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BAVO hosts sexual violence talk

Christin Kloski | Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) hosted Dr. Gail Stern, who presented an interactive lecture called “Beat the Blame Game” on Tuesday night. According to a College press release, the presentation helps the audience better recognize forms of sexual violence and discover ways to promote a violence-free community.

Stern said humor can be used when dealing with a serious topic.

“Irrelevant humor is what helps take a new perspective on a serious topic,” Stern said. “However, it is not good to make fun of rape victims.”

Stern said rape victims face blame from outsiders and are often treated as though they were acting like criminals.

“The victim should not be blamed in any case,” she said.

Human judgment of victims comes from the just world hypothesis, Stern said.

“The just-world hypothesis says good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people,” she said.

“When we hear a victim’s story we always try to work it out how we would have done it.”

Part of the presentation consisted of the audience coming up with a list of names for sexually active men and women.

“The list for women is always longer than for those of men,” Stern said. “Words feel more like a punch for women, while for men, the names seem positive.”

Stern said the names for sexually active women have always been demeaning.

“These names show the dehumanization of a person,” Stern said. “They are shown as objects without asking for consent.”

Some of the names even lead to blaming the victim, she said.

“People say it is not rape because the victim was slut or a bad person or that the victim was trying to get away from something, wants revenge or wants attention,” Stern said.

Stern said a claim of rape should always be taken seriously.

“90 percent of reported cases of rape are not false, and over 80 percent of the victims are raped by someone that they know,” Stern said.

Many cases of rape are by someone the victim knows, so fighting back can be confusing, she said.

“When a stranger attacks, we are clear to fight back,” Stern said. “But when it is someone we know attacking, we feel guilty of fighting back.”

Trying to reduce the risk of rape compared to preventing rape is a confusing matter for men, but especially for women, she said.

“We are told not to dress provocative, don’t ever be alone with a man, be explicit about your sexual limits, and don’t drink alcohol,” Stern said. “We must see the difference between rape prevention and risk reduction.”

Stern said rape is an act of power, and rapists just do not care who their victim is.

“Rape is not wrong because it’s a crime; it’s a crime because it is wrong,” she said.

One way woman can help both reduce their risk and prevent rape is to watch out for each other, Stern said.

“The challenge for women should be this,” she said. “We should see everyone as our sister. We need to watch out for them and care for them when we see them in trouble.”

Contact Christin Kloski at cklosk1@nd.edu