The Shameful, Too Often Silent, Sexual Exploitation of Women

Writing about the sexual exploitation of women should come from a woman, and so today’s blog comes from Roxanne. We also provide a video that educates men on the meaning of consent. Lastly, we include links to local organizations who work with women and girls who have suffered from sexual abuse.

First, a reminder: Ranked Choice Voting Hearing This Morning. Before we examine the scope of sexual exploitation of women, a very quick reminder that this morning at 9am at District Court at 225 Montezuma in Santa Fe, an Evidentiary Hearing will be held to determine if the Court will order the City to implement Ranked Choice Voting. Even now, we encourage emails and calls to the City Attorney, Mayor and City Council and we hope for a large turnout today for what should be an interesting hearing. For more information, click here.

For weeks, the news has focused on men with wealth and power being brought down by revelations of their acts of sexual violence. And stories of who believes them, or who doesn’t. We need to shift the focus to the women and girls who are the victims of men who have historically suffered no repercussions, no accountability. Now that so many women are finding the courage to speak up, maybe we can begin to change the systemic sexism that caused them to suffer in silence for so long. This blog examines the numbers and the scope of sexual exploitation of women. To review my blog posted just before the Women’s March in January, which addressed the specific, personal manifestations of sexism and sexual harassment and abuse, click here.  I’d especially encourage our male readers to review that post. For women, what is written will be all too familiar.

We all know that men and boys can be victims of sexual violence, but the vast majority of victims are women and girls. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 96% of sex offenders are male, and 91% of rape and sexual assault victims are female. The sad truth is that one in five women in the U.S. will be raped at some point in their lives. One in five! And one in four girls will be sexually abused before they turn age 18. Yes, one in four. And 12% of girls who experience sexual violence were age 10 or younger at the time of their first attack. A third were between the ages of 11 and 17. Yet only 1 in 8 cases of child sexual abuse in the U.S. is reported to authorities.

To help us understand the enormous scope of this problem, we also need to know that rape is the most under-reported violent crime: two-thirds of sexual assaults are never reported to police. And on college campuses, less than 10% of sexual assaults are reported. Is this extreme under-reporting any surprise, knowing that 99% of sexual violence perpetrators go free? Hard to believe, isn’t it? If 99% of armed robbers or others who commit violent crimes went free, people would be outraged. We wouldn’t allow it to happen.

Here in NM, think of how long we have allowed rape kits to sit on the shelves. After the horror of being raped and then the indignity of being swabbed and probed by technicians, what kind of message is your State sending you when the evidence that has been extracted from your body sits on a shelf for months or even years, while the perpetrator runs free?

And what about the long-term consequences for victims of sexual assault? Victims of childhood sexual abuse are 4 times more likely to abuse drugs, 4 times more likely to experience PTSD, and 3 times more likely to experience major depression as adults. Thirty-Three percent of women who are raped contemplate suicide, and 13% attempt suicide. Not to mention the feelings of fear and shame that can haunt survivors for years. Sexual assault can devastate women and girls’ lives.

It’s important to note that most of the victims who have spoken up recently against their attackers are middle class white women. Unfortunately, systemic racism in this country means the truth doesn’t hit the mainstream media until it is clearly impacting the lives of middle class white Americans, until privileged white Americans begin to speak out.  It’s a sad truth. But what is even sadder and more disgraceful is that women of color, particularly Native American and Black women and girls, experience a much higher rate of sexual violence than White women and girls. In fact, Native women are twice as likely to experience a rape or sexual assault as non-Native women. I say this not to discount the experiences of White women but to remind us that women of color, poor women, transgender women––anyone outside the heterosexual, white norm of the American power structure––are at a much higher risk for violence and discrimination of all kinds, and they face many more obstacles when seeking help, speaking out, and being believed.

There is no quick and easy solution to the systemic sexism that allows these kinds of life-devastating crimes to be committed in such large numbers and with so few consequences, or the systemic racism that values white women’s voices over the voices of women of color. But we can take action locally by supporting organizations that provide hope and services to women and children survivors of sexual violence in our community. Information on a few of those agencies is provided below.

In solidarity,

Roxanne

Retake has launched a Gratitude in Action campaign during the holiday season. Today we feature three local organizations who provide vital services and supports to women. Please show your gratitude to these organizations and your compassion for victims by making a donation today:

Esperanza Shelter: Esperanza Shelter offers safe, confidential housing, counseling, food, clothing, and supplies for women and children, all free and confidential. They provide individual and group counseling, court advocacy, and assistance with housing. They help children who have witnessed or directly experienced abuse to work through their grief. They also offer an Offenders’ Program with the goal of breaking the cycle of violence. Esperanza is always grateful for monetary donations to help pay the bills. Monetary donations also help to provide emergency funds for survivors who, for example, need bus passes to look for work, must pay a fee when everything they own is in storage, or need help getting utilities turned on in a new apartment. Learn more by clicking here, or go directly to the Donate page to learn how to make a donation here.

Solace Crisis Treatment Center: Solace Crisis Treatment Center responds to the needs of individuals who have experienced sexual abuse or other traumas. They provide a safe place to receive evidence-based services including therapy for post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders, victim advocacy, and primary prevention programs. They are nationally accredited as a family advocacy center for children and their families in cases of abuse, neglect, or the witnessing of violent crime. Clinical, Family Advocacy, and Education and Prevention staff work closely together in response to crime victimization, child abuse, and other traumatic and tragic events such as fatal accidents, homicides, returning from military service, human trafficking, and other overwhelming adversities that beset individuals, families, and the community. Learn more by clicking here, or go directly to the Donate page to learn how to contribute money or supplies here.

The Life Link: Sojourners: Sojourners is a safe haven and resource center for women and children who have been traumatized and displaced. Sojourners provides access to housing and education, sustenance, advocacy, and community networking and integration. They distribute food, cook meals, offer GED and other life skills classes, provide internet services, advocacy services, and babysitting. They also run a donations program where people can donate items to help mothers set up their new apartments. Learn more at this link, or go directly to the Donate page to learn more about how to donate money or supplies. Here’s what’s needed: Supplies: food, baby supplies, furnishings, dishes, clothing. Services: Help with an oil change (cars are houses), haircuts, meals, and gift cards. Volunteers: We need support from the community. Our goal is to support women who are struggling by bringing our community to them.

​Also part of The Life Link — 505-Get-Free: The Life Link established the 505-GET-FREE line in 2012 to aid sex-trafficking survivors. Recognizing the complexity of the predisposing features of survivors (homelessness, runaways/throwaways, mental illness, substance abuse, trauma, domestic violence, sexual assault, lack of primary support systems, etc.) and the impact the trafficking experience has on the vulnerable and exploited, Life Link provides long-term, comprehensive, and dignified services to victims. The Life Link of Santa Fe, in collaboration with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and the City of Santa Fe’s Resolution 2013-42, are leading the nation in raising the standard of care trafficked individuals receive for healing, and establishing a rights-based, best practice for aftercare of victims. Donate to The Life Link here.

All statistics cited above are from:

RAINN – Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

New Mexico Department of Health: Sexual Violence Services and Prevention

In closing, check out and share this video that humorously uses serving tea as a metaphor to help men understand consent:

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “The Shameful, Too Often Silent, Sexual Exploitation of Women

  1. Thanks Roxanne!
    We certainly live in a male oriented and male controlled society and culture which has been permeated with violence. This violent attitude has permeated our culture and all our institutions and, because it has been so prevalent and because we all grew up in and with it, our re-education needs to become a constant. One aspect of our re-education into a more peaceful culture that I do not see is the change of the culture of our institutions, like, for example, that of our police departments, and even that of our schools. Our police departments have become an extension of our military and thus it absorbed a militarist culture of aggression (or proactive defense). I know little about institutional cultures and how to change them but I know it is possible. Another example is our religious institutions with their culture of obedience and service to mostly male oriented rules and males in high positions. As far as I know only a few feminists have talked openly about the strong influence of religious beliefs in our male dominated culture. Carol P. Christ (Laughter of Aphrodite) is one of them I know off. I know our nation has made tremendous advances in gender and racial equality but it is obvious that the violent side of our patriarchal culture still has enormous power. If not we would not have Trump as president!

    Like

    • Thank you, Eduardo. Our culture is such a mess, it’s overwhelming to think about where to begin trying to fix it. Locally seems to be the best way, little by little, day by day, year by year, hoping we can make a difference.
      Roxanne

      Like

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