Letters to the editor

Understanding rape

Sexual violence is a complex and traumatic experience. Victims of sexual violence often experience a plethora of symptoms and emotions. In order to remotely understand the impact of sexual-violence victimization, it is crucial to understand the dynamics and trauma of this form of violence. It is imperative that we inform society that sexual violence has a lifelong impact on the community.

Sexual violence affects not only the victim but the community as a whole. The impact on the community is often ignored. The community pays through [the] cost of physical and mental-health services, court costs and leave from work. Most importantly, it leaves the victim without the support of the community. Services for the victim are specific to each person.

Agencies like Our Voice and Helpmate are there to provide a service that is unique to the community. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the community to support the victim and these agencies.

In order for the community to provide support, both the public and the courts must understand the dynamics and trauma of sexual violence before determining the state of mind of the victim. The following are some things the public should we aware of:

• rape is the least reported violent felony, according to federal law-enforcement sources;

• the most cited reason for not reporting rape is the fear of not being believed;

• North Carolina had only 27 first-degree rape convictions last year, but over 29,000 reports to rape crisis hotlines;

• rape is the most costly violent crime in the nation, with over $127 billion lost annually due to the victim’s reduced quality of life, based on factors such as medical and counseling costs, lost wages and employment, legal and court costs;

• most rape victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, causing flashbacks, anxiety, sleep disorders and ongoing fears;

• the trauma of rape is generally more severe and longer lasting when it is perpetrated by a close, intimate partner because of the added violation, intimidation and betrayal caused by someone with access to and knowledge of the victim — the victim knows she is not safe even in her own home; and

• the vast majority of rapists select victims who are familiar with them as acquaintances, dates or family members.

The number of rapists that are not behind bars speaks volumes. The community as a whole must recognize that sexual violence is a crime and it does occur in North Carolina communities. It is the community’s responsibility to stop looking the other way.

Declare sexual violence as an outrage!

— Monika Johnson-Hostler
Executive Director, N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault

War is not the answer

“We just need to go over there and make them all glow.”

I turned toward him, hoping once my eyes met his I would realize he was teasing. But he wasn’t.

I knew he was retired military, but I didn’t think my soft-spoken, well-mannered co-worker harbored this type of rage toward humanity. It was the recent murders of four Americans in Iraq that pushed him over the edge. Seeing footage of their bodies paraded through the streets was more than he could tolerate.

There was no point in attempting conversation. My mouth agape, I let him emote while I stood mute and wondered how he’d come to reach my relative age without having seen the same pictures I had. Not the ones at the theaters, but the ones in books and magazines. The ones showing burn scars on the backs of Hiroshima victims decades after the fact. I couldn’t blame him if he hadn’t viewed the gruesome photos of the babies born with birth defects. They were more than I could tolerate.

And we did this. My country dropped the bombs that incinerated a couple of cities — and yes, I understand it also ended a war which it had not started. But we left thousands of people maimed, including innocent children and old men.

My colleague suggested that we do the same to a nation of people whose suffering under the rule of a merciless dictator was apparently so horrific that they deserved to be “nuked” as retribution for their lack of gratitude.

Frightening logic. Made even more so by the supposition that the man with access to the code box reasons the same [way]. And I remain tongue-tied because I can’t fathom how anyone in this age of information doesn’t understand the science of nuclear weaponry. Not what makes the bombs go off exactly, but what makes their fallout toxic to all humanity, not just an intended population.

The thought that there are enough bombs to “make us all glow” keeps me somber.

The war debate draws newcomers into the fray. Spiritual concepts come to my mind: Jesus preaching the importance of love; Native Americans honoring the circle of life and acknowledging each element within the greater whole; brotherhood; sisterhood; peace; honor; forgiveness; family of God. Religious principles that have been taught by the greatest teachers of mankind for thousands of years will remain ideas to be debated for centuries to come, unless somehow, by some miracle, leaders of nations understand how to live by them. And still I am speechless.

And finally, the youngest of the morning crew, known for his reticence in joining any debate, chimes in before the buzzer sounds. “Yeah, it’s like when I hit my kid brother.” I pause and stare, not certain I’ll be able to pull my mind from the depth of its musings on the sanctity of life.

“Yeah,” he says again, “when I hit my kid brother, it never makes anything better. He just gets madder and hits harder. I punch back harder. And we slug each other till our arms get really sore. Then it’s over. But nothing’s better.”

Yup. That’s the picture. Thanks.

— Kathleen Buerer
Asheville

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