Abuse should not remain in the dark
A 19-year-old wife and mother of two small children begs her unemployed husband to stop shouting at her while their children sleep in their claustrophobic apartment.’
He doesn’t. She confides in a priest, who tells her she needs to be a better wife and keep the family together.’
That night, nothing changes.’
A female student goes on a date, has a few drinks, and gets raped outside her dorm by a classmate.’
She’s too ashamed to turn in her rapist, so she takes a shower, washing away the evidence, goes to class the next day and keeps her eyes down because her attacker is calmly sitting two desks away. He brags to his friends about the ‘incident’ after school.’
A young immigrant woman cries on the bathroom floor, tearfully threatening to turn her husband in after another violent fight, but they both know she can’t turn him in because she’s only here because of his immigration papers.’
These are examples of the most common instances of sexual abuse directed toward females.
Violence against women continues in various forms, on and off campus, and most of these offenses are never reported because the victim cannot overcome the fear and embarrassment of the questioning and the blame that might follow.
‘ ‘If a woman reports abuse to the police, the questioning process can be extremely traumatic,’ Beverly McPhail, director of the Women’s Resource Center, said. ‘It’s called secondary victimization – sometimes their whole sex life is revealed to the public in trial.’
If a woman’s sex life is outside the boundaries of what the public deems appropriate, she is labeled a promiscuous (insert derogatory term) who had it coming.’
Most of this ardent criticism comes from women. It’s a classic scenario – girl learns of her boyfriend cheating with or raping another woman, and that woman becomes a sort of ‘home wrecker’ figure. Girl takes her boyfriend back because it’s not his fault he got seduced by some woman’s low-cut tops and all is well with the world.’
Except our home wrecker is left with emotional scars that may never heal, but she had it coming, so the salt gets sprinkled on her wounds from all directions.
‘ ‘It’s a defense mechanism, I think,’ McPhail said. ‘Girls protect themselves by thinking, ‘This (violence) only happens to bad girls. I’m a good girl, so it can’t happen to me.’ But this happens to women and men of all different ages and races,’ she said.’
It could be the result of growing up around abusive family members, the need to feel as if they have power over something, religious upbringing, the stress of the economy, working three jobs while having children at home, crystal meth, Jack Daniels, the violence in media, the degrading of women in rap songs or a slew of other factors.’
‘What we need to be asking ourselves is where are these abusers getting their messages from? What makes them think violence is OK?’ McPhail said.
‘ If the reported reconciliation of Chris Brown and Rihanna teaches us anything, it’s that all can be well, even after an alleged assaut.’
Whatever the motives and excuses are behind abuse, whether verbal, physical or sexual, only 20 percent of female and 12 percent of male victims report sexual assault to law enforcement, according to a study conducted by the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of Texas at Austin.
In order to serve all of the campus population, the Women’s Resource Center is open to both genders.
‘ ‘We welcome both men and women here,’ McPhail said. ‘When students come in, we assess what they need, whether it’s medical attention, counseling, or just information. If needed, we refer them to Counseling and Psychological Services, the UH Health Center and the Wellness Center.’
The WRC also holds events on campus to raise awareness among students, so if they or a friend are being abused and are in need of help, they know where to go.’
Saturday a group of students held a version of the Vagina Monologues on campus to raise money for the Houston Area Women’s Shelter and in April anti-violence activist and filmmaker Byron Hunt will discuss gender roles in hip-hop and rap music, which is said to contribute to the degrading of women.
‘ ‘We do our best to raise awareness,’ McPhail said. ‘I rent out booths at campus events, I run ads in the paper. For both sexes, there is no excuse for violence or playing the blame game.’