Sexual Abuse Education Pitfalls

Sexual Abuse Education Pitfalls

The misconceptions that lessen the effectiveness of sexual abuse education.

Each week in one of my classes, we read a piece and write a reflection on it. We then discuss the piece in class. This week’s assignment was based off of a piece that touched on the topics of sexual assault and education regarding sex and sexual abuse. This is a topic that I was exposed to a lot throughout high school because my school offered a course regarding healthy relationships and during my senior year, a two day seminar about these topics and self defense was introduced. These are great ways to attempt to halt the problem; however, these programs are often shaped by misconceptions about the topics. Here are some common misconceptions that weaken the effectiveness of this type of education.

The seminar introduced by my high school was offered to the senior girls of the school. This program was helpful in exposing facts to us, while also preparing us with strategies in case something was to transpire on our college campuses the following fall. We touched on date rape drugs, rape, sexual assault, self defense and many other pertinent topics. In my opinion, this was essential before heading off to college and leaving our small town and safety net. There was one problem with the program and that was that it was not offered to males. This caused uproar amongst the senior class. It took a lot of effort to get this program allowed for females, but that is no excuse. Females statistically are more susceptible to this abuse; however, men also fall victim to the abuse. Approximately 1/10 women have been raped by an intimate partner; however, only 1/45 men have been raped by an intimate partner. By not including men in these conversations, it does not provide them with information they may need. It also emphasizes to women that men are always the offender.

When the idea of rape or sexual assault comes to mind, the idea of a man abusing a woman generally arises. When people hear the word "rape," they assume the perpetrator was a male. This idea is supported by the fact that many facilities only choose to educate women on the topic of sexual abuse. This creates the idea that only women fall victim to it. What many do not talk about is the fact that the abuser can be male or female, and can occur in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

During the two day seminar, I overheard another female student whisper to her friend, “We wouldn’t need to be here if they would just teach the boys to treat girls right." Why don’t we teach everyone to treat each other with respect, rather than targeting one specific group? Although it is less frequent, females also are the abusers in relationships. This does not necessarily mean toward men, because it could be a female abusing another female. By engraving the image of the male as the offender, it creates a sense of fear associated toward men in certain situations.

Imagine this, a female is walking to her car around 9:00 p.m. Would she be more scared if she saw a male walking through the lot or another female? Chances are for a brief instant, some fear or second guessing would cross her mind at the site of being alone with an unknown male in a dark parking lot. That perception is completely inaccurate because not all men are offenders.

Many of these classes place a focus on women defending themselves from males and this places a negative stigma around the male gender. Do not get me wrong, it is important to learn self defense and be educated on this subject; however, there needs to be an emphasis on the fact that it is not just the men who are the perpetrators and men need to have equal access to these classes.

During our classroom discussion, the professor proposed the idea that a man would not be as scared walking through a parking lot alone, at night, and coming across a woman walking to her car as well. His reasoning was because the sex offender stigma applied to men is not applied to women. One male student proceeded to add to this portion of the conversation that men would not be scared because they were "tough." Mental strength has absolutely nothing to do with this. Anyone can fall victim to abuse. By making this statement, this student was unintentionally calling women weak. The stereotype is that men are not victims because they are bigger and stronger than women. This is incorrect. Many men that do fall victim to sexual abuse do not report it in fear that they will be labeled as weak. Anyone can be a victim and strength does not affect that. If you are abused, it does not mean you are any less than someone who has not been abused.

When we discussed the topic of sexual assault in class after reading the piece, we only touched on the stereotypical idea that sexual assault is a man assaulting a woman. We went in depth about the idea of fear and mistrust among women toward men. After talking about the reading and we determined that this idea of a woman needing to protect herself from men is rooted in how we were raised. Growing up, parents protect their young girls from boys. When choosing a babysitter, parents are more inclined to hire a female babysitter for their daughter over a male because of the idea that men are statistically more likely to be a sex offender.

Females are raised to believe that men are more inclined to hurt them and this idea is strengthened through the emphasis on males being the main perpetrators in sexual abuse. If education regarding the topics of sexual assault, rape, and healthy relationships revealed the fact that men are not the only offenders, and females are not the only victims, people would have a better grasp on the subject. With a wider viewpoint on the topic, the male gender as a whole would not be blamed for the entire problem of sexual abuse. People would realize that anyone can fall victim to this abuse and the perpetrator can be any gender.

Cover Image Credit: U.S Navy

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I'd Rather Be Single Than Settle – Here Is Why Being Picky Is Okay

They're on their best behavior when you're dating.

Dating nowadays described in one word: annoying.

What's even more annoying? when people tell you that you're being too "picky" when it comes to dating. Yes, from an outside perspective sometimes that's exactly what it looks like; however, when looking at it from my perspective it all makes sense.

I've heard it all:

"He was cute, why didn't you like him?"

"You didn't even give him a chance!"

"You pay too much attention to the little things!"

What people don't understand is that it's OKAY to be picky when it comes to guys. For some reason, girls in college freak out and think they're supposed to have a boyfriend by now, be engaged by the time they graduate, etc. It's all a little ridiculous.

However, I refuse to put myself on a time table such as this due to the fact that these girls who feel this way are left with no choice but to overlook the things in guys that they shouldn't be overlooking, they're settling and this is something that I refuse to do.

So this leaves the big question: What am I waiting for?

Well, I'm waiting for a guy who...

1. Wants to know my friends.

Blessed doesn't even begin to describe how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

I want a guy who can hang out with my friends. If a guy makes an effort to impress your friends then that says a lot about him and how he feels about you. This not only shows that he cares about you but he cares about the people in your life as well.

Someone should be happy to see you happy and your friends contribute to that happiness, therefore, they should be nothing more than supportive and caring towards you and your friendships.

2. Actually, cares to get to know me.

Although this is a very broad statement, this is the most important one. A guy should want to know all about you. He should want to know your favorite movie, favorite ice cream flavor, favorite Netflix series, etc. Often, (the guys I get stuck on dates with) love to talk about themselves: they would rather tell you about what workout they did yesterday, what their job is, and what they like to do rather than get to know you.

This is something easy to spot on the first date, so although they may be "cute," you should probably drop them if you leave your date and can recite everything about their life since the day they were born, yet they didn't catch what your last name was.

3. How they talk about other women.

It does not matter who they're talking about, if they call their ex-girlfriend crazy we all know she probably isn't and if she is it's probably their fault.

If they talk bad about their mom, let's be honest, if they're disrespecting their mother they're not going to respect you either. If they mention a girl's physical appearances when describing them. For example, "yeah, I think our waitress is that blonde chick with the big boobs"

Well if that doesn't hint they're a complete f* boy then I don't know what else to tell you. And most importantly calling other women "bitches" that's just disrespectful.

Needless to say, if his conversations are similar to ones you'd hear in a frat house, ditch him.

4. Phone etiquette.

If he can't put his phone down long enough to take you to dinner then he doesn't deserve for you to be sitting across from him.

If a guy is serious about you he's going to give you his undivided attention and he's going to do whatever it takes to impress you and checking Snapchat on a date is not impressive. Also, notice if his phone is facedown, then there's most likely a reason for it.

He doesn't trust who or what could pop up on there and he clearly doesn't want you seeing. Although I'm not particularly interested in what's popping up on their phones, putting them face down says more about the guy than you think it does.

To reiterate, it's okay to be picky ladies, you're young, there's no rush.

Remember these tips next time you're on a date or seeing someone, and keep in mind: they're on their best behavior when you're dating. Then ask yourself, what will they be like when they're comfortable? Years down the road? Is this what I really want? If you ask yourself these questions you might be down the same road I have stumbled upon, being too picky.. and that's better than settling.

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Everything I Feared Came True — I'm Still Standing

And so from the outside looking in, someone may say that my life is utter chaos and in ruins. But so what if they're right? They don't define me. But even I say that my life is utter chaos and in ruins. But so what? God intended for this all to be good.

Ryan Fan
Ryan Fan

This past year, almost everything I feared came true. I felt like, at times, I lost everything I cared about: reputation, friendships, and everything in between.

But by the grace of God, I'm still standing. And by that grace, I know it is for the greater good that I cannot yet see. This is a time in transition, but I know for certain that if I can keep standing in this cold season in my life, that God has made me more resilient and more tolerable of adverse circumstances than I ever imagined.

I have always had a deep fear of swimming in open water. When I was really young, I almost drowned, and to this day I have some slight fear going into the water at a beach or ocean. But then once I'm there and in the water, things are fine. I know that everything will be alright, and that's an awareness I didn't have when I was younger.

All my fears came true, but that was the best thing that could have happened to me. At times, that destroyed my anxiety. My pain and grief over losing almost everything I cared about was the best thing that could have happened to me, and although I couldn't see it at times, and sometimes I still can't see it, I know it's true now.

Pamela Cytrynbaum of Psychology Today echoes the point in an article that explores how grief can cure anxiety. The worst happened to Cytrynbaum when she lost her brother out of nowhere, and it wasn't even something she was anxious about. Instead, her anxieties were filled with germs, date rape, identity theft, Ebola, financial instability, and health. She tackled those anxieties through flu shots, insurance, seeing the doctor, and checking her credit rating.

How did this one get past my supersonic, hypervigilant anxiety radar? I thought I had played out every possible loss, every scenario, all of the potential wolves and Nazis at the door. Never saw this one coming.

She realized she didn't fear the right demons, "so certain I knew what to look out for," thinking she could outrun the wolves coming after her. But she couldn't see this one coming. "I know these are just thoughts and my life is full of profound blessings. But that's not how it feels," she says. "I got punk'd by my own brain. Big time." And for her afterward, nothing was scary anymore. "No loss seems impossible," and the loss of her brother was a sort of "pathological innoculation." Her profound suffering in grief taught her to prioritize what really mattered, and all those small fears didn't.

There is another popular adage I was reminded of recently: Murphy's Law, which states that "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong." And we scoff at Murphy's Law as something our overprotective parents or guardians tell us when there's any semblance of risk in our lives. I don't see any reason to abide by it and prepare for the worst possible outcome in any given situation or we won't take any risks (which is probably why, at 22, I don't think about insurance that much). But what happens when it actually applies, when whatever can go wrong does go wrong?

Well, it's important to note that when we say everything goes wrong, it means that everything goes wrong according to our plans. Sure, no one has close ones dying or unemployment or natural disasters anywhere near the top of their plans, but what we mean more by everything going wrong is just that circumstances turned out drastically unexpected.

It is only that kind of adversity, though, that reminds us of how lucky we are and how good we have it. Paul Hudson of Elite Daily writes that highly successful people "plan and then attack" in these circumstances because "moping isn't allowed." But my experience and my circumstances reminded me that sometimes, we just have to feel it or it's like a wound we don't treat, a wound that needs stitching that we don't stitch up. When life is a journey through hell and back, having a scar lets us thrive, but just pressing forward unsustainably with a severe, untreated wound does us no favors. Yes, we have to keep going, but we also need to take the time to stop, too.

Seeing our scars as sources of pride remind us that we are more resilient than we ever imagined, and our stories can inspire others to believe in themselves and do the same. I certainly know the heroes in my life are the ones who have navigated and traversed the most difficult of circumstances and come out on top.

When everything goes wrong, we're reminded how lucky we are to even be alive, even when being alive is an ugly thing to go through. "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on," Robert Frost once said. And those words are true and always will be while we mentally and emotionally wrestle with these questions. But Betty Draper of "Mad Men" offered succession and counterargument to that quote when she said, "I know people say life goes on, and it does, but no one tells you that's not a good thing."

Whether good or bad, though, there was a voice that told me, sometime in the peak of my struggle, that no one can decide whether our circumstances and life going on is good or bad. We decide. And God supersedes us and goes a step even further in the Genesis 50:20 rule: what man intended for evil, God intended for good.

"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself," Robert Frost said. And so from the outside looking in, someone may say that my life is utter chaos and in ruins. But so what if they're right? They don't define me. But even I say that my life is utter chaos and in ruins. But so what? God intended for this all to be good.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for a while. I'm still standing, and everything will be alright.

Ryan Fan
Ryan Fan

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