Imagine a woman walks into a car dealership. She’s approached by a salesman who spends the next hour showing her cars and he eventually takes her out to test drive a favorite model. The woman is not only wildly enthusiastic but states her intent to actually purchase the car.
So they return to his sales office where he patiently walks her through car options and loan details and, as she remains happy and willing, he finally draws up the paperwork. At this point the salesman is beside himself, convinced he’s about to make a commission that will finally pay for the sports fishing trip to Alaska he’s been dreaming about for the last three years.
But as he places the pen in front of her to sign on the dotted line, everything falls apart. She hesitates, starts expressing doubt, and then tells him she’s changed her mind and doesn’t want to buy the car after all. She refuses to sign, picks up her purse, and heads for the door. The salesman sees his dream of wind and waves, halibut and ocean salmon, heading out the door with her and he gets angry.
He feels cheated. He feels like she’s led him on. He tells himself that her earlier desire to buy the car is what she really wants, that her unexpected change of heart doesn’t count because she already assured him that she did, indeed, want it.
So he leaps out from behind the desk, grabs her, and throws her to the floor. He rips her purse from her hands and pulls out her checkbook, after which he drags her back to the desk and violently sticks a pen in her hand. He forces her to sign the purchase agreement, as well as a check for the downpayment, and only after he has those securely in hand does he allow her to finally leave the room.
Sounds ridiculous, right? What salesman in his right mind would do that knowing that the odds of the contract being upheld (or even pursued) in a court of law are virtually nil?
Far from honoring such a transaction, every business interest involved would not only regard it as invalid, they’d be appalled and even frightened by it. The dealership, fearing the nightmare of negative publicity it generated, would move swiftly to fire the salesman and make public apologies. The police would arrest him on charges of, among other things, assault and battery, while the leasing company would refuse to honor the purchase agreement and the bank would refuse to cash the check.
Why? Because in a merchant society, violent assault as a sales tool is considered bad for business. Women wield enormous purchasing power, so naturally even our male retailers, police, bankers, leasing companies, courts, and chambers of commerce have a vested interest in preserving easy and continued access to their purses.
Frightened and/or battered women do not good shoppers make. They’re wary and harder to coax into the store if they suspect they’ll be beaten once inside, so simple economics demands they be aggressively protected from out of control, violent salesmen like our shining example above.
And they are.
Men instinctually understand that if they start screwing up the business opportunities for other men, the consequences will be swift and severe, which is why incidents of this type are basically unheard of. Men (and the keyword is men here) have established a zero tolerance for it.
But that’s a woman’s purse. Unfortunately, we have a different situation entirely when it comes to clear cut legal protections for a woman’s body. Sadly, there is still no established solidarity among men…no absolute and unquestioned zero tolerance policy…for sexual assault and rape. While most men easily and intuitively understand why they’re not allowed to force a woman to sign financial documents, their understanding of why they can’t under any circumstance force a woman to grant them sexual access remains far more confused.
The fact that so much confusion still exists is a nightmare for women. Clearly. And since it’s rooted in long standing, deeply entrenched societal attitudes about not only sex and violence, but the basic identity of women and men, it won’t be easy to change.
But speaking as a woman myself? I absolutely vote for the attempt. Sexual violence against women is currently on the rise domestically and abroad and, while I understand (and even sympathize with to a degree) the reasons why so many men, including some very influential male politicians, are afraid of supporting and crafting stronger laws which could make them more vulnerable to wrongful prosecution for rape, I can’t help but resent just how easy they find it to sell off our safety to purchase their own.
There’s a very dangerous message going out these days to sexual predators that a certain cadre of male lawmakers are willing to turn a blind eye to their activities in order to afford themselves and men in general a greater protection from prosecution.
And there are already predators taking advantage of it in Northern Minnesota. There are signs that Native American women living on reservations in the north (one in three already report being raped and 80% of the assaults are perpetrated by non-natives) are also becoming fair game for rape by transient hunters during hunting season. And yet politicians like Eric Cantor are working furiously to water down The Violence Against Women Act to make sure that stronger protections for Native American women (as well as LGBT and undocumented immigrant women) are not put in place.
The Republican proposal deleted provisions from the Senate measure giving tribal authorities jurisdiction to prosecute cases on Indian reservations, specifically against discrimination of LGBT victims, and allowing undocumented immigrant survivors of domestic violence to seek legal status.
Native American women are hardly the only ones. What’s happening to women in the U.S. military is another nightmare. From The Guilfordian:
In an anonymous survey of women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22.8 percent reported being victims of sexual assault or rape while in a war zone.
The Pentagon’s annual report on sexual harassment released in December showed a 23 percent increase in sexual assaults reported by students at its military academies, making 2012 the third consecutive year of increase.
And women in prisons fare far worse. Frankly, some of the prison reports read like coverage of the rape protocols practiced by soldiers against women over in The Congo. And it’s no secret that it’s happening. How in the world can this be willingly tolerated in a developed nation like the U.S.?
And then there’s the high incidence of date rape on college campuses, the rise in domestic violence, the revelations of child sexual abuse allowed in some of our largest and most powerful institutions, to name only a few. The list is depressing and very, very long.
Men, I’m sorry to have to say this but really, the overwhelming majority of sexual predators are coming from among your ranks, as are the majority of politicians crafting the policy and law we women so desperately need for our protection. Our sons and our grandsons are instinctively imprinting on your attitudes and your treatment of women. You guys are the ones who wield most of the power on this issue but, as a group, so far you’re failing us. The statistics tell the horrific story. Please, please, make our bodies at least as important to you as our purses are, and preferably more so.
Here are some sobering statistics from The Center on Women and Families. (And this is their toll-free, 24/7 emergency hotline for anyone out there who needs help: 203-333-2233.)
Statistics on Sexual Violence
The following statistics are based on national average.
Statistics on Females
- Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.(U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey)
- 1 out of 6 women have been victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. (National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.)
- 38% of women who have been raped were ages 14-17. (PSU)
- 60% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police. (U.S. Department of Justice)
- 73% of sexual assaults were committed by a non-stranger. (U.S. Department of Justice)
- 38% of rapists are a friend of acquaintance to the victim. (U.S. Department of Justice)
- 92% of homeless women have experienced severe physical and or/sexual violence in their lifetime. (PCAR)
- Up to 38% of women identify sexual abuse as a reason for leaving their home. (PCAR)
Statistics on Males
- An estimated 92,700 men are forcibly raped each year in the United States. (Tjadn & Thoemmes, 1998)
- 3% of American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. (National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.)
- In 2003, 1 in every 10 rape victims was male. (U.S. Department of Justice)
Statistics on Children
- 1 out of 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 18 years old. (Darkness to Light)
- 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12 and 44% are under age 18. (U.S. Department of Justice)
- 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics)
- Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. (RAINN)
UPDATE: The Violence Against Women Act just passed in the House with protections for Native American, LGBT, and undocumented worker women left intact! Thanks from the bottom of my heart to every man who stepped up to the plate and voted for it. You’re sending a powerful message to all the sexual predators out there busily trying to figure out which women will be easiest to rape. You have my undying gratitude (and the gratitude of the legions of other women who’ve either been sexually assaulted or are in chronic danger of being so.) Today is a very, very good day.
copyright Dia Osborn 2013