When Rape is “No Cause for Alarm”

MRT

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

Dear 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.

Synonyms: belittle, make light of, play down, underestimate, underrate, downplay, undervalue, underappreciate, understate.

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.

So, yes, 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.

And Dear 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.

Thank you,

Concerned Midland Resident.

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28 Responses to When Rape is “No Cause for Alarm”

  1. Heartbreaking what has happened, not only to you , but to women I have known as well. It is so disturbing that attitudes and actions have not changed. I have raised my son to respect women and to speak out against patriarchy and sexism. I have in my personal life and professional career. I know that isn’t enough but I stand with you in this condemnation of your hometown newspaper.

    Like

  2. A Friend says:

    Shannon, I hope the newspaper itself becomes aware of this piece. I really, really, really hope so. Thanks for writing this – it needed to be said, and hopefully your message changes at least one (if not more) lives. I’ve dealt with some assault experiences in the past, and there is definitely this layer of shame that you carry with you for years. And I remember always blaming myself because I always felt like I had to be the problem. Attitudes such as your newspaper’s just let that sort of stigma persist when it needs to be stopped. You have my full-hearted support; please keep speaking out.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. LuLy says:

    Thank you are sharing! We have a voice. We will stand together. I call for the resignation of Kay Therwhanger.

    Like

  4. Alyson says:

    It’s a shame that it is being minimized into seeming less horrible…. I was also victimized in Midland County. This stigma and this lack of knowledge will always do more harm than good and it disappointments me that the MRT has chosen that route. Thanks for writing this. It’s good to know someone is out there saying what needs to be said.

    Like

  5. johnmichaelantonio says:

    This is a great and courageous post…I come from a family where there were multiple cases of abuse and I wholeheartedly agree that talking about it is the first step in exposing and stopping this abhorrent behavior…thank you for being brave enough to share…

    Like

  6. Ed says:

    Mrt deserves plaudits for this headline. Without a local paper there would not be a venue for this information to be shared. This is a hard headline to run. Good job mrt for putting the truth first.

    Like

  7. Chloe says:

    You’re right, Midland Reporter Telegram. 100% right that the rise in rape is no cause for alarm. You’re right to say this because the one instance of fear mongering when it comes to rape cannot be used.
    Forget that the majority of rapes are committed by a person known to the victim rather than a serial rapist. Forget that many victims do not report it because they feel it is somehow their fault for leading on their rapist.
    No, no. This is not cause for alarm. Not at all.
    Fuck you, fuck your mothers, and fuck the high horse you rode in on that somehow convinced you that this instance was not cause for concern.
    Fuck you for thinking that the abysmal investigations into said rapes were bringing up absolutely nothing as far as convictions. Fuck you for thinking that the only reason we should be concerned about rape is if it is perpetrated by a cloaked stranger.
    Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.

    Like

  8. Melissa says:

    Thank you for speaking out when there are people who would rather sweep it under the rug. We don’t minimize the victims of other circumstances i.e. shootings, terrorist attacks.
    No one says these are no cause for alarm sunce they happened in another part of the country or world. I was stalked by a teacher in high school, here in Midland and believe he would’ve assaulted me had he not resigned before I went to the admin. Bless you and may God give you peace and strength to overcome what you have been through!

    Like

  9. Ray says:

    This is insensitive to say the least. A single case is one too many and cause for alarm. The people should be notified, 1) to warn others of a potential threat and 2) to hopefully find information to apprehend the individual. Down playing the event or multiple events should be the furtherest thing from one’s mind! And when you find the individual, you give them the absolute maximum, even if it’s a first time offense! That would set an example, you’re telling people, criminals thinking of committing such a crime, that you have a zero tolerance for this crap!!

    Like

  10. nilochlainn says:

    Thank you for stating the truth. I have similar life experiences, and I’m sorry we share those. But I am grateful to you for speaking out because we and our experiences are minimized.

    Like

  11. Anonymous victim says:

    I appreciate this write up very much. Along with this blatant message the MRT has sent across our community, the amount of corruption on all levels within our legal system here in Midland is horrifying. And the ability for so many to allow themselves that selective blind eye when it doesn’t involve them, personally, is just pitiful. People with the right connections just obliterate others lives using these connections and their own lies, deceptive behaviors and desire to annihilate anyone they wish, simply because they can. And the amount of victims left in the wake of the people are in unusually high numbers here. Absolutely devestating to our community

    Like

  12. Allison Moss-Fritch says:

    Who do you think rapes? It is NOT someone who has never seen you. It is likely some male who has approached even casually and whom you turned away. That makes them HUGELY angry and violent. OF course, they “know” you…but not in the way male readers think of. It is the brother, cousin, uncle, nephew or friend of someone you knew or someone they knew….or….. And secretly they have lusted after you. That is the danger we have in an open society…but males feel that this “knowing” of you somehow makes you to blame. IT does NOT. They and they alone are responsible for their own lack of self control, their not being accountable and their own lust…you don’t cause it or feed it. It is their problem, not the victim’s.

    Like

  13. M says:

    You redacted blame against the newspaper? What? Why? Did you read that complete cop-out editorial?

    No. Absolutely not. Disseminating the worst possible information without comment and to get attention is not how you call someone out. The editor of the newspaper took zero responsibility for blasting that headline in his town. It was all the officials’ fault, he and his newspaper did nothing wrong.

    Sensationalism at its very worst, folks. Yes, they had to be called out. THAT is not calling them out. THAT is giving them the loudest voice in the room. Yes, he absolutely could have mitigated that and upheld journalistic standards.

    Here are five alternate headlines:

    Officials Claim Concerning Rise in Reported Rape Not Cause for Alarm

    Officials Dodge Responsibility: Claim Rise in Rape Not Cause for Alarm

    Officials Refute that Rise in Reports of Rape is Cause for Alarm

    Officials Downplay Crime Statistics: Claim Rise in Reports of Rape Not Cause for Alarm

    Victims Shocked as Officials Claim that Rise in Reports of Rape Not Cause for Alarm

    No, Doreen. You don’t disseminate that and make it look official without comment. You don’t. I can think of five ways to mitigate that with journalistic integrity off the top of my head, and you couldn’t think of one? Bull. More likely you wanted to keep the print size as large as possible and have yourself a sh**storm. And then blame the readers who called you out for it! I hope every single one of them unsubscribes, you lying sensationalist liar. You go right to Hell along with the official(s) who said it.

    Like

    • M,

      You know, I’ve been thinking about this, too. And I plan on a follow up re: the editorial, which, to be honest, didn’t sit 100% with me. I did have an email exchange with Doreen about “inconsistencies” within his response. I’ve been waiting on women to anonymously share their stories with me as part of the follow up, but it may have to be a two-part follow up.

      Thanks for your words. They mean a lot.

      Like

  14. Pingback: Claim Rape Article Wasn’t Meant to Minimize Rape | Wayswearelost's Blog

  15. J. W. Knott says:

    MIdland, Texas, I’m guessing?

    Like

  16. Pingback: Open for Discussion: Sexual Assault, Rape & Why We Can’t Drop It | Wayswearelost's Blog

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