CDC Frames Changing Interactions Between Two People as a Prevention Strategy (but not for Sexual Assault)
OPEN LETTER TO THE CDC
Dear Center for Disease Control and Prevention,
Your recently released report on fatal abusive head trauma in children under 5 embraces a range of prevention strategies (your words, not ours) to combat a type of violence that parents or caregivers perpetrate against children. You remind us of the need for collecting good data, for shifting cultural norms around parenting, and for strengthening economic support for families through a variety of policy changes.
And then, CDC (may we call you CDC?), you say this:
“There is growing evidence that child maltreatment prevention strategies, such as those that change interactions, including those between parents and children, parents and other caregivers, and parents and health care providers are effective interventions (7). [The CDC] resource [is]…based on decades of research about effectively promoting positive parenting and preventing child maltreatment, using various approaches, including videos and interactive practice exercises, to help caregivers build healthy relationships with their children aged >3 years.” [emphasis ours].
We wholeheartedly agree – using interactive practice exercises that change interactions between people is an effective prevention strategy supported by decades of research.
Not just in the prevention of child maltreatment. Also in the prevention of sexual assault.
But you should know this, CDC. We’ve told you before. But instead you continue to frame self-defense as a “risk-reduction” strategy instead of as primary prevention.
On the bright side, your Sexual Violence Prevention Package (pages 19-22) lists empowerment-based self-defense among the skills-building strategies we should be teaching.
We applaud your recognition that, with respect to abusive head trauma in children, prevention is a multi-faceted approach, and that changing interactions between caregivers and children is an important aspect of that prevention model.
Let’s have those same standards apply to preventing sexual assault, and recognize that empowerment self-defense training IS part of a comprehensive prevention model; it creates population-level change by challenging rape myths and the dynamics around gender, in addition to teaching people a range of verbal and physical personal safety strategies to prevent sexual assault.
Jill Cermele and Martha McCaughey
You Won’t Find Self-Defense Mentioned Here Either
Last week all the employees at my workplace were sent an email offering us a service to help us achieve work-life balance. No, it was not a raise, a massage, a paid week off, or a nanny. It was the ability to subscribe to ComPsych Corporation’s GuidanceResources Online Web site. Once you register, you are promised access to useful information, news, interactive materials, and services in your area.
By the company’s own description, “GuidanceResources Online is home to hundreds of articles, assessment tools and multimedia presentations on a wide variety of topics.”
Need a carpenter? On there. Need to find childcare? There. Tips on coming out a work? Yep. Advice on why monogamy is the best and why cheating is a bad idea (and, let’s face it, will make you a less productive employee)? Indeed. It’s as if Oprah had invented this herself!
But no, there is no advice on having a successful and happy polyamorous relationship.
Nor will you find information on self-defense. Through the search function no information on “sexual assault” comes up. But searching on “rape” several articles come up. Here they are.
Gardening? Seriously? And take care of cuts and scrapes but no need for a rape kit…. Of course self-defense training is not listed as one of the prevention efforts to engage in. Let’s quote in full the “Date or Acquaintance Rape” page:
Date or Acquaintance Rape
Date rape is a violent crime with serious consequences for both the victim and the perpetrator. Continuing to force sexual activity after being told no is considered rape and is punishable under the law.
Date rape can be especially hard for victims to deal with because it is often committed by a friend or acquaintance. Like other forms of rape, date rape is not about sex; it is an act of violence in which power and control are the underlying motivating factors. Counseling through a rape crisis center can help victims cope with the trauma and make informed decisions about their legal options.
Nobody ever thinks they will be in a situation where date or acquaintance rape could occur, but these tragic events happen to women every day. The following tips can help you avoid many dangerous situations:
- Provide your own transportation to and from your date. This asserts your independence and makes it easier to get away from an unpleasant or dangerous situation. Carry cab fare and a cell phone when possible.
- Refrain from drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Be especially wary of situations in which games or contests encourage drinking lots of alcohol in a short time. Alcohol and drugs often are present in date-rape situations. For the victim, use of these substances can impair judgment, memory and ability to sense an unsafe situation developing. Some date rapes occur after the victim has passed out from too much alcohol. Drugs and alcohol also may cause the perpetrator to become more sexually aggressive.
- Be extra cautious about what you consume. The increased use of date-rape drugs like Rohypnol poses a real danger to your safety. Avoid beverages that are not sealed or were not prepared in your sight.
- Be aware of your surroundings and avoid isolated areas. Remove yourself from the situation immediately if you are even the least bit uncomfortable.
- Examine your feelings about sex and establish your limits before you are in a sexual situation. Then communicate those limits clearly and forcefully.
- Do not give mixed messages; be clear. Say “yes” when you mean yes and say “no” when you mean no. If you have trouble doing this, counseling or assertiveness training can help.
- Do not worry about seeming impolite or causing a scene if you feel that your safety is threatened.
- Be aware of specific situations in which you do not feel relaxed or in control. Avoid attending or staying late at parties where men greatly outnumber women, especially when drinking is involved. If you do not feel safe leave the event early.
- Stick to dates in public places like movie theatres or restaurants until you get to know and trust your date. Try double dates or group dates until you feel comfortable on a solo date.
- Think twice before inviting someone home. Most date rapes occur in the victim’s own residence. Take time to develop a trusting relationship before going to your date’s house.
- Trust your instincts. Many victims report that they sensed things were not quite right but were embarrassed to act on their suspicions until it was too late.
If you have been or suspect you may have been a victim of date or acquaintance rape:
- Seek medical attention first. Go to your hospital emergency room or school health center to be examined. Be aware that showering can destroy evidence that you could use later to legally establish the identity of the perpetrator, should you decide to press charges.
- Consider talking to the rape unit at your local or campus police. Take a friend along for extra support.
- If you are not ready to pursue the matter legally, call a local rape hotline, and tell them about your experience. The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) runs a National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-HOPE or www.rainn.org.
- Consider ongoing counseling to help you deal with the long-term effects of this trauma.
- RAINN: http://centers.rainn.org
- National Council of Women’s Organizations: www.womensorganizations.org
©2014 ComPsych ® Corporation. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only. It is always important to consult with the appropriate professional on financial, medical, legal, behavioral or other issues. As you read this information, it is your responsibility to make sure that the facts and ideas apply to your situation.