We love when our clients lead change – especially when that change is as real, fundamental, and far-reaching as that sought by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. As their name suggests, PCAR is spearheading the effort in Pennsylvania to eliminate a culture of rape that, unfortunately, still pervades many aspects of our society.
It should go without saying that rape is not a trivial offense. Yet the recent California case involving a star athlete at Stanford University showed that, all too often, in our courts and in our mass media, we see how sexual assault is trivialized by a criminal sentence that demeans not only the survivor of that crime, but all survivors of sex crimes. The father of the attacker even decried the sentence, saying six months in county jail (with the possibility of only three months served) was “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.”
In the state that already made international headlines for the sexual abuse perpetrated by former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, we’ve recently learned how 50 cases of sexual abuse by clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona were routinely covered up for decades. Even then, it took a grand jury investigation to finally bring the situation to a head.
Delilah Rumburg is PCAR’s CEO. Earlier this month, she wrote a stirring op-ed for the Harrisburg Patriot-News and its Penn Live digital news center. PCAR uses the term “rape culture” to describe the objectification, victim-blaming, trivialization of consent, and outright callousness that contribute to rape’s pervasive presence in our country. In her piece, Delilah says it takes “years of time, attention, and molding to create the kind of climate that normalizes a rapist’s actions.”
Rape, she writes, comes from a climate where it “is not a split-second bad decision, but an ongoing thought process that makes a person feel like doing something like this is okay.”
We know from experience that op-eds like Delilah’s are crucial tools for building support for change. They get noticed by other opinion-shapers, and get the attention of key policymakers. They can spark a wave of supportive comments and efforts, and nudge decision makers into action.
PCAR is the definitive leader in Pennsylvania in the ongoing effort to change the toxic culture of rape. We are proud to work alongside them, and call them our partner.