Resources for Male Survivors
I posted last week asking people if they knew of some good resources for male victims of sexual assault. Here is the list people came up with:
Christian Colleges Have a Sexual Assault Problem
When Samantha Field was deciding where to go to college, she had precious few options. As a woman who had grown up in an independent fundamentalist Baptist household, it was unusual for her to go to college in the first place. She lived in Florida, a short drive from Pensacola Christian College. It seemed like the obvious choice—her family could afford it without loans (the school is unaccredited), and she liked the music faculty she had met on a summer program. And, she says, the notoriously strict honor code was actually more lax than the rules in her church. “It allowed knee-length skirts and sitting at the same table as boys, or next to a boy during church. Initially, I felt liberated,” she told me.
But by the time Field reached her junior and senior years, she had undergone numerous sexual assaults at the hands of her then-fiancé. When she broke off the relationship and was honest about the toxic abuse she had been a victim of, she found herself shunned by much of the student body, and she was disillusioned. She couldn’t transfer out of the school because her credits wouldn’t go anywhere due to the school’s lack of accreditation. She would have to start over if she left. So she stayed and endured. “It got so bad that I stopped going anywhere in public—I had a friend who was a [graduate assistant] and she had a kitchen, so I would get up, go to my classes, and then hide in her room for the rest of the day,” she told me. “Being around campus was agony.”
A recent Slate piece argued that coercing testimony from survivors of violence means more victims testifying, which means more offenders jailed, which means less DV and sexual assault. However, this position is, as it turns out, largely nonexistent in the real world.
A prosecutor’s decision to jail a complainant in order to compel testimony is not made in a vacuum, and it’s one that carries criminal justice costs of its own. The state may succeed in forcing testimony by such tactics, or it may not. That testimony may be helpful to the prosecution, or it may not. It may result in a guilty verdict, or it may not. The idea that jailing a reluctant complainant will invariably improve the chances of convicting the offender is unsupported by evidence—in fact, such a move may well have the opposite effect, by inducing a complainant to flee, or recant, or testify unconvincingly.
And even if the testimony is obtained, and is effective, the practice of compelling testimony may dissuade other victims (or that victim in a subsequent case, possibly with the same perpetrator) from coming forward. That risk is highest among survivors with reason to fear the criminal justice system—the poor, the homeless, the undocumented, the addicted, sex workers, LGBT people, people with disabilities, and so on. These communities are already disproportionately victimized by sexual assault and domestic violence, and coercive prosecutorial tactics that victimize them again are completely antithetical to curbing such violence.
It must also be recognized that rapists and abusers understand the power of the state and how it can be wielded against victims, and they use this knowledge to facilitate their crimes. Perpetrators of domestic violence frequently threaten to turn their victims over to immigration officials, child protective services, or other authorities. The more widespread the judicial coercion of victim testimony becomes, the more the threat of incarceration by frustrated prosecutors will be deployed by abusers to perpetuate their own violence.