Claim Rape Article Wasn’t Meant to Minimize Rape

Update 4:00 PM: 03/13/16: Please click HERE to see the second part update.

This is the first follow-up of two regarding the run of the Midland Reporter-Telegram’s March 6, 2016 Sunday paper headline “Officials: Increase in rape isn’t cause for alarm”.

Please read my response to that article “When Rape is No Cause for Alarm”.

Last night, I was informed by a friend and her mother who are closely following this case that the MRT did an additional follow-up with Kay Therwanger or, rather, Ms. Therwanger wrote a short explanation of her quote from the original article. It was, sadly, a short and unacceptable follow-up, full of conflicting information when you put it side-by-side with the original article. Not to mention, as far as I can tell, MRT chose not to put it online, but kept it in print only, which I find cowardly on MRT’s part. Here’s a photo my friend was kind enough to send to me. I hope it’s somewhat read-able.

Kay Article

Right. Let’s start with comparing the two. Kay says, in the article above,

“The article in the Reporter-Telegram’s Sunday edition concerning the 27 percent rise in forcible rape was intended to convey to the public that rape is usually committed by someone the victim knows. The article was never meant to minimize the victimization of rape regardless if the perpetrator was an acquaintance or a stranger.”

OK. It was not meant to minimize. Really? This is absolutely not how this came across, and, coming from a woman who deals with victims every day, (or used to?) I don’t see how it is possible that they don’t understand the way in which this comes across. Let’s look, below, at a quote from the original article.

“If there was a stranger out there (committing these acts), that would cause horrible alarm,” said Therwhanger, who was a board member of the Midland Rape Crisis and Children’s Advocacy Center for two decades. “That is not the case.”

Let’s play with this rhetoric a bit, shall we?

Hmmm. How about this: It is not the case that there’s a stranger out there committing these acts. No. It is most likely that these increases in rape are happening between two people who know each other. So this doesn’t call for any horrible alarm. Right? And we suggest (see below) that you join some sort of outreach program. We are wonderful at that. I mean, the police can’t protect you. So, what is there to do? You should man up, and protect yourself. (See Midland Police Department article about our self-defense classes). Oh, and by the way, the burden is on YOU, women, children, battered or otherwise emotionally abused wives, daughters and girlfriends, drunk or drugged girlfriends, young boys, etc. to bear this burden, alone. And when you do, inevitably, get raped, as ONE IN FOUR women will in their lifetime, usually before the age of 18, (One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. 12.3% of women were age 10 or younger at the time of their first rape/victimization, and 30% of women were between the ages of 11 and 17) please come see up at the Crisis Center. We can point you toward our AGGRESSIVE outreach program. Sounds pretty bad, eh?

Quote from original article, below:

“Forcible rape is not like some other crimes and infractions where law enforcement can be more proactive in its prevention. She said it is important to get the message out there that sexual assaults generally happen between people who know each other. She also said the Midland Rape Crisis center has been very aggressive with outreach programs.”

“The police department, according to the city of Midland, will continue to educate individuals on ways they can protect themselves from harm. A Rape Aggression Defense class provided by the Midland Police Department, according to the city, “continues to be a popular program and provides realistic self-defense techniques that women can use to protect themselves.” This comprehensive course covers awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance, while progressing on to the basics of hands-on defense training.”

In regards to this self-defense class, something that keeps being brought up in these articles because, I don’t know, in an effort to maybe deflect attention away from poor rhetoric? Poor word-choice? Poor line of thought? Poor judgement in how this presentation affects the thousands of families here in West Texas reading these papers and who are experiencing the aftermath of real trauma (a sharing of their stories will come later this weekend, here, in this blog). Let me quote a good friend of mine, herself a survivor. She’s a survivor herself, a social worker, playwright, poet, mother and retired self-defense coach. Here, we can see a very stark difference in mindset and approach to this subject.

“Yes, while it is fine to encourage women protect themselves (I was a self defense instructor for years) , too much of the emphasis is always put on the victim having to change their behavior. This leads to a blame the victim approach afterwards… “Oh, you were raped? why didn’t you defend yourself, not drink, get someone to walk you home, etc.” Instead of the media constantly addressing what potential victims need to do to stay safe, why are we spending zero time teaching potential rapist not to rape. This is all part of rape culture.

Another example was a few years ago… they made underwear that was impossible for men to get off of women without a pass-code/key. People were touting this as a way to keep young women safe. When I was asked about it, I addressed it this way: Why not spend our money teaching men not to be rapist instead? Do we really have to lock women into underwear to keep them safe? Plus, how would this have helped me when I was raped by being forced to give oral sex? I just think we really need to ask ourselves if we want to live in a world where we have thrown our hands up in the air and said in a sense, rape it a given so here is your rape underwear. How does this stop the violation of being groped? Molested? Should women wear full body armor next? When does it end? And if a women doesn’t wear her rape underwear, is it her fault she is raped? When can we not bear the responsibility of working to NOT being raped?

Rape culture puts all the emphasis on the potential victim to protect themselves. The fact is that rape and abuse of women is more nuanced than simply taking a defense class. (Most abusers are known to the women). It is looking deeply into all the way we as a society perpetuate these abuses, all the ways we keep women silent within their marriages and relationships. All the ways we teach women their only self worth is in pleasing a man. Those concepts can do much more than the (yes, important) band-aid situation of a self defense class. Most of my time as an instructor was spent undoing the dangerous programming women undergo in our society and much less on physical skills (which can be helpful) in order to keep women safe. Why not start with undoing the social programming instead of offering band-aids later?”

I’m so entirely shocked that Ms. Therwanger (or the paper, for that matter) didn’t even attempt to look at how the presentation could have (and DID) affect so many people, ESPECIALLY young kids and teenagers who react so intensely to things like this. There was no attempt at empathy or a broader understanding or scope of how and why this caused such a reaction from me and the general public. No. There was just more justification. And more mention of the MPD Rape Aggression Defense Class.
There is a way, as my friend quoted above said, to fight back that doesn’t involve lifting weights and learning to fight with your body (because let’s face it, as the statistics show, most assaults occur in emotionally and psychologically compromised situations–a child and an authority figure, a date rape drugged woman, a drunk woman (not her fault, still, that her “boyfriend” then rapes her), an abusive marriage, a husband who knows his wife is about to leave him, and forces her to “give it up one last time”, a spiritual leader and a young boy, etc. etc. etc.). So, we must fight back with our WORDS, our TEACHINGS, our MINDSETS, our SOCIETY as a whole, BREAKING SILENCE, teaching RESPONSIBILITY to not ABUSE, instead of responsibility on how to dress, or fight. It’s programming. And that programming is absolutely failing here, in these articles. You are failing your high percentage of already traumatized readers (I know, because they have come to me), you’re failing your young men, your boys, your daughters.
This is one of two responses. The next will be stories of women from West Texas who have experienced all kinds of sexual assaults right here. And yes, there is no doubt many of them have benefited from counseling at the Rape Crisis Center, as they have confided to me. That still doesn’t take away from the responses your words and your presentation of those words, have caused them.
Even I have experienced a backlash on even approaching this subject, especially sharing my own experiences. I have had people who are meant to support me, tear me down for it. But THANK YOU. Thank you for raising the proverbial red flag here in town. Rape culture and the propagation of rape culture, still exists, as you have proven.
Talking about it in a compassionate and safe way is still difficult.
But it needs to happen. And I hope that other women who want to come forward and share this space with me to have this discussion that you, Kay, and MRT, have thankfully engaged, will come email me, message me, as so many have already done.
Silence is as bad as oppression, and those that wish people would “be more private” about it or stop talking about it altogether are as bad as condoning it.
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4 Responses to Claim Rape Article Wasn’t Meant to Minimize Rape

  1. Pingback: When Rape is “No Cause for Alarm” | Wayswearelost's Blog

  2. polly says:

    Midland is a cesspool. Sweep it under the rug attitude, not to mention that ‘officials’ are the ugliest of the ugly. For me it was my cousin 1age 13-14 and I was age 4. Relive it ‘all the time’ IT IS CAUSE FOR ALARM


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

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