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The Reality Of Rape

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The Reality of RAPE

Between January 1972 and December 1972, twenty-three forcible rapes and nineteen attempted rapes were reported in Ann Arbor. There has only been one conviction in the city in the past three years. Furthermore, the FBI estimates that ten times more rapes occur than are reported, which indicates that Ann Arbor has an actual average of between two and three hundred rapes per year.

At the present time, the police offer little help to women who have been raped. Instead of focusing their attention on apprehending the rapist, the police question and investigate and harass the woman who files a complaint. Her moral character is often questioned by a sequence of a male officer, then a male detective, then a male prosecutor. Myths such as "she was asking for it," e.g., by walking alone at night or wearing tight pants, and "women enjoy rape" still prevail in many levels of the police departments and courts.

In talking with local women's groups, the SUN found that there are three main steps which must be taken if the rape statistics are to be significantly lower in the future. First, community wide legal education is needed on how to get action from the police and to inform women of their rights under the law and what to do if they have been attacked. Second, women in the community need to organize to stop rape by traveling in groups, demanding more rape convictions, and learning self defense. Third, women must come up with concrete plans to stop assaults and to take concerted action against them.

The women interviewed also stressed the need for more police protection of women on the streets, additional women on the police staffs, and training for the police to be more responsive to women's needs by, for example, having good legal information readily available to women.

Police must be taught to deal sensitively and humanely with rape victims. They should aid local women in setting up all-woman rape squads, which could be chosen and trained by community women.

Other departments within the city should also respond to the rape and assault problem. Free self-defense courses should be offered by the city. At present the only free self-defense classes available locally are given at the Washtenaw County Service Center, 4133 Washtenaw, and meet Monday and Wednesday evenings from 7:30 to 9:30, and Saturday mornings from 8:30 to 10:30, and they are good, but more are needed, especially around the campus areas.

Public transportation should be extended to cover more areas with all-day and all-night service. Streets and alleys should be well lit. City Council should pass ordinances legalizing the carrying of protective devices such as mace for women, and the city should set up a medical aid fund for assaulted women.

Employers could also help alleviate the problem by offering security and lights in their parking lots and by providing late night transportation to women workers.

The hospital areas, sites for many of the assaults in Ann Arbor, should be made safer immediately. The hospitals should provide security guards in their parking lots and on their grounds. Hospital personnel must be trained to respond sensitively to rape victims; at present emergency room treatment is expensive and impersonal. The basic emergency room cost at University Hospital is $25.00, and at St. Joseph Hospital it is $12.50. Add to this the price of tests and medication, and the total cost of being raped can amount to $50.00 or more for the victim. Efforts should be made to have the city provide funds for a free medical examination to any woman who has been raped.

Sisters should pick up other sisters who are hitchhiking. Developing a consciousness of women helping and protecting each other is necessary and important. Women should also be conscious of protecting themselves; most rapes occur in the home by men with whom the women are acquainted and have trusted enough to admit, voluntarily, to their homes. Women should not walk on the street alone in Ann Arbor at night. A paper called "Freedom from Rape," containing many specific tips on how to prevent being raped and how to ward off an attacker is published by the Women's Crisis Center, 307 North Division, Ann Arbor. It deserves to be studied by women who would look out for themselves.

In order to eliminate men's violent acts against women, all the things discussed above need immediate attention. But the steps suggested here all merely treat the symptoms and not the root of the problem. A sexist consciousness, ingrained in the American culture, is behind the hostile acts against women which men commit. Raped women are not victims of a few isolated, sexually frustrated men. Rapes are almost always acts of contempt, hostility, and hatred of women. We are all victims of a system which exalts a masculine image of aggressiveness, sexual promiscuity, violence, do-or-die competitiveness and dominance over other men as well as over women; and a feminine image of helplessness, lily-white virginity, dependence, and submissiveness. Aggressors and victims. The spider and the fly. Men are taught in schools, by the media, and through Silva-Thins-type advertisements that women exist for the male's pleasure, for him to use or abuse as he will.

These images must be eliminated. The traditional American way of life, based on aggressiveness, competitiveness, dogmatic self-righteousness, male power and male control of the money, breeds people who emulate destructive and brutal images. Consciousness-raising to combat sexism is necessary in the struggle to change human relationships. Men and women must care for and teach and help each other. As long as men are defined as successful according to the requirements of the masculine American image, women will continue to be the victims of scorn, rape, and oppression.


-Barbara Weinberg