• UNI Women Students Tell About Rape

    • Posted on Nov 11, 1980

    Recently my faith in what a university can do has been restored.

    Not that my faith was ever lost completely, understand, but after several weeks of correcting papers and quizzes, I was growing convinced that learning had become an irritation to be endured.

    A stony little path on the walk to the beach, say. "Correcting," after all, means that I was seeing only their mistakes. The restorative event was well attended, well run, and UNI women students took the major role.

    Most important, the event challenged the audience just like a good university event should. The event was a presentation designed to explain rape as a crime of violence. Now normally such a presentation would involve a psychologist, maybe a rape counselor, a police officer, and a sociologist, explaining serious theories about social influences on rape-prone personality types.

    It would have been interesting in a rather theoretical way, and it would have provided an intellectual perspective on the program. And most of the audience likely would have forgotten it by suppertime. 

    In sharp contrast, this presentation was conducted by three women UNI students, all of whom had been raped. Instead of theorizing about rape, they related their own terrifying experiences and how it changed their lives.

    Not just their minds, their lives. The audience sat in heavy silence as one woman explained how she was hitchhiking (stupidly, she admitted) and had a naive belief that no one would want to hurt her. "I'm a nice person," she said. "I don't hurt anybody—I'm not mean. Why would anybody hurt me?"

    She was picked up and gang raped by four men. She described the horror of being made to feel like she was a machine, created for her assailants' use and twisted pleasure. She went on to explain how that experience changed her attitude forever toward men, toward lovemaking, toward simply trusting people not to hurt her. 

    The other two women students told similar stories with similar outcomes, though neither had been hitchhiking. All three women remain angry and hurt about what happened to them, even though it was long past—in one case, several years ago.

    All three agreed that they had in no sense "asked for it," though some men see women hitchhikers as doing just that. And all agreed that they were raped simply because they were available when their assailants decided to rape someone, and because they themselves were too trusting and too naive about the potential for being raped.

    And that was the purpose of the presentation: to keep women from being raped because of their naivete. I couldn't help but think that the women in the audience would go away with a new attitude toward the need to protect themselves. 

    One bright spot in the whole depressing story was the enlightened treatment given by Cedar Falls police to the woman who was raped in Cedar Falls. She related that she was treated like the hurting person she was, not like someone who probably "got what they deserved"—a common attitude toward rape victims.

     Everyone in the audience learned something, not just intellectually, but with the gut. The personal courage these women showed in their willingness to tell their still-painful experiences was impressive; they conveyed the horror and degradation of rape better than a hundred lectures and a thousand statistics.

     I left pondering why men's rage at women (and themselves) exists at all, and why it so often takes the form of rape. And why women themselves often believe the myth that raped women "get what they deserve." And most of all, why have we let things get so bad that women can't even go out at night, even in Cedar Falls, without fear? Why haven't we done something sooner? 

    This presentation, shocking and depressing as it was, did function like a university should: informed people sharing their knowledge in order to make a positive difference.

    These women students did, and UNI is better for it.

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  • Silver Linings in the Right Wing Clouds?

    • Posted on Nov 07, 1980

    Nothing would be easier than to list the rotten consequences of last Tuesday's right-wing ouster of the liberals.

    Almost anyone can name them: the new know-nothings with their absurd simple-minded solutions, their insensitivity to the environment, their perverse need to build more bombs, their reverse Robin Hood philosophy of robbing the poor to give to the rich. 

    But that's too easy. Let's look instead at the bright spots. There are several: 
    —The New Left will be back, and soon. Extremism begets extremism, and already I've heard rumblings of a new Students for a Democratic Society chapter on the UNI campus. Another year and we'll have strikes, sit-ins, throw-ups, whatever. Excitement returns to the campuses of America after almost a decade of peace and quiet. 

    —My faith in the power of propaganda has been restored. For a while there I was sure that people were catching on to how special interest groups twist the truth. The anti-bottle bill people, for example, spent a fortune a couple of years ago on commercials that distorted the effect of the bottle bill. Iowans saw that campaign for what it was: the whining of the big bottlers.

    So  last week when those incredible anti-ERA ads came out, showing that homosexual marriages were part of what ERA would bring, I thought sure Iowans would see those ads for what they were, too: the bottlings of the big whiners. But they didn't, proving that propaganda still works. I've been thankfully undeceived.

     —Iowa will no longer puzzle Washington observers. Once upon a time, our senators belied the popular stereotype of the hayseed with manure on his shoes, if not his brain. Our senators were bright, compassionate, articulate, and they easily earned the admiration and respect of the other senators. Observers would marvel, "and they're from Iowa! That state's supposed to be such a hick place!" Now our senators won't confuse them at all. 

    —By 1984 we'll have the answer, thankfully, to the question: Can right-wing ideas actually work to run a country? The country has rejected such ideas until now. So we'll finally learn whether conservative politics work for the good of the many, or for the good of the conservatives. Place your bets folks, there on the right. But do not pass go or collect $200, yet. 

    —Finally, we can all be thankful for having seen the raw power of the stirred-up born-again crowd. If there was ever any doubt they are a force to be reckoned with, there's no doubt now. The Moral Majority will simply have to be combatted by those of us left in the Immoral Minority. We might not have known that without such a strong victory from such dark ages throwbacks. 

    And let's all remember it could have been worse. 

    We might have elected some ex-general with a heart condition who would play golf interminably. 

    Or a greasy crook whose main credentials were red-baiting and self-pity. 

    Or a nice uncle-type with a damaged head. 

    Indeed, given his party forbearers, Reagan doesn't look so bad. But of course neither would the Creature from the Black Lagoon, to use a candidate from Reagan's former profession. 

    Anyway, let us rejoice and be glad for these little silver linings in the great dark thunderhead from the right. With any luck, it'll blow away before it rains on us all. 

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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.


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