Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women's Liberation Movement

By Linda Gordon; Rosalyn Baxandall | Go to book overview

Just as first-wave feminism contributed to a campaign against child abuse, starting in the 1870s, so did second-wave feminism. The women's movement war particularly influential in forcing recognition of sexual abuse of children, which had been commonly denied, children's allegations typically treated as fantasies. Feminists social worker Florence Rush was in the vanguard in researching and writing about the issue. Now it is common knowledge that child sexual abuse is far from a rare occurrence. Today it is estimated that half of all rape victims are under eighteen and 16 percent are under twelve. Approximately one-fifth of U.S. women experience sexual abuse as children. Unfortunately, the highly gendered nature of this crime is sometimes ignored or even denied, but the fact is that sexual abuse of children is perpetrated overwhelmingly by heterosexual men whether the victims are girls (most commonly or boys. Child sexual abuse is primarily a crime committed not by "dirty old men" lurking on street corners but by close male relatives.


The Sexual Abuse of Children
FLORENCE RUSH 1971

The sexual abuse of children is an early manifestation of male power and oppression of the female.

There is, significantly, very little material on the subject of sexual abuse generally and particularly as it relates to children.
1. National statistics on the incidence of sexual offenses against children are wholly unavailable. The FBI's annual Information Crime Report is concerned with statistics on the offender and not the victim. It does not even carry a breakdown of the total incidence of all crimes against children. What makes an assessment even more difficult, except for rare cases of brutal attack or fatal situations, is that cases of sex offenses against children are not generally publicized by the press.
2. The problem of sexual abuse of children is of unknown national dimensions but findings strongly point to the probability of an enormous national incidence many times larger than the reported incidence of child abuse (physical abuse other than sexual). By an overwhelming ratio, 97%, offenders were male and ranged in age from 17 to 68. Victims were on a ratio of 10 girls to one boy. In 75% of the cases, the offender was known to the child or family such as a father, stepfather, mother's lover, brother, uncle or friend of the family--25% of the offenders were alleged to be strangers.

Let us consider a study which deals with 20 cases of incest and involves the fathers as offenders and daughters as victims. The preponderance of incest cases are between fathers and young daughters. The author, although sympathetic with the victim, still does not deal with the offender, but looks to the mother to control the problem.

There follow several examples of father behavior described by 13 mothers and, in every instance, corroborated by the child victim; breaking a radio over the mother's head; burning the child with hot irons, chasing the mother out of the house with a gun . . . locking mother or children in closets while he sexually abused the child victim . . . forcing sexual intercourse with the child in the mother's presence . . . etc.

After examining the character of the incest family . . . the unavoidable conclusion seems to be that the failure of the mother to protect the child against the contingency of incestuous victimization is a crucial and fruitful area of study. . . .

Considering the father offender as a possible source of control of incest behavior seems . . . like considering the fox . . . as guard in the henhouse. . . .

The mother is the only possible agent of incest control within the family group.

The father rapes and brutalizes and it turns out to be the

-204-

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Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women's Liberation Movement
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • A Note on the Text IX
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Origins 19
  • 1 - A Movement Arises 21
  • Sex and Caste 21
  • We Don't Need the Men 23
  • An Appeal to Mothers, Black and White 24
  • Burial of Weeping Womanhood 25
  • What Concrete Steps Can Be Taken to Further the Homophile Movement 26
  • Lesbianism and Feminism 27
  • To the Women of the Left 28
  • Principles 34
  • Outreach Leaflet 35
  • Angry Notes from a Black Feminist 37
  • 2 - The New Left 41
  • Underground Woman 42
  • Women Unite! Free the Panthers! 44
  • Declaration of Women's Independence 45
  • Women Shake Up SDS Session 48
  • Letter to the Left 51
  • Sisters in Struggle 1970 52
  • Goodbye to All That 53
  • Unite to Win: - Chicago Women's Graphics Collective 58
  • Pissed Off About the War in Cambodia 1970 59
  • WUNTRAC 61
  • Cartoon and Letter Criticizing Sexist Cartoon 63
  • Platform 64
  • Statement 65
  • 3 - New Organization Forms 67
  • The Small Group Process 67
  • Gainesville Women's Liberation 1970 70
  • Analysis of Chicago Women's Liberation School 82
  • 4 - Feminist Theory 84
  • What Is a Woman? 84
  • Are Men Really the Enemy? 88
  • Manifesto 90
  • A Historical and Critical Essay for Black Women 93
  • Socialist Feminism 96
  • On Separatism 111
  • I Am What I Am 112
  • II - Bodies 115
  • 5 - Health 117
  • 5 - Health 118
  • She Loves Rape 118
  • Wonder Woman 123
  • Self-Help Clinic 124
  • Brochure 126
  • Using a Natural Sponge 1976 127
  • Breastfeeding Successfully in Spite of Doctors and Hospitals 128
  • HR 1504 130
  • Breathing Life into Ourselves: The Evolution of the National Black Women's Health Project 131
  • 6 - Reproductive Rights 134
  • Women Must Control the Means of Reproduction 134
  • Poor Black Women 135
  • Off the Pill 136
  • On Abortion and Abortion Law 140
  • Hernia: A Satire on Abortion Law Repeal 144
  • Women Learn to Perform Abortions 145
  • Who Needs a Shepherd? 147
  • Friends of the Fetus 148
  • An African American Woman Speaks Out for Abortion Rights 149
  • Sterilization: Rights and Abuse of Rights 150
  • Posters Against Sterilization Abuse 1973 152
  • Starting Over 154
  • 7 - Sexuality 155
  • Venus Observed 155
  • The Happiest Day of My Life 163
  • Workshop Resolutions 166
  • Smash Phallic Imperialism 169
  • HIRE (Hooking Is Real Employment) 173
  • 8 - Objectification, Harassment, Violence 175
  • Death in the Spectacle 175
  • Body Odor and Social Order 181
  • No More Miss America 184
  • Excerpt from a Critique of the Miss America Protest 185
  • Antes de hacer dieta . . . 189
  • Fat Liberation Manifesto 191
  • Little Rapes 192
  • Rape: The All American Crime 195
  • The Case of Inez Garcia 201
  • The Sexual Abuse of Children 204
  • Women's Martial Arts Demonstrations 206
  • Karate as Self-Defense for Women 207
  • La Virgen de Guadalupe Defendiendo los Derechos de los Xicanos - [The Virgin of Guadalupe Defending the Rights of Chicanos] 209
  • III - Institutions 211
  • 9 - Family 213
  • For Sadie and Maud 213
  • What's in a Name? 216
  • Machismo 217
  • Communal Living 221
  • The Five of Us (With a Little Help from Our Friends) 222
  • Hippie Communes 225
  • The Single Mother Experience 229
  • Lesbian Mothers and Their Children 233
  • Why Day Care? 234
  • 10 - Education 237
  • 10 - Education 237
  • Consciousness Razors 237
  • What Every Young Girl Should Ask! 242
  • Testimony of a High School Pitcher 243
  • Courses, Spring 1973 246
  • Library Sit-in for Women's History 249
  • Dear Sisters 250
  • 11 - Work 254
  • The Politics of Housework 255
  • Wages for Housework 258
  • Wages Against Housework 259
  • Margaret F. Stewart, Our Lady of Guadalupe 261
  • Luring Women into the Armed Forces 262
  • AFT Resolution on Women's Rights 1970 263
  • Learning Auto Repair 264
  • Open Letter to Local #1299 265
  • The Era of Tokenism and the Role Model Trap 267
  • Women Unionize Office Jobs 270
  • TWA Stewardesses on Strike 273
  • Sexual Harassment: Working Women's Dilemma 274
  • Every Mother a Working Mother 278
  • Welfare Is a Women's Issue 279
  • 12 - Culture 282
  • At Home in San José 282
  • Samplers: One of the Lesser American Arts 283
  • How to Name Baby 285
  • Anatomy Is Destiny or . . . Just Like Daddy 286
  • Pregnant Woman in a Ball of Yarn 291
  • Linen Closet 292
  • "There Was a Young Woman Who Swallowed a Lie . . . ," 293
  • Breaking Out 295
  • Witch 296
  • Medusa 297
  • The Young Warrior 298
  • Mountain-Moving Day 299
  • Women Invade The Boston Globe 300
  • I've Been in Her Shoes 302
  • Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe 309
  • Among the Things That Use to Be 310
  • In the Beauty Parlor 311
  • Sources 313
  • Further Reading 318
  • Acknowledgments 319
  • Index of Contributors 321
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