Taking Back the Power to Nurture

In the November/December 2008 issue of the Women’s Health Activist Anabella Aspiras relates her personal experience of the rape of a close friend, who kept her assault a secret as Aspiras watched her sink into a deep depression, dropping out of her social circle and then out of school.

Only when Aspiras went to her missing friend’s house and demanded to know what had happened did she learn her friend had been raped. She also learned that her friend’s parents counseled their daughter not to report the rape, since they felt the criminal justice system would only traumatize their daughter further. Aspiras writes that as a result of being raped, the friend she “knew and loved in high school is gone”.  She concludes, “Until survivors of rape have reason to be confident in the criminal justice system, rape will continue to be under reported and women’s lives, like hers, will be lost.”

Over the years, I have heard far too many stories from my students about the assaults they experienced simply because they were women–and about which they had previously told no one.  A work-study student in a program at the University of Oregon, a Native American grandmother was assaulted by a man offering to help her carry a heavy piece of furniture into her new apartment in broad daylight in Eugene, Oregon.  Though she showered again and again, she could not get the smell of this man off her.

Another student was pulled into the bushes from a bike path and only managed to save her life as her assailant choked her by telling him to ease up, since she liked to move during sex.  She had to rasp out the lie again and again before she was able to get away.

One might hardly guess that another of my students who came to class as a well dressed professional had also come close to dying– at the hands of her raging ex-husband.  Luckily she managed to escape and take her children with her after he pulled out his hunting rifle and threatened to shoot them all.

The under reporting of such assaults on women in the military is a finding in the recent Congressional hearings. For the 2688 reported assaults in the military in 2007, there were four times as many that went unreported.  As Penny Coleman, widow of a veteran-victim of PTSD observes in her essay on sexual assault in the military, more than a third of women who seek VA care for mental health issues after returning from Afghanistan or Iraq, do so because of trauma created by a sexual assault.

Coleman is especially concerned with supporting assault survivors who choose not to seek medical or psychological help within the military system-for understandable reasons. A recent student of mine was seriously injured by her serviceman-husband.  She appealed to her husband’s military commander, only to have him cross-examine her as to what she had done to incite the assault and urge her to work harder to please the abuser. There is a happy ending to this story stemming from this woman’s self-assertion. She managed to leave the marriage that confined her on base with her dangerous husband.   Later she re-married another serviceman who treats her with equanimity and she considers her current marriage a true partnership.

The widespread incidence of the assault of women soldiers by fellow servicemen is a situation of which the military has evidently been cognizant for some time. Stationed near Detroit during the Detroit riots some decades ago, another of my students relates she was confined to base along with the other servicewomen in the area to avoid being raped by the Guardsman called up to put down the riots.

Sexual assault is not only a continuation of historical experience– it is also a multi-generational affair.  One of the saddest experiences of my teaching career occurred when the daughter of one of my students was raped. This woman and her husband had adopted five children, including this one.  One of their adopted babies came to them emotionally damaged, and they arranged their schedules so that they could hold her constantly for several months until she finally stopped crying.

But this mother did not have a similar cure for the violation of her raped daughter.  She stood by her as she went to court to prosecute the assault, but during the process this even-tempered and generous woman formerly so full of humor almost went crazy with grief.

Any one of these attacks on women is enough to illustrate what should be common knowledge:  rape is a crime of violence, not sex-and certainly not a part of human nature. There are cultures in which there is no word for rape– since such an action is literally unthinkable.  But sexual assault is a common occurrence in cultures that emphasize the value of domination. In such cultures, the links between power and nurturance are broken, so that those who nurture others have little power or status. And those with power use it without any sense of service or care.

The severance of nurturance from power is tragically expressed in the attack on the physical center of women’s ability to nurture life.

In patriarchal societies, the severance of nurturance from power may be quite intentional, as illustrated by Hitler’s censorship team. As they publicly smashed Kathe Kollwitz’s famous sculpture The Tower of Mothers, depicting a group of mothers protectively circling their children, they proclaimed, “The state keeps children safe, not mothers!”

The experience of the mother in my class and the parents of Aspiras’ friends directly experienced their inability to protect their children.

When nurturance and power are severed in a society, the voices of those who speak for future generations are no longer central to the sphere of political power, as they are in the Iroquois council of women who approve or disapprove all political decisions according to their effects on future generations. Instead, a society which severs nurturance from power puts “women and children last”, as Ruth Sidel’s book analyzing the modern western condition puts it.

In such a society, it is easy to confuse the fact that nurturance is disempowered with the idea that there is something in the nature of nurturance (as expressed in biological motherhood, for instance) that causes women’s oppression.  Expressing this confusion, certain feminists of the sixties declared that they must break with the biology of their own bodies–and it’s mothering capacities– in order to assume equal social power alongside men. This thinking was illustrated by Shilamuth Firestone, who reasoned that only the erasure of biological motherhood would allow women to share equality with men. Only when humans had the technology to fully dominate their biological nature, she insisted, would women be liberated.

There is little that can so well alienate women from our bodies as the experience– or potential experience– of sexual assault.  But to reject our biological nature only amplifies the denigration of our bodies that sexual assault expresses.  Further, Firestone’s cure of dominating nature only gives us more of the cultural value that underlines rape in the first place.  As ecofeminist Val Plumwood has eloquently detailed, one cannot express domination as a positive  value with respect to the natural world and expect that value to vanish as we relate to one another.

Fortunately, there is an alternative that connect nurturance and power, as in the case of the Iroquois.  Linked with the precautionary principle-or fore-caring for future generations– such guardianship, in essence, consists of choosing something you love and protecting it.

It involves, that is, taking back the power to nurture.

The Raging Grannies and the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers are more nurturers to be reckoned with. They have seeded groups working for social and environmental justice worldwide. Takelma Siletz elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim, the chair of the Grandmothers, begins her public talks with a moving statement asserting the value of every woman in her audience. She goes on to insist that such valuable women can never accept a situation in which they are abused.

We need, Grandma Aggie also says, to return women, with their nurturant impulses in full play, to power. Not incidentally, she and the other grandmothers see the earth as female: as the violated mother whose power we must once again honor so that she, in turn, may nurture us all in the cycle of life. Notably, this earth-nurturer is no weakling.  If we misuse her water, for instance, Grandma Aggie says, she will take it back. This is her explanation for the global droughts she has seen in her travels with the other Grandmothers.

The Grandmothers know all too well the pervasive modern story that disempowers nurturers–and they are not buying it.  They have dedicated themselves to living out another story, in which women, joined together, honor the power that resides in nurturing the children of the future and the earth we share.

In this story, women are both fully empowered and nurturing. And those who use their power to nurture others are our true heroes-whether they be men or women.


I welcome you to link to this essay;  if you quote this, please indicate  this source.  If you wish to reproduce all of this,  feel free to contact me for permission.

133 Responses

  1. This article was shocking and eye-opening to me. The horrific stories almost literally put me to tears. I tried to imagine what such a terrible situation would be like- and yet I hope I will never know. The conclusion that links these abused victims to the abused earth was fascinating to me. It seems to me that the abuse we do to the earth has become a cultural norm, and it disgusted me that that could relate to rape. Neither form of abuse should be tolerated.
    A side note for this topic: I have personally been impressed by the intitiative some universities have taken to familiarize students with sexual assault. I recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Steve Thompson- a great speaker that has devoted his work to educating others about the dangers of sexual assault. This link is one of many that I found about Steve’s work: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rlz=1T4GGIK_enUS275US276&q=steve+thompson+sexual+assault

    • Thank you for the link here, Katelyn. I am not familiar with Steve Thompson’s work, but I will check it out. I agree with you on university initiatives. These women need to know that what has happened to them is not acceptable– and they are not alone. Sadly, the stories continue to grow: some have been added by my students this quarter. The good news is the healing courage of these abused women–and the ones who support them. Your compassion is also a powerful balm for those who suffer these outrages. I certainly hope that you will never know such an experience–and that there will come a time, as a UN report on women and violence that came out on the recent International Women’s Day (whose topic was stopping violence against women) that it will no longer be more dangerous in certain places to simply be a woman than to be on the frontlines in war.

  2. I’ve read this article and it makes me sad, but hopeful. There are a lot of great men in the world; good men, spiritually minded men, men of the Creator or God who have great conviction, men who are beautiful in their own right–what they are or were meant to be. My husband is one of those and the men in my family are those men as well.

    But there are men who are spiritually unconnected. They are men who will violate a child, even Fathers, and Uncles. Women, I think and girls need to realize they have strength as women and unlike the article presented above need to realize they have strength in their own right and do not need to give up their strength in womanhood to be equal. Rape is a horrible matter and it makes one feel like it is their fault and they likely don’t ever get over it, I think. Molestation is the same matter. In reciprocity, as we have learned, those crimes take and do not give, so I think those crimes come back. But Motherhood and womanhood are the greatest gifts where we have an opportunity to give back.

    • Thanks for your passionate and thoughtful comment, Tina. I am also fortunate to know such good men. Great point about not giving up your strength as women…I agree that Motherhood is an inestimable treasure.
      I am glad this article also brought you hope. I think this is the place we stand with respect to much that needs to be changed today– sad in recognizing the situation, but hopeful in that there are so many people on the side of care and change–such as yourself.

  3. I am sorry; but, when I read this article, it simply turns my stomach. I have never been able to determine where a man or women have the authority to assault another innocent human being.

    I can remember being robbed on a couple of occassions in my life. Once, I remember coming home to my apartment to find the door jarred open and all of my personal belongings missing. In fact, I had a chest which contained some very personal lifetime photos and they were now gone. In another instance, I left a restaurant to find the side window in my vehicle broken and all of my personal belongings taken away.

    In both of these instances, I felt violated.

    As I read this article, I could not help but think of the violation these women must have felt in their condition. In my instances of theft, most of these material items could be replaced. But, how do you replace part of person’s heart and soul which has been ripped from them?

    In connection with our class, I could not help but think of Mother Earth and how she must feel at this time. She has been full of resources in which to provide for ALL, but, we, as a people, continue to rape her of her resources. How long will it be before she collapses from exhaustion of being molested?

    We have to learn to give back to her………

    My eyes are even more open today than yesterday,


    • Thanks for your comments, Paul. Seems like a great condition of being fully alive is learning something each day. I appeciate your compassion and sensitivity: the analogy between violated women and violated earth is an apt one.

    • I liked your analogy here, Paul. Very insightful.

    • You cannot replace the part of a person’s spirit or soul that has been ripped from her. She will never be the same. She may learn to not fear as much, she may learn to trust again, and she may have some days that she doesn’t think about what happen to her, but she will never get back what was stolen, nor will she ever be the same person.

      • The terrible pain in this comment depicts what a great tragedy of soul-loss that rape is. Anyone who reads this cannot doubt that rape is a crime of violence rather than sexuality. The pain in these words affirms that we must work to stop this crime from happening to any woman ever again!

  4. Rape is frightening and an all too common reality. Women need protection from this, no doubt, and yet we have religions and countries that sanction the rape of a wife. What stands out to me in the article is the concept of a society that accepts dominance of nature as right will no doubt have dominance of people as okay too. It is easy to feel like that is right when the whole society supports it. I used to think my ideal man would be one who dominated me. It didn’t take long to find out that dominance involves the taking and not caring or giving back, and often is quite abusive. Inherent in my assumption, was the not valuing myself. So many women seem to have to go through this before they wake up.

    • Thanks for sharing your own journey in this regard, Leslie. You are not alone, and telling your story strengthens those who hear it. Our modern media conditions us to think violence is sexy (of course, we have some cultural history to go with this)– just as is the man who dominates the natural world. It is a part of our worldview we need to rid ourselves of, the sooner the better. But meanwhile, it continues to harm women physically and emotionally. Thanks for taking yourself out of this cycle of harm.

  5. I read this article and it hits home in many ways. My personal experience with men/women in military has shown that immaturity and age may play a factor in the astronomically high rate of sexual assault. The young age in which our military is recruited may have something to do with unwise choices made by these victimizers. When trauma, fear, and power are all forced upon young and immature people explosions of emotion can occur. It’s my opinion that military training should include processing of emotion from day one. The assaults against women (primarily) may be avoided when men are encouraged to share and accept support for their pent up feelings to avoid the lashing out against women. Education is vital in my opinion for both sides. Our society must encourage nurturing of all people including men to get support and find resources to handle the circumstances of life. If the worldview becomes one of support for every human being the rate of such vicious crimes may decrease.

    • Some very interesting personal perspective, Kaaren, about the combination of immaturity, trauma and power.
      I think your point about processing emotions is very important– as is support for all (certainly an aspect of nurturance).
      Perhaps this might help us to avoid the terrible waste and pain caused by such assaults. Although I also think it may be difficult to train men in violence and at the time ask them to process their emotions in a way that does no violence to women. This is one of the reasons why I think re-linking power and nurturance–and returning some power to women in this arean– is important.
      Thanks for this pointed comment, Kaaren.

  6. This article brought me to tears, as it probably has to many others. I believe that as women we feel the pain that is brought upon our sisters, even if it has not happened to us. I have known women who have been assulted and I have watched them push and shove the pain deep inside themselves so they will not have to process through what they are feeling (guilt, rage, shame). In time they become completely disconnected with their bodies. I have read that in the criminal justice system a rapist will get less time then a thief: this shows that things and money are more important than women and our lives.

    Although I have never experienced physical abuse I intuitively feel a sense of anger toward the social environment that produces men that behave this way. It seems like women need a chance to roar, to express the anger that has been bottled up. Just like a mama bear who fiercely protects her cubs, it is time to show the world that we are pissed off and have had enough.

    • Thanks for your powerful personal comment, Jessica. Your compassion toward your abused sisters is a healing dynamic– every woman who is attacked constrains the freedom of all of us. We cannot afford such losses in ourselves or any woman who loses touch with her body–and thus her very sense of who she is.
      We need as you point out to honor our anger in this–as we take back our power to care for and protect one another and more than human lives from violence and violation.

  7. I am torn after reading this as one side of me grieves for those who have been violated so deeply and yet, I have hope because of the women who are taking a stand and taking back their power. It is very interesting that in non-dominator societies rape is non-existent. It my hope that we too will get to that level someday. Women are now beginning to understand that to beak from their biology doesn’t make them equal to men. It only serve to alienate them from themselves. Through reconnection with our bodies and embracing the power of nurturance that we all possess we can begin to take back our power and our rightful place in this world. Partnership and nurturance are the antecdotes to the dominator society and as more groups such as the Thirteen Gransmothers, The Greenbelt Movement, Guardians of the future and many others come forward and bring awareness the more we can move into a truly equal community.

    • Thanks for a well worded and powerful comment, Kathleen. I agree that to break with our bodies does not make us equal to men–only alienated from ourselves. I think that grief and hope often must go hand in hand these days. Grief because of the violence in our society and also because humans can do better– which is also the basis of our hope. Thanks for your personal passion in this regard.

  8. Patriachal societies do not value the connection between sexualility and one’s spirit, but instead connect sexuality with violence and dominance.

  9. I found the connection to women as rape victims to mother earth as a victim of being similarly violated to be compelling.

  10. The incidence of rape against women in American is a testament to how America values their women. I think the studies say one in four women in America is raped or molested. I think those numbers are probably higher now. There are men in my family who say that the subjugation of women has been around forever since God created man and Eve committed the first sin. It is a frustrating cycle of non communication that I have to walk away from because of their ethnocentric preconceived notions. My brother, who witnessed our own mother being abused, makes comments about his own wife like “She isn’t worth the sweat off of my balls”. And my Mother supports these comments….I fear that the commonality of such devaluation of women is fervent in colonizer mentalities. And although discouraging, it just makes my vigilance towards teaching my sons how valuable women are, stronger. And makes the fire in my fight towards social justice, hotter.

    • Thank you for sharing your “fire towards social justice” , Valerie. This is something we all need. I applaud your stance within your family and your work to change with your sons. I have no doubt you are modeling something very different for them.
      I have seen women in your mother’s position side with perpetrators not only out of personal fear, but out of a sense of self which cannot admit abuse– a kind of logic that says there MUST have been a reason for such pain. Also, those who are disempowered socially may feel they can gain power by allying with those who are more powerful.
      I do think, however, that your mother managed to pass on some strength to you in spite of her personal situation– you got that fire somewhere!
      I think the issue of colonialism is an important one here–there is not only the direct subjugation of those taken over by colonial regimes, there is the “internal colonialism” that has complex psychological and economic survival tactics at its base and create the impulse to side with one’s abusers.
      There is some real work we have to do to dismantle this. Congratulations on your personal courage in challenging this.

  11. Once I wanted to write a poem called “Fear Rituals”. As I studied sexual violence in more depth it occured to me how much we as women are taught from childhood rituals that are aimed at keeping us safe. Things such as avoiding eye contact with men so they don’t think we’re “interested”, holding a key between our fingers, locking (and checking that lock) doors and windows behind us even if we are just going back in the house to grab our sunglasses, watching what we wear, not going in an elavator with a man alone (or stairwells), keeping our drinks with us, staying in “packs”, and so very much more! The act of sexual violence against a woman NEVER has anything to do with the womans choices. Violence is a choice.

    Looking at women in reducing assults is no better then our focus on poor third world women as the destroyers of the planet because they have too many children. Both are the wrong focus, and if we continue to do so both will solve nothing.

    • Excellent points, Shawna. I think it is a sad thing that we need to teach our daughters such “fear rituals” in order to keep themselves safe. It is very true that changing women’s behavior is not the way to stem this of violence.

  12. Reflecting on this article, I keep coming back to how deeply our society is rooted in dominance and power-hierarchies. It is not enough for patriarchs to suppress women and nature institutionally—their power must dominate in all aspects of life, so much that the very act which creates new life has been reduced to a means of violence. I want to let myself get angry about these injustices, these ethical wrongdoings. It is so tempting to be filled with hate because I live in a place where “the links between power and nurturance are broken, so that those who nurture others have little power or status. And those with power use it without any sense of service or care.” I want to seek out every person who has been abused and tormented by this structuring of society and take away all his or her pain, but I cannot. And I will not let myself be filled with hate. That would just be giving more power to the oppressors by affirming their tactics of hatred. What I will do is continue to nurture, continue to love, and continue to admire and model my standard of action off that of our true heroes “who are both fully empowered and nurturing.”

    • This is a profound and moving statement, Kirsten. Your anger shows your passion for a better world, and your compassion for others is far from helpless (though it cannot undo the pain of so many) — but it empowers you, setting you in community with those who suffer at the same time that it replaces the hate that would give the dominators power over you.
      I am touched by your resolve in your last statement. And after all, modeling your behavior after such authentic heroes is a way of becoming a model for others in turn–as you are with these words, for instance.

  13. Rape is an ugly, ugly thing. Fortunately, in my life, I have not had to experience anything like rape, and hopefully I will never have to. I have experienced many friends in abusive relationships, though, and it saddens me. What saddens me the most, though, is how many times I’ve tried to help a friend out of an abusive situation, and it’s almost like trying to help an alcoholic or drug user to get clean/sober. Until they are ready in their lives to say enough is enough, many of them just keep going back. Why so many men in this world get such gratitude from being controlling and overpowering is beyond me. It is just something I will never understand.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Amber–and for standing beside your abused friends. They truly need you–and even if you can’t get them to leave right them, you are providing seeds of ideas that they may be able to grasp in the future. You may well know that the most dangerous time for women/children in an abusive relationship is when they decide to leave. Check into our UNITE link under women’s issues if you like– there is a pdf on activism to prevent violence toward women.

  14. As a veteran, I have seen women being denigrated by their fellow military members, but I have also seen men stand up to those who treat women as inferior. Unfortunately, I have also heard men (including my ex-husband) talking about how women don’t belong in the military, how it’s unfair that the men have to cover for the women who are pregnant and unable to do their jobs, and how women tend to get promoted more often than the men. It’s very easy to see those same men taking out their anger and frustration on their female coworkers during a deployment, and I know for a fact that most military women would refuse to report a rape if one happened. After all, the situation would be elevated through the military’s chain of command, and no amount of “sensitivity training” will guarantee that the male commander will take the complaint seriously. In the military, women are often viewed as morale boosters for the men, and not all of the men can see past that.

    • Thank you for sharing your firsthand perspective here, Roxanne. It is hopeful that some men are siding against violence toward women; it is also distressing that most women would fail to report a rape in the context in which a commander’s good will and awareness cannot be counted on. It seems we need some women-based groups to set up processes to care for women injured in these ways as well as to help prevent domestic violence and rape among military women. No woman should be isolated from recourse in the face of such violence– which isolation is also a way of encouraging violence against her. I wonder what happened as a result of the Congressional hearings that were supposed to be looking into this issue.

  15. This essay was very moving. I hate hearing the stories of how women have been taken advantage of and been abused in such irreversible ways. It’s hard to imagine for me, what kind of a man would do such a thing. I have been extraordinarily blessed by the men in my life and have never been close to a man who would do something like that to me.

    I would be interested in studying the minds and the life stories of convicted rapists. See what they all have in common and see what causes them to feel the need to rape or abuse women. There must be some common trends among men and some way that we can help them to not be that way. I don’t know what it would be or why anyone would do that. But it’s obviously a problem and it is definitely not something that is natural or normal. There must be something wrong in their psyche which gets them to that point. I don’t even know really where I’m going with this, but it just seems like since the problem is obviously with the men who do the raping, maybe there is something that needs to change in our society to make them not be that way anymore. So that women won’t have to fight so hard against them, we could just be as we are and be equal.

    It’s an interesting perspective to think of our sex organs as what exactly they are and what they are meant for. They are meant for both the continuation of life and for pleasure. Neither of those purposes even show a glimmer of violence or abuse, yet that is what it has come to. It’s sad that this specific and most precious part of our bodies is one of the most common sources of abuse. It’s a way for men to dominate and show their power and control, I would imagine most in most cases the only reason they are even able to have control is the mere fact they they are typically physically stronger and the woman is just unable to overcome his strength. That really is no measure of actual dominance. Taking that single aspect away, there is no other reason why a man should consider himself worthy of dominating over a women.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful response, Alyssa. It is true that nothing in our biology is linked to abuse or violence as far as sexuality goes. Indeed, the opposite it true, in that human sexuality is linked to the bonding that helps hold families and groups together.
      I think there is definitely something that needs to change in our society so that women can “just be as we are and be equal”– a wonderful vision that can be enacted in reality, since there have been societies like this in the past.
      It is great that you have been so blessed in your life: Jackson Katz works with men who want to help prevent violence toward women. We need men joining this change!

  16. Growing up the child of an uneducated, poor single mother in Trinidad, I myself am the victim of sexual abuse. Worse, it seems every female friend that I have has suffered some form of emotional, sexual or physical abuse at the hands of men, and I am begining to wonder if it is the norm rather than the exception. Not only, according to the article, is it multi-generational, but multi-cultural, and multi-ethnic, and although the stories are different, and uniquely painful, they both share common threads of emotion. Similarly, such experiences trigger modes of behavior which also tend to share commonalities. For instance, my first real relationship was with a much older man with abusive tendencies. I still see him around today, and I am always happy to now be aware of where I was psychologically when I purposely chose such a life for myself. Spreading awareness is essential. Too often we women start becoming competitive in response to a society which encourages and rewards such behaviour. But any joys attained through such means are always short-lived, and I feel that we should strive to be more cooperative in our efforts.

    • I am sorry that you have had to live with this Hannah. I think you are right that there is a terrible epidemic of such abuse. Thank you for the courage to share your story with us. Congratulations on your courage in “purposely choosing a life” for yourself. Moreover your courage is a model for other suffering women who are wrestling with living through such pain.
      Spreading awareness is essential– the kind of awareness you have given us the gift of sharing here. Thank you!

  17. I think that one of my strongest urges, as a mother, will be to protect my daughter from this kind of abuse. I think the last statistic I heard was that 4 out of every 10 girls will be molested before age twelve. Why? How can this be? How can mothers keep this from happening to their daughters? Little girls are so unlikely to tell, because they worry about the feelings of their mothers and of their molesters, who might be family members or people who they will be afraid to upset or betray. Ironic that a little person will be so protective over those who have failed to protect her; so hesitant to betray her betrayer.

    • Indeed, Michele. Children have much to teach us about love–and they are so vulnerable in their dependence on us. And one of the hardest things a mother can face is the inability to protect her child. Good for you for being on your daughter’s side in this way.

  18. This article is very shocking and disturbing to me. It’s hard to believe people are getting away with these rapes, and that women are not reporting them. It makes me wonder how many rapes go unreported each day. This is a particularly difficult crime to prove, because many times the women don’t go to the doctor right away, and don’t tell anyone. In the past I knew two women who had narrowly escaped being raped. In one case, the man who tried to abduct my friend was later seen on television being charged with the murder of a 14 year old girl. This was very disturbing because we all realized what would have most likely happed to our friend if she had not escaped. These types of crimes are not always easy to get a conviction for, so many time I think women feel it’s pointless to report. Also, there is the shame and embarrassment of having been victimized, so they don’t enjoy the attention they get as a result. On campuses, the problem is particularly bad. In Florida, where I grew up, University of Florida in Gainesville has a huge amount of campus rapes every year. Many of them are perpetrated in a gang format by local fraternities. In some fraternities, there is actually competition and a tally kept between frats. Freshmen girls are particularly vulnerable, because of their trusting nature, low tolerance for alcohol, and naivety due to living with their parents up until that point. It seems college campuses and like candy stores for would be rapists, due to their high concentration of young beautiful girls, low police level, sprawling areas of dark wooded areas, and rampant alcohol consumption.

    • You have adding to the list of shocking circumstances here, Joshua. All the more support for the fact that we need to change a society in which sex and violence are so linked.

  19. I myself have never been a victim of sexual assault, nor have I known anyone else who has been a victim, so I have never had any personal experience with this sort of horrific tragedy. Hearing these stories of assaults so close to home, and knowing they occur all the time in our society, is a frightening knowledge to have. How can we as women feel safe in our own homes and towns? We shouldn’t have to always be so on guard that we may be the next victim. We should be able to live in a society where we can trust our neighbors and the people in our communities. I understand, only now as an adult, why my parents always wanted to know where I was and that I was safe. Why they spent so much time lecturing me about having a buddy, and not talking to strangers as a youth. I only now am starting to wonder how my mother ever went to sleep at night when I was not at home safe in my bed. I shudder to think of the worry she must have endured, and I can only imagine what it would be like to have a daughter of my own. I feel like I would be more worried for her than for myself, and how could I ever let her go?

    • Thanks for sharing your personal experience, Megan. It is part of this tragedy of violence that all women and their families are effected by it–because it creates an atmosphere of fear in this culture. I hope that our collective awareness can begin to change this.

  20. I am and always will be an advocate against sexual violence towards women. OSU was just recently on the news because there was a sexual assault in one of the dorms. Part of the reaction taken to address this leans heavily on RAs to do increased rounds, even though I don’t think this will significantly help decrease the amount of sexual assaults in the dorms I am 100% behind the new plan because I personally have female residents who do not feel safe anymore because of the assault. If my actions in my job can help restore that feeling of safety and security I will do my best every day.

  21. The number of woman and men who are victims of sexual assault and that do not come forward is telling in regard to substantiating the theories in this article. The descriptions of woman being cross examined for reporting sexual assault, and the fact that many people including women believe that woman bring it on themselves; a mentality that is rampant in some Middle Eastern and African nations is devastating and atrocious. Cross examining female victims of sexual assault and then providing misguided advice about being a better wife to avoid abuse in the future is a lesser version of stoning a woman buried to her head in the sand because she was raped. Our nations military as well people at large believe similar ideologies and take similar actions that are further abusive to the victim although to a lesser degree than those who punish a victim by death for being assaulted. I have not thought about government and politics in relation to mothering and the power to nurture before reading this article. Pondering the differences between our government and many European governments with the subject of this article in mind, you can see where some governments are far more nurturing than others. Sweden is a place where the people as a whole and the earth alike are nurtured, nourished and are protected. Through land use and planning as well as other environmentally focused mandates, the Swedish Government seems to regulate nourishment and mothering of the earth and of the people quite well. I wonder how they treat victims of sexual assault, perhaps this too is with a nurturing touch. We really need to step up to the plate and holistically change our ways as a nation, as the result might be better health for us and the earth as well as increased happiness. We are lucky that we have so many examples of nurturing active communities around the world to learn from. We should recognize that we know nothing, as was done by one of the grandmothers with her teapot analogy, and fill up our teapot together, and with the knowledge of others successes so that we may achieve our own.

    • I like your consideration of the links (and breakages) between power and nurturance in terms of applying it to the nurturing levels of different governments, Lizzy. I am especially concerned when those in the current US political campaign are discredited (as “socialists”) when they bring up ways for us to care for one another. I don’t know how we expect to hold this nation together without such care– it only benefits the interests of a very few to keep us separated from one another.
      I would hazard a guess that victims of sexual assault are also treated more compassionately in nurturing countries. You might also be interested to learn that a few years back, Sweden conducted an all out campaign against spanking, re-educating parents with other ways to discipline their children, based on the idea that the former only gives children the idea that violence is the way to settle disputes that stays with them as they grow into adulthood.
      Thanks for your comment

  22. It’s a sad reflection of our criminal justice system that so few women trust it enough to report their assaults. I’ve known too many women who have been raped or otherwise assaulted, but only one who actually reported the attack. The trauma of sexual assault is enough on its own without the criminal justice system adding to it, rather than helping as it should.

    I have to say that Firestone’s insistence that women should separate themselves from their biological nature (i.e. basically having babies born outside the human body altogether) kind of creeps me out–does that remind anyone else of Huxley’s “Brave New World”? It sounds too much like adopting the patriarchal paradigm that feminism was supposed to shun. It also justifies the mistaken sense that a woman’s natural capabilities somehow make her inferior to a man, rather than celebrating her ability to bring new life into the world. None of us would be here without that feminine ability–we would do well to remember that. (Obviously, men have a role to play, too, but theirs is not devalued in that sense.)

    • The trauma of sexual assault, is, as you state, enough on its own without being re-traumatized by the criminal justice system in reporting a rape: your own experience citing the disparity between reporting and assault is a powerful example of the results of an insensitive system.
      I’m with you on Firestone’s proposal– we have seen all too well the results of separating ourselves from our biological nature in the modern world.

    • I think Firestone’s ideas permeated our society in the last thirty years, women who stayed home to raise children were looked down upon by the working women. These working women began to take on the personas of the white working male and their thinking became “I am better than you” mentality against other women. I think this still exists a great deal in contemporary society, but gladly I see more and more deserved recognition of the value of motherhood and nurturing of children.

      • Such a trend is good news, Deborah. I don’t think we will ever make any headway in positive change by attempting to abandon our bodies (after all, isn’t that what the media tells us to do already– you may know that models are characteristically unable to conceive, since they lack the requisite amount of body fat to get pregnant– seems our evolution has put a nix on starving mothers). Nor will we make such true progress in being dividing from one another (again, don’t we have enough of this in a dualistic and hierarchical society?)

  23. Unfortunately our military is a great example of a male dominated patriarchal society. The mentality is to follow orders or instructions without question at anytime and predominatley those of higher rank are male. Women are filling more diverse roles in the military than any other time in history, but the mindset of women in the military still tends to be that they should be relegated to certain roles or jobs. I think if I were in a male dominated field such as the military, I would probably feel pressure to “buck up” and be more like the guys and role with the punches so to speak. Unfortunately, that is why some women may choose to “keep quiet”. Rape seems to be another example of dominance and control through violence, just in a different form but something that societies have practices for years.
    The thought that society sees women as weak, because they are strong, or weak because we bear children and nuture those around us, is appalling. Who does man think guided and nutured them throughout their early years…most likely it was a strong woman.

    • I like the strength in your own statement here, Deborah. No one ever said discrimination was rational. I know that breaking into these male dominated fields is difficult for women who are expected to “fall in line”. There is also the Southern corporation who made it a condition of employment that women sign a statement saying they would not get pregnant (or if they did, would abort), since they were afraid the toxics they manufactured might initiate a law suit. In fact, we now know that toxics effect the male reproductive system as well–and the only way to protect against exposure to infants is to protect against exposure to parents.
      Thanks for your comment.

    • The military does need structure to function because of its size so it would be impossible for anything to get done if the soldiers did not “Buck Up” and there are women currently in the military that are holding their own.

      • There is a difference between structure and oppressive structure: some structures can motivate more ethical behavior than others– and there is also an “informal” culture that exists in any formal organization.
        Having more women in the military will perhaps help this situation. Thanks for your comment.

  24. This deep wound of our culture in the form of rape and sexual abuse affects women, men and children. This affects everyone in a society. This is one of the most heinous of the acts perpetuated by patriarchy along with the minimizing of women and nurturing, because as Anabella Aspiras and Madronna showed in the examples of women who have experienced these forms of violence there is not only a physical rape but also a rape of the soul. The statistics of sexually and physically abused women and children are staggering in our country and not often addressed in the media. I don’t believe that if brought to the surface of the primetime news flood, people would look the other way. One of the key points in the essay is the judicial system or rather lack of a judicial system that does too often blame the victim and looks the other way.
    I have never been a big supporter of Shulamith Firestone’s answer to birth and motherhood. To me there is nothing wrong or needed to be corrected in natural mothering and childbearing other than the demonizing that has gone on with patriarchy. I am more in line with radical feminism that seeks to fundamentally change the predominant patriarchal society so women can be women in the fullest meaning.
    I Love the image that comes to mind and heart with the Raging Grannies, a sage feminine strength to be reckoned with.

    • Your phrasing of the “deep wound” at the heart of our culture in rape and sexual abuse is an apt one–indicating the healing we need over this. Simply submerging it, as you note, creates a deeper infection in terms of our relationships with one another.
      I agree with you about Firestone: I think hers is a response that only deepens the alienation stemming from the idea that our bodies are the problem.
      The Raging Grannies are delightful!
      Thanks for your comment, Maureen.

  25. Empowering women and reminding them that nature gifted us the ability to nurture is the first step. I think patriarchal societies fear that women will discover their true strength in the power to nurture and prevail which is why they have oppressed women for so long. sexual assault is another way to dominate over woman and I think its another way that demonstrates the fear that men have of women gaining control. Although I believe in equality, I think that womens ability to nurture is more powerful than anything men have to offer and, unfortunately, it will continued to be downplayed and diminished through oppression and assault until we- the women- grasp and accept our empowerment and use it to its fullest power.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more on the point of needing to resume our power, Ely. I also think that though we can take small and important steps in this direction as individuals, we need to do this as a community of women. I am also heartened by the work that certain men are doing to help prevent assaults on women. Thanks for your own empowering comment.

    • I agree with you completely, very well said. And Madronna, I too am thankful for the men that see women in the light that they should and work towards prevention.

    • It is hard to deny that having the ability to nurture other is very powerful because in reality you are passing on life.

  26. I would love to live in a society where the idea of rape was not even a known act, one that is truly ‘unthinkable.’ I am very fortunate and blessed to say that I myself have never been the victim of such an awful thing, I only wish I could say the same for every other woman.

    Two of my very close friends have been attacked in ways similar to those described, and it is true, that they both live and percieve life very differently than before such a tragedy. Trust is lost, fear is a constant and steady emotion, and the pain will never really fade.

    I have attended a number of seminars or special guest hearings that tell such heart-wrenching stories and promote the awareness of such activity, and I agree entirely that we should work towards a more nuturing society, one that can do without such terrible crimes.

    • I am sorry that your friends suffered such a personal tragedy, Chamae. Your support obviously means a great deal to them!
      This is something we must all work to prevent. I like that there is a campaign now at the University of Oregon to get men to walk dark areas around campus– to “step up” and refuse to be bystanders to attacks on women.

  27. A very close friend of mine was raped a few years ago. She told my girlfriend about it happening, and my girlfriend tried to get her to go to the police make a report and press charges. My friend refused to go, and it took her boyfriend, my girlfriend, and myself all three telling her that she needed to do it, and she eventually did. She said she was afraid that the police wouldn’t believe her, or they’d look down on her. When she finally talked to them, they were quite the opposite. However, I know that isn’t always the case with sexual assaults. I’ve always viewed any act like that as extremely offensive, because any victim is someone’s child, someone’s brother or sister, someone’s friend, someone’s mother or father, etc. I don’t understand the lack of empathy it takes to commit a crime like that.

    • Thank you for your support of this woman, John. Whenever a woman is supported in this way, it makes all women safer, thought I know it takes considerable courage to go to the police in a situation like this, many police departments (though sadly not all) have special training to deal with rape.

  28. Sexual assault is a very serious matter and is very life changing for the victim and there family. When I was younger my neighbor who was a couple of years older then me was raped by another boys dad who lived down the street. It was shocking to the entire neighborhood because a lot of the kids in the neighborhood including myself went over to this mans house all of the time. The little girl now a young woman is changed for life but hopefully enough time has passed now that it is not something she has to relive everyday.

  29. My therapist once told me that “sometimes, there is power in vulnerability,” so I’m going to be somewhat vulnerable here in saying that I particularly relate to this article because I was molested when I was a young girl, and I have been raped twice. Throughout the years, I thought I handled it pretty well, and was one tough broad because of it. What I didn’t realize was that I was simply putting up walls around myself and not letting anyone in. Or, rather, I let few people in – people such as my son and my mom…and then my nephews came along. These boys worship the ground I walk on, and I worship the ground they walk on. We learn so much from each other – many times just by observing each other. Even though my life is very busy with school and work, I make time for them. I don’t have a lot of money, so I just make sure we spend quality time with them.

    I didn’t realize that I was actually teaching them how to stuff their feelings. That is, until my best friend and my last living grandpa passed away within months of each other. We were having a family dinner at my sister’s house, and both deaths hit me suddenly; I began to cry at the table. My two youngest nephews (at the time) looked at me, eyes wide, and started acting silly in an attempt to stop my crying. It was in that moment that I realized they were freaked out because they had never seen me cry, and I knew that I had to change the way I related to people and begin to let my walls down. Now, if I’m having a bad day, I don’t hesitate to tell them I’m sad, nor do I try to stop myself from crying in front of them. I tell their parents not to stifle them if they cry because crying is a normal part of life.

    My point is, that with the trauma that happened to me, I lost the nurturer inside of me. I thought I was setting a good example for my nephews, but I was really only teaching them to distance themselves from their emotions (and the emotions of those around them). Now, I teach them, through modeling, to be compassionate, and that it is all right to be nurturing. It is all right to care for each other – that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

    I also see the correlation between the objectification of women and the objectification of the Earth in this article. I always say, “You can only rape a woman for so long before she starts fighting back.” And that is exactly what Mother Earth is doing. We have raped her of her lifeforce for so long that she has lost some of her nurturing power. She is beginning to stand up for herself and take back some of her power. We need to nurture her and she, in turn, will nurture us.

    • I am so sorry to hear of your personal traumas, Kim. I think all of us much work for the day when NO one will share that kind of story of abuse, since it will be unheard of. Meanwhile, I appreciate your remarkable courage and strength in honoring the good power of your feelings–and modeling the same for your nephews. It is wonderful that you have rediscovered your inner nurturer– so that you can nurture yourself as well as others.
      And just because of your statement about vulnerability, you might be interested to know that there is an essay on this site about the importance of vulnerability in creating community: https://holdenma.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/vulnerability-and-community//

  30. Thank you. Indeed, the hardest part was being able to nurture myself again. Once I was able to do that, nurturing others became easy. Thank you for the link; I’m going to read the article right now.

  31. The article hit many topics that are concerning to me. Domestic violence and sexual assault are topics that I have always felt were more than just gender issues. Acts of domestic violence and sexual assault are usually framed in the context of the victim and the assaulter. When really it has an impact on not just the victim but the victim’s family, friends, and everyone she has come in to contact with. The article said that there were not a lot of women who don’t report on sexual assault in the military but it really is not just the military. I just completed my volunteer training for CARDV. During the training that domestic violence we found out that it is more active in our community than most would think. The system is also hard to go through as well. I can see why the victim in the parents did not want the victim to go to court. It is a big strain to have to go through court and justify the claims of sexual assault.

  32. This story was very sad and eye-opening to me. I was alarmed to learn of how many unreported acts of rape there are, even in today’s world of victim advocates and anonymous reporting. I would hope that the military has become more aware of such rapes occuring and has stringent consequences. This was also a wake-up call to illustrate there is domination that still exists in our society. We tend to have the view that men are superior to women and if we continue to have this attitude in our society, women will continue to be discriminated against and not get equal opportunities. We have to raise our daughters to be powerful and self-sufficient and constantly aware. Nurturing cannot end at birth, it must be exhibited throughout a lifetime.

    • Great perspective on our responsibility to our daughters, Shaylene. Unfortunately, the epidemic of violence against women continues. Last year’s CDC survey found that one in three women in the US have been subjected to abuse at the hands of someone close to them.
      As you indicate, this “silent” epidemic must be stopped-and nurturing our daughters as both family and community is an important step in the right direction.

    • Shaylene, I really like how you said that, “nurturing cannot end at birth and must be exhibited throughout a lifetime.” I thought that was really nice. I too, found this article to be every eye opening. It is sad that so many rape cases are unreported and hard to track. As a side note, I also find it quite sad that our entertainment industry is producing shows like Law and Order SUV as a form of nightly entertainment, when in reality this is NOT entertainment and is a really serious issue.

  33. I can relate all to well with this essay. I wish I could say other wise but I have experienced the abuse at the hands of men three different times in my life. First with my brother, then with my ex-husband, and then by a date. It has taken a lot to forgive and let go but it is never gone. In my family you don’t discuss such things, it is like the family shame. At family gatherings everyone acts like nothing is wrong. I am cordial to my oldest brother for the sake of my family but other than when the family gets together I do not have anything to do with him. I did not begin to even heal until I met my husband that I am married to now. He helped me talk about things and spend many a nights crying on his shoulder. I am very lucky to have him. But through it all there are certain things you just can’t erase entirely. I think the biggest thing that helped me is when I had my son. I used to fear having boys because what if they turned out like my brother. It wasn’t my parents fault he turned out the way he did so how was I supposed to make sure my son did not turn out that way. I spent my entire pregnancy in total anxiety of the son I was carrying but what I finally realized when I held that perfect little angel in my arms is there are no guarantees in life and all I could do is love him the best I can. I still struggle at times but life is what you make of it and I don’t plan on letting my past ruin my future.

    • Thank for sharing your grief as well as your outstanding courage here. I am so sorry that you had to suffer in the way that no woman should ever have to suffer. You are blessed with your husband–and with an obviously powerful heart and spirit. Your son is blessed to have such a mother and you are doing all that each of us can do for our children.
      Thanks again for bringing this issue home to us with your personal story.
      The one thing that I am concerned about (and you may be as well) is that your brother have no more access to young girls.

    • I’m so sorry to hear of all the pain you have suffered. I, too, am a survivor of abuse, and I imagine there are more of us out there than we’ll ever know. I have a daughter and two sons, and I have always educated them about their bodies being their own and telling them that it’s sometimes okay to tell an adult (or peer) no. We practice lots of scenarios together and I help them understand the ways in which perpetrators groom children. They are young still, so I do it in an age-appropriate manner. But I think it’s important for them to have lots of tools because the numbers speak very loudly about their chances of them being in a situation like that.

      I applaud your courage for talking about it here. It is a difficult subject, and women have been quiet about it for too long. As you say, there are no guarantees in life, but I think your experiences will help you remain conscious as you raise your son. It sounds like you have a wonderful husband who is helping support you in dealing with such painful experiences. You are all lucky to have each another.

      • Thanks for sharing this supportive response from another woman who has been there, Staci. I am so sorry that you suffered in this way as well. Your personal courage in your life choices, the way you are teaching your children, and your own sharing of your story are all important in countering the current epidemic of violence toward women. Thanks for being part of this healing process.

  34. Rape and molestation are epidemic these days. Your opening story about a girl who was raped in college mirrored someone I knew in college. She came from a good family, was athletic and beautiful, and part of the popular crowd. Then one day, everything changed. She wouldn’t socialize, her behavior radically changed, she hated men and would not be alone with them, etc. Eventually she dropped out of college, got kicked out of her parents house for doing drugs, and was living on the street I think.

    It is a scary thing, I know, for a victim to confront their abuser without the guarantee that they will have true justice. But for their sanity they have to say something. They have to fight back. For our legal system, we have to be tougher on these offenders and make this offense so scary that the fear of being caught stops them dead in their track.

  35. As a woman, a mother and a child of this earth reading this article spurs many emotions for me. I can relate to the mother in court who’s standing next to her daughter whose innocent has been ripped away; the same as I stand next to a tree who is being torn down because some one needs to make an extra dollar today. Violation is what I feel; but mostly I feel powerless.

    Recently there was an article in my local newspaper that spoke of two inncodence of rape on a law school campus, and all the powers at be were struggling to find justice for the young women who were violated. Their hands were tied so to speak, the laws protect the violator and the victims just stood by and became invisible. This is how I see our earth as it is being violated and all for money. This is all very sad.

    • It is very sad, Danielle. At the same time, perhaps it will give you a sense of hope that you are not alone in your care, and though there are so very many challenges to face, there are many working to face them in inspiring ways!

    • I am also taking Women and Natural Resources and Native American Environmental Ethics. I read about so many bad things that I feel, metaphorically speaking, my head might explode. Therefore, I need solice. Thus, I have been listening to these podcasts. The following sites are my gifts to you when you feel bad. The first one has two types of podcasts. The music ones are interviews with people who use music to make a difference. The other podcasts connect spirituality and socil change.


      The second one is from a gentle Druid who cares about the environment. Even if you are not a Druid, you will love his podcasts.


      Hope you enjoy my gifts to you and replenish yourself.

  36. As an extremely inquisitive person, I went to Penny Coleman’s site. One of the articles that she has written about was about a man so damaged by his wartime experiences that he said “When it got really bad, I dumped 5 times of sand into my basement to remind me of Afghanistan.” I found it hurtful that he was so damaged that he felt that he had to do this.

    Within the essay, I found it healing that the Iroquois council of women approved or disapproved all political decisions according to their effects on future generations. I find this behavior hopeful because it means that making terrible decisions is not innate in human nature and culture. Therefore, conditions can change if enough people strive to do so.

    • Hello again, “extremely inquisitive” Lenore. I appreciate your sharing the additional details from Penny Coleman and the affirmation of hope from the Iroquois process.
      The fact that so many human societies have leavened power with nurturance with power and given social power to nurturers brings us all hope for change.

    • Hi Lenore! Thank you for sharing the podcasts and the information off of Penny Coleman’s website. Military PTSD is something that seems to be more prevalent, or discussed more, these days. I find it incredibly sad.

      I also really enjoyed your take on the Iroquois council of women and how it shows that change isn’t impossible. I agree with you that if enough people are willing to make a change, that change will happen!

      • Perhaps military PTSD is simply more talked about (let us hope that that also means more appropriately treated– it seems we still have some problems in that regard). But I have heard stories of such PTSD on the part of soldiers in every battle the US has engaged in beginning with WWI.

  37. I really like how you said that “making terrible decisions is not innate in human nature and culture.” I think that can sometimes be hard for people to remember when we’re surrounded by so much violence in our ‘entertainment’ and media, and in the many acts of violence that are committed on a daily basis. But it’s true! As people we have an incredible capacity for good, and as we recognize that no real power can be exercised without nurturance, we will be able to use that capacity for good more fully.

    • Thank you for your response, Samanatha– as you indicate, hope and the support for our ethical capacity go hand in hand. I like the fact that elders said traditional Chehalis stories would both “tell you how to get along with one another” and “how to take care of yourselves”– that is the link between ethics and care (and self-care) in a nutshell.

  38. This was a difficult article to read in the sense that it shared terrible and sad stories. I can’t image having to pick up the pieces after an event like those mentioned occurred. I can see why families of abuse victims have just as difficult a time recovery as the victims themselves.

    It was interesting to read the opinion of Firestone, who says the only way for women to be equal with men is to erase our nurturing characteristics. As if snubbing out compassion makes women more male? I’m not quite sure I understand that concept completely, but it has been interesting to think about. I agree that we need to “take back the power to nurture.” I think our dominator society sees compassion and nurturing as a weakness, and these characteristics must be seen as a strength!

    • These stories are terrible–and also powerful in that they give voice to those who suffered–and indicate the ability of those suffering in this way to survive to compose their stories, share them, and thus engage, alert and empower others. Firestone’s idea was about snubbing out the physical vulnerability due to giving birth.
      I don’t agree that we have to change our biological nature in order to empower women– I agree with you that compassion and nurturing are strengths human societies cannot do without.

  39. It is my hope that the social atmosphere that allows the violation of women will someday be changed so that the issue in these essays are no longer current: but unfortunately, we have no yet reached that point. Here is a comment forwarded to me by a student this winter (2013):
    Rape is all too real and a very scary thing. I was once a victim of attempted rape, and like many women, I never confided in anyone, until it was years later and I had suppressed most of the event. I have always suffered with body image, self esteem and depression but after this happened to me, I became completely numb to the world. I withdrew even more from my friends and family and even attempted to take my own life a few times. It wasn’t until I was in therapy that I finally began to accept that what happened to me was not my fault and that I should not punish myself for it. Once I began to put the past behind me and acknowledge the trauma, I finally was able to move on.

    • This is so sad to read. My mind immediately goes to my sisters, aunts, and nieces and how I hope they never have to experience anything like that. I think a lot of women believe that it will never happen to them and I can see how that idea alone would increase the fear and terror associated with rape. If you have never been violated, it is a difficult feeling to describe. I have had my house broken into and a police women came to file a report. She was very concerned for me and described the type of feelings I might encounter afterwards. She said that many people feel as if they had been raped (not to negate the actual act) because of the intense violation you feel. I was powerless and terrified that whoever did it would come back. Even now the thought is in my head 3 years later, every time I lock up my house to leave. And although a house being broken into is not even comparable to rape, I think the feelings and emotions could be. Because of this, I think I am more aware of the “what ifs” and what could happen, instead of thinking it will never happen to me. It is heartbreaking that women have to even think this way and take precautions to protect themselves because the numbers of this crime continue to rise.

      • It’s hard to think that one day I will hopefully be a father who loves his children very much and it’s scary to think that i may have a girl or girls that something like this could happen to them. I can’t protect them from everything, but i certainly can try. I think that the fact that they don’t share who or that they’ve been raped is because these people threaten to take their lives or find them again and it scares these women into thinking that they will do it again or worse kill them. It’s the feeling that someone who you didn’t know was in you house going through your belongings which could put a similar fear in your head that those people who have been near or experienced rape.

      • It is great that you had such a sensitive police woman come to your house to help you to deal with the feelings that came up around this. It is even more important that all police personnel are trained to such sensitivity with respect to sexual assaults.
        Thanks for sharing this.

  40. It is so scary to think that this happens to women and children every day. I just read a report about a women in Mexico who heard her 17 yr old daughters cries from outside her own house. Her daughter had been gang raped and mutilated, dying at the hospital shortly afterwards. The cowards dropped her off in front of her house where she was able to tell her mother at least one of her attacker’s names. It turned out he was a family friend. I see these reports in the news all the time and its not just in America, it is happening everywhere. I have emails from OSU about attacks and assaults that have happened on campus, at least three in the last couple of weeks. The most unnerving idea, is that women bring it upon themselves. How many times have we heard that “if women didn’t dress a certain way…”? I am embarrassed to be in a country that blames women for this crime and tries to enforce MAN made rules about our own bodies, of which men know very little about. We all know the controversy over the “legitimate rape” theory from our elected politicians, and yet, they are still presiding in office, still overseeing laws and passing bills, still in complete domination over women.

    • I think it is especially important to counter the attacks that happen in our own society–since our presence in this community allows us to do more about them. It is all too easy to think that such atrocities happen “over there” away from us.
      I also think it is important to counter the cultural dynamics that lead to rape anywhere. I Like to ponder the fact that some communities never even had a word for this, it was so inconceivable. I would like to see it become that inconceivable again.
      An essential first step is to get rid of this “asking for it” (or any version of the woman is responsible for her own rape) talk. Rape is a violent attack on the person of another and there is no way to excuse that! It was a hopeful point to me to see just how much political acceptance the politicians you mention lost after making their “legitimate rape” statements.

    • And I just want to add that it angers me that any woman has to bear the kind of fear that goes with knowing this happens to other women, whether or not she has herself been attacked.

    • Honestly this is never a women’s crime. They may dress a little over the top which attracts these male assultants, but that is never there intention to be raped while walking home from a club. That’s the last thought on there mind that night. Walking around campus at night you feel that this place is a safe and family place and then these assaults happen and now every women on campus has to question what type of guy is near them and whether they feel safe or not. Soon enough women on campus are going to start carrying knives which i say good for them, however, it makes them more pre-cautious which in turn can hurt them when it comes to meeting new people and making new friends.

      • Good point that this is never “a woman’s crime”– thanks for that, Jason. It isn’t “dressing over the top” that attracts assaults as much as the assailant’s assessment that they can get away with the crime– while many young women are raped, so are elderly women. I don’t think the substantial number of eighty year old women that are raped annually were dressing “over the top”.

    • That is unbelievable having your 17-year-old daughter was gang raped, mutilated and dies, then to find out this is a family friend. This makes me sick. I have also read many reports on women being raped and killed in Mexico. Monday The Senate will be voting on reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This law must pass!!

  41. What i find hard to believe is that if someone has been raped and emotionally damaged by the instance then how can they feel safe enough to nuture a child of their own. I can only imagine the amount of pain people who have been raped must go through. The example of the girl who cried continuously after she had been raped and her parents had to plan there schedules around each other so one of them could comfort her. I couldn’t imagine being a father to such a case and being there while you know that someone physically sexually assulted your daughter. It wouldn’t be a pretty site and i think every father would see red in his eyes.

    • Thank you for your compassionate reply, Jason. If more men empathized with victims of sexual assault as if those victims were their own daughters, sisters, or mothers, we might have less assaults. Although such violent men may have abusive relationships with all the women around them as well.
      As to how women can nurture others after they have been attacked, I know there are some courageous women out there who have worked to heal (our current quote of the week indicates an important take on this). For all those remarkable women who become survivors (or “thrivers”, to use the words of a friend of mine), we owe a good deal in the example of their personal power. I also think theinsight of psychiatrist James Hillman pertains directly to this issue. In working with those who had been abused, he found what mot helped them to heal was to help prevent the abuse of others.

    • People who have been raped do experience a lot of pain, some remain angry for a long time after it happens because of the pain they remember.

  42. The frequency of rape and abuse in this country is shocking and quite frightening. Living in a college town where I used to attend school, I would regularly receive emails from the University about assaults on or near campus. I no longer receive the emails as I am not attending the local school, but I know it is still going on. It is a helpless feeling I get when I can’t walk my dog after dark or stop at the gas station alone late although I am 20 year old able adult. I can only imagine how amplified that is for women that have suffered from rape or abuse.

    I think it is a great connection between the domination of women in this violent way and the domination of nature. Neither seem to ever fully recover from this abuse.

    • Thanks for your comment, Gina– it is important to remember, as you illustrate here, that when one woman is attacked, all of us suffer –and often contract our lives in our choices where we go– as a result.
      Yet another reason why we must work against such violence toward women.

  43. The start of this essay brought tears to my eyes as I think of the cases of domestic violence and rape that go unreported. I think the reason that they go unreported is because we live in a society that is run by men and the society is focused on dominance rather than on partnerships.

    • Thanks for your compassionate response here, Mary.
      As women, we need to support one another to stop such violence and also encourage men who support us in this (see the “Men Against Violence toward Women” on our links page.

  44. :Lest we doubt the epidemic nature of such violence against women here is a second response to me emailed by a student in the same class. That makes two out of the handful of women in this class– and how many more that carry such wounds with them in daily fear, since the attack on one women becomes fear each of us experience?
    As I quote this, I express sorrow for what this woman suffered as a child. This is inexcusable and a call for each of us, men and women, to use every chance we get to work against such violence– speaking out, for instance, whenever we hear something that demeans women.

    The student’s story:
    This essay brought tears to my eyes tonight. When I was younger, I was between the age of 4 and 6 years old, I was the victim of sex abuse and one of my sisters was raped by the same man that hurt me when she was 16. Fortunately, my mom put me through counseling as a child, especially when I moved back to the same house I was hurt in after being put in foster care. I talked to the school counselors. My sister ended up having a child as a result of what happened and I often considered my niece my angel.

    Despite what happened, I know there for a while I found it difficult to trust men and when I was in the 5th grade, I had my first male teacher (my mom suggested it) and I learned to trust men though there are ones that I still do not trust because I pick up on a quality in them that is kind of off.

  45. This topic is such a dark side of the current worldview. Assault against any marginalized group is terrible, but lately it seems as though the powers that be are really trying to marginalize women and the crimes against them. Recent events in India and comments by people in congress regarding this topic have been so disturbing. It’s imperative that these crimes are not minimized. Women must be empowered to speak. We must remove all stigma of shame and be righteous in our endeavor to eradicate these crimes of power. It is heartbreaking to think how many women cannot leave an abusive relationship because of the stigma of shame.

    • You have some powerful points, Sarah. I absolutely agree- and can only hope that as more people assume the kind of awareness and voice you express here, things will finally change.
      There is an insightful article in the latest Smithsonian– an interview with Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy in which she relates the personal violence against her, her personal courage, and her refusal to let it cloud her vision as to its implications for class divisions: Ron Rosenbaum, “The Next Revolution” in The Smithsonian, May 2013: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ideas-innovations/Mona-Eltahawy-on-Egypts-Next-Revolution-204121441.html.
      We have much to learn from such women.

    • Sarah,
      I have been following the events in India as well. It seems that it has taken a while for anyone to shed light on the damage that has been done there. I often have to read it in pieces because I can not get through a whole article without an overwhelming sadness.

  46. I feel for those who have been victimized. I grew up on a military base and I have heard of these kind of situations. It seems that it goes against everything we have been taught to stand up for. I have also seen domestic abuse first hand. It was almost impossible for anyone to believe that what I saw actually happened. It was as if people were wearing blinders, only choosing to see what they wanted.

    • Those blinders people wear are so detrimental to the prevention and intervention of these crimes. We are such a reactive society that we rarely think about ways to prevent such things so the cycle of abuse goes on and on. We spend more money on prisons and police force rather than putting more money in programs that educate and nurture the world. The media uses emotionally heavy words like terrorist and society reacts, but we glean over comments about rape and spousal abuse. There is something very wrong with that. Rape and abuse are crimes of terror too.

      • “Prevention” and “intervention”– two key actions in addressing these crimes, Sarah. Rape and other abuse are indeed “crimes of terror”, too. Thanks for reminding us of this. All women live with less freedom when any women is assaulted– and I can think of no more profound a consequence of terror than having to live in a home where abuse takes place.

    • I was honestly shocked to hear how much this happens in the military. It seems as though the people who are in the process of protecting our country and our lives are also ruining and abusing others. Is that atmosphere so horrible that it can turn brave and strong people into such cruel and violent people?

      • You are right to be shocked in this–and for the right reasons. It is time that we made our values consistent.
        Thoughtful question about the atmosphere here– I think this raises a real concern about the ways in which we view masculinity in this society.

    • I am sorry that you–or any child– had to see this in their homes. Let us all work to create a different cultural environment and soon!

  47. I also feel sad for those who have been victimized and feel like they cannot reach out because of our justice system. I feel that this article sheds light on the hopefulness that we can share when hearing these stories. This is a rampant issue globally as well. I recently read an article where Haiti survivors were continuously sexually assaulted, including children. Victims had no where to go or report to, and there was a low level of public protection. We must be ever mindful that these issues need to be spread and talked about if there is going to be change. I find hope that in Haiti social workers established a program for rape victims and are working to diminish this problem.

    • Thanks for your compassionate response: you have an opportunity to pass on education in these instances by responding whenever you hear anyone use abusive or demeaning language toward women.
      We do indeed need to exercise vigilance in order to create the hope you see for change!

  48. This beginning of this essay really saddened me because I personally know someone who has been in this position and the crazy part was that it was a family member. The majority of rapes that happen today are actually not from strangers, but someone the victim knows well. I find that so shocking and terrible I could never imagine trusting someone and then have them take everything from you. Honestly, it is a terrible thing to have it go unreported, but to I can see why it would happen. If I was ever in that position I would not want people to know it had happened to me. And yet that allows for the man to not be punish and go out to hurt more women. I believe men think they can do this because they see women as an item and not so much as a person with feelings.

    • I am sorry that your family member had to suffer in this way. You absolutely right to remind us that the vast majority of rapes are perpetrated by someone known to a victim– often, a family member. This is tragic indeed.
      We obviously need to work on prevention–and on changing any part of the legal system that implies blaming the victim. Thanks for your comment.

  49. I cannot imagine any woman who has not been victim or knows personally a victim of sexual crime. The stats are horrendous. (http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf)
    But with the stats so overwhelmingly indicative of something that is more normal than it is not, I wonder why the catholic-priest-molesting-boys issue has become consistent headline news somewhere. I understand that the church puts men and boys in closer proximity and that girls are far from immune from falling victim, but why it would be the first group to address when it is probably one of the smallest groups being affected. I feel for the victims–totally. But is the problem invisible until it happens to men?

    • A point to ponder– not to take away from the suffering of these boys and men, but pointing out the need for publicizing what is happening to girls and women. The stats are such that while you are reading this, at least two women in the US will be assaulted by their husbands. The Obama initiative on women and violence is a good place to start.
      And it is always shocking when those whom we place in positions of trust violate that trust.

  50. Love one another.
    As you point out in this essay (and in our lecture notes), sex has been equated with violence in the patriarchal society, rather than with love. Some people use “survival of the fittest” or some sort of animal drive to explain this connection, but that cannot be justification. There is no justification for using violence, especially in the context of what should be an act of love. Rape is all too common in the USA, and it happens throughout the world. In some cultures, rape is justified as a means to oppress or improve the gene pool, or as some form of domination of a culture not just of a single person. My understanding of this is to eradicate the gene pool of a specific ethnic group by raping women of that group in order to infuse the dominant ethnic group’s genes. Dominance, violence, war, eradication – not love.
    Again, I wonder how we can change this mindset. How can we bring love back into the moral compass?

    • Loving support for young women subject to rape is one way. Thanks for your caring comment.
      On our links page here, there are a number of resources for those who wish to work against rape (and domestic violence), whether you are a woman or a man.

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