Ohio rape case, part of larger international struggle
Sexual assault and rape is a global problem. The case of two Ohio high schools football players, charged with sexually assaulting an incoherent high school girl, coupled with the violent case in India, has experts calling for a multi-pronged approach to dealing with sexual violence.
A party in Steubenville, Ohio, last summer was the scene of the rape and sexual assault of an incoherent young woman, police say.
But while the initial assault was certainly traumatic enough, it was the online reaction, during and after, that really shocked the community and, even, the country. A video was posted online shrotly after the attack, showing one of the alleged participants joking about the attack.
But these sexual attacks, be they in Ohio or in India, don't happen in a vacuum. Vicki Banyard, a professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire, says in order to understand the sexual assault cases, the bigger picture must be examined.
"These broader problems of myths, norms and attitudes, related to sexual violence, both facilitate or allow these kinds of things to continue to happen in our communities," she said. "(They) also make it very challenging for victims and survivors to come forward.
Research Banyard and her colleagues have been a part of shows there's a struggle with understanding and dealing with sexual assault and rape, not just in individual communities but also globally.
We like to think this is a problem we’ve solved, Banyard says, but we haven't.
The problem, isn't just about young men, Banyard says. It's also about young women and everyone in a community receiving messages that "no" doesn't mean "no." And that if someone is too incapacitated to give consent, it isn't a problem, she said.
"The rape myths are persistent and they're the same, but the tools that can reinforce those messages have (become) very plentiful," she said.
Those tools, she said, include Internet pornography and even media coverage of these major stories. But more personal sources, from role models to peers and others in the community, also play a part.
Through her research, Banyard says she’s found that the myth of victims making these stories up, inaccurate because rare for these instances to be falsely reported.
"When you look at what victims and survivors go through when they do actually come forward about what's happened to them, you can see that it's very difficult for people to come forward," she said. "People would not do this lightly.”
In order to create change, Banyard says we need to think about where and how we’re having conversations about what makes up a healthy relationship. She says we also need to take a hard look at the comments we tolerate and the myths we allow to go unquestioned.
“We need a multi-pronged, multi-faceted approach that takes these issues very seriously and starts having these conversations in a real and meaningful way not just in a 50-minute workshop,” she said.
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