornberg said...

The problem with the ghetto analogy, is that the man and women are interactive and both in the equation.

So the man is in the ghetto -with- her. He is, in fact, a capable and functional human being. He is (in most cases) of legal age, sometimes able to drink, shoot a weapon, or fire heavy machinery.

What exactly prevents him from making safe decisions about not drinking or drinking moderately, or not having sex with intoxicated people (which can get him charged with rape in some states)? When do we talk about why he is in the ghetto? (i.e. make choices that open him up to false accusations or rape charges depending state vs. military law, etc)? That's the part that I'm confused about- when did he disappear?

When does the discussion start to work both ways?

Dr. Φ said...

Sofia: welcome.

If I understand your point, it is that responsibility is zero-sum, and to the extent we admonish women as EW and I would, we excuse the men who would exploit their condition.

This was not my intent, and indeed I would reject that moral equation. That said . . .

Forensically, the culture matters. Personally, I think it sucks, but the kind of behavior at issue looks for the most part like the drunken hookups that routinely occur whenever young men and women are thrust together under poorly supervised conditions. I readily concede that some fraction of those hookups are actually rapes, but it becomes very difficult to identify which fraction to the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. Legally, it's not enough to say that the man also shouldn't have been in that position, true as it may be.

sofiathornberg said...

Thank you for the welcome.

To be overly clear: while I suspect we'd disagree on how often false accusations happen, I do take them seriously for reasons personal and professional.

I work at a Domestic Violence agency, and worked at Drug Rehab Center (with men and women) before that. I have a sound knowledge base, but definitely realize that civilian knowledge doesn't perfectly transfer over into military structures and culture.

I far too often run into far too many men and women that assign all responsibility to women and none to men. If you're not one of those sorts, that takes away many (possibly all) of any potential complaints I have there. I'm not against asking people to make responsible choices, but I have no tolerance for the bullshit of it being conveniently and entirely on women.

I also recognize that drunken hook ups make it hard to prove and/or sort out if it was rape. It can easily devolve into a she/he said, and if there isn't a history of past offenses or the victim has credibility issues? I see the issues. If physical evidence isn't gathered due to the trauma (say a victim wants to shower), it can be impossible however legit the reaction -is-.

I also get we can't just arrest, prosecute and convict people if there is no evidence.

I'm not sure what the 'also' signifies for you. The responsibility for the not the best decision of drunken sex is quite equal and that can be and should be applied equally. I think I covered the evidence concerns above, as they are legit.

Did the training clarify whether this was an acquaintance rape or a hook up issue? One of the issues we (advocates) struggle with as far as education goes in the civilian world is that most rapes happen with someone you know, not strangers. So while watching your drink or whatnot works for that, it does not good against a college boyfriend that you let in to the dorm room because you thought he was a great guy. If this is true of the military setting, it would be relevant, but I'm not nearly as sure of how that works in that setting.

Dr. Φ said...

Sonia: It seems that we agree both on the shared responsibility in the moral sense while understanding the legal difficulties.

Did the training clarify whether this was an acquaintance rape or a hook up issue?

It did not; that would defeat its purpose. The overarching military context is a continuing push for sexual integration. This is a bad policy for lots of reasons, including that it exposes young women to increased risk of rape and sexual assault. So while periodically I see common sense advice to women on how to avoid becoming a victim, most often the issue is presented as a political issue, as in my post.

sofiathornberg said...

Re: Legal difficulties- I think so. It bothers me that the legal concerns are often slanted in the rapists' favor, but I haven't seen a neat way to shift that doesn't endanger justice. Well, beyond prevention, such as focusing on consent, safe sex, and practical measures, I mean.

Re: Military policy/prevention/etc-

I am a bit of a weenie, and have no personal desire to be equal to men in the military, especially in combat. I do feel that if the military et all has made the decision to have women there, they do need to make it a safe environment as far as reasonably possible.

As to whether women should be there, I try to stay out of that discussion. I feel I should be supportive of other women, and try to be. I no longer (rightly or wrongly) expect men to care about 'women's issues' or take steps to protect us as a whole, which means we (women) do need to band together and look out for each other. However, I also have the above personal extreme lack of desire to not be in that position or to ever see combat.

I am sorry it's become more of a political than a safety issue. Though at least it's a discussion, which is a start. Male and female rape victims deserve that much.