Wednesday, December 08, 2010

1 in 3

I was watching TV yesterday, and while I was looking through the guide to find something to watch, Glenn Beck was on, in his usual form. I would like to preface this blog by clarifying something: I do not have problems with Glenn Beck because I disagree with him. I disagree with a lot of people - Bill O'Reilly comes to mind. And while I do disagree with O'Reilly, and I find he can be condescending, I do not believe he is a bad person. I wouldn't mind sitting down and having a drink with him, just talking. But Glenn Beck is a different story. Glenn Beck is misinformed, and he preys upon the ignorance and fears of others. And yesterday, he crossed an unforgivable line.

Now, I could start this by diving head-first into the George Soros thing, but I'm not going to do that. For starters, it's fairly obvious that Beck crossed a line there. He lost countless sponsors, which he should be accustomed to by now, but the media and pundits have already covered this extensively, drawing parallels, comparing his words to typical anti-Semitic propaganda, and the like. Personally, I don't think Beck is informed enough to realize that what he said was essentially a reiteration of some of the most well known Nazi propaganda, but that is just my opinion. I don't think Beck is a Nazi by any stretch of the imagination, and I'd just as soon let sleeping dogs lie on that one. What he said was wrong, it preyed on the fears of his viewers, and was meant to incite some type of panic or distrust. That's the way this man operates. I don't believe his agenda goes further than that.

Yesterday, he was on one of his usual anti-liberal, anti-progressive rants. He uses the words "liberal" and "progressive" as though they were four-letter words. Progress is not a bad thing; quite the contrary. He had that usual tone of voice he has when he's speaking of one of the progressives or liberals - snide, disapproving, with an air that the individual is somehow dirty or tainted. And what was he referring to? EXTENDING THE LEGAL DEFINITION OF RAPE.

This is a hot-button issue for me. It should be for everyone, because violating someone should never be viewed as anything other than a despicable affront to the human collective. And before we go further down the rabbit hole that is my brain, let's just clear something up: rape is not about sex; it's about power. So what's wrong with extending the legal definition? What's wrong with making it easier to prosecute sex offenders? The statistics on sexual assualts and rape are astronomical: 1 in 3 women, and that statistic is easily five years old. And it isn't just women - this happens to men, too.

Of course, the general opinion is that men don't report it because they're embarrassed. Right. Because women are totally OK with it. Being violated in that way isn't embarrassing; it's paralyzing. Terrifying. It's a kind of fear and loneliness that I don't even have words for. It's a ripping away of innocence much like ripping a Band-Aid, quickly, almost so quickly you don't really remember it, but it keeps stinging after it's gone.

I vividly remember being in the newspaper office in college. We were running a story on sexual assault, and three female staffers - including me - were gathered around a computer reading it. One commented that the 1 in 3 statistic was high, too high to be accurate. My colleagues were quick to put this theory to the test: there were three of us there, and they knew they'd never been assaulted. Then there was a look in my direction, and I just nodded my head once. I didn't say anything, I just nodded. And for all of us, in that moment, the statistic became very real. It wasn't just 1 in 3, it was now our friends, coworkers, people we saw regularly.

But let's get back to the issue: extending the legal definition of rape. This seems like a no-brainer to me. This notion that rape is only a penis being forced into a vagina is outdated. We have several definitions of sex - does no one remember the Clinton years? And if it doesn't take penetration to be sex, it doesn't take penetration to be rape. It's an open and shut thing for me.

So, given the above information, one can easily see how Glenn Back's disdainful attitude toward this makes my blood boil in a special way. We, as a nation, have an epidemic of being unable to respect the rights - and bodies - of others. Violence, rape, sexual assault - they all run rampant. It's time we held our citizens to a higher standard, and that works both ways. We need laws that will empower people to come forward, and then we need those people to come forward.

Why don't people come forward? Well, there are a lot of theories, but I'm sure it's different for each person. For me, it was lack of support. When your family - your flesh and blood - tells you not to talk to the police because "it will just piss him (the offender) off" it kind of changes things for you. If you think that's something that's easy to bring up to anyone in your family in the first place, you are sorely mistaken. But when you actually summon the courage, months after the fact, and are told you shouldn't do anything about it, that leaves scars, too. It isn't something you can just sweep under the rug and pretend that it isn't there. And when you go to the on-campus counseling service, and knowing why you're there they send you to a male counselor, it kind of makes you want to jump on the desk and ask them what qualifications they have for counseling at all, when they clearly can't recognize that you certainly can't talk to a man about this. When you talk a campus officer just to see what protocol is, the officer urges you to come forward but warns that it will likely do no good, as it will be your word against someone else's. So you go back to your dorm room, you have panic attacks when you see his car on campus, and you carry a knife. Because the people who are supposed to protect you, who are supposed to look out for your well being, have abandoned you.

When I hear someone speak of extending the legal definition of rape as anything other than the right thing to do, I go a little nuts. You see, this isn't about me at all. I have cousins in college now, and I have others who will be headed that way soon. What was taken from me can never be returned, but we have a chance to make it a little less likely that it will happen to them. Most offenders have a progression - they usually don't start with penetration rape. If we can do something before it escalates, we can help to protect a generation. Anything less in unacceptable.