Listen and Believe: MNCASA Response to Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Denied Justice Article
The Minneapolis Star Tribune released another article in the series Denied Justice, in which some of Minnesota’s victims/survivors of sexual assault courageously shared their experiences. As previously stated the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault was not surprised by these victims/survivors’ experiences; these stories and others are echoed by victims/survivors across the state. Every single day, in every county across the state of Minnesota, our member programs support and walk with others just like those profiled in the Star Tribune. As a community, we have let down these victims/survivors. We are sorry. We must do better.
Statewide sexual assault policies, training, and accountability at every level of the system is necessary to ensure a victim/survivor-centered, trauma-informed response. We know that sexual assaults are underreported and that the majority of perpetrators will walk free. What can we do to encourage survivors to come forward?
- Start By Believing. If a victim experiences negative or judgmental reactions upon disclosing sexual assault, they are less likely to ever disclose again. Negative experiences also deter victims from seeking further help.* We must all start by believing and supporting victims/survivors when they disclose.
- Stop prosecuting victims/survivors when there was also unlawful use of alcohol or controlled substances. This summer, a victim/survivor in Minnesota reported her rape and was charged with underage drinking. This is unacceptable.
- We call for Minnesota statute to clarify consent, particularly in cases that also involve alcohol or controlled substances by specifically prohibiting having sex with someone who is clearly inebriated. Consent must be “knowingly and freely” given. Minnesota’s current legislative threshold of incapacitation is beyond reasonable and too often results in failure to prosecute.
We support victims/survivors and hope that the Star Tribune series will continue to elevate the conversation around sexual violence. We also want to remind Minnesotans, the most marginalized communities experience the effects of sexual assault more acutely—and face the greatest obstacles to gaining protection and necessary services. “84 percent of Native American and Alaskan Native women have experienced violence; 56 percent have experienced sexual violence; and, of that second group, over 90 percent have experienced violence at the hands of a non-tribal member.”** “For every one rape reported by an African American woman, fifteen go unreported (6.25% reporting rate as compared to the national average of 35-40% reporting rate)”*** Perpetrators specifically target marginalized communities due to their increased vulnerability and lack of access to justice and other services.
These stories can no longer be ignored. It is our job, as a community to stop sexual violence. MNCASA proposes policy solutions. We work with law enforcement, attorneys, medical professionals, advocates, community based advocacy organizations, victims/survivors, and the community to work together to end sexual violence. We are now asking you to get involved.
There are many ways you can take action within your community.
- Listen, believe, and support, victims/survivors.
- Volunteer, or donate to your local anti-sexual violence agency. Advocates within these agencies have access to tools and resources around active bystander intervention, consent, healthy relationships education, and other prevention strategies that they would love to share with you and the community at large. They also work with victims/survivors every day.
- Third, elevate the conversation and talk to your local lawmakers and policy makers about how victims/survivors of sexual assault are treated in your community. Write Letters to the Editor, hold town hall meetings, work with law enforcement to change policy, protocols, and enforcement. Take action to change the laws.
- You have the power to challenge and change harmful social norms; as well as contribute to safe and comfortable environments. There are many small every day actions you can take to reduce sexual violence in the community. For example: shut down sexist or harmful comments and jokes; have conversations with the youth in your life about healthy relationship skills and values; and support local business who promote respect for their customers. We have many resources for how to prevent sexual violence in your community. Go to mncasa.org/prevention-resources for more information on what you, as an individual, can do in your community. Now is a time for critical actions and conversations, which will lead to positive community change.
We at MNCASA believe that the combination of policy, community based advocacy, prevention education, outreach, and training will improve community responses to sexual assault but we need your help. If you are a victim/survivor in search of community based advocacy, visit rapehelpmn.org to find an agency near you. Services are free and confidential. For more information on how to get involved, go to www.mncasa.org.
*Stansell, Janna, and Amy Jennings. “To tell or not to tell: The impact of disclosure on sexual assault survivors’ recovery.” Violence and victims 25.5 (2010): 631-648.
**Rosay, André B.. “Violence against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men.” NIJ Journal 277 (Sep 2016). NCJ 249822. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/249736.pdf
***Krebs, Christopher P., et al. “The campus sexual assault (CSA) study: Final report.” Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, US Department of Justice (2007). https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ccsvsftr.pdf