Sunday, December 31, 2006

Minnesota Team To Review 894 Missing Person Cases


The case of a missing West Point cadet from White Bear Lake, Minn., is bringing back bad memories for a Vadnais Heights, Minn., mother who's own son went missing seven years ago.

[...]"If it's such a small world," she asks, "where are our sons?" The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension hopes to find out with the help of a recently formed a three-person team that will review all of the state's missing person cases.

The team, which was created by the Legislature during the past session, will examine the 894 files on missing children and adults, looking for gaps in evidence, especially DNA and dental records. Finding that information also could help to identify 21 corpses being held around the state.

"There's a huge potential for a lot of matches and solving a lot of cases," said Janell Rasmussen, state administrator for the bureau's missing persons unit.

I hope this effort can help fill in the unknowns and that there are enough resources available to help family members learn where their family members are and whether they are alive or dead.

Sometimes people think it's a waste of taxpayers money going after people who may have disappeared willingly, but focusing on all those who are missing may also solve serious crimes such as murder or kidnapping.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:23 PM   0 comments links to this post

Credibility Related To Duke Rape Case

I've been getting an increasing number of anonymous comments on my blog telling me that there is proof that the defendants in the Duke rape are innocent of all charges, as anyone who is smart enough to look at what's available about this case would realize (implying that I'm an idiot when the insult isn't clear or crude enough), and that the alleged victim has zero credibility in this case and must be considered to be a liar.

Besides the call to prejudge this case, there's something else off about these comments.

These people claim to be experts on credibility and evidence yet they hide their identities. For those who are opposed to rape shield laws or who think it is okay for people to reveal this alleged rape victim's identity, this refusal to reveal their own true, legal identities is interesting to say the least.

I know that at least one anonymous commenter is behaving unethically because he let me know he's been leaving comments on other blogs in my name that directly contradict my beliefs. He may think that makes him clever, but it just makes him unethical and untrustworthy. And that rubs off on all those he defends.

As the saying goes with friends like that ...

How do I know whether any of these so-called objective observers aren't paid to spread their message throughout the blogosphere or aren't family or friends of the defendants or their teammates?

Getting paid secretly for writing in the blogosphere has been done and raises serious ethical questions. It raises even greater questions if it is being done to prejudice the public against an alleged victim in a specific criminal case. If there aren't ethics rules that address this type of behavior there needs to be. Defending alleged rapists should be based on evidence not character assassination.

The other aspect of credibility was raised yet again in a comment over at Alas.
Slumpyb wrote:
This woman is NOT worth defending, and she has hurt the credability (sic) of other rape victims.

And I wrote in response:

If you really believe this full sentence then you don’t believe in evidence. But then you are asking us to judge this case based on news stories which often have as a major source the defense teams.
If you really believed the logic behind this sentence then you would be doing everything possible to stop men from raping since it is the men who do rape who hurt the credibility of men falsely accused of rape.

But somehow women accused of lying about rape are worse than rapists. Very convenient for those defending alleged rapists.

There's also something disturbing in saying that this alleged rape victim is not worth defending considering she has been accused of committing a crime by reporting rape. I believe Slumpyb would be horrified at the suggestion that any alleged rapist isn't worth defending and should be tried and found guilty by the public.

Yet he has no problem doing just that to alleged rape victims. How ethical is that?

When people demonstrate a willingness to be unethical, directly or indirectly, they demonstrate that they are not worthy of the slightest bit of trust in what they say.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:15 AM   15 comments links to this post

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Where Are The Ethics Complaints Against Lawyers Who Attack Alleged Rape Victims


A 17-page complaint to the bar's Disciplinary Hearing Commission accuses Durham County District Attorney Michael Nifong of telling reporters that the Duke players were refusing to cooperate with the investigation and that the players were refusing to make statements to local law enforcement authorities. It also says he improperly commented on tests involved in the investigation.

It further accuses him of improperly commenting on evidence and testimony he expected would be presented in trial; improperly giving his opinion about the guilt of the players; improperly trying to explain the absence of incriminating evidence; and improperly commenting on the character, credibility and reputation of the accused. Nifong's comments risked prejudicing any criminal trial, the complaint said.

With the nature of this case, I have to wonder if these complaints would have been filed if the Nifong's comments had been directed at men considered low-class thugs. If a prosecutor should be held to a high ethical standard, why aren't defense attorneys who make similar types of comments about alleged rape victims held to this same high standard?

Don't the defense attorneys and other attorneys who have spoken publicly against this alleged victim risk prejudicing any criminal trial? Or is it okay as long as the prejudice only smears the character, credibility and reputation of alleged victims?

This AP headline provides an opinion, but does it also provide a motive:
Ethics Charges Against Duke Lacrosse Prosecutor Could Force Him Off Case, Legal Experts Say

Frankly, the more determined people are to shut down a case by any and all means, the more suspicious I am of their motives and their ethics.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:02 AM   13 comments links to this post

Friday, December 29, 2006

Rite Of Passage Myths Hinder Justice For Boys Victimized By Women

Houston Chronicle (you now need to login to see article, try this link to a cached version of the story.

Shifts in the legal system and public opinion have made it easier to prosecute women who molest boys in their pubescent years, experts say. And cases continue to draw public attention. But those who work closely with victims such as Diana's grandson say rite-of-passage myths still make it hard for many, including jurors, to sympathize with older boys in such cases, who are also less likely to tell parents or police about abusive relationships with older women.

[...] Pam Hobbs, who heads the children's court services program in Harris County district courts, said she's seen police and prosecutors taking underage boys' allegations more seriously in the past decade. Potential jurors, though, are another matter.

[...] When [Richard] Gartner [a psychologist who works with male sexual abuse survivors] started talking to fellow psychologists about the subject in the early 1990s, he said, he got a lot of "blank stares." People thought he was exaggerating the problem. Now, there are national organizations, conferences and online listserves dedicated to the topic.

This continued belief in a dangerous myth is no surprise to me since the successful prosecution of any type of sex crime can be derailed by any number of dangerous myths which allow sexual predators to be seen as people who haven't done anything clearly criminal. These myths are designed to prevent victims from speaking up and to prevent people from believing once the victim does speak up.

Besides being useful to sexual predators, these myths are useful to people who want the illusion that there isn't a problem. If they refuse to see the problem then the problem doesn't exist anywhere near them or theirs.

Only it doesn't work that way.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:02 AM   1 comments links to this post

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Nine Out of Ten Alleged Rapists Surveyed Said ...

She's lying!

Sorry, I couldn't resist after getting yet another unpublishable comment, this one purporting to tell me that polling shows that significant numbers of alleged rape victims have made a fraudulent claim.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:45 AM   3 comments links to this post

Men Charged With Setting Cat On Fire Now Charged With Rape

Two 14-year-old girls contacted authorities after 2 men were charged with animal cruelty. I suspect the girls didn't think they would be believed or were too afraid to report the crime until they learned that the men were in jail.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:09 AM   0 comments links to this post

Carnival Against Sexual Violence Call For Nominations

The next deadline for the carnival against sexual violence is tomorrow night Dec. 29 at 11pm. Please nominate a post, one you've written or one you're read, for the 14th edition which comes out on Jan. 1.

If you've already made your nomination, feel free to help get the word out.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:01 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

When It Comes To Rape Cases Women Have It Too Easy?

In response to my last post I got a comment from Adam which included the following:

While a lack of evidence of guilt does not prove innocence, and a lack of evidence of innocence does not prove guilt, the benefit of the doubt in our system goes to the accused.
If he is only referring to the legal requirement in a criminal case to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then he's correct. However, this concept often gets generalized far beyond criminal law and is then used as an excuse to attack alleged rape victims and demand that they must not be seen as credible until the case results in a conviction.

In other words, many people believe that until a conviction takes place, the rapist must be believed and the rape victim must be assumed to be a liar. That is a huge benefit to rapists, one they don't deserve or merit under our constitution.

To see how this idea is misapplied all you have to do is look at what people say when they assert that the alleged rape victim is the real criminal. The benefit of the doubt given to the alleged rapists flies away.

For both the victim and the accuser, the fact that subgroups of the population have lined up on both sides to condemn them without really knowing the facts has ruined their good name and irrevocably changed their lives for the worse. However, only the accused are at risk of spending much of the rest of their lives in jail.
This implication that the consequences for innocent rape defendants are always worse than they are for real rape victims, is false. That people don't think about the risks rape victims face when they report is shameful.

Here are just a few examples:

City offers payment to woman falsely accused of lying about rape

Stormcloud: Raped violated suicide

Idaho grandmother and uncle plot alleged rape victim's murder

The myth that when it comes to rape cases that women have it too easy benefits rapists and helps them continue with very little concern that they will ever be convicted for the crimes they enjoy.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 2:16 PM   0 comments links to this post

Huff Post's Hutchinson Fails Hard Lessons From Duke Rape Case

Huff Post: Hard lessons from the Duke Rape Case by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Durham, North Carolina District Attorney Mike Nifong should do the right thing, cut his losses and drop the remaining charges of kidnapping and sexual assault against the three Duke University lacrosse players. That would close what has to be one of the dreariest episodes in the history of rape and racial victimization cases.
Yes, it would close an episode in the history of rape and racial victimization cases, but it would do so on an unfounded accusation against this alleged rape victim. But, hey, when we are focusing on the big picture what does it matter if there is a real possibility that a real rape victim has been publicly shafted and branded a cold-blooded liar directly by some people and indirectly by others?

Many people reveal their ignorance and lack of research when they equate the dropping of the rape charges as evidence that this is no longer a rape case in the general sense. In North Carolina, the charge of rape only applies to vaginal intercourse (penis in vagina) so any boy or man in NC who claims to have been raped by a man is making a false legal statement even if he is reporting what really happened.

The prosecution stated that they can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that vaginal intercourse happened during the alleged crime. That's a far cry from saying no rape happened. As a rape survivor, I know what it is to question my memories when they conflict with what other people are telling me.

But Nifong has given no hint that he has learned any lesson from the fiasco. Whether it's ego, to save face, or just plain bull-headedness, he's determined to barge ahead and pile more embarrassment on himself with a prosecution.
What if it is credible but non-DNA evidence that this alleged rape victim told the truth that is behind his determination? Should Nifong please his critics at the expense of someone who in his professional opinion is the victim of a serious and violent crime? What if the lacrosse players lied when they said no non-team members were at the party? What if the unknown DNA belongs to friends of the Duke lacrosse team?

That many people refuse to even consider these possibilities speaks volumes.

Those who stand up and say it is wrong to railroad alleged rapists without proof must stand up and say it is wrong to railroad alleged rape victims without proof if they want to be credible to more than a subgroup of people and not be seen as rape enablers.

Right now we have lack of DNA evidence linking specific individuals to this crime and we have hearsay (some of it slanderous in my opinion) and questions about the admissibility of evidence. If this case turns out to have reasonable doubt on all current charges against the 3 defendants that is not the same thing as proof that the alleged victim lied. Unfortunately, many people don't give a damn about this difference.

If there are sides battling over this case, Earl Ofari Hutchinson has all the rapists in the country on his side yelling, "You tell him." He forgets that at the peril of all those who are raped.
Then there's Nifong. He was roundly denounced for rushing to judgment on the case to curry favor with blacks and women's groups, and to boost his reelection chances. There's no evidence that Nifong purposely used the case to do that.
But lack of evidence hasn't stopped people from repeating this denouncement as if it were proven. Those who do so either do so out of stupid ignorance or with the hope that people will assume there couldn't be any valid reasons for Nifong to pursue this case.

Just as in the OJ case there is a chance that money and PR of a grand conspiracy to harm the defendants can get the job done, this time possibly without a trial. But victory doesn't always equal justice.

Make no mistake, if the defendants are not guilty of the charges against them, I want them found not guilty of those charges. Unfortunately, with the tone of many of the attacks against the alleged victim and those who support her right to pursue justice, I doubt whether those who have verbally attacked this alleged victim would cheer if it were proven in a court of law that she is telling the truth and the jury found the defendants guilty.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:04 AM   5 comments links to this post

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Unprosecuted Rape Accusations Preceded Alleged Serial Murders


THIBODAUX, La. - The man suspected of being a serial killer had been accused of rape on two occasions before the killing of his alleged first victim, but he never stood trial, newspapers reported Saturday. Ronald Dominique was indicted on nine counts of first-degree murder earlier this month. Held in lieu of a $9 million bond, he has yet to enter a plea.

In 1993, a Houma man told Thibodaux police that Dominique tied him up and raped him at gunpoint, but an officer chose not to make an arrest, the Daily Comet and the Courier newspapers reported. In 1996, a Thibodaux man went to the same police officer with an almost identical account, but while Dominique was arrested and jailed, he was released three months later without prosecution.

If men think that ineffective investigations of rape allegations never impact their own safety, this case shows how wrong they are. It also shows in stark terms that women rape victims aren't the only ones who have reason to be reluctant to report what happened to them.

In both of the reported rapes, the alleged rapist claimed that the sexual contact was consensual and even explained away his brandishing of a gun.

This case makes me wonder how much getting away with certain acts of violence emboldens rapists while the inadequate criminal justice response reminds them that rape survivors pose some danger to their continued violence.

We must do better for all victims and in response to all types, ages and genders of perpetrators.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:29 AM   1 comments links to this post

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Praying For The Prevention Of Violence

One of two police officer's shot during a standoff last night in a small Minnesota town was reportedly saved by his ballistics helmet while the other officer is hospitalized in serious condition.

The suspect later killed himself.

This isn't the Christmas present anyone wants.

So for this Christmas I want those who might be tempted to hurt others to let the urge pass them by when they get angry or frustrated or feel cornered. Some actions can not be returned like a sweater one size too small.

Let everyone prevent violence one urge at a time.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 6:46 PM   1 comments links to this post

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Carnival Against Child Abuse #7 Is Up

Go check it out at Sadly Normal.

Every child deserves not only toys for Christmas, but safety from those who are supposed to cherish them.

This Christmas, I am wishing that every adult who is tempted to sexualize a child will go to the Stop It Now! web site instead.
Stop It Now! believes that all adults must accept the responsibility to recognize, acknowledge and confront the behaviors that lead to the sexual abuse of children. We offer adults tools they can use to prevent sexual abuse - before there’s a victim to heal or an offender to punish.
Children should get tricycles and bicycles not the next cycle of violence.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:18 PM   2 comments links to this post

Vultures Who Hurt Future Rape Victims

Whenever a case like the one at Duke comes up, too many people will say that if the case falls apart this alleged victim has harmed future -- real --- rape victims.

That's a false charge.

The false-accusation theorists are the ones who harm present and future real rape victims. They never wait for pesky evidence that proves their theory before launching personal attacks against alleged victims. They sit like vultures waiting for the next case where they can get their claws into an alleged victim.

They also shift personal responsibility from themselves to the alleged victims they attack for the fallout of their attacks on all rape victims. If their attacks are proven to be against real rape victims they play the innocent victim and at best offer a putrid, oops. More often they fly silently away until their next target comes into sight.

Women they can label as sluts are a favorite target of these vultures. Often it seems like it only takes being an alleged rape victim for some vultures to label an alleged victim a slut when the alleged rapist isn't someone totally repulsive.

If any charges are dropped they swoop in triumphant while making enough of a ruckus to attract other vultures. The kill is all that matters since they don't need legal proof that the alleged victim is a liar who committed a crime by reporting rape.

The interesting contradiction about these vultures is that many of them will also feast on select alleged rapists. Any disreputable alleged rapist with male alleged victims is a prime target. That target becomes tastier if he is a minority and any of his victims are not.

Alleged rapists who are classified as illegal aliens are also favorite prey of these vultures.

Vultures accuse those who assume all alleged victims to be credible -- until proven not credible -- of being vultures out to destroy innocent men. That is a false accusation and a projection of their own habits onto those who oppose them.

That vultures say they oppose false or unfounded accusations at the same time they make them is the ultimate vulture irony.

Legal proof is only needed when the accusation is against someone they identify with. Which raises the question of why so many vultures identify with alleged rapists.

If you don't want to prevent rape victims from getting justice, don't be a vulture.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:07 AM   2 comments links to this post

Friday, December 22, 2006

Duke Rape Case Now Duke Kidnapping And Sexual Offense Case

I'm sure the headline that says that the rape charges have been dropped against the 3 Duke lacrosse players will have many who said from the day the story broke that the alleged victim is a liar who fabricated her story saying, "I told you so."

The only problem with this smug response is that the dropping of these charges means no more than the prosecution doesn't believe it can convince a jury of the rape charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

Just because you can't prove to a jury that a particular crime was committed by the defendants doesn't mean the crime wasn't committed. Will all those who shouted, "Innocent until proven guilty" give this alleged victim the same protections and assumptions of innocence as they still demand for the Duke lacrosse players?

We'll see.

From The Smoking Gun's copy of the document filed in court:

In an interview with DA Investagor [...] on December 21, 2006, the victim in this case indicated that, while she initially believed that she had been vaginally penetrated by a male sex organ (penis), she can not at this time testify with certainty that a penis was the body part that penetrated her vagina. Since penetration of the vagina by a penis is one of the elements of this offense that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and since there is no scientific or other evidence independent of the victim's testimony that would corroborate specifically penetration by a penis, the State is unable to meet its burden of proof with respect to this offense.
As this story is being related, the information provided here has already been distorted into a recantation by some people.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 2:22 PM   3 comments links to this post

Problem Solved T-Shirt

Kennebec Journal

A children's T-shirt has aroused the ire of a local shopper. The T-shirt depicts two panels of stick figures, with a male figure pushing a female figure out of a box. Captioned "Problem Solved," the shirt has appalled people engaged in deterring domestic violence.

"I thought that shirt was very offensive, and I'm sure people who made that shirt thought it was cute," District Attorney Evert Fowle said Friday. "But when you prosecute 728 domestic violence cases a year, it's not cute."

The shirt was removed briefly after a customer protested -- but later returned to the shelves of the Augusta Kmart.

To me the term offensive doesn't accurately describe the message of this T-shirt.

In the first frame the girl stick figure is jumping up in excitement while the boy stick figure appears to be frowning at her with his hands at his waist. Underneath that frame is the word Problem.

In the second frame the boy figure is smirking and has one arm fully extended toward where the girl was, but now there is now only empty space beside him. The far wall of the second frame has been shattered sending bits of the frame wall out. Two lines show the path of the girl's descent and she is shown falling head first. Underneath the second frame is the word Solved.

Her crash landing is left to the imagination. Which makes sense since what happens to her isn't relevant to this boy's problem and his solution.

This attitude T-shirt is unintentionally educational.

In only 2 frames it captures the dynamics of a common and sometimes deadly form of interpersonal violence that happens in the real world. It perfectly illustrates the imbalance between the stimulus and the response. She annoys him and he shoves her through a wall. He's left with a feeling of satisfied power and that's all that matters.

Just as with this T-shirt, many people don't understand why the dynamic captured in this T-shirt is offensive. They think nobody should make a fuss about this because it's a cartoon. Those who do make a fuss must have no funny bone.

This isn't satire or humor. It is reality in stick-figure form. And it makes some people smile or laugh.

That's the real problem.

So often when a man murders a woman in his life, people ask where this violence comes from. How could an otherwise nice man do something this horrific? This T-shirt gives the answer.

Murder as simple problem solving. She was annoying and now she's not.

That leaves the question of how we would illustrate a third box in this same style if the back of the T-shirt continued this story.

If the boy stick figure ended up in the hangman's noose with the caption Justice (printed hangman style), would those who find the original version funny still be laughing or calling this T-shirt cute?

Would they think the revised T-shirt would be an appropriate Christmas present?

Update (12/23): Auguste took my idea and created a third panel. Go check it out.

Also Pandagon has a take on this. In the comments RepubAnon suggests, "Change the third picture to the guy sleeping and the woman holding a pair of scissors and wearing a Lorena Bobbett T-Shirt? Still pretty sick, but Lorena's image is everything that someone who’d wear that disgusting shirt fears most. Snip, snip…"

Here's my response (edited for clarity and to add relevant points):

The problem with this is it continues the pattern of taking violence as a punch line. This T-shirt has the girl plummeting head first which your third picture magically turns into a harmless act. To then further transform her into a violent woman is to imply she deserved to be shoved through that wall.

RepubAnon’s use of a third frame where the woman is about to "dismember" a sleeping man also turns what was an unprovoked act of violence (shoving someone through a wall is not self-defense against shouting) into a mutually violent relationship.

Rather than acknowledging the reality in the original "Problem Solved" T-shirt this suggestion for a third frame turns a victim into just another perpetrator. It also uses an example that is so atypical that it is identified with a specific woman. The original 2 frames are so common that we would never give either stick figure a name.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:02 AM   3 comments links to this post

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Carnival of Feminists #29

It's up over at The Imponderabilia of actual life go check it out.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:24 AM   0 comments links to this post

Playing The Victim

I've lost count of the times I've been accused of playing the victim because I won't shut up about rape. The reality is there is a vast difference between being a survivor who wants to reduce the number of future rape victims and playing a victim.

When many people say to those of us who identify ourselves as rape victims or survivors, "Stop playing the victim" what they really mean is, "I don't want to hear about the reality of rape or adjust my life to reduce the incidence of rape."

They want to keep their blinders on.

Men who say, "stop playing the victim" often don't want to consider whether they have ever stepped over the line sexually. It's easier to say some of those they've had sexual contact with are playing the victim than to take responsibility for trampling another person's sexual boundaries to the point of committing a crime.

Those who make accusations of playing the victim are the ones playing the victim.


By saying how unfair it is that boys and men need to be sure they get full eager consent from a fully conscious person to protect themselves from being accused of rape. Don't we know that men can't live without sex?

I've heard of spontaneous human combustion, but I never knew the cause was lack of sex.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:07 AM   3 comments links to this post

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Video: Survival Story

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape has produced a powerful music video about male sexual assault.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:20 AM   0 comments links to this post

Rape is wrong. Rape is horrible. But ...

Every time I read some version of this statement I brace myself. And I want to yell, "stop before you 'but' again!"

Those who add the word but after saying rape is horrible, are using that declaration as cover for saying something unacceptable. Their "but" turns "rape is wrong" into "rape is wrong unless ..." or "rape is wrong but not as wrong as ..."


If you can't say rape is wrong period, you don't mean it.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:01 AM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Second Arrest Made In Ipswich Serial Murder Case


Police hunting the killer of five prostitutes in this bustling eastern town swooped its the red-light district before dawn Tuesday to detain a second suspect. Detectives continued to question another suspect taken into custody Monday, while colleagues on hands and knees searched the garden of his house outside Ipswich. Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull said both men were suspects in all five murders, but no charges had been filed against either.

I'm impressed by what I can see about this investigation. Sometimes in America it seems like crimes against those in prostitution are shrugged off. I cringe every time I hear someone say, "she's just a hooker."

These women are innocent victims and we should never let our opinions of their choices cause us to forget that.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:26 AM   0 comments links to this post

Arrest Made in Ipswich Serial Murder Case

NY Times

Mr. Stephens was arrested but not charged with the murders early on Monday at the apartment where he lived alone in a modest settlement in Trimley St. Martin, a village near Felixstowe in eastern England. [...] "I'm a friend of all the girls," the suspect, Mr. Stephens, said in a lengthy interview with the Sunday Mirror, in which he said he had visited about 50 prostitutes over the past year since his eight-year marriage broke down.

"I was closest to Tania. And Gemma as well. I was close to others as well. But I should have been there to look over them." He went on: "I don’t have alibis for some of the times, actually I’m not entirely sure I have tight alibis for any of the times. But I’m not worried about being charged. I’m innocent." The Sunday Mirror reported that he sobbed "uncontrollably" when he said the women "trusted me so much."

"Gemma and Tania, the ones I was closest to, are the best looking girls who do this in Ipswich. In fact, they were probably the top five. [...]"

It may take a while to see if this man is the person who has been dubbed the Suffolk Strangler or if he is someone who got swept up in the media attention. However, if this man turns out to be nothing more than a media hound, I hope the police can determine that quickly so they can continue looking for the real murderer.

From an interview I saw with a woman who knew him it sounds like he presented himself as someone interested in their safety. Depending on how that was expressed it could be a projection of his awareness that they were not safe with him.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:59 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, December 18, 2006

Rapist Preys on Men in Houston Area


A rapist who preys on young men has struck five times in the Houston area since mid-September, and police said Monday there may be even more victims, but they are too ashamed to come forward.

The rapist typically stalks, robs and sexually assaults his victims at gunpoint, apparently choosing them at random and attacking them near or inside their homes, police said. The most recent attack was Nov. 30.

[...] Investigators believe that rape is the motive, even though some victims were robbed. DNA testing is under way in an effort to identify the attacker. In some cases, the attacker approached his victim outside their home. Other times, he broke into the home.

I can't imagine the horror these victims faced. I hope all of them who reported to authorities or to others were believed and treated with the respect they deserve.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:52 PM   6 comments links to this post

Minnesota Non-compliant Sex Offenders Web Site

Two months ago, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension launched a new Web site to crack down on the problem of non-compliant offenders. The database publishes the picture of every sex offender in Minnesota who doesn't follow registration requirements. State investigators said the development has made the registry more accurate and complete.
Providing this information in this way is a great idea and has the potential to improve public safety. Too many efforts that focus on grand ideas (keep all registered sexual offenders away from children, for example) seem to create as many problems as they attempt to correct.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:07 AM   1 comments links to this post

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Abusive Sanctuaries

So often when it comes to advice on where to go safely, women are told to avoid bars and instead go to church. But many churches shelter attitudes that are dangerous or demeaning to women. Sometimes they hold rapists and on the rare occasion they hold a serial killer like the BTK killer.

Far too often those who are harmed get blamed either for the abuse or for disrupting the status quo when they attempt to break the cycle of diminishment, violence and enablement.

Many who are hurt lose their voices which is why I think this collection of poems by Alice Carleton has such power.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:46 AM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, December 16, 2006

WSJ OpEd Supports Heterosexual Male Fantasies

WSJ: 'Unprotected' by Danielle Crittenden

Unfortunately, the young women described in "Unprotected" have fallen victim to one of the few personal troubles that our caring professions refuse to treat or even acknowledge: They have been made miserable by their "sexual choices." And on that subject, few modern doctors dare express a word of judgment.

Thus the danger of sexually transmitted diseases is too often overlooked in the lifestyle choices of the young women at the unnamed college where the author works.

These college women are either interacting only with other women or Ms. Crittenden is implying men are not making any choices when it comes to sex and that they shouldn't be expected to do so. Since rape is a serious problem on college campuses, the further implication -- through omission -- is that being raped is the woman's choice.

The author meets patients who cannot sleep, who mutilate themselves, who exhibit every symptom of psychic distress. Often they don't even know why they feel the way they do. As these girls see it, they are acting like sensible, responsible adults: They practice "safe sex" and limit their partners to a mere two or three per year.

They are following the best advice that modern psychology can offer. They are enjoying their sexual freedom, experimenting, discovering themselves. They can't understand what might be wrong. And yet something is wrong. As the author observes, surveys have found that "sexually active teenage girls were more than three times as likely to be depressed, and nearly three times as likely to have had a suicide attempt, than girls who were not sexually active."

Ms. Crittenden is quick to decide that all of this is the result of bad decisions by women based on modern psychology, but as someone who had all those symptoms of psychic distress except self-mutilation and who didn't know why I felt as I did, I know this psychic distress is neither irrational nor self-inflicted. For years certain memories were just too painful to think about and I mistakenly believed I had put what happened to me firmly in the past.

Too often a girl or woman is described as sexually active even when she was raped or sexually abused. As in my own case after rape, I drank alcohol to numb the pain and then was seen as someone men could freely exploit. Then I had people like Ms. Crittenden scolding me for for my sexual choices while letting those who raped or used me off the hook.

That rape and sexual abuse is so outside of Ms. Crittenden's thought process speaks volumes about her lack of understanding about the topic of her op-ed piece.

Near the end of this piece Ms. Crittenden finally addresses the sexual behavior of a man. Only he's gay.

So Ms. Crittenden makes her point crystal clear by omitting straight men from her op-ed piece. Sexual responsibility is for everybody but heterosexual men and boys.

From the beginning to the end of her op-ed piece Ms. Crittenden caters to the male dominated audience of the Wall Street Journal. "Hey, men whatever you do with or to women is her responsibility. You will not be held responsible for your sexual choices."

Very convenient.

Update (12/20): Dr. Anonymous has been revealed to be Miriam Grossman, M.D., a psychiatrist working at UCLA.

Here's a statement she made in a National Review article:

Depending on the study, 40-80 percent of students "hook-up," and by graduation, the average number of these nearly anonymous encounters is ten. Yet we wonder why so many young people suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-abuse.
To me it is significant that she makes no mention of rape, sexual abuse or any other events or conditions that could cause young people to suffer.

On Alas, one commenter saw no evidence that either this physician or the op-ed author consider rape to be a sexual choice on the part of the victim.

And I answered with the following:

That's the impact when they don't consider rape at all in their analysis.

[Crittenden:] …the young women described in "Unprotected" have fallen victim to one of the few personal troubles that our caring professions refuse to treat or even acknowledge: They have been made miserable by their "sexual choices."
Effect = young women’s emotional pain.
Cause = young women’s "sexual choices."

It isn't that the doctor and Crittenden say rape is a sexual choice, it's that these women ignore rape or sexual abuse as possible causes for young women's emotional pain. Once they do that they treat rape survivors as if their choices are the root of their distress. As a teenager who was treated in exactly this way, I know that this belief has a multiplying effect on the existing emotional pain.

It was bad enough trying to cope with being raped, but then I had to deal with the professionals I attempted to reach out to for help who "knew" that my "choice" to not stay a virgin was what caused my distress. Once they heard enough to impose their vision onto my experiences, they stopped listening and started informing me of their truths.

It was no wonder I began to think I was crazy.

Just to clarify my point, I don’t think all of these young women were raped since there are many reasons for psychic distress. However, this blame it all on a woman’s sexual choices is especially harmful to rape and sexual abuse survivors. Many rapists and abusers have already projected responsibility for their actions onto their victims so this type of conclusion is harder for rape victims to shrug off as bullshit.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:01 AM   5 comments links to this post

Friday, December 15, 2006

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 13

Welcome to the Dec. 15, 2006 edition of the carnival against sexual violence.

Thank you to everyone who nominated a post or who wrote a post against sexual violence whether it was nominated/selected or not. Nominations that came in after the nomination deadline will be considered for the next edition of the carnival. If you support the purpose of the carnival, you can help get the word out about it and all of the posts included in the carnival.

Here are the selections for the 13th edition of the carnival against sexual violence:

personal stories

In The Plight of Soldier Suzanne Swift posted at Feminist Law Professors, we get information about the status of the case where a soldier reportedly went AWOL because she couldn't face more sexual harrassment from a superior officer.

In This from Internet Wasteland about Pickton Case posted at Why Holly's Fight to Stop Violence, we get a list of the charges against Robert Pickton, the pig farmer who has been accused of being Canada’s worst serial killer with at least 26 victims. He has pleaded “not guilty” on all counts.

In Pickton timeline posted at Holly's Fight for Justice, we get a timeline of events related to the Robert Pickton serial murder case in British Columbia, Canada that goes back to 1991 when the first annual women's day memorial march was organized to press for police investigation into missing women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Holly Desimone presents Fifth prostitute reported missing posted at Holly's Fight for Justice, about the women found murdered in Ipswich, England saying, "How many more will die before the police find this serial killer? I hope the serial killer is found before we have 26 murder charges as we do in the Robert Pickton case in Vancouver. My thoughts are with families & friends of all murdered and missing women."

To help us all remember that the victims are more than any one label, read this story from 2001 which mentions the 2 images below.

The bottom of these 2 images is a pastel created by Sarah de Vries, who at the time of the article (linked above) was listed as missing, but who is now listed as a murder victim and who is included in the indictment against Robert Pickton.


In UK Study Suggests That Alcohol Nullifies Need For Consent To Sex posted at Abyss2hope, I discuss the study which reveals what so many women already knew. Juries are reluctant to convict rapists whose victims have consumed alcohol.

In Section 5 of the DV C&V Act - anti-woman posted at A stormy blog, we get a discussion about how changes to UK's domestic violence laws may result in more victims being prosecuted for the crimes committed by abusers.

In Women's rape allegations are NEVER believed posted at A stormy blog, we get a discussion about the increasing frequency where women who report rapes are charged with perverting justice.

In Suspended for Opposing Rape posted at Lying Media Bastards, we get a discussion of the reported suspension of college students because of their insistence on filing a complaint against a law enforcement officer who told them (while investigating a reported rape) that 70 to 80 percent of rape reports are illegitimate.

In Death Penalty for Child Molesters posted at Sex Crimes, we get a discussion of the risks the death penalty can create for victims if there isn't a greater punishment for murdering a child than there is for molesting one.

In Kansas City Lawyer Case Comes to a Close posted at Sex Crimes, we get information on rulings related to whether someone can be convicted of soliciting a cop posing as someone underage.

In Sign it - NOW ! posted at A stormy blog, we get information on a petition with recommended changes to the way rape cases are handled in the UK.

In *linkage* posted at 2 B Sophora, we get information about a proposal to change Scotland's rape laws and the reasons for that proposal.

raising awareness

In Playing the Rape Card posted at, we get one man's realization about how language is used to deny something people don't want to see.

In She said no cont. posted at Women of Color Blog, we get an analysis of the rationalizations used by a commenter who defends a convicted murderer. The commenter justifies a soldier's decision to murder a Korean woman after she refused to have sex with him.

In Rape in the Congo: A poem, an article excerpt, some links. No fairy tales here but read anyway! posted at Blessed Fearscapes, we begin with an emotional expression and then get information about what is happening in the Congo.

In The Mirror Offered by Other Cultures posted at PrawfsBlawg, we get a discussion about how the same type of behavior, from the crime to the response to the crime, are viewed differently when they happen in other cultures or other countries.

In Self-blaming in the years after rape posted at 2 B Sophora, we get a discussion about victims' feelings of being responsible for their rapist continuing to find more victims.

In Child Prostitution posted at Broken Bodies - Broken Dreams, we get a discussion about the estimated one million children who are put into the sex trade each year.

In Violence against Women posted at Why Holly's Fight to Stop Violence, we get a reminder that while the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women began because of the shooting deaths of 14 women 17 years ago, not all violence against women makes headlines. It's estimated that 2.6 million Canadian women are physically abused each year.

In LISTEN TUESDAY Todd Matthews Director and Founder of Lost & Found Global Research Center on Missing Persons. posted at Why Holly's Fight to Stop Violence, we get information on the effort to raise awareness about an organization that works to help law enforcement agencies in the identification process of the deceased and in the location of missing individuals.


In I'm a Crime Victim posted at Dr. Deborah Serani, someone who treats crime victims in her practice became one herself and was reminded of the importance of talking about the trauma.


In A Woman in Berlin: A diary of the fall of the Nazi Regime posted at Westminster Wisdom, we get information about the book A Woman in Berlin which reveals details about one of the greatest mass rapes in history.

In Rape and Probability Theory posted at Abyss2hope, I discuss the implication that, "women lie about rape, men don't" and how that bias impacts the way female rape victims are treated in and out of criminal justice systems.

That concludes the 13th edition of the carnival against sexual violence. Thank you for taking the time to visit this carnival and thank you to the authors of all the posts included in this edition.

The next submission deadline is Dec. 29 at 11 pm. The 14th edition will be out on Jan. 2.

To nominate a post (your own or someone else's) to the next edition of carnival against sexual violence, use our carnival submission form. Links to everything related to the carnival can be found on the new blog dedicated to this carnival,

Marcella Chester

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:01 AM   3 comments links to this post

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Prison Rape Commission Meets in L.A.


The two-day hearing in a federal courtroom is the sixth held by the commission nationwide, but the first to focus on sexual abuse of immigrants held in federal detention facilities.

The panel, led by a federal judge and made up of business leaders, academics and human rights workers, was formed by Congress in 2003 to find ways of deterring prison rape - a crime that has claimed an estimated 1 million victims in 20 years, according to the commission. Unaware of their rights, unable to speak English and afraid that speaking out could hurt their chance at freedom, immigrant detainees are one of the populations most vulnerable to abuse by guards, immigrant advocates testified.

While the stereotype of prison rapist is a burly inmate, prison guards too often decide they have the right to exploit inmates. Just as it is a factor outside of prisons, the sense of entitlement some people have toward others' sexuality is a factor inside prisons.

If this sense of entitlement is big enough the rapist or sexual abuser may feel wrongly accused if caught and punished. This issue needs to be addressed for the sake of the victims and for the sake of all those who work at prisons and jails who behave ethically.

If we hope to teach inmates to respect other people's rights and property when they are released from prison, we need to ensure that the examples they are given in prison are positive ones. If instead the lesson they learn is: do whatever you can get away with that will have an impact far beyond the prison walls.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 2:04 PM   0 comments links to this post

Girls Gone Wild Founder Given Community Service


The guilty pleas by Mantra Films Inc. and its multimillionaire founder, Joe Francis, stem from the company's use of two 17-year-olds in its DVDs and videos, which feature young women baring their breasts in public. The videos at issue were filmed on Panama City Beach during spring break in 2003.

U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak ordered Francis to read aloud in court a victim impact statement from one of the women, who said she was emotionally tormented by her appearance on a "Girls Gone Wild" video and that the video damaged her relationship with her family.

Smoak told Francis he added the community service because it did not appear a fine would be a meaningful punishment. The fine represents less than 3 percent of Mantra's profits since 2002 and only 12 percent of Mantra's 2005 profits, Smoak said.

When I read the headline my first reaction was that community service was merely a slap on the wrist, but as I've thought about it, I agree with the judge that the sentence needed to include more than a fine. It seems like so many companies operate with the assumption that the profit will always outway the fine. Breaking the law too often remains good business if your only metric is cash.

The question then becomes whether the community service is meaningful either in effort (picking up garbage, for example) or in getting people out of their insular environments. Going to celebrity charity events shouldn't count.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:02 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

St. Paul Police Need Help Identifying Attempted Abductor

If you live or work in the Twin Cities Minnesota area, the Saint Paul police could use your help identifying a suspect ( male caucasian in his 40s to 50s about 5' 10") who drives a white van. This man has attempted to abduct at least 3 women in downtown Saint Paul and possibly a 4th in one of the suburbs. Go to the WCCO website and look at the image that was captured by a surviellence video.

As far as the police know all of his kidnapping attempts have failed, but this man needs to be stopped ASAP.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:10 PM   0 comments links to this post

Selling Sex a Deadly Game in N.J. City

The headline on this news story makes it seem like everyone involved in prostitution in Atlantic City, New Jersey and elsewhere have chosen to play a dangerous game, but for many it isn't a game, but a trap, one that benefits pimps, Johns and other exploiters.


Selling sex on the streets of this gambling capital is a dangerous pursuit: Streetwalkers have been strangled, smothered, slashed and set ablaze. [...] Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz said the Atlantic City cases were sufficiently different from the Egg Harbor deaths to make authorities believe they were carried out by different attackers. He also resists speculation that the four ditch bodies were the work of a serial killer, noting that autopsies could not determine the cause of death for two of the women. No arrests have been made in any of this year's attacks in and near Atlantic City.

In any case, the attacks illustrate how dangerous it is for prostitutes, who are statistically 18 times more likely to be killed than other women, and 40 times more likely to die from other than natural causes, according to national studies.

These stark statistics are aided by the disdainful attitudes many people have toward those trapped in prostitution. The girls and women become something less than human. If something bad happens to them, they either brought it upon themselves or it's no great loss.

The nation's most notorious prostitute killings were committed in the Pacific Northwest by a single attacker who came to be known as the Green River Killer. In pleading guilty in 2003 to the murders of 48 prostitutes, Gary Leon Ridgway told a judge he targeted street walkers "because I thought I could kill as many as I wanted to without getting caught."
Unfortunately, the view some people have of other people as a commodity contributes to people like this. Whenever someone says about a crime victim or alleged victim, "she's just a hooker" they are robbing her of her humanity and they are revealing a lack within themselves. At its worst, this perceived lack of humanity can cause a person to rationalize committing crimes they otherwise wouldn't commit.

It can cause teenagers to think of attacking and murdering the homeless as nothing more significant that a little fun.

Like many prostitutes in similar situations, Spazz, who said she was beaten by a "trick" two years ago, didn't call police when it happened. Like all four hookers found dead behind the motels in Egg Harbor Township, and like 85 percent of prostitutes nationwide, Spazz has a drug problem.
I suspect that many of these women who are at the highest risk have a long history of problems that drugs keep at bay. For some it is childhood sexual abuse, for others drugs may be their own coping mechanism. Any drug treatment program that doesn't deal with suppressed issues sets most participants up for failure.

Unfortunately, those who don't break free of drugs and/or prostitution are usually given all the blame for ineffective programs and the cynicism of the program drop outs. If they fall victim to the ultimate preditors, too many of us are unwilling to call them innocent victims.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:02 AM   2 comments links to this post

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Canada Preparing For First Huge Serial Murder Trial

Jury selection has begun for Robert William Pickton, a British Columbia pig farmer, who has been charged in the deaths of over 20 women, and will be tried first on 6 counts of first degree murder for the deaths of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey.

This sounds like it will be a very long trial. I can't imagine what it would be like if of the indictments were included in one trial.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 4:43 PM   2 comments links to this post

Rape and Probability Theory

As in this comment thread over at Alas, some people keep insisting that women lie about being raped while insisting that men don't lie about rape.

[Update (12/17): Per Daran's request I am clarifying that my use of "insisting that men don't lie about rape" incorrectly labels his words on the linked thread. If I understand his correction what he continues to assert is that it hasn't been proven that men lie about rape.

I see that as playing word games. He disagrees.

Here is his own explanation of his position:
Feminist cannot object to the statement "Women do (sometimes) lie about rape-and men don’t". Because:
1. Construing "lie about rape" to mean "falsely report to the police that they were raped", the statement is true, or at least, feminists cannot show that it is false.
2. Feminists cannot object to that construction, because they were the ones who used that construction in the first place when they circulated the 2% false accusation myth.
Edited to add:
3. While it is debatable to what extent individual feminists can be held responsible for the actions of other feminists, feminists who make generalised group-based complaints about the actions of non-feminists, cannot object when they are hoist on that petard.

end update]

If challenged, they will explain that by denying that men lie about rape, they are referring only to a very specific scenario where the man is the alleged victim who filed a police report.

It's a very useful redefinition for alleged rapists and those who want to dismiss the pervasiveness of sexual violence against girls and women.

I've been thinking about how this dual "statement of facts" creates an unfair bias against female alleged rape victims.

What "women lie about rape, men don't" does is plant the idea that when a rape case comes up where a woman is the alleged victim she must be treated with open skepticism. Can't take her word for what happened because she's female and girls and women lie about being raped. If there is anything about her that people won't like or won't trust then it can seem like she must be lying about being raped.

However, if a rape case comes up where the man is the alleged victim he must be treated as a real victim. Heck, there's no need for the word alleged. He's simply a victim. No criminal trial needed to know who is innocent and who is guilty. All he has to do is self-identify as a sexual assault/abuse victim and everyone must believe him even if he makes that claim during a crank and obscene call to a rape crisis line.

"Women lie about rape, men don't" also plants the idea that when it comes to a particular sex crime case where a key part of the evidence is testimony, men are always honest while women will resort to lies for a whole list of reasons.

This implication of male honesty vs. female dishonesty is nonsense, but because it is supposedly based on solid research many people never question it and let it color their perception of what they hear.

This is an attempt to misuse probability theory both in the determination of probability statistics and the use of those statistics. The probability when flipping a balanced coin is 50:50 that it will be heads. But that probability does not predict the outcome of the next flip of the coin.

What the "men don't lie about rape" statement does is make people assume that statistics on false accusations predicts who you should believe in so-called "he said, she said" rape cases.

Unlike the probability of a flipped coin, accurate statistics of convictions for false accusations are not the same as accurate statistics for false accusations. Just as some of those convicted of rape are later cleared through evidence such as DNA mismatches, some who are convicted or charged with fabricating a charge of rape are proved to be innocent or are convicted based on judgments about the alleged victim's character and honesty. She seems like someone who would lie therefore she's judged as a liar.

I can almost hear the men who say, "men don't lie about rape" screaming that I'm supporting their view that alleged rape victims should be assumed to be dishonest. If any women have lied about being raped then we must assume that this rape victim is a liar until there is enough evidence to prove she's telling the truth. We can't use the claim that only 2% of rape claims are false to show anything about this alleged victim.

What they want is a starting belief of, "she's lying." I not only don't want this, I will show that this belief impedes justice. Instead, I believe there should be a starting assumption of credibility.

My support for the assumption of credibility in the report of a crime is not based on statistics. It is based on how assumptions impact the collection of evidence. Once investigators assume the alleged victim is no victim at all, they may feel justified in interrogating a real rape victim until she decides she won't get justice and abandons her case or until she is treated so abusively that she breaks and tells her interrogators whatever they want to hear. Either way, the outcome is the illusion that the negative assumption has been proven to be fact. These cases are then classified as unfounded or false.

This injustice then reinforces the case being made by those who say that huge numbers of girls and women lie about being raped.

For rapists, this is a good thing since it increases the odds that they will get away with their crimes without being charged with even a misdemeanor.

When the assumption about the alleged victim is credibility (untainted by the "women lie about rape" bias) that allows for the ethical collection and evaluation of evidence, including testimony from the alleged victim. Sometimes there will be enough evidence to bring charges and sometimes there won't be. With the assumption of credibility the mere lack of evidence doesn't get twisted into confirmation of a lie.

For rapists, this is a bad thing since it increases the odds that they will be charged for their crimes and that they will be convicted and it reduces the odds that their victims will be labeled liars and criminals.

Despite what many people claim, assuming an allegation is credible and working from there does not doom innocent men to false convictions.

For rapists, busting the myth that "women lie about rape, men don't" is a bad thing. They are counting on the power of this myth and the fear innocent men have of false rape convictions to keep rape laws from being enforced.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:06 AM   4 comments links to this post

Monday, December 11, 2006

Carnival Against Sexual Violence Call For Nominations

The next deadline for the carnival against sexual violence is tomorrow night Dec. 12 at 11pm. Please nominate a post, one you've written or one you're read, for the 13th edition which comes out on Dec. 15.

If you've already made your nomination, feel free to help get the word out.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 5:20 PM   0 comments links to this post

Why Isn't A Rape Threat Treated As A Terroristic Threat?

Feminist Law Professor talks about how a college student's critique of a safe sex ad was followed by the posting of threats of rape against that student.

If someone threatens to physically harm another man most people accept that the statement has crossed the line from bad communication to being a terroristic threat. Threatening to do an act is a warning sign that the person issuing the threat is capable of justifying real physical violence.

If a student posts a hit list, that is now being taken as a serious warning sign and that person gets investigated. So why do so many threats of rape get treated as if they are nothing and why do those who threaten rape not get investigated and treated with the same seriousness as those who make other violent threats?

Instead it seems that when someone gets these types of threats, they are silenced right along with those who threaten to rape them. That sends the message that there is no significant difference between the two groups. It also rewards those who threaten to rape girls and women who say things they don't want to hear.

Rewarding those who use rape threats is never a good thing.

Telling girls and women not to make men mad enough to threaten rape unfairly shifts the responsibility from the perpetrator of a threat to the victims. It also reinforces the idea that some girls and women deserve to be raped.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:04 AM   1 comments links to this post

Sunday, December 10, 2006

False Convictions For Those Sentenced To Death?

So often when people bring up false convictions, they talk about maliciousness as if that is the only cause. The implication is that those who report crimes are the ones mostly to blame for false convictions. Nowhere does this belief seem to be stronger than when discussing rape.

The perceived solution to this problem is almost always a call for lax enforcement of rape laws or a removal of rape victim shield laws. If only we'd stop protecting alleged rape victims, no innocent men would be sent to prison.

But Injustice Anywhere has a post about faulty assumptions about the forensics of how to determine whether a fire was the result of arson. Those assumptions are now in question and may have led to thousands of false convictions. Maybe even the execution of the innocent.

That means that the assumptions about wrongful rape convictions must be thrown out and replaced by the data of how wrongful convictions really happen.

Blaming the victim might be easy, but easy isn't always accurate.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:03 AM   2 comments links to this post

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Foley Panel: Pattern of Willing Ignorance


Republican lawmakers and aides left male pages vulnerable to Rep. Mark Foley's improper sexual advances even though the first concerns surfaced more than a decade ago, the ethics committee said Friday in a report into an election-year scandal that convulsed the House. [...]

The panel said it found no evidence that any current lawmakers or aides violated any rules, and recommended no sanctions. But it said it discovered a pattern of conduct on the part of many individuals "to remain willfully ignorant of the potential consequences" of Foley's conduct.

This is no surprise since it matches the patterns exhibited by so many people who don't want the mess that comes from learning something that will be a disruption. So they see the warning signs and do as little as possible about it. If they tell someone else about it, even if they minimize it as they do so, they give themselves a free pass from further responsibility.

This willfully ignorant pattern also creates a defacto approval of the behaviors which are ignored or dismissed as nothing important. So in a way those who were willfully ignorant taught Rep. Mark Foley that what he was doing was no big deal. Every time they looked the other way, they nourished Rep. Foley's rationalizations.

It's also significant that even though there was a clear pattern of failing to proactively look out for the best interests and safety of the pages, there will be no punishment for any of those who made choices which left children vulnerable.

This too is a pattern. Willful ignorance is unethical and enables harmful behavior, but because those who practice it violate the spirit of the rules while navigating around the letter of the rules, they are in fact rewarded for doing so.

This sends a message to the next person who sees hints of troubling behavior. If you ignore those hints you might be criticized, but you won't be punished. Personal responsibility is only for perpetrators and victims.

This isn't much different in thought process from the rapists who use alcohol on their intended victims so they can claim they would have stopped if she'd said no. Both groups learn the rules and then exploit all of the loopholes and areas where those who would judge them will say what they did was unclear, negligent but not criminal, or was the victim's responsibility.

Whenever we react to troubling behavior with willful ignorance, we are enabling that behavior.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:45 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, December 08, 2006

Video: Gonna Make It

I recently found this Emmy award winning music video produced by Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. Watch. Listen.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:07 PM   3 comments links to this post

UK Study Suggests That Alcohol Nullifies Need For Consent To Sex

Times Online UK

Juries are reluctant to convict men of rape in cases where the alleged victim has been drinking, research published today suggests.

They appear to believe that it is reasonable for a man to assume that a woman’s silence amounts to consent, even if it is due to her intoxication. Even if a woman’s drink has been spiked, they are reluctant to find a defendant guilty of rape.

This last part about spiked drinks is the most revealing. If you are female and you drink, you have no right to legal protection. And the ethics and methods of the rapist don't matter.

If you are male and you use alcohol or other "social" drugs to help you take girls and women who you couldn't have without those substances, you have plenty of jurors in your corner. Sure they may not always approve of you, but their disapproval of your victim far outweighs their opinion of what you have done.

With these attitudes men can go out every night of the week with the intention of taking girls and women who don't want them and the most those men are likely to suffer is an annoying rape trial. But maybe even then men can get revenge if their rape victims are charged with a crime for falsely claiming to be a rape victim.

Don't all girls and women know that drinking alcohol is the same as signing a blank check that any man can cash?

I wonder if this assumption that drunkenness is a blank check means that taking your car keys and your keys from you without a fight means that you consented to give your car away. Somehow I doubt that would be a viable defense on the charges of grand theft auto.

Not only does this attitude impact rape cases, it impacts the frequency of rape. These jurors are communicating that whenever a girl or woman takes a drink she can be raped and they won't care enough to do anything about it.
Even when a woman had unknowingly consumed a spiked drink, juries were reluctant to convict defendants of rape, unless they were convinced that the drink had been spiked with the specific intention of sexual assault, as opposed to "loosening up" a reluctant partner.
Giving alcohol or drugs to someone to "loosen them up" is giving alcohol or drugs to someone with the specific intention to commit sexual assault. But by calling it "loosening up" the man planning rape can rationalize that the alcohol allows her the freedom to have him do to her what she really wants him to do.

If people who excuse the rape and the sexual exploitation of girls and women under the influence dropped their rationalizations it would cause them see how pervasive sexual assault really is and it would cause them see how many so-called good men have committed rape.

Believing the myth that all rapists are obvious monsters is less disturbing. Unfortunately, it allows men like this to claim they did nothing illegal:
A WARWICKSHIRE man used his mobile phone to film two women as he sexually assaulted them in their sleep, a court heard. Charles Bowen, of Northumberland Road, Leamington, has denied the rape of one of the women, a 19-year-old, at a party at a large country house. He also denies a charge of sexually assaulting another woman a week before.
Apparently, sleep also nullifies the need for consent.

Once this sort of behavior becomes normalized and identified as being the victim's fault it becomes easier for rapists to justify raping girls and women who aren't drinking and who aren't sleeping.

Rape must be nipped in the bud, not allowed to flourish until it becomes so horrendous that the rapist shifts from being a normal man into someone who must be locked up for life.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:02 AM   7 comments links to this post

Thursday, December 07, 2006

City Offers Payment To Woman Falsely Accused Of Lying About Rape

CBS News

For years, [Madison, Wis] police and city lawyers refused to believe a blind woman who said an intruder raped her at knifepoint. They even charged her with lying about it. Now, five years after DNA connected a sex offender to the attack, the city has apologized to the woman, known as Patty, and is offering her $35,000. Outraged by a book detailing her skeptical treatment by authorities, the City Council approved the payment last month and ordered police to draw up new policies for interviewing crime victims. [...]

The resolution gives Police Chief Noble Wray 90 days to recommend new techniques for interviewing of victims of sensitive crimes, including how to eliminate "the use of lies, coercion, deception, ruses or other techniques designed to break down individuals" in all but the rarest of circumstances.

This non-monetary portion of the resolution is something that all police forces should resolve to do. Rape victims deserve to be treated ethically and not with assumptions that they are criminals who must be broken.

It shouldn't take the publication of a book such as Cry Rape: The True Story of One Woman's Harrowing Quest for Justice by Bill Lueders (given a starred review by Booklist) to get city leaders to correct an injustice like this. But I'm not surprised that the level of denial about what many rape victims experience is so high that it takes a book -- and likely the publicity that came with that book -- to get people out of their denial.

In 2001, the state crime lab discovered that DNA from Joseph Bong, a convicted sex offender, matched the semen. Bong was convicted of Patty's rape in 2004 and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
I wish all cases where the police refuse to believe real rape victims ended with the conviction of the rapist and the clearing of the rape victim's good name, but that just isn't the reality for most rape victims who are treated like they are the real criminals.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:03 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

HOLLY'S FIGHT TO STOP VIOLENCE: National Day of Remembrance and Action of Violence Against Women

HOLLY'S FIGHT TO STOP VIOLENCE: National Day of Remembrance and Action of Violence Against Women: "It is time once again to reflect on the topic of violence against women in our communities with the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women on December 6.

The day was created in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada to mark the anniversary of the murders in 1989 of 14 young women attending l’Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal. "
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:05 AM   1 comments links to this post

Carnival Of Feminists 28 Is Up

There are a great variety of posts included over at Diary of a Freak Magnet go check them out.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:06 AM   0 comments links to this post

Estimated 20 Percent Of Women Soldiers Sexually Assaulted During Their Service


Mental health experts say one of the biggest contributors to psychological problems for women in uniform is military sexual trauma - a term that covers verbal harassment and physical assault, which is a strong risk factor for PTSD.

Studies conducted by the VA health system vary, but generally about 20 percent of women report a physical assault during their service, Westrup says. "Unfortunately, a huge aspect of that experience is guilt and self-blame and shame on top of stress," she adds.

Last year, the Pentagon announced a new policy of confidentiality, so sexual assault victims can report the incident and get help but law enforcement and senior commanders are not immediately notified.

What's worse than this information is that it isn't making national headlines. These paragraphs were included in an article about PTSD among female veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, but it wasn't the lead.

Serve and protect shouldn't mean for female soldiers: serve, protect and be on guard against your male counterparts 24/7 until you leave the military. Military discipline should include the discipline to not sexually harass or sexually assault.

If 20% of male soldiers were sexually assaulted during their service, is there any way that statistic wouldn't cause a major uproar within the military?

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:02 AM   2 comments links to this post