Hosted by the Florida Authors and Publishers Association, this prestigious national award is open to books published between 2016 and 2017. Organizers say this year included the largest number of entries every drawing from a national pool of authors and publishers.
Unsafe On Any Campus? is written by Samuel R. Staley, a full-time faculty member in the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University. Staley joined the faculty in 2011 after 25 years in the nonprofit private sector. He was unaware of the extent of the problem, which is national in scope, until he learned the stories of survivors and their friends while coaching martial-arts based self-defense classes at FSU. Staley holds a black belt in To-Shin Do, a self-defense oriented version of the classic Japanese “ninja” martial art of Ninjutsu developed by ninja master Stephen K. Hayes.
“Virtually every student will know a survivor of sexual assault by the time he or she graduates from an American university or college,” says Staley, who acknowledges the extent of the problem may vary significantly by college and location. Staley describes his book as a primer for parents, college counselors, and students. “This book is my way of using more than 30 years of professional experience in the field of public policy analysis to explain a very complicated problem and outline practical pathways toward eliminating this scourge on our campuses,” he says.
“The FAPA President’s Book Award exists to promote excellence in the publishing industry by recognizing talented contemporary authors who put both heart and soul into their work. FAPA is proud to be a champion of authors and publishers going the extra mile to produce books of excellence in every aspect.” said Jane R. Wood, President-Elect of FAPA.
Ruth Krug, a survivor of campus sexual assault, writes in her Foreword: Unsafe On Any Campus? is “innovative, practical, and empowering” and “signifies a turning point in addressing rape and sexual assault in college and university environments.” Unsafe On Any Campus? is published by Southern Yellow Pine Publishing.
Medals were awarded at the annual FAPA President’s Book Awards Banquet held this year at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace in the Disney Springs TM Area of Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
“We are proud to announce this year’s winners who truly embody the excellence this award was created to celebrate. We had a record number of entries this year. Competition was stiff! We salute all of our winners for their fine work,” said FAPA’s President, Terri Gerrell.
The Florida Authors & Publishers Association is an organization for authors, publishers, independent publishers, illustrators, editors, printers, and other professionals involved in the publishing industry. It focuses on providing the highest quality of information, resources, and professional development to members and others interested in the writing and publishing profession.
Most of the sexual assault survivors I have come to know in the process of researching and writing Unsafe On Any Campus? were teenagers when they were raped. For many, the assault turned their world upside down, sending them into a downward spiral of self-loathing, distrust, and cynicism. Fortunately, for most, resilience won out. In fact, a few have even found a new center, a renewed sense of self, and an element of peace.
This begs the question: What life lessons can we learn from these trauma survivors? Here are just five:
Live in the moment. In all too many cases, the rape was so traumatizing that victims dropped classes, withdrew from school altogether, or completely shifted their everyday lives inward. Their depression was fueled by continually reliving the events and the assault. Their transition from victim to survivor often began with a renewed and deeper appreciation for the moments of support, beauty, and dignity they experienced each day rather than reliving the horror of the assault. This allowed many to reclaims their sense of purpose and recapture the dignity that makes them human.
Draw strength from community. Eighty percent of women who have been raped never disclose the assault to university or law enforcement officials. The figure is even lower for men. The trauma is so personal, so devastating, that many victims are afraid to tell anyone, even their closest friends and family. Reaching out to those cared for them most intimately, those who gave their unqualified support, started them on their path toward recovery. Without the support of those friends and family, survivors say they wouldn’t have had the courage to acknowledge let alone go public with their assault. This close knit group because their rock, their community, and a foundation stone for rebuilding their lives.
We each have our own journey. Each survivor has their our own personal journey to recovery. The more survivors I met, the more obvious it became that each rape (and assault) was different, each circumstance was unique, each consequence personal. I have met women who were able to move on quickly, and others that struggled to leave their home. The depth of their trauma is highly individualized, making their journeys equally diverse. Survivors are deeply respectful and tolerant of the importance for individuals to chart their own course, to discover their own path, to recovery. This inward reflection leads to a recasting of identity and understanding of self that is inspiring strong and purposeful.
Each journey has its own path. Not all survivors choose the same road to recovery or healing. The physical and emotional nature of a violation through rape triggers deep wounds that are often invisible, even to those that experience it. Thus, the paths are as varied as the journeys and require many more decisions than paths available. These paths can seem like they shift under their feet, and often become illuminated only after they have been trodden. Survivors on a healing journey are remarkably resilient. They understand the nature of emotional barriers and the difficulties of overcoming them. They are patient and empathetic. They persist with grit and determination.
Forgiving yourself is essential for healing and stepping foot on our path. Often, this self-forgiveness begins when we acknowledge the truth of a seemingly trite, but essentially true, mantra: “It’s not your fault.” Many of the men and women I came to know became victims through no fault of their own. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and unaware of the threat standing right next to them. Yet they blame themselves first and this weight drags them deep into depression. The path toward healing begins with forgiving oneself. Indeed, this may be the most important lesson of all because this self-forgiveness releases one from the self loathing and guilt that keeps victims in the past, focused on the past, and their paths dark.
These teenagers became women far too soon, their innocence stolen in a matter of minutes. They were forced to “grow up” and become adults far faster than any parent would want for their child. Fortunately, many survivors find a place where they can accept themselves again and embark on a path of self re-discovery. These stories—their journeys of recovery and healing—are almost never told. They don’t make it into make it into the headlines. Yet, as these survivors pivot on their path, they often find a light others may never know.
They also inspire me.
By bearing witness to their trauma, we can take inspiration from their journeys. By allowing ourselves to hear, we can understand the struggles that come with trauma. If we understand, we can support those who are on their path as well as those struggling to find it.
Perhaps, if enough of us understand, sexual assault and rape will become relegated to a dark part of our social history and banished from our present culture.
Permission to reprint and distribute this blog post is given with attribution to the author, Samuel R. Staley, Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It (Southern Yellow Pine Publishing, 2016)
Video tapes of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump demeaning women and bragging about sexually assaulting them led to a firestorm on social media. For his part, Trump apologized while deflecting responsibility for the full weight of his actions by dismissing the banter as “locker room talk.” The fact Trump is so casual in his willingness to brag about sexual assault is deeply troubling because it fails to recognize how it contributes to a toxic environment on high school and college campus. Locker room talk like that exchanges captured on the audio table enables, abets, and sustains attitudes the promote campus sexual assault and rape.
In the three-minute recording, which was obtained by The Washington Post, Mr. Trump recounts to the television personality Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” how he once pursued a married woman and “moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there,” expressing regret that they did not have sex. But he brags of a special status with women: Because he was “a star,” he says, he could “grab them by the pussy” whenever he wanted.
Is this harmless banter, just playful back and forth between men?
I would have been more dismissive of the effects five years ago, before I started coaching self-defense to women at FSU. I would have thought the language was distasteful, disrespectful, and offensive, but I would not have put much stock in the banter among men as directly harmful. I would also have been wrong. Research now shows that 18-20% of women will report experiencing the kinds of sexual assault Trump brags about by the time they graduate from college (and the share is higher for non-college students).
Ample research has shown that fraternities, sororities, athletic teams, and certain cohorts of students hold general attitudes that diminish and objectivize women the way Trump did in his comments. For a few examples, see the study by Bannon, Brosi and Foubert on sorority and fraternity men’s attitudes in the Journal of student Affairs Research and Practice; the study by Chad Menning on perceptions of personal safety and risk at these parties in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence; and an analysis of fraternity party structure that produces these results by Brandon Harris and Dorothy Schmalz in the journal Deviant Behavior. While the question of whether our campuses are characterized by a widespread and deeply embedded rape culture is open to question, certain institutions and subgroups clearly do.
Thus, I now think differently. My perspective evolved because of the women I coach, the stories I’ve been privileged to learn about from sexual assault survivors, and a careful reading of research on young-adult behavior and human sexuality.
But what is still missing in the public outrage over Trump’s talk and his weak and shallow response is a clearer understanding of how this banter supports and sustains a rape culture, whether widespread or contained within smaller sub-groups.
Below are four ways “locker room talk” promotes misogyny and thus abets sexual assault on campuses.
1. Locker boom talk robs women of agency.
The narrative in this type of talk mocks the idea that women have any legitimate ability to prevent an attack on their body and human dignity. In other words, women cannot, should not, or do not, act on their own, with agency. The tone also promotes the idea that this weakness should be exploited regardless of their victim’s desires or preferences. It’s an attitude that is opposite the values taught in most Western societies—that those unable to defend themselves should be protected. The idea that a woman could, or should, object to these assaults, or say “no,” is dismissed, undermined, and pushed by perpetrators outside the boundaries of tolerable behavior or response, even when this behavior is highly offensive and even traumatizing. The banter is framed solely in the context of men taking what they want, regardless of the desires, preferences, or concerns of their target. This is what is meant by locker room talk “objectifying” women. Indeed, Trump laments that fact he could not actually force a women to have sex with him, as if it’s he was denied a legitimate claim. But this is just the first layer of misogyny.
2. Locker Room Banter forces women to play victim.
Because the narrative is set up to give men power, and to marginalize resistance by the target of the assault, women are forced to play victim. They must accept the injury without comment or resistance because that is their “place.” The talk de-legitimizes self-defense, retaliation against the harm inflicted, or efforts to seek justice by equalizing the balance of power. In fact, the behavior implicitly rejects that idea that a harm has been created by the victims, and efforts to search for redress or rebalancing of these relationships is therefore illegitimate. Thus, Trump gloats about how he can kiss women on the lips, or grab them between their legs, and they will simply take it without objecting or defending themselves.
3. Locker Room Banter deflects responsibility for bad behavior and the harm created.
Talk that victimizes and objectifies others reinforces attitudes about a natural order of supremacy between men over women. Trump’s words and banter establishes a male-dominated paternalism that allows him and others to ignore responsibility for any bad behavior and outcomes from their actions. This dominance forged in private, giving it a privileged status among equals that is separated from public behavior and accountability. “Boys will be boys” attitudes essentially absolves them of responsibility for their actions and the consequences for their victims, and these are the attitudes agreed to by the group or tribe. Women have to just “get over it” and accept that this is what men do. This separates thoughts from actions as if it were okay to think about hurting people as long as someone’s doesn’t act on it, or isn’t caught performing the act. (But of course Trump is bragging about acts he claims he perpetrated.) Thus, the men in the trailer react positively to Trump’s claims of repeated attempts and successes in assaulting the women he comes in contact with.
4. Locker Room Banter perpetuates victimization and harmful behavior among offenders.
Cognitive psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy has shown that thoughts and behaviors are intertwined, and one cannot separate them easily. One way of looking at this is that if someone habitually and routinely objectifies other people, their behavior begins to track with those thoughts and is patterned by those prejudices. Thus, words become actions. Locker room talk normalizes the behavior being described, thus perpetuating actions that further diminish, objectify, and harm women (or others that are the target of the attacks). Again, this is clear in the audio tape by the reaction from the other men, who seem encouraged by Trump’s self-described success and admiration for his ability to use his privilege to continue his assaults without consequence.
In Unsafe On Any Campus?, I argue that the respect for individual human dignity must form the core of a holistic and comprehensive approach to sexual assault on college campuses. The locker room banter used by Donald Trump, and accepted by the other men in the trailer, flies in the face of that concept by completely ignoring and belittling the value of the women he has targeted with his assaults. The fact Donald Trump does not seem to understand this, and in fact boasts of how he intentionally assaults the dignity of women by using the privileges bestowed on him by wealth and celebrity, is a dramatic illustration of why sexual assault continues to be a significant problem on college campuses in and society more generally.
Here is also a short interview I provided to the Capitol News Service on October 11, 2016, explaining some of these thoughts.
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.
One 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.)
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:
How serious is sexual assault on today’s college campuses?
Is sexual assault and rape an “epidemic” on today’s campuses?
Who is most likely to be a victim of sexual assault?
What is the connection between sex, sexuality and emotional trauma?
What makes the trauma associated with rape and sexual assault different from other assaults and crimes?
How does modern college culture complicate efforts to reduce sexual assault on campus?
Is sexual assault an inevitable outcome of the “hook-up” culture and sexual promiscuity?
How does miscommunication between men and women lead to higher rates of rape?
Why don’t men “get it” when it comes to sexual assault?
What is the profile of the “typical” rapist?
Why can’t the traditional criminal justice system handle sexual assault and campus rape more effectively?
What alternatives might be more effective in reducing sexual assault than traditional law enforcement?
How can college students and young adults protect themselves and their friends against sexual assault?
What role do bystanders play in stopping sexual assault?
What programs or strategies are most effective in reducing sexual assault and rape on college campuses?
What role can victim-offender dialogue and Restorative Justice play in creating better outcomes than the criminal justice system?
What role does risk reduction plan in solving the sexual assault problem?
Do sexual assault prevention strategies work?
Why do some people minimize the effect of sexual assault and rape on college campuses?
Why are so many women unwilling or reluctant to report their sexual assaults and rapes?
What role does the media play in promoting sexual assault?
Why is the famous “Rocky kiss” really a rape, and why does it matter?
Is James Bond a serial rapist?
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!
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.
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.
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.
Importantly, 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: