Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Woman On Trial For Crime Committed By Husband

From the Dallas News:

Testimony starts today in the trial of an Arlington woman accused of causing the death of her lover at the hands of her husband by falsely claiming she was being raped. In a case that has drawn national attention, Tracy Roberson, 37, is charged with involuntary manslaughter for her role in the 2006 shooting death of Devin LaSalle. [...]

Her husband, Darrell Roberson, fired the fatal shots but is not facing any charges after a Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict him. Tarrant County prosecutor Sean Colston said Mrs. Roberson's false rape claim led to Mr. Lasalle's death. "The actions of Tracy Roberson were absolutely reckless. Tracy Roberson got Devin LaSalle killed," he said Tuesday.

Defense attorney Jill Davis admitted her client was having an affair and yelled rape because she feared her husband would kill her too.

I find this case to be an appalling miscarriage of justice. The man who opened fire and killed another man is not only not being tried on manslaughter charges, a grand jury refused to indict him on any charges.

Mr. Roberson drew his gun and ordered his wife to get out of the truck. At some point, Mrs. Roberson, who has no criminal record, told her husband that she was being raped, officials said.

Mr. LaSalle, 32, tried to drive away but was struck in the head by one of Mr. Roberson's bullets, officials said.

Another man was messing with Mr. Roberson's wife and I believe the punishment for that crime was death. It seems like the only question for Mr. Roberson was whether one or two people would die. With a gun pointed at her, Mrs. Roberson made her statement under extreme duress and not in cold blood.

For those who think this prosecution of the wife and lack of prosecution of the husband is proper then in all genuine rape cases family members who commit non-self defense crimes should not be charged with any crime and those who committed the rape or who were complicit with that rape should be the one's charged with the crime committed by family members of rape victims.

Would those who blame this woman for a man's death feel the same way if there were no statement of rape? How would they feel if a man who cheated on his wife were charged with the murder committed by his wife when she caught him cheating and responded by shooting and killing the woman he was cheating with? If he hadn't cheated then the other woman wouldn't have died. By the standards used in the case against Mrs. Roberson that's all that's required.

A recent stabbing occurred in Houston, Texas by the father of a rape victim against a boy he believed witnessed that rape. If you support what's happening in the Roberson case then you must support this father's innocence in this stabbing and advocate for similar handling of this case to the case against Mrs. Roberson. All those involved in the rape of his daughter should be charged for this man's crime.

But that would support a very dangerous pattern of escalation and lawlessness.

In the stabbing case, the police now believe the man may have stabbed a boy not involved in his daughter's rape.

And this isn't the only case where a protective man attacked an innocent man. Jonathon Edington stabbed his neighbor, Barry James, because he believed the man had molested his 2-year-old daughter, but the investigation which followed found no evidence that the murdered man molested anybody -- adult or child.

So while some people might feel smug at seeing Mrs. Roberson prosecuted because of their feelings about false rape claims this prosecution isn't going to make innocent boys or men any safer.

Update (5/3): Tracy Roberson was convicted yesterday which I learned from snarky anonymous comments. One of these put the cause of this man's death as the affair, but which failed to acknowledge that the man who was killed was a full party to that affair and the events which preceded the husband coming home and pulling a gun. If what LaSalle was doing actually could be interpretted as rape by any observer, even a jealous and angry husband, then he must be viewed as contributing to his own death.

As anonymous said while excusing the actions of 2 men -- with only the order of the names reversed: Answer this question honestly. Would this tragedy have ever occurred had Devin LaSalle not engaged in an adulterous affair with Tracy Roberson?

Now let's reverse the normal wife blaming that pops up whenever a man is caught cheating on his wife: Would this tragedy have ever occurred had Darrell Roberson kept his wife sexually satisfied?

The idea that the man who pulled the trigger is the one responsible for that decision -- right or wrong --is one that many people who repeatedly tell women to take personal responsibility for their actions continue to reject.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:07 AM   2 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Violence Against Women Is A Issue About The Behavior Of Men

The statement in the title of this post is something that too many people react to with denial or the claim that pointing this out is an act of man hating. This simple concept is so hard for these people to accept because of the persistent widespread belief that girls and women who are raped or abused by men are the primary cause of this violence committed against them.

This belief is why most of the rape prevention messages are directed at girls and women.

Under this model, boys and men who rape and abuse are turned into Pavlov's guys. Girls and women are ringing these guys bells and these guys can't help but salivate. Except in acts of violence against girls and women such as rape these guys aren't salivating like the dogs in Pavlov's experiment, they are taking action.

Pavlov's dogs didn't maul him when he didn't give them the food they were anticipating. They drooled.

This idea brings me to an Iowa Independent article which features the work of Jackson Katz who co-founded the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Program at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society. Katz is also the author of the book The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Can Help.

Katz said one underlying problem is that college campuses tend to focus on the prevention of rape and sexual violence. "But the term prevention in not really prevention; rather, it's risk reduction," Katz said. "These programs focus on how women can reduce their chances of being sexually assaulted. I agree that women benefit from these education programs, but let us not mistake this for prevention."

"If a woman has done everything in her power to reduce her risk, then a man who has the proclivity for abuse or need for power will just move on to another woman or target," Katz added. "It's about the guy and his need to assert his power. And it's not just individual men, it's a cultural problem. Our culture is producing violent men, and violence against women has become institutionalized. We need to take a step back and examine the institutionalized polices drafted by men that perpetuate the problem."

What Katz is getting at is that the desire and willingness to rape is within the rapist before any so-called risky behavior by girls or women in the presence of this would-be rapist. And this desire and willingness to rape is sociological not biological.

The current prevention strategy is what I call the, "Don't rape me. Rape her." strategy.

Think of warnings to not go to frat parties. If all frat parties are this dangerous and the individual attitudes of fraternity members cannot change, then the correct rape prevention strategy is for all colleges and all police forces to schedule regular patrols so they can immediately shut down all frat parties.

Unfortunately, most rape prevention messages directed at girls and women are worse than ineffective, they provide backhanded support for rapists who will respond to genuine allegations with, "It was consensual" because the corollary to "If you don't want to be raped, don't drink." is "If you do want to be forced sexually, do drink." That turns drinking even one beer into defacto consent.

No wonder drinking is often used as an excuse to do nothing about a rape allegation.

With that belief set why would a boy or man bother asking outright since the answer to his question is likely to be no or a polite alternative which clearly means the same thing.

Right now most of the rape prevention messages only teach boys and men how to get away with rape. Don't rape the sober. Don't rape using a knife or a gun. Don't give your rape victim bruises which can't be dismissed as being part of rough sex. Introduce yourself to your rape victim before rape so your rape will be dismissed as a misunderstanding.

We must teach boys and men that those who are good at getting past a girl's or woman's lack of willingness are not good at changing that person's mind about sex, they are skilled rapists -- which is no more admirable than someone who is good at overcoming another person's defenses to succeed at any other personal crime such as murder.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:04 AM   6 comments links to this post

Monday, April 28, 2008

Woman Missing 24 Years Held And Raped By Her Father

This is a case which if the police hadn't discovered the Austrian woman based on a tip and instead she arrived at the police station with her allegations, many people would dismiss her reported story as being too bizarre to be credible enough to warrant an investigation.

A few people will find ways to rationalize away the evidence in this case until it becomes something they can accept. Likely that will involve denying much of the alleged crimes against this woman by making her a willing participant who is now lying to hide her own guilt.

Their need for denial will trump all evidence. We see this repeatedly in less horrific cases where rapes are referred to as "rapes" and rape victims are referred to as "rape victims." When they do this they claim that they will believe reports of "real" rapes which involve real trauma but I suspect most of these people will be the same ones who will want to deny the accusations in this case.

Unfortunately, there are people who will commit crimes which most of us don't want to believe anyone who seems normal is capable of committing -- whether that is holding your own daughter as a sex slave or raping your date. That's why it is so important that the police never make instant judgments which determine whether or not there will be an investigation.

The police should investigate all rape reports or they are providing material aid to rapists.

From ABC News:

Police have found a woman missing since 1984, who told authorities that her father had kept her in a cellar for almost 24 years and that she had given birth to at least six children after being repeatedly raped by him.

The 73-year-old father was taken into custody, said Franz Polzer, head of the Lower Austrian Bureau of Criminal Affairs, on Sunday. Authorities found the woman Saturday evening in the town of Amstetten following a tip, Lower Austria police said in a statement.

This woman reported that she gave birth to 6 children from the rapes committed by her father while she was being held in the cellar and one of her children has been hospitalized in serious condition.

Those who are horrified by this case need to remember that if they are against the worst examples of sexual abuse and rape they also need to be against the smallest examples of sexual abuse and rape.

If they don't oppose the full spectrum of sexual violence then they support sexual violence as long as the sexually violent follow certain rape guidelines like not attacking strangers with a knife or a gun.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:16 AM   2 comments links to this post

Seeking Nominations For Carnival Against Sexual Violence

Tonight at 11 pm is the next deadline for the Carnival Against Sexual Violence so please take a few minutes and nominate a post you've written or a post you've read.

A few people have had trouble with the official nomination form, if this happens to you, please let me know by email (my address is in my profile) with a subject line of carnival nomination or leave a comment with a link to the nominated post as soon as possible.

Together we can help reduce the acceptance of rape and myths related to sexual violence.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:59 AM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Catholic College Can't Tell Rape From Consent So ...

... The University of Portland judicial coordinator, Natalie Shank, acts as if it has been proven that what was reported as rape has been proven to be consensual sex.

Willamette Week has a story about the handling of a rape allegation at this Oregon university.

The two-year-old conflict has fresh implications at the private Catholic university because some of UP’s 3,000 students are now struggling to make sure their school doesn’t go after victims of sexual assault if they were engaged in underage drinking when the alleged assault occurred.

The added twist? UP also frowns on extramarital sex, and some students want to ensure that stricture doesn’t make it harder for alleged victims of rape or assault to come forward and find support.

If they have a de facto policy against extramarital sex what isn't in dispute is that this alleged rapist who claimed "it was consensual" violated this college's policy against extramarital sex.

Rapist or not, the man accused of rape committed sexual actions of his own free will. Yet this fact seems to have been lost on Ms. Shank.

Further, this alleged rapist admitted to not only sex, he admitted to drinking.

“I’m sorry I did this to you, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal and I cant [sic] change the past so all I can do is apologize,” the young man wrote in a private Facebook message to [Amy] Kerns. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

This is an admission of sexual wrongdoing. He did "this" to her and he justified it in his own mind because he "didn't think it was that big of a deal..."

That's called rape.

This college woman asked her fellow student, whom she had known since high school, to walk her to her dorm building and she entered the building alone. Unfortunately there are still too many people who say that is code for "I'm consenting to have sex with you. Please sneak into my dorm room."

But that coded form of consent is only valid for those who say this is how they consent to sex.

If this man didn't think what he did was "that big of a deal" then it tells us a lot about the messages he received from this Catholic university about sex and consent. The University of Portland seems to have failed in educating him about their moral standards related to sex.

If the college cannot determine whether consensual sex or rape occurred -- either through lack of evidence or lack of investigative skills -- it is negligent for any representative of that college to treat the alleged rape victim as if that person wasn't raped.

If innocent until proven guilty is applied to alleged rapists then it must also be applied to those who report rape. That means the college and all college officials must treat this college woman as a genuine rape victim.

This is basic logic. Yet the attitude which assumes those who report rape are liars -- unless the reported rape is proven -- overwhelms logic.

“Based upon my findings in my investigation, I am unable to determine if a sexual assault occurred,” Shank wrote May 3, 2007. “I have reason to believe that intercourse occurred, but both parties admit to drinking and therefore, consent—or lack of consent—is difficult to determine. Given these facts, there are possible violations for which you could be charged.”

The college's official response is telling.

Ms. Shank verified part of the rape report and disproved none of it, yet she uses that limited verification as a reason to make it clear that the only person she believes did anything wrong is the woman who reported rape.

That is not the actions of someone unable to determine if a sexual assault occurred. That is the action of someone who -- self-admittedly without evidence -- has determined that no sexual assault occurred, but who doesn't come right out and make this accusation.

This echoes the attitudes which helped sexual predator Catholic priests to continue their abuse until the scandals and the civil court settlements made denial impossible. By reporting abuse the victims were admitting to extramarital sexual activity. Like this university official, church officials baselessly turned on those who reported rape in the name of morality.

The Pope recently spoke about making changes within the Catholic church so that the abuses of the past wouldn't happen again, but this action shows how entrenched the hostility is toward those who report sexual abuse and rape within Catholic institutions.

The University of Portland and Ms. Shank are the ones who committed possible violations. And they are the ones who make the Pope's words ring hollow.

Hat tip: Feministing

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:35 AM   3 comments links to this post

Friday, April 25, 2008

John McCain: Women Blamer

I've suspected that many people dismiss real pay discrimination as being the discriminatee's fault, but according to Think Progress John McCain has taken this denial to new heights with his reason for skipping the Senate vote on the equal pay legislation which seeks to do nothing except change the law to the way it was intended and interpreted until it was overturned by the Supreme Court.

The new law would acknowledge that each paycheck which is lower than it should be based on sex discrimination is a violation of the law. So if a woman realizes after 10 years of pay discrimination that she is being discriminated against, the current law says she is taking action as if it were 10 years after the pay discrimination ended.


Can anyone imagine this rule being in place for corporations that have been regularly cheated for 10 years by an employee or who have been overcharged continuously, in violation of the law, by a vendor? How about the federal government and tax evasion?

If a rule which is being used against employees is logical and defensible then this rule must be used against employers and the federal government. Otherwise the rule exists for the sole purpose of protecting the wrongdoing of employers.

The reason John McCain gives for supporting this nonsense is that women simply need "education and training" but if that were the case there would be no pay discrimination. Men and women with similar education and training would be paid the same. And of course they would be offered education and training without discrimination.

So he supports blocking civil rights for women because he doesn't believe they deserve those civil rights. And of course if he blocks actions which could allow employees to prove civil rights violations in court there will be no proof that there are any of these types of civil rights violations happening.

Denial which blocks justice in order to keep the denial alive is dangerous for all of us.

This sort of denial which accuses the person claiming to have been hurt of either causing that hurt themselves or of being a gold digger is what we see more flagrantly in rape cases. These attitudes are linked and they contribute to both pay discrimination and sexual violence against women.

This is a serious matter and John McCain has proved he either supports wrongdoing or he is clueless to the point of negligence.

Hat tip: Tennessee Guerilla Women

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:08 PM   0 comments links to this post

Grad Student Develops Faster Processing Of Rape Evidence

From University of Virginia Today:

With approximately 250,000 items of sexual assault evidence mired in three- to 12-month backlogs as they await analysis in U.S. forensic laboratories, there is an alarming nationwide need for a time-efficient way to get this work done, according to a University of Virginia forensic researcher.

Jessica Voorhees Norris, a Ph.D. candidate in forensic chemistry at U.Va., has found a better way. She has developed a method for handling rape kit evidence that reduces part of the DNA analysis time from 24 hours to as little as 30 to 45 minutes and improves the sperm cell recovery rate by 100 percent. If her method was to be adopted by forensic labs – and the results accepted by courts – the backlog could potentially be reduced within months.

This is a great development because of the time needed, but the more important change is the improvement of sperm cell recovery. This could help identify unknown assailants and it could help provide material evidence to support testimony about a known assailant.

Too often when DNA analysis doesn't come up with a profile which can be matched to an entry in a DNA database, people will baselessly speculate that no sexual assault occurred. Or worse they will flat-out state that this lack of DNA evidence is proof that no sexual assault could have occurred.

I hope this method can be verified in a timely manner to ensure that the results will be reliable and accepted.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:23 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 24, 2008

On Prostituted Children

Oakland, California police are starting to realize that prostituted children are victims, mostly with a history of abuse before they entered prostitution, who are being exploited by Johns and pimps and that it is both wrong and ineffective to view these children as criminals dealing sex.

Officers are now trained to understand the dynamics of physical and sexual abuse and to use that reasoning in dealing with prostitution cases.

And police plan to soon keep tabs on those cases by using a new database they hope will make it easier to help the girls and identify and build a case against the men who are victimizing them.

The database allows police to track and aggressively investigate sexual exploitation, child abuse and human trafficking. The goal is to conduct weekly operations, take down the big-time pimps and rescue children off the street. It will be linked with federal agencies where information can be uploaded and shared across the country to provide a comprehensive record of the children — and pimps — involved in exploitation.

This is a good start, but if this change in attitude and action is limited to the police response very little will change even if more traffickers are successfully prosecuted.

Prostituted children who are returned to unsafe homes where they will be subjected to physical, sexual or verbal abuse may believe that being prostituted is the safer option. Returning prostituted children to a parent or guardian who was never abusive but who doesn't have the skill to understand the issues a previously prostituted child now faces may treat the child in a way that triggers that child in a way that pushes the child into running away or falling back into dangerous coping mechanisms.

Foster care or transitional housing which doesn't help these children cope and recover either through lack of action or abuse from adults or other children may be less tolerable than being prostituted.

If these solutions take away old coping mechanisms like alcohol or drugs then they must provide better coping mechanisms and safety from further abuse. If they don't then children who break the rules or run away are doing so not because they are inherently bad but because they have been failed by adults.

For many adults its easier to blame the children or to simply label them immoral than it is to see these issues clearly. Those who use these children for sexual gratification will be especially resistant to view these children as being victims in any way for if they do then they will have to view themselves as child abusers. The victim blaming attitude isn't limited to sexual exploiters, I've heard too many women refuse to view the men around them who use the prostituted as being in the wrong.

To view men who use prostituted children as good people, the prostituted must be viewed as being the ones to blame. "If she weren't standing at that street corner, he wouldn't have stopped."

In the UK the Guardian has a story about 400 missing children originally trafficked to Britain from other countries who are believed to be back in the control of human traffickers.

When these children disappeared, there was no immediate search for them. Many of these children were controlled through threats to hurt their families and if the official care doesn't remove that fear many children will sacrifice themselves.

If no police call is made when a child disappears I suspect that there were other problems with the services provided to these children. Being housed without addressing all of the child's emotional needs may feel like being locked inside just another prison.

We have to do better in demanding and supporting effective prevention, law enforcement and social services. If we don't, we are partly to blame for what happens to those we don't personally victimize.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:37 AM   1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On Courage

RMott64 wrote a post titled On Courage which begins with:

I wish to write, even though I am completely mentally drained.
I am writing because I think I am having some understanding of what courage Survivors have to have.
It is the the courage to go forward with life.
I feel that in the last few days I have reach an emotional state where fear and grief is drowning me.
This for most of my life fear has underpinned my day-to-day experience.
I have live with fear for so long, that most of the time I do not recognise it.

The struggle of breaking free from the impact of sexual violence and the traps which make that harder are often unacknowledged even by those who have sympathy for those who have been victimized. Too often the process of getting free is over simplified into "don't be a victim, be a survivor."

Those who have been sexually assaulted but never in conjunction with relationship abuse may not understand the persistent nature of messages from offenders to their victims which were used to justify violence -- much of it preceding the physical violence. One of the key messages is that the victim caused the violence.

In my case, my boyfriend did this before rape through compliments which set me up as having power and him being helpless to resist my power. I didn't realize until decades later how intentional these messages were and how they were designed to help him get away with the unapologetic ignoring of what he knew was a non-negotiable boundary.

Here's my comment:

I'm glad that you are embracing your courage even if it hurts. I've been there and at the time I was afraid the hurt was never ending.

In some ways it's like your numbness is a hidy-hole in the middle of a prison surrounded by barbed wire. In that prison it is the safest place. As long as others are patrolling that prison it was good to stay there.

Because of rampant denial many people refuse to see these structures even when they are presented with undeniable evidence. It’s simply easier to call raped children "sexually mature" or to shrug when these children don’t instantly think and behave as if the abuse never happened once they are away from their abusers or once they are adults.

When those who built that prison leave, they leave behind all that structure they so carefully created to trap you. This is why it takes courage to move away from that numb hidy-hole. That and those who go looking for those stuck in these structures hoping that they will make exploitation easier.

But the barbed wire borders can be cut piece by piece by piece. With people that care and who understand, you don’t have to be alone as you work your way free.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:13 AM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Psychiatric Patient Reports Rape

Delaware Online has a story about allegations of rape committed by one patient against another at the Delaware Psychiatric Center's (DPC) Mitchell Building which houses the criminally insane and is the most secure unit of the center.

Police opened the rape investigation after the victim attempted to hang herself with strips of a bedsheet fashioned into a noose -- a suicide attempt stopped by hospital employees who heard the woman's roommate screaming, the victim told her father.

The woman told a counselor she tried to kill herself because she'd been raped, said the hospital employee.

The man she accused of raping her has a history of violence in Mitchell.

Last year, he punched a nurse in the face, breaking the orbital bones around the man's eye, according to current and former hospital employees. The nurse has not returned to work, even after eight months of medical leave and two surgeries.

This woman was in the hospital to be helped and failing to have systems to protect patients from other patients who are known to be violent is no help at all.

The story says that this man and woman had a prior consensual sexual relationship, but with the problems at the hospital and this woman's vulnerability I'm not sure that's true. The prior contacts may have simply lacked overt physical violence. If it was a consent or else situation then there could be no meaningful consent.

It appears that this isn't an isolated report.

Patient safety is one focus of the investigation of DPC by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, which targeted the facility late last year after a series of News Journal stories uncovered a rising number of sexual attacks and assaults at the New Castle-area hospital, and retaliation against nurses for reporting such abuses.

This is not encouraging. We must do better for the most vulnerable.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:23 AM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, April 21, 2008

For Those Who Say Child Rape Isn't A Choice Made By The Perpetrator

From the AP we get this case:

A New York disc jockey has been accused of sharing an instructional video showing how to sexually abuse children.

This video -- I'd call it sick but that would turn it into something caused by an illness -- demonstrates again that those who commit child rape are committing crimes which come from the brain and from multiple deliberate decisions rather than being a hormonally-driven compulsion committed by out of control monsters.

These offenders commit these crimes because they want to and have managed to rationalize away both their responsibility and the harm they are doing to their victims. They get help doing both from the dismissive attitudes so many people have related to accusations of rape made by teenage girls and women.

Each time someone denies that rape through coercion is real rape that person is helping child rapists who use coercion to commit their crimes decide that what they are doing isn't real rape. Each time someone says it isn't rape if the victim doesn't scream they are helping child rapists who scare children into remaining silent.

This help needs to stop and it needs to stop now.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:01 AM   1 comments links to this post

Sunday, April 20, 2008

10 Million Dollar Settlment In Virginia Prison Sex Abuse Case

From CBS News:

A tentative settlement has been reached in a $10 million federal sexual-abuse lawsuit filed by nine former inmates of a state women's prison in Chesterfield County [Virginia], including one who became pregnant.

The nine women at the 260-inmate prison alleged that between 2003 and 2006, male and female officers and one teacher coerced them into sexual acts or sexually harrassed them.

The allegations in this lawsuit first got media attention because then corrections officer Bobby Brown Jr got inmate and convicted murderer Sheron Montrey pregnant in 2005.

When a prison guard has sex with an inmate in Virginia that guard is committing a felony whether or not there is apparent consent.

This is necessary not only because of the power imbalance which makes rape possible without direct threats but also because an inmate who initiates sexual contact in exchange for favorable treatment which they know they don't deserve can put public safety at risk. For example, an inmate could use sex in exchange for false reports about their behavior while in prison which could cause an inmate who shouldn't be paroled to get parole.

In an envirnment where sexual harassment and sexual abuse by staff toward inmates is normal or largely ignored, sexual manipulation by inmates is not only rewarded, it is actively cultivated.

Prison guards should not be teaching inmates how to put the squeeze on the less powerful. And prison administrators should not be teaching inmates that this behavior is at most a nuisance. When people talk about prison being a teaching ground for crime, they usually assume that only other inmates are serving as the teachers.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 4:25 PM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Kentucky Passes Stronger Child Sex Abuse Law

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed bill 211 into law on Monday and this law will go into effect on July 1.

The new law makes sex abuse of a child up to 16 years old, a felony. It extends to 18 if the abuser is an authority figure, like a teacher or pastor. [...]

The new law will also give young victims more time to report the crime. Currently, any victim over the age of 12 has one year to report the abuse. This new law gives them 5 years to report it after they turn 18.

This limit of 1 year for reporting should be eliminated everywhere for sexual abuse and for rape even when the victim is an adult. I've blogged about it before, but because of the 1 year reporting requirement, my rapist was free and clear before I finished my first year of high school.

Those who are raped in conjunction with relationship abuse may not feel safe reporting until they are out of that abusive relationship. If the reporting time limitation doesn't exist on non-sexual crimes it shouldn't exist on sex crimes.

Hat tip: Sex Crimes

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 2:28 PM   0 comments links to this post

Sheriff Charged With Running Sex Slave Operation In His Jail

From CBS News:

Authorities have charged a western Oklahoma sheriff with coercing and bribing female inmates so he could use them in a sex-slave operation run out of his jail.

Custer County Sheriff Mike Burgess resigned Wednesday just as state prosecutors filed 35 felony charges against him, including 14 counts of second-degree rape, seven counts of forcible oral sodomy and five counts of bribery by a public official. Burgess, the top officer in the county of 26,000 since 1994, appeared in court Wednesday was released after posting $50,000 bail.

I wish I could say that I was shocked to read these allegations, but this is an extreme example of what too many people view to be fully legal behavior -- or what they believe should be legal to "prevent the trivialization of real rape."

I'm sure there have already been people who heard about this arrest and have blamed everyone but this sheriff.

Systematic sexual abuse of female prisoners is real violence even if none of the victims were shot or beaten or in immediate fear for their lives. I'm emphasizing the gender of these prisoners because of the dismissive attitude many people have about sexual violence committed against women who are viewed as less than perfectly moral.

This dismissive attitude is dangerous because it encourages crime -- just make sure to select your victims in line with popular attitudes.

The sheriff used the power of his position as a weapon. I don't care what crimes inmates committed, it is wrong for anyone to coerce another person into sexual contact or sexual performance. I would feel the same way if the prisoners involved in these charges had been men.

If those in charge of upholding the law disregard it then that teaches inmates that ignoring the law is something everybody does. Behavior like this supports the idea that the only crime is getting caught and that seemingly law abiding citizens are as corrupt as those who are wanted by authorities.

Update (3/25/09): Burgess has been convicted, including on 5 counts of second-degree rape, and sentenced to 79 years.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:07 AM   1 comments links to this post

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lack Of Supporting Evidence Equals False Rape Report?

For me the answer to this question is no. A lack of supporting evidence can happen in both false and true reports of rape. To move from unknown status to verified true or verified false requires evidence.

But for police in Bellingham, Washington the answer seems to be yes, a lack of evidence does equal a false rape report. Or at least that is the impression being created by all the stories I can find on the announcement by the police that a rape reported on March 2 never happened.

From KOMO Radio:

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Police say a woman made up a story that she was raped while jogging at a Bellingham park last month. Deputy Chief Flo Simon says there was no evidence from a hospital, crime lab or at the scene that the 39-year-old woman was attacked March 2 as she described. Simon says the woman, who still believes she was assaulted, was taken into protective custody Wednesday, a process that may include a mental evaluation.

If all the police have is lack of evidence that this woman was attacked while jogging at Little Squalicum Beach, I am bothered by the police stating that the woman made up the story. This may be their belief, but without evidence that details of her report are verifiably false, their statement is an unverified belief.

I didn't want to take the stories about the police's newest announcement about this case as complete so I went looking for more details about this case.

Before the police declared the report to be false, the Bellingham Herald ran a statement released by the alleged victim which begins with:

I do not know why today is the day that I decided to reach out to the community that has been stirred by my life, my tragedy.

It just happened over a cup of tea that still hurts with every swallow with my swollen face, a constant reminder of my worst nightmare. I am the girl from the newspapers.

A nurse is starting an IV, is eyeing the marks on my wrists where the zip ties held me prisoner through the unthinkable. As a nurse, I know what she suspects.

“I am the girl in the newspapers,” I blankly state.

“Oh honey!!!” Her tone changed, eyes softening, and she ran her gloved fingers tenderly over the broken skin. I flinched from the stinging pain.

This statement continues, but it also contains details which can be confirmed or denied in a way that is more than "lack of evidence." If this statement and others about this alleged crime have been proven to be false then the police statements should have made that clear.

I'll admit that the last quoted sentence doesn't ring true because I can't imagine a nurse trying to comfort a patient by running fingers over broken skin. However, I also know that those who compulsively exaggerate and even lie can be raped. If a rapist realizes that someone has this tendency it almost guarantees they will be able to get away with raping that person.

This is why evidence and not just lack of evidence is so important in rape cases.

By failing to distinguish between lack of evidence and disproven testimony, the police statements to the media about this case are clear deterrents to those who have been raped and aren't sure there will be evidence that the police will believe. It could also create the fear that a rape victim will need to recant to avoid being put under psychiatric care.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:57 AM   2 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Maryland Top Court Rules That Not Stopping When Consent Is Revoked Is Rape

I'm thrilled that this ruling was made so that in Maryland at least the withdrawal of consent must be respected. This legal acceptance of a person's right to withdraw sexual consent needs to happen in every jurisdiction.

This ruling overturns a Maryland appeals court which ruled in 2006 that the crime of rape is only in the process of nonconsensual entry because that is the only damage done by rape. This makes as much sense as saying that if you allow someone in your home then you have no legal right to restrict what they do within your home and you have no legal right to ask that person to leave immediately.

I blogged about this case last year in relation to reactions to a Time Magazine article about the topic of which US states view the disregard of withdrawal of consent as a sex crime.

Here's part of the Baltimore Sun story about this ruling and the associated rape case:

Montgomery County police had charged [Maouloud] Baby with rape after a Dec. 13, 2003, incident in which he and a friend, both high school students, had sex with a community college student in an isolated school parking lot.

Baby, then 16, and Michael Wilson, 15, groped the woman and made sexual advances on her, according to police. First, Wilson had sex with the woman while Baby was outside the car. Then, police said, Baby told her it was his turn.

"[So] are you going to let me hit it?" he said, according to police. "I don't want to rape you."

Wilson pleaded guilty to 2nd degree rape so "First, Wilson had sex with the woman ..." should be "First, Wilson raped the woman ..." That makes Baby's statement a declaration that a second rape was about to happen. The question is not one of consent, but one of physical struggle. Either way he intended to rape her. The only choice she had was how to respond to this upcoming rape.

This is no different from any crime where the criminal gives the victim a choice of "cooperate or else." In no other crime would so many people view the response of "cooperate" as proof that no crime was committed.

Hat tip: SAFER

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:57 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Who Should Be Thinking About What Reporting Does To Rapists

The following comment makes it clear that some cops still believe rape victims should hold themselves responsible for the impact a genuine rape report has on their rapist or they are so incompetent in dealing with crime victims that they are in desperate need of retraining.

M. has left a new comment on your post "What Really Fuels Rape Denial? Part 1":

The night my best friend tried to report her rape at the hands of her ex, I wound up holding her while she cried because the cops kept urging her to "think about what she was doing to him."

She wound up not filing charges, because after trying to do so three or four times and being stonewalled by the female cop, she just gave up.

The person who is responsible for what "she was doing to him" by reporting would have been her rapist ex. This refusal by the police to take this woman's report is unfortunately expected by most rapists -- especially those who rape their partners or their exes. This gives most rapists a defacto legal free pass to rape.

The message everyone who is law abiding, including all cops, should be sending to rapists is: Don't want what comes from being investigated for rape? Don't commit a sex crime. If you do commit a sex crime, what an investigation does to you is your own fault. If you have so little empathy for others that you will rape those who know you, then you deserve to be punished by the criminal justice system with no concern for your delicate sensibilities.

It is not within a cop's fiduciary duty to look out for the best interest of rapists. Each instance of this type of stonewalling undermines police who urge all those who have been raped to report and then shake their heads publicly over the low rate of reporting in their jurisdiction.

If these police officers were discouraging this woman because they didn't believe the prosecutor in their area would prosecute a case like this, they should put their concerns in those terms and then let the rape victim decide whether or not to report -- based on how the process will impact the crime victim.

If she still wanted to report her rape, then they should have done everything they could to help her report it to the most qualified investigator and to get all relevant evidence collected.

Stonewalling rape victims like this is in my opinion malpractice and it must stop.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:47 AM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 45

Welcome to the Apr. 15, 2008 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.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Blog Against Sexual Violence Day which I coordinated for the second year in a row.

Blog Against Sexual Violence logo

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

creative expression

In No Trespassing, My First Short Film posted at Menstrual Poetry, we get to see the trailer for 'No Trespassing,' which is a film based on a vignette written by Holly Ord about child abuse, healing and having the courage to let go.

In Sexual Assault Awareness Month posted at A Lover's Dream, we get a segment of an upcoming book which shows how often survivors speak casually of what is nearly unspeakable.


In Voluntary intoxication as a defence to rape posted at Criminal Letters, we get a discussion of the trial of Marek Mierzwa where he was found not guilty of rape but found guilty of having sex with someone deemed unable to grant legal consent.

In Interesting Article: Queer Teens and Legislative Bodies: The Cruel and Invidious Discrimination Behind Heterosexist Statutory Rape Laws posted at Sexual Orientation and the Law Blog, we get information on the gendered nature of so-called Romeo and Juliet exceptions to statutory rape laws which unequally punish those not in heterosexual relationships.

In Domestic Violence restraining orders are going high-tech! posted at Alexis A. Moore, we get a discussion of a Massachusetts law which allows GPS monitoring devices to be used to help combat violations of protective orders and which is being considered in Illinois.

In Hey, asshole posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion about how some racist jerks used the Al Sharpton controversy to attack the victim of the "comparable" case where the white rapists were given parole.

In Get The Customer! posted at BARBARA'S TCHATZKAHS, we get a discussion about attempts to reduce prostitution by focusing on prosecuting those who pay for sex rather than prosecuting those being prostituted.

In Question from the Past: Death for Rape? posted at CrimProf Blog, we get a discussion of the use of the death penalty for rape which was last applied 44 years ago and which is being challenged in Kennedy v. Louisiana.

In You Weren't Mugged, You Just Gave Away Your Belongings posted at Profound Sarcasm, we get a discussion of the appeals court ruling upholding the Nebraska court ruling banning the word rape.

In Hospital predator's appeal rejected: blames rape on victim, non-existent mental health disorder posted at Selective and Arbitrary, we get a discussion of a rape case where the father of a hospital patient raped a girl in her hospital bed.

In Please compare posted at Snowed In, we get a discussion of the 5 year sentence given to John F. Berger who fatally drugged Tressa Gross "to get sex" and the sentences given to women who fought with a man who wasn't killed in what they believed were acts of self-defense.

In My Article on the Kennedy Case posted at Sex Crimes, we get information about the challenge of the death penalty for child rape where the victim was not killed.

media watch

In Women are more troubled by bag theft than rape, says senior BNP candidate posted at Lancaster Unity, we get a discussion of The Evening Standard's revelation that Nick Eriksen, the BNP's London organiser and the second-highest candidate on its list for the Assembly, is the author of "Sir John Bull," a notorious far-Right blog which has regularly advocated hatred and abuse against women.

In Stories on Teenage Relationship Violence and Sexual Assaults on Reservations Honored by Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma posted at Our Bodies Our Blog, we get a discussion of a Cleveland Plain Dealer series on teen dating violence and a NPR report on the epidemic of rape on Native American reservations.

In Rape In The Military: The Other Inbound Wounded posted at The Faculty Lounge, we get a discussion of Representative Jane Harman's LA Times op-ed discussing the frequency of rape in the military.

In Actually, She Wasn't Asking For It At All posted at The Hand Mirror, we get a discussion of the Had Enough public service ads.

In I Was Raped T-Shirt Not A Statement Of Victimhood ... posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss the responses to the "I was raped" t-shirt.

personal stories

In Blogging About Rape posted at rmott62, we get a discussion about the judging people do about whether the “victim” is worthy of support, or whether she is to blame and so can be tossed away and how the violence against victims who clearly fall in the first category can lead to a person entering the second category.

In Finding Help posted at One victim's experience of rape., we get a discussion of the difficulty of finding help from a rape counselling agency because of waiting lists which can delay counselling for months.

In TRUE LOVE TUESDAY:NO MEANS NO! APRIL IS SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH posted at Lovebabz: A Life in Transition, we get to see how a lack of response to the first signs of abuse contributes to later abuse.

In Blog Against Sexual Violence posted at Pizza Diavola, we get a survivor coming out as an assault victim and assault survivor, and talking about the role of visibility in raising awareness of sexual assault--realizing that rape statistics aren't about some other people over there, they're about you and me.

In The Revolution Will Be Televised (whether I like it or not) posted at heather corinna: pure as the driven slush, we get to see what happened during what was anticipated to be a normal weekend when the "I was raped" t-shirts became a hot topic in the media.

raising awareness

In Secondary victims posted at Crisis Worker Diary, we get a discussion about those who may not realize that they have been traumatized by sexual violence.

In April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month: a Global View posted at Global Health Delivery Project Blog, we get a discussion of the wide spectrum of beliefs surrounding gender dynamics and sexual violence around the world.

In Speaking Out posted at 2 B Sophora, we get a discussion of the facades used to hide and continue sexual violence.

In A Mile In Her Shoes posted at "Para Siempre", we get a discussion of an awareness raising event where men can show their opposition to violence against women.

In Red, White and Blue Rape posted at Raving Black Lunatic, we get a discussion of a man's realizations about a problem that he can't fully relate to because he's never felt in danger of being raped.

In Socialization Which Sets Up Sex Predator/Passive Victim Model posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, a reader discusses experiences she had as a mother which helped her understand why a rape victim would feel that she couldn't speak up and had to endure multiple rapes.

In Empowering the Victim: Developments in Human Trafficking Seminar posted at Feminist Law Professors, we get information about an upcoming event.

In Blog Against Sexual Violence Day Participant Links (Live Blogging) posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, we get a collection of blog posts. Please go check them out if you haven't already.


In Prostitution Recovery posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss a couple of programs in Minnesota.


In Voice Stress Analysis: Only 15 Percent of Lies About Drug Use Detected in Field Test posted at Deception Blog, we get a discussion which is relevant beyond drug cases since these machines could be used in rape cases with the assumption that they are an accurate of truthfulness.


In Let's Not Be Silent Any Longer posted at The Burning Times, we get a discussion about the pressure on rape survivors to remain silent sparked by the backlash against the "I was raped" t-shirt .

That concludes this 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.

If you haven't read it already, check out the 3rd edition of the Carnival Against Pornography and Prostitution at the Burning Times.

The next submission deadline is Apr. 28 at 11 pm and the next edition will be out on May. 1.

To nominate a post (your own or someone else's) to the next edition of carnival against sexual violence, use the carnival submission form. If you have any problem with the form, please let me know so your submission can be considered for the next edition.

Links to everything related to the carnival can be found on the blog dedicated to this carnival,

Marcella Chester

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:03 AM   4 comments links to this post

Monday, April 14, 2008

RAINN's New Online Hotline Launches Today

I'm thrilled to learn that (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) just launched their new National Sexual Assault Online Hotline today so sexual assault victims, and their family members or friends, can get live and anonymous help online.

As someone who answered my local rape crisis line for over 9 years I know how important having access to trained advocates really is. When I tried to reach out after my rapes, those I contacted didn't have the training to realize that I was a rape victim because I couldn't put what was done to me in those terms.

One of the problems with a telephone hotline system is that the caller must be in a location where they feel safe talking. Many victims of all ages reach out for help from people they don't know and who are seen as potentially trustworthy before they make the decision to disclose to friends or family. Family or friends may suspect that someone they care about has been a victim of sexual violence and need help in order to effectively help that person. This means that the possibility of an overheard conversation stops some people from calling.

This problem is only one reason for the new online hotline. Many teens are more comfortable reaching out online than through a phone call to a stranger. Sometimes it is easier to type a horrific truth than it is to speak it.

Almost half of all sexual assault victims are under 18 and as I know too well, the offender can be someone who is still close by.

USA Today has a story about this new service. Please, go read it.

Please help spread the word so that all those who need this service know it is there and available for them.

It's important to know that this hotline isn't restricted to those with fresh trauma. Many of us bury our trauma (or try to) for years before we are either unable to bury it or decide that it has been buried long enough.

Here's information on how it works. If this is a service you are ready to use, here's the link to the RAINN Online Hotline.

If you have reached out in the past to someone you thought should be able to help you and found the results disappointing or disastrous, please consider reaching out again.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 5:37 PM   0 comments links to this post

Media Madness Training July 8-11

Media Madness: The Impact of Sex, Violence and Commercial Culture on Adults, Children and Society

A Summer Institute/Training for Educators, Students, Human Service Professionals, Activists and Parents

July 8-11, 2008, Wheelock College, Boston.

For the 14th consecutive year, Wheelock College is offering a very popular summer institute on the role that the media (television, magazines, advertising, pornography, video games and music videos) plays in shaping our gender identity, our intimate relationships, our children's lives, and ultimately our culture.

The institute is taught by Dr Gail Dines, author of Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality, and Dr. Diane Levin, author of the forthcoming So Sexy So Soon.

Participants will learn:

How media violence affects behavior and contributes to violence in society

How media images perpetuate and legitimize sexism, racism, consumerism and economic inequality

How political and economic forces shape the media

How media affects children's ideas about sexual behavior and relationships with others

How to critically deconstruct media images and develop media literacy skills

How to become active in advocacy, community building and grass roots organizing

To register:

For fee-paying applicants only, please go to:

If you need to apply for a scholarship to cover cost of the institute/training, don't click on the link above. Instead, please write a one-paragraph application that includes the following:

History of your involvement with these issues, if any

Reasons you want to attend the institute/training

What you hope to do in the future with the information

Please email your application to by May 15. We will contact you with an answer by May 20th.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:26 AM   1 comments links to this post

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blog About Congo Rape Epidemic

Earlier this week I announced my participation in the Blog in solidarity on April 13 and the amount of violence caused me to fear that except for raising awareness there is nothing anybody can do to help those who have been raped in the Congo or to help prevent this epidemic from continuing unabated.

This fear is what rapists are counting on. This is true around the globe. The key to breaking the fear is to remember that every counter action makes an impact which can become a counter epidemic if enough of us do something.

Here is a 2007 article about how to help those who have survived rape in the Congo from the UN.

Here's the blog Ending Extreme Poverty In the Congo which addresses issues which impact the general conflict in the Congo which in turn will impact rape in the Congo.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:06 AM   1 comments links to this post

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Botched 911 Response Before Raped Woman Murdered

This tragic mistake was featured on the Today show with an interview with this woman's widower and the AP has covered this case as well.

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (AP) -- The husband of a 21-year-old mother who was kidnapped, raped and killed plans to sue a sheriff's office over how it handled 911 calls about her disappearance.

Nathan Lee blames Charlotte County sheriff's officials for not saving Denise Lee in January.

Four 911 calls tipped authorities to Lee's struggle. Three were from Lee herself. Another caller said she saw a child screaming and banging on a car window. The caller was actually describing Lee, but no deputies were sent to look for the car.

This is inexcusable.

Because of a case in my town where a 911 call was forwarded to the police, I know that there was a possibility that this woman might have been saved before she was murdered.

In the local case the 911 caller didn't know there was a rape victim in the trunk of the car she and her mother were following. All that caller knew was that the man had intentionally bumped the car she was in with the car he was driving (which belonged to the woman in the trunk) and when they pulled over to exchange insurance information he was clearly violent.

The decision to follow this man when he took off and to call 911 and the subsequent response by the police led to this man's capture and the freeing of that rape victim. Those combined actions likely saved that rape victim's life.

Her rapist kidnapped her from a parking lot at gunpoint so she could have been shot to death like the woman in Florida. It's terrifying to think that a call like that could have been mishandled.

These sorts of mistakes are more likely when the funding for 911 staff and training are inadequate for the needs of the community they serve. This can also happen when law enforcement is stretched so thin that dispatchers have to decide which emergencies can't be responded to.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:39 AM   1 comments links to this post

Friday, April 11, 2008

Duh Of The Day

A woman reported rape at gunpoint committed in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in Orlando, Florida and comments made by Jim Solomons who is a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office caught my eye.

From ABC News:

The woman was transported to a crisis center, where she was interviewed by detectives. "The more we talked to her, the clearer it became this was a legitimate event," Solomons said.

What's scary about this paragraph is that it implies that this investigation could have stopped dead if it weren't clear to them through the interview alone that her report of rape was genuine.

This type of situation has turned against a genuine crime victim until the crime victim because the only suspect because the investigator didn't find the genuine report credible and assumed that the report was a lie. That 13-year-old crime victim's parents refused to let the investigation die. Because of their efforts a mall surveillance video was retrieved and it proved that the girl's report was true.

Surveillance footage from Wal-Mart showed the suspect waiting in the parking lot of the store for up to a half-hour before the victim arrived. "It's almost as if he was looking for a victim," Solomons said.

Almost? Hello?! There is no almost about this.

Because the investigators believed that this woman's rape was a "legitimate event" and then found the surveillance video, David Welker was arrested. To get more results like this investigators need to investigate all allegations whether they come to believe from the interview that there was a "legitimate event" or not.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:28 AM   5 comments links to this post

Nominations Needed For Carnival Against Sexual Violence

Tomorrow night at 11 pm is the next deadline for the Carnival Against Sexual Violence so please take a few minutes and nominate a post you've written or a post you've read.

A few people have had trouble with the official nomination form, if this happens to you, please let me know by email (my address is in my profile) with a subject line of carnival nomination or leave a comment with a link to the nominated post as soon as possible.

If you participated in the Blog Against Sexual Violence day consider nominating that post or another one you would like highlighted. Together we can help reduce the acceptance of rape and myths related to sexual violence.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:27 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blog In Solidarity On April 13: Congo Rape Epidemic

For more information check out Black women vote.

This action was inspired by Lisa Jackson's film, The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, which is airing on HBO this week.

Hat tip: Diary of an anxious black woman

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:13 AM   0 comments links to this post

I Was Raped Question

When I say I was raped shirt Do you say I don't care shirt

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:03 AM   1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Is Ignorance Bliss Or Even Safer?

The Star Tribune column: The 'everyone does it' hooey keeps the STD epidemic going
By KATHERINE KERSTEN about the rate of STDs in children contains a rant against casual sex and blames the sexual revolution (ie. feminism) yet fails to even once discuss sexual violence against children.

The solution? Enlightened folks tell us it's more sex education, counseling and treatment. They call for more tax-funded initiatives such as a $1.3 million bill for screening and public education recently considered by the Minnesota Legislature.

But few are talking about the real reason for the epidemic: too many kids are having sex at too young an age.

Her blind assumption that comprehensive sex education, counseling and treatment cause the spread of STDs is very dangerous. As a fellow Minnesotan I will be supporting the initiatives she opposes. And not because I want to encourage kids to have sex.

In her worldview all of these infected children got infected because they made bad choices. None of these children were the victims of childhood sexual abuse by trusted adults and none of them were the victims of rape or other forms of sexual violence, including coercion, by other children or teens. If all these children are to blame for the STDs they get, then an absence of STD screening and treatment makes sense.

STDs become a punishment given to sinful children.

Certainly none of these children got infected with STDs because they heard lectures on abstinence and thought oral sex, which spreads STDS, was a valid way to practice abstinence.

If Kersten did begin to think about the role of sexual violence and abuse in the rate of STDs then she would have to listen to those she quickly dismisses as crackpots who are supposedly pushing young children to become sexually active. She gets near a discussion of sexual violence and then blows it.

Here's another myth: that young women are as eager to hop in the sack as young men. Surely, lots of women remember fighting off groping guys in high school and mashers at college frat parties.

If you are a girl or woman and you have to fight a guy off to stop him from having sex with you that is attempted rape. Not wanting to be raped says nothing about girls' or women's inherent sexual interest. It is not:

[...] the average hormone-driven guy -- who sometimes can't wait to brag about "scoring"

A boy or man attempting to rape a girl and then succeeding is not committing a hormone-driven act. Even those who buy into the lie that date rape is hormone-driven cannot reasonable defend the subsequent bragging as being hormone-driven. Yet many of them are so entrenched in their rape denial that they will do just that.

If this type of rapist is average it is because of the pervasiveness of the belief that it is his target who is to blame for his actions -- even by people who claim to be against all sexual activity outside of marriage.

This sexual violence comes from the pervasive belief that boys and men have the legal and moral right to push girls and women into unwanted sex (rape) and to circumvent lack of consent.

All girls and women who fail to block this type of push are the people who were traditionally given negative labels. This belief predates the sexual revolution and many who cling to this belief want a return to the good old days when those who raped their dates or their spouses were viewed as people who did nothing wrong.

If the solution to attempted and completed rapes and bragging about those completed rapes is to tell girls, "Don't be like those immoral girls who have sex" this will not help anyone except the sexually violent and those who make excuses for them.

When sexual violence committed by boys against girls is normal and all consensual sex outside of marriage is abnormal something is seriously wrong.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:03 AM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I Was Raped T-Shirt Not A Statement Of Victimhood ...

... but a statement of fact that is not up for debate with all those who declare that they are -- or should be -- the final arbiters of what is and is not "real" rape and who was and was not raped.

Maybe that's why those 3 words are causing such a fuss around the Internet.

I was raped.

Not, I was raped because I trusted the wrong man. Not, I was raped because I walked home from school alone. Not, I was raped because I left my drink unattended. Not, I think I was raped but when I told my best friend what was done to me she called me a liar because no knife or gun was involved.

I was raped.


If you weren't then it is you who should be careful about the message you send to those around you when you talk about those who disclose having been raped or who are trying to help those who have been raped. Any barbs directed at Jennifer Baumgardner or Heather Corinna of Scarleteen from those who do not claim these 3 words have a self-serving sting to them which may cause those you care about the most to feel the sting of your words as if they were directed at them.

You don't know which of the people you care about could claim those 3 words but has not -- yet.

Here is a revealing paragraph from the New York Times:

Still, as Ms. Clifford walked out the door, intending to wear the T-shirt to pick up her preschooler around the corner, it was easy to worry on her behalf about the other mothers’ reactions. Would they assume her son’s mother was deeply damaged, not just by the information displayed on the shirt, but by her choice to announce it on a pale pink T-shirt?

This worry indicates how ingrained the shut up message directed at rape survivors is in our society. Smart and rational rape survivors are supposed to carefully guard their secret unless they are being brave by cooperating with law enforcement. If you don't shut up about rape or don't only reveal what happened to you in hushed tones then you are suspect.

This makes the image of the open safe relevant and an act of rebellion.

This also indicates how ingrained the message is that those who have been raped become lesser human beings because of the trauma they suffered. Often this message is packaged in statements of empathy when they are really statements of diminishment.

My rapist didn't ruin my life or taint me forever, he caused trauma which nearly got me killed and which will be with me forever. There is a huge difference between these 2 results.

Revealing the truth without apology does not in reality indicate that the wearer of that shirt is deeply damaged -- meaning irrational and therefore untrustworthy -- it simply indicates a fact that shouldn't be shocking considering the statistics.

When I begrudgingly came out as a rape survivor in 1996 through a newspaper headline which read, "New Author Writes About Date Rape From Experience" I thought I'd have to move out of town to escape the negative reactions I'd get. Instead, I heard, "Me too." over and over again. By listening to their stories I began to see patterns in how rapists rationalized their crimes.

The dangerousness of coming out as someone who has been raped is what should have all of us concerned and dedicated to eliminating this danger.

For the men who recoil at the thought of seeing a woman you know wearing such a bold and truthful statement maybe this statement makes the impact of what you have done or what you excuse more real than you want it to be.


As long as you refuse to see this reality you will do nothing to help change it.

For those who are accusing Baumgardner and Corinna of being rape profiteers, where is your similar accusation against those who have written books which deny most rapes by labelling awareness efforts and rape statistics to be nothing more than rape hysteria?

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:04 AM   4 comments links to this post

Monday, April 07, 2008

Why Silencing Or Controlling Rape Survivor Expression Is So Dangerous

In my last 2 posts about the "I was raped" t-shirt, I spoke harshly about those who try to suppress, control or mock the communication of rape survivors. I won't apologize for doing so and my harsh response has very little to do with me even though these people are attacking people like me.

I feel so strongly about the issue of survivors' right to speak out because rape survivors deserve to be treated respectfully and because it directly relates to the reasons that so many of those who become rape victims immediately refuse to report their rapes to the police and refuse to get rape kits done. When someone is raped, they will remember the backlash against rape survivors who dared to speak up.

These rape victims will remember the mocking tone of these comments at Gawker and other similar discussions online and offline.

Some of the rape victims who will be scared away from reporting their rapes will be among the 90% of rape victims who are slandered by those who declare that most rape victims are the only one's who are responsible for their being raped. For the mockers and "real" rape opponents this is likely seen as a good thing.

But some of the rape victims scared away from reporting will have been attacked by strangers while the rape victims did everything they were supposed to do to protect themselves from rape.

Those who are disdainful of rape survivors who speak out will deny their influence in the estimated 62 percent of rapes and sexual assaults that aren't reported (per the Department of Justice).

This influence is why this Baltimore Sun's story is so relevant.

For years, authorities have faced a serious problem in sexual assault cases: Victims often do not report the crime for several days, and by then, it's too late to gather crucial medical evidence. Now two Maryland counties are experimenting with so-called "Jane Doe" rape examination kits, which allow victims to have DNA and other evidence from an assault collected and stored, without involving police. The materials are sealed and stored in case the victim changes her mind and reports the attack. Victims' advocates say the new program -- which will become available statewide in January -- gives victims time to recover from the initial trauma of a sexual assault and to carefully weigh a decision about pursuing criminal charges. [...]

The statewide expansion of Jane Doe programs, now available in Cecil and Allegany counties, was triggered by a federal initiative. States that don't adopt such programs by Jan. 9 will lose some federal funds.

While this change is important and needed, this change will make only a small difference in the rate of reporting rape to the police. Only when there is a widespread backlash against those who hurl insults at rape survivors for speaking up or for doing something the insulters don't approve of will the majority of rape victims decide to report their rapes.

The main improvement I would like to see in this Jane Doe reporting is to have these "Jane Doe" rape kits processed so that law enforcement can see patterns in sexual violence such as when the same offender's DNA shows up in multiple unrelated rape kits.

If there is a pattern among Jane (or John) Doe reports then the police should be able to send a message to those rape victims through the hospital which collected that evidence.

Unidentified stranger rapists or rapist/murderers who are acknowledged as highly dangerous and who are the focus of intense investigations may also be raping those they know and if these victims of that serial rapist assume -- often rightly under our current system -- that their reports will be ignored and their rape kits will go unprocessed because they know this rapist then so-called harmless backlash against rape survivors is clearly anything but harmless.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:28 AM   1 comments links to this post

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Reasonable And Rational Efforts To Control Rape Victims

As a follow up to my last post about the "I was raped" t-shirt, I want to highlight another comment on that NY Times blog post which expresses a popular desire to be able to decide how and when rape survivors can communicate to others.

Here is the comment by James (with emphasis added by me)

I believe the majority of posters here that are in opposition to this T-shirt as a form of expression for victims is not so much driven by a close-minded opinion that victims should remain silent, but rather by the context in which it is displayed.

Most people wear “statement” t-shirts as a form of carefree expression, about not-so-touchy topics, which this topic might very well be depending on the person. Regardless if this is my best friend, or a stranger on the street, and regardless of where I see it (restaurant, his/her home, etc), the question still remains for the observer, “Why are you choosing to express yourself in this manner, and why right now? What am I supposed to say? Do I stay silent?” The problem is, we don’t all respond to (or interpret) these messages alike. It puts your audience in a state of question, and uneasiness. Perhaps they aren’t prepared to discuss this, even if they are in support of your expression. It’s just not something society is (or can be expected to) be subjected to in an uncontrolled environment.

As others have suggested, it seems more reasonable if this were aimed as a form of group-expression, where it was made as a demonstration en-masse. I agree. But with that said, even if 1 of 3 people are victims, and even if every single one of them had a t-shirt like this, the likelihood they will all wear it on a regular basis to make that statement is just not reasonable. It’s not just “another” t-shirt. People won’t wear this for recreation, and if they do then it doesn’t seem as if they would be trying to drive conversation as we would like to think.

I think the notion of expressing yourself by means of a simple t-shirt, about any topic, never adequately warrants a real basis for further and constructive conversation. It’s just not a medium that can be taken very seriously in the first place. There are more intelligent means to express yourself, and just because society might be shocked to see this, doesn’t mean shocking them will help.

I’m not a victim of rape, nor do I have any friends who have shared that experience with me. However, as a member of a rational society, I think conversing with a T-shirt, no matter what your intended message, is not the message you want to send out for topics such as these. Society is not against you. But I wouldn’t venture that you can just go about making changes (personal or societal) without regard to your audience. It’s just doesn’t seem an appropriate means of expression in my humble opinion.

First, there is nothing humble about this comment. He and other non-survivors are assigning themselves the right to control the acceptable forms of communication used by rape survivors.

To defend this right he uses elevating words like intelligent, reasonable and rational for himself and those who agree with him which clearly implies that these words don't apply to those who disagree with him.

Not surprisingly, he uses demeaning phrases like "wouldn't venture that you can just go about making changes," "not reasonable" and "doesn't seem an appropriate" for rape survivors who don't agree with him.

He gives himself away with his backhanded admissions "not so much driven by a closed-minded opinion" and "Society is not against you. But ..."

What society shouldn't be subjected to is the occurance of rape or any form of sexual violence. Demanding that rape survivors help maintian the illusion that rape doesn't happen to those you see is in direct opposition to rape prevention.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:49 PM   1 comments links to this post