to the denver post, on why you need to stop:
[tw: rape, rape apologism]
so, y’all know how i feel about rape culture. loathe and despise are not strong enough words.
if you’re involved at all in survivor’s rights news or college news, you may know that several groups of college students recently filed complaints with the federal government stating that their schools were not complying with their title ix rights, particularly in regards to sexual assault cases and how the schools chose (or chose not to) to handle them. one of these filers is a former camper of mine, and i couldn’t be more proud of her for the work she’s doing even after facing her own personal trauma. through her, i’ve been invited to share dialogue with a wonderful group of people all working to circumvent the prevalence of rape and rape culture, especially on college campuses. it’s been an amazing experience.
recently, it came to light that the denver post had written an article about a student in their area who was a victim of sexual assault. the article… was not favorable. it plays into all our least-favorite tropes. one of the fantastic women in this group wrote an open letter to author. i was given permission to share it, and i do so with pride:
July 27, 2013
A (Now Open) Letter to Adrian Garcia and his editor Dana Coffield of the Denver Post
Yesterday, I read with horror your article titled “CU student made police report 4 months after alleged assault occurred”. I am aware that you may have received a few emails regarding this article, and that you may be apt to ignore what I have to say. But I hope you take the time to read this email and consider engaging in a meaningful and productive conversation.
I imagine you do not spend much of your time thinking about rape and have not done extensive research on the topic. As a result, your knowledge about rape may be limited. I understand this and I do not blame you for it. I wish more men cared about the issues surrounding rape, but I accept that most do not. As a result, many men (and many women) are misinformed about the reality of sexual assault.
I would like to share with you some knowledge, based on my research and my firsthand experiences with victims in my professional capacity as a sexual assault victim advocate in the state of New Jersey. Hopefully you may begin to see why your article was not just inappropriate, but so damaging to victims (especially those who have not yet been victimized).
(Side note: Please forgive me, but I choose to use the term victim, not alleged victim, when talking about sexual assault. But you can be assured that we are still referring to the same people.)
To begin with, I am not sure why your headline is newsworthy at all. Delays in reporting a rape to police are very common. A quick google search produces myriad results on this subject. My own very brief search before I began this email led me to the work of Jan Jordan, PhD, who has conducted extensive research on sexual assault reporting. One of her studies found that 38% of victims who reported delayed doing so. This is not an insignificant number. I invite you to look her up.
Were you aware of this fact? I can only assume that if you were, your headline would be different. Delayed reporting is a common reality of rape, ESPECIALLY in the case where the perpetrator is not a stranger to the victim (more on this later). So for that to be newsworthy, other headlines such as “Drinking alcohol often leads to being drunk” and “Adequate sleep leads to increased feelings of energy” would be newsworthy too. Why don’t I see articles on these topics?
Please allow me to assume you were ignorant to this fact. What was the point of this headline and article? Was your purpose simply to discredit Sarah? Did you want to instill doubt in your readers about the veracity of a rape victim’s report?
Your article has very little that is newsworthy about it — it really seems nothing more than a summary of Sarah’s police report. Again, I am failing to see the point of turning this into an article, especially since this report is so typical of sexual assault. Sarah was raped by a man she knew and presumably thought she could trust. Sarah was drinking with this friend. Sarah tried to make sense of what happened to her and express her anger/disappointment/betrayal by engaging her rapist in conversation after the assault. Again, this really warrants reiteration: this police report COULD NOT BE MORE TYPICAL OF A SEXUAL ASSAULT.
I encourage you to spend some time on RAINN’s website (www.rainn.org). Do you know what RAINN is? It is the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. They have some really good information on the topic of sexual assault there. But in case you do not take my advice and head to the site, I will share with you some statistics from their website:
- An average of 54% of sexual assaults were not reported to police in the past five years. -One out of six women has been the victim of completed or attempted rape in her lifetime. -73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by non-strangers.
These are staggering statistics, but this only begins to scratch the surface. I urge you to do some of your own research before you undertake another article about a rape victim.
Ignorance is to be expected from the general population. It is hard and it is heartbreaking to acknowledge and accept the epidemic of sexual violence in our country. It is easier to believe that many women lie about being raped, that rape is always violent, that rape is perpetrated by sick strangers, that victims wear turtlenecks and sweatpants and are always sober and virginal. I fully understand why this is easier for most people to accept. What is not understandable, however, is for a journalist to write a piece without doing adequate research on the topic. I expect and I demand that journalists be informed and be responsible. Your article could not make it any clearer that you are neither. This is dangerous. It is your duty to inform the public, not feed their denial and their ignorance. You have great power, and the power comes with responsibility.
If you are writing an article about a rape, you are responsible to be knowledgeable about rape. You could have used this platform to educate your readers. Had you put Sarah’s situation in context, you would be helping women. Instead, you did the exact opposite. I do not know how to express how much damage pieces like yours do. You, Adrian, are personally doing damage to women. You are sending the message that should women have the courage to come forward and report, they will not believed. You are sending the message that if you were drinking before you were assaulted, you are to be blamed. You are sending the message that if you know your rapist, then you weren’t really raped. You are sending the message that if you are not ashamed of what happened to you and want to speak up and speak out, you will be publicly ridiculed. You are sending the message that women should shut up and suffer in silence because their experiences do not matter.
Those who participate in perpetuating the culture in which rape continues to be a reality for so many women are just as accountable as those who are raping. You are complicit, Adrian.
Cosigned By: Sarah Gilchriese, Shae F., Yün-ke Chin-Lee, Katrina Bossert, Wagatwe Wanjuki, Sarah Tedesco, and email@example.com.
if you’d like to support this message (and we really appreciate it if you would!) you can signal boost, add your own co-signature in whatever form you see fit (partial name, full name, email, just add it to the list above when you reblog), or share it around in other ways. we want this message to be heard.
if you feel like speaking out yourself against such a prime example of why rape culture needs to be eradicated, here’s the contact info for the author of the article and his editor:
adrian d. garcia, author:
dana coffield, adrian’s editor:
gregory moore, denver post editor:
please utilize with thought. we want to make sure we are heard. but we also want to make sure sarah’s name is respected as we support her.
let’s make it happen, guys. speak out, if you can. this isn’t okay, and it wasn’t ever okay, and it needs to stop.