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Reflections on the DSK & Nafissatou Diallo case: What we know about sexual assault & victim-blaming

August 1, 2011, 11:16 am — admin (Uncategorized)

The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault applauds the courageous victims of sexual assault who come forward to report the crime. Victim-blaming is a common defense tactic, viagra and the risk is greater when the case involves a famous or powerful person: This has been the experience of Nafissatou Diallo, store the Sofitel housekeeper who has accused former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her in his hotel room last May.

In this highly polarizing case, healing both Mr. Strauss-Kahn and Ms. Diallo have been tried and “convicted,” in a sense, by the international press. While the outcome of this high-profile case is in limbo, and we may never know the full details of what happened behind closed doors, here is what we do know about sexual assaults:

We know that victim blaming is practiced widely in our culture. While celebrity rape cases grab the headlines, many sexual violence crimes treat the victim as “suspect” because he/she dressed provocatively, drank alcohol or used drugs, engaged in some form of consensual sex prior to the attack, or did not put up a struggle. Defense attorneys routinely attack the credibility of a sexual assault victim by digging up any incriminating details from his/her past. This practice has a chilling effect on survivors. Victims of sexual violence are deeply ashamed, humiliated and fearful of scrutiny of their private life.  Many are afraid to report the crime for fear of being “put on trial.”

We know immigrant women are more vulnerable and at greater risk for victimization and exploitation by individuals in a position of power or authority, due to factors such immigration status, isolation, cultural and language barriers, as well as fear of, and uncertainty of seeking help from the police.

We know sexual assaults are crimes of violence and power, not of passion. The attacker’s motivation is to humiliate, debase and control the victim. Perpetrators often select victims whom they perceive as vulnerable or whom they have power over. In a workplace setting, the victim may not report the crime for fear of retaliation, fear of being blamed for the attack or fear losing her/his job.

We know there is no “normal way” to react to a sexual assault. Reactions vary significantly, and run the gamut from anger, withdrawal, hysteria, numbness and apathy. Some victims cope by resuming normal activities, such as going back to work, shopping, or even returning to the setting where they met their assailant.

We know false accusations are extremely rare. Victims of trauma commonly experience shock, numbing, and dissociation as well as effects on memory of details. As a result, it is not uncommon for a victim’s statement to contain inconsistencies and/or untrue statements. This, however, should not be confused with a false allegation. According to a study by the American Prosecutors Research Institute, false rape allegations account for 2 – 8% of all reported rapes.[1]

We know sexual assault is a public health crisis in the United States. One in six American women– and one in 33 men – has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.[2] Until we accept the prevalence, nature and scope of sexual violence, and stop placing blame on victims, sexual assault will remain the most underreported crime in the nation.


[1] Lonsway, Kimberly A., Joanne Archambault, and David Lisak. 2009 False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault. The Voice 3(1):1-11

[2] National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998

Guest Post: Rape New York Book News

March 23, 2011, 2:33 pm — admin (Uncategorized)

Ed. note:  Thank you again to guest blogger, Meredith, for providing us with this great post.

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One afternoon in January 2001, Jana Leo was at her apartment in Harlem when a man broke in, held her at gunpoint, and raped her. Her new book, Rape New York, tells the story of this traumatic event, but doesn’t stop there. As survivors know, there are more challenges ahead once the violence has ended. In Jana’s case, she came face-to-face with some of the unexpected ones.

After the rape, Jana had choices to make about reporting the crime and seeking medical attention. She did both, only to be faced with an apathetic police department and complications with her health insurance provider. Jana was also troubled by thoughts that her rapist would return, especially after learning that her assailant had entered the building due to faulty locks on the entrance. She spoke to her landlord, but he was another in a series of disappointments – in fact, he blamed Jana for letting the man in. Jana came to realize that there was only one person she could turn to for help: herself.

Rape New York is the incredible story of Jana Leo’s strength and conviction at a time when many might have given up. To buy the book, visit http://www.feministpress.org/books/jana-leo/rape-new-york

From the web: quick news links

March 2, 2011, 2:53 pm — admin (Uncategorized)

Check out these sexual violence-related stories from the past few weeks:

The Hidden Victims of Wartime Rape

From the New York Times, prescription learn about male rape in the Congo and the increased attention being paid to this vulnerable group of victims.

Study Calls for Greater Public Awareness of Sexual Assault

Read about recent study findings, that show how public misperceptions about rape make criminal prosecution of sexual assault more difficult.

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Blog posts are the responsibility of their authors, and do not reflect the opinions of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault.

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