Another amazing week. US Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned amid the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal. Pressure mounted against Acosta as news trickled out that he’d allowed an incredibly lenient plea deal to go forward under his watch in Epstein’s Florida trial years ago. And then an accusation of rape!
The allegation of rape by a then, 14-15 year old girl, trumped Acosta’s fall from grace. In a TODAY interview with Savannah Guthrie, included here, Jennifer Araoz shared her chilling account of an alleged sexual assault by billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, which she says happened when she was in high school. Ms. Araoz is in the process of filing charges against billionaire financier Epstein. Araoz is not part of the Southern District of New York’s case against Epstein, who recently pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges.
Part of the ploy Epstein used, if Araoz is accurate, is that he arranged for her gradually to know him before attacking her. That is they became acquaintances if not “friends.” Admittedly, this involved Ms. Araoz compromising herself in stages as she was given $300 oftentimes after massaging Epstein. As Ms. Araoz says in the interview below, she blamed herself in part for the rape at the time. So many other women, esp young victims like Ms Aaroz, also blame themselves too.
These notions of “acquaintance rape” and “self-blame are explored in the excerpts later here.
It’s critical to say before continuing, tho, that at the age of 14, Araoz did not know what to do. “She felt she was obligated,” but absent experience, she lacked the skills or knowledge to discern when to “fight or flee.” There was a major age and power asymmetry between her and Epstein. That is why sex with underage minors is abuse and a crime.
The following paragraphs are adapted from Chapter One of The Bullying Antidote*, a positive parenting guide by Louise Hart and Kristen Caven. That chapter entitled “And How Are the Children?” constitutes an overview of the ways bullying connects with our worst societal ills, a concept that needs to be made clear.
Rape by “Friends/Acquaintances.”
“Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, and 15 out of 16 rapists never go to jail.** About 85 to 90 percent of sexual assaults reported by college women are perpetrated by someone known to the victim; about half occur on a date.*** The term “Date Rape” was coined in the late 1990s.
Men, women, and transgender individuals can all be victims of rape, but young women are especially at risk. around two-thirds of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, and 73 percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger.
High-profile college rape cases, the #metoo movement, and casual bragging about sexual assault by White House resident Donald Trump have brought sexism and sexual violence to the forefront.
The bullying connection writ large.
“Rape is bullying of a sexual nature. It typically happens in private, but it can also happen on a massive scale. In many parts of the world where there is war right now, rape is a weapon of war, and it is the most insidious form of bullying. Again, in times of heightened aggression, rape (of both men and women) becomes a ritualized and normalized part of a culture. And when women, damaged by the shock of rape, are forced to bear the blame—and the children—of rape, then the scars of hatred and violence are dragged through generations.
The elements of bullying include taking or undermining power in ways that are cruel, violating, and emotionally distressing or harmful, and unfair. It happens on personal, community, and cultural levels, and is typically systemic or repetitive.
Victims of rape are sometimes bullied after they are raped, which is why they remain silent or blame themselves.
The horror of rape is so insidious that a group or culture will blame the victim to deny its reality.
In the UK, they use the term “sexual bullying” to encompass everything from name calling to spreading sexual rumors to sexual favors to harassment to rape. Our common culture of rating of women according to sexual attraction is sexual bullying.
In the US there is a strong male culture of using diminishing names for women that supports unconscious beliefs that women are objects to be used by men. New research is identifying this “toxic masculinity” as a culture of entitlement that teaches boys not to see women as full, sovereign human beings. Others see this not as culture but as ‘patriarchal’ culture that, in the institution of marriage, sees women as property, symbols of success and conquest.
Many men truly believe they love and respect women, but yet they see them as objects or opportunities for personal advancement. Feminism, which holds the ideal that women and men are equally deserving of human rights, shows us that bullying is part of a millenia-old traditions of women being the underclass.
Resources available to deal with blaming and silence.
Solutions to sexual bullying are the same as solutions to all bullying dynamics. You can’t have sexual bullying in a culture of caring, empathy, and respect. The only solution to rape culture is a culture in which women fully own and control their personal sexuality, and where all sex is consensual. Requesting must come before consent. “Can I Kiss You” is a highly effective anti-date-rape program.”