UPDATE 4:00 PM 03/13/16 Please see the bottom of THIS POST for an additional update.
UPDATE: 10:30 PM 03/10/16: MRT printed Ms. Therwanger’s response and I have responded to that here: “Claim article wasn’t meant to minimize rape.” Read it, HERE
UPDATE: 9:16 PM 03/07/16: MRT wrote an editorial response which I think was executed well. You can read it HERE.
Also, regardless how someone “meant” their quote to come across, we all need to be more aware of the power of our words to heal or hurt a victim. Testament to this is the amount of people who have reached out to me, thanking me for writing the below response (as I’m sure they will be happy to read the above referenced editorial response). And, at the end of the day, I do think this is what the newspaper was trying to accomplish with their first report. We were meant to become angry. We were meant to be alarmed. Mothers, teenagers, pre-teens, etc. have reached out to me. So, readers, officials, etc., know this–your words have power. Use them well.
UPDATE: 6:41 P.M 03/06/16: As someone who is close to someone at the paper pointed out (see Ed’s comments, below): The MRT ran a very difficult headline to HIGHLIGHT the mindset, verbiage used and thought processes of those in power or in former places of power in our community. I would love to do a Q&A session with Stuart Doreen regarding this article. You can read the full context of the article online HERE
Midland Reporter Telegram, Kay Therwhanger and other “Officials”,
Today, I read the headline and article from the Sunday paper: “Officials: Increase in rape not cause for alarm” and became extremely angry. I continued to read the article where it goes on to explain that the increase in reports did not involve strangers, meaning the victim and the offender knew each other. Somehow, this was not cause for alarm.
I sat there for a minute and tried to see what I figured the article was meant to get across. OK. So, what they are saying is that there isn’t some horrible, serial rapist on the loose. I see.
But I shook my head and thought, No! This is exactly what is wrong with
this article the mindset of this former police officer and rape crisis center volunteer. I’m sure it wasn’t meant she did mean to minimize rape and trauma and sexual assault, but that’s EXACTLY what it she did in the way she chose her words. And this is exactly what is wrong with this article this mindset and our community, nation, world, as a whole when it comes to the topic of sexual assault.
The word minimize, by the way, means to reduce (something, especially something unwanted or unpleasant) to the smallest possible amount or degree.
Let me throw some actual statistics out there for the readers. And, dear victims, please know there is NOTHING to minimize about the horrible assaults you have experienced.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, National Crime Victimization Study: 2009-2013:
Approximately 4/5 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.
82% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.
47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.
25% are an intimate.
5% are a relative.
MRT, Kay, the rise in rape in Midland County is a serious cause for alarm. It is ALWAYS a serious cause for alarm. Saying it is anything else is feeding the mindset that normalizes rape, that passively encourages men (and women) to continue abusing victims.
Maybe the rise in reports is just that: a rise in the amount of victims coming forward and reporting their trauma. I fear, however, that this number may decrease once again. Note: this means the number of reports may decrease, not the actual number of assaults committed.
I fear there may be women stuck in abusive marriages right now, reading this Sunday’s paper. What message are you (Kay) sending to them? There may be teenage daughters reading the paper right now. What example are you setting? Above all, there are abusers reading this right now—abusers who have gone unreported, and abusers who have been reported. The exact women you have counseled in the rape center are reading this. The message you are sending them is that their experience is minimized and that it’s no cause for alarm for the rest of our community.
The biggest weapon we have against abusers is our voice. However,
MRT “Officials”, instead of being an educated, well-informed voice, you are using your words to empower the abuser.
So, for any victim out there in Midland County (and beyond) please know that the shame is not on you. The shame is on the “officials” quoted in the Midland Reporter Telegram this morning. The shame is that they are normalizing rape in the context where the victim and the offender know each other, regardless of the clear fact that this is overwhelmingly the norm in this type of assault. Regardless that this actually means that what’s happening is more victims, finally, are coming forward. Or, worse, more assaults are happening. I promise you, no matter what, IT IS A CAUSE FOR ALARM.
I grew up in Midland. I have now returned to this community as an adult. Two out of three cases of sexual assault that I have experienced in my life happened right here in Midland County. First, when I was ten years old. Guess what? I knew the offender, as do most victims, especially in children. I am aware of the statute of limitations. However, there is no statute of limitation on one’s voice. The man that abused me as a child is a prominent person in Midland. Sometimes, I still see him at weddings or walking downtown on my way to work. After I graduated from college, and before I moved back to Midland, I had to attend a wedding of someone I grew up with in Midland. I brought my boyfriend at the time who was from Canada to the wedding. My whole family was there, as well. At the reception, my family ran into him. I had to leave. My boyfriend commented how “messed up” this small town was with its “pleasantries and secrets”.
The second assault happened when I was a senior in high school. I was set up on a blind date by the mother of a boy from Midland. He was a freshman at Texas Tech at the time. We went to a house party where I proceeded to get drunk. Instead of taking me home, he took me to a motel off of Wall Street. Did I ever report it? No. I always assumed it was my fault for getting drunk. And I assumed I “lead him on.” This man recently ran for public office in Midland. I was driving home from work one day and saw his sign off Midkiff road. I had to pull over my car and breathe. Just last year, I saw him at The Bar sitting with a man I had a crush on. I saw the crush, first. But, once I saw that that crush was sitting there having a beer with my old high school abuser, my heart sank. No one knows and no one probably will ever know. Because guess what? When I was 17, I figured it was my fault.
I share these experiences to fight back against the headline today. I share these experiences to help the victims today reading the newspaper and feeling deflated, ashamed, angry, or all of the above.
Dear Teenager living in Midland today. Dear Young Child living in Midland today. You may become the victim of sexual assault. Chances are, you will know your abuser. Please disregard the Midland Reporter Telegram headline today and the officials they are quoting. I promise you, it is, and always will be, a cause for alarm. Please report it to the authorities, even though they have proven today that they believe it is cause for minimization that you know the abuser. Report it anyway.
And Dear Abusers, Get help. Stop the cycle that you were probably victims of, as well.
MRT and Officials quoted in the above referenced article. Shame on you. Shame on you for sending this message, for minimizing these types of assault. You are in a position of power, with your words, MRT Kay and other officials. Use them with care. Use them with knowledge and education and empathy.
Concerned Midland Resident.