by: NICOLE TRUGILLO/Editor-in-Chief
It may look like a harmless four letter word. But, in reality, it’s so much more than that.
Holley Baker, a graduate of Texas Tech University, spoke at the Sundown Room on Feb. 3 in the Student Center at South Plains College about her experience with rape and what she learned and experienced while working on her documentary for her Masters of Art Education program in the School of Art.
Her documentary is called “Culture of Blame,” and it’s an 18-minute video about her interviewing different girls who had been raped and what the outcome was with all of them. The film starts out with Baker telling the audience that she was on her way to her friend’s house to apologize after so many years. The reason she was apologizing was because Baker didn’t believe her when her friend told her she was raped. That is, until Baker was a victim and survivor of rape herself.
During her journey to apologize to her friend, she interviews people on the streets of Austin, Texas, discussing what rape was, and some didn’t want to discuss such an uncomfortable topic. Baker interviewed Lubbock District Attorneys, Lubbock officials, and professors at Texas Tech discussing the culture of rape.
At the end of her documentary, Baker is on her friend’s doorstep ready to apologize, and then the screen fades to black.
“She forgave me,” Baker says after showing her documentary. “She actually went to therapy, and she told me that she let go of it years before. But it meant a lot to her that I came to her. We’re actually friends now. We rekindled our friendship and talked about this issue a lot. We actually talked last week, and she told that me doing this documentary kind of opened and brought us both healing.”
Baker says that she realized that not only had she experienced rape, but she also was guilty of victim blaming.
“I blamed her because the standard line, ‘She had been drinking,’” Baker says. “She was drunk when it happened, so I blamed her. Her case went to court and I was supposed to be a witness for the defense, and they just started taking all of personal history and anytime she partied before. All of a sudden that was relevant to the rape case. It took me years to kind of deal with it and unpack it, and this documentary was my way of trying to seek some understanding for that.”
Baker started her documentary to look at the nature of sexual assault, because, to her, it seemed like for about a year every single woman she met had experienced a sexual assault in her lifetime.
“The statistics in one in six women really struck me as odd,” Baker explains. “Because, it seemed more like four and five in 6 and only one woman went to the police and reported it.”
In Baker’s documentary, she interviewed a woman who went to the police to report she had been sexually assaulted, and the woman explained and retold her story about how she had to tell at least 10 male officials about what happened and how it made her uncomfortable.
Baker says the reason why there are more male officials when dealing with sexual assault cases is because women tend to victimize more.
According to Baker, 93 percent of sexual assaults never make it to court.
“The problem is getting those convictions, or getting it into the court room,” explains Baker. “A lot of the times the victims don’t want to tell anybody about what happened. From what the numbers that I was looking at, most rape cases never go to court. So by the time it gets there, most of the survivors don’t want to go through the one-year process of the investigation, constantly getting it brought up and having people poking holes in their stories. So you have that part.”
Baker continues, “Second, a lot of District Attorneys won’t prosecute cases if it’s too much he said, she said. And if they’re not sure if they’re not going to get that conviction, then it doesn’t even go to court. They try to settle out of court.”
Baker brought up an interesting subject regarding why her documentary only consists of female sexual assault victims. Baker explained that men don’t want to come forward, and they face a bigger stigma than women.
“One of the high schools I went at I asked them, ‘What would you do if your female friend was involved in sexual assault?’” says Baker. “They told me that they would go and beat the guy’s (expletive), and then I asked, ‘What would you do if one of your guy friends have been a victim.’ Five minutes later, I finally got them to stop laughing and answer my question and realize that I was being serious. It was really eye-opening for me, because I saw how people perceive male victims. It’s a big problem in the homosexual community.”
Baker explains her personal experience with being sexually assaulted and what she went through when it was happening to her.
“I blamed myself,” Baker says. “I thought that maybe it was my fault. He was physically bigger than me, but I told myself I could have fought harder and all of these things. A lot of these victims will go through that dialogue. ‘We went out on a date, he bought me dinner, maybe I should have had sex with him.’”
Baker still finds herself very open, but she explains that it is harder for her to open up to men because she still has this dangerous and bad relationship in the back of her head.
“A lot of survivors that I talk to have problems with even being touched,” explains Baker. “For them, sex is no longer enjoyable and it was something they had to do, even with a loved one. I guess the only way to explain this is I don’t have a bad relationship with men, but with trusting sex. Having a bad relationship with sex and how I view or see it.”
Since making her documentary, Baker travels to different schools and does a screening of her documentary, letting people know what sexual assault and victim blaming is really about.
It took me going through [making this documentary] and make a full realization,” explains Baker. “Whenever it does happen to them, it gives people that desire to help others.”