One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

“The Choking Game” is no game January 31, 2012

Filed under: healthy living,strangulation — Jenny Edminson @ 11:30 am
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According to recent news articles from sources such as Time and Jezebel, there is a new way teens are getting high. Operating under euphemisms such as Space Monkey, Pass out, The Fainting Game, and The Choking Game- strangulation is the new fad. This “game” is pretty self explanatory and easy to play, which is one of its appeals. It can be “played” either by yourself or in a group. There are various methods, but no matter how it is achieved, deprivation of blood to the brain creates a euphoria or “high” feeling. When the pressure is released the blood goes rushing back into the brain creating another secondary high.

While “The Choking Game” has a similar appeal to drugs or alcohol; the rush of feeling, an experience of being high, it does not involve money or finding a dealer/purchaser like drugs or alcohol. While the idea is not new, it seems to have had a resurgence of popularity recently. A study of 837 students in Texas found that 1 in 7 played the “game” at some point since the age of 14.  72% reported to play the game more than once. The main reasons for playing were curiosity and peer pressure.

While choking yourself (and others in a party setting) may seem like just another new way teens are living out youthful invincibility, choking or more accurately, strangulation, is a real danger. A number of people have already died from playing this “game.”  Even more people have died from the very real form of violence that is now being masqueraded as a game.

Strangulation was the cause of 26 out of the last 387 known domestic violence related homicides in North Carolina.  It  is a very serious way to inflict permanent harm or even death. Death can happen in as little 11 seconds.  There are three types of strangling someone: manual (literally putting hands around someone’s throat and holding them and/or picking them up), ligature (rope or cord) or by hanging (which uses a ligature to hang someone from another object). When death does not occur, serious symptoms generally do, as much as 36 hours later, such as: swelling of the neck, difficulty swallowing, memory loss, bruising, dizziness, headache, petechiae (burst blood vessels) in ears, eyes or face and even delayed death.  So it is extremely important that someone who has been strangled seek medical assistance immediately!

While it might seem common sense that choking one’s self is a bad idea, apparently it’s not. Fortunately, the same study from above showed that discussion of the risks associated with the choking game was a positive deterrent from participating.  Talking about things is an often overlooked yet simple and highly effective form of making positive change.  As the research shows from the choking game study, simply a discussion about the harms of choking one’s self can save lives.

Similarly, voicing your support of someone who is experiencing intimate partner violence, or telling them that what is happening is not their fault, or telling anyone that violence is not a way to solve or handle their problems can impact and change someone’s life. Sometimes we don’t speak up because we take it for granted that what we know or what we think is understood by others. Sometimes we feel like voicing a topic, such as the dangers of strangulation or of the importance of respect in a relationship, is unnecessary because it is basic knowledge. Even if it is, these kinds of messages always bear repeating.

So, talk it out. Don’t miss an opportunity to enforce positive and healthy messages to those around you.

Many thanks to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for their help with the facts about strangulation presented in this article!


“Sleeping With My Eyes Open” January 25, 2012

Filed under: domestic violence,rape — Women's Studies Intern @ 4:09 pm

Slate Magazine is an online magazine that provides commentary on politics, news, and culture.  The publication includes a column called “Dear Prudence,” to which readers can submit letters to “Prudie” asking for advice on a variety of things.  On January 9, 2012 Prudence posted a video responding to a woman who identified herself as “Sleeping with My Eyes Open”.

The woman reaches out to Prudence for help and receives a shockingly close-minded and problematic response.  During the beginning of their marriage, the couple would often wake up in the middle of the night to have sex.  At first the sex was consensual, but then she spoke with her husband and made it clear that she wanted it to stop.  The sex continued.  Not only did the woman explicitly state that she did not consent to middle-of-the-night sex, she would also scream and try to push him off of her.  After questioning her husband’s actions and repeatedly asking him to stop, he responded that he “cannot control himself.”

Prudence’s response is distressing.  She calls the husband a creep, but his actions may not be his fault.  She advises the wife to take her husband to the doctor for a medical evaluation, because he might have a sleep disorder that is causing his actions.  Prudence even says “if it seems that he just enjoys forcing himself on you” then they need to see a marriage counselor as soon as possible if they do not want to end up divorced.  ForcingIf force is used to obtain sex, then it is not a consensual act; it is rape.  Prudence completely disregards the fact that this woman’s husband is raping her.  Whether other abusive aspects of a relationship are present are unknown.  Prudie doesn’t even suggest that the woman’s husband’s rape is being used to control or manipulate her.

Understanding consent is vital.

Consent is an agreement by all partners to engage in sexual contact of any kind.  It must be verbally expressed, and manipulation, force, or substances cannot be used to obtain consent.  The absence of “no” does not mean “yes”.

In “Sleeping with My Eyes Open’s” situation, she asked her husband on more than one occasion to stop having sex with her during the middle of the night.  The wife is unconscious and unable to consent during the middle of the night.  The wife screams and tries to push her husband off of her while he is having sex with her.  There are three layers of expressed non-consent.  Her husband does not have her consent; the sex that Prudence sees as a sleeping disorder is not a disorder, it is rape.  No matter how hard it is, we must identify sexual violence for what it is.  To minimize or ignore it is only allowing the perpetrator to hold more control.

Unfortunately, this story of intimate partner rape is all too common.  According to recent surveys completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five women report having been raped in their lifetime.  Of those women, more than half were raped by an intimate partner.  Sexual violence should never be excused.  The survivor is never at fault.  Prudie’s response is extremely troubling.  The woman should have been referred to an advocacy agency, not a marriage counselor.

The woman reaching out for help from Prudence is not experiencing just a relationship problem.    Forced sex is never okay, no matter the type of relationship the perpetrator has with his/her victim.  If someone reaches out to you who is experiencing an issue in their relationship, stop to think about what is really going on.  Don’t be like Prudie.  Listen to the person, believe what she or he is saying, and do not feel like you cannot reach out for help if you don’t know exactly how to respond.  The employees and volunteers at Family Violence Prevention Center are trained to help.

Our Hotline Advocates are here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Whether you have questions, are looking for help, or just need an understanding voice to talk to, FVPC’s Hotline Advocates are always available to talk at (919)929-7122.


Rape in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo January 19, 2012

Filed under: gender norms,healthy relationships,rape — Jenny Edminson @ 2:30 am
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The new movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo based on the international best-selling book trilogy by Stieg Larson  opened to lukewarm reviews (here are a few- 1, 2, 3).  The movie, an American adaptation of the Swedish books and prior European movies, is directed by David Fincher and stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara as the two main characters. Emma Gray, of The Huffington Post, describes Mara’s character, Lisbeth Salander, as a “character that women love to love.” Despite this comment and the large woman fan base of the books, the American version of the book is having a difficult time getting women viewers interested, according to Vulture, an entertainment news site. There are many theories on why one of the prime demographics for the books is faltering when it comes to the movie version.

Lisbeth Salander is a 24 year old computer hacker with a violent past. Salander teams up with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) to solve a 40-year-old murder case.  One theory for why female fans are not in a hurry to see the movie is the movie’s graphic depictions of sexual violence. Most disturbing, perhaps, is a scene in which Salander is raped by her guardian.  While this event is a major point in the novels, reports indicate that the film does not endeavor to shield the offensive material from its viewers. In her article, Gray defends the movie, claiming the rape scene caused her to “burst into tears” and was “one of the most disturbing things [she’s] ever seen,” but ” it did not “glamorize rape” and did succeed in putting a “strong, complex woman on the big screen.” While I applaud the depiction of strong women in movies, it is harder for me to move past the rape scene as easily.

I have not seen the movie and until researching the movie for this blog post, I had no prior knowledge of it or the books. I only knew what I have seen in the trailers and read in articles.  In the three trailers I saw for the movie, only one even hinted that such a scene would be shown. The “hint” is an older man with  Salander in a bleak office forcefully turning her head to face him while a voice over suggests she “learn to be sociable”, starting with him, assumedly. Watching that moment, while unsettling, is very different than watching a scene in which Salander is raped. In the reviews mentioned above, Gray’s article is the only one which gives more than a three word phrase about the scene. While the movie is rated R, the lack of discussion and warning over the scene in which Salander is raped by her guardian–not a stranger or a lover but someone who is/was charged with caring for her– is very disturbing. You might wonder how a rape scene is any different from a graphic murder scene or an explicit sex scene.  That is a fair question. While there is more than one answer, what I want to talk about is desensitization.

There was a time when saying one curse word in a movie caused an uproar. Now, curse words litter almost every movie that comes out.  Violence used to be something people did not want to watch. Deaths in movies happened with one bullet shot and no blood, or just by collapsing. Now there are real-looking guns and extremely realistic wounds and violent actions. And most people don’t blink. Violence is so pervasive in our society that most people view it as white noise. Now, footage has to be especially gruesome for a violent movie scene to be noticed. The stakes continue to be raised.

Rape and all sexual violence should not be placed into the category of cursing and violence in movies. The more we are inundated with violent images, the more naturalized they become, the less we notice them. And the more we accept it as an inevitable part of life. Just as violence does not have to happen, even more so, sexual violence does not have to happen. It should not happen.

The lack of discussion over the rape scene in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, shows that desensitization toward sexual violence is happening. If it was truly shocking, more people would be talking about it. Sexual violence is seen as sad, tragic possibly, but an unfortunate circumstance committed by sick individuals, not a by-product of desensitization. It is tragic, but it’s more than something that happens, it’s something that our society allows which is committed by ordinary people. Sexual violence is not something people are born with a desire to commit, like domestic violence, it is a learned behavior. It is learned through the media, through social opinions on women and men deserve, through the idea that sexual dominance is the ultimate dominance, that violence is a way to secure what is “yours”.

It is the same with interpersonal violence. We see someone pushing their partner and write it off. We hear partners screaming at each other, but decide it’s just something couples do. We hear about one partner slapping another, but it was in the heat of the moment; they didn’t mean it. A person is raped but he/she invited the person in, they were having a good time; it wasn’t rape.  All of these excuses stem from an acceptance on some level of what is happening. One reason why this acceptance happens is because of the desensitization of  the actions; because we have seen or heard about people committing acts of  sexual violence or acts of interpersonal violence so much we feel it is a natural part of life. Movies are not the only way we become immune to atrocities happening around us, but it is one vivid and easily accessible way in which we do.

I have not seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so I will not comment on the quality of the movie and whether or not you should see it. But if you go, I want you to be aware that it has a graphic rape scene which may disturb you. I hope that it does disturb you. Follow Salander through her journey, which I read in reviews includes payback for her rapist, but also be aware of the majority of people who have experienced sexual violence do not get revenge or justice or any kind of action. Be conscious of  the fact that rape is not only something that happens in the movies, and do not let a movie depiction numb you to the real life ways in which the effects of sexual violence live on, and the ways in which you can act to help change the rape-prone culture in which we live.

Some ways to help include never excusing any act of violence whether it be within a relationship or not.  Always ask consent before engaging in sexual acts and understand that consent is permission freely given and is not a one -time deal. Be an advocate for survivors of  interpersonal violence and/or sexual violence. One way to be an advocate for survivors is by volunteering with FVPC, click here.