Tag Archives: college sexual assault

College rape and the power of words on a bathroom door

These messages formed a multi-day conversation on the effects of college rape on young women

These messages formed a multi-day conversation on the effects of college rape on young women

I still remember the day my business manager came into my office and said “you have to see what’s on the women’s bathroom door.”  What followed changed the course of my life, personally and professionally.*

Written in permanent black marker was a heartbreaking question: “How do you get over being raped?”

Having someone ask the question in person is wrenching enough, but for a young woman to feel the desperation acutely enough to use the anonymity and randomness of a stall door was worse. We were in the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, a far cry from any victim support services or law enforcement. For Ruth, a campus rape survivor, the question was rattling enough.

Even for those like me, who had not experienced that kind of soul-tearing assault, could feel the pain, confusion, and emptiness implied in the words and act.

But what happened over the following days was more extraordinary. Other women responded, spontaneously, sincerely, and constructively. Based on writing styles, ink colors and consistency, I estimate that between 14 and 18 women contributed to what became a conversation across the entire door.

At first, women provided information about institutional support: the FSU police department, office of the victim advocate, and emergency numbers were listed. Then, the conversation turned to the human tragedy.

A spontaneous response to a rape victim's query on how to get over being raped.

A spontaneous response to a rape victim’s query on how to get over being raped.

In this anonymous, sterile, empty physical space, women provided heartfelt personal support and counsel. “I was raped, as well,” a new contributor to the discussion testified. “Just know you’re not alone sweetheart.” Another inked in elegant handwriting:“Your value and dignity as a woman are unchanged” followed by a heart symbol (emphasis by original author).

And the support kept coming,

  •         “be strong”
  •         “Remember, its (sic) not your fault. You re (sic) perfect, you are worthy. You are beautiful inside and out. Never forget, your sisters are here for you.”
  •         “This does not define you. Look to the future, allow yourself hope and ambition. Set goals, you are amazing.” (heart symbol)

And they still encouraged her to call the police—“Sisters help each other. Making that call is scary”

A rape victim's response to her supporters on the bathroom stall door

A rape victim’s response to her supporters on the bathroom stall door

In a powerful statement about to the ability of humans to connect through personal tragedy, the initial victim responded: “You guys are so nice to me. Thank you for that.”

Remarkably, the maintenance and cleaning staff at FSU let the conversation flow and did not clean the door for days (perhaps weeks). Perhaps they sensed the importance of the conversation for the woman who asked the question, the women who provided support to her and other survivors, and for raising awareness about the pervasiveness of the problem and the desperation of women caught in its vortex.

I don’t know if the young woman sought counseling, or took advantage of the university’s counseling services, or ever met the other dozen or so women that provided support to her.

The effect on me, however, was powerful. These brave, anonymous women allowed themselves to become vulnerable, confessing their own soul wrenching experiences while providing unsolicited, spontaneous support for their sisters. No other event showed how important sexual assault and rape were as events that shaped campus culture and the experiences of women on campus.

Prior to this, I had born witness to individual survivor stories. These were personal relationships. As a social scientist and public policy analysis, they were anecdotes. Now they were no longer anecdotes. I saw a pattern. This conversation convinced me that this issue needed a voice that could raise awareness about its depth, grounded in the emotional experiences of survivors, and think through the hard problems of coming up with a solution even if they were controversial.

A woman's spontaneous encouragement to a rape survivor's testimony

A woman’s spontaneous encouragement to a rape survivor’s testimony

I don’t know if I am that voice, but the product of my personal revolve to address this problem on college campuses and wrestle with the public policy implications led to blogging and eventually writing Unsafe on Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It. The book’s cover incorporates some of the photos of this conversation taken by Ruth, and used with permission, to provide testimony on the emotional toll sexual assault and rape take on young men and women on our campuses.

I want to give a shout out to Judy Williams Kirk for suggesting I figure out a way to incorporate these testimonies into the cover and to Gina B Smith for her provocative and heartfelt cover design.

Read Ruth’s discussion of this event on her blog, Reclaiming Lost Voices.

Read more about Unsafe on Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It.

Unsafe On Any Campus?

Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It

Buy the book at Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. (Contact me at sam@srstaley.com or Southern Yellow Pine Publishing for larger order discounts of 5+ and 25+. Pre-orders can be purchased with a $3 discount using the coupon code READ.

*Note, an earlier version of this article misidentified Ruth Krug as the woman who brought the messages to my attention. In fact, my business manager, Judy Kirk, alerted both of us to the words. Ruth, a campus rape survivor, worked for me at the time, and she was the one who chronicled the conversation through photos each day as the contributions lengthened.  

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Unsafe on Any Campus? set for July 28th release

Unsafe on Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It

Unsafe on Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It

Unsafe on Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It is set for official release on July 28, 2016, at a location yet to be determined. Books are on sale now for pre-order, including a $3 off discount when purchasing from Southern Yellow Pine Publishing and using the coupon code READ.

This book is an unsparing, uncompromising and unflinching look at today’s campus environments and examines why they pose significant risks to men and women for sexual assault. Ruth Krug, a campus rape survivor who also writes the Forward to the book, says it signals “a turning point in how we address rape and sexual assault in college and university environments.”

The release event is planned to be more than just a book release. We will have experts on campus sexual assault to answer questions and discuss the problem and what colleges and universities are doing to prevent it.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1.  Campus Rape and the Soul of College
Chapter 2.  Sex, Rape and Human Dignity
Chapter 3.  Sexual Assault and the Failure of Civil Society
Chapter 4. Sexual Assault, Predatory Rape, and Campus Culture
Chapter 5. Experts Talk About Sexual Assault on College Campuses
Chapter 6. Moving Forward: Changing Culture
Chapter 7.  Personal Trauma as the Starting Point
Chapter 8. The Path Forward: A Trauma-Centered Approach
Chapter 9. The Reluctant Education of an Anti-Campus Rape Crusader

Read more about the book at campusninjaselfdefense.com.

Read some of my recent blog posts on campus sexual assault at the Independence Institute blog The Beacon:

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Unsafe on Any Campus? Available for pre-order!

Available from Southern Yellow Pine Publishing

Available from Southern Yellow Pine Publishing

Unsafe on Any Campus? College Sexual Assault, and What We Can Do About It is available for pre-order from Southern Yellow Pine Publishing with an official release date set for July 28, 2016! The retail price is $14.95. Discounts begin with orders of 5 or more (25%) with orders of 25 or more receiving a 40% discount. Contact SYPPublishing for more details.

Unsafe on Any Campus? is an unsparing and unflinching look into the reality of today’s campus life and why it puts students at risk for sexual assault and rape each year. Sam Staley examines in depth why current strategies that rely on the U.S. court system to achieve justice fall short of achieving meaningful resolution, tapping into the personal stories of rape survivors, recent academic research, and his experience as a self-defense coach to frame a bold strategy for dealing with this ongoing scourge. His conclusions challenge the conventional wisdom of advocates, campus rape deniers, and many in the law enforcement community. Long-term success, he contends, requires a comprehensive plan that builds a trauma-centered framework on four pillars—human dignity, personal and bystander empowerment, accountability for offenders, and a narrow and more effective role for the criminal justice system. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the problem of sexual assault on today’s university and college campuses.

  •  How many students are sexually assaulted each year on today’s college campuses?
  • Are today’s students victims of a sexually permissive culture, sexual predators, rampant misogyny among fraternities, and insensitive college bureaucracies?
  • What anti-sexual assault programs really work?
  • What are the six questions every incoming freshman and parent should ask their university or college administration?
  • What are the ten proactive steps parents can take to reduce the risk that their children will experience sexual assault and rape when they enter college?

“This book signals a turning point in addressing rape and sexual assault in college and university environments. It is innovative, practical, and empowering. How we address rape and sexual assault needs to change, and this book will take the reader through the process of understanding human sexuality, rape, trauma, and how we can help ground a new approach that will eliminate this scourge on campus life.”

Ruth Krug, campus rape survivor

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10 elements of a high-performing anti-sexual assault program

After spending years researching and writing the content for a book on college sexual assault–Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault, and What We Can Do About It–people have probably guessed that I have a few ideas about what a high-performing anti-sexual assault program might look like. In my final chapter, I outline some of these features, including several strategies and programs that directly and effectively address sexual assault, including:DownwardTrendImage

  1. A clear and focused mission and vision for their sexual assaultprogram that recognizes the complexity and diversity of modern college campus life while recognizing their duty to lessen the risks and incidence of sexual assault on campus and within the student body.
  2. Comprehensive sexual assaulteducation programs targeted toward freshman that discuss the legal context, student code of conduct, and clearly identifies resources and processes for addressing sexual assault.
  3. Incorporation of human sexualityeducation nested in contemporary college student attitudes and behavior to broaden awareness and empathy for diverse viewpoints and establishing individual dignity and sovereignty as a core value.
  4. Self-defenseeducation and training as primary prevention and risk reduction strategies tailored to the needs of today’s college students.
  5. Comprehensive bystander education and intervention programs that are well attended and reach out to a broad base of the student body.
  6. An effective, timely and efficient process for assessing sexual assaultcharges on a case-by-case basis with that protect and support the victim without compromising the rights and dignity of the accused.
  7. Adjudication procedures that go beyond engaging local law enforcementand the criminal justice system and extending to non-adversarial and more collaborative programs such as Restorative Justice.
  8. Support services that are traumasensitive to assist and support survivors on their healing journey.
  9. Well-defined and mutually respectful relationships between college administrators and local law enforcementagencies with trauma sensitive training and procedures in place.
  10. Active and broad-based participation by student groups in addressing sexual assault, prevention, and risk reduction.

To found out more about how we can make our campuses safer, check out my website CampusNinjaSelfDefense.com.

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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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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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