Saturday, March 31, 2007

Man Convicted of Nearly 1000 Sex Assaults

I'm glad to see a case where there isn't only one criminal count per sexual abuse victim.

A western Pennsylvania man has been convicted of several hundred sex-crime counts for abusing one girl for more than a decade. A jury found Clarence Thomas, 56, guilty Tuesday of all 971 counts after just over an hour of deliberations. Those counts included more than 100 charges each of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault and corruption of minors; more than 200 counts of aggravated indecent assault; and nearly 400 counts of indecent assault. Originally, Thomas had been charged with 9,000 counts, but a pre-trial motion consolidated them. The girl's sisters, now 26 and 28, also filed charges, but they were dismissed because they were filed too late and were outside the county.
The defendant used the threat of violence against this victim's mother to help him commit these crimes. The number of charges also highlights why some victims don't "get over it" as quickly as we think they should. This girl wasn't taken away from her home, but she was a captive.

Whenever we talk about cases like this we must remember that we aren't talking about one commission of a crime: child sex abuse, we are talking about thousands of criminal acts. The 9000 original counts in this case were just for this one victim and don't include the crimes committed against her 2 sisters.

For those who have never sufferered childhood sexual abuse, imagine a painful event from your childhood and multiply that by 9000. Imagine that event being there around you at all times lurking for 10 years and beyond. Imagine as a child worrying that your mother will be hurt or killed if you tell anyone what has been done to you. Then remember that the reality is far worse than what you can imagine.

Then remember that just surviving this type of siege takes great strength and great courage. The courage and strength it takes to then seek justice for yourself and protection for other potential victims is amazing.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:24 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 30, 2007

Reminders: Carnival and Blog Against Sexual Violence

First, there's just under a week to go until Thursday April 5, 2007 which is Blog Against Sexual Violence Day. For more information about this event and to get the code for the one or both logos, click on the logo.

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For those who have been injured by sexual violence, I created this logo:
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Second, tomorrow (the 31st) at 11 pm is the deadline for the next carnival against sexual violence. Please nominate a post, one you've written or one you've read, for the 20th edition which comes out on Apr. 3.

In case you've missed any past editions or aren't sure whether a specific post fits the theme of this carnival, you can find a link to all of the previous editions here at the carnival homepage.

If you don't find any posts on a specific issue, area or pattern of violence, etc., please nominate posts to help fill in those gaps.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:40 PM   0 comments links to this post

Study Finds Police Manuals Blame Victim in Rape Cases

This University of Virginia Law School article examines an important issue in law enforcement.

While law professor Anne Coughlin was studying old police interrogation manuals as part of her preparation to teach Miranda v. Arizona in her criminal procedure course back in the mid-1990s, she observed that all of the manuals recommended the use of victim-blaming stories in order to elicit confessions from suspects. This was particularly true of rape investigations, she found. [...]

Around the same time as Miranda in 1966, which guaranteed suspects the right to talk to an attorney and the right to remain silent, Coughlin explained, “legislators across the country moved to eliminate victim-blaming from the substantive criminal law and to sharply limit the use of victim-blaming as an evidentiary strategy by defense lawyers.” [...]

Coughlin said her intuition was that victim-blaming in any area has the potential to reinforce the sexist stereotypes that blame women for being raped and that relieve their attackers for culpability for the crimes. The very fact that suspects continue to believe these scripts show that the sexist stereotypes continue to exist.

Worse, Coughlin said, in acquaintance-rape cases, this victim-blaming strategy is handing the suspect a legal excuse, not just a moral one. In these cases, the suspect is not contesting that the sex occurred, but that it was consensual. Police are giving them an excuse: that they honestly believed the victim consented. Coughlin said it was clear to her in these instances that the victim-blaming stories should be done away with.

From the first time I heard about investigators using victim blaming in their suspect interviews, I had concerns about this interview strategy because of the potential it had to reinforce victim blaming by confirming sex offenders' beliefs that every sensible man-- even sex crimes investigators-- agrees with them. However, I didn't realize that it also had the potential to undermine the legal case.

With so many rape cases where the suspect is interviewed but never charged, these victim-blaming interviews combined with low prosecution rates can have a side effect of reinforcing the very crime the investigator is trying to fight.

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

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sex With Puking Women Not Always Rape

The judge's ruling overturning the rape conviction of Benjamin Bree with the statement "it isn't always rape when the woman is drunk" has been misused by many people who have read about the case. These people's comments leave out the alleged victim's statement about what occurred that night.

Her claim was not that she consented but was so drunk that her consent should be invalid. Her claim was that she didn't consent and even though she lost consciousness at times, she never had any intention of consenting.

They returned to her hall of residence at Bournemouth University, where, she told Bournemouth Crown Court last year, she was 'continually throwing up'. She said her next memory was waking up to find Mr Bree having sex with her. She told the jury her memory was "very patchy" and I knew I didn't want this but I didn't know how to go about stopping it".

Mr Bree told the court she had given her consent and "seemed keen".

Puking as keen to have sex, gotcha. Or is he denying that she vomited? The problem with this ruling applied to this case is that "seeming keen" even when the woman is sober is NOT consent. Unfortunately, you wouldn't know that by the fact that the prosecution is going to let the appeal stand.

A car salesman might look at you studying a car and make the assessment that you are seeming keen about the car and are close to making the decision to buy. But nobody would accept that this equaled your agreeing to buy the car.

So why are so many people so dense about this same concept when it comes to sex?

It seems that some people equate another person's seeming willingness to even consider sex -- under the right circumstances and with the person of their choice -- blanket consent to whoever is near. This is hogwash.

The bottom line should be the fact that she didn't want to have sex with him, but he had sex with her anyway. Seeming keen should never cut it as anything more than an admission that no, she didn't actually consent but she seemed close to consenting.

As my high school science teacher was always telling us when we almost got the answer right: "Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and dancing."

Nearly consenting is non-consenting.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:04 AM   2 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Defense Attorneys: Clients Not As Bad As Their Video Of Girl's Rape

So much of the debate about rape continues to center on the idea that the defendant or defendants are being unfairly characterized by rabid "victims" and prosecutors. Too often the defendant is successful at whitewashing a rape into consensual sex, a misunderstanding, or drunk sex, but this case isn't so easy to whitewash.

However that didn't stop the defense attorneys from giving it their best shot.

The girl, who didn't report the rape for two weeks after the February 2006 attack, missed a school bus and called one of the suspects for a ride. [Christopher D.] Hardy and [Dashuan Lee] Rice picked her up and took her to an apartment, where Rice raped her, prosecutors said.

The girl left, but the three suspects picked her up again and took her back to the apartment, where all three raped her while filming some of the attack, prosecutors said.

Police found the video, which shows the men raping and threatening the girl while she repeatedly says, "No."

"They tormented and humiliated her," prosecutor Lori DiGiosia said.

Defense attorneys said their clients were not as bad as what was portrayed on the videotape.

If that statement is true in other parts of their lives and these were young men of "excellent" character, it makes the crime nothing out of line with what typical, normal young men do.

And that is truly frightening.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 4:51 PM   2 comments links to this post

Reaction To Kathy Sierra's Post

In the comments of Creating Passionate Users I find this bit of virtual violence:

Better watch your back on the streets wh[***]... Be a pity if you turned up in the gutter where you belong, with a machete shoved in that self righteous little c[word] of yours... Posted by: Hitler Mar 27, 2007 3:25:46 AM
Not a direct death threat, but this is still a threat and hate speech. "Hitler" if you don't like this particular tech writer you don't have to read her writing. Your words say nothing about her and everything about what is inside of you.

Some people have been dismissing the threats against Kathy Sierra because they are often indirect such as the one above. These threats are worded this way because those who write them know they are crossing the line and the indirect nature of the threats allows them to think of themselves as being within acceptable limits. That's nonsense. Anyone who can write the above comment has clearly crossed the line into dangerous territory and cannot be assumed to be no or low risk.

Kevin Johansen Mar 27, 2007 5:18:33 PM used more civilized words:
I'm sorry you're experiencing this kind of problem. Unfortunately, bullies and assholes are way too much a part of the human experience. But me thinks thou dost protest too much...about the wrong things. You had plenty of other good & worthy targets without bringing someone as high profile as 'Rageboy' into your sights. This makes your motivations suspect. As it is, my guess is that you'll get a nice spike in your traffic from this and that there will be some residual traffic carrying forward as you continue your blogging.

Ah, yes. First the obligitory disclaimer followed quickly by the "But..."

He might as well come right out and say that she must have loved receiving death threats. That puts him smack in the middle of the bullies and assholes. Just with a more advanced vocabulary and fewer direct slurs.

And what does this Rageboy (aka Chris Locke), who I had never read before, have to say about this? Here's a section from his blog (no I won't link to it, you can find it if you want):

First off, I need to preface this by emphasizing that if Kathy Sierra was receiving "death threats" in *anonymous* comments to her blog, they did not come from me or, to the best of my knowledge, from anyone I know. That she would make such an inference based on no evidence whatsoever is outrageous, no better than the comments she so forcefully objects to that were made about herself. And *none* of the statements or graphics she quotes were made by me, as I'm fairly certain she already knows. (emphasis mine)

Notice that he questions whether she in fact received death threats on her blog and then goes on to say that her mentioning his relationship to sites where she was threatened is no better than sending death threats. But that isn't all.

Anyway... some of us thought afterwards that it would be amusing to formalize (and goof on) the "mean kids" slur, so we set up a blog by that name. It was a lot of fun, and if anything, I again erred on the side of being far too mild mannered. Due to administrative considerations not under my control -- and yes, some tasteless posts (though they were not mine) -- the site was taken down. [...]

With Mean Kids gone, I thought I'd have another go at it. After all, we were mostly having fun posting totally surreal stuff about nothing particularly relevant to anything or anyone. But again, there were a couple posts -- the ones Kathy mentions in her post -- that were over the top. I didn't think for a minute that they were "threatening" -- and again, they were not my doing -- but when I saw mail from her objecting to them, I nuked the entire site rather than censor any individual.

It's noteable that he doesn't condemn the death threats no matter who sent them. He also doesn't say that he doesn't know who posted the "threatening" posts on his site. If the posts were so problematic that he had to nuke the entire site, they are in no way as innocent as he is insinuating here.

Because he didn't feel the impact of the threats directed at Kathy -- someone he doesn't like -- they couldn't have been real. That is a faulty conclusion. He can't begin to assess whether threatening words would lead to violent action unless he was making those threats.

Those making the threats, like the sexualized one above, could have been attending the ETech conference Kathy was scheduled to attend. Men do, on a regular basis, commit violent crimes against women for no reason at all. It follows then that it isn't absurd that men who felt they had a reason would actually commit a violent crime against her.

Surely I've seen hateful stuff about women online, and when it is directed at
women *because they are women,* I am disgusted by it. I have a 17-year-old
daughter whom I love very much and I would not ever want to see her subjected to
such Neanderthal views and behavior.

So, basically, he's not against this hateful stuff if the person being hateful has any excuse for the behavior besides gender. Please. Everybody who steps over the line has an excuse.

I do not like Kathy Sierra. I like her even less after her post of Monday. If she is waiting for me to apologize for something I did or said, she is going to have a very long wait.

The only opinion I had of him before reading his own words was that he didn't moderate the threats. While I thought that was bad policy, I didn't assume any approval of the threats or dismissal of them. Rageboy has clarified his role in this situation for me. And not in a way that makes me have any confidence in his ethics or his judgment.

If his status in the blogosphere goes down, he won't have anything but his own actions and his own words to blame. As he says, not being liked comes with the territory, but there is huge difference between not being liked and being on the receiving end of death and/or rape threats.

That he fails to get that is troubling. What's more troubling is that he is far from being alone.

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Defense Attorney Ethics Questions Raised

This story unfortunately doesn't surprise me at all.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- When a prominent lawyer was defending a businessman on charges of sexually assaulting a boy and possessing child pornography, he used a ruse to obtain the boy's computer to aid his case.

Now, state regulators want the state Supreme Court to scold the lawyer for the hoax. Stephen Hurley hired a private investigator to trick the boy into swapping his computer for a new laptop. The case illustrates what the American Bar Association says has been a major debate in legal circles in recent years: Can lawyers ethically participate in covert activities? [...]

Hurley's lawyer, Claude Covelli, said his client did nothing wrong in supervising an undercover investigation to collect evidence, similar to sting operations conducted by law enforcement officers investigating civil rights complaints. But a complaint filed by a state disciplinary board says Hurley broke rules that prohibit lawyers from engaging in "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation" by approving the hoax.
I believe these types of actions are wrong and should be grounds for reprimand or even disbarment in extreme cases. Just as prosecution evidence gets thrown out if it is not obtained properly, defense evidence obtained unethically should get thrown out.

A defense analyst discovered hundreds of pornographic images on the computer, including 28 images involving children. Hurley claimed the images showed the boy accessed child pornography and learned about sex on his own and not through Sussman.

The evidence was never introduced at trial. A judge ruled that pornography viewed by the boy in 2004 was not relevant to assaults that happened at least two years earlier. A jury found Sussman guilty of assault and possessing child pornography. He is in prison, though he maintains his innocence and is appealing.

Hurley, who did not return phone or e-mail messages, argued in court documents in 2005 that the hoax was the only way he could obtain the computer and perhaps evidence to exonerate his client.

This unethically obtained evidence does nothing but attack the character of the victim in this case which makes it nothing more than victim blaming. But that was likely the who point. Reasonable doubt through character assassination.

With these ethics, how is a jury to reasonably believe that evidence obtained through unethical actions hasn't been corrupted in some way?

Those people who constantly complain that prosecutors aren't behaving ethically toward sex crime defendants must also demand that defense attorneys live up to high ethical standards if they want the rest of us to believe that they are true advocates for a high ethical standards and not rape apologists or rapists looking out for their own.

Violating ethics rules to get a job done is no excuse. Not for prosecutors, investigators or defense attorneys.

Update (2/15/09): The results of the ethics hearing are in.

The office said he should be reprimanded, but Hurley contended that the ruse was the only way he could obtain exculpatory evidence and that police can lie to get evidence.

[Judith] Sperling-Newton, the referee, found Hurley didn’t violate the rules because the investigator, not Hurley, lied to the boy and Hurley played no active role in the trick. Hurley had no other way to get the laptop without the boy erasing the pornography on it, she said.

The ethics rules controlling the case are murky and the lawyers regulation office’s enforcement of them inconsistent, she added.

If this trick is ethical then it must be ethical across the board even when it is used to get evidence pointing to guilt not innocence.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:52 AM   1 comments links to this post

Another Outbreak Of Disturbing Sexual Intimidation

Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users cancelled her appearance at the ETech conference because of rape and death threats sent to her blog and to other blogs. She is working with the police because the threats, including lynching, are serious, harmful acts -- even if the threatened actions are never carried out.

This isn't free speech not by a long shot. Those making the threats need to be stopped. This in no way is business as usual or simply the price women have to pay when they gain any level of visibility.

This isn't merely an example that "blogging can be painful" as one story put it. The threats of violence were not a result of her blogging, they were the result of a person or people making the choice to issue clear threats of violence simply because they believe they can get away with this. This is far beyond cyber-bullying.

That this sort of behavior isn't new to the Internet shouldn't excuse it or dampen the outrage. In cases like this outrage is healthy. I'm more worried about those who shrug it off. Their attitude gives backhanded support to these types of threats.

She isn't a coward for cancelling her appearances. Those making the threats are the cowards and the criminals. Frankly, making Internet death threats should be a felony because they are acts of terrorism.

Blog owners who allow comments may have liability issues if their blog's comments contain these types of threats against other people. These types of threats should be reported to the police as soon as possible along with as much identifying information as possible. Then they should be deleted.

Those willing to terrorize others don't deserve a platform.

For more information, here's her post which includes some of threats. Be warned, the threats and accompanying visuals are highly disturbing.

Kathy, my thoughts are with you and I stand with you against those who make these types of threats.

Since this is a form of sexual violence everyone who wants to communicate their opposition to threats such as this are welcome to participate in the Blog Against Sexual Violence Day on April 5, 2007. To get the logo shown below to show your support, click on the link to find out more about how you can join this effort. Let's show people like this that they don't have hoards of silent supporters.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:04 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 26, 2007

False Rape Allegation Charges Supported By Real Evidence

Too often when people talk about false allegations of rape or make that assessment, the conclusion is based on nothing more than assumptions about the alleged victim's credibility and lack of proof for the rape.

This case however is based on multiple pieces of real evidence. The admission of the false claim was not the only evidence and it was clearly not made under duress since it was first made privately to a friend while the police still believed her.

Zoe Davydaitis made up the allegation about ex-soldier Phillip Young, 49, in a bid to win back her lesbian lover. Davydaitis, 24, Fenlake Road, Bedford, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice at Luton Crown Court. [...]

When police arrested Mr Young he was recovering from a broken back he had suffered in a fall. His spine had been broken in eight places and he was wearing a body brace. Despite his protestations that it would have been impossible for him to have raped her, the Crown Prosecution Service decided he should be charged with rape. [...]

Davydaitis finally withdrew her statement on 22 March 2005 after her friend told police how she had confided in her about making up the rape allegation.

Given his physical condition, I believe the police made a mistake by charging this man so quickly. Since the woman alleged that she was the victim of a stranger rapist, the police might have rushed their investigation due to the pressure to make the public feel safer with the announcement of an arrest.

They may have also relied on stereotypes about false reports of rape. They may have assumed that since she didn't know the man included in the line up (Why was he even in the line-up if he was physically incapable of the crime?) that she wouldn't point to an innocent man.

The stereotypical false accuser is motivated by hard feelings toward a particular person or group of individuals.

Committing a serious crime to help win back an ex is nothing new and it is nothing unique to women. In a small town in my state several years ago the police chief set a fire so he could impress his ex-girlfriend with his heroism at putting out the fire. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but the fire wasn't so easily controlled and it gutted a significant portion of the town's main street.

Their MO might be different, but the motivations were identical. Yet nobody takes this man's case or others like it and uses it to make generalizations about all small town police chiefs or all men.

So why do so many of these same people make generalizations when the crime is committed by woman filing a false report of rape?

If it is only because we can't put ourselves in the shoes of the person who owned the building or those who depended on the businesses which were destroyed, then the generalizations are based on lack of empathy and ignorance.

The question we then need to ask is: Who benefits from this different response to 2 criminal acts committed for the same reason?

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:59 AM   0 comments links to this post

Crime Lab Oversight

Until I read this story I didn't know there was a federal law related to crime labs and investigative processes. Unfortunately, there is a gap between law and practice.

Tackling critical problems in the nation's justice system, Minnesota, Texas and Virginia have each founded powerful oversight boards in the last two years that can investigate misconduct in crime labs. But not one of the new boards has yet reopened a case -- either because they have refused to do so or because they haven't been funded.

Those pressing for improvements in forensic work, a foundation of criminal investigations and prosecutions, see the states' unwillingness to act as symbolic of the justice system's overall refusal to dig into its own failings. In their view, it's also an outright failure to follow a 2004 federal law requiring some kind of investigative entity. [...]

The steady stream of exonerations and scandals has raised doubts about everything from the handling of DNA evidence to overly broad conclusions from hair and blood comparisons. Discredited beliefs about how to determine arson and faulty conclusions from ballistics testing have added to the questions.

So often people shout about the need for better investigations one minute and then complain about taxes the next. Because taxes have a more immediate impact on our lives, programs that are viewed as hard needs will often suffer even though nobody is opposed to them.

If we want the government at each level to do the jobs we expect, we have to realize that taxes are more than a necessary evil. But funding is far from being the only issue involved here.

Most of us don't like looking bad or incompetent. Politicians are no different. Lack of money can become a handy excuse for doing nothing rather than facing a tough challenge for all to see. This is made worse by those who use any opportunity they can find to spin a politician's tough, but needed decisions into something it isn't.

That involves us because we have the power to refuse to instantly accept slick ads which play into our fears.

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

Sunday, March 25, 2007

What It Means When She Says She Was Raped

I've been reading various posts by people who are salivating over the prospect that the Duke Lacrosse case which is currently under review by state prosecutors will not only see the rape charge reinstated, but will see all charges dropped and charges filed against the alleged victim.

It was all the typical "slutty women lie" garbage. Then I saw this:

What you FORGET is that 99% of the time, when she says RAPE she means that she had consenting sex which she later REGRETTED. The other 1% of the time she was acting like a slut and asking for it.
I don't know what will happen to this particular case, but I do know that those who have branded this case a hoax have branded themselves through their words. And it's a very ugly brand. Most of them are craftier than this man and make sure to state that "of course, I'm 100% against all real rapes." And they will say they are communicating with reason, maturity and class while those who don't agree with them are frothing over with emotion.

I don't believe them any more than they believe most women who report being raped.

The justification I've seen for these attitudes goes something like this (composite of many people's statements):
If a woman puts herself in a position where she can easily be raped then it isn't right to prosecute her alleged rapist because she deliberately chose to be rapable. You wouldn't enter a zoo enclosure with a grizzly bear and then blame the bear for mauling you, would you?

Many girls and women do just that and then are surprised when they are "raped" and the prosecutor refuses to take their case seriously.

What happened wasn't pretty, but they are only victims of their own stupidity. Like the grizzly bear, men will do what comes naturally. We shouldn't punish them for that. But that's what will happen when the laws are too liberal with the definition of rape.

These too-general rape laws let foolish girls and women abuse the law by crying rape and then unfairly punishes men who would never go out and rape some innocent girl or woman.

Whenever one of these girls or women reports being raped, it causes men who saw her put herself in danger to be skeptical whenever any woman claims to be really raped. How do we know that this unknown female didn't also offer herself up like a tasty morsel in the bear's den?

If going out partying or hanging out with healthy men is followed by the obvious results then any allegation of rape is a false one. If women don't acknowledge this then they will lose because the real rapists will be hard to find among all those men wrongly accused of rape.
The problem with this argument is that men are not grizzly bears and women aren't hunks of meat. Rather than this being an enlightenment about how women falsely accuse men of rape, it is an enlightenment about how men justify rape while refusing to own the label.

I've even seen this sort of statement with the admission that the man was once false accused of rape (though his fake victim who regretted the sex the next day didn't go to the cops). This is convincing, but to me it's convincing of rape.

The other flaw in the grizzly bear risk analogy is that while we might not blame the bear, that animal will most likely be killed. Same goes for cougars who eat joggers. We may not blame the cougar, but it will be hunted down and either killed or locked up forever.

Do these men really want to be treated exactly like we treat man-eating grizzly bears and wild cats? Somehow I doubt that's the solution they are looking for. They want to be able to take those stupid women with no fear and no consequences to them.

Note: Please don't forget that April 5, 2007 is Blog Against Sexual Violence Day. Click on the logo to find out more about how you can join this effort.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:18 PM   0 comments links to this post

Verdict Puts Blame Where It Belongs

I'm glad this case was resolved with a conviction.

For years, Janet Goodner blamed herself for the sexual relationship she had with former Roman Catholic priest Bruce Ewing in the 1970s, when Goodner was a teenager. "I felt that I corrupted a Catholic priest," Goodner said in an interview.

But yesterday, a Jefferson Circuit Court jury put the blame on Ewing, finding him guilty of third-degree rape after deliberating for less than two hours. The jury -- made up of six men and six women -- acquitted Ewing on two charges of sodomy.
Ewing, 59, hung his head after the rape verdict was read. [...]

The prosecution and defense later agreed on a sentence of three years in prison or, if McDonald decides to grant probation, a five-year sentence if Ewing violates the conditions of his release. Had Ewing been found guilty of all the charges, he could have been sentenced to as many as 15 years in prison.

"I would like to see him serve some time," Goodner said after the verdict. "I've served a lot of years."
I'm sure the priest deliberately shifted responsibility for his actions onto his victim so she would be filled with misplaced guilt. Doing so would help him rationalize his actions and it would make it much less likely that she would report his abusive behavior.

Oh, those tempting women who make men sin by merely being nearby. Oh, those who blame the victim not the victimizer.
In his closing arguments yesterday, Ewing's attorney, David Lambertus, noted that numerous friends and co-workers from throughout Ewing's life testified that he was a caring and trusted person.
Rather than strengthening the case, this description helps explain how he could get away with the abuse for so long. Some caring and trusted people live up to their image, but others exploit their image and the trust others give them.

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

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rape Games: Erotic Fun or Normalization of Rape?

A while back Gawker had an article about rape within the Second Life virtual world. The response that I saw from some people was that it wasn't parallel to real rape because the person virtually raped makes an explicit choice to be a rape victim.

Then I saw that the John Edwards' Second Life headquarters was vandalized. Nothing consensual there. This raises serious doubts about whether all virtual sexual interactions in Second Life are consensual.

This blog post about rape games raises some important issues about another sort of virtual rape:

Playing online rape games is acting on the inner urges to do the obviously wrong things either in the dark, or through a channel that appears to make the wrong things right (?!). People who play these are trying out things that they know they cannot do in real life, through a virtual conduit, without the real life laws (for now). [...]

So face it, putting aside the possibility of practising the virtual acts in real life, you are going to have many psychological and mental images and notions that you may not want and cannot erase, including the way you handle friendship with the opposite gender.

Part of the problem I see is in how people determine where appropriate sexual boundaries are. People who don't play these types of games can have trouble with sexual boundaries, but the games may be set up to reward exploitive interactions that trample all over other people's boundaries.

Many a serial rapist tells himself that he is good at sex when all he's good at is committing and getting away with a specific crime. Learning how to interact with others respectfully is much more challenging. And it is much more rewarding.

One erotic game is Hitomi, My Stepsister.

From a review of this erotic anime game:
[...] it took about, oh, seven sentences for Hitomi, My Stepsister to transform from a game with promise into an absurd and unbelievable farce.

There's no "hey, do you wanna…" There's no "let's play doctor." (Either of which, incidentally, would be so much hotter than what actually happens.) The protagonist's rationale for rape literally goes like this: Hitomi's not wearing a bra; this must be her way of seducing men; if she's seducing men, then she'll spread for anyone; if the slut's seducing me, it means she thinks she's better than me; I'll chuck it up in her and show her who's boss.
What I found fascinating about the details of the game is how the game reflects the thinking of many real-life sexual abusers and rapists and how it shows a non-sexual reason for rape.
Hitomi is abused by her mother, was almost raped by her biological father, and is now fundamentally incapable of expressing herself. While she may be the erotic gaming genre's archetypal "blank slate," plot-wise there's a huge missed opportunity here. Hitomi is a character that may legitimately "want it" without knowing how to say so.
This too reflects reality. I'm glad this reviewer doesn't find this sexy. Many real-life targets are vulnerable because they are barely-walking wounded. However, the idea that she may want it is problematic because many real people project that onto their targets.

In the real world many sexual exploiters would turn her inability to express herself into a blank check. If she can't express herself, she isn't going to report it if she's raped, is she?

I'm glad that the reviewer, Dan Barry, didn't find this game a turn on.

The erotic game I'd love to see is one where those who give into the temptation to rape get caught or have a bad outcome. And one in which those who get the full and uncoerced cooperation of characters capable of consenting are the only one's who have any sort of good outcome.

To really win when it comes to any sex game, it should take the same interpersonal skills it takes to be truly good at consensual sexual interaction in real life.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:11 AM   4 comments links to this post

Friday, March 23, 2007

Pestering A Girl For Rape

I read this on Persephone's Box and had to read it twice to be sure I wasn't misunderstanding her.

Apparently some women get pestered into sex they don't want and consider it rape. I consider it saying "yes." I've written this elsewhere, but we can't be equals and also play the victim card. Men have to take responsibility for their actions, but so do we. But when the guy and girl are both drunk it's trickier for me. I love the old Philadelphia Story when Jimmie Stewart turns down Katherine Hepburn because she's drunk and there's some things a guy just doesn't do. But fast forward to today, is it okay to take advantage of someone so wasted they don't know what they're doing? I don't think it's rape, but it's not nice either.
I disagree 100% with this assessment of what is and isn't rape and the assumption that some women say they were raped to play the victim card.

Whenever I have or will decide to have sex with someone I will take responsibility, but I no longer take responsibility for sex I didn't want and didn't consent to. I'm sure my boyfriend/rapist rationalized that he simply pestered me into sex rather than admitting he pushed physically and emotionally until he found a moment where I wasn't able to fend him off.

The problem with dismissing any report of a seemingly non-violent rape is that what you would think of as merely pestering (like you might pester a friend to go to the movies with you) is far different from what really happens in these situations.

[Addendum: actually friends who pester can shift from friendly pestering to coercion if they don't stop when their friend has clearly decided not to go to the movies. Real coercion doesn't have to sound or look ugly. The person doing the coercing doesn't have to intend harm to the other person. Depending on the movie, this sort of coercion may cause no obvious harm. But there is a deep level of disrespect involved when what your friend wants or doesn't want stops mattering to you. You wanted to go to the movies with this person and getting what you wanted was all that mattered. There is no respect for your friend in this interaction. That's the core problem, not your friend's buckling to your wishes.]

The situations that involve alcohol which are labeled as rape are different than that the scene from Philadelphia Story when Katherine Hepburn's character is willing. And the only difference is NOT that the man didn't stay.

The first key to understanding these types of rapes is to realize that they are carefully planned to exploit the gray areas. That means premeditation. There is nothing truly friendly or equal about this interaction.

The person doing the "pestering" likely has thought carefully about how far the pestering can go before the intended target realizes that he isn't simply trying to change her mind and that he doesn't care what she wants and what she will freely consent to.

Maybe he'll rationalize away her resistance by telling himself that he's such a great lover that she will be giddy with delight before he lets her go. Maybe he's remembering stories from his buddies that say all willing women say no at first and will admire a man who won't let them go because that shows how much the man wants her. Maybe he wants to believe that this pestering is merely a wonderful form of flattery.

Often people will ask, "Why didn't she leave when she could have?" and the answer is often "I would have if I had a clue that this man I liked (or even loved) could be a rapist." Sometimes the answer is, "I tried to leave, but he blocked all of my efforts."

These rapists will be considering how their actions will be communicated by the victim so that they will seem less threatening in the retelling. He will also anticipate the questions people will ask to determine whether this really was rape and make sure her answers fall into the "no rape" category.

Nothing he does will clearly match people's expected image of rape or attempted rape unless they already understand his MO.

What many people forget or miss entirely is that in these situations the girl or woman has clearly said no -- otherwise there would be no need for any pestering -- and that her answer is not truly respected or accepted.

We all say that if a "no" is ignored that it is rape, but many times people miss the fact that this standard applies in this situation. Just because he didn't immediately fall on her and violently rip her clothes off doesn't mean that he didn't ignore her "no" and that he isn't a rapist.

This attitude about "no" was highlighted in the NO MEANS have aNOther drink T-shirts.

Any surface acceptance of her "no" is merely a strategy to keep the intended target from escaping. Pestering in these situations includes a physical component that is not-overtly violent. Part of that physical component is isolation.

This is where a lot of victim blaming comes in. The problem is that all of us are in isolated situations with people we know and trust, but we don't think about the power of that isolation until it is used against us.

The other part may be physical intimidation up to and including physically restraining the other person (while in a loving embrace, of course) while continuing the "pestering."

This isn't simply pestering, this is a siege directed at someone who has said no.

If the siege works, it is rape.

We all need to call it what it is and be very specific about what "persuasion" is not rape. The label pestering can hide too many rapes and hurt too many innocent rape victims.

This is as true when a woman is the one doing the "pestering" and is likely seen most often in parent/child abuse or teacher/student abuse or professional/client or clergy abuse since those relationships give the rapist/abuser the most opportunities and rationalizations to lay siege to another human being.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 2:15 PM   2 comments links to this post

Carnival Of Feminists

Go check out the 34th Carnival of the Feminists at Capacious Handbag.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:21 AM   0 comments links to this post

Kentucky Law Prevents Felony Charges Against Jailer Accused Of Raping Inmates

This story from Kentucky caught my eye because of the laws involved.

A Kenton County deputy jailer charged with sexually exploiting two female inmates will not face felony rape and sodomy charges. [...]

It is a misdemeanor for a jail guard to have sex with an inmate unless force was used. Sanders said the evidence that force was used is strongest involving a woman who has been released from jail. The problem is, law enforcement officials cannot find the woman to get her testimony. [...]

Two of the attacks happened inside the jail's video arraignment room while another attack happened in an isolation cell while one of the women was on suicide watch.

The prosecutors had to drop the felony charges because they would have had to prove that the jailer used force for the crime to be a felony. The problem with that is jailers can use real force through their positions without that force being detectable as overt physical violence. Then there is the inherent lack of credibility that most juries would give to these types of victims.

That combination of accessibility and low credibility can be tempting for some people who know their victims will likely be too scared to report them. True ethics shouldn't depend on the likelihood of being caught or excuses that turn this type of crime into one that hurts nobody.

The security cameras only showed the jailer entering and leaving the locations where the crimes were allegedly committed which makes sense since a jailer committing these types of crimes would want to know exactly where he was on and off camera.

Fewer people continue to call this a victimless crime or insist on twisting it around so that the jailer is seen as the true victim. Unless those people are claiming that no sexual contact occurred or the inmate assaulted the jailer, they would be encouraging the sexual exploitation of inmates by guards.

Nobody should be sexually exploited or raped. We need to make sure that message is always clear because rapists and potential rapists are listening for anything that will feed their rationalizations.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:04 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rape Kits Don't Cleanse The Uterus

I found this quote on The Barbwire a conservative Christian Blog:

And I am for any rape victim having the rape kit cleansing of the uterus, starting of her period –immediately after the rape. But any other abortion has a high correlation with breast cancer because it unnaturally abrupts the changes that take place in the breast during pregnancy in a way that natural spontaneous miscarriage does NOT–not to mention, the emotional trauma.
As a volunteer sexual assault advocate who during my 9 plus years on the crisis line has been with rape victims as they came into the hospital to have a rape kit done, I need to clear up a basic misunderstanding.

Rape kits don't cleanse anything. Rape kits are for the collection of forensic evidence from sexual assaults. They have no relationship at all to birth control or to abortion. If someone has a rape kit done that means a qualified medical professional has collected forensic evidence from the victim.

This is called a rape kit because the material needed to collect DNA evidence from a rape victim has been put together in a specialized kit designed for this type of crime. When the collection of evidence is done, the kit is sealed so it is ready to be sent to a DNA laboratory. The rape kit used in my area when I was last at the hospital with a rape victim was about the size of a lunch box.

The only questions these medical professionals should ask about the crime relate to the possible location of DNA evidence.

Rape kits are used for both female and male victims of sexual assaults.

This evidence collection needs to be done as soon as possible after a rape or other sexual assault where there is any potential for DNA evidence. The quote above is confusing, but it is important to remember that if a rape victim waits for her period to start, most likely the DNA evidence will be gone.

If in doubt about the timing, check with your local sexual assault crisis line or with if you can't find the number for a local crisis line. This is a scary and confusing process which can be less scary and less confusing if you have someone in your corner who is familiar with the process and who is centered on the needs of the victim and the victim's family.

When a female rape victim is seen by medical professionals to have a rape kit done, she may or may not be offered emergency birth control depending on where she is seen. If she is offered EC, it won't be offered until after a pregnancy test has been completed.

Victims can and do decline to get emergency birth control.

Well-trained staff and volunteers will respect the victim's decision -- whatever it is -- this is critical since the crime has already robbed the victim of control over her own body. Bullying or lecturing, even with the best of intentions, has no place in this process.

In addition to the collection of forensic evidence and possibly being offered EC, medical personnel will address the issue of sexually transmitted diseases. Medicine may be prescribed to help reduce the chance that the victim will get certain STDs.

Unfortunately, not all towns have medical personnel trained in collecting evidence for a rape kit.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 6:13 PM   0 comments links to this post

Woman Murdered Before She Could Testify Against Her Alleged Rapist

This is a heartbreaking story.

A man charged with raping a woman in 2005 is now accused of killing her by slashing her throat because she had agreed to testify against him.

Natasha Ramen, 20, was attacked Thursday just outside her home in Queens, suffering a "very deep wound, almost from ear to ear," said police Lt. Salvatore Salerno. "It was very brutal." Hemant Megnath, 29, a fellow Guyanese immigrant, was arrested Tuesday on charges of murder and criminal possession of a weapon. Authorities said he was working for a real estate broker and she met him while apartment hunting. In May 2005, he lured her into his apartment and raped her, according to authorities.

In 2006, Megnath also was charged with making threats against Ramen and her family in retaliation for the rape allegation, police said. A pretrial hearing had been set for April 9.
What's almost as tragic as this woman's death is the fact that the criminal justice system failed to protect her after she was threatened. There have been many cases across the country where the murder victim has received death threats and the person sending the threats has been allowed to remain at large until they made their threats a reality.

When rape victims come forward they face two risks -- additional violence or public disbelief or both. We have to do better.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:24 AM   1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Designer Anand Jon Alleged Rapist or Victim Of Grand Conspiracy?

When the story first broke that fashion designer Anand Jon had been charged with 20 counts of sexual assault against 7 alleged victims, I didn't blog about the arrest of Anand Jon on rape charges since there are so many arrests that I couldn't keep up if I tried to blog abot all of them.

However, a recent Hollywood Today story indicates that the defense will be based blaming the victims' immoral ambitions.

All the claimed rape and child molestation victims have ties to the L.A. fashion community, apparently encouraging Anand’s attorney to concoct a questionable “fashion industry defense.” Implying lax morals in the fashion business, his attorney claimed in the court hearing that many women in the fashion industry routinely granted sexual favors in exchange for advancement and that his planned LA Fashion Week showcase triggered the charges as the women has “Ulterior motives to have him in custody” during the event.

Those might not even be all the charges against him as more women come forth from his celebrity fashion dealings. “There an ongoing investigation in L.A., there is also one in New York,” L.A. District Attorney spokesperson Jane Robinson told Reuters. “This is a serious crime.”

This conspiracy theory is a very convenient spin for someone who suddenly finds himself with a great deal of power. It also sounds like how someone could rationalize clearly unethical behavior and at times clearly illegal behavior.

But this painting of an alleged rapist as the true victim is nothing new as in this case where the 32-year-old defendant's attorney claimed that his client was the victim of the 12-year-old alleged girl he was accused of raping.

Each apparent success of these types of defenses can reinforce that type of rationalization.

Update (11/13/08): This defense strategy failed and Anand Jon Alexander was found guilty in a Los Angeles courtroom of 14 felonies. He is currently under indictment in New York on similar charges.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:11 PM   1 comments links to this post

Man Who Abducted And Raped Teen While His Daughter Was In the Car Sentenced

Since I've been blogging about rape, I've read many stories about rapists and murderers, but this one is worse because he committed his crime of abduction, rape and attempted murder with his young daughter in the back seat.

John Ackerman, 49, was serving a prison term in Plymouth County for raping another teen when investigators linked him through DNA evidence to the long-unsolved 1988 rape in Rowley. His victim was a 17-year-old Lawrence girl who had escaped the killing fields of Cambodia just a few years earlier. Yesterday, she recalled how she was born "into a living hell" under the Khmer Rouge, survived imprisonment in a concentration camp and torture with hot coals, and somehow made it to the United States, where she believed Americans were the "kindest and gentlest people."
I hoped when I read the details of this crime that this man would never be eligible for parole. Unfortunately, my hope was a futile one.

The only reason this case was solved was because a similar crime in Florida triggered a request to look for DNA evidence. While the DNA evidence didn't match that case, it did result in a match. He was charged just one day before the statute of limitations on the case would have expired.

This case highlights not only the need to prosecute rapists like this, it highlights the need to examine cold cases well before they reach the statute of limitations. If more of these serial rapists have their multiple crimes linked to them and if we have sentences which match the true severity of these crimes, we will have less need for alternate systems to prevent obviously dangerous sex offenders from being released from prison. From what I read, it sounds like he will be eligible for parole in about 14 years.

This also blows me away:

Ackerman tearfully admitted yesterday that he simply wanted to reciprocate on other people the abuse he had suffered as a child.
And some people continue to say domestic abuse is a family matter that doesn't impact the rest of us. Whether that is a true reason or a rationalization, we may never know. But it was reported by his lawyer that as a child he was the victim of physical, verbal and sexual abuse. He began a pattern of striking out at random strangers at the age of 15.

It sounds like the man's intensive sex offender therapy has helped him understand his motives, but understanding doesn't equal making a different choice if he were set free and saw the opportunity to kidnap another woman.

Rage like that has deep and stubborn roots and it wouldn't take much stimulus to act as fertilizer on those dormant roots.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:32 AM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sharp Eyed Bar Employees Help Nab Man Doctoring Date's Drink

This story made me laugh and it made me cry. Laugh because a rape was prevented. Cry because who knows whether this man succeeded with other women.

As yuppies moved into what became million-dollar Victorians in the 1990s, it became Noe's Arc, and now it's Noe's Bar. Not a place for trouble. Not the kind of place where what looked like an attempted date rape would occur. Or where a guy on a first date, like Joseph Szlamnik, at the time a 43- year-old senior management assistant for the San Francisco Unified School District, would commit a crime. Szlamnik was sentenced last week to a year in jail by Superior Court Judge Anne Bouliane on narcotic charges related to the incident. [...]

On the night in question, [Karri] Cormican, 23, quickly approached the bartender, Hannah Bridgeman-Oxley, 27, and told her what she had seen. The two women hatched a plan. Cormican returned to the table and told Szlamnik and his date, whom the court identified only as Tatiana K., then 34, that the woman's beer had come from a fermented keg and that they were going to replace it. Cormican brought her a Stella Artois.

Cormican carried the adulterated Hefeweizen to Bridgeman-Oxley and out of sight into a back room. They held it up to the light and saw, unmistakably, a white powder. At a preliminary hearing last summer, Nikolas Lemos, chief forensic toxicologist at the San Francisco medical examiner's office, identified the powder as zalepron, a prescription sleeping drug sold as Sonata.

While one of the women warned the intended target as she stepped outside to smoke a cigarette, the other woman saw the man spike the replacement drink.

On the sidewalk, Tatiana was sobbing. Bridgeman-Oxley stalked back into the bar with Tatiana following, swiped the foaming glass off the table and looked the stunned Szlamnik in the eye when he began to protest that she had served him a second bad beer.

He said to Tatiana, "Let's go."

"You're date's over, mister," the bartender told him. "She's staying with us."
To these 2 women, I give a great big cyber cheer. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 6:47 PM   0 comments links to this post

Non-Reported Rape Equals No Rape?

The Apostate has a follow up post about her definition of rape which I challenged here. Her post is long, but this statement contains the deepest flaw and is, I believe, the foundation of her position.

We fought to broaden the legal definition of rape. Now let’s actually use it: If your rape is not even remotely reportable, it’s probably not rape.
This position is not only wrong it is dangerous. It is also contradictory.

This statement is arrogant in the highest degree and turns her into the arbiter of other people's trauma. She doesn't comprehend their trauma or their reason for not reporting, therefore they must have had no real trauma and no sensible reason for not reporting a rape other than the fact that their claim would be proven to be false.

Note: Apostate let me know she distinguishes between non-reported rapes and not-reportable rapes, but I view that distinction as problematic at best. Who gets to decide what rapes are not reportable and why? Many times a rape isn't considered reportable by the victim because that person expects to be called a liar or to have the report ignored because she can't prove she was raped.

Rapists will take this idea of non-reportable rapes and use it to their advantage. The majority of rapists try to game the legal system and anyone who will give them tools to do so.

The fact that a rape isn't reportable for any reason doesn't magically make it not a real rape. That I point out what Apostate says and disagree with her completely isn't a personal attack on her. If it is then she is participating in a personal attack on all those girls and women who say they were raped, but whom Apostate says are not rape victims.
As an example, the number of young college women who, when surveyed, report they’ve been raped, is outrageous. A fraction of these cases have any basis in fact (judging from how few of them are reported). Most of them are ambiguous situation ‘rapes’ and there isn’t much aftermath for anyone, except that the woman uses the ‘rape’ as emotional leverage.
She is judging these college women and declaring that most of them suffered no trauma based solely on the difference between the number of self-identified victims of rape and the number who report that crime. She justifies her not reporting her rape, but refuses to acknowledge that these women had reasons that were just as valid as hers.

What I see as outrageous is the number of rapes still being committed and the number of people who lash out at certain groups of rape victims while letting their rapists completely off the hook.

End note.

The bottom line is that if a boy or a man knows his victim isn't likely to report him, then he can tell himself that what he wants to do can't be real rape. Not according to people like The Apostate who oppose all real rapes. And if some women "love to be victims" of rape, who is he to deny them their heart's desire?

The impact on his victim stops being a factor. Her real trauma becomes immaterial. If he doesn't have to think about it, then all that matters is getting what he wants. In short, he's been given permission in this situation to be a psychopath.

The real problem here isn't that unreported (or so-called unreportable) rapes aren't real rapes, the problem is that most rape victims don't report because of responses like The Apostate's.

This creates a nasty cycle. People don't report their rapes because of the backlash. Then those responsible for the backlash justify their harsh treatment of these victims because most of these victims don't report their rapes or are hesitant to report. Continued attacks on those who say they were raped stop new victims from reporting. And so on and so forth.

Get a group like her on the jury for a rape committed in a dating/social situation and the odds go way up that even with overwhelming evidence, the defendant won't be convicted and the victim will be branded a liar. What genuine rape victim wouldn't eagerly volunteer to take that chance?

This isn't just my opinion. This is an observable, heartbreaking reality. At least it breaks my heart. I can't speak for The Apostate or others who agree with her.

The contradiction in The Apostate's position comes in her touting of the broadening of the legal definition of rape. In theory her definition of rape is broad, but in reality it is narrow and jagged.

The Apostate agrees based on the details of the case I quoted previously that the 91-year-old woman was indeed a real rape victim. However, what I didn't quote was this: "Authorities say the woman was raped March 3 and did not contact police until urged by friends."

According to The Apostate's statement (quoted above) that means that this 91-year-old woman probably wasn't raped. If she had really been raped this woman would have known her rape was reportable and would have called the police on her own.

The ugly reality is that the backlash against rape victims is so great from those who claim to be against all real rapes that a 91-year-old victim is afraid to report her rape.

Now, The Apostate may claim that I am twisting her words, but what I'm trying to do is untwist them. She may be so entrenched in her point of view that no facts or experiences which I can talk about will penetrate as anything more than "blah, blah, blah" or man-hating lies or wallowing in victimhood.

That's a shame. And it is hers -- not mine or that of other rape victims she refuses to believe.

Update: After I posted the previous section (which I stand by 100%), I read further that she has been a victim of rape and my heart goes out to her for what she has experienced. She wrote:

I’m fully recovered [from gang rape at age 20], and I don’t talk about it because it’s not the funnest subject. It’s not exactly painful because I’m rather desensitized around it. This is something I have never really heard from other rape victims, so perhaps it’s just me, but here’s how it happened. Before I had been so personally exposed to it, I’d always had a woman’s (especially a Muslim woman’s) all-consuming obsessive fear of it: Around every bend was lurking a rapist. If I read about it or saw it in a movie, my reaction was visceral: my pulse would quicken, blood rush to my face, weakened knees, and an uproarious rage.
Being desensitized is a coping mechanism, but it isn't the same as being fully recovered. Been there done that, called myself recovered. But I wasn't. Not deep down and that wound -- even seemingly locked permanently away -- popped up in ways that seemed irrational at the time. I hurt innocent people back then. Other people who weren't nearly as innocent as they pretended to be used my emotional state to hurt me. Frankly, I'm lucky to have lived through the aftermath of my rape.

This explains to me why when she hears other women talking about their rapes which occurred in social situations that she doesn't get it. It also explains why she clings to the idea that if women just make sure not to send the wrong signals to the men around them that they won't have unwanted sex or won't have experiences they call rape with any of these seemingly normal men.

The problem is that feeling safer and more in control doesn't always mean being safer or more in control. That's why I said her attitude makes her vulnerable. The signals she sends of non-consent can be received with perfect clarity by men who will pretend they received a clear signal of consent while knowing that their lie will be accepted as the truth by many people -- both men and women.

What I'm trying to do isn't wallow in victimhood, it is to cut through the bad-judgment bullshit and expose the denied rapes for what they are. One person's decision to exploit another person.

The irony is that the statement of hers which I quoted above is one that the man who molested her in a dress shop at age 9 would likely tell himself. He would also mirror her statement about there being no trauma.

She was victimized by those who bought into the ugly cycle of victim blaming and victim denial and now she is continuing that cycle. And I'm trying to stick my foot out to break the cycle's momentum. I'm sorry if that hurts her, but this is about more than her and it's about more than me.

I don't live in constant fear of rape. Any fear of rape I had before I was raped was directed away from my greatest sources of potential rape. What I do live in is a constant awareness of it and the attitudes which foster rape -- even when they don't mean to.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:24 AM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, March 19, 2007

Boy's Death Renews Debate On Sex Offenders

Frome the AP:

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) -- Neighbors of a slain 6-year-old boy are fuming over how a molester arrested in the child's abduction had been allowed to live in the same trailer park as the victim, just months after legislators passed one of the nation's toughest crackdowns on sex offenders.

A Georgia law passed last year prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop. That would have barred George David Edenfield from living so close to Christopher Michael Barrios, but a pending lawsuit prompted a federal judge last year to block that provision from taking effect.
The biggest problem I see cannot be resolved by restrictions like these. If someone is determined to find new victims, no passive restrictions or passive controls such as GPS tracking will make us safer. True intensive supervision has much more potential to be effective or to identify parole violations, which includes pre-offense behaviors, before another adult or child is victimized.

Passive restrictions and controls can dovetail with these more direct controls, but they can't do an effective job on their own because passive controls can be defeated.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:53 PM   2 comments links to this post

Who Is Really Trivializing Rape?

Apostate has written a post on rape which holds a position about other women which I believe comes from ignorance rather than malice. Here are some key elements:

I don’t like calling it rape if there is no trauma. [...]

Women are especially not always verbally clear about what they want. Men make assumptions from certain actions. [...]

To call what is merely bad judgment (and bad or unrecallable sex) rape is to trivialize this horrible traumatic damaging crime.

To call what is really rape merely bad judgment -- the alleged rape victim's bad judgment of course -- is to trivialize this horrible traumatic damaging crime. If someone is acting only on assumptions, a report of rape is accurate even if the victim is unconscious and therefore not emotionally traumatized during the rape.

Here's one of these "non-rapes" according to Apostate's definition:
A registered sex offender is accused of raping his 91-year-old neighbor at his Hamilton home after she became unconscious while drinking wine there. [...]

Upon regaining consciousness the woman found that she no longer was dressed, and that Rickert was standing over her, waving her underwear, court records state. An examination at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula found evidence of violent trauma.

Was this woman at fault for not being verbal enough about what she wanted? In this situation most people can clearly see the flaws in the victim-blaming/victim-denying rhetoric. That they don't see the flaws when the victim is 19 instead of 91 is their problem not the rape victim's.

Clarification: in this situation with the details from the alleged rape victim accepted as truth, even Apostate accepts that this was rape -- as I expected she would. The problem with Apostate's position is that in most cases these details are not accepted as truth such as when the victim is 19. Then it becomes much easier for the rapist to con people into believing that what was reported as rape was merely drunk sex and it wasn't his fault that she can't recall giving him consent.

And here's another example:
Prosecutors say the 53-year-old man sexually assaulted the woman after she had fallen asleep or passed out from drinking. She said she woke to find the man she considered a father figure assaulting her. [...]

Through a statement her mother read in the court, the woman described how she had begun to trust the defendant, who had taken her in, as a father figure, even though she had been molested until age 9 by her biological father.
No trauma or damage here, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong.

Clarification: again it is the accepting of the alleged victim's account of events and the nature of her relationship to the man that causes people like Apostate to accept that this was a sexual assault. This man could very easily have tried to spin this situation so that he was only responding to the victim's signals and that she was drunk, but not asleep or passed out. Look how he had been there for her when she needed someone and what does he get for thanks? A woman crying rape. This spin doesn't change the reality of what happened, but it does change how many people treat real rape victims.

There can be no excuses for rape. None. If you excuse rapists because their victims weren't traumatized to your satisfaction, you are part of the problem.

You are also vulnerable, especially if you are a woman. Maybe so far you have detected and deflected all of your would-be rapists, but if you assume this type of "rape" is only due to the woman's bad judgment you might not recognize rapists who are hiding their intentions from you until it is too late.

To see the flaw in this woman's argument even more clearly, read this reaction from Birdeye:

Bless you. Your command of logic and impartial observation is totally foreign to typical women in this country. If all women here thought like this, I’d (happily) be out of a “job” as an MRA.
When the rape apologists are cheering that should tell you something.

The core mistake in this woman's argument is the assumption that all reported rapes between people who know each other or who met in social situations involve 1) men who have innocently misunderstood what the woman or girl wanted or 2) women who truly and legally consented, but later wish they hadn't.

The reality for the majority of rapists is they are looking for situations where they can get away with taking what they want with no real concern for what the other person wants or doesn't want and little worry that they will be convicted of a sex crime or shunned by their buddies.

Most of these rapists likely have great disdain for their knife or gun-wielding counterparts and believe those other rapists deserve to be convicted (for stupidity, no doubt "smart rapists don't need a gun or a knife") and given prison time. I'm sure they also use opposition to "real" rape as a way to prove they aren't rapists.

Update: check out the comments for Apostate's response to this post and my response to that comment which address more issues related to the labeling of many alleged rape victims as people who love to be victims.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:01 AM   7 comments links to this post

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ethical Arrests And Law Enforcement

I am a strong believer in ethics and how thinking of only ourselves and our interests can come back to bite us. Rapists can have their actions come back to bite them when they are arrested. Most of us get that and applaud when that happens.

My belief in ethics isn't limited to violent criminals, however. Police, including immigration agents, are communicating what type of people they represent whether they mean to or not. Many times the ugliness comes from ignorance or disregard.

Rape victims see this when they take the risk of reporting and are either treated respectfully or are treated as if they are the real criminal who must be interrogated aggressively to protect men who are simply doing what comes naturally.

What you do when you believe there will be no consequences speaks volumes. Evidence of treating others as if they are less than fully human has consequences even if they are not as direct as the rapist getting arrested.

The way those accused of breaking the law are treated demonstrates whether the government the agent or officer represents is an ethical and humane one. Laws can be well enforced without mistreating those arrested or causing unneeded trauma as a fallout from how the law is enforced.

This New Bedford, Massachusetts immigration raid doesn't reflect well on our country or on those involved in the raid. The drama of a huge raid may appease some people, but if the huge raid is mostly for PR instead of necessity or if it goes after those with the least power, it can leave plenty of people -- including those who break no laws -- with the belief that our law enforcement is cruel and untrustworthy.

Mix that with better treatment for those who deliberately break the law to make a larger profit and you can't be blamed for getting the feeling that we as a country punish the vulnerable and the exploited while doing little to stop the exploiters.

Here is the press conference regarding the recent New Bedford immigration raid which includes a statement from the mayor:

Here is the video which shows the impact this raid has had on children and a first-hand report on how those caught in the raid were treated -- including restraining people for hours without adaquate water:

The problem here isn't that agents were trying to enforce the law, it is the ethics in how the goal is being accomplished. The means to an end have a ripple effect. We can't afford to ignore that fact.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 2:24 PM   0 comments links to this post

Reaction To So-Called Gray Rape

Over at TPM Cafe Dataguy wrote the following comment:

I really wonder about all this. Sexual relationships always involve one person pushing the envelope a little bit. Rather than calling it being pushy, this whole thing about "gray rape" takes an INHERENTLY subjective area and criminalizes it. Thus, a guy who might be just a little too pushy gets a label of "sexual criminal" for life.

That's really extreme, and it bothers me, as the father of an adolescent boy. He's not real sociable, but will be some day, and I worry that a slight difference of opinion might end up with a label of "sexual predator" period.
If one person is always pushing the envelope for sex, that pattern of action justifiably earns that person the label of sexual predator or at the least a sexual bully. That isn't healthy or truly fulfilling for anyone.

Since this man is opposed to subjective views such as mine, I checked the dictionary.

Predatory (from Webster's):
1) Of, relating to, or marked by plunder.
2) Selfishly exploiting others.
3) Predacious. (meaning: preying on other animals)

I see nothing even the tiniest bit selfless in this man's description of sexual relationships so it is by definition predatory. Which makes the person who acts according to that description a sexual predator whether that person is ever charged with a crime or not.

This man's comment is a perfect example of the normalization of sexual coercion and possibly even bodily force. Notice the total absence of viewing this behavior from the perspective of the person being pushed. The only person who shouldn't be hurt, or who even has the potential to be hurt, is the pushy one.

In fact, the person being pushed is never referenced directly.

The details of how the pushiness is accomplished are obscured intentionally. We are told the risk is simply, "a guy who might be just a little too pushy" rather than being "a guy who might force himself on a girl." He says, "a slight difference of opinion," rather than, "He took what he wanted from her because he could."

He acknowledges that this behavior could lead to a sex-crimes conviction, but refuses to acknowledge why that label would be justified.

I'll explain the justification in case he or anyone who thinks like him reads this. If you have to push the envelope to get sex there is NO sexual relationship. None. Zip. Nada. Getting a little too pushy when it comes to getting sex is either rape or attempted rape.

If you have to push, you need to stop immediately. By stop, I mean full stop, not stop and strategize about how to get around the resistence. Certainly, not stop only until she's fallen asleep or doesn't know what else to do to fend you off.

Full stop.

Respect yourself and your humanity if you have no respect for how your actions impact others. If you don't want to be labeled a predator and treated like one, don't act the part.

From what this man wrote about appropriate sexual behavior, he is setting his son up to possibly become a rapist who may have to register as a sex offender. That will hurt his son and anyone hurt by the "pushiness" his father views as acceptable.

The solution to this problem isn't to bitch about what has been criminalized, but to respect the law and the harm that the law is intended to either prevent or punish.

If pushing the envelope is no big deal then ceasing the pushing should also be no big deal.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:04 AM   2 comments links to this post

Saturday, March 17, 2007

It's My Birthday And I'll Blog As I Want To

Not my personal birthday. Today is Abyss2hope's first birthday.

It's hard to believe that it has been one full year since I created Abyss2hope and wrote my very first post explaining the purpose of this blog. There have been times when I wanted to tap a virtual microphone and say, "Is this thing on?"

Some of those times came at the beginning and some came after I made the decision to switch comments to moderated status and started deleting comments which contained personal attacks (against me or against all survivors) or which attempted to turn my comments into hostile territory where rape survivors are fair game. Some of these comments were outright vile and others were prettied up so they would have a better chance of being let through.

I'm glad I waited as long as I did before starting this blog because I needed the steps that proceeded this blog to maintain my resiliency. Capturing the dynamics of the dating relationship which ended in rape inside my novel Cherry Love, reluctantly going public as a rape survivor, having women tell me that my story mirrored their own, working on my local rape crisis line for over 9 years, etc.

I don't -- and won't -- treat all commenters and opinions equally. This is my blog and I have the right to set boundaries and refuse to allow those boundaries to be violated. And I know how to exercise my rights without feeling guilty about doing so.

In my personal world I will no longer tolerate disrespect or abuse -- including verbal abuse -- and I won't tolerate it in my blog world. I certainly won't tolerate victim blaming or denial. To some people this is enough for them to label me as weak, an anti-male bigot, or a bully for silencing others or for disputing their assertions about women.

You know what? All of that anger and hostility really has nothing to do with me.

If a valid point is wrapped in verbal abuse, it isn't my fault that the valid point is deleted or missed entirely. The verbal abuser is responsible for what he or she writes or says. This is true even if something I write triggers that person in some way. Between stimulus and response there is a choice.

It took me a long time to understand how my personal history -- which I refused to think about for years -- impacted my choices, but they were still mine even when they seemed totally crazy. So while I might have some empathy for the person who goes over the line, I won't let that empathy overrule my boundaries.

If these people give backhanded or direct support to rapists who behave with limited amounts of physical violence, it's doubtful anything I can say will make them see the situation from the rape victim's perspective. If their only reason for reading my blog is to figure out how to shut me up or shout me down, I owe them nothing in the way of consideration.

If I delete a man's comment, it isn't because he's a man and I obviously hate all men. Many men who view themselves as reasonable will openly deny women's experiences related to sexual violence. "You might think you were raped, but I'm telling you that you were not raped you just regret the decision you made to have sex." That is disrespectful and demeaning.

If anyone is delusional it is the rape-denial/feminist-brainwashing theorists. They don't want to see the harm being done around them related to sex so they find excuses to explain away the true cause of that harm and to silence people who have been harmed.

The only effective way to eliminate this harm is to openly acknowledge it and counter it in all of it's forms. That's why I started this blog, it's why I started the Carnival Against Sexual Violence and why I'm coordinating Blog Against Sexual Violence Day on April 5.

Abyss2hope might be mine alone, but the problems I address are not and neither are the solutions. When I started blogging I added my voice to many other voices who were already speaking out on this issue and other related issues. I can't even begin to name them all, but you can find some of them in different editions of the carnival against sexual violence.

Much of my personal strength comes from the knowledge that I'm not alone on this journey.

Beyond giving people something to read, my goal has been to help other survivors realize they aren't alone in their experience, to speak up for those who are too traumatized to speak up for themselves and to advocate for change so there will be fewer new victims in the future and less backlash against the remaining victims.

If you feel Abyss2hope has made a positive contribution, please let me know. Believe me those who don't like what I'm doing on behalf of rape victims and rape survivors have no trouble telling me so. Also, if you have suggestions for ways to get the word out beyond the blogosphere, that would be appreciated.

All the time I spend blogging is donated time. If you want to help me have more time to donate, you are welcome to make a donation through PayPal (the donation button is on the right side of my blog) or you can shop at through my associates program or you can buy merchandise at my Cafepress shop.

I also still have some personal (and new) copies of my autobiographical novel Cherry Love which you can buy and have autographed for $10 US plus shipping.

My email address is located on my personal profile page.

I'll end with a thanks to all of my readers and to everyone who has supported me in any way during the last year.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:18 PM   13 comments links to this post