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By Jackie MacMillan
Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter
While most rape crisis centers operate on budgets well under $20,000 a year. the Center for Women Policy Studies (CWPS). a Washington. D.C. consulting firm, acquired a grant for $238,437 to conduct a research
project on rape. The study included research on police, prosecutors. medical facilities and "Citizens' Action Groups" (CAG's), in terms of their involvement with rape. The grant was provided primarily by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. The CWPS investigated
"The Response of Citizens' Action Groups" to rape, and the remaining areas of investiga¬ion were sub-contracted to two consulting firms - Blackstone Associates and Legal Resources. The four volume research package is titled: "Rape and its Victims: A
Report for Citizens, Health Facilities and Criminal Justice Agencies". Requests
for copies of the report should be directed to:
Public Information Office,
LEAA, Dept. of Justice 633 Indiana Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20031.
It is typical of the bureaucracy to fund research as a priority over action-oriented projects. Likewise, public and private money is more readily available for "model programs" than for sustaining on-going programs needed by the community. We cannot criticize the CWPS for accepting money that would not otherwise have gone to action-oriented projects.
Nor do we feel that research is totally unnecessary. We do question the
purpose of the research. Whose interest is it intended to serve? What kind
of bias does it reflect? We do criticize the use of the grant money and the manner in which this study was conducted.
Our differences with the CWPS stem from basic disagreement concerning the nature of change. The attitude expressed by the CWPS report is that progressive institutional change is most effective
when it occurs "spontaneously" from the top down and least effective when it results from pressure brought by outside groups.1 We hold the opposite view. We strongly question the premise that meaningful social change will occur spontaneously from the top down in any consistent way. Important social change almost invariably results from pressure brought by organized political movements. The rape issue serves as an excellent example of this phenomenon. Until feminists began organizing against rape a few years ago, medical, mental health, and social-service agencies barely acknowledged the problem. The rape victim was dealt with in superficial and 00¬pressive ways. The feminist movement has been the obvious catalyst for the current interest in the rape issue.
We also recognize that change is an on-going process and that continued
pressure from outside organizations is essential to maintaining current reforms and pushing for further change. Karen Kollias distinguished between two forms of change that exist
in our society: change initiated from within the power structure and change brought about by pressure from political organizations. The first results when those in power plan and create active changes such as technological advances as a means of maintaining power. The latter includes reforms which are concessions made by the power structure. "It is in the interest of the power structure to absorb as many demands as possible without a threat to its basic fabric."
The manner in which the study was conducted reflects many of the assumptions presented in the report. Our criticisms of the study are outlined below.
* The CWPS,by representing itself as a feminist organization,
has been able to use
its professional status to gain access to grant money. However, the CWPS has not attempted to make itself accountable to feminists.
By claiming to be feminist, such organizations as the CWPS gain certain credibility with funding sources seeking to fund token projects. These funding sources are responding to pressure generated by the feminist movement and its popular support by
large numbers of women. For women building professional careers, the "Women's
Movement", defined very broadly, can be used merely as a means to personal gain. Such activity can be seen as exploitation of feminists working seriously for social and political change, and thus, the exploitation of all women. While the CWPS
identifies itself with the feminist movement, it has failed to seek the criticism and support of feminists organized against rape. Any group or individual that presumes to represent a particular constituency should attempt to make itself accountable to that constituency.
A citizens' advisory board could have been established by CWPS, initially, before a proposal was even drafted. In this way CWPS could have determined what kind of research might have been most beneficial to CAG's. The study itself could have been contracted out, in part or in full, to groups that already had expertise and extensive information on the issue.
When the study was completed, and an initial draft of the report written, the
CWPS responded to feminist criticism and did pay consultants to review the report. While this after-the-fact action can be seen as positive, it in no way compensates for the manner in which the whole project was conducted.
* The CWPS has exploited feminist
action-oriented groups to conduct research lucrative to the CWPS.
Representatives of the CWPS contacted, by phone and personal visit, CAG's (primarily feminist) for the purpose of collecting information. Consulting fees
were not offered. Several groups requested a fee and were denied. Groups were informed that consulting fees were not provided for in the budget. This oversight demonstrates the low level of respect accorded to para-professional groups.
If the CWPS truly supported feminist CAG's, they might have seen consulting fees as a logical means of
money to such groups. Consulting fees serve as a substantial part of many CAG's incomes and as a helpful supplement to many others.
* The study does not approach rape from a feminist perspective,
but from a professional and police-oriented bias.
The report does not reflect a feminist bias. Nor is it unbiased, as academic research is fallaciously presumed to be. It reflects the prejudice of the funding agency(s) and of the CWPS itself, a very professionally-oriented private research organization. While the CWPS asserts that the study was intended as a handbook for CAG's, its assumptions are different from those of most CAG's working against rape. It discusses the relationship between rape and sexism as an assumption made by feminists, but not as an assumption necessarily shared by the CWPS.
It assumes, for example, that rape must be controlled rather than eliminated,
and that this activity is the province of the criminal justice system. The CWPS ignores the possibility of eliminating rape through fundamental social and political change. The report presumes to tell citizens' groups that our role is to "maintain programs to aid victims who do not report the crime". This statement contradicts their documentation of how important CAG's have been in all aspects of rape. There is no reason for their assumption that our importance has ceased.
Further, while the CWPS' stated purpose in conducting the study was to aid CAG's, they failed to include in the budget funds for distribution and printing expenses. The report is exclusively accessible to LEAA which also controls all rights to its content. Information has been gathered regarding feminist organizations that feminists will possibly never have access to. Thus, the study remains unavailable to those it was purportedly intended for.
* The study exposes shortcomings of CAG's in a manner that is potentially detrimental.
In its attempt to be objective, the report often portrays CAG's in a bad light.
While many of the criticisms are valid, we feel the CWPS acted irresponsibly in revealing these deficiencies to a federal agency, particularly LEAA which has total control over funding rape projects. Not only does LEAA control massive funds itself, but private foundations defer to LEAA.
While the study presumes that CAG's must be run as volunteer organizations, they cite the "conspicuous absence" of minority, poor and working class women involved in such projects.3 Although this observation is probably accurate, the CWPS failed to fu1ly explore the reasons for this absence and failed to emphasize the obvious solution. Poor women do not have the resources to permit them to concentrate on volunteer work. If CAG's received adequate support and funding, decent full-time salaries could be paid and the projects could benefit from the leadership and participation of minority, poor and working class women.
We also criticize the report for its use of loaded phrases that discredit feminist rape crisis centers. For example, rape crisis centers "may earn the reputation of being anti-male, anti-professional and difficult for more conventional groups to work with". Statements such as this reinforce the view that feminist groups should not be dealt with and cannot be taken seriously.
While the study does contain useful information and is often descriptively accurate of feminist views, the
process in which it was carried out is in opposition to basic feminist
1The Response of Citizens' Action Groups", pp. 83-84 (CWPS)
2"Spiral of Change: an introduction to Quest" by Karen Kollias,
Quest: a feminist quarterly, Processes of Change, Vol. I, No. 1, pp. 2-3, Diana Press.
3"The Response of Citizens' Action Groups", p. 20 (CWPS)