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Talk About Rape!

The Quiz

espite three decades of public focus on violence against women, rape and its victims remain hidden in the shadows of myth and taboo.

Discussions of violence against women, whether in classrooms, media, church groups, or public forums, tend to center on domestic violence. The punches and kicks of domestic violence are more readily molded into gender neutral discussion of violence in general. Rape, however, doesn't blend so easily into any other human experience. Once unveiled from myth and taboo, rape starkly exposes the violent oppression of women by men in no uncertain terms. The resistance to opening that view remains strong.

The media attention to high profile rape cases in the last decade, rather than shedding light on the subject, has served to reinforce the old myths. The William Kennedy Smith rape ran under the old banner of ` rape is an easy charge to make and a difficult one to prove. The Mike Tyson rape played heavily to racist stereotypes of the black male rapist. The coverage of the sexual assault and murder of Polly Klaas honed in on the stranger danger fears, driving hard on the need for patriarchal protections at home. Or, as in the extensive coverage of law enforcement failures leading up to the murder of Teresa Macias, the charges of sexual violence that Macias had brought to authorities were all but ignored by the press. Attention was given to restraining order violations instead.

early thirty years ago, Susan Brownmiller took these myths and denial to task in her groundbreaking analysis of rape, "Against our Will." To be sure, there's been progress since then. It's no longer said, for example, as it was before, that women enjoy rape. And if a rape victim looks hard enough, she can find support. Yet today in the year 2001, the vast majority of forcible rape victims in the U.S. still don't report the crime for fear of the very real ostracizing, victim blaming, and stigma of rape that remain in force.

Just last year 2,000 we saw TV video of New York police ignoring women's pleas for help even as women en masse were being sexually assaulted right in front of the officers' eyes. In Philadelphia, investigative journalists revealed that the Philadelphia Police Department was systematically burying literally thousands of rape cases. And in Sonoma County, Catholic church hierarchy were exposed for a massive cover-up of its priests' sexual assaults of children and parishioners under their care.

erhaps the revelations themselves should provide some faith in progress. But it's hardly progress enough to bring justice to victims of rape, and nowhere near enough progress to prevent the scourge of rapes that continues to constrict women's freedom and lives.

It's time to talk about rape! The following is a rape quiz that we hope will help facilitate discussions of rape and question the myths. After you've looked at the quiz, please pass it on to teachers, counselors, and clergy.

In using this quiz, we've found best results if you break the group into smaller groups of three of four persons each. Have each smaller group discuss the questions among themselves for a few minutes. Then have one person from each small group report their groups' response back to the larger group. This fosters a range of well thought out responses.

The Quiz

Feel free to photocopy and distribute this information as long as you keep the credit and text intact.
Copyright © Marie De Santis,
Women's Justice Center,


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