feature

Outing the conspirator to every rape

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Tinker leaders were clued-in to an ongoing conspiracy July 16 -- one that enables rape and victim blaming. So, who's behind the conspiracy? The answer may surprise you.
Anne Munch, a former prosecutor and educator, revealed the conspirator to a full auditorium at the 552nd Operations Group during a presentation co-hosted by 72nd Air Base Wing Commander Steven Bleymaier and 552nd Air Control Wing Commander Col. Gregory M. Guillot.

Ms. Munch, the daughter of an Air Force brigadier general, was drawn into advocacy work as a college intern at a family crisis center in Denver while she watched two children play as she read the police report on their abuse. She didn't know how the facts she saw on the page were possible. How could anyone think that was OK?

During her time as a prosecutor, she became more keenly aware of an "unnamed conspirator," a force apart from the offender and victim that influenced the outcome of her cases.

That unnamed conspirator is the social and cultural attitude toward rape. Attitudes that make it OK to use the word "rape" to show dominance in sports, games and other activities, or jokes about "getting a girl drunk" so she will be incapacitated, Ms. Munch said.

Jokes don't help change attitudes when 25 percent of 6,000 college age-women reported having been assaulted in a survey cited by Ms. Munch.

"We really need to bust the myth that you can tell a rapist by looking at him. Only a small percentage of rapes are committed by the guys who jump out of the bushes and smell bad," Ms. Munch said. "Most of the time you can't tell until it's too late."

When people have a stereotypical idea of rape, it's hard for them to believe the details of a "typical" rape. Eighty-five percent of surveyed victims knew their attacker, and more than half of the attacks happened on dates.

When people hear these details, they think victims behaved stupidly or are lying, which leads to the myth of false reporting. Only 2 to 8 percent of reported rapes are false reports. Many more rapes go unreported than are false reported, Ms. Munch said.
"I want to challenge your thinking." Ms. Munch said. "My goal is that you'll say 'I've never thought about it that way before.'"

If stereotypical attitudes toward rape exist in the military it's going to be a tough environment, when in one survey, 79 percent of military women reported sexual harassment, 54 percent reported unwanted sexual contact and 30 percent reported a completed or attempted rape. Four percent of men also report contact that would be considered illegal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

One of the things that allow predators to keep preying is victim blaming. Often victims blame themselves and don't report their rape, or their rapes are reported and not investigated because of mistakes the victim may have made. This is especially true when alcohol is involved, which occurs about half the time, Ms. Munch said.

If a girl is out drinking with her friends or dressed like a 'floozie' then people think it can't be rape, or if it is, "she was asking for it." That's an attitude that needs to change, Ms. Munch said.

"Vulnerability is meaningless unless there is a predator to take advantage of it," Ms. Munch said. "We need to [punish] the people taking advantage, not the people being taken advantage of."