Category Archives: Sexual Assault

What parents can do about college campus sexual assault

Staley,selfdefenseinstructor,2

Coaching self-defense at Florida State University with members of Global Peace Exchange

Ever since I started writing my book, Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault, and What We Can Do About It, I have been asked what are the proactive steps we can take to reduce the chances our kids will be sexually assaulted when they go to college. It’s a fair question, and I discuss some of these steps in the last chapter of my book. For those that are impatient, here are 10 action items that will go a long way toward addressing the problem:

  1. Enroll your children in a martial-arts based self-defense program as early as middle school or ninth grade that includes scenario-based training and situational awareness.
  2. Encourage high schools to include human sexuality in their curricula so that students are at least exposed to professional opinion about sex, intimacy, and human bonding, and why sexual assault and rape can be so devastating.
  3. Encourage high school college counselors to include workshops on the risks and dangers on modern campus life, including bystander roles, responsibilities, and interventions.
  4. Encourage parent groups and associations to hold workshops on campus sexual assault, risk reduction, and prevention.
  5. Encourage adult discussions with teenagers and college-age children about sexual assault and how it impacts their lives and the lives of their friends.
  6. Be open to a wide range of remedies and strategies for addressing sexual assault on college campuses while also insisting on evidence-based accountability in the programs;
  7. Insist that colleges and universities hold offenders accountable, and provide evidence that their programs are reducing risks of sexual assault faced by students.
  8. Read the campus sexual assault policies for the colleges and universities students plan to attend.
  9. Ask for data on sexual assaults, investigations, and the results of those investigations.
  10. Ensure college-bound students are aware of programs and support available to them and their friends at the schools they plan to attend.

You can find out much more self-defense programs and the book at my website, campusninjaselfdefense.com.

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A car accident, a broken ankle, and the torn souls of rape survivors

My 1973 Volkswagen Squareback was totaled in a 1983 car accident and was very similar to this one.

My 1973 Volkswagen Squareback was totaled in a 1983 car accident and was very similar to this one.

I remember three things, snapshots really, from the event that would shape the rest of my life in the early morning hours of frosty February day in 1983.

The first was opening my eyes to blackness. At first I thought I was blind. After a few moments, I realized I was looking up at the vinyl back seat of my volkswagon squareback. I must have said something because I heard my good friend Bill’s voice say: “It’ll be okay, an ambulance is coming.”

The second snapshot wasn’t a snapshot at all. I don’t remember seeing the inside of the ambulance, or the question which must have been “How bad is it?” All I remember is the paramedic–I assumed it was a paramedic because it wasn’t Bill’s voice–say, “You’re lucky to be alive.”

I remember the visual of the third snapshot. I was on a gurney rolling down a hallway in a hospital. I began to shake and cry uncontrollably. Or so I thought. A nurse said, “We’ve got a crier here.” Anger snapped me out of crying. But that’s it.  I don’t remember anything else from that day.

Friends and family filled in the rest. The surgeon spent four of the six hours in surgery trying to close up the gaping hole that was the left side of my face. The doctors had to pick out individual shards of glass and asphalt with tweezers, and then figure out how they were going to graft enough skin from somewhere else on my body to sew me up. Every nerve was exposed, but, for the grace of God, none were severed. We still don’t know how I kept my left eye because half of my eyebrow was stripped off and gravel was burrowed deep around the socket. The first few days after the surgery were agony, not so much in pain–medications kept that at bay–as extreme, turbulent discomfort.

The entire episode from the car crash to surgery must have taken hours, but I remember snippets of minutes. My body and brain were shutting down, a natural, defensive state of shock triggered by an extreme loss of blood and physical trauma.

Flash forward 20 years. I am running a loop in a 200-acre wooded wildlife preserve. Just past my turnaround–a mile and three quarters from home–a numbing pain shoots up from my foot as I feel the turn of my ankle on an unseen rock. I hobble out of the woods after crossing two streams using a branch as a makeshift crutch. My dog, on a leash, was no help.

Someone asks me if I heard a “pop”. I say “no,” so we conclude that I sprained my ankle. I Bu Profen and ice packs control the swelling and reduce the pain. Three weeks later, my ankle still hurts, but I’m on a ski trip with my friend Karl in Telluride, Colorado. A “skiers ski area,” I am on the black diamonds. While skiing Giant Steps, a double-black diamond, pain from my ankle keeps me from descending more than a couple dozen feet at a time through the moguls. I am embarrassed. I am a better skier than this. But I listen to the barking ankle, and  I bail on the next run, letting Karl ski the black diamond as our last run of the day while I suck up the pain and take the easier blue trails down to the base.

When I return home, I finally visit the orthopedic doctor. A skier, he examines my ankle and asks if I heard a “pop” when I injured the ankle. Again, I say “no.” He orders the x-ray anyway.

When he returns, he gives me the news: I had broken my ankle on the run in the woods. I look at him in disbelief. “Is it a hairline fracture?”

He slaps the x-ray up on a monitor and points to the bones of my foot. “No, it was a clean break.”

He’s right, of course. Even I can see the thick straight line that represents the break in my ankle.

I was lucky. The bone broke but snapped back into near perfect alignment. That’s why I was able to walk out of the woods. It started to heal, but skiing put too much pressure on the break. My ski boots were stiff and tight, acting as a cast to hold the bones in place, but if I had been snowboarding the ankle would have re-broken and the damage far more severe than the first time.

The point to the car accident story is that my body, doing what it does naturally, shut out much of the trauma I was experiencing. I have monstrous gaps in memory on the day of the accident even though I must have been conscious a fair amount of the time.

The point of the broken ankle story is I did not hear a snap. I should have heard a snap. The break was complete and clean. But I didn’t.

In other words, your body and mind does many things to protect you when you experience trauma. Sometimes, it blots out entire memories.

Perhaps it’s these experiences, and my reflection on them, that gave me the courage to step way outside my comfort zone and write my new book Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It. I understood trauma in a personal way, so when rape survivors began sharing their stories their memories didn’t have to be complete for me to put the pieces together and recognize the truth of their experience. 

WomanisolatedOne of the most damaging and significant criticisms leveled at men and women who claim they have been assaulted or raped is that their memories are incomplete, and dots between events don’t connect well. Incomplete or uncertain knowledge is one of the primary reasons why rape cases don’t go to court unless significant physical evidence can support the victim’s story. Unless the victim can present an ironclad chronicle of events, the case falls apart, particularly when they are faced with an (untraumatized) accuser who can present a complete, consistent case. It shouldn’t be surprising that only about 10 percent of rape cases end in a conviction on the rape charge.

Total recall of a traumatic event is an unreasonable expectation for human beings. The difference between my traumas and those of a rape survivor lie in the physical evidence, not the truth of the trauma. I still literally carry the scars of my car accident–they become bright red when my body is very hot or cold. I can show people the x-ray of my broken ankle.

What does a rape survivor show? How do you see the scars of a shattered soul? (Hint: Don’t judge and listen to their story.)

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25 questions “UnSafe On Any Campus?” will answer

This summer, my newest book, Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It, will be published by Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. This journey has been both amazingly personal and one of the most challenging writing projects I have undertaken. I now have a portion of my self-defense website, campusninjaselfdefense.com, devoted to the book. Here are 25 questions Unsafe On Any Campus? will answer:IMG_1195 (1)

  1. How serious is sexual assault on today’s college campuses?
  2. Is sexual assault and rape an “epidemic” on today’s campuses?
  3. Who is most likely to be a victim of sexual assault?
  4. What is the connection between sex, sexuality and emotional trauma?
  5. What makes the trauma associated with rape and sexual assault different from other assaults and crimes?
  6. How does modern college culture complicate efforts to reduce sexual assault on campus?
  7. Is sexual assault an inevitable outcome of the “hook-up” culture and sexual promiscuity?
  8. How does miscommunication between men and women lead to higher rates of rape?
  9. Why don’t men “get it” when it comes to sexual assault?
  10. What is the profile of the “typical” rapist?
  11. Why can’t the traditional criminal justice system handle sexual assault and campus rape more effectively?
  12. What alternatives might be more effective in reducing sexual assault than traditional law enforcement?
  13. How can college students and young adults protect themselves and their friends against sexual assault?
  14. What role do bystanders play in stopping sexual assault?
  15. What programs or strategies are most effective in reducing sexual assault and rape on college campuses?
  16. What role can victim-offender dialogue and Restorative Justice play in creating better outcomes than the criminal justice system?
  17. What role does risk reduction plan in solving the sexual assault problem?
  18. Do sexual assault prevention strategies work?
  19. Why do some people minimize the effect of sexual assault and rape on college campuses?
  20. Why are so many women unwilling or reluctant to report their sexual assaults and rapes?
  21. What role does the media play in promoting sexual assault?
  22. Why is the famous “Rocky kiss” really a rape, and why does it matter?
  23. Is James Bond a serial rapist?
  24. What role can self-defense based martial arts play in reducing risks and preventing sexual assault?

Check out this blog and my website for more details about the book and answers to these questions!

 

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The story in “Unsafe On Any Campus?”

Staley,JohnLongMS,Nov2013

Sam Staley talks about writing novels about interpersonal violence and bullying at John Long Middle School in Wesley Chapel, Florida

Oddly, many people, including professional writers, don’t think of nonfiction books in terms of story. This is unfortunate, because any rhetorical work implies the presentation of an idea or perspective, and involves some form of persuasion. Otherwise, why write the book? My Newest book, Unsafe On Any Campus?, is a case in point.

Unsafe On Any Campus has two goals: educate the general public about the character, nature, and extent of campus sexual assault and rape, and provide a practical framework for reducing its prevalence and impact. But the book can’t be just a “brain dump”: a compilation of statistics and studies. It also can’t be what fiction writers call an “information dump,” dialogue or story interruption with the sole purpose of providing story or character background. In fiction (and screenwriting for that matter), every word in dialogue or the narrative is chosen to move the story forward. This is what we mean by “every word counts.”

Nonfiction writers also have to tell a story, and they need to use active voice and tone to move the story forward and keep readers. Like novelists, they need to “show,” not just tell. So, even though Unsafe on Any Campus? uses statistics, these numbers, case studies, thought experiments, figures, and charts are used to move the story forward in a compelling, active way. They aren’t just “dumped” on the reader, hoping they will sort out their importance on their own. Their inclusion in conscious, deliberate, and intentional.

I started thinking about nonfiction as story after my first published novel, The Pirate of Panther Bay, was published. When I co-authored fourth non-fiction book, The Road More Traveled Ted Balaker, a policy book about traffic congestion, I thought about how the argument and story builds to its concluding chapter of policy recommendations. I learned a lot from Ted because his background was network television, and he understood the importance of showing or painting pictures for viewers to illustrate important points. In other words, don’t just “tell” your audience something—show them a picture and let them come to their own conclusions based on the information you have artfully provided.

Ted and I had a structure to the story. We identified the problem, and then showed how different ways of parsing data gave us a different way of looking at traffic congestion. This was just not an information dump. This section challenged our skills to explore the problem and show the reader a different way of looking at it. This new way of looking at the data then organically led to a section that showed how our worldview was different from conventional views—this builds the conflict in our story. Our books final chapters examined the path forward built on our new vision. (The follow up book, Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century, co-authored with Adrian Moore, was even more intentional.)

This approach to story structure in nonfiction was crucial for Unsafe On Any Campus? because of the controversial and high profile nature of the social issue and the conclusions and recommendations I present in the final chapters. My goal is for readers to look at the problem of campus sexual assault in a different light, cut through the “white noise” of pundits and experts talking past each other, and consider what I believe are practical and effective solutions in a more comprehensive framework.

The book has three parts: chapters that establish why campus sexual assault is an important issue (even if it is not an “epidemic”), how we need to think differently about the problem (contemporary campus young adult culture), and how these first two elements are essential to framing the solution. In other words, each section has its own internal purpose and goal, but they build on each other organically to reach a climatic conclusion in the story of how we address campus sexual assault.

We’ll see how readers, professionals, and pundits respond this summer with the book is released. For more on Unsafe On Any Campus, check out www.campusninjaselfdefense.

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RPLA win raises visibility of little people in mainstream society

One of the more gratifying aspects of winning 2nd place in the Royal Palm Literary Competition was that the it happened in October. This month is Dwarfism Awareness Month, and as readers of St. Nic, Inc. know, little people–dwarves–play an important role in the story and plot. I think my fictional characters mirror the roles real dwarves play more generally in our society, even though they are not always recognized or acknowledged. I am pleased that the RPLA award have given greater public visibility to this novel and, by extension, little people.StNicInc,COVER

Someone recently observed that all my novels address a social justice issue of some sort. In the Pirate of Panther Bay series, the stories focus on interpersonal violence and human dignity. In Renegade and A Warrior’s Soul (the Path of the Warrior series), the issue is bullying and sexual assault. In St. Nic, Inc., prejudice and discrimination are critical elements of the plot and storyline. In fact, I can honestly say. without giving too much away, little people are an indispensable element to the story–the story just wouldn’t be the same, and not nearly as interesting, without them. Dwarves are full-fledged, multi-dimensional characters with their own ambitions, courage, fears, skills, and competencies, and their choices as individuals determine the outcome of the story. In no way are they tokens.

Just who are some of these central characters?

  • Rowdy, the software engineer turned businessman, who company’s revenues power the North Pole to achieve its social mission;
  • Ron Cutler, the seasoned corporate attorney turned civil rights lawyer
  • Lisa Patten, the chief of surgery at the North Pole hospital
  • Fred, a professional nurse who befriends one of a lead average-sized characters

Several other characters play smaller but important cameo roles.

RPLA_2ndPl_BadgeImportantly, St. Nic, Inc. is not a story about little people. Rather, it’s a story about the North Pole, and what it might look like if it really exists. Little people make up about 25% of the North Pole population. Average-sized people play prominent roles as lead characters, but, like all societies, this is an ensemble story with different characters on different paths and arcs.

So, why do little people exist at all? Good question. St. Nic, Inc. was written in part with an eye on broaching a broader discussion about prejudice in mainstream society from a different perspective. I have a lot on my website discussing these issues, and the role of little people in the development of the story as well as their role in the novel, including:

So, thank you RPLA for helping me bring this discussion to a broader audience!

For more information on Dwarfism Awareness month, click here. Support Little People of America by either joining (here) or buying St. Nic, Inc. through the LPA’s web site (under the section “Fiction with dwarf characters”).

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