Minimizing rape 

Minimizing rape

I am writing in response to the opinion piece written by Gene Lyons titled "Sex on Campus," published Sept. 21, on behalf of all sexual assault crisis centers in Arkansas and other advocates who work with victims of rape and/or sexual assault. We are compelled to set the record straight with facts about sexual assault, the brain and body's response to traumatic events, and the usefulness of Title IX to address victimizations on campuses.

Lyons included incomplete research and harmful inaccuracies in his opinion piece, as did Emily Yoffe in her recent articles in The Atlantic on the topic. Publishing incomplete and misinformation does a disservice to the public and limits our community's ability to understand the scope and impact of sexual assault.

Questioning the validity of science that seeks to understand the body's response to trauma discredits victims of sexual violence and other traumatic events. While biological and emotional responses to sexual assault vary, it is widely agreed upon that when the brain perceives a threat, there are common brain-based responses. The science behind the neurobiology of trauma is real and has been ongoing for decades. Yoffe herself makes the argument when she asserts, "being assaulted is traumatic and no one should expect those who have been assaulted to have perfect recall or behave perfectly rationally." We see the biologically-based reactions to trauma evidenced by the variety of survival reflexes, habits or defense responses after a traumatic event experienced by those who serve our country through the police force or soldiers in combat. Even victims of car accidents prove the experience of trauma can cause these same reactions because the brain has perceived a threat.

Though he includes an obligatory clause saying, "[his article] is in no way to minimize rape," Lyons' opinion does, in fact, "minimize rape." Rape is a serious and widespread problem. As noted by the National Sexual Violence Resource center, the reality is one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. Research from a variety of sources and methodologies confirm approximately 20 percent of college women are sexually violated. Studies dating back 30 years on the scope of rape amongst college students have validated these figures. Additionally, consent is necessary and ongoing in healthy, normal, legal interactions. If one of the participants is too intoxicated (or otherwise incapacitated) to participate or remain conscious (and thus consent) throughout the whole process, the law is clear that the sex act should end. No one is entitled to assume consent for any sex act they desire will be granted simply because other acts were agreed to. If a person enthusiastically orders a cup of tea, but falls asleep before the tea is delivered, it is widely understood that the once highly desired cup of hot tea should not be poured down the throat of the sleeping person. Similarly, sex acts must not be forced upon someone who is blacked out, asleep, ill from alcohol poisoning, incapacitated by drugs, restrained or otherwise overpowered.

It seems Lyons does not care much for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her attacks on public schools, which makes his opinion piece all the more perplexing as it seems to scoff at attacks on public school students. The Title IX system has only begun working for victims of sexual assault. Yes, it has been a bumpy road. No, we have not found it to be a perfect system. Nor is the criminal court system, it is worth noting. Campus disciplinary processes and the protections against gender-based discrimination and resulting hostile environments provided by Title IX offer options to victims of sexual violence that allow them to continue their education while seeking remedies for what was done to them. Once people who have been sexually abused or raped feel safe and understand the reporting process, more reports will be made. This is to be expected. This is a sign the system is beginning to work.

Lyons' opinion that, "It's not a criminal matter, you see. Merely one's educational and professional future that can be at stake," is as outrageous as it is appalling. A victim of sexual violence is often left with emotional difficulties that impact the rest of their life; their education is disrupted, as are their relationships with friends, family and classmates. The very worst outcome for a person found guilty of violating a school's code of conduct is that they are not allowed to finish their education at the institution where the rules of conduct were violated. No incarceration. No parole or supervision. No mandated counseling. No offender registry. They can continue their education elsewhere. A victim of sexual violence may face barriers to completing their education anywhere.

Finally, Lyons shows his true colors when, in the same article, he attempts to debunk the science of trauma, yet writes "... both men and women lie all the time, and sex is one of the topics they lie about most often. Ask any divorce lawyer." Sex is different from sexual assault. Conflating the two perpetuates the problem. Sexual assault is a widespread, serious problem — on campuses and in communities in Arkansas and every other state in the nation. Cheering the demise of a federal law that encourages prevention education and offers protections to students who have been harmed so that they might continue to pursue their education in a safe environment makes no sense. It is bad policy, bad practice, bad politics and in this case, bad press.

Monie Johnson
Executive director
Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault Little Rock

Sports vs. religion

Has anyone else noticed that right wingers, including the president, want to keep politics out of sports, but have no problem injecting politics into religion? Interesting.

RL Hutson



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