By Trish Propson, Director, Broken or beautiful
Times Villager, June 2017
“I wish I could tell my mom I had sex with my sister. I can’t live with the guilt.”
“I wish I could tell my dad that I know what he does to ***. How do I make him stop?”
“I wish I could tell my mom what happened with Dad, I am so ashamed. I wish I was dead.”
“I wish I could tell my daughter I’m sorry for molesting her.”
I don’t usually isolate a topic from the rekenekt graffiti wall based on gender, but this issue is in the majority of cases, is gender specific. Before you read on, please know I realize this is a volatile topic and that sexual assault perpetrators are not exclusively men. My childhood sexual abusers were both women so I understand this topic is not all encompassing. I am casting a wide net to raise awareness about the majority of sexual crimes against women and children.
Statistics reinforce the probability that the entries on the graffiti wall were written by or about men. According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, nearly 99% of sex offenders in single-victim incidents were male and six in ten were white. In sex offenders under the age of 18, 90% were male but juveniles make up only 20% of all sex offender arrests. Men account for 95% of all sexual assault arrests.
There is no typical profile of a male sex offender. The myth that sex offenders are smarmy, violent, social outcasts in gang or drug related social circles are unfounded. The reality is very different. Sexual abusers are sitting at our dinner tables, in cubicles next to us at work, and in positions of authority in our community.
Fifty percent of sexual abusers are over age 50. Most sexual abusers assault victims they know, with only 20% of all sexual assault perpetrated by strangers. In childhood sexual assault, 60% of perpetrators are non-family members known to the child, 30% are family members and only 10% are strangers. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) sets the statistics of rape as 45% by a casual acquaintance and 25% by a spouse or boyfriend.
Many sexual abusers do share character traits. The number one trait found in sex offenders is lack of empathy and/or restricted emotional capacity. Most perpetrators believe their abuse is justified and they have a right to sexually assault women and children. They show little remorse for their actions. Another common trait is hostile masculinity along with control or aggression. If a man is prone to abnormal machismo, he is at a higher risk to sexually assault women or children. A tendency towards impulsive actions is another common characteristic among perpetrators. Many will disclose that they didn’t plan to assault their victim, but it just happened and seemed like a good idea at the time. Underlying anger and power issues towards women is another red flag. Objectifying women, talking down to them, or putting a woman ‘in her place’ are common among perpetrators.
So how do we begin a conversation with men about sexual assault? I believe it has to start with other men. The national survey of rape revealed that 1 in 12 college men committed acts that met the legal definition of rape, and of those men, 84% did not consider their actions to be illegal. Many who come forward are encouraged to do so by a male friend. The solution to battling sexual assault and violence towards women and children begins with awareness and accountability between men. If you spot it you can stop it.
Jackson Katz , founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention said, “Men have been erased from the sexual assault and domestic violence conversation. If they are invisible, they are not responsible. That has to change.”
Are you willing to be a man who stands up for women and children? Do you believe that men have the power to help change this issue? Follow these Take Five Action Steps to be part of the solution to end sexual assault and violence towards women and children.
Talk to a woman. If you have questions about any of the content in this article, or doubt it is true, talk to a woman. One in four has been sexually assaulted. Ask her to share her experience with sexual assault and violence. Engaging a new understanding of this topic can help you change your mind and consider taking a new role in the issue.
Sexual contact with any minor is criminal. Any sexual pursuit of a minor child is a crime, including child pornography, inappropriate touching, unwanted physical contact, and actual sex acts. Whether it is incest within your family or perpetrated against a child outside your family, sexual abuse is criminal and can be charged to the full extent of federal and local laws. If you or someone you know is involved with childhood sexual abuse, get help. Ending the cycle of violence against children can begin with you.
No means no. Sex needs to be consensual. Children are unable to give consent. Women under the influence are unable to give consent. Never use force, guilt, threats, or drugs and alcohol as an excuse to have sex with a woman or child. If a woman says no, stop, please don’t, or any combination of similar words; if she laughs nervously, pushes you away, or tries to leave, she is trying to communicate-NO. Women don’t say no when they mean yes.
Be the change. Conquering this giant in our community can start with you. Be a hero to the women and children in your world. Visit VoicesofMen.org or White Ribbon.ca to get involved with men who help other men live lives of integrity. Take a stand and raise awareness. If you witness or are aware of someone who has been sexually assaulted, stand up for her by getting involved. Call law enforcement, protect her from the perpetrator, and get the survivor the help they need. Be the change you want to see. Let it start with you.
Get professional help. If you or someone you know is guilty of perpetrating sexual assault, get professional help immediately. The impact of one sexual assault against a woman or child has far reaching effects across generations, communities, and the world. Sexual assault is serious and requires immediate attention. Go to Stopitnow.org or reach out to the Sexual Assault Crisis Center in your community to get the help you need.
Rekenekt with Trish Propson is a monthly column devoted to raising awareness between parents and teens and helping people reconnect with hope across generations. Trish Propson is a local author, speaker, crisis response chaplain, and family advocate committed to reconnecting families, one conversation at a time.
This article is third in a series to raise awareness about sexual assault. If you or someone you know is dealing with the effects of sexual assault, email Trish or contact the resources listed in the article. Be courageous. You can be part of the solution.