We are honored to have a very special guest, Ms. Lenan Rust, an art therapist working at a rape crisis center in the USA, to come and speak to us about sexual assault. She will give a talk with a slide presentation about her work at ARS HALL on Saturday, April 6th from 5:30 - 7:45 pm. Doors open at 5 pm, and so if you don't buy a ticket in advance, be prompt or you may not get a seat! Tickets are on sale at Creative House for 1000 yen.
Joining Ms. Rust will be Ms. Eguchi, the leader of Tsukuba's ALELAN group, which is now in the process of making a monument in Okinawa to commemorate the comfort women who suffered from sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII.
(ed. note: The following article is a brief summary of some of the highlights and personal reactions to a similar presentation attended by Ms. Okubo)
Sexual assault is a crisis in our societies (including the U.S. and Japan) that some people would rather not take seriously, but it affects our everyday lives! Sexual assault is a continuum of violations ranging from lewd comments, peeping or staring, pornography, molestation, all the way to violent rape ending in murder. These violations are mostly carried out by men against women and children, which is indicative of the societal imbalance of power due to age and gender. Why should women and children live in this sort of danger perpetrated by a few men?
Some people do not think of sexual "misconduct" as crimes. All forms of sexual harassment and assault are violations because the person they happen to has not given consent or is coerced into giving a reluctant consent. These are considered assaults, abuses and violations because the perpetrator is objectifying another person, that is, treating that person as an object for his own use. These are violations because they degrade and humiliate the individuals to whom they happen. They take away that person's choice. We KNOW these are violations because we FEEL VIOLATED when they happen to us. These are crimes against other humans, because they interfere with our right to personal safety.
"Blaming the victim" and other such rape myths will be discussed in order to shed light on appropriate ways to respond to sexual assault. if we are not aware of such myths, pervasive attitudes actually encourage rapists to continue abusing women, and victims are silenced out of fear of being shamed or not believed.
Often the victim is told by family or friends "you should have known better than to wear that", or ""You were a fool to be there." But doesn't the responsibility belong to the perpetrator? We know from statistics that rapists do not choose their victims by their dress, but rather according to whom they perceived to be vulnerable ?? who they perceive they will be able to overcome. Rape is not about sexiness or seduction; it is about power and control over another person. Men should not be able to "lose control" of themselves and then blame it on their victims!
There are myths about the justification of pornography. Some people believe that pornography is actually a deterrent to rape. I want to stress the fact that pornography is not benign entertainment. It impacts perceptions of what is acceptable and it teaches the viewer to become aroused by harmful imagery. Likewise,it is a fact that a lot of sexual abuse occurs in the making of pornography, as it is a medium that present women as anonymous, sexual objects, often forced or coerced into sexual activity by a stronger, more powerful male. The woman is often depicted as first resisting, then eventually enjoying forced sex or even sexual torture. This imagery influences the viewer's attitude towards women, which is carried over into literal relations with women.
Until recently, I didn't understand why pornography hurt me so much, but now I realize that a big reason it does is because women are being publicly used and abused for the pleasure and so-called "needs" of men. Why is it that men need to do this to us? Even though I do not appear in pornography the image of me as a woman does. I am a woman and therefore I fear that men who get into pornography see me in this way. When pornography is so readily available and "acceptable" that businessmen, students and others look at it in plain view on the train or in other public places, I feel uncomfortable, hurt and angry! I wonder.how that imagery is impacting him. Why do we allow our children to grow up seeing this as if it is acceptable? As Catharine A. MacKinnon says: "The research can't tell on an individual basis which man will go and rape a woman after having been exposed to a certain amount of pornography. But for women, that isn't our concern; because we're never raped as individuals ?? that is, we are individually raped, but we are targeted as members of the group, women. Pornography is central to that targeting." (Ms. Magazine, April 1985)
I would like to add that "we're never raped as individuals" also implies that the victims who are abused are not individual people, but "objects." This is why to the rapist, anyone will do ?? anyone he believes he will be able to conquer.
These and many other myths contribute to society's denial or trivialization of rape, and they function in several ways. First, the myths may help us feel safer; we want to believe that these things don't happen, or don't happen very often. We want to believe in justice. Myths that blame the victim help us believe that the world is fair, and that bad things , like rape, only happen to people who deserve it. Thus, the idea that women who get raped are bad is perpetuated, and even victims believe it was their fault. Survivors of rape often change their behavior in order to avoid rape again , but the truth is, rape is a result of the man's behavior, and only he is in control of what he does or does not do.
Another function of these myths has to do with reinforcing the status quo regarding women's social inequality to men. Historically, responsibility and blame for these crimes has been put on women, so that women adjust THEIR lives and limit THEIR activities in whatever ways then can in order to feel safe from men. So in public places, the work place, schools, and sometimes even in their homes, women enjoy less freedom than men.
The myths distract us from the truth. We forget that the perpetrator is solely responsible for his behavior. Blaming the victim silences many women who fear public disgrace, and allows perpetrators to continue affecting many women.
After giving the audience such information about sexual assault, Ms. Rust will show slides of her client's artwork and take about their recovery process. Among other things, survivors often feel a great deal of fear, mistrust, and anger due to such trauma. In order to work thorough these feelings, they need to be believed and supported by significant others. This support is even more important when it happens outside of therapy, which is why the public needs to be aware of such harmful myths. The survivor needs peers who hold the rapist accountable for his deeds. Women need a society that acknowledges the continuum of sexual assault as human violations, not something that simply must be put up with. We need a safe place to walk any time of the day or night.
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