Saturday, March 12, 2011

National Young Feminist Leadership Conference - Washington D.C. Day 2

After waking up and getting on the metro, we started out the day with coffee at George Washington University. We then listened to an excellent speech by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, alongside with other influential women. What they had to say stirred emotion within me and I could not help but to release my tears. Women like:

Eleanor Smeal- President, Feminist Majority Foundation

Tina Tchen- Chief of Staff, First Lady Michelle Obama Executive Director, White House Council on Women and Girls

Terry O'niel- President, National Organization for Women

Nancy Keenan- President, NARAL Pro-Choice America

Steph Harold- Creator- “I am Dr. Tiller”

Kari Ross- Founder and President, Salem College Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance

They each had something to say that spoke to me personally.

I then attended a workshop entitled, No More Excuses: Reforming Sexual Assault Policies on Campus and Redefining Rape with:

Erin Burrows- Project Coordinator, Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER)

Kim Gandy- Vice President & General Counsel, Feminist Majority Foundation

Quinn Pregliasco- Director of Women’s Initiatives, American University


No More Excuses:
Reforming Sexual Assault Policies on Campus and Redefining Rape

In 2010 there were 95,000 rapes recorded in the United States, but did you know that only 19 percent of rapes are even reported? 19 percent, that is estimated at about 500,000 rapes going unreported every year.

When a woman is raped and decides to report it, she must first call local law enforcement to come and build a rape kit. This is a degrading and sometimes traumatic experience for the victim involving the extraction of physical evidence from all over their body, describing to a nurse personal details, standing naked in a dark room while the officers scan you with a special light, and reporting and recounting the details of the rape. Sadly, most physical evidence from the rape kits is never examined. Hundreds of thousands of rape kits go untested today. There are over half a million unsolved rapes, and that does not include rapes that are never reported. Some of the rape kits have been there so long, that the investigations into them are no longer valid.

Most men, who commit rape, will not stop with that one act. They will continue to rape more women until they are stopped. Although convicted rapists D.N.A. are catalogued they get away with raping more victims due to these rape kits not being tested. A simple test could have possibly prevented thousands upon thousands of women being raped in the United States. When a woman reports a rape to be done by a stranger, stranger rape is the easiest rape to take to trial, as long as you have D.N.A. evidence.

Acquaintance rape is when you are attacked by someone you have met, even if it was just briefly. In these situations the women seem to be on trial for being raped. Being asked if they were dressed in ways to bring the behavior on, among other ridiculous accusations. Acquaintance rape is a big problem on campuses all around the nation, even at East Tennessee State University where I attend. I have personally seen questionable things going on at my own campus that makes me sick to my stomach. Alcohol being usually involved, these cases are hard to prove. It comes down to her word against his, and I’m sure you can guess whose word they want to hear the truth in. (The white male of course.)

Because of an outdated definition, the word rape needs to be redefined. Sexual assaults on men do not classify as rape, and neither does incest. Forcibly fingering, fisting, or forced anal sex is also not classified as rape. It must be penile to vaginal and forced against the female’s will for it to be considered rape. This is pathetic and needs to be changed.

Now you might be asking yourself, why are all these rape not being tested? It all boils down to one thing. Money, it would cost too much money to have them all tested. So while evidence is piling up on shelves, the rapists are out there and they keep raping.
President Obama wants a better world for women due to having daughters of his own, we will have to see.

Because there are so few rapes that actually get reported and because so few rapists actually get convicted, it makes it seem like to someone looking over a graph that there are substantially more other types of crimes than rapes. From here they put their resources into preventing these crimes that “occur more”, pushing the crime of rape to the bottom. Law enforcement needs to see rape for what it really is.

If you thought that was bad enough it gets worse. The National Crime Victim Survey that they do not include rape of children 12 and under to be classified as rape. One fourth of all rapes committed are against children 12 and under, so the N.C.V.S. excludes 25 percent of all rapes. A study of Navy recruits ages 18 and 19 showed that 95 percent of rapes were committed by repeat offenders. Not all men are rapists; the rapists are just the same kind of people doing it over and over with no one stopping them.

Sexual assault is the most common violent crime on campus. 25 percent of women will be victims by the time the graduate. 9 out of 10 times they will be made victims by someone they know. Because victims do not report these rapes nor are they encouraged to, the schools report 0 to 2 rapes a year. I hope you can see why and how this issue affects women off and on campuses all over the nation.

Schools can redefine rape. We can do this through student movements, and other schools have already started getting things changed on their campuses. Policy change can happen but it takes time and patience. We must continue to pass the knowledge down to new students as we move on, because sometimes it takes a long time for change. We can work to create policies about prevention, and talk openly and loudly about consent. Small changes matter and we can change the definition of rape on our campus. Administrators can help us out a little but it’s ultimately up to us. We can’t get fired, we are students and we will push as hard as we can.


After that I met up with some of my fellow F.M.L.A. members for some coffee. I attended another workshop called Fueling the Femo-lution with Media Activism. In this workshop we had discussions about how we can be more active with our social networking rather than simply practicing arm-chair activism or slacktivism, if you will. I listened and shared with other feminists about what we are doing to use Social Media to the best of our advantage. My advice to you? Write, Share, Copy, Share, and Repeat. If you post something important on your facebook, put it on your blog and your twitter. Start getting involved with an online community of other social media activist. Share your work with them, get new perspectives! If you can even make a change in one person you have made a difference!

Finally we watched as Hilda Solis, the Secretary of Labor, closed the day with a speech about women, jobs, and the economy. Maybe this woman should run for president, because I was very much digging her today. After a Q and A, she hurried off to a meeting with President Obama. My friend Sabrina accidentally breached security as she was leaving and was surrounded by secret service, ha ha.

Next up, we decided to hit up the Soul Vegetarian Café. Everything in this place is vegan and delicious. I had pepper steak with macaroni and cheese and broccoli. It was so good a tear rolled down my face. I am going to write a review when I get back on! So stay tuned for that folks!

After a jam packed metro ride, we got back to the hotel to prepare ourselves for day 3 of our adventure…

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