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Guest column| Mary Ann Peavler

Guest column: Rape isn't about sex; it's a crime of violence

April is sexual assault awareness month. Throughout the country, survivors and others will come together to speak out against the atrocity of this issue. A very good friend of mine, an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, very bravely tried to explain to others during one public speak-out what it felt like to be a survivor of sexual abuse. My friend asked the crowd to imagine their house had been broken into and they were burglarized. She went on to say they may feel extremely nervous and afraid long after the violation and that if they felt too uncomfortable, they might even move from their home.

"Now," she said, "imagine that the violation has been done not to a house you can leave, but to your body, which you cannot leave."

Rape, as defined by the National Crime Victim Survey, is forced sexual intercourse. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, oral or anal penetration by the offender(s). This category includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object, such as a bottle, according to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network.

Rape is an assault against a person as a person. Rape is a dehumanizing and demoralizing act against an individual. Rape is about turning an individual into a nonperson, a piece of meat to be used and abused.

Rape is about abusing the power one person has over another, whether the victim is younger, weaker, incapacitated or even in custody. Anyone, young or elderly, rich or poor, male or female, healthy or ill, can be raped.

Rape is not just a women's issue. Some priests have sexually assaulted altar boys. Teachers have abused students. Parents, and sometimes grandparents, rape children.

One of the most authoritative publications on the issue of rape, is Susan Brownmiller's landmark 1975 book, Against Our Will. The book is an extremely comprehensive, in-depth account of rape from a historical, sociological and psychological perspective.

Brownmiller recounts one story in her book of two young men being routinely sodomized in a prison setting until one young man lashes out at his tormentor and severely beats him in front of the other prisoners. He not only saved himself from future sexual assaults but has also raised his rank, or position of power, within the confines of the prison.

The young man's friend, believing this show of force has saved them both from future assaults, is astonished to have his friend tell him to meet him in the shower with Vaseline.

It soon became apparent in this institutionalized setting that the only way to prevent future assaults was to hold onto the power the young man had fought for by becoming the perpetrator.

During the twenty-six sessions provided for abusers in a certified BIP Batterer's Intervention Program, three weeks are spent on the subject of sexual abuse and sexual respect. An interesting homework assignment I used during the second week of the class was to ask the participants to make a list of slang terminology for masturbation.

The men usually would grin slyly and appeared to look forward to "sharing'' their homework assignment in the next class. During the second class I, being the only female in the group, silently would print each slang expression on an easel positioned in the center of the room. The slang terms included expressions such as "beat my meat," "shoot my wad," and "choke the chicken."

Then I would underline the violent words from each statement (beat, shoot, choke, etc.) and ask the men if they had learned during their formative years to associate violence with sex.

Each and every time this exercise has been exhibited in a straightforward and non-judgmental manner, the participants agreed that influential sociological symbols during their formative years had provided a twisted and inaccurate rendition of the kind of relationship they wanted to create with their partner.

Rape is not about sex; it is about violence.

Mary Ann Peavler is certified as an advanced level domestic violence advocate. She lives in Spring Hill and can be reached at mpeavler@tampabay.rr.com. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

Guest column: Rape isn't about sex; it's a crime of violence 04/21/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 21, 2008 4:24pm]

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