Thursday, July 16, 2015

1241: Unspoken in Small Town America

If you haven't finished the third season of Orange Is the New Black, then do not continue reading.

One of my favorite characters in Orange Is the New Black is Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett, a redneck who is serving time for shooting a nurse at an abortion clinic after she insulted her. Pennsatucky has always been one of my favorites, despite being an uber-Chrisitan pro-life idiot despite have five abortions herself, because I knew people like her.

In episode 10, Pennsatucky is raped twice. Once in a flashback and the second time by one of the new prison guards that she had befriended. Sadly, Pennsatucky's story is all too common across rural America. According to 2012 FBI crime estimates, the states with the highest rates of reported rapes per capita were Alaska, South Dakota, Michigan, New Mexico and Arkansas. In my home state of Kansas, there were 36 reported rapes per 100,000 people. That number is more than likely higher since the data only considers reported rapes.

A report from 2003, the most recent available numbers, found that the number of people seeking crisis services far exceeded the number of reported rapes. A further look showed that the reporting was less because the victim was a part of the offender's social circle or because the police were part of the social circle. Other factors also included poor cell phone reception, lack of transportation and long distance to travel. In rural areas, sexual assault is hidden due to the close-knit community lifestyle and, to a point, the anti-government/anti-police sentiment. "They don't report unless they have to," said a program director in a rural community in Pennsylvania, identified in the report as Tanya. My first girlfriend had been raped by a classmate of ours that went unreported. Around the lunch table, it was considered her fault because she was sexually active anyway and had big breasts. When she told her parents, they worried about what their church would think of them.

I've read that Pennsatucky's being paid in Mountain Dew for sex was something created just for "shock value" but I don't think it was. Instead, I think it was an attempt at a joke to show just how child-like she was and still is. In high school, there was a girl who would sleep with you if you got her drugs or alcohol. We don't know, we never see, if Pennsatucky trades sex for other types of services. What I do think was "shock value" was Pennsatucky's mother telling a 10-year-old Pennsatucky who had just gotten her period was to "Go on and let [boys] do their business." This seems like odd advice from a mother but we don't know much about Pennsatucky's mother. Her advice tries to create a traumatic back story and give us a reason for Pennsatucky's promiscuity. Most rural mothers want their daughters to understand sex and make good choices but Pennsatucky's mother isn't like that. She's a stereotypical redneck who is a bad parent. No other reason or explanation necessary.

Being a part of this culture, even for a short period of time, we're taught that rural women bring sexual assault on herself. Just like that family down the street is poor through mistakes that they made, not because of a system designed to keep poor people poor. And we're taught that about all classes of women that if you are sexually assaulted, then it is probably your fault. Women in rural areas are at higher risk of rape and sexual assault because of the societal and cultural structure that they are a part of, something unmentioned in OITNB or in general.

I'm not a huge fan of horse racing but when I was a kid, I loved to watch the greyhound races on TV. We used to have a racetrack near us and the races were aired late at night on a local channel. I think the mechanical rabbit's name was Woody and the announcer had a trademark call for when the rabbit started moving but I don't remember how it went.