Student continues to work toward peace after sexual assault

Oakland senior Londa Stockton has been a volunteer at Hope Harbor, a non-profit sexual assault awareness group, since 2012. “I just wanted others to know they’re not alone,” Stockton said. “Someone had to standup.” A victim of sexual assault in 2009 Stockton had a teal dove permanently inked on her shoulder to remind herself and others how much she has overcome. “It’s something I will always carry with me,” Stockton said. “But I know it’s behind me now.”

Rae Emary

In My Skin is a weekly feature series that looks to tell the stories of diverse student populations at WKU. Its goal is to serve as a simple reminder that WKU is location of diversity.


Putting one foot in front of the other, Londa Stockton walked the five miles home from a night she’ll never forget. After consuming copious amounts of beer and hooch at a high school graduation party in 2009, Stockton found the nearest bedroom and quickly fell asleep. Hours later, she awoke face to face with a male classmate with his skin against hers, raping her.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, Stockton is one of the 89,000 women affected by rape nationally. In 2012, Kentucky legislature, KRS 510.010, defined rape, or “deviant sexual intercourse,” as “any act of sexual gratification involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another; or penetration of the anus of one person by a foreign object manipulated by another person.”

However, the effects of rape also impact the victim’s psyche and cause years of emotional distress.

“I blamed myself a lot and, I mean, that’s probably one of the biggest things people usually recognize is that victims or survivors always blame themselves,” Stockton, now an Oakland senior, said. “I actually ended up trying to kill myself once, shortly after.”

However, to the director of the Gender and Women’s Studies program, Jane Olmsted, the blame should not rest on the victim. She attributes pressure from mass media as an influencing factor.

“There’s a lot of pressure, and has been for years, to look a certain way,” she said. “This ties into sexual assault since women are still blamed for somehow causing assault — and that’s often they are wearing the clothes that our culture says they should be wearing in order to be attractive and ‘with it.’ So there’s kind of a double bind there.”

A 2010 case involved Nick Gonzales, a man who was acquitted of rape charges when a jury deemed the act consensual on the grounds that his victim’s size 6 skinny jeans could not have been removed without cooperation.

“In order to be a part of this culture you’ve got to look a certain way and then once you do then you’re rape-able,” Olmsted said.

As a victim, Stockton faced similar backlash in her situation. She was told she deserved to be raped because she had been drinking.

“To hear somebody say that, you know, just because a female wanted to have fun and drink, that meant that they’re automatically up for bids,” Stockton said. “(That) just because a person was there, it deserved to happen to them.”

Stockton compared her situation to an automobile accident involving a drunk driver.

“You wouldn’t say that a person who was involved in a DUI — the victim who got hit — you wouldn’t tell them, ‘Well, you shouldn’t have been driving,’” she said.

“No, you put the blame on the person who was drinking and driving. And it just baffles me that you would apply it to only that situation involving women. The fault lies within the person that does the act, the perpetrator; not who it happens to. If we apply that to the same way it does every other situation with murder or car accidents or robbery, then that would help tremendously.”

This is not to say that progress is not being made toward equality and safety for women. The change has been gradual, but according to the National Crime Victimization Survey conducted among approximately 160,000 people, between the years 1995 and 2010 the annual rate of female rape or assault declined 58 percent. Victimization shifted from 5 victims per 1,000 females 12 years old or older to 2.1 per 1,000 females.

“There will always be evil and wrongdoing, so to talk about an endgame, to me it’s better to talk about how do we move towards or how do we evolve,” Olmsted said. “I think all we have to do is look at our history to see how radically transformed the women’s movement has made this society. Does it mean the job is done? No.”

Change is underway on WKU’s campus in the Gender and Women’s Studies program and Hilltoppers for Choice. The city of Bowling Green is also progressing with organizations such as Hope Harbor and events like ‘Take Back the Night,’ a march against sexual violence.

Stockton suggests changes that can be made in immediate situations by saying something, especially “if you see something that you think is making somebody else uncomfortable or that you are witnessing, you know, somebody getting rough with another person,” she said.

By doing so, Stockton says this alerts the assailant of your presence and evokes safety for the victim.

However, Olmsted suggests reconsidering the way society raises men. She believes boys are raised with a sense of entitlement and a lack of control and empathy.

“Raising boys who feel entitled is still going on,” she said. “Raising children in a culture that has narrow parameters for being a boy, for being masculine. I raised three boys and the worst thing that I saw was gay bashing and it didn’t matter if they were gay or not, it was every boy is threatened by homophobia. Because if you don’t act like a boy, and that usually means hurting somebody or being the best at something, then you’re going to be accused of being a girl.

“This implicit hatred of girls infects how our boys are raised in this country,” she said.

To Olmsted, the backlash against equality is a sign that it’s working.

“The narrowing of the stories you hear and the images you see in the media and in movies are a sign of backlash,” Olmsted said.

Stockton went on to say that an autonomy difference does not negate the rape and sexual violence toward men, as well.

“Anything that happens to a woman can happen to a man,” she said. “A man can be raped. A woman can be raped. A man can be domestically assaulted. A woman can be domestically assaulted. It can happen and it does. Just we ignore it as a society because it’s not our picture-perfect world.”

Through her healing process, Stockton has discovered that mistakes will be made, but those mistakes can be used to help others in similar situations.

“You’re going to learn from that and the mistakes that you make — they may leave scars but that’s a story you can tell somebody else that’s in that same situation and it will help later on,” Stockton said.

“It may not help now, but it’ll help,” she said. “Just move one foot forward at one time.”