Changing Social Reactions Toward Instances of Sexualized Violence Against Women  

A female Emory Student was raped Tuesday, February 11th at approximately 11:45pm in the wooded area between Dowman Drive and Oxford Road next to Emory Village. Approximately two hours later, there was another report that a girl was sexually assaulted on Fraternity Row. She reported an unknown male Emory Student touching her breasts and genital areas over her clothes, putting his hands in her shirt and touching her breasts, then proceeding to put his hands under her skirt (Full Report).


My first reaction as a female Emory student taking a class on gender violence and committed to issues on justice on gender violence to these reports was “What on earth were these females doing in those locations that late at night, especially an hour or two before Atlanta’s second winter storm of the year?”  When I took a second thought to it, I realized that my reaction was the way society was taught to react—to instantaneously blame the woman.


The notion of blaming the woman is not unique to American society—it is apparent almost everywhere around the world. In Rwanda, blaming the woman was first manifested right before the genocide through the release of the 10 Hutu commandments, which targeted Tutsi women as evil conniving individuals who used their sexuality to rise up the social and financial ladder. Furthermore, during and following the genocide, victims of rape were held accountable for their experiences by their families, and subsequently abandoned. During the Bosnian war, Muslim Bosnian women and children were taken into ‘rape camps’ and following the war, someone of them were condemned by their family and consequently disowned by their husbands or their household (More information on Women Under Siege).


Why are female victims the first to be blamed for something that they most often never ask for? It is because society has enculturated us to behave accordingly. In most societies, a woman is most valuable if she is a virgin. In the US, though the perception of woman has changed widely over the last century, a woman is still looked down upon based on her sexual promiscuity. It’s fascinating how though feminist movements have succeeded closing some of the gap of gender inequality when it comes to social and financial strata, society still has been unable to close the gap of sexuality—it is considered normal for a man to sleep around a lot yet it is a complete veto for a woman to do the same.


Of course, even the mention of a woman’s sexuality is ingrained in our minds as a taboo by society. However, to achieve true equality, feminists should opt to focus on it. They have indeed taken huge steps in this movement already advanced in it—victims are no longer keeping their traumatic experiences to themselves and are now reporting their cases, as illustrated with the cases above. Women, whether victims, or bystanders, are beginning to condemn, subtle or blatant acts that are evidently a violation to a woman.


Now, the next step in the feminist movement should be to break the norm of subconsciously blaming the female victim.Women—whether western, African or East European—can unfortunately be among the greatest critics of female sexuality. We are quick to judge the victim on why she was at wrong place at the wrong time, or on how her demeanor or her way of dressing led to her experience. The general safety tips concerning sexualized violence are always aimed toward women—tips such as never walking alone, avoiding poorly lit areas, walking with a partner of group after dark etc. It is time that we, as feminists, stop limiting our dialogue concerning safety precautions to our own circles, but to the entire community especially when it comes to sexualized violence—that is men, and most importantly, the bystander.

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Rape in Wartimes vs. Rape on Campus–Are They Comparable? 

It was once assumed that rape was committed as a result of sexual desire. Recent scholarship however shows that rape has a greater significance—it is used as a weapon of war. Though the international recognition of systematic sexualized violence against women during wartime as a crime against humanity has been a great advancement in the feminist movement, people should also focus on the rape during the peacetime, for example on campuses. What differences are there in the motives of rape in wartimes in comparison to rapes on everyday college campuses? It is important to highlight the functions of rape specifically in wartime before indulging its similarities with cases on college campuses.


Perpetrators in wartime use rape to humiliate the enemy. For example, during the Rwandan Genocide, the raping of Tutsi women served to symbolically devalue the Tutsi honor. In a country where the value of a woman was based on her virtue, virginity and cleanliness, a victim of rape was considered a disgrace to her family and hence the perpetrators used rape to destroy the Tutsi families and communities. Rape was also used as a method of ethnic cleansing—in the case of Rwanda, the cleansing of the entire Tutsi ethnicity. Hutu militiamen raped Tutsi women (and Hutu women married to a Tutsi man) to terminate an existing pregnancy of an enemy child, or to create a pregnancy with a Hutu child (More information on


In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there was a widespread belief that raping women would give militiamen more power and invincibility (Women Under Seige). Raping also served as a method of controlling natural resources. As explained in Merideth Turshen’s paper, “The Political Economy of Rape […],” the perpetrators would take their victims as their ‘wives’ and through what she termed “bogus weddings,” the perpetrators would receive self-granted access to their victims land and resources.


The preceding reasons for rape are specific to wartime. So once again, what are the similarities between rape on college campuses and rape during conflict? Though wartime and campus life are two completely different contexts, rape occurs surprisingly for similar reasons. One main similarity is that in most cases, rape has historically been used as a systematic tool for domination and power. This is seen in David Lisak’s study and interviews on rape incidents on college campuses and how undetected rapists (college students) strategically plan out how to make a girl vulnerable in order for them to make easier sexual advances on them. Lisak argues that men, both undetected and incarcerated, rape in order to reaffirm their position in society as superior to women. Similarly in wartimes, rape is used as a way for the enemies to manifest their superiority over women, especially women affiliated with their enemies. Another important similarity is that most rapists are repeat offenders. Lisak discovered in his research that 76% of the 120 undetected rapists on campus were repeat rapists, having raped an average of 6 women. Similarly in wartimes, most of the perpetrators are repeat rapists, some of which having raped up to 10 women as seen in the case of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rape on college campuses turns out to be similar to rape during wartime in the sense that the men involved commit these crimes to assert their superiority over women. Likewise in wartimes, most rapists on college campuses are repeat offenders, and some are even unaware of it. This shows that though women have succeeded in moving up the social ladder, many men have found it difficult to digest the idea of gendered equality. Therefore, the best way to change this perception of women deeply ingrained in both men and women’s minds is through education at an early age for a person educated on gendered equality will most likely grow up regarding both sexes with equal respect.

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Lust Rape, Date Rape, and Evil Rape? The societal and punitive dangers of classifying rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United States

By: Laurabeth Goldsmith

 The way rape is classified can have dangerous consequences on societal norms in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and on college campuses in the United States. Classifying some rapes as more serious offences than others can diminish the community response and severity of punishment for all perpetrators of rape. This societal classification system makes some perpetrators feel like their actions are not criminal or evil and leaves some victims feeling as though it is their fault or a natural societal consequence that they are raped. In war-torn countries and on college campuses, some forms of rape are normalized and decriminalized.  

According to a cross-sectional study conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2010, 40% of Congolese women and 24% of Congolese men have experienced sexual assault. In the households surveyed, sixty-seven percent experienced human rights abuses related to the conflict. It is estimated that there are over 200,000 surviving rape victims living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today and that 48 women are raped every hour in the country. The ongoing conflict in the DRC has led to a normalization of violence and rape. Violence has remained prevalent on an intermittent basis since King Leopold acquired the country as his own private colony in 1885, committing massive human rights abuses – including mass rape – in order to extract resources such as rubber from the region.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, traumatic gynecologic fistula (TGF) is a frequent result of sexual violence. TGF is “an abnormal opening between the reproductive tract of a woman or girl and one or more body cavities or surfaces, caused by sexual violence.” Traumatic gynecologic fistula is most common in conflict regions, and there are no solid estimates of its prevalence. That said, between 1999-2012 the Panzi hospital in Bukavu alone treated over 19,000 survivors for their injuries resulting from rape.

Maria Stern’s article Why Soldiers Rape partially untangles the complexities of sexual assault in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Soldiers interviewed for the article repeatedly argued that rape took different forms. As one male lieutenant explained, “There are different types of rape. They are all forbidden. There is the rape when a soldier is away, when he has not seen his women for a while and has needs and no money. This is the lust⁄need rape. But there are also the bad rapes, as a result of the spirit of war (…) to humiliate the dignity of people. This is an evil rape.” While there is no doubt that some rapes in the DRC cause more serious physical and psychological damages than others (including TGF), Stern defends the principle that there is no justification for lust rape. Classifying some rapes as fulfilling needs and others as an inevitable consequence of war diminishes the severity of the crime and helps to normalize such violence. Perpetrators are infrequently convicted due to the frequency of attacks, the current war-torn state of the country and the lack of political will and infrastructure to hold them accountable.   

In the United States, terms like date rape, acquaintance rape, and rape light are frequently used to describe rape, especially on college campuses. According to a National Crime Victimization Study conducted in 2005, two thirds of rapes in the United States were committed by a person the victim already knew. In fact, thirty-eight percent of rapists were friends or acquaintances. Considering the high percentage of rapes that are committed by people known to the victims, it is vital that these rapes be treated as serious crimes and that perpetrators be found guilty, despite the increased difficulty in prosecuting non-stranger rape cases.

On college campuses, predatory behavior includes predators targeting victims and supplying them with large amounts of alcohol or drugs. This further complicates the idea of consent, considering people under the influence cannot legally consent. As David Lisak, a prominent scholar focusing on sexual assault, stated at a lecture at Emory, “We don’t like to think of ‘our’ people as criminals, and most of our people are not, but that very small number are sex offenders. And once the pattern is established, it tends not to be something that just stops—it tends to go on.”

A 2006-2010 National Crime Victimization Survey found that 54% of sexual assaults in the United States went unreported.Additionally, according to David Lisak’s research, two thirds of rapists were repeat offenders; the average rapist committed 5.8 rapes. As Vice President Biden recently stated, “Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault. No more turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn’t exist. We need to give victims the support they need, like a confidential place to go, and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice.” At present, only three percent of rapists in the United States ever spend a day in jail.

At universities, rape cases are often heard by student conduct boards rather than through the criminal justice system. These boards mete out minimal punishments, in effect classifying college rapes as a non-criminal offense. While students may still turn to the criminal justice system, the student conduct board system is often pushed upon students in order to decrease the number of sexual assaults that are reported in accordance with the Jeanne Clery Act. For example, at Brown University a man was suspended for just one semester after raping and choking a fellow student. Cases are currently pending against Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and Tufts University regarding Title IX violations which created an unsafe environment for victims of sexual assault.

While the situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United States are extremely different in terms of the severity of abuses, the frequency of gang rape and the resources available for survivors, key similarities do exist. Unfortunately, in both countries a classification system which destigmatizes and decriminalizes some rape has emerged; unfortunately, in both countries the percentage of perpetrators sent to prison for their crimes is abominably low.



 Baaz, Maria Eriksson, and Maria Stern. “Why Do Soldiers Rape? Masculinity, Violence, and Sexuality in the Armed Forces in the Congo (DRC).” International Studies Quarterly 53.2 (2009): 495-518. Print.

Conlon, Kevin. “Du Pont Heir Convicted of Raping Daughter Spared Prison.” CNN. Cable News Network, 02 Apr. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <;.

“Emory University Center for Women at Emory.” It’s Not “Rape Light” Emory, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <;.

Johnson, Kirsten. “Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.” JAMA Network. N.p., 4 Aug. 2010. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <;.

Lisak, David, and Paul M. Miller. “Repeat rape and multiple offending among undetected rapists.” Violence and victims 17.1 (2002): 73-84.

Lloyd-Davies, Fiona. “Why Eastern DR Congo Is ‘rape Capital of the World'” CNN. Cable News Network, 25 Nov. 2011. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.


“RAPE AS A WEAPON.” Panzi Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. <;.

“Reporting Rates: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.”Reporting Rates Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

“The Offenders | RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.” The Offenders | RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <>.

Valenti, Jessica. “The White House Wants to End Campus Rape. Great. Now What about Colleges?” April 30, 2014. Accessed April 30, 2014.


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Rwanda 20 Years Later: Is Recovery Possible?  

On April 4, 1994 the small East African country of Rwanda began a permanent transformation. In the span of 100 days, an estimated 500,000-1,000,000 people were massacred in a bloody ethnic conflict between the minority Tutsi and majority Hutu. It wasn’t until the killings had largely ceased that the United Nations formally recognized the crimes against humanity that occurred in Rwanda as genocide. The international community was stunned and once again proclaimed, “Never Again”.

Twenty years later, the “land of a thousand hills”, where human remains once littered the streets, has become one of the cleanest countries in the world and is quickly evolving into an economic powerhouse. Predicted to be one of the first African nations likely to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, Rwanda is on track to provide universal primary education and healthcare, to reduce extreme poverty, and to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, all by 2015. Many scholars attribute Rwanda’s success to President Paul Kagame, a fierce leader whose strict administration has made it illegal to discuss ethnic identities and who is credited for repairing the once broken country. A former commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF),  a Tutsi militia group known to be complicit in the genocide, Kagame has operated from a military-esque approach for the past 14 years. Rwanda is the only country in the world whose parliament is mostly composed of women, though the Kagame administration has been criticized for its influence by males. With great strides being made in health, education and gender equality, Rwanda’s stunning recovery has made the country a success story. But one cannot help but to wonder, how are her citizens?

Rwanda has attempted to reconcile with its bloody past and the international community has helped to facilitate this lengthy and complicated process of healing. The gacaca courts are a community-based justice system that was established in 2001 to be used as a means of persecuting and jailing the overwhelming amount of genocidaires, or individuals who committed atrocities in 1994. Gacaca has been praised for being a grassroots form of restorative justice derived from a long cultural tradition of unity and healing. Additionally, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was erected by the U.N. Security Council and put on trial major players in the genocide. The actions of gacaca courts and the ICTR resulted in hundreds of thousands of trials, with many perpetrators serving speedy sentences only to return to the villages they had helped to destroy. Survivors and perpetrators have become neighbors, and it is not uncommon to hear stories of Hutu and Tutsi families intermarrying as a symbol of peace and forgiveness.

In a recent New York Times piece titled “Portraits of Reconciliation”, photographer Pieter Hugo captures perpetrators (all men) and survivors (mostly women) holding hands, standing side by side, and lying in the grass with one another. The photo series was commissioned by organizations that assist Rwanda’s  reconciliation efforts. One organization, the Association Modeste et Innocent (AMI), is non-profit and counsels small groups of Hutus and Tutsi, eventually guiding perpetrator’s to formally apologize to an individual whose life was disastrously affected by crimes he or she committed during the genocide. The perpetrator and his/her family bring peace offerings of food and beer to survivors and both parties agree to reconcile. This is followed by singing and dancing. Though a seemingly uplifting piece, the article shares the thoughts of the survivor and the perpetrator: a more critical reading of the statements reveals that for some survivors, forgiveness felt coerced, perhaps uttered in order to have a house rebuilt. Additionally, it seems as though some apologies may be motivated by the promise of early prison release. The individuals photographed are extremely admirable for participating in such a complicated and painful process; however, I do not believe the project to be a positive or accurate reflection of the true feelings of Rwandans. Programs such as these depict Rwandans as extraordinarily graceful and remarkably forgiving. Though I do not doubt the heart and courage my fellow countrymen and women have, putting Rwanda and her survivors on this impossible pedestal of reconciliation is potentially disastrous.

The genocide of 1994 was largely carried out with simple weapons like machetes, clubs, and knives. Countless survivors watched as their fathers, mothers, spouses, and children were beaten, maimed, and dismembered. An estimated 600,000 women were victims of sexual violence, and some gave birth to babies born of rape. Resuming normal life post-conflict has been everything but easy. Two decades later, mental illness in the form of PTSD and depression runs rampant. World Health Organization Rwandan representative Delanyo Dolvo believes that the situation calls for mass counseling. But even counseling is not the perfect solution. “The whole thing is just so pervasive, you probably need 10,000 counselors to even begin to make a difference…we all know that the effectiveness of this counseling, even in the best circumstances, is not that great,” Delvo admits. Adding to the challenge of working with direct genocide victims is “inter-generational trauma transmission,” a phenomenon documented following the Holocaust. I argue that this secondary trauma experienced by the children of survivors, these suppressed (and growing) ethnic tensions, and the forgiveness forced by governmental and non-profit agencies are detrimental.

True reconciliation following genocide is nearly impossible.  Victims are often forced to forgive perpetrators because they are neighbors and/or have little chance of seeing justice for their slain families. Buying into this myth of miraculous reconciliation leads to horrific consequences. Instead of ensuring true justice and thus adequate healing, there is an illusion of peace and forgiveness—but survivors are still suffering. Rwanda is not alright. Meanwhile, the international community, guilty of standing and watching as another genocide occurred, breathes a sigh of relief due to Rwandan’s seemingly remarkable progression. The world can now move on and forget what occurred in 1994 because to them, Rwanda has healed herself. But I believe the opposite to be true. Ethnic divisions, though not as visible, are stronger now more than ever. Residual anger lingers within children and surviving family members of those lost. Though the past twenty years have been the longest Rwanda has gone without conflict in recent history, what happens when Kagame’s reign is over? Or when citizens begin to violently protest the government? Is genocide on the horizon? True healing has not even begun, let alone been achieved, and the events of the genocide will remain in the DNA of Rwandans for decades to come.

As a refugee of the Rwandan genocide, I am truly concerned for the state of my people. Continued ethnic animosity can even be seen in Rwandan immigrant communities. Families and friends who were once close as newly settled immigrants begin to harbor anger and resentment based on cultural prejudice and political beliefs. Back in Rwanda, similar issues paired with property disputes, government actions, genocide allegations, and survivor-perpetrator proximity add more layers to the messy process of reconciliation. One begins to wonder if Rwanda can truly reconcile with her past and if forgiveness in this context is truly plausible. Perhaps not. But we can learn that forced forgiveness is not the answer and that true recovery is a long, complicated, heartbreaking, imperfect road.

Raissa M.


The Myth of Peacetime

Times of war and strife attract international attention and intervention. Large scale conflicts seem to stir within us an intrinsic desire for justice. But when we are not at war, the country breathes a collective sigh of relief. We are no longer tuned into CNN at all times, we merely skim the paper, and we do not talk about “those awful things happening in the Middle East right now”. We do all of these things because it seems though we have escaped and survived imminent danger. We won/We lost/We’re in negotiations/We killed the leaders.

As a country, we define “peacetime” as a period in which no violent conflict is occurring. No drafts. No drone strikes. No terror attacks. Our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness remain intact. “Peacetime’ soothes us and we are convinced that we are safe. However, if men are not dying in war, if machetes and grenades are not beingyielded are we “at peace”? The answer is simple: absolutely not. The real threat and violence is not coming from outside our borders but within our own territory. Instead of violence being aimed at our armed men and women, it is a series of attacks on bodies our nation deems unworthy of protection. And we need not to look any further than our own front yard.

  • An average of 237,868 individuals are sexually assaulted annually (age 12+). That is one person violated every two minutes.
  • The number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq: 6,614
  • The number of women, in the same period, killed as the result of domestic violence in the US: 11,766
  • Approximately 14,500 to 17,500 girls from other countries are smuggled into the U.S. and exploited in sexual slavery.

These statistics are not from a small African country or the Middle East. Real violence is occurring to real people on our soil. Have these forms of violence become so prevalent and common that they need no special attention or focus? Additionally, what does this mean to those who are victims and survivors of such attacks? If this is peacetime, who exactly is at peace? The U.S is not the mythical “City Upon A Hill”: American exceptionalism is non-existent. We are not at war, but we surely are not at peace.

Everyday countless men and women are fighting individual battles that are often unrecognized. There are no great monuments honoring victims of abuse or assault. We do not rigorously pursue and prosecute perpetrators. The danger of sexual and inter-partner violence is real and we need to stop ignoring these blaringly obvious facts. As a country, we must rethink what exactly post-conflict looks like not only within the U.S, but worldwide.

Let us be outraged that 97% of sexual assault offenders will never spend a day in jail.

Let us actively pursue and punish perpetrators of violence like we do countries that break peace agreements.

Let us embody the legacy we have built for ourselves.

Let us truly strive for peace.


Four groundbreaking organizations striving to end sexual violence in the United States:

Manvi: “a New Jersey-based women’s rights organization committed to ending all forms of violence and exploitation against South Asian women living in the US.”

Mending the Sacred Hoop: a grassroots organization striving to “end violence against Native women and children while restoring the safety, sovereignty, and sacredness of Native women in their tribal communities”

Men Stopping Violence: “a national training institute that provides organizations, communities, and individuals with the knowledge and tools required to mobilize men to prevent sexual violence”

INCITE!: “a nation-wide network of radical feminists of color working to end violence against women, gender non-conforming, and trans people of color, and our communities. We support each other through direct action, critical dialogue, and grassroots organizing”

Raissa M



Who are the Perpetrators? Part II

By: Shyama Appareddy

(Continued from Part I, Posted on 4/27 at 10:40PM)

Time and again, violent crimes on our campus seem to continue to occur. Rather than reporting on institutional action or initiatives to identify and prosecute these individuals or to prevent perpetrators from committing these actions, we, as members of the Emory community, are continually offered the following, futile recommendations:

“Use the safety escort service…. After dark, walk with a partner or in a group whenever possible… Avoid poorly lit areas… Know where you are and be aware of your surroundings… Report suspicious activity immediately to the police… Lock your doors.”

“Be respectful of yourself and others.  Make sure that any sexual act is OK with your partner, and remember that consent is an active process, not the absence of a “no.”

How many perpetrators are likely to read these e-mails and think to themselves “OK, now that I know that much… I guess I’ll be respectful next time.” This recommendation is helpful in reinforcing one definition of consent and in supporting the validity of the reports of those who have been violated. However, this does not pass as an effective safety recommendation.

“Stay alert and if you feel uneasy, go to a safe location and call a friend, the Emory Police Department, or local police… Know where you are, be aware of your surroundings, trust your instincts, and let friends know where you are going… If you notice a situation that seems unsafe for another student, intervene if it’s safe to do so or call for support…”

Am I to report to the police the activity of any man looking at me the wrong way? Am I to be taken seriously if I run to the police every time I feel “uneasy”, when few survivors of sexual assault are actually able to see their attackers go to prison? Am I to be blamed for my own violation if I fail to “stay alert”? Can I really, truly fend off the advance of a man twice my size and weight even if I do “stay alert?”

While 1 in 4 college-aged women have experienced rape or attempted rape, almost every woman has experienced some degree of sexual harassment, whether its a seemingly harmless “hey baby” or cat call on the street, being physically pinched or smacked on the ass, or being in other ways groped on a crowded bus, street or large event. We, as women, have all had those moments when, in the words of my Professor, Dr. Pamela Scully, “we know that something is off, but what exactly do we do?”

“Remember that the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows.”

So… now I need to be wary of all of my acquaintances? Their exact behaviors, body language, seemingly harmless offers to walk me back from a party or from the library late at night? Am I to live in fear, mistrust and skepticism for every man who meets the description from the safety reports… or every man that I meet in general?

The suggestion that I should walk in a group in well-lit areas and call the police to report if I have been attacked is inadequate in terms of institutional action. While these suggestions may seem logical, perhaps empowering, or maybe even “better than nothing,” the institution’s provision of these tips as the sole tools for curbing the rate of sexual assault borders on victim-blaming. The suggestion that these safety tips ALONE represent adequate action from the university to avoid violent crime is inadequate and places on the onus on those finding themselves at risk rather than on the perpetrators and those responsible for keeping community members safe. I want to see follow-up. I want to see justice. How many of these individuals have been identified and sent before justice? How many of these crimes could be prevented or at least witnessed by law enforcement in time to intervene with structural change? How long must I spend looking over my shoulder, expecting the rapist to appear in my life?

Who are the Perpetrators? Part I

By: Shyama Appareddy

Earlier this semester, college students generated a buzz on social media with whimsical hastags [hashtags] such as “#thanksnancy” and “#teamnancy” among others, expressing gleeful gratitude towards the college administrators who enjoyedthe honor of granting students several days off of school. Despite the joy and gratitude which students felt throughout the snow days, these messages of excitement were interspersed amongst messages carrying a different sentiment… notifications of violent crime taking place on campus. Students who were rejoicing in their free time found themselves either as the victims of violent crime or privy to the potential for violence.

Reports of violent crime and sexual assault are not novel to Emory University, nor are they unique to our campus community.  As a Senior at Emory, I have received a steady stream of e-mails describing attacks which have occurred everywhere from the construction site of the new Health Sciences Research Building to the Clifton Road Corridor to Emory Midtown Hospital.

The reports provide the time and locations of the incidents, a physical description of a 5-or-6-foot-something male perpetrator clad in dark clothing, with slight variations in appearance here and there. The University might laud itself for delivering the news to the community in a timely manner, generally right after the crime has been reported. However, upon reading these notices, I as a student am left to wonder… where is the follow-up? Was justice granted to the survivors of these crimes? Who are the shadowy, ambiguously described figures to whom we assign blame for violence on our campus?

Dr. David Lisak, in “Predatory Rape on College Campuses: An Interview with David Lisak,” published in “Men Can Stop Rape” in November 2011, stated that about 90% of college rapes are likely committed by a serial rapist, based on his research and data collection. While we live in fear of this ambiguous, shadowy figure, we are left to wonder… who are the perpetrators? Below are the limited descriptions provided to the campus community of the perpetrators of recent violent attacks:

“(1) a black male with light complexion…19 years of age, 6 feet tall, 200-215 lbs, wearing a black hoodie and dark beanie…”

“(2) a black male with light complexion, 6 feet tall, 170 pounds, with shoulder length dreadlocks, wearing a black shirt and a red jacket….”

“(3) a white male with blond hair, approximately 6 feet tall, about 19-21 years old, wearing blue jeans and a light colored shirt or jacket… an Emory student.”

“An acquaintance.”

It is unlikely that such descriptions alone will lead the community to any meaningful conclusions regarding the identity of the perpetrators. If anything, to attempt to identify a suspect based on the vague above descriptions would border on racial profiling or discrimination.

David Lisak describes the perpetrators as those who are able to identify and stake out targets, to test the waters and push the boundaries of this individual in order to determine whether or not she is a viable “target,” and then to isolate and strategically attack his target. Thus, Lisak provides not only a methodology of rape, but a description of the character and psyche of a perpetrator. This is perhaps more insightful than the blanket descriptions of “white male” or “black male.” [excellent]

However, one must wonder about the potentially questionable implications of Lisak’s work. Does Lisak’s theory insinuate that a woman is responsible for identifying those ambiguous individuals who may be seeming to push her boundaries? Must we distrust all individuals who seem to have a differential idea of boundaries than us ourselves simply because we are women? The theory seems to imply that women who are victims are naive, too open, too willing to tolerate the advances of perpetrators. I am wary of the theory because it appears to imply that women who are the victims of sexual assault failed the “rape test” that perpetrators perform before choosing to target that individual.  It implies that we are responsible for recognizing those who may intend to manipulate and attack us. The framing of such suggestions can quickly slide into victim blaming.

“I Strangle Her”: Trauma and Memory in House of Cards

In a genuine portrayal of the long-term effects sexual assault can have on victims, Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in the popular television series House of Cards echoed the statements of many authors we have read in class. While many media portrayals of sexual assault go for shock value, showing the attack or the flashbacks the victim experiences immediately after the attack, few have provided such brave insight into the experience of victims many years after the attack. For many, the memory of their terrible experience remains present, something they have to “strangle” every day to keep it from terrorizing their consciousness; it is an irrevocable memory, persistent and intrusive. This trauma, it seems, can haunt survivors as long as they live.

In the episode, it is revealed that Claire, the strong-willed, “ice bitch” wife to Vice President and HOC protagonist Frank Underwood, was raped by her boyfriend in college when she meets him again at a pinning ceremony for his military service. For one of the first times, we see the resolute Claire struggle a bit, but she holds strong through the ceremony.  Later, in an unusual showing of vulnerability, she speaks about how she has worked to silence the memories she has.

“Every time I think of her pinned down like that, I strangle her, Francis. So she doesn’t strangle me. I have to. We have to. The alternative is – it’s unlivable.”

Claire, it appears, rebuilt her sense of self following her attack by hardening herself off to the trauma, refusing to let the memory invade her present consciousness. In such a way, her anger has fueled her; she found strength in her silence, building a life of power and influence (however ruthless that influence may be), unwilling to let her attacker keep her from realizing her goals. Her actions reflect much of the complexity of trauma described by Judith Herman in Trauma and Recovery.  As irrevocable memory, Claire’s attack will forever be present in her consciousness, and to deal with the trauma, she appears locked in constriction, a state of altered, numbed consciousness in which a survivor experiences a sense of detached calm. This is evident in her behavior and the way she refers to herself experiencing trauma in the third person, stating “…I strangle her, Francis. So she doesn’t strangle me,” as though she is observing the trauma she experienced during the attack and every subsequent time it comes up again in memory from outside her body, feeling that “the event is not happening to her”. Perhaps this is the root of her “ice bitch” mentality; to protect herself from painful intrusion, she remains continually in such a state of detached constriction.  However, luckily for her, it seems, she has been able to utilize this detached nature to exert power within the political sphere, and in this way she has achieved much success.

But what is justice for Claire? It’s clear that no legal justice occurred in this situation, nor does it appear that Claire has spoken with anyone about it other than those very close to her. Whether she refrained from speaking out about her attack because of her own desires or because she knew it would likely be unsuccessful to come forward is unknown. Yet it seems her trauma drives her; after experiencing something so awful, she learned to block the memory out, putting her head down and working hard and strong until she became the influential political figure she is at present. She is together, controlled, powerful – that is, until she meets her attacker again at the ceremony and later when, in a media interview, she is drawn into revealing her attack – but at what cost? As the news of her attack begins to circulate, she finds herself at the other end of a personal “devil’s choice,” and it is unclear as to whether the decision to achieve traditional justice by coming forward is worth the risk to her career and emotional well-being after years of pushing the memory away. Sharing a traumatic story is extremely hard for anyone, especially a prominent public figure like Claire who will surely have to contend with many media attacks. Is gaining a more traditional sense of justice by telling her story really worth it? While she was hardened by “strangling” the memory of her attack, she did come out a stronger woman, and viewers may wonder whether through her success she achieved her own form of justice, unconventional but just as salient for her.  At the end of the day, isn’t that salience, regardless of whether or not we can classify it as “justice,” what really matters?

Regardless, I am pleased with what House of Cards’s writers have presented in this storyline and the tough questions they are motivating viewers like me to think through. True justice isn’t “one size fits all,” and we must push ourselves to ask these questions in the aftermath of traumatic situations like Claire’s to determine what is right and what is just for the victim.


Bevernage, Berber. “Introduction.” History, Memory, and State-sponsored Violence: Time and Justice. New York: Routledge, 2012. 1-19. Print.

Herman, Judith Lewis. “Trauma.” Trauma and Recovery: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. London: Pandora, 1992.  Print.

Willimon, Beau. “Chapter 15.” House of Cards. Netflix. 14 Feb. 2014. Television.


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Peacekeeping? The United Nations Member States Should Put Their Money and Troops Where Their Mission Is.

By: Laurabeth Goldsmith

The Rwandan genocide is a horrific atrocity and blemish on the human rights record of the United Nations and the international community. The United Nations was created in 1945 in the wake of World War II’s total devastation.  World War II was the deadliest war in human history with an estimated sixty to eighty-five million deaths from battlefield fatalities, indiscriminate bombings, war related diseases, and genocide. The UN was created to maintain international peace and security and to prevent future atrocities. Specifically, the United Nations charter includes in the preamble: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…” The United Nations undoubtedly failed to act with appropriate speed and force to prevent and end the genocide in Rwanda. This failure of action was a failure to achieve the fundamental purpose of the United Nations.

In October 1993, the Security Council adopted Resolution 872, which established the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR).UNAMIR was established, to help implement the Arusha Accords, monitor its implementation and support a transitional Government. UNAMIR was doomed from the start, as the mission was not given adequate troops, an adequate mandate, or adequate resources.  Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the head of UNAMIR sent a cable on Jan. 11, 1994 to Kofi Anan warning of the risk of genocide in Rwanda. Kofi Anan and the United Nations reasserted that the mission should not use force. On April 6 1994, when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down the political and ethnic killings began. UNAMIR attempted to arrange a ceasefire, but they were unsuccessful and repeatedly were attacked. On April 21, 1994, The Security Council passed Resolution 912, which further crippled UNAMIR and reduced UNAMIR’s total numbers from 2,548 to 270.The Security Council eventually adopted Resolution 918 on May 17, 1994 that created an arms embargo against Rwanda and increased UNAMIR’s strength to 5,500 troops. On June 22, 1994 The UN Security Council granted a chapter VII mandate to a multi-national humanitarian operation led by French forces.This action came way too late as 800,000 Rwandan citizens died during the genocide while the United Nations largely failed to act, despite their knowledge of the genocide. This lack of meaningful intervention was largely due to a lack of political will, low interest in Rwanda, and in part a lack of resources from the international community.

The genocide had enormous consequences for Rwandan society as a whole and women were subjected to undue propaganda, hatred, rape, mutilation, and disease including the spread of HIV. In addition to humiliation and disease, these mass rapes also resulted in sterilization of abused women. The effects of the genocide in Rwanda are still prevalent in Rwandan society today, as there are many children born from the genocide and the society is still attempting to heel from the brutal ethnic cleansing and genocide.

In order to prevent the international community from standing idly by, the Security Council should always push for humanitarian and military intervention to prevent massive deaths regardless of individual state interests. Unfortunately, P-5 veto powers and a lack of political will, still prevent necessary intervention today.

The international community said “never again” after the Holocaust and after the Rwandan Genocide, yet massive killings continue around the world today, especially in civil war ridden Syria.  The current death toll in Syria is estimated at over 140,000. Today The United Nations still faces the same criticism that it is not putting its member states money and troops where the UN Mission encourages them to be sent in order to maintain international peace and security.


By The Numbers: World-wide Deaths.” The National WWII Museum.

“Charter, United Nations, Preamble.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <;.

“UNAMIR.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 1Mar.. 2014.


“UNAMIR.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. <;.

“UN Chief Cites Syria at Rwanda Genocide Commemoration.” Capital News. N.p., 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <;.

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Student Conduct Boards Are NOT Justice for Sexual Assault Survivors

By: Laurabeth Goldsmith

Rape is a serious crime and should be treated as such regardless of the location where the offense occurs. In a study of undergraduate women in the U.S., 19% indicated they were victims of sexual assault since entering college (CDC, 2012). According to a National Crime Victimization Survey, from 2006-2010, 54% of sexual assaults went unreported. Once unreported rapes are included only 3% of rapists ever spend a day in jail for their crimes (FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 2010). Additionally, according to David Lisak’s research two thirds of college rapists were repeat offenders and the average rapist committed 5.8 rapes each (Lisak, 2002).

Victims of sexual assault are more likely to “suffer academically and from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, to abuse alcohol and drugs, and to contemplate suicide (Dept Of Ed., 2011).” As Judith Herman explains victims often face an oscillating rhythm between intrusion, where the trauma feels continuous, and constriction, where the victim feels a paralyzed and numb from the trauma (Herman, 1992). Victims often feel ashamed and do not report the incidents, which in turn allows the rapists to remain at large and escape prosecution.

U.S. colleges and universities often utilize private police and have allowed sexual violence cases to be tried before Student Conduct Boards rather than by local authorities. While individuals are always allowed to use the criminal justice system they often see Student Conduct Boards as an easier student friendly process. Universities using Student Conduct Boards fosters the misperception of lower crime rates on campuses. Many schools routinely discourage students from involving local police, collecting evidence, completing a rape kit, or seeking outside legal counsel. Despite the felonious nature of these offenses, the maximum penalty likely imposed by a Student Conduct Board is expulsion. Perpetrators recognize that they will seldom face criminal prosecution and can most likely remain enrolled in school despite committing these heinous offenses.

In order for survivors of rape to obtain closure and secure proper punishment for the perpetrators of such crimes, a federal law should be enacted which prohibits colleges and universities from trying any crime related to sexual violence through Student Conduct Boards or other non criminal tribunals. Universities often claim that their Student Conduct Boards hear these cases to facilitate an easier process for student victims. Resolution of these cases before Student Conduct Boards prevents incidents from being part of official crime statistics of sexual assault at the university and more importantly fails to label the perpetrator as a sexual offender.  Considering the majority of rapists are repeat offenders they should be treated as criminals rather than students. This problem is not unique to any university, but rather is a widespread and recurring problem on college campuses nationwide.

Regrettably, no individual institution has incentive to report sexual violence cases solely to the police, as this would give them comparatively higher reported incidents of these crimes. The best way to solve this problem is by enacting legislation which prohibits university police from unilaterally responding to sexual violence cases and which prohibits universities from trying felonies involving sexual violence through Student Conduct Boards. Enacting and enforcing this legislation will ensure that survivors are supported, evidence is collected, and perpetrators are prosecuted.

Changing the law will not immediately resolve the larger problem of reducing sexual violence on college campuses, but will address criminal prosecution and punishment. If rapists are given real punishments for their crimes this could in turn increase the reporting rate of rape.  This policy only addresses one-fifth of the total incidents of sexual violence in the United States. If campus police were required to hand over cases involving sexual violence to local authorities, this could create complicated jurisdictional issues, which could delay response and create administrative challenges for universities to implement. While there are difficulties in enacting legislation to prohibit schools from trying felony sexual assault cases, this would treat the serious crime of rape on a college campus as the serious felony that it is.


Cohen, Thomas H., and Brian Reaves. Felony defendants in large urban counties, 2002. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006. Web. <;.

Herman, Judith Lewis. “Trauma.” Trauma and Recovery: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. London: Pandora, 1992.  Print.

 Krebs, Christopher, and Christine Lindquist. “The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study.” National Criminal Justice Reference Service. US Department of Justice, Dec. 2007. Web. <>.

Lisak, David, and Paul M. Miller. “Repeat rape and multiple offending among undetected rapists.” Violence and victims 17.1 (2002): 73-84.

“Rape and Sexual Violence.” National Institute of Justice. N.p., 26 Oct. 2010. Web. 08 Jan. 2013. <>.

“Reporting Rates: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.”Reporting Rates Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

“Sexual Violence Facts at A Glance.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., 2012. Web. <>.