rape

New Film Explores Long-Ignored War Crimes of World War II

Image via Les Innocentes / RNS

A new film opening July 8 focuses attention on a long-ignored war crime — the sanctioned and systematic rape of Polish nuns during World War II.

The Innocents (Les Innocentes) tells the story of a young French doctor who is called to a Polish convent to aid a young novice in a breech labor. She discovers that Soviet soldiers, with the approval of their officers, raped dozens of the nuns during the occupation, leaving five of them pregnant.

Here's Why It's So Hard For Victims to Report Sexual Assault

Image via /Shutterstock.com

And my students are lucky. They have a college chaplain who, by virtue of my ordination as a Christian minister and my role as a pastoral care provider, can offer them the opportunity to tell their story on their terms. I provide them support and a safe place as they re-familiarize themselves with their own life and help them regain a sense of their own agency.

As I hold my college students and their stories in prayer, I often fight my own urge to ask them to report. The incredible injustice of rape makes me livid and I want so badly for my students to receive some sort of vindication for the wrong done to them. I try to remember that the only person capable of assessing what a victim needs is the victim herself. Some are ready to walk into the onslaught of the justice system in the hope of receiving some sort of public vindication. Most are not.

The Baylor Crisis Isn't About Football. It's About Women's Lives.

Photo by Shehan Jeyarajah
Candlelight vigil in front of the Albritton House on the Baylor University campus on Feb. 8. by Shehan Jeyarajah

So the story, as presented, has been either one of the downfall of a Cinderella sports team or one of political hypocrisy. And left behind are the stories of women whose lives were forever changed and subsequently ignored, first by the administration and now by the media.

Cosby to Stand Trial in Sexual Assault Case

Randy Miramontez / Shutterstock.com

A judge has ordered that Bill Cosby stand trial for charges in a case of sexual assault. According to Reuters, a Pennsylvania judge decided "that there was enough evidence for the entertainer to be criminally tried on charges that he attacked a woman in 2004 after giving her drugs."

The woman is Andrea Constand, a former Temple University staff member who alleges that Cosby gave her pills and assaulted her in his home in 2004. More than 40 women have come forward with similar allegations, but Constand's case is the only one that has resulted in criminal charges filed; in fact, for many, the statute of limitations prevents it.

South Sudan May Be Allowing Fighters to Commit Rape As Form of Payment

A harrowing UN report, released March 11, reveals horrific government-operated attacks against civilians in South Sudan, the youngest country in the world. The report stated that suspected opposition groups, including children and the disabled, are "being burned alive, suffocated in containers, shot, hanged from trees, or cut to pieces" by government or government allied forces.

Baylor Students, Alumni Call for Changes to School's Response to Sexual Assaults

Baylor University
Baylor University, by Danny Huizinga / Flickr.com

A group of Baylor University students and alumni will gather for a candlelight vigil outside university President Ken Starr’s home on Feb. 8 in an effort to urge changes to how the school handles sexual assault.

The vigil is being organized by Stefanie Mundhenk, a recent graduate who described her own experience through the school’s Title IX process in her personal blog. Mundhenk’s account — coupled with a recent ESPN report accusing the school of mishandling cases of sexual assault by Baylor football players, and subsequent CBS Sports commentary calling on President Ken Starr to “stop stonewalling” about the rape cases — sparked outrage among Baylor alumni, many of whom responded in an open letter to the university administration over the weekend. Since the open letter was shared on Saturday, the list of signatories has risen from 50 to more than 1,300.

Change or Complicity

Asking for it: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture- and What We Can Do About It

IN THE COURSE of a few months in the past year, I learned that three women and men close to me had been sexually assaulted—as children and as adults. Hearing their stories broke me out of many of the lies surrounding rape that I had fallen into without even realizing it.

Kate Harding’s Asking for It attacks the same lies and misconceptions. She explores how we, as a culture, embrace myths surrounding rape and sexual assault. Theoretically, we think of rape as a terrible crime that takes away people’s right to choose what to do with their bodies—but practically we have trouble believing that it actually happens, or if it does that it is really that bad. We joke about rape, we believe it is caused by women acting like “sluts,” or act like the only kinds of rape that really matter are those in which a white woman is attacked by a brown man. We normalize assault and minimize it.

We have built a society and criminal justice system that protect abusers and place the responsibility on women to avoid being assaulted rather than on men to not attack.

Sadly, none of this is surprising, but Harding’s exploration of these familiar truths is biting and unrelenting.

She is offensive at times, but about things we should be offended about. When I recoil at her describing a rape by saying he “put his dick in her,” I realize how much I should be disgusted by the assault itself. We can numb ourselves by using clinical language to talk about rape and sexual assault, but Harding refuses to give us distance from the violence of these attacks.

Harding suggests practical changes that we can make—such as educating our kids, reforming our criminal justice system, and changing our language. These practical measures consist of the minimum on which we all ought to agree: My conservative friends, together with my progressive ones, can agree that rape jokes are offensive, hurt people, and contribute to a society in which people are more easily hurt. As Harding notes, even when we have radically different ideas about the proper scope of sexual activity, we should all agree that clear consent is necessary for a healthy sexual relationship.

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