Deborah Copaken Kogan speaks out again, and more power to her for daring to do so. In the July/August issue of More magazine, the journalist addresses the persistent social inequities pertaining to assaulted women. In the article entitled America’s Real Favorite Pastime? Judging Women she courageously rehashes her own experiences as a female war corespondent. Ten years ago when she first disclosed that she had been assaulted both on and off the job the media crucified her.

“Some things are just not discussed,” I recall being told as a child. Seems to be a commonly held belief. Back in the late seventies when I was in high school, I attended a mandatory presentation on self defense where a tall blond man instructed the pubescent audience to yell “Fire!” should any of us find ourselves being raped in a dark alleyway. “Fire!” not “Rape!” he assured us, would be the ticket to getting anyone nearby to respond because, he reasoned, people care more about their own house burning down than another's life.

A few year later, college advisers informed a packed auditorium of freshman women that one in every four of us would be raped. Hardly an encouraging thought for new fledglings recently flown the coop eager to explore their own natural if not mostly romantic urges. At the time I suspected that the statistic didn’t include victims of incest or spousal abuse and I sure as hell know it didn’t include hetero or homo sexual male victims. The controversially proposed “forcible rape” prevision clause to the Abortion Act aside, rape defined today includes attempted and threatened acts of forcible sexual penetration by and against women and men regardless of sexual orientation.

The National Center for Victims of Crime estimates that one in every 15 Americans has been a victim of incestuous childhood rape. Still the least reported crime, it’s well worth mentioning for several reasons. Firstly, incest, a statutory crime defined as marriage or sexual intercourse between relatives as prohibited by law, is legally considered a wholly independent offense from rape in that consent or the lack thereof is irrelevant.

Secondly, statutory prohibitions are defined at the local, not federal, level. There are no uniform parameters established. That which defines acceptable degrees of consanguinity for which marriages are declared lawful and the age at which a child is no longer considered a minor vary greatly from state to state. In some states it’s the forth degree (third cousins) that establishes permissible marriages, whereas in others copulation with one's direct linage only, i.e. brothers, sisters/fathers and mothers, is banned.

Furthermore, not every state deems sexual acts with step children or step siblings of legal concern. In fact, not too long ago the State of Massachusetts ruled that incest statutes “cannot be stretched beyond their fair meaning" and so cannot include stepparents since they are not of blood relation.

The statutes exist to protect the integrity of the gene pool and not our delicate moral sensitivities. As taboo as the topic of incest is, the public didn’t hesitate to roll out cart blanche acceptance to Woody Allen for bedding Soon-Yi. There was no boycotting of his movies and his career still thrives. The points of ambiguity on which he and his supporters justified his actions include the facts that he wasn’t her biological father, didn’t officially live in her home and wasn’t legally married to her adoptive mother, his lover of twelve years and mother of his child. New York, as it turns out, is a non-common law state. Time Magazine quipped at the time that this affair wasn’t merely a “celebrity dish; this was rancid food for thought.” And so it was and still is.

Depending on the state, incest is either a felony offense with convictions resulting in sentences up to life, or it’s a misdemeanor. When penal code utilizes language such as “ordinary men of reasonable intelligence” it is little wonder that statute constitutionality is often debated. The extreme inconsistencies and incongruities pertaining to incest leaves ample wiggle room for defense attorneys as Mia Farrow found out all too publicly.

The FBI uses Census data and police reports to compile the annual Uniform Crime Report. This year’s preliminary report indicates that although crime across the board is down, rape rates have increased in some regions, particularly in older urban neighborhoods and in cities with the high levels of unemployment. With an unemployment rate of 12 percent, California is second only to Nevada in joblessness. An additional 34,000 joined the ranks in July. More than a third of those unemployed have been unsuccessfully job hunting for more than a year. Frustrating and discouraging to say the least.

Although there isn’t any hard evidence that align the two, California’s high rape cities do happen to include the hardest economically hit communities. Top on the State’s rape charts are LA (923) with 12.4 percent unemployment, Oakland (318) with 10.5 percent unemployment, and San Diego (300, an increase from the 179 reported the year previous) also with 10.5 percent unemployment. Conversely, Imperial County with its grueling 30.8 percent rate unemployment lies low on the sex crime totem pole.

It should be fairly noted then that some of the highest rape rates are held by municipalities with unemployment rates below the national average (currently 9.1 percent). Almost every major city in Texas (Austin just missed the mark) for instance had between 300 and 800 rapes reported, and NYC reported a whopping 1,036! Obviously, population and a gamut of other contributing factors affect these numbers. Regrettably, one of the primary factors continues to be the taboo nature which sex offenses are still socially perceived and the legal system itself.

According to a series of Bureau of Justice reports, it’s estimated that only 40 percent of all attacks are reported and although one in every five women under the age of 25 is raped, only five percent of those are reported. Given the judicial system’s track record, I can certainly understand why that number remains low; only six percent of accused rapists do jail time. Let me repeat that ratio, six percent. Meaning, 94 percent walk.

Just shy of ten years ago, I was sexually assaulted at work. Before reporting it, I Googled some stats since I hadn’t ever faced anything like it before. I discovered that one in seven female employees report such incidents. Most select to quit for fear of losing their jobs if they pressed charges, if they "made a scene". This trend in part, the studies suggested, contributes to women not being promoted at the same rate as men since they don’t hold jobs as long as their male counterparts. Appalled by this information, I decided I owed it to my children to file.

I made a mistake though. I only reported it to my supervisors and not to the police. The male coworker didn't deny what he had done when confronted by management and was promptly fired. I was subsequently marginalized, which --if you haven’t experienced anything like it-- I can assure you is a most excruciatingly slow professional and personal annihilation imaginable. The assault charge was soon followed by several sexual discrimination charges all of which I hadn’t the financial resources to do much with.

The entire ordeal became a cancer in my life, fouling everything for years—relationships, friendships, family life, and certainly without question all future job prospects. Even though there is no statute of limitations on reporting assaults to the authorities, why would I even bother to reopen that bloody worm infested can of vile? It was the worst of nightmares and I am glad to be well beyond the thick of it.

I’ve had a few bouts with abuse over the years. Many women have endured similar things as I have and my experiences pale in comparison to what others have suffered; I recovered when others lie six feet under.

No pity; no praise. I know I'm not going to hell in a hand basket any more than I'm going to heaven on the back of a B 52. But, I do feel compelled to do my part in reminding folks that the unthinkable happens all around us every day, and we all too often look the other way. I can personally attest that what the tall blond man said back in high school was dead on. People do tend to not want to hear about it, not want to see it, not want to acknowledge its existence. They don’t want to be involved or held accountable in any way. We as a society in the new millennia still wear our prehistoric blinders and on a daily basis throw those so soiled to the wolves. Even the most loved and trusted stand with the mob to throw stones at those who’ve been defiled.

In fact, they are sometimes the perpetrators. The National Crime Victimization Survey issued by the Bureau of Justice includes unreported crimes. The Survey indicates that one third of all women murdered in the U.S. are victims of intimate assault.

It is a rare person who has the strength and fortitude of character to stand against a mob, to support and protect others whether strangers or intimate relations because we as a race punish whistle blowers just as we’ve beheaded prophets. You wouldn’t expect that type of archaic behavior here in the United States, a country founded by those seeking freedom and justice. But, it's here none-the-less.

Sadly, it takes brave souls like Copaken Kogan willing to repeatedly stand up to media fire to put it all right back where it belongs, at the forefront and not buried in closets or in piles stowed secretly beneath carpets. Gladly, she no longer stands alone. Others, like psychologist Dr. Sarah Crome, another brazen line-crossing, taboo breaker are risking reputations and careers to expose some of society’s dirtiest laundry.

Dr. Crome has gone on public record to state that for every male that files a rape charge, ten other male victims don't. We all know women get raped, violated and assaulted—they’re women, after all, the “weaker sex”. But men? Pshaw! No way! Yet, it's estimated that men comprise 10 percent of rape victims.

It’s that thinking exactly that has lent power to male on male rape as a successful weapon of warfare. The thought of being raped is a terrifying image to even the most grizzled of men. The array of emotions male victims experience, however, isn’t any different than those that the 600 American women that are raped every day must survive. As with so many things though, it’ll take more and more of those unreporting male victims to come out of hiding before things change. When the male rape numbers increase, the legal system as well as society at large will sit at attention and knuckle to the grind stone some solutions that might more effectively address this age old violence.

I, for one, will not be holding my breath to see any of these changes in my lifetime. Because regardless of how highly intelligent and superior we think we are as a race, I find our evolution in certain aspects to be painfully retarded.

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nan shartel Aug. 21, 2011 @ 10:57 a.m.

very good article Roody...sexual crime is undereported and prosecuted because the laws aren't tough enough :(


Ruth Newell Aug. 23, 2011 @ 1:05 a.m.

Thanks for reading and commenting, Nan.


K. Aitken Aug. 23, 2011 @ 4:58 p.m.

Excellent piece. And so true. No one wants to look it in the face.


Ruth Newell Aug. 23, 2011 @ 5:02 p.m.

Thank you Isadora! I appreciate your reading and commenting.


Twister Aug. 23, 2011 @ 10:52 p.m.

As we have seen via today's news, it's a difficult crime to prosecute. Immediate reporting and collection of evidence is essential. All people, especially women, should take self-defense courses; a friend of mine did, and when she gave the cowardly bastard a few karate chops, he took off. There are other ways to magnify one's strength; check with the police for advice about legal weapons you can buy at police equipment stores.


Ruth Newell Aug. 24, 2011 @ 8:22 a.m.

I'm all in favor of defending one's self and being aware of one's surroundings regardless of sex, sexual orientation or age even because as you illustrate, Twister, a little resistance goes a long way in deterring the would be assaulter. (Different set of issues though when its someone you love and trust or is an elder depending on how you were raised...)But, it seems to me that the problem still remains not one's ability to protect oneself but that others (men predominantly according to the studies) feel it is acceptable to attack and abuse others (both males and females)for whatever reason. I've been told by more than one men that men will do what they feel they can get away with, that they look for the advantage always. It was in regards to something else but I think his statement certainly applies here as well.

So, I'm back to my premise that it if society, via the laws we as voters enact and by our collective reactions/responses, enables and condones sexual abuse and violence to women and children then women and children will continue to be abused and violated.

Someone very precious to me once explained to me that in India if a man is inappropriate with a woman or touches her indecently, it is permissible and even expected that every other man in the vicinity will beat him silly. I think we should try that for a day. A single day where men take men into their own hands. Just a thought.


Twister Aug. 24, 2011 @ 7:51 p.m.

That's the way it used to operate where I grew up. The "boys" would pay a "visit" to the offender, or sometimes an individual man would take care of the offender.

But I agree with you that it just shouldn't happen in the first place. A good place to start would be to compare statistics from different cultures.

In my culture, a rapist was looked upon as a subhuman, a man who was not MAN enough to be a friendly persuader.


nan shartel Aug. 25, 2011 @ 11:39 a.m.

i so agree twister...i wish i'd had a couple of big brothers to handle it for me


nan shartel Aug. 23, 2011 @ 10:56 p.m.

good ideas twister...women taking back their's time!


Ruth Newell Aug. 24, 2011 @ 8:57 a.m.

As I see it, women ARE and HAVE been since the time of the Sabine, empowered. That's what the root of all this is about I think...but I digress:)

Least we further victimize women though, let me emphasize that most of those being assaulted/abused are under the age of 25! This isn't about our youth taking back something they haven't yet even grown into. It's not about women allowing it or inviting it--they are not the ones at fault or whose behavior is in question here.

It--for me-- is about men assuming an advantage over the innocent and its about US allowing it. It's not about women and children having to learn to beat men off them, it's about all the rest of us learning to create an inhospitable environment for violence to occur, for us to not allow it, for us to assume some responsibility in protecting the innocent. It's about us--not just as mothers or fathers but as a society as a whole-- raising our boys to be men who damn well KNOW BETTER--who would take their own lives before abusing women or children. But, these are just my thoughts and granted I am a radical when it comes to these issues:)

Sick that to lose our innocence(the lack of knowledge pertaining to evil) means having gained an awareness of evil and experience in dealing with it.


SurfPuppy619 Aug. 24, 2011 @ 4:45 p.m.

It's about us--not just as mothers or fathers but as a society as a whole-- raising our boys to be men who damn well KNOW BETTER--who would take their own lives before abusing women or children.

You sure seem to lump all men into one big catch-all category.


Ruth Newell Aug. 24, 2011 @ 5:25 p.m.

I'm sorry SurfPuppy; that wasn't my intention. I'm simply referring to the stats that most perpetrators are male. Obviously,and gladly, many men do not fall into this category and the fact that you and Twister have bothered to read the essay and offer your comments says a lot. Thank you!

It seems to me that whether we fight or don't--man or woman--isn't the point...that those abused are not to blame for having been abused. That they aren't the problem. Therefore, although I agree that we all should learn to defend ourselves and others, I don't think self defense is THE end all answer to the problem because the problem isn't whether the woman/man/child fights or not--in my view. Plenty of victims fight;Some die doing so. Just seems to me that there's got to be another answer and that part of the problem is the way in which we think about it...that the first place we go is to the woman and what she did or didn't do to deserve/prevent the attack. I'm obviously having some trouble getting my point across though:) It happens. lol

Thanks--as always--for reading SurfPuppy, Twister, Nan and Isadora, and certainly for your comments and participation in this dialogue. It's very much appreciated.


nan shartel Aug. 24, 2011 @ 2:07 p.m.

when i was 17 i was taking a bus to and from downtown SD to work....and sometimes work in the evening

there was a killer in the town at the time...he rode the buses and got out with a female rider and within a block would overpower her and rape and kill her with a nylon stocking...he always took one of the victims shoes and was called the "shoe bandit"

since i had to walk many blks to get home i bought a 6 inch switchblade in Tijuana and carried it in my purse

one night 1 blk from where i lived a Pants Dropper showed up on the other side of the street

i pulled my knife...held it up to the streetlight switched it open and yelled

"i have a knife and i know how to use it"

up went his pants and he was off like a shot....

he wasn't the shoe bandit ...but i'll never regret buying that knife that i only had to brandish and never had to use


Ruth Newell Aug. 24, 2011 @ 2:31 p.m.

The life you've lived! And see what I mean...the stories...they are everywhere...:)

The Tall Blonde Man I referred to told us to get a whistle and to carry it on our key chain or wrist and blow the B'jesus out of it. He warned us against weapons and told us not to resist at all if confronted with a weapon. I believe he was an ex cop. I participated in several defense trainings since his little inspirational talk, one by a woman who had grown up on the streets of NYC by the name of Ruth. She was the youngest of nine, the only girl among eight brothers. I've got to tell you, of all the classes I've taken, her's--her tips--are the ones that stuck with me.


Ruth Newell Aug. 24, 2011 @ 5:29 p.m.

I should add that Ruth's 'tips' included how to maim and kill. She was absolutely no-tolerance, no-nonsense. She laughed too when I told her about the whistle suggestion.


Twister Aug. 24, 2011 @ 8:05 p.m.

I'm with Ruth. But that's only if you can't get away. The weapon I alluded to can be turned into an offensive one, at least in the sense that you can kill with it--but it's primarily defensive and doesn't ramp up the intensity of the attack, you just take the sonafobitch down with it, run if you can get away, or kill the mfr if it turns out that way. Then get a good lawyer to demonstrate that the threat was one that made you fear for your life. All police officers know what I'm talking about, especially the females.


Ruth Newell Aug. 24, 2011 @ 8:08 p.m.

I wanna live in the land of the Unicorns!


SurfPuppy619 Aug. 24, 2011 @ 4:46 p.m.

"i have a knife and i know how to use it"

============== Cool story nan!


nan shartel Aug. 24, 2011 @ 5:56 p.m.

and u got a Pit Bull to protect Pupster...i know u'd fight...and i'd fight to protect a dog 2

in fact i did beat the livin 'sh*t out of a kid once that was abusing a young dog...then i took the dog home and convince my foster mother we should keep him

the kids parents were 2 embarrassed to ask for him back

he was a pit /rottie mix and we named him Mambo

it was his job to protect 3 females living without a man and he did it very well

by the time he was grown no one would have tried to break into our house!!


Twister Aug. 24, 2011 @ 7:59 p.m.

Sometimes threats work, but sometimes they don't. I don't think threatening is a good idea--it can ramp up the violence.

The best thing to do is to talk to a policeman and ask him or her what the best legal defensive weapon is that you can buy for a few bucks--better than a switch-blade--or even better than a gun--at least in close-up situations. Blinding flashlights are good, and air horns are ok, but bulky.


nan shartel Aug. 24, 2011 @ 2:49 p.m.

switchblades weren't illegal then...and i was a foster child and had to depend on myself...a whistle wouldn't have worked with that guy

i believe in fight back...but that's just me...lololol....

fight urself and run like h*ll


SurfPuppy619 Aug. 24, 2011 @ 4:47 p.m.

nan, I own a beautiful 13 inch (opened) rosewood switchblade. Love it.


Ruth Newell Aug. 24, 2011 @ 4:58 p.m.

I do too Nan, I do too. And, a whistle wouldn't stop many...but that's what the man told us. I recall laughing at it then though to this day I still carry a whistle on my key chain:)


Twister Aug. 24, 2011 @ 8:11 p.m.

A whistle is a waste of breath--and TIME. Time is everything in defense. You HAVE to be FASTER! After you've killed the mfr, then you can blow the fn whistle!


Ruth Newell Aug. 24, 2011 @ 9:21 p.m.

Well, as stated, much of what the Tall Blonde Man advised I held/hold in question.


nan shartel Aug. 24, 2011 @ 5:59 p.m.

damn i wish i coulda seen that one puppy...i bet it was a beauty!!!

i hate to admit it but i LOVE knives!!!



Twister Aug. 24, 2011 @ 8:08 p.m.

My weapon is even faster than a pig-sticker--and safer and more effective. An assailant can still kill you before he bleeds to death.


Max03 Aug. 25, 2011 @ 7:20 a.m.

Really like your range and selection of topics as well as the aptitude with which you tackle them. You are a gifted writer.


K. Aitken Aug. 25, 2011 @ 8:45 a.m.

"It's not about women and children having to learn to beat men off them, it's about all the rest of us learning to create an inhospitable environment for violence to occur, for us to not allow it, for us to assume some responsibility in protecting the innocent. It's about us--not just as mothers or fathers but as a society as a whole..."

I agree, wholeheartedly. If you know a man is preying on young women, but have no proof and are a smaller woman yourself, what do you do? In our culture it's ok to make sexual remarks to young women, it's ok to use innuendo, we are just supposed to laugh it off as if it were innocent.

I consider it my greatest achievement that I have gotten my daughter to age 9 without being sexually abused. That's six years longer than my parents were able to do with me. But I know I'm not out of the woods yet.


Ruth Newell Aug. 25, 2011 @ 9:05 a.m.

As I understand it, innuendo's are considered illegal...whether one threatens or does, whether verbal or physical it is all abuse and all illegal--its considered the same crime by both statutes, assault and incest. That's what the various 'degrees' cover.

What we don't know about the laws is a lot, I think. I certainly learned tons. And absolutely, when we're inclined to shrug or laugh it off as somewhat insignificant or all in our paranoid heads...sigh.

I agree...t'is a great accomplishment--with your daughter--and I wish you all the luck in the world with the next nine. Gosh I wish they taught self defense in schools as part of the PE program. But I have learned that wishing doesn't make it so:)


nan shartel Aug. 25, 2011 @ 11:37 a.m.

of course now they have pepper spray the day i'm speaking of they had no air horns and extra-bright flashlights or pepper spray...having a switchblade was all i could legally carry...and a 6 inch blade was the legal length

i held it to the light to frighten the idiot...he as bout 50 feet away...there were no cell phones for fact there was no 911


i used a frightening weapon to safeguard myself from a exhibitionist who might have been more dangerous but wasn't


Twister Aug. 25, 2011 @ 2:04 p.m.

Nan, pepper-spray doesn't always work on its own. My weapon of choice has both. I'm glad the flasher ran the other way . . .


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