Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sexism Shown To Have A Real Practical Impact

As someone who was placed with the top group in my grade for math beginning in the 8th grade based on testing, and who saw the percentage of girls and women in my math classes drop as I progressed from class to class, I'm not surprised by this ABC news story about the correlation between a country's sexism and girls' math performance.

In college especially I noticed how sexism impacted which students stuck with math and who decided that they just didn't have what it took or who weren't given the same level of help when needed because of assumptions about gender. This happened in individual classes, but it happened as much in broader ways such as the supported career choices.

If I had been only twice as good in my math classes as some of the men who were encouraged to study more, I would have been encouraged to shift my expectations and my plans. This impact of sexism was real, but it wasn't well researched.

For decades, researchers and educators have debated why boys tend to perform better than girls in math. Are men naturally more logical creatures and thus better at scientific endeavors? Are girls not encouraged by their families, their friends or society at large to pursue scientific careers?

Researchers believe they may have found at least one answer: where girls live. Girls living in countries where there is more gender equality perform better in math, sometimes outpacing boys, than girls who live in countries with more male-dominated societies.

This study looked at math, but the same sexism which impacts math performances impacts criminal investigations and crime itself. The Washington Post has a story by Mary Jordon about the fact that in Britain rape cases seldom result in convictions largely because of the way rape cases are handled -- or more often mishandled.

A 15 year old girl gets raped by a 28 year old neighbor and the girl's mother has to threaten to sue to get anyone to investigate her daughter's rape. The police who do eventually investigate lose important evidence. Then the jury is informed by the judge that the defendant is "in a way a man of good character" because that man's conviction history for a variety of offenses which didn't include violence.

Like the differences in math achievement, these results might at first seem like isolated incidences of investigative and judicial incompetence, but these results are not isolated. These unjust results are pervasive. Competent and effective investigations of rape allegations combined with judicial competence in rape cases are what are isolated.

In order to have this current problem related to low conviction rates for rape cases there needs to be a widespread willingness in Britain to tolerate governmental incompetence -- to the direct benefit of rapists.

Stories are written about this problem but the groundswell of demand from all citizens for those problems to be fixed isn't there. For many people it is a SEP: Somebody Else's Problem. Unfortunately, for other people this is their desired outcome.

Think about the number of times someone will write "Women lie about rape" to justify automatically rejecting the testimony of girls and women who report being raped and to dismiss the reality of wrongful acquittals of rapists. This rejection is based on gender alone.

In the cases they refer to where the alleged victim is female and the alleged rapist is male they want the allegation to be assumed to be false -- often in the name of innocent until proven guilty. They want most rape investigations to stop before there is any meaningful investigation unless there is also a non-sexual physical assault, one which leaves injuries that are undeniable in the eyes of those who make these sexist claims.

When these people get what they want and most rape cases are stillborn then the backlash over this injustice gets spun into a backlash against men who are not treated as "innocent until proven guilty." Rapists are undeniably getting away with rape yet everyone is supposed to act like it has been proven that there was no rape whenever there is no conviction.

When a rape is undeniable in these people's opinion for whatever reason many times these sexist people will talk about women bringing rape upon themselves which turns their rapists into men who overstepped no moral or morally enforceable legal boundary. Rape gets transformed from a crime which should be punished into a form of punishment which most girls and women deserve. The response to a rape which cannot be denied is often: "What did she expect?"

Yet I have yet to hear any of these sexists make the same claim about boys and men who become crime victims while intoxicated. Muggers are muggers whether their victims are drunk or sober. Claims by muggers that the drunk men were walking the streets with hundred dollar bills sticking out of their pockets to explain that grabbing the men's wallets was consensual would be laughed off as the mythology it is.

Most of those who oppose criminal charges for marital rape say a variation of, "Women lie to gain leverage over their husbands or ex-husbands." This again is a generic and unfounded allegation. Something the sexists claim to oppose.

Many times they will claim that when the police go into an investigation assuming that the report is accurate that the police are discriminating against men, but this is incorrect. The assumption that a police report is accurate is the standard assumption for non-sex crimes. This assumption is there to ensure that the relevant evidence is collected.

In this sexist worldview the subset of men accused of rape are classified as more honest than the subset of women who report rape. Crime statistics strongly contradict this sexist view of honesty, but that doesn't stop the sexists. They explain away statistics which disprove their sexist claims by referring to a feminist conspiracy or a "rape industry." To defend sexism, they evoke sexism with men as the true victims.

When their evidence breaks down, they bemoan the "ever expanding definition of rape" (meaning "I should be able to rape my girlfriend with the law's full approval") but I doubt that they are bemoaning criminal statute changes which have recognized that boys and men can be raped.

This general attitude of hostility toward girls and women who report rape is an injustice which directly benefits rapists and which increases the number of rapes and the number of boys and men who are allowed to become serial rapists. These attitudes also feed the rationalizations of boys and men considering rape.

Those boys and men who are among the small percentage who are genuinely innocent of rape allegations against them will have their claims of innocence drowned out by all the rapists who claim that they too were falsely accused yet who are the prime benefactors of widespread injustice.

Those injustices aren't good results unless you are a rapist who got away with rape or your first priority is protecting most rapists from those pesky rape victims who dare to speak the truth.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:39 PM   1 comments links to this post

Friday, May 30, 2008

French Husband And Wife Who Plotted Serial Murders Sentenced To Life

From the Guardian UK:

A French serial killer dubbed the Ogre of Ardennes, who was driven by his obsession with virginity, was sentenced today to life in prison for the rape and murder of seven girls and young women.

Michel Fourniret's wife, Monique Olivier, who helped him select and lure his victims and conspired in some of the killings, was also given a life sentence. [...]

The couple met in the 1980s while he was serving a prison sentence for sexual assault, after she replied to his advert for a pen-pal.

Their letters showed they formed a pact under which, in exchange for Fourniret murdering Olivier's first husband, she would find him virgins to satisfy his obsession. Fourniret never killed the husband, but she kept her part of the bargain.

There are some horrific cases where the wives of murderers are considered suspects or guilty simply because of the marriage or because of the wife's denial of danger signs and I oppose that guilt by association. However, the evidence in this case proves that murder was one of the foundation stones of their marriage.

I consider this woman to be as guilty of these crimes as her husband is -- even those she didn't physically commit. The prosecutors proved that she was a full and freely consenting partner to his crimes and the law should treat her as such.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:24 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Technical Help Needed

I heard from a reader that the Safari browser in her Windows computer is no longer loading my blog.

She is getting the following error:
CFURLError Domain :- 1015

Does anyone know of any tools which can help determine what is causing this problem?
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:50 AM   0 comments links to this post

Man Who Wanted His Victim Charged With Assault Has A Week To Consider His Guilty Plea

From the Salem News:

MARBLEHEAD — A local man pleaded guilty yesterday to beating, raping and nearly choking to death his former girlfriend in a fit of what a prosecutor called "irrational jealousy" over her choice to have dinner with another man.

Christopher Houghton, 21, had been told by a Salem Superior Court judge that he would receive a three- to four-year prison term if he pleaded guilty rather than go to trial on charges that include two counts of aggravated rape, attempted murder, burglary and multiple assault charges.

But after hearing victim-impact statements and testimony from a defense-hired psychologist, Judge David Lowy said he would impose a slightly longer term of four to five years.

I disagree with the prosecutor's assessment that Houghton was acting out of irrational jealousy. After reading a description of this man's crimes (don't follow the link if you have a weak stomach) I'm appalled that this man would be offered a plea deal with a sentence of less than a decade.

His actions were extreme, but they were absolutely rational. He believed that he owned his ex-girlfriend and he believed he had the right to destroy what he owned. This thinking is unfortunately supported by many people in the way they talk about relationships and violence within relationships.

Houghton might have needed to get drunk before he could block out any sense that he was fully responsible for wanting his ex-girlfriend dead and trying to kill her, but his reported statements during the attack communicate his rationality from the beginning of the attack to the end.

This man also had a history of violence toward this woman -- so much so that she felt the need to text message him while she was out having dinner with a friend in order to prevent him from reacting violently because he didn't know where she was. Unfortunately, clear evidence of violence gets dismissed or diminished by many people once a relationship gets labeled as tumultuous.

Too often trying to murder your ex-girlfriend is more acceptable and less of a crime in many people's minds if there is a history of violence within the relationship. This happens because of victim blaming which puts some or all of the responsibility for the violent person's actions onto the victim of that violence.

This was no consensual encounter which can be reimagined by a defense attorney as somehow inexplicably spinning out of control. Yet by the plea offer it seems like the prosecutor believed a jury might dismiss breaking into a home while a woman slept and attempting to murder her as nothing more than a squabble.

Violence is not a squabble. This victim felt the need to pretend to be dead to halt the attack. Not surprisingly, for me at least, once the woman's uncontrollable physical reaction to assault revealed her to still be alive the attack continued with the same level of brutality.

He wasn't out of control. He was in the most extreme level of control. There's nothing more controlled than deciding someone doesn't deserve to live and trying to give that person what you have judged that they deserve.

Houghton's rage-filled actions which resulted in these charges are well-grounded in his thinking. He in no way snapped that night. His claim that he doesn't remember the attack is troubling because that is a handy way for him to avoid taking any responsibility for his actions. I bet he could tell those he feels are sympathetic everything this woman ever did to wrong him. Any lack of memory for what he did to wrong her is a choice. And that choice fuels his ability to be violent.

Those who think that this was merely an unhealthy relationship and therefore this man is no danger to the public have it dangerously wrong. The fuel for his crimes are in the way he thinks. He carries that fuel with him everywhere he goes and he brings that way of thinking into every human interaction he's involved with.

Once he justifies violence against one person, he has the thinking needed to justify the same level of violence against others who do something which puts them in the "don't deserve to live" category. That might be a boss who doesn't give him the pay raise he deserved.

The thinking by those who murder co-workers over some job-related dispute is the same thinking as this man used to justify his crimes. But would the public stand for the same plea deal if it had been this man's boss he'd attacked in this way? Would a tumultuous working relationship be seen as an excuse for this level of violence?

This woman who was brutally attacked did nothing that most people see as justifying this level of rage, but that does not make his actions irrational. It makes his actions inexcusable even under the normal level of victim blaming which so many people accept without a second thought.

Yet if this man's actions are truly inexcusable, why would he be offered such a short sentence considering the crimes he admits he committed?

The answer is that "irrational jealousy" is an excuse not an explanation. And that excuse materially supports those who commit these sorts of crime. Therefore his actions become excusable.

Considering the crime which included attempted murder, 4 or 5 years is appallingly low even with a plea deal. However, because this crime was committed against an ex-girlfriend, he is likely viewed as less dangerous than a stranger rapist or someone who attacks a boss.

His last statement to his victim after failing to stop her from calling 911 was revealing. "You did this to yourself." This is an excuse which has been heard by many rape victims and by many physical abuse victims.

This excuse allows the perpetrator of a serious crime to make the victim into the only perpetrator. A short criminal sentence supports this shift of responsibility away from the perpetrator.

When the police stopped him as he was driving away with blood on him, he was still enraged and wanted the police to arrest his victim for biting him while trying to get him off her. That isn't irrational, it expresses his core belief that he was entitled to inflict violence, but she wasn't entitled to defend herself against his violence.

That core belief makes him very dangerous to anyone who he sees as having wronged him. He has given himself the right to be judge, jury and executioner.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:55 AM   2 comments links to this post

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Humanitarian Child Rapists

From CNN:

Humanitarian aid workers and United Nation peacekeepers are sexually abusing small children in several war-ravaged and food-poor countries, a leading European charity has said. [...]

Children as young as 6 have been forced to have sex with aid workers and peacekeepers in return for food and money, Save the Children UK said in a report released Tuesday.

After interviewing hundreds of children, the charity said it found instances of rape, child prostitution, pornography, indecent sexual assault and trafficking of children for sex.

In the article there is a mention of the shocking level of under reporting by those who have been victims of these humanitarian rapists, but there is nothing genuinely shocking about this because of the power these rapists have over their victims. It is this power differential which gives most of these rapists the ability to commit their crimes with almost no fear of being held accountable.

People who would never think of strolling to their home neighborhood grade school looking for rape victims will rationalize doing just this in another country either because they believe they will never be caught or because they rationalize what was unacceptable into being acceptable. Calling young children "sexually mature" is one of the most popular rationalizations for sexual violence.

The reporting by victims is also reduced because of the rapists' decision to use starvation and poverty as weapons to gain their victim's cooperation. This cooperation is then twisted by rapists and too many observers into a mockery of genuine consent.

All governments and agencies which send people in to provide help need to be proactive at preventing sexual violence and exploitation by their own staff and they need to be proactive at detecting violations by their own people and by others who they interact with.

This means making it clear that "it was consensual" will not be a valid defense for allegations of child rape. The same type of background checks which are done before people can work with children in the US should be done before an agency sends people as aid workers to other countries.

The most vulnerable should not be the group which is made responsible for lack of reporting and lack of accountability. If victims aren't reporting, there are underlying problems which are out of the victims' control and which needs to be corrected by those who are there as humanitarians or peace keepers.

What many people forget is that mechanisms for reporting which fail to include protections for victims and the people victims care about will fail.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:28 AM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Get Your Nominations In For Carnival Against Sexual Violence

I hope everyone in countries which celebrated Memorial Day had a nice holiday weekend.

Thursday 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.

So far I have fewer nominations than usual and don't have any posts in the legal category. If you have written about law changes or legal actions nominate your post now.

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 the myths related to sexual violence which support rape and injustice against rape victims.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:31 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, May 23, 2008

Former Colorado Prison Guard Charged With Rape

From Colorado Independent:

An arrest warrant has been issued for a former prison guard with the Colorado Department of Corrections who is facing both civil and criminal charges of sexual misconduct with inmates, including rape.

The corrections officer failed to appear in court on Tuesday for criminal charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a female inmate he used to supervise, according to Denver district court records. A civil suit filed earlier this month accuses the same guard of raping a female inmate while she was in state custody.

District court records show that 37-year-old Lashawn Terrell, a former sergeant at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility, was first charged by state authorities with engaging in sexual relations with an inmate at the prison in 2006. The sexual acts were reported to have taken place from June to October that year, according to legal statements in the case.

While it is great that this case is being prosecuted, it seems like Terrell's sexual violence was allowed to continue for months until one inmate was left bleeding. Whether his violence was allowed because other guards didn't care or whether it was allowed because of lack of oversight I don't know, but either way there is a systemic problem that this prosecution alone won't fix. For this reason I'm glad that the state corrections department is a co-defendant in the civil suit against Terrell.

All prison employees need to understand that trying to initiate any sexual relationship with an inmate is a rape attempt. It doesn't matter whether that inmate would consent if he or she weren't incarcerated. The threat of physical violence and other harm is implicit when a non-inmate requests sexual contact from an inmate.

The behavior of prison guards and other prison employees should be a positive example for inmates. When it isn't that sends a message which supports the rationalizations of inmates who hurt others through their crimes.

When prisons turn out inmates who are worse than they came in it is usually other inmates who are given all the blame for this change, but prison guards and other prison employees can definitely contribute to this bad outcome.

When members of the public dismiss any harm done to inmates by guards or other prison employees because the inmates don't deserve the protections given to non-criminals they are contributing to an escalation of violence which will spread beyond prison walls.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:43 AM   9 comments links to this post

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Nun Who Wanted To Expose Sex Abuse Dies

From CBS News:

Sister Catherine Mulkerrin, who pressed Roman Catholic church leaders in Boston to warn parishioners about priests who had been accused of sexually abusing children, has died. She was 73. [...]

"I know I sound like a broken record," according to a memo from Mulkerrin that was released in 2002, "but we need to put in church bulletins: `It has come to our attention a priest stationed here between 19XX and 19XX may have molested children - please contact ... ."'

She said archdiocese leaders ignored her repeated concerns that priests accused of sexual abuse were allowed to return to parish work without the kind of supervision she had recommended.

"I expressed concern, consternation. What are we thinking of? What are you thinking of?" Mulkerrin said in a deposition released April 8, 2003, about her conversations with Bishop John McCormack, who handled sexual abuse complaints involving priests as an aide to Cardinal Bernard Law, then head of the archdiocese. Law resigned in 2003; McCormack became bishop of New Hampshire in 1998.

People like Mulkerrin need to be acknowledged for their efforts and more importantly, their recommendations need to be listened to and followed.

Her efforts also highlight that those who continued to protect abusive priests while failing to protect church members were not acting from ignorant good faith.

This problem of protecting abusers and dismissing the opinions of those who don't want to sacrifice the safety of the innocent isn't limited to the Catholic church and it isn't limited to churches or other religious groups. Judges jump into this same trap whenever they refer to a rapist or sex abuser as being an otherwise good person when justifying a sentence which disregards the harm that offender has done.

Those who are only supportive of practices which protect people from certain rapists and abusers are teaching rapists and abusers that rape and abuse can be acceptable behaviors if done properly by the right people. Like those who ignored Mulkerrin, these people are actively working to protect respectable violent men from accountability.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:07 PM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Attack On Hillary Clinton Expresses Pundit's Self Hatred

According to GOP consultant Alex Castellanos' own logic and standards of judging others, as demonstrated on CNN, he fears for his life when he is around any woman who is not weak.

The problems with this man's statements go deeper than sexism. The core problem is an acceptance of violent delusions in the mainstream media.

Castellanos said on CNN (transcript via Shakespeares Sister):

And some women, by the way, are named [white bitch] and it's accurate. [...]

But, look, [Hillary Clinton's] very good at playing the professional victim until she gets up closely -- and then she can put a knife in your ribs. [...]

There is no weakness in this lady.

Castellanos is either defending the making of false allegations against women such as Hillary Clinton or he needs to provide specific proof to back up his claim that Hillary Clinton will assassinate him if she gets close enough.

If CNN allows him to continue as a pundit after he made these comments then they are supporting the validity of his allegations and they are undermining their own credibility as a source of logical analysis.

If her not being weak is Castellanos' proof for his allegations then he has conflated a lack of weakness with criminal violence which means that if Castellanos has no weakness then he will put a knife in your ribs.

I guess that would make all men who are as strong as Hillary Clinton white bitches.

If her a landslide primary win in Kentucky is Castellano's proof for his allegations then he has turned voters into assassins which means that all those who voted for Obama in Oregon on the same day were attempting to assassinate Clinton.

If Clinton's decision to stay in the presidential race is Castellanos' proof for his allegations then Barack Obama's decision to enter the 2008 presidential race was a decision to try to assassinate Clinton since she was the clear front runner.

This argument against Clinton turns Mike Huckabee into a white bitch who wanted to slide a knife between John McCain's ribs since he didn't drop out of the presidential race until John McCain got the number of delegates needed to be the Republican nominee. And John McCain must be a successful white bitch who fatally stabbed Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee since McCain didn't drop out when the pundits declared his campaign DOA last summer.

Of course once we apply Castellanos' logic to judge men, this logic will be seen as illogical, if not delusional, by those who accept it when directed at women. It shouldn't take this application of Castellanos' logic to see him as either delusional or blatantly slanderous.

After all Castellanos claimed on national TV that Hillary Clinton will try to kill him if she gets close enough. The fact that many people reacted to this outlandish claim by agreeing with him informs us only of those people's character and lack of reasoning.

That Castellanos is associated with the GOP unfortunately makes the entire party look delusional when it comes to women. Any woman the GOP approves of must necessarily be viewed as weak since a lack of weakness makes a woman dangerous.

By Castellanos' own logic being an "abrasive, aggressive, uhhh, irrating person" earns someone the label of white bitch. Not surprisingly Castellanos fits his own description of Hillary Clinton. By his own admission not everyone has to agree on this assessment for it to proven true.

That means he and all the the men who talk like him are projecting a judgment of themselves onto Hillary Clinton and all of the women who are tough enough to withstand attacks from men like them.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:08 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Parole Board Agreed To Release Serial Rapist

From the Statesman Journal:

Childhood rape victim Tiffany Edens has no confidence in the Oregon parole board.

To her dismay, Edens had to sue the board to block the planned release of Richard Troy Gillmore — the notorious "jogger rapist" who committed at least nine sexual assaults in the Portland area in the 1970s and '80s.

"It's been a frustrating battle," she said in a recent interview. "It's been very wearing on me and my family. I think it's very unfair and very unfortunate that victims have to be revictimized years later by the institution that is supposed to protect them."

Gillmore's case has become a rallying cry for parole board critics, who say it demonstrated poor judgment about a sexual predator and shabby treatment of a rape victim.

I wish this situation were shocking, but it isn't. Unfortunately, the parole board may still release this serial rapist soon. One of the problems is that many of his admitted rapes couldn't be prosecuted because at the time of those rapes the statute of limitation was 3 years.

He was convicted in 1987 and given a 60 year prison sentence on 2 charges with a 30 year minimum before he would be eligible for parole, but the parole board cut the minimum in half.

When the parole board approved Gillmore's release his victim in that case was not notified and only found out about his scheduled release because her mother checked on his status. She shouldn't have had to plead with the parole board in order to testify about why the parole board should reconsider their decision to release this man.

Not surprisingly, Gillmore portrayed himself as a changed man.

The board approved his release after the testimony of the victim and a report from a veteran forensic psychologist which contradicted Gillmore's testimony -- even though the parole board admitted that Gillmore was still a danger to others.

This parole board decision falls into a familiar trap of letting sympathy for a convicted criminal trump the evidence.

After the judge's rebuke, parole officials defended the decision to release Gillmore in a written statement: "In deciding that Mr. Gillmore could be adequately supervised in the community, the board considered Mr. Gillmore's long record of positive prison conduct and responsible work history, the many classes and treatment programs he has successfully completed, as well as his understanding of his past criminal behavior."

The problem with the basis for this decision is that people who are highly dangerous when released can be model prisoners. The underlying flaw is the view that the sexually violent are people who cannot control themselves.

However, Gillmore's rapes were examples of extreme control not lack of control. He stalked his victims while jogging which indicates thoughtfulness and self-control. That means seeing control in other areas such as taking classes or expressing understanding of his past criminal behavior is meaningless.

This new behavior mirrors the old behavior. Control in order to get what he wants. Before his arrest that was rape. After his sentencing that was being paroled.

His methodology -- both old and new -- indicate that he understood what he was doing from day 1 and was able to control himself.

This parole board overlooks this at the peril of every girl and woman who would be unlucky enough to cross paths with Gillmore when he is released.

Since his old pattern was to rape strangers, he is likely to return to that pattern and may decide that the safest option for his own self-interests is to kill any future victims.

Wayne DuMond was championed by Gov. Mike Huckabee over the predictions of a past victim who predicted that the next rape victim would be murdered. But the Arkansas parole board choose sympathy for the rapist over evidence and 2 innocent women paid for that decision with their lives.

The Oregon parole board ignores that history at the peril of the lives of innocent girls and women.

Hat tip: Chaze77

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:42 PM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, May 19, 2008

Differentiating Between Jerks And Criminals

Techdirt has a post opposing the federal charges related to the suicide of Megan Meier which takes the position that harassing Megan under a false identity by first working to become her friend and then turning on her was nothing more than being a jerk.

To say that I disagree with this assessment would be an understatement.

The story is, most definitely, sad and tragic -- and it's no surprise that there are people out for vengeance, with the main target being Lori Drew, the adult who participated in some manner in the hoax. However, as we said back when state prosecutors in Missouri couldn't find any law to prosecute, being a total jerk online is not a crime. As stupid as the prank was, it wasn't designed to make the girl commit suicide.

This positioning of someone as merely a jerk is something I see often when people want to stop someone from being held legally accountable for the deliberate and targeted actions they take which cause harm to others.

It is critical to note that this hoax was not stupid as characterized above, it was clever. The hoaxer and those in on the hoax decided not only on a name for the "boy" who would friend Megan, but an entire backstory was created for this "boy." If the stated goal of information gathering used to to create this profile were true then there would have been no sudden turn by this "boy" from someone who liked her to someone who hated her.

Befriending and then attacking someone using a fraudulent identity cannot be done for any purpose other than to inflict emotional pain. That makes it an act of vengeance for the fallout between Megan and Ms. Drew's daughter. But Techdirt overlooks this fact and turns those actions into random jerk behavior.

Not surprisingly, those who want to hold the "jerk" accountable are framed as the "people out for vengeance" and people who "target" someone else. This rhetorical strategy turns those who want accountability into the only people who have crossed an ethical line. Those who want justice for the person harmed become the only people who must be stopped.

Nice trick, but one we cannot fall for.

Many tech people have taken the position that anything goes online and that targeting and harassing others and using false identities to do so are just normal behaviors which say nothing negative about the person or group of people who harasses others. But harassment is harassment. Online communication is only a medium for communication. Ganging up on a 13 year old girl online is no more excusable than ganging up on a 13 year old girl offline.

This framing device is popular with those who refuse to use the label of rapist for a boy who corners his girlfriend and makes it clear that she will be trapped until she gives him the sex he wants. If the girl doesn't try to scratch the boy's eyes out then the boy is a jerk and the girl might feel raped but she choose to give that boy sex. If she feels raped that's a tragedy. If she reports this rape "she is out for vengeance" and has "targeted" this boy.

This framing deliberately and falsely disconnects the boy's action from the girl's decision and turns the girl into the only one who took actions to intentionally harm someone else. Since a boy who uses physical coercion to rape is framed as a non-rapist then those who hold him accountable have -- by this warped logic -- committed the greatest wrong.

Those who use the "jerk" excuse claim to be against the harm done, but their framing directly supports that harm and complete lack of accountability for the harm caused.

A jerk is someone who lets the door slam in your face when you are carrying a heavy box. A jerk is someone who lets a stinky fart rip the second the elevator doors close and then smiles as the others in that elevator car make disgusted faces.

The woman who created a false MySpace profile took actions which cannot accurately be equated to genuine jerk behavior.

What they are doing is deliberately disconnecting cause from effect. Those who intentionally inflict harm on others are excused of all responsibility by labeling the harm their actions caused as a tragedy.

Getting killed by a landslide is a tragedy. Getting swept away in a flood is a tragedy. Being targeted for harassment through fraud is no tragedy. It is malicious injury even if those who inflicted the injury used the Internet as their weapon.

Those who don't acknowledge this cannot be viewed as credible observers.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:55 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why Rape Survivors Go Online

CNN has a story about a teenage girl, Crystal, who turned to the Internet for help after being raped at the age of 15 and after the criminal justice system stopped working for her. The first part of the story focuses on rape victims who decide to go online and the risks they face by doing so.

Many of these rape victims abandoned the criminal justice system after those systems abandoned them or worse turned on them. Other rape victims saw this abandonment by the legal system and decided the safest option was to avoid a system which can so easily turn on rape victims. It this danger which often gets minimized or simply accepted as being a normal part of the process in so many stories about survivors and the Internet.

What stood out for me as a key problem impeding the recovery of rape victims -- and motivating this girl's call for help -- was this section near the end of the article:

Orange County authorities charged the 23-year-old man Crystal accused of assaulting her with lewd or lascivious battery. According to court documents, Crystal and the man both said they had an ongoing sexual relationship.

The prosecutor, who declined to comment to CNN, concluded that the teen and the 23-year-old had consensual sex, according to the case file.

Florida law states that a 15-year-old cannot give consent to sex. And though Crystal was 15 at the time of the alleged forced encounter, the prosecutor wrote that the case would not be prosecuted because Crystal was "a mere 1 month away" from turning 16, when it would be "legal to give consent," according to documents.

This prosecutor's conclusion goes against the law -- even the statutory rape law -- and it directly dismisses the experience of the girl who was forcefully raped. Now that CNN picked up her story I wouldn't be surprised if her case has been reopened, but it shouldn't take going public for a rape victim to get what should have been done in the first place.

Even if she had some sort of sexual history with her rapist -- that would make him a criminal even with her agreement -- yet in the eyes of a prosecutor a forceful rape magically became consensual sex and the statutory rape laws were treated as if they didn't exist.

That is as logical as using the fact that a man previously got a boy to spar with him in the boxing ring -- as if the boy were an adult capable of making an informed decision about the risks of allowing someone to punch him in the head -- in violation of the gym's rules as proof that when the man sucker punched the boy outside the boxing ring that the assault was no assault at all but merely another occurrence of sparring.

The previous disregard of the rules by the man in this scenario actually supports the plausibility of the later allegation of physical assault. The man's attempts to shift responsibility for his actions onto the boy would likely fall flat.

No reasonable person would view an adult sparring with a child in direct violation of the rules as nullifying the possibility that this man was guilty of physically assaulting that child. But when the violence is sexual many seemingly reasonable people instantly lose their reason.

And that loss of reason is what makes survivors going online to talk about their rapes so risky to the survivor's mental well-being and why having identifying information is risky. This online danger is only a more easily identified manifestation of the danger rape victims face when they tell people offline.

These pervasive attitudes which are hostile to those who disclose rape are also why talking about having been raped will give some people justification to treat that survivor as a liar the moment they learn that survivor's rapist was not convicted of a sex crime.

Here's what one blogger (I refuse to give this person a link) had to say about this girl's YouTube video:

A 16 year old self proclaimed rape victim reaches out to You Tube to help with her case. Real or not? Decide for yourself

The problem with this question is that it is an invitation for unfounded allegations.

It didn't take long to find people who have judged this girl's case without any genuine concern about the actual evidence in her case. They are instead judging her case by comparing this video to what they believe a "real rape victim" would do. For some people the making of this video is all the proof they need to declare her a liar or to declare that she is perpetrating a hoax. These people are revealing their eagerness to attack rape victims. Any excuse will do.

Ironically, those who rush to make unfounded and false accusations against rape survivors are among the loudest opponents of unfounded and false rape accusations. This contradiction means that these people are in reality hostile to all rape accusations. The few reports which are proven to be false simply give them an excuse to continue with their unfounded and false accusations.

Judge Phillip Brown in Georgia is one such person who seems to have no idea that his assessment of a lawsuit filed by Melanie Ross against Daniel Day over a rape was prejudicial. After demanding her entire sexual history -- in opposition to state and federal shield laws -- he threw out a civil lawsuit and fined her $150,000.

If his demand for a woman's entire sexual history is legal because the rape shield laws only apply to criminal cases that needs to change because this demand is a form of intimidation that clearly protects rapists by looking for an excuse to dismiss the relevent evidence in the case.

The claim that having a sexual history means that all rape accusations are false is what is truly frivolous and illogical unless current sex crime laws are ignored in favor of the old laws written before women had the right to vote. Those old laws didn't outlaw rape, they defined who men could and could not legally rape. This means that those old laws legally sanctioned the rape of certain girls and women.

The judge found that since Ross and Day had previously had a sexual relationship, Ross should have known her claims were “frivolous... there was no reasonable belief that a court would accept Plaintiff’s claims...”

This judge's ruling places Ross in the group of women who can be raped by Day with the full blessing of the law. But because the judge supports this man's right to rape indirectly by calling this woman's claim frivolous, Judge Brown can deny the reality of what he did.

This judge's assessment in this case goes beyond mere illogic because in their previous sexual relationship, it was reported that Day's actions hurt Ross and when she asked him to stop hurting her, he refused.

The moment Day refused to stop hurting Ross during sex, he became a rapist. That violence ended their relationship. Yet this judge viewed this as evidence against the woman hurt, not against the man who demonstrated a willingness to be sexually violent a month before the alleged rape which left Ross with bruises.

If this is logical, it is the logic which acquaintance rapists use to decide who they can rape.

I believe this judge should disclose his entire sexual history with the same level of detail he required of this woman to prove to the appeals court that his ruling on this lawsuit was in fact impartial and not self-serving.

If this woman's entire sexual history is relevant to this lawsuit then his is as well. If he is unwilling to make such a disclosure, he should be viewed as unable to make an impartial ruling on this case.

Of course Judge Brown will not make such a disclosure because he didn't demand a similar sexual disclosure from Day which might have shown that the Plaintiff's claims were highly credible and which might have revealed other sex crimes. A potential pattern of consensual sex is supposedly proof that rape is impossible, but a potential pattern of sexual violence is meaningless.

That communicates that this judge views sexual violence as irrelevant to rape cases.

These 2 cases are far from being isolated incidents. There is another case in Cleveland where the prosecutors don't seem to understand the evidence.

Prosecutors say they believe the girl was telling the truth, but say surveillance video of the incident, does not prove a rape occurred. The girl and her mother, who have seen the tape, believe it does. "Take it to court 'cause there's a lot of parts showing what he did when he picked me up and threw me in the closet," the girl said, describing what the video shows.

"She was trying to go back through the double doors, he had cut her path off, he lifted her up by the back of her jacket and walked her to this room," said the girl's mother.

The actual incident was not recorded, but prosecutors say there are two instances on the tape where the girl appears to be moved through the hallway by force. "And there's perhaps ten instances that kind of counter-balance that or counteract that, that make it look as though she is moving voluntarily," Naso adds.

The problem with the view that anything can counter-balance force is that force creates an atmosphere where there is no ability for the girl to make a free decision. Once a boy corners a girl and uses force on her to get her to move "voluntarily" then her testimony that she was forced has been proven.

If the prosecutors don't get this or if they do believe this but communicate a belief that force is meaningless to proving rape that encourages rapists

This blatant abandon of reason is also why having survivors going online to talk about their rapes and the flaws in the legal system -- both criminal and civil -- which support the sexually violent is so important.

Many of those who want the criminal and civil justice systems to continue to be illogical and hostile to rape victims are active online and if those voices aren't countered many people will accept dangerous beliefs either because the topic is unpleasant or because the hostility toward rape victims serves their selfish desires.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:19 AM   10 comments links to this post

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 47

Welcome to the May 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.

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

creative expression

In Mother’s Day and the Release of No Trespassing posted at Menstrual Poetry, we get information about a new film which was inspired by the experiences of a child whose own mother was a child sex trafficker and a child molester.


In Breast Ironing posted at Womanist Musings, we get a discussion of a pervasive action which is done by mothers to prevent girls from being targeted for rape and we get a discussion of possible solutions.


In Amnesty International Calls for Protocol for Rape Victims at IHS posted at Falmouth Institute/American Indian Report Blog, we get a discussion of the request for people to join forces with American Indian and Alaska Native women in demanding that the Indian Health Service standardized protocols be used for treating all victims of sexual assault.

In A Poorly Drafted Sex Crime Law and "Rape by Fraud" posted at Sex Crimes, we get a discussion of a Massachusetts bill which leaves the definition of fraud so broadly defined that it would go beyond the intended scope of the bill.

In Tulane Ignored Rape Allegation Against Disgraced Frat posted at Student Activism, we get a discussion about the treatment of a fraternity which was suspended only after ten members of Tulane University’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity were arrested.

In Idiots? posted at Mortality's Thoughts, we get a discussion about the flaw in proving a crime only through intent with the example of a man in Sweden who wasn't convicted after shooting 2 teens and killing 1 because they couldn't prove that the man intended to kill those teens.

In Eleven-Year-Old Rape Victim Was Asking For It posted at Steph's blog, we get a discussion of the community-service sentence given by Judge Robert Atherton to Jon Dixon.

In Federal Lawsuit to Challenge Law Enforcement on Ignoring Crimes Against Black Women and Girls:Romona Moore posted at What About Our Daughters, we get a discussion about legal action being taken to get law enforcement to respond before missing women are found dead.

In Rapist is a contributing member of society posted at Astraea's Scales, we get a discussion of the danger of judging rapists as if they hadn't been convicted of rape.

In Ohio Supreme Court upholds life sentence for rape committed as juvenile posted at Cincinnati Law Library Association, we get a discussion of the Ohio Supreme Court's ruling which upheld the state’s mandatory life imprisonment sentence for the forcible rape of an underage victim.

In Defining Rape When Vulnerability Created By Others posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I begin a series of posts on defining rape sparked by a question from a commenter about a scenario in a Law and Order episode where a girl was drugged and raped by one man and then soon after found by a friend who decided to have sex with her despite of or because of signs of her trauma.

In Raped or Abused? Go to Jail! posted at BARBARA'S TCHATZKAHS, we get a discussion of the treatment of women in countries such as Pakistan when women run away from abusive marriages.

media watch

In U Conn Editor Attacked for Writing Assault Story posted at Student Activism, we get a discussion to the hostile reaction to a student who wrote about her personal experience of fending off a sexual attacker and how forcefully defending herself emboldened another man to physically attack her while every man nearby did nothing to help her.

In Walking Out a Rapist posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion of an awareness campaign meant to fight sex trafficking which uses the slogan: Walk in a punter. Walk out a rapist.


In WrongCards Aren't Only Wrong, They're Disgusting posted at Menstrual Poetry, we get a discussion about a site which makes a joke out of spiking someone's coffee with rohypnal.

personal stories

In Bordering Rapist posted at Mortality's Thoughts, we get a discussion of viewing unwanted sexual behavior on a bus and how most people simply ignored that behavior.

In An Open Apology.... To The Ones Who May Have Come After Me posted at Journeying Forward, we get a personal and thought provoking letter written to those that may have been raped, in part, because a rape was not reported.

In The Mundane Rape posted at Female Impersonator, we get a discussion about the popular mythology which rejects calls for regular guys to make sure they never rape because only born monsters rape.

raising awareness

In "You think that was assault?" posted at Shakespeare's Sister, we get a discussion of the actions taken against a college woman who defended herself from a man who assaulted her and had him pinned which allowed the first attacker to escape and which made the woman run to escape further violence.

In On "Real Rape" and Rape Apologists posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion about the behavior of comedian Johnny Vegas in a show which some audience members saw as the rape of an audience member who was pressured into being carried onto stage as if she was a corpse where she was clearly sexually groped against her will -- and possibly also subjected to digital penetration.

In Justify This posted at rmott62, we get a reaction to the report “Challenging Men’s Demand for Prostitution in Scotland” which highlights the punter’s words which justify their use of prostituted women and girls from someone who was the target of those words and the actions they justified.

In Abuse is More Than Physical posted at SANCTUARY FOR THE ABUSED, we get a discussion of the various dynamics of abuse which go beyond actions which leave bruises or physical scars.

In Violence Against Women Is A Issue About The Behavior Of Men posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss the radical idea that rape is about the behavior of the rapists not the behavior of rape victims.


In Victim's Reaction to Being Abused posted at BARBARA'S TCHATZKAHS, we get a discussion of how abuse victim's experiences and perception are invalidated.


In Domestic Violence and Executive Dysfunction posted at GNIF Brain Blogger, we get a discussion of executive brain function and the implications it has on designing domestic violence programs to address different subtypes of batterers.

In "Unwanted Sexual Contact, in Context" posted at Feminist Law Professors, we get information on a long term study done at the University of New Hampshire.


In Child Sexual Abuse - Facts VS. Myths posted at Telling It Like It Is, we get a discussion about beliefs people hold which may cause parents to falsely assume their child is safe from sex abusers.

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.

The next submission deadline is May 28 at 11 pm and the next edition will be out on Jun. 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   2 comments links to this post

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Settlement Near For Rape Victim Who Contracted HIV

From the Tennessean:

Metro Nashville is expected to pay $485,000 to settle a lawsuit because its hospital didn't tell a rape victim about drugs that might have prevented her from contracting HIV, and its police department didn't immediately test the rapist for the virus.

City attorneys have advised the Metro Council to approve the settlement next week. The assault victim would be paid $250,000; her husband would receive $235,000.

The woman, who is now HIV-positive, was raped in 2004. Metro Law Director Sue Cain said police did not have a procedure in place to test the suspect for human immunodeficiency virus, which leads to AIDS, despite a state law requiring immediate testing of rape suspects. The suspect was not tested for several weeks.

Those who love to label all rape survivors who file civil suits "gold diggers" may have a harder time slamming this survivor, but I won't be shocked if I read someone doing just that. The hostility against most rape victims runs bone deep in some people.

What this case highlights is how important good procedures are so that effective treatment isn't a matter of luck. Unfortunately, cases like this are often needed to ensure that the agencies which failed rape victims take that failure seriously and fix the source of that failure.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:05 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

If People Don't Understand The Difference Between Consent And Compliance When ...

... they are talking about a victim who was kidnapped at the age of 10 and who made a run for freedom at age 18 when her captor left her outside his house briefly to talk on the phone while she was vacuuming his van.

Austrian police are facing justifiable outrage over the leaking of details about Natascha Kampusch's kidnapping which support the rationalizations of her kidnapper and others who use any cooperation as proof that their criminal activity is at most only technically a crime and that the kidnapped child became a willing victim.

This cooperation fallacy impacts many cases and not just long-term kidnapping cases. But this fallacy isn't based in logic because most people have been taught that the safest way to get through many crimes is to cooperate. This means that they know that cooperation does not equal true consent. Handing a robber a couple hundred dollars is not the same as giving that person a couple hundred dollar gift. Anyone who suggests this equivalency would be viewed as stupid or dangerous.

At most convenience stores supervisors train new employees to cooperate with their robbers. An employee who tries to fight off a robber is likely to be fired. Losing cash or merchandise is considered more acceptable than the risk of losing a clerk's life.

This isn't a difficult concept for most people to understand unless the crime is kidnapping or rape. Then too many people seem to suffer from brain freeze and any cooperation becomes consent. Then fear of death or physical injury or pain suddenly becomes nothing more than excuses which allow that person to play the victim.

I believe this brain freeze comes in because it directly supports widely accepted strategies and rationalizations of those who are trying to have sex or sexual contact with someone who has not consented to that sex contact. Under this rationalization if they can get an unwilling person to cooperate then they will have gotten legal consent. Committing sex crimes in this way is in no way an accident or a misunderstanding as it gets called when the reality of rape from the victim's perspective is undeniable.

Too often the criminal justice system seems to suffer from similar brain freeze. This can cause a real rape victim to be viewed as a false reporter when the same investigator would never think of applying this label to a convenience store clerk who was equally cooperative.

When someone is under such a constant threat of death that the threat no longer needs to be spoken, complying to unspoken threats is not consenting. Looking happy when your captor allows a friend to see you is not the same thing as being happy about having been kidnapped. If Kampusch hadn't looked happy, it's possible she wouldn't have been left alone the day she escaped.

Trying to find something positive to cling to during 8 years of captivity is not the same thing as being a happy and a willing captive. Working to not be destroyed by trauma does not cancel out the existence or severity of that trauma.

Excusing certain horrific crimes because the victim cooperated communicates people's opinion about the acceptability of those crimes.

Hat tip: The Curvature

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:34 AM   2 comments links to this post

Monday, May 12, 2008

Plain Dealer's Beyond Rape Series

I highly recommend that everyone read the series of 5 articles in the Cleveland Plain Dealer written by Joanna Connors which cover her rape from multiple angles. She writes about her personal experience with stranger rape in 1984, the subsequent trial and how the rape continued to impact her life even though she wanted to believe that she got over it quickly. But this isn't just a personal essay. She also writes about the violence in her rapist's history and family and what happened to him after he raped her.

Because of the well-defined scope of the series, there are many important topics which either are omitted or given only a sentence or two. This isn't a problem for me because the series isn't pretending that it covers everything about rape and the responses to rape.

Some of the issues which only got a sentence or two in this series raise important questions about who does and does not get justice after rape. The prosecutor called Ms. Connors an ideal victim which highlights how many victims who aren't ideal in a prosecutor's eyes but who suffered the same crime may see a very different outcome even if the evidence of rape and identification were the same.

This series of articles are great, but the effort of communicating the full reality of rape will be ineffective and will unfortunately continue to support the stranger danger mythology if the Plain Dealer editors don't continue with more equally in-depth articles on the important questions which this series couldn't explore fully such as why many black women feel that reporting white rapists is futile or how violence like this rape can be prevented by dealing with what caused this man to commit rape.

I don't believe that this one journalist should be the only one at the Plain Dealer with the responsibility to continue with the work she started.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:50 AM   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Get Your Nominations In 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.

Together we can help reduce the acceptance of rape and the myths related to sexual violence which support rape and injustice against rape victims.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:38 AM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Defining Rape As Speaking Out Against Rape

David (from NY, NY) left the following comment on my post Defining rape and the failure to investigate competently:

I think you're obsessed with rape and need a life. Other than trying to rape young men's minds.

I find these types of comments revealing especially when they are left on posts which document the real injustices done to those who are raped.

In his warped worldview demanding that young men don't rape becomes rape.

Unfortunately the impression he leaves behind is that he takes my speaking out against those who rape very personally. Why oh why won't I leave young men like him alone with their rationalizations?

Update: To any anonymous boys who think that hurling different insults at me make you clever. All you are managing to communicate is that you have chosen to be pathetically weak and use verbal and physical violence against girls and women as a substitute for developing genuine strength and genuine character.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:05 AM   1 comments links to this post

Friday, May 09, 2008

Defining Rape And The Failure To Investigate Competently

Earlier in my series about Defining rape I talked about how the resistance to calling those who rape "rapists" impacts the investigations -- or lack thereof -- to reports of rape. This problem isn't just a matter of personal opinion by individuals such as myself.

Most botched or stillborn investigations are never reviewed, but a few are investigated and the results don't inspire confidence that most of those who are charged with investigating sex crimes are both competent and interested in determining the truth.

Details of the first review comes from the Lower Hudson Journal News:

Allegations that a former Putnam Valley teacher drugged and raped a 12-year-old girl in his classroom were handled improperly by school officials, police and prosecutors, according to the [New York] state Commission of Investigation.

In a report made public yesterday, the commission lists several "significant failures" that negatively influenced the investigation surrounding the teacher, who was not named but is identified in court papers as Dennis Tave.

"The handling of this case was completely unacceptable, and, as a result, we may never know what occurred in the classroom that day," said Alfred D. Lerner, chairman of the Commission of Investigation. "There are established protocols for how cases like this are supposed to be handled, and they were not followed in this instance."

For many people, including those who rape and those who blame victims, the handling of this case likely seems perfect. The excuse for this incompetence is often, "he said, she said."

I recommend reading the entire NY state final report (pdf). Anyone who cares will be appalled.

Hat tip: Hall Monitor

The second review which is underway comes from the BBC about an investigation into allegations by a girl who reported a series of rapes by her stepfather.
A fresh police investigation has been launched into the case of a woman who says she was raped by her stepfather while growing up in the Swansea Valley.

South Wales Police will look at claims she was abused for a 10-year period. Meanwhile the Independent Police Complaints Commission ( IPCC) will investigate the way police originally responded to her allegations.

A national newspaper has covered the woman's story and last month the CPS called for a new investigation

In both of these reviews it was an outsider or outsiders whose refusal to let the original lack of investigations go unchallenged. These failures impact more than these 2 victims, they impact the decision making process of would-be rapists about whether they can get away with rape and they impact the rationalizations of rapists who insist that what they do isn't real rape.

When rape victims' reports are repelled or effectively submarined then those who are responsible might as well give high fives to all rapists who commit those types of rapes.

It isn't enough for investigators to say they are against rape, their actions need to prove that they are against all rapes and not just the ones that have people calling for the death penalty.

For those who say it is right to treat only horrific rapes -- from the jaded observer's perspective -- as real crimes then it must be right to treat only horrific non-sex crimes as real crimes.

Investigators need to be held accountable when they fail rape victims and if the problem is systemic then the agencies or administrators need to be held accountable. If that means civil lawsuits, so be it.

If investigators won't do their jobs competently for the sake of rape victims, then maybe they need to learn to do their jobs competently for the sake of not costing their employer thousands or millions in a civil suit.

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

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Defining Rape Vs Defining Who Is A Rapist

This time I will be highlighting only part of Anna C's comments on my previous post in this series.

And what makes you think that I "don't care" about sexist assumptions? Just because I haven't come to the point where I agree with everything written on this blog doesn't mean I don't care about men being thought to be superior.

"a "not-so-bad" crime for women"

When did I ever imply that I thought that? The girl I knew who was abused was completely messed up by it. I really do think it's an incredibly serious crime - it sickens me how in the UK sentences for rape are ridiculously low (one guy who raped a 4 yr old I think became eligible for parole after 4yrs in prison for "good behaviour").

I think what would be more accurate and helpful is to understand that you are making a mistake with the belief that what is clearly a bad crime for the victim (like the girl in the Law and Order episode) might not be a crime committed by the boy or man whose actions were rape (like the second boy in that episode).

The defacto practical effect of this is for the criminal justice system to treat rape like it is a not so bad crime for women.

This disconnect, which is pathetically common, is responsible for the sentences which sickens you. What the 4 year old experienced was horrific but that child's rapist isn't judged or sentenced in proportion to the crime that child experienced. He is judged on general perceptions about him. Therefore his excuses and his "good behaviour" trump the crime he committed and ultimately it trumps public safety.

That doesn't mean I'm trying to deny rape.

The problem is that not seeing that the second boy in the Law and Order episode is a rapist represents a pervasive way of thinking which in practical terms does deny that rape. In practical terms that way of thinking supports police who fail to properly investigate all reports of rape since it is a given that some rapes are not committed by criminals.

This explains why some investigators listen uncommitted until the rape victim says something which makes it clear that there is a genuine rapist involved. Some investigators who decide that there is no rapist involved will decide that the real rape victim is therefore trying to file a false police report. This might be something as general as learning that the rapist is the rape victim's boyfriend or even her ex-boyfriend.

This denial was explicit in the case of marital rape exceptions in criminal rape statutes. Marriage licenses were licenses to rape with the full blessing of the law. Even in jurisdictions where this exception was removed, in practical terms it might as well still be on the books. Phyllis Schlafly who vocally maintains that men can't rape their wives is scheduled to get an honorary doctorate from Washington University. That she's not viewed as pro-rapist speaks to the pervasive level of rapist denial in the administrators of that university.

Rape victims who are scolded for trying to ruin an innocent boy or man's life can thank this acceptance of perpetrator-free rape for having their safety and the safety of the future victims of that perpetrator disregarded.

Most people who stray into rape denial aren't doing it because they directly approve of what they believe constitutes a real rape. What they do is echo the rationalizations which allows rapists to deny that they made deliberate choices which makes them real rapists.

This denial gives boys and men internal permission to proceed without any consideration about whether they have meaningful and legal consent or if their actions are harmful. All they have to worry about is whether general attitudes will reject labeling them as rapists. Can they get away with it is all that matters.

In Salon's Broadsheet Tracy Clark-Flory wrote about a PR campaign directed at men who use sex slaves:

[...] I'm uncomfortable calling anyone who sleeps with a trafficked girl a rapist, even though she is being forced to have sex against her will. Certainly, johns who know they are having sex with a trafficked girl are rapists, and it could be argued that there are many more cases of involuntary rape caused by willful blindness -- but I don't think all men who unwittingly sleep with trafficked girls are guilty of rape. [...]

If it is [applying the label rapist to all clients of trafficked prostitutes], it raises a host of questions. For instance: If a man has sex with a drug-addicted sex worker, or a prostitute who has an abusive pimp, is he a rapist?

There truly is nothing unwitting about these men because they are walking into illegal brothels of their own free will. The need to protect these men's reputations while they use illegal businesses is more important than protecting sex slaves. Notice how troubling Ms. Clark-Flory finds the idea of considering the reality of prostituted girls and women.

The truth behind prostitution? Apparently, men can't handle the truth and if the price of denial is the repeated rape of those trapped by traffickers, abusers or drugs then so be it.

The truth is that if everyone considered these realities then the number of rapes would plummet with no need to lecture girls and women on what they should do to be safe from rape.

These issues and the reality behind them must be raised if we are serious about effective rape prevention.

The statement in the awareness campaign: Walk in a punter. Walk out a rapist. is one that many of those who claim to be completely against sex slavery reject because it refuses to excuse those who do the raping and who provide the demand for sex slaves simply because they didn't do the dirty work of physically enslaving these children and adults. Many of these people would label Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter as his personal sex slave for 24 years, as a monster.

But his views mirror that of those who are excused of criminal responsibility.

"I tried as best I could to care for my family in the cellar," Fritzl said in the published comments.

His acknowledgement that yes he did something wrong, but he isn't a criminal is typical and matches the rationalizations of the rapists which the public rallies behind as men falsely accused of rape by vindictive girls and women who had morning after regrets. Would a real rapist bring his victim flowers?

The view that men aren't responsible for ensuring that the person they are having sex with is capable of consent and freely giving that consent directly supports the continuing cycle of human trafficking. And it supports the rationalizations of men like Fritzl. He wasn't imprisoning his daughter and 3 grandchildren, he was ensuring their safety from all the dangers of the world.

Update (11/13): Fritzl has been charged with murder in addition to rape and slavery.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:08 PM   1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Case Which Explains Why I Try To Get Through To Those Who Minimize Rape

In my last series of posts on defining rape I responded to a series of comments by Anna C because I know how much damage can be caused when so-called intellectual people come up with excuses for rapists who don't fit the stereotype of the monster rapist. This case is a reminder about why those excuses cannot be accepted or ignored.

I won't claim to know whether Anna C's comments were made in good faith or as an intentional effort to cover for certain rapists, but either possibility supports dangerous attitudes and negatively impacts public safety.

From Stabroek News:

An 18-year-old waitress of Santa Rosa Restaurant & Bar on the Corentyne who was seen drinking with friends at ‘Dust Till Dawn,’ a bar at Port Mourant died after she was apparently gang raped early yesterday morning.

Around 5:30 am yesterday cane-cutters, on their way to work saw the teen, Deokali “Tina” Peter lying naked on the roadside obliquely opposite Dust Till Dawn, groaning in pain. She died at around 8 am without seeking medical attention.

Three acquaintances are in custody assisting with investigations and a post- mortem examination is expected to be performed today. One of the cane-harvesters took off his shirt and gave it to the young lady to cover herself and they then carried her to residents who assisted her with a pair of pants. Peter who was shivering asked the residents for some water and they gave it to her and returned indoors.

The residents said that the woman tried in vain to flag down transportation to go to the hospital while calls made to the police went unanswered. The teen was covered with mud and her clothes which police later found nearby were also muddy.

Even if gang rape charges don't stick because the men will claim "it was consensual" those who left this woman naked should be charged with manslaughter for their involvement in her death. There can be no excuses made for these men because this woman choose to drink.

If a woman who yells rape when a gun is pointed at her by her angry husband is convicted of manslaughter -- despite the fact that her husband suspected that she was cheating on him before he came home and despite the fact that he ordered his wife out of her lover's truck at gunpoint rather than ordering some unknown man off his wife -- then men who leave a woman naked in a field must be charged for their involvement in her death.

None of those who support the manslaughter conviction of Tracy Roberson can now legitimately claim that these men shouldn't be charged with manslaughter because they didn't kill her. Ms. Roberson didn't kill Devin La Salle but she was convicted in his shooting death when it was her husband who shot and killed the other man.

Once actually killing another person isn't a requirement then all rapists (convicted and suspected) whose actions lead to the death of their victims or alleged victims should be charged with manslaughter. This is true whether their victim died of alcohol poisoning, an overdose or suicide.

I'm sure all those who insist on personal responsibility -- from rape victims only -- will resist this idea of holding rapists responsible for the deaths of rape victims. But that only communicates who they care about and who they view as disposable.

I'm also troubled that the calls made to the police went unanswered.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:29 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Defining Rape Hypothetically

Again I will be taking Anna C's comment on my post "Defining Rape By The Harm Done To The Victim" section by section.

"You are creating a false scenario with a non-existent drug as my position and then trying to disprove that false scenario. I'm beginning to doubt that you are commenting in good faith."

I'm sorry if I have given you that impression. I promise you that I am commenting in good faith. There would be no reason to be just commenting for idle fun/trying to make fun of this issue - I do appreciate that it's a very serious one. It would hardly be the most "fun" thing to do to sit around writing long comments on someone's blog dicussing rape.
There is a clear reason for someone to comment in bad faith. Many people work very hard to reframe the issue of rape and consent in order to excuse the actions of certain rapists when they are unable to deny those rapists' victims experience of rape.

These people have learned that if they come in ranting they are likely to be quickly banned, but if they come in posing as someone with no agenda and a genuine interest in understanding the issues around sexual violence they will be given more slack.

Your last comment was especially entrenched in denying that those who rape the vulnerable are always making conscious decisions and taking conscious actions. Instead you seem determined to turn many rapes into nothing more than an accident. There is no such thing as no-fault rape.

I just have a purely intellectual interest in the whole issue of how consent is defined etc. Perhaps this is the problem - this issue is obviously so filled with emotion for you because of your past experiences whereas I have never been sexually assaulted, and have only known one person who has (and that was an extremely clear-cut case as regards consent, so these issues wouldn't really be relevant to her).
The difference is more than intellectual vs. emotional. My perspective is grounded in reality -- as a survivor and as a trained victims advocate -- and you seem dismissive of the reality of rape -- in order to play so-called intellectual games.

Your framing in the paragraph is intentionally demeaning toward me. I've been raped therefore my insights get dismissed as lacking intellectual merit. What lacks intellectual merit is this statement which is a rehash of numerous statements made against those who have survived rape in order to justify ignoring their experiences and mocking their right to speak about the subject of rape.

In my rape a lack of consent was clear cut unless you buy the excuses rapists give for ignoring lack of consent. It is the multitude of excuses for claiming that the rapist believed there was consent which make these issues directly relevant to the person you know who was sexually assaulted.
It's my abstract interest that leads me to think up scenarios like the one with the non-existent (as yet) drug. That's just how I like to think - when presented with a theory (in this case, "If there is any possibility at all that she is impaired or not freely consenting then proceeding is rape") I find it useful to see how water-tight the theory is - if it holds fast when applied to unusual, hypothetical situations. This is why the Law and Order episode fascinated me - that was a very unlikely scenario (that someone would have sex with someone that they didn't know had been drugged) but which dealt with the kind of questions which would apply in more common situations.
The problem is that an abstract interest, as you put it, can lead people to make bad conclusions based on bad data which gets defended by the speculative nature of the data. When you put bad data into a good theory then your results are meaningless and prove nothing. Defending bad data because it is speculative fails to be intellectual.

Unfortunately, the scenario in Law and Order is not unlikely because of a widespread attitude that deliberately supports exploiting girls incapable of consent. Those who will rape a drunk girl won't care if someone else spiked her drink and raped her. Often knowing that someone else used a girl sexually is the opposite of a deterrent for rape. It is used as a rationalization for not stopping.

As Anonymous said in a comment on my last post:
Ladies, if ya don't want to have sex at a party don't drink so much. Christ, talk about not taking responsibility, "meet me here tomorrow." Really?

This man has the same attitude as that boy in the Law and Order episode. He defends raping the intoxicated by calling it romantic to refuse to wait until genuine consent can be confirmed.
Basically in the Law and Order scenario there were two issues:

1. the fact that she couldn't legally consent because she had been drugged

2. the fact that she was clarly vulnerable and possibly near to alcohol poisoning

You thought that even if point 1 hadn't applied, then point 2 alone would mean that he was guilty of rape. "If the girl hadn't been drugged with GHB and everything else was the same, my opinion of this boy's guilt remains the same." With my hypothetical scenario, I was trying to see whether if point 2 did not apply yet point 1 did you would still consider it rape, and to do this I created the imaginary drug.
Not being able to consent comes from more than having any drug in your system. Someone who takes cholesterol-lowering medicine is on a technical level drugged, but if the drug doesn't impair that person it doesn't nullify the ability to legally consent.

Also in your 2 points you are making the false assumption that her drunkenness and trauma from a previous rape -- or apparent drunkenness -- doesn't impact her ability to consent. It does.

The drugs that are used to facilitate rape -- including alcohol -- are given because they have a clear impact which changes behavior or the ability to think or the ability to remember events clearly or a combination of all three. Any drug which doesn't do any of these 3 won't be used as a date rape drug so creating such a phantom date-rape drug is meaningless.

No matter what substances are or are not in another person, the responsibility for ensuring meaningful consent belongs to the person who wants sex. The ability to give meaningful consent can be nullified even if someone is stone-cold sober. Most non-stranger rapists approach sex by depending on reducing their target's options or waiting until the other person's normal defenses are gone or severely reduced. This is premeditation.
And I'm not alone in finding thought experiements helpful (Judith Jarvis Thomson?) Do you find her "reliance on" a scenario "that doesn't exist except in [her] imagination... troubling" as well? I doubt it, since (from some of your posts on this blog) you seem pro-choice, and so would agree with her. Also, you have no strong emotional reasons (I presume) to be pro-life. This is the opposite of your attitude towards my approach - you are (obviously!) anti-rape and so naturally have an instinctive revulsion towards anything that appears to lessen the guilt of any rapist.
My problems with your approach aren't whether you are thinking of "what if" but whether your "what ifs" are attempts to distort reality in order to find a way to excuse real rapists of their legal responsibility. There is nothing genuinely intellectual in that. That is called rationalization which is used by rapists and their defenders to excuse the deliberate choices made by rapists.

Your search for ways to make the boy in the Law and Order episode not guilty of rape matches that boy's rationalizations for his decisions which clearly resulted in that girl being raped by him.

My revulsion for this isn't instinctive, but rational and practical. This boy had the power to prevent that rape and he decided that he preferred committing rape simply because he could get what he wanted by disregarding the welfare of that girl.

Anyway I hope you understand my intentions - I am quite troubled by the fact that you think I am a trouble-maker or someone who is being flippant about the issue. Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my posts - you clearly have put a lot of thought into your answers, and I now understand the position on rape of your brand of feminism better. I take the doubt about my sincerity as an indication that you don't want to continue the discussion - I'm fine with that, I'm just grateful that you found the time to engage in discussion at all.
Your being troubled about my questioning your intentions should be a sign that you are straying into rape denial and rape apology. If that is not your intent, then you need to look at how you are thinking about the issue of rape.

Making my doubt about anything other than your words indicates that you don't understand the reality of rape -- or you do understand but want to reject that reality in favor of your what ifs where many rapists aren't always people who choose to rape.

My position on rape has nothing to do with being loyal to any brand of feminism, it has everything to do about preventing harm and holding those who harm others accountable for their actions.
(And just on one final point. On the issue whether "it's always very risky to judge the seriousness of a crime by its effects" I think it does apply to rape. Imagine two women who are raped in similar situations by the same guy. The first was very fragile emotionally before and the rape competely ruins her life. She ends up killing herself because she can't face life any more. The second, though obviously still traumatised, has a very supportive family etc and manages to cope with the attack, and goes on to lead a happy, succesful life. Now nobody would deny that the effects of the rape were worse in the first case. Yet this does not affect my view on the rapist's culpability. It is his intentions - his wilful disregard of his victim's rights - that condemn him, in my opinion. These were the same for both women so he committed just as great a wrong in the second case even though his actions had a less damaging effect on her life. I'm not "making excuses for allowing many rapists to continue with no punishment", just judging the severity of someone's wrong by a more accurate and less personality and situation-dependent measure than the victim's response.
You are going off-track here from my quoted statement. My statement related to your excusing of rapists from legal responsibility based on your insistence that some rapists -- like the boy in the Law and Order episode -- had no willful disregard of his victim's rights and that the harm he created should not be considered as being meaningful in the eyes of the law. You clearly supported the idea that she was raped, but he's no rapist.

This is another example about why I question your motives.

Even though I wasn't referring to a comparison between the trauma experienced by different rape victims, rapists whose victims commit suicide directly because of the trauma from rape should be charged with manslaughter. This isn't an unknown outcome from rape so the rapist should be held legally responsible for this woman's death.

The man who shoots a liquor store clerk with no intent to kill is going to face additional charges if that clerk dies. According to your logic this is a miscarriage of justice.

You are positioning yourself as more accurate yet you lack accuracy in summing up the law, your own statements and my response to those statements.
I once read about a rape victim who said that her rape had barely affected her life at all. She said that the death of her cat caused her more pain - (obviously cases like this are incredibly, incredibly rare). Using your standard (how bad the rapist's actions were should be judged by how badly she is affected) he wouldn't have done anything that bad, even compared to the person who killed her cat. Whereas using my preferred standard, he would be just as guilty, since the fact that she wan't v. badly affected doens't mean that his intentions and actions weren't despicable in raping her. So I'm not trying to absolve rapists of guilt. Please don't think I am.)
But you were trying to absolve rapists of guilt. In a comment you wrote: I don't think the idea that "she was really raped but he isn't really a rapist" is completely redundant.

You are absolving rapists of guilt by refusing to call all rapists by the label they earned through their choices. Once you've eliminated many rapists then you claim to be treating all rapists equally. That's not a genuine claim.

When you compare the trauma of rape vs. the death of a cat you should have compared rape to someone killing that woman's cat. Killing someone's pet is often an act of deliberate terrorism. Killing or torturing animals is a major danger signal. Yet you seem to be minimize this in order to minimize rape.

There is nothing intellectual about that.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:05 PM   12 comments links to this post