Rape survivors are faulted by our society for being victimized by rapists. They are blamed by rapists and by all components of the judicial system, including police officers, prosecutors, state's attorneys, juries, and judges. They are blamed by friends, family members, and, worst of all, by themselves. There is no survivor of rape who is not blamed by some other person or by themselves. Some are pitied, but all are blamed.
With this in mind then, we see that the large number of people in our society blaming rape survivors corresponds to the number of rapes which occur. The number of rapes which actually occur is open to some discussion. In 1990 the occurrence of rape was reported at anywhere from 130,000 (Justice Department), to 683,000 (National Women's Study Survey) (Pesce & Blais, 1992). The 1991 Department of Justice survey claimed that 53% of rapes or attempted rapes are reported to the police (Associated Press, 1991). Twenty years ago, Russell (1975) estimated that when both the unreported and reported rapes and attempted rapes were included, more than 1,500,000 attacks occurred in the United States in one year. Reported rapes from 1990 to 1991 showed an increase of 59% (Allison & Wrightsman, 1993). As far as the future is concerned, Scully and Marolla, in their study on the rewards of rape say, "Excluding sexual abuse in marriage and assuming equal risk to all women, 20 to 30 percent of girls now 12 years old will suffer a violent sexual attack during the remainder of their lives." (Scully & Marolla). Evident from the statistics cited, there will be many, many lives touched by the trauma of rape itself, which are further "raped" by our society's pointing a blaming finger at the rape survivor for causing her own rape.
Blaming rape survivors has become such a problem that in 1993 it was officially recognized by the establishment of the Violence Against Women Act. In Section 143 of this act a task force was established which included "representatives of state and local law enforcement, judicial administration, prosecution, legal experts, survivors of violence, and people devoted to the protection of victims' rights" to investigate the problem. Also included in the act are sections stating the inadmissibility of the victim's past sexual history, any evidence claiming that the aleged victim's clothing "incited or invited the offense charged," or that the alleged victim "invited or provoked the commission of the offence." These provisions in the law show social recognition that this is considered a social problem. In addition to the law itself, there is the matter of funds allocated to this cause. In Section 1732 it states, "There are authorized to be appropriated for each of fiscal years 1994, 1995, and 1996, $100,000,000 to carry our subpart 1, and $190,000,000 to carry out subpart 2." The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has shown their concern for this issue by putting the money into a solution to the problem.
Behaviors surrounding the way in which a rape case is handled is socially constructed. Political power struggles affect the way rape is treated by elected district/states attorneys and by legislators during battles over legal reforms. Bureaucratic politics control the way each individual caseload is manipulated and scheduled in court, etc. "The path taken by a rape case through the legal system is determined by a great degree of discretion practiced at every level from police to judges. It is affected by the race and social class of victims and offenders, and by the suspicion raised by requirements of corroboration and proof of resistance." (Gordon & Riger, 1989). So politics at all levels, social class, and race are all factors in whether the victim will be believed, treated fairly, or blamed for her own injury.
Theories: Hidden Culture of Rape
The Historical/Women as Men's Property Theory: As history has evolved, women have been viewed by male-dominated societies as the spoils of war. After the discovery of metals and the making of weapons of war, women became a part of the property carried off from conquered lands. This idea explains the controversy over the existence of rape within marriage. Some feel that a woman has no right to refuse sex with her husband, which would make rape a moot point in that situation. In this case, a wife is seen as property belonging to the husband. In the not-so-distant past, the rape was considered to be perpetrated against the father of a single woman, or the husband of a married woman, but not against the woman herself. Some of the words used to describe a woman who has been raped are that she is now "spoiled", "ruined", or "ravaged", which are all words that carry the meaning that a woman is a piece of property which has been damaged. The more a woman has been "used" by men who are not her husband, whether in a rape situation or not, the less valuable she is seen to be. She is called "cheap", a "loose woman", "slut", "whore", etc. So, "just as a man who steals or damages another's relatively worthless property can easily get away with it, so can a man who ravages another's relatively 'cheap' woman." (Thio, 1988). When men think of women as property, it precludes them from feeling respect for women, which opens the door to rape since rape is the epitome of disrespect to women. Rapists tend to think that women are sex objects which exist for their pleasure. This sentiment is reflected in interviews done with convicted rapists repeatedly. Rape, to them, is a man's right. The problem is that many policemen, judges, and jurors seem to think the same way.
Women as Objects of Masculinity Contest: Men are under pressure to compete with each other in every area of life. Sports, of course, is the most visible way, but men also compete in the work place and where women are concerned. The more women a man has sex with, the better he is, on the masculinity scale, that is. The goal is to score, just like in football. The man doesn't care how many players of the opposing team (women) he has to run down and hurt in the process. It's all a part of the game. In the football game, the ball is the object that is being manipulated. In a rape situation, the woman is merely an object to be abused. To be truly masculine, in this theory, is to be aggressive. A man can be considered to be a "wimp" if he shows signs of being considerate and tender toward a woman. Words describing conquest which demonstrate this masuline contest theory in operation are "boom boom" (used extensively during the Vietnam War among soldiers), "Knocking up", "scoring", screwing", etc. and words used to describe women are "piece of meat", 'piece of ass", or simply as "that" as in the statement, "I want some of that." All of these word uses demonstrate a dehumanizing attitude toward women and sexual intercourse. As in the previous theory, women are objectified. The showing off of "masculine" qualities leads easily to violence and aggression toward women, who are seen as sex objects. We live in a male-dominated society. Therefore, the men in powerful positions are likely to have been socialized in this way. These men will defend what they see as "being a man". In this way, men in powerful positions influence our society to see women as the ones at fault for simply being women and being there to be abused. (Thio, 1988).
Women Want to be Raped Myth: A study done in 1980 showed that 71% believed that women secretly and subconsciously wish to be raped (Wheeler, Weisburd, & Bode, 1982). This belief leads to assumptions that all women who are raped somehow asked for it because they really wanted it to happen to them, especially if the woman is unattractive. They may say that since unattractive women have a harder time finding men interested in them, they have a secret wish to be raped. 59% of rapists deny their guilt and blame their victims based on this myth. (Wheeler, Weisburd, & Bode, 1982). They say their victims encouraged them and enjoyed the sexual assault. Most believed they were great lovers and their victims loved the experience of being raped by them. They may even go so far as to say that their victims seduced them. The upshot is that when a rapist goes to trial, the question is not to prove the rapist guilty, but to prove the victim not guilty of precipitating the rape. Another offshoot from this "willing-victim myth" is that women may cry rape just to cover their own rape fantasies. This also seems to substantiate the old saying "her lips say no, but her eyes say yes." In this predicament, a survivor can't win no matter what she says to the rapist.
Socializing Women to be Victims: In a multitue of ways, a little girl is brought up to believe that to be "feminine", she should appear weak, quiet, coy, gentle, submissive, etc. She is taught that she depends on men for her food, clothing, and shelter, and so is economically subordinate to men. She is taught to be a "lady". "Ladies" would never be physically aggressive or loud. It just wouldn't be the right way for a "real lady" to behave. The genteel idea of womanhood sets women up to be perfect rape victims - those who don't know how to fight back because they've never been taught how. Also, the clothing and shoes women are told by their culture are the most flattering, tend to be the sort that make self-defense nearly impossible. A woman can't run very fast in high-heeled shoes and tight skirts which retard their ability to make long strides. Making a scene by shouting or screaming is thought to be unladylike behavior as well. For that reason, many women put up with sexually intolerable situations such as fondling or grabbing while in public. In this theory, women who have been socialized to be passive are ideal rape victims. It has been shown that women who exhibit more confident and aggressive behavior tend to be chosen as potential victims less often than those who behave in passive or submissive ways. In this way, a woman who acts in quiet, submissive ways may tend to blame herself for being raped. She may have been so programmed to believe that she is always supposed to accept the role of subordination that even when she is raped, she blames herself by agonizing over the question, "What did I do to cause this to happen to me? I must have done something wrong." Therefore, EVERY vicim is blamed for her own victimization, if only by herself. (Thio, 1988)
Prejudice and Cognitive Dissonance Theory: Prejudice and discrimination against women in our society is evidenced in almost every area of life. Women earn between 70 to 75 cents on the dollar compared with men. Women are grossly underrepresented in government, industry, business, finance, mostly due to the concept called the glass ceiling. The women who are working outside the home are doing most of the household chores and caretaking of children. This prejudice against women in our society, a view of women as less than equal to men, is carried through into our attitudes towards women who have been raped. Susan Griffin, author of Rape, the All American Crime, builds her analysis on the "influence of the threat of rape in her life." She argues that rape is not a sexual crime but a violent, political act; the threat of rape functions as a form of social control which affects all women. Several writers have developed her thesis that a 'male protection racket' exists whereby individual men are supposed to protect women from all other men; women become dependent upon the goodwill of their male protector, and thus more vulnerable to abuse by them (Hammer and Saunders, 1984 and Radford, 1987). This short polemical article also contains many other themes which later writers have expanded on in analysing sexual violence: the social construction of masculinity and feminity; the connections between rape and heterosexual intercourse; and the ideological processes through which women are blamed for men's violence." (Kelly, 1988). The survivors of rape are seen as being at fault simply because they were born women, just as blacks are seen by society to be at fault for being born Black.
As might be surmised, I conceived of the idea of using cognitive dissonance theory for approaching the problem of blaming rape survivors while studying minority-majority relations. This will be addressed at greater length in the Research section of this paper. Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance is the idea that when an inner belief is challenged, it creates a conflict within, causing psychological discomfort. In order for this conflict to be resolved, the inner attitude must be changed. The cognitive dissonance theory seems to be the one most helpful in formulating a solution to the problem of blaming rape survivors.
Solution Proposal: Rape Advocacy Program
In Straight Talk About Date Rape, Mufson and Kranz say, "Generally, experts in rape and counseling have mixed feelings about legal remedies. On the one hand, rape survivors often don't get treated well by the police, the courts, and the legal system in general. The traumatic experiences in this arena can extend and deepen the trauma of the original rape. On the other hand, until rapists are prosecuted and found guilty, many men will not take seriously a woman's power to say no and to defend herself. A rapist who is not prosecuted has full license to go out and attack some other woman. And some women experience a sense of empowerment in fighting back through the legal system, showing that even if they could not prevent the rape, at least they can respond to it." The idea here is that perhaps if more rapes are reported to the police, and if the court systems bring more of the cases to trial, AND if there are more convictions, people will become aware that women are not to blame for being raped and be forced by cognitive dissonance to change their prejudicial views about women who have survived rape. In order to cause blamers to feel psychological discomfort, they need to experience something which will conflict with their inner belief that rape survivors are to blame for being attacked. If and when rapists begin to be prosecuted and found quilty in greater and greater numbers, people will be confronted with the fact that our society, through our court system, is blaming the rapist, not the survivor. Given the conflict of attitude versus facts, this should create cognitive dissonance, thereby causing the blamers to change. This would be especially applicable to those people in the criminal justice system, whose behavior would be changing first in this process.
Generally, I believe that if more rapists are brought to trial and convicted, it will send out a message to the people of our society that the rapists are to blame and not the rape survivors. The question is how to bring this about, while still protecting the victimized party from additional trauma. There are many steps in the process of finally getting a rapist convicted and imprisoned. Rape survivors need support and information in order to make important decisions about reporting to the police and preserving evidence for future trial. There is a program in effect in some arease of the country called the Rape Advocacy Program which is providing those needs.
There are different forms of rape advocacy to be found in our country. There is an organization at the Northwestern University in Chicago, called Rape Victim Advocates. They describe themselves on the Internet as "an Illinois not-for-profit organization made up of many individuals with two primary goals: to assure that survivors of sexual assault are treated with dignity and compassion; and to affect changes in the way the legal system, medical institutions and society as a whole respond to survivors." The RVA focuses on both social service and social change. The RVA was formed in 1974 by obstetrician/gynecologist Natalie Stephens, M.D., and a group of Northwestern University medical students concerned about survivors of sexual assault. They recognized that standard hospital resources were not sufficient for the special needs of the survivor. These founding advocates educated themselves about Rape Trauma Syndrome, a cluster of physical and emotional responses experienced by nearly all those who experience sexual assault, identified by Burgess and Holmstrom in the course of their work as counselors of suvivors of sexual assault at Boston City Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. The RVA claim that by providing basic legal and medical information, and referrals to other service organizations, they help the survivor make informed decisions. They work with the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and other area institutions to strive to improve the treatment of survivors as a group in our society. Mostly the RVA work out of hospitals. (RVA, 1996).
A rape advocate provides support, comfort, and information for the victim and her family. He or she knows about the medical procedures the victim will experience after the rape. The advocate knows how the plice can help and how the court system operates. "She is the victim's personal link to the medical, police, and court systems." (A Guide to Advocacy Services, 1991). The advocate works with hospital personnel, the police station and the state's attorney's office. She can stay with the victim thoughout every step of each process. Advocates are covered by the rape shield laws, some of which were mentioned earlier in the Violence Against Women Act of 1993, so that they are at the same level of confidentiality as doctors and lawyers. Everything a victim says is kept in the strictest confidence. Advocates are not allowed to testify in court. Rape shield laws also provide other help to survivors. Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O'Connor said in 1991 of the rape shield laws, "Rape victims deserve heightened protection against surprise, harrassment and unnecessary invasions of privacy."
Other ways an advocate may help are: she can talk to the hospital staff, police and state's attorney on the survivor's behalf, help the survivor understand her choices and the decisions she is making, protect the survivor's right to be respected at all times, speak up for the survivor's rights and wishes, help get the survivor information about her case, go with the survivor to report the attack to the police, explain the survivor's rights during the police investigation, go with her to identify the attacker in a police line-up, go with her to the state's attorney's office to discuss the case and how it will be handled, explain the trial process, answer questions and gets information for the survivor, work with the state's attorney to prepare the survivor to testify at the trial, go to the courtroom with the survivor when she testifies to give moral support, keep the survivor updated on the case, contact the survivor's employer to explain why she may need to miss work to appear in court, and help the survivor write a Victim Impact Statement to give to the judge in the event that the attacker is convicted. (A Guide to Advocacy Services, 1991). Not only does an advocate help to protect the survivor's rights, he or she can also be instrumental in bringing the rape case to trial and helping the survivor obtain justice.
In a study conducted by Andrew J. Elliot and Patricia G. Devine (Elliot & Devine, 1994), it was shown that dissonance does, in fact, exist within people and that a "reduction strategy" serves to reduce the dissonance. The reduction strategy was a change of attitude. In the study the attitude shifted to match the outward behavior, which was a manipulated counterattitudinal essay about a proposed tuition increase at the University of Wisconsin. Of course all the students were initially against the increase. The study showed that students who were asked to write an essay supporting the increase changed their attitudes about the tuition increase (reduction strategy) in order to reduce cognitive dissonance dicomfort. Although their initial idea was to try to show cognitive dissonance created physical discomfort as well as psychological discomfort, which they failed to do, they did prove psychological discomfort to be evident in cognitive dissonance.
As I mentioned earlier, I conceived of the idea of using cognitive dissonance for approaching the problem of blaming rape survivors while studying race and ethnic relations. It occurred to me that during the 1960s when discrimination was rampant in the South against Blacks, the federal government created and enforced laws banning discriminatory acts. The racists in the South were then forced to change their behavior or go to jail. When they changed their behavior, it created cognitive dissonance because they still had the same attitudes which weren't harmonious with new forced behaviors. Over time the inner attitudes began to change. Progress was made to reduce discrimination.(Farley, 1995). A research study called "Generalization of Dissonance Reduction: Decreasing Prejudice through Induced Compliance" (Leippe &Eisenstadt, 1994), tested whether dissonance created by prejudicial views could be used to reduce the prejudice itself. It proved a valid approach to decrease prejudice. In their study, Leippe and Eisenstadt define dissonance as "the psychological distress that occurs when one's behavior threatens one's sense of self-integrity." They go on to say, "Our integrative perspective accepts the general idea that genuine cognitive and attitudinal changes (vs. only the outward managing of impressions) may occur when dissonance is aroused by attitude-discrepant behavior to allow the individual to maintain a self-identity that is seen as desirable both to oneself (private self) and to others (public self). To the extent that dissonance involves a threat to self-image, the magnitude of dissonance should be heightened both by variables emphasized by traditional dissonance theory, such as perceived choice in engaging in an attitude-discrepant act and personal responsibility for its foreseeable negative outcomes, and by variables highlighted by self-presentational account, such as the publicity of the identity-threatening act or the self-awareness of the actor. In effect, any variable that fosters a sense of accountability, either to internal standards (private self) or to other (public self), should increase dissonance."
In this study, the researchers discuss the difference between a categorical change in attitude and a cognitive restructuring which is changing an additional cognition other than the two cognitions of attitude and behavior that become inconsistent through forced compliance . They feel increasing the magnitude of dissonance by making the sense of self-accountability greater will create pressure for cognitive restructuring to occur. They had White students write a counterattitudinal essay on increasing scholarships for Black students at the expense of reducing the scholarship monies available to Whites. There was a greater change in attitude when essays were made public. It was found that the students who wrote the counterattitudinal essays supporting increasing scholarship money to Black students also changed other attitudes towards Blacks, besides changing attitudes about scholarship money. "More important still, we think, are the effects of the advocacy on more general beliefs about Blacks--beliefs that subjects were not explicitly asked to address in their essays and that, in fact, they may have only addressed by implication. On Katz and Hass's (1988) Pro-Black Scale, a measure that assesses beliefs that Blacks face unfair obstacles and can succeed and enrich society if these obstacles are removed, subjects in high-dissonance conditions were significantly more positive toward Blacks than were no-essay control subjects. Moreover, the increased positivity toward Blacks was as evident among semicompliant essay writers as it was among full compliers. The effects of induced compliance appear to extend beyond the specific attitude issue in question: they generalize to psychologically related beliefs." This study shows that dissonance can change people's attitudes. If it can happen for White attitudes toward Blacks, it could also apply to society's attitudes toward rape survivors and, according to this study, possibly apply to attitudes toward women in general.
There is no data on how these advocacy programs have affected conviction rates. In fact, there is little data at all on blaming rape survivors. "Like most research on rape, little conceptual or theoretical development has emerged from these studies. Few researchers have reflected on the limitations of the methods used, whether in fact they do tap attitudes to rape. This area of research is basically examining underlying definitions of, and ideologies surrounding, rape -- the process by which women become 'legitimate victims' -- but these issues are seldom addressed directly." (Kelly, 1988). In order to fill in the gaps in current research, I decided to do some research of my own. I interviewed Nancy Gaines, Program Manager of the Sexual Assault Victims Care Unit at Call For Help, Inc. in Edgemont, Illinois to obtain more information about the rape advocate program and her insights into the work they do. She has been counseling rape victims since 1982. Ms. Gaines said, "We support women in whatever choice they make. If they choose to go through the legal process, then we support that decision as well as support them through the entire legal process." She also told me that there are times a survivor is willing to take her case to court, but the state's attorney refuses to take the case. Here are some reasons why this decision may be made. "In the DA's office, quilty verdicts carry more weight than a conviction by case settlement. The stronger the case, the greater likelihood of a guilty verdict, the better the 'state' for promotion considerations. The inducement to take risks--to take cases to court that might not result in conviction--is tempered in three ways: First, a pattern of not-guilty verdicts is used by the DA's office as an indicator of prosecutorial incompetency. Second, prosecutors are given credit for the number of cases they reject as a recognition of their commitment to the organizational concern of reducing the case load of an already overcrowded court system. Third, to continually pursue cases that should have been rejected outright may lead judges to question the prosecutor's competence as a member of the court." (Frohmann, 1991). In some cases rape advocates may go to the state's attorney (according to Ms. Gaines, they have) to talk about specific cases. These visits have made a difference and have influenced state's attorney's decisions. This information is sensitive and very difficult to ascertain. There are no statistics on the number of decisions changed through rape advocate intervention.
Ms. Gaines felt the hospital workers and the police officers appreciated the rape advocates' presence. "Medical personnel and police like us to be there because it frees them up to do their jobs while the rape advocate fills the rape victim's emotional needs." Her statement was backed up by a female police officer from the Vandalia Police Department who said, "Rape Advocates are definitely helpful to the police officers. They help calm the victim down so the officer can get a more coherent story from them. The victim sees someone who cares. It gives them security to see a human face and not just uniforms on police and hospital people."
Implementation of Rape Advocacy Program
My goal is to install a rape advocacy program in every existing rape crisis center in the state of Illinois. In order to do this, I would need:
1. To offer training courses in the crisis centers for rape advocates. This is a 40 hour course.
2. Solicit volunteers to become rape advocates.
3. Pay for the training of rape advocates.
Offering training courses would be relatively easy to do. Each rape crisis center already has trained counselors employed full-time, who would teach the training sessions. These classes are given in four to six sessions. The materials are already in existence and could be reprinted and dispersed at minimal cost.
In order to find volunteers, I would offer informational speakers to talk to church groups, Girl Scout Leader meetings, teacher meetings, PTA groups, any women's groups, etc. These rape info-talks would incude rape statistics, the do's and don'ts after being raped, statistics on self-defense, statistics showing low rape conviction rates, and rape prevention techniques. At the end of the talk information would be given on the rape advocacy program and how it can make a difference and change some of the statistics they've just been made aware of. Encouragement for women and men to become rape advocates would be strong. The suggestion would be given at the conclusion of the talk that if they were unable to help as a volunteer, they could make a donation to the rape crisis center work.
Asking for donations at these rape info-talks would provide enough money to take care of copying existing material. The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which is now printing the guidebook on rape advocacy, would help with costs of training, although I really don't think there would be much cost involved. Volunteers could also conduct training seminars as well, after they've been involved in the program for an extended length of time.
If, through donations larger than I anticipate, there were extra funds, I would use a portion of them to advertise in some way in order to raise awareness of the severity of the problem. Hopefully, this would bring more people into the volunteer program and raise further monies for more crisis centers to be opened in the future.
Evaluation of Rape Advocacy Implementation
I have designated four criteria for evaluation of the implementation of the Rape Advocacy Program to include all rape crisis centers in Illinois.
1. Are there more or all rape crisis centers offering the Rape Advocacy Program in Illinois than there were one year ago?
This would be a simple matter of obtaining a list of current crisis centers at the beginning and noting the number of centers offering advocacy programs. Then, after implementation and a year's time, going back to count the number with advocacy programs and noting the increase. The goal, of course, is to have an advocacy program in each and every rape crisis center by the end of one year.
2. How many more rape survivors are being assisted through the Rape Advocacy Program in Illinois than were being helped one year ago?
These figures would have to be compiled from all rape crisis centers. These centers are largely connected via computer, so these figures could be relatively easy to obtain by accessing them through any computer. If the answer to the first question is a positive one, then a positive increase should follow for this question as well.
3. Has there been an increase in rape cases accepted for trial by the state's attorney since the addition of more Rape Advocacy Programs in Illinois in the last year?
These statistics can be obtained from the state of Illinoios and compared from the starting date to the ending date under scrutiny.
4. Have the number of rape convictions increased since the increase of Rape Advocacy Programs in the state in the last year?
This question is the most complicated. Within the number of cases accepted by the state's attorney, some will be plea bargained and rapists will be convicted of lesser crimes than rape. Those convictions will not appear in statistics for rape convictions even though they will reveal that some sort of punishment has been meted out to these criminals. It might be revealing to measure the number of rape cases taken to trial relative to the number reported and also to measure the number of overall criminal convictions compared to rape convictions from one year to the next to see if there is an increase in criminal convictions which might reflect the plea bargaining aspect.
In order to see a great increase, I believe it will take a longer time period than one year. The wheels of progress move slowly sometimes. Hopefully there will be an increase shown within one year. It will depend on how quickly the advocacy programs can be implemented. Perhaps the measurement of rape convictions should begin only after all rape crisis centers have an active advocacy program in place. Then we may measure the difference in conviction rates from the year preceding to the year in which the program is fully operational.
In addition, certain statistics should be kept abreast of throughout this process of evaluation. One would be the general number of rapes reported in this time period and whether there were more or less rapes reported, to be used as a basis. Secondly, new laws concerning what constitutes rape, landmark decisions, and laws concerning victims' rights, should be reviewed to see how these laws and court decisions will affect the outcome of our evaluation.
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