Acquaintance rape becomes serious issue on campus
February 13, 2005
A group of young students, timidly hunkered down in the back of Taylor Auditorium on the campus of Missouri Southern State University- Joplin, were encouraged to move forward. Mostly freshmen, they were there to listen to Todd Denny, M.S.W., an educational consultant from Olympia, WA, tell them what they should know about harassment and acquaintance rape. Little did they know what was in store for them as part of a dynamic presentation called "Sexual Aggression 101."

Todd Denny

gives dynamic


Grabbing the mike, Denny exposed the audience to snippets from his CD, "Between the Beats," a collection of songs and rap that he and three musicians had produced for a MVP Music Project. The beat was infectious. The main message became clear and ingrained: Homophobia is the cause of violence in our culture, and, if not challenged, homophobia can lead to mistreatment of women.

What Denny in part wanted the audience to realize through the medium of popular culture is that men needed to display courage and re-define their role models. Using examples from his own experience, Denny made the audience aware of their own stereotypes. He called attention to how men who proved their sexuality through more aggressive and dominant behaviors would ridicule and abuse choosing, as he had done, figure skating over "rough and toothless" hockey. And when asked, 60% of the audience admitted that they were under pressure to affirm their sexual behavior or conquests with their peers.

Taking the stand of the "bad guy," Denny outlined these major excuses for date rape: Women who drink alcohol deserve it; women who dress in a sexy way deserve it; and women who are perceived to be "easy" deserve it.

Denny continued to intersperse his own comments among those he solicited from the audience. After he admitted how he had been asked by a relative if he had been doing it (not exactly his words) with the girl he had been seeing during his grad school days, a girl from the audience commented that she had been asked the same type of question just recently.

50% of the audience said that they knew a survivor of rape or child molestation. Women in the audience were more courageous than the men in admitting that their sexuality was targeted. Denny's questions warmed the audience up. But nobody admitted to a personal experience of sexually deviant behavior although at least one member of the audience clearly was shaken by Denny's description of a drunk girl raped by a football player who kept quiet because she thought no one would believe her. In offering suggestions as to why freshman women are at greater risk, the audience seemed in agreement that younger women might be seeking approval by hanging out with more risky guys.

What is rape?

Denny defined rape as penetration of any orifice by force or threat of force without having a clearly defined verbal yes. "Absence of response is not a yes... you must receive an answer," Denny stressed.

It should be noted that laws vary from courtroom to courtroom on what constitutes effective consent. However, if there has been any force used the act will be considered as rape. Denny noted that "force" can be defined as simply "locking a door" or using "body weight" to trap a victim.

The victims, of course, are not all women. Denny said that 1 out of 6 men have admitted to being raped at a young age by another male. He also called attention to the case of Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher from Seattle, who served time for child rape of an underage male student and the pending trial of teacher Debra LaFave from Florida who is being charged with the same offense.

What can be done to avoid a rape situation? "Trust your own instincts and act on them before it's too late," was Denny's advice. "Do not leave any woman behind at a party especially where there might be heavy drinking."

"It's sick and pathetic that women have to watch their drinks now," Denny said. He was referring to the growing use of date rape drugs that are readily available.

As part of the audience participation, Denny passed out index cards, color-tagged for gender, to elicit anonymous responses concerning something each would like to reinforce to the opposite sex or something the opposition sex still might not understand. Here are some of those responses in random order:

SHE SAID: "What I wear has nothing to do with you getting laid."

HE SAID: "Be honest."

SHE SAID: "Just because we talk to you doesn't mean we want to sleep with you."

HE SAID: "Men don't think straight when aroused."

SHE SAID: "Treat women like queens."

HE SAID: "Stop looking at my pants."

SHE SAID: "Let us initiate. We don't always look for sex."

HE SAID: "Remember women abuse, too."

SHE SAID: [ok, a bit of biased journalism here, giving a woman the last word] "Communicate. Rape isn't a joke."

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