Letters to the Editor

Campaign Confusion

CUAV responds: [Lauren] Smiley's article, "A Cuddly Rapist" [Sucka Free City, Aug. 8], fails to address the complexity of sexual violence in our culture, reinforcing the stereotype that allrapists are menacing strangers. This harmful myth often discourages survivors of acquaintance rape from getting the support they need. By minimizing the occurrence of attacks by known assailants, Smiley invalidates the experiences of men who have been violated by someone they knew and may have trusted. Despite Smiley's critique, the fact remains: No one "looks like" a rapist. The majority of sexual violence happens at the hands of someone we already know.

The "Men Surviving Rape" campaign is both groundbreaking on a community level and life-changing for individuals. Within the last two weeks alone, Community United Against Violence (CUAV) has received at least five calls about sexual assault prompted by the ads. Callers are responding to the cultural specificity of both the imagery and translated text, together communicating the message that "you are not alone."

One of the calls was from a Latino man who was gang-raped in the Castro several years ago. Another had survived incest and was reaching out for the first time. Four of the callers were Spanish-speaking. These calls demonstrate with certainty that the ads are reaching survivors who were raped by strangers as well as by men they know.

The campaign is designed to communicate quickly to people in transit. It is difficult to express detailed information (such as instructions for evidence preservation) in this format. Instead we focused on simple ideas that will stay with you: Men can be raped. There's a number you can call. Our trained advocates can then explain how to preserve evidence and file a police report if the caller chooses to do so.

The San Francisco district attorney's office expressed great sensitivity in working with community-based advocates to design this campaign. Partnerships with local communities for education, awareness, support, and safety should be encouraged by law enforcement and elected officials; this is exactly the kind of effort that we need to help end sexual violence.

For those who would like more information about men who survive sexual assault, visit www.malesurvivor.org. There is help available. You are not alone. We believe you.

Jovida Guevara-Ross and Tina D'Elia
Community United Against Violence
San Francisco

Ad campaign better tailored than our headline:Nothing catches a reader's eye like a good rape joke, as if there is such a thing. That's exactly what the title of Lauren Smiley's article, "A Cuddly Rapist," embodies — a mockery that makes light of acquaintance rape among gay men.

As a survivor of same-sex rape and one of the gay community members who provided feedback on the Men Surviving Rape campaign, perhaps I can shed some light on the careful, evidence-based forethought that helped shape its content and message. I have conducted research interviews with dozens of male rape survivors, and advocated for, organized with, and provided crisis intervention for hundreds more. Both anecdotal and scholarly research indicate men are highly reluctant and unlikely to seek any services after they have been raped, with an exception being cases in which physical injuries require immediate treatment.

When emergency room staff become aware that a rape has occurred, they are required to notify local law enforcement, even if the victim chooses not to speak with the police or make a statement. Statistics gathered from emergency room visits are therefore not representative of the occurrence of rape in our community. Men are even less likely to report being raped than women. This is especially true if the victim had some prior relationship to the rapist, because he feels others will not believe him.

Just as one campaign could never address the breadth of trauma suffered by women who are raped, no single awareness effort could ever reflect the spectrum of male rape survivors' experiences. Community United Against Violence and the San Francisco district attorney's office should be commended for tailoring their message to reach an intended target audience of men who suffer in isolated silence and never get the help they desperately need and deserve.

Society as a whole is only beginning to acknowledge and grapple with the reality of same-sex rape. The Men Surviving Rape campaign is one of the first of its kind nationwide. For San Francisco, this collaboration between law enforcement and community-based organizations represents a mindful first step toward an ongoing evolution of public awareness and education.

Michael Scarce
San Francisco

How Dare We

Coercive care: Eliza Strickland's advertisement for, excuse me, fascist propaganda about, er ... article on mental health courts ["Breaking the Cycle," Aug. 8] states that "there's no other way to put it: The court ... takes the people who are most in need of mental health care and uses the threat of jail time to get them into treatment."

The nerve of stating this as something desirable. I can think of other ways to put it: "eliminate the inferior strains" might be more direct, or how about "Nationalist Healthcare!" How dare you write pages of advocacy about the very real danger of coercion (also known as brainwashing)?

Ross Rice
San Francisco

 
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