My confession this week: I completely scrapped the original blog post I wrote because of something I heard on NPR this morning. You will get to read the original sometime soon, but I thought this was too important to pass up. As I was getting ready for church this morning in my safe home, putting on my pretty dress, and blow drying my hair from a nice warm shower I hear Liane Hansen on Morning edition say that “1/3 of women in Sudan and Sudanese refugee camps have been the victim of rape”. I was absolutely stunned. There are 3 women in my family. Based on those statistics one of us would have been raped and probably long before now. According the FBI crime statistics for 2007, 90,427 forcible rapes in the United States were reported or 59 rapes per 100,000 women (http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2007/offenses/violent_crime/forcible_rape.html).
Some groups estimate that approximately 80% of sexual assaults in the United States are not reported and 1 out of 3 (sound familiar?) women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted at some time in her life. While the numbers reported for Sudanese women were shocking I was even more appalled at my own thinking. Why do the rapes occurring on another continent appall me, but I am often not fazed by the news stories I see from Montgomery, Oklahoma City, and even sometimes Stillwater. Why am I not enraged for these women who have had their lives changed forever? How can I be prepared to donate or buy a t-shirt for these Sudanese women, but not bat an eye at the trauma that is occurring in my own hometown? Maybe because I know that in the United States women can walk into an emergency room and receive treatment for the physical and emotional effects of rape. Or maybe it is because often (but sadly not all the time) when a woman is raped in the United States she is not completely shunned by her family and community. Maybe it is because that in the United States there is a chance that a rapist may be prosecuted for their crimes.
But what about our sisters, our mothers, and our daughters that are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, but never say a word. They carry a burden on their shoulders that is just as heavy as the burden of the Sudanese women living in a refugee camp in Chad. Their lives are literally and figuratively worlds apart, but the burdens they share are more similar than many of us realize. I didn’t write this column to make any deep dark confessions about my own life. Thank goodness I am not a statistic, but many of my friends are. Smart, strong, beautiful women that were sexually assaulted by family members, acquaintances or complete strangers. Some are reported statistics and others are not. I think the reason that I scrapped my original column for this was with hope that you would ask the questions that I am asking of myself. Am I so focused on my little sphere of the world that I ignore the suffering occurring down the street or around the world? Am I afraid to think about the hard, uncomfortable stuff? Can I make any difference at all?
The only one of these questions that I can answer for any of you is the final one. Absolutely you can make a difference. No, this doesn’t mean traveling halfway around the world or donating money to a cause (although it would be awesome if it did). It means recognizing what is going on in your world (the small version and the big version) and not ignoring it with hopes that it will just go away. Parents talk to your children about the hard stuff and answer their questions. Don’t scare them, but let them know how special they are and that everyone deserves to be treated equally as special whether they live in Wetumpka, Alabama or in Khartoum, Sudan. Fellas, walk that lady to her car when it is dark out. Ladies, be aware of your surroundings and take steps to protect yourself. Mostly, think big and think small. As different as our lives are from those Sudanese women in this case the pain is the same. Help a woman here. Love a woman here and that can be felt around the world.
Based on the statistics I presented above some of you readers may be affected by this issue. Please ask for help.
The Rape Crisis Center http://rapecrisis.com/
Council Against Rape Crisis Line, Montgomery (AL) 334-286-5987
Stillwater (OK) Domestic Violence 405-624-3020