Using your Podium for the Right Reasons: Jimmy Carter on Rape at Universities

carter and bookOn my last trip down south I was gifted Jimmy Carter’s latest book, A Call To Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power. I must admit I began reading with hesitation and scrutiny, confident that this anti-choice, Southern Baptist, ex-President could not possibly be critiquing the role of religion in the oppression of and overall inequality of women. Sure enough! That and so much more. I am still only moments into the book, and certainly going in with low expectations can often breed unwarranted praise, but thus far Carter is boldly and unapologetically merely speaking the truth about the innumerable examples of sexism, domestically and globally. It might not be the most interesting read, oftentimes you can imagine the podium and microphones, the tucked-in finger wagging at the crowd, but if any (male) politician today stood at a podium and spoke these words I would be, jaw to the floor, it’s a revolution, this must be an SNL skit, in shock. Just to say in a televised interview with ABC newswithout missing a beat, that he was a feminist, was surprising enough, and that “If a feminist is someone who thinks women should not be persecuted, and that women should have equal rights to men, I think all men ought to be feminists, as a matter of fact.”

On the topic I have been so fond of discussing of late, he has words as well. I will let them speak for themselves.

Why would any institution want [serial rapists] to remain as students? One answer comes from the Hopkins Undergraduate Research Journal of March 2012, which reported that one in three college assaults that get reported are committed by student athletes, who are often popular and influential.

(Another interesting read on this topic this week is this New York Times article on rape accusations against superstar college football player Jameis Winston).

With proper leadership at the presidential level, universities can prevent deans and other officials from responding to a report of rape simply by suggesting the victim get counseling or take some time off or by telling her that legal proceedings are likely to embarass her and result only rarely in punishment for the rapist.

On a similar note, the handling of rape accusations in military schools and in the armed forces:

I have learned that my alma mater [Annapolis] has the same basic policy concerning sexual assaults as other institutions of higher education, and this permissive policy is now being questioned since a female midshipman alleged that she was gang raped by three football players at an off-campus house in April 2012…She was punished for underage drinking while her accused assailants were allowed to keep playing football. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service closed the initial investigation.

This almost inconceivable procedure at the U.S. Naval Academy–with prosecution of the alleged rapists entirely up to the commanding officer–demonstrates vividly why victims of rape in the military are so reluctant to report the assaults. In addition, the U.S. Justice Department utilizes this fear of reporting abuse as a means to excuse the Department of Veterans Affairs from paying rape victims when later medical claims are made. Despite the fact that the military acknowledges that most rapes and other serious sexual assaults are never reported to authorities and that severe permanent damage , including post-traumatic stress disorder, often requires treatment for victims in later years, these rulings specify that failure to make a timely report of these crimes can be used as evidence that they did not occur.

And my favorite so far:

Earlier I asserted that the normalization of violence committed by the state encourages violence in society, and this idea especially applies to young people in the military and in universities. If our military is called upon to commit unjustified violence, this will influence the thinking and behavior of highly impressionable service members and college students, who are just beginning to live independently and exert themselves in a highly charged environment. If their government easily chooses violence and punishment to solve problems, they will internalize this choice, which will influence how they deal with each other and make their own way in the world.

— Caterina Gironda, Assistant Editor


One comment

  1. Jonathan

    Carter seems an unlikely candidate to be toting feminist rhetoric, but I’m interested to see what a Georgian, former head of state has to say about the societal trend of sexism in America. Thanks for the suggestion!


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