Archive for September, 2013

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By: Tonya B. Lewis

Rape has been a problem for centuries. No other crime tears at the fabric, conscience and collective spirit of a community or family than rape. Case in point, the story of the Biblical king David is mired by the rape of his daughter, Tamar, by her half-brother, which ultimately destroyed David’s family.  Just the very word is an affront to most people’s senses. Over time, the word has been anesthetized by referring to it as sexual assault, sexual abuse and molestation.

During college, I volunteered with a sexual assault awareness group, and we performed monologues about rape to an audience of college freshmen. I loved those gut-wrenching performances because I thought that, just maybe, we were preventing rape and providing resources and hope to rape survivors.

At one particular performance, I shared my “story.” It was a monologue I had rehearsed. It wasn’t my story, but it was someone’s story (and that made it real to me). During that session, a young woman began crying, got up and left. I quickly finished the monologue, and the group facilitator and I sought out the woman. She tearfully explained how she had been raped a few month’s prior by her boss. As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, she told us that she wasn’t sure she had been raped until she heard my monologue. She had said, “No,” but because she didn’t fight, yell or scream, she thought it wasn’t technically rape. In her mind, her soft, defiant, “No, please stop,” justified her being raped. As I listened to her story, I felt a mixture of anger and sadness. She was worried about how she would be viewed if the details of her attack became known. She blamed herself for that glass of alcohol she drank that night. She wondered if she had invited or caused her own attack. She feared if she went to trial how she would be portrayed. She questioned if she should report the rape and “ruin” her attacker’s life.

The rape is horrific. The aftermath is traumatic.

Most have heard comments about rape victims such as “She asked for it,” “Look at how she was dressed,” and “She shouldn’t have gotten drunk.” That’s tantamount to re-victimizing a rape survivor all over again. In her article, “Monsters, playboys, virgins and whores: Rape myths in the new media’s coverage of sexual violence,” Shannon O’Hara analyzes the case of an 11-year-old girl in Cleveland, Texas who was allegedly raped by as many as 28 men ranging in age from 14 to 27-years-old. O’Hara mentions a New York Times article that stated that the victim “dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s” almost implying that the 11-year-old victim was at fault.

My flashback to the young lady who was raped in college and the 11-year-old girl was brought on by the case of another young rape victim, Cherice Moralez. Cherice was 14-years-old when she was raped by her then 49-year old teacher, Stacey Rambold. In 2010, Cherice committed suicide while the court case was pending.

Moralez case protests_CAPTION MATT BROWN-APCherice Moralez

This week, Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison and excused all but 31 days of the sentence and gave him credit for one day served. In essence, Rambold will serve 30 additional days in prison for the rape of a 14-year-old girl. What defies further understanding is Baugh’s explanation of the ruling. He asserts that Cherice, was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold. Not only is Baugh’s ruling a miscarriage of justice, it enforces one of the myths of rape that the victim is solely at fault. His ruling also sends a dangerous message to rape victims and assailants that rape is a crime that will virtually go unpunished. (more…)

English: American Actor Forest Whitaker

English: American Actor Forest Whitaker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the movie, you may not want to read this post.

I saw “The Butler” last night and loved it! The writing, directing, makeup and acting were stellar.

The movie explores the real life of Eugene Allen an African-American man who served as a butler in the White House for 34 years during the terms of eight presidents. The historical drama, written by Danny Strong and directed by Lee Daniels, offers viewers a better understanding of the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and other major events in U.S. history.  It features an all star cast, including Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, Terrance Howard, John Cusack, Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda, which you might not recognize because of a fabulous makeup job.

I enjoyed the movie’s exploration of relationships and human emotions.

Cecil and his son, Louis, who did not have a strong bond during his childhood because of his father’s work ethic, became estranged after Louis dropped out of college to help with the civil right’s movement. At the end of the movie, Cecil reads a book about the Freedom Riders and realizes that his son’s actions were heroic rather than radical. He joins Louis in a protest against South African apartheid and is thrown in jail with him. Both father and son, who spent many decades being ashamed of one another’s chosen occupations, earned one another’s respect by the end of the movie.

The Butler has some strong, positive portrayals of black male and female relationships. Cecil’s colleagues are depicted as having realistic marriages built on mutual  love and respect. Cecil and his wife, Gloria, remain steadfast in their commitment to one another although they experience some turbulence fueled by alcoholism and jealousy along the way. By the end of the movie,  the two share a loving relationship in which they grow old together.

The movie ends with Cecil meeting President Obama in the White House right after his election. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the theater. Although Gloria died right before the election of the first African-American U.S. President, she was able to help with his presidential campaign and experience the possibility of him winning the race.

As with any movie, the screenwriter used creative liberty to make it more interesting and palatable to audiences.  Most notably, Eugene Allen only had one son. He did not break into a pastry shop as depicted at the beginning of the movie. His wife was not an alcoholic, and she did not have an affair in real life. The portrayals of former president Ronald Reagan have also been panned by movie critics.

Even with these misrepresentations and some of the violent content in the movie, I highly recommend “The Butler” for people of all ages and races. It is a wonderful history lesson that is sure to capture any viewer’s attention. It is also a great lesson on life and the importance of forgiving one another and persevering against the odds. I plan to see the movie again with my children.