Saturday, January 31, 2009

No More Victims Education On Feb. 3

Here's an announcement about an important program which I learned about from Minnesota's Sexual Violence Prevention Network (SVPN) E-News.

No More Victims: How we can reduce sex crimes in our communities, February 3, 2009

An innovative, new strategy, with proven results to reduce rates of sexual reoffending, is underway – the Minnesota Circles of Support and Accountability (MnCoSA) project.

Learn about MnCoSA and issues related to sex offenders in Minnesota at a free, informational evening on February 3, 2009. This event is hosted by the MN Department of Corrections and Amicus, both committed to improving public safety by helping people change their lives.

MnCoSA emphasizes relationship-based approaches where volunteers “walk with” an offender as he/she is released from prison and reenters society. On February 3rd, attendees will have an opportunity to learn about the various categories of sex offenders, their post-release lives and challenges, and how community members may get involved as trained MnCoSA volunteers to help work toward the goal of “no more victims.” Participants will be able to ask questions of staff, current volunteers and others working with MnCoSA.

Light refreshments will be served. RSVP to Joann Dillavou 651-361-7593 jdillavou@fs.doc.state.mn.us . To learn more about MnCoSA visit: www.doc.state.mn.us/volunteer/mncosa.htm

When: Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Time: 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Where: MN Department of Corrections, West Entrance, Lower Level, Itasca Room, 1450 Energy Park Drive, St. Paul, MN 55108

When I was volunteering answering the rape crisis line, I attended a training where local parole officers talked about this program. This is a great addition to the existing options for certain sex offenders after they are released from prison.

There will always be sex offenders who are simply too dangerous for any program to stop them from reoffending if they get the opportunity to do so and who should be in prison as long as possible. But there are sex offenders who can stop offending with strong support that is mixed with accountability.

One of the reasons change is possible for many sex offenders is that systemic victim blaming and rape denial is a very strong contributor to many rapes. The common belief in deserved rape is just one of the contributors to people making the decision that they are doing nothing wrong when they rape.

If the messages rapists get from non-rapists helps them rape then more accurate messages from non-offenders can help them avoid committing rape.

For men who want to demonstrate that they understand that men's violence toward women isn't just a women's issue, here is another event which was included in the SVPN E-News.

Men’s Rally at the Capitol, February 11, 2009

Men’s Rally at the Capitol. Sponsored by: Minnesota Men’s Action Network: Alliance to Prevent Sexual & Domestic Violence (MNMAN), in support of the 2009 Action Day to End Violence Against Women. Help to create a violence free Minnesota by providing safety, promoting justice, and preventing harm for women and children.

February 11, 2009
11:00 a.m.
South steps of MN State Capitol

For more information on the Minnesota Men’s Action Network, please visit: www.menaspeacemakers.org/programs/mnman

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:39 AM   2 comments links to this post

Friday, January 30, 2009

Judge Unimpressed By Rapist's Excuses

From WLWT:

CINCINNATI -- A convicted rapist has been sentenced to 40 years in prison after failing to convince a judge that he deserved a lighter sentence. Thirty-six-year-old Joseph Pettis argued that the rape had not been, as he put it, "excessively brutal" or "overly monstrous."

Pettis was convicted of raping a Cincinnati woman three times after covering her head and wrapping a belt around her neck.

This excuse which is often trotted out by acquaintance rapists, minus the "excessively" and "overly," is more easily identified as nonsense when it is given by a man who broke into a woman's home before raping her. Most rapists need this type of thinking to help them justify their actions.

The only rapists who might not need this type of thinking are the rapists who are punishing their victims for some real or imagined transgression. Even in these types of rapes, the rapists are likely to view their actions as not being worse than their victim's transgression and to view themselves as better people than rapists who pick their victims in some other way.

This thinking is why sane people can do what other people see as insane.

Jury verdicts and sentences need to be based on the reality of the crime not on how well the defendant can minimize his or her actions -- and his or her culpability. Being able to rationalize away responsibility or being able to minimize responsibility are clear signs of sanity and rational thinking.

Rapists who admit that they are jerks but deny that what they did qualifies as rape are expressing the same rationalizations as Pettis expressed. Too many people who would never fall for Pettis' excuses fall for the excuses of these rapists.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Norbert Nadel thankfully didn't fall for Pettis' excuses. All other judges and all other juries need to do the same when rapists don't commit burglary prior to rape and claim, "it was consensual."

If the excuses stop working some would-be rapists may decide that rape isn't worth the risk.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:11 AM   1 comments links to this post

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rape Denial Through Melodramatic Imagining Of Rape

The following is part of a rejected comment from an anonymous man who previously left a comment saying that "Any man that is sick enough to rape is completely fruitloops and no more indicative of men than al-Qaeda is of Islam or the Inquisition is of Christianity.":

And, any man who forcibly rapes is undeniably bat***t insane. If continuing to force yourself upon a woman, in spite of her crying and other reactions of horror, without any empathy on the part of the rapist isn't insane, then I don't know what is. Anybody who forcibly rapes clearly has something very wrong with them.

This description of forcible rapes implicitly denies most forcible rapes. If what proves rapists to be insane is continuing through the intended victim's reactions of horror, then to be logically consistent, whenever there is no reaction of horror there is no rape.

Force from the rapist is what makes a rape forcible, not melodramatic reactions of horror from the victim.

Not everyone who is forcibly raped cries in the moments before that rape is completed. Reactions of horror are what would be expected of victims of stranger abduction. For rapists who don't want to see themselves as being an insane rapist that means only attempting to rape people they know and doing so in ways which will reduce the risk of having to see this type of disturbing reaction in the moments prior to rape.

This gives us the, "I'm not a real rapist," rapists who express great disdain for "real" rapists.

This includes rapists who slip drugs into the drinks of their intended victims. It includes acquaintance rapists who pretend to be platonic friends with their intended victims and who make their move while their victims are still in shock over this surprise attack. It includes rapists who use positions of authority to prevent their intended victims from reacting with stereotypical horror.

Once rape gets limited to stereotypical images then many rapes get denied and those rape victims who report will be quickly labeled as false accusers. She didn't cry and she didn't react with visible horror therefore what she experienced can't be rape.

This belief that all rapists are insane also leads to rape denial whenever it is clear that an alleged rapist is not insane. If an alleged rapist is clearly not insane then the alleged victim must be a liar or delusional.

An example of how this belief system demonstrates itself is given by Cara at The Curvature.

James West, school dean for a prominent Roman Catholic high school for boys, has been suspended due to allegations that he sexually assaulted one of the students in his office. As far as this news story reports, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to believe that the allegations are not credible and do not deserve to be taken seriously. In fact, West has been criminally charged with forcible touching and sexual abuse in the third degree.

From the story Cara responded to:

A sophomore, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because school authorities had told students not to speak to reporters about Mr. West’s arrest, said: “All I know is, the principal told us some kid lied about Dean West touching him. Dean West ain’t that type of guy.”

Here we get a boy who has been taught to echo the type of rape denial of the anonymous man quoted at the beginning of this post. Only certain types of men can be guilty of rape and they are nothing like men who are in positions of trust. That denial then makes it okay to declare a fellow student to be guilty even though West was arrested and the case is still pending.

Rape denial is learned and this case was an important lesson for all the boys in this school. The lesson for any students who are also rape victims or may become rape victims is also clear. Your rapist better be "that type of guy" or the good people will side with your rapist.

The lesson is also clear for boys considering rape. You can get away with rape as long as you avoid being seen by anyone but your victims as "that type of guy."

If West is guilty but his guilt cannot be proven, this rape denial lesson will require all pupils to not be informed that a legal system of innocent until proven guilty means that the guilty are often not convicted of the crimes they committed. Instead they will need to be taught a lie, that a lack of conviction is proof of innocence.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:11 AM   3 comments links to this post

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

US Supreme Court Rules Against Company Accused Of Retaliating Against Woman Who Testify In Sexual Harassment Investigation

From the NY Times:

Employees fired after cooperating in sexual harassment investigations may sue for retaliation, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case concerning the scope of a federal law barring sex discrimination in the workplace.

The case arose from an internal investigation into possible misconduct by Gene Hughes, the employee relations director of a Tennessee school system. Vicky Crawford, who had worked for the school system for 30 years but who had not complained about Mr. Hughes, answered questions about him in the investigation.

This is an important civil rights ruling. Allowing employers to fire people who are interviewed during sexual harassment investigations for giving honest answers with no risk of being sued for doing so goes directly against basic civil rights protections.


The question in the case, Crawford v. Metropolita Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tenn., No. 06-1595, was whether Ms. Crawford could sue under a provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 barring retaliation against people who opposed unlawful employment practices. In 2006, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, dismissed the case before trial, saying the law requires more vigorous opposition than merely answering questions in an internal investigation.

This earlier ruling required all those who oppose unlawful employment practices to dramatically prove their opposition prior to any internal investigation. It wasn't enough for people to actually be opposed to unlawful employment practices.

Justice Souter rejected the employer’s argument that ruling in favor of Ms. Crawford would result in fewer investigations. But he said that employees who knew they were subject to firing without recourse if they answered questions from their employer honestly would be less likely to cooperate.

This argument is revealing because it highlights a common mindset in corporations which have anti-sex discrimination policies. These policies too often exist in name only. What's worse is that this woman was employed by a school system and this attitude can't help but permeate beyond the treatment of adult employees.

If companies, including school systems, cannot fire people without fear of lawsuit after those people are honest about sexual harassment in that company or school system then these organizations will do even worse investigations than they do now.

What a compelling civil rights argument.

They might as well admit that they don't do investigations of sexual harassment in good faith and their aim is to protect sexual harassers.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:13 AM   0 comments links to this post

Nomination Deadline Approaching

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 @ 9:32 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Opposing False Allegation By Making Unproven Allegation

From the Daily Mail article titled BBC personality made 40 false rape allegations against her ex-boyfriend whose life remains blighted by her lies by Antonia Hoyle, I initially assumed that the story was about a woman convicted of filing 40 false police reports.

The story opens with:

A BBC personality has shattered her ex-boyfriend's life by falsely accusing him of rape. The woman, who has broadcast to television audiences of millions, accused him of raping her 40 times throughout their two-and-a-half-year relationship.

This makes more sense that this story is about a women convicted of making one huge false accusation. However, I quickly found out this woman has not been charged with this crime she has been accused of and declared guilty of.

The lies by a BBC personality are alleged lies.

Rather than championing a man falsely accused, Hoyle may be championing a man rightfully accused and helping that man make a false accusation in revenge for a woman making a rightful accusation against him. He is clearly interested in sabotaging this woman's career and her professional ambition is presented as further proof of her guilt.

The woman who reported these rapes is characterized as vengeful but that description clearly matches this man as well.

This man has not been proven innocent.

This is specifically mentioned in the police record. An investigator wrote: 'There is insufficient additional verifiable information to determine that no notifiable offence has been committed.'

Despite the lack of evidence, the incident remains on the Police National Computer thanks to a legal loophole, which campaigners say is blighting the lives of falsely accused men.

Even if the 'victim' withdraws their allegation, it will show up under enhanced Criminal Records Bureau checks that are undertaken regularly on people who apply for jobs with employers such as the NHS or schools. It will also prevent them from travelling to the United States.

This "loophole" of being in the PNC, as this story puts it, is important and necessary. It should not be removed. Many rapists have a long history of accusations which didn't result in convictions. This pattern is meaningful and should cause the investigators to rethink any quick assumptions that a new allegation is false because the alleged rapist doesn't seem like that kind of person.

Only if an allegation has been proven to be false should someone's name be removed. This allegation has not been proven to be false.

The appropriateness of the actions taken against those who haven't been convicted is a separate issue. But this issue applies just as much to this woman who is being written about as if she were already convicted.

Fewer than six per cent of reported rapes result in a conviction, but according to Tim Murray of the False Rape Society, this case is typical.

This assessment of this case as typical is opinion and based only on the unproven allegations on the part of a man accused of rape.

People like Murray claim to be against passing judgment based on unproven allegations, but this quote disproves that claim. He's okay with this as long as that judgment is made against those who report having been raped. In fact he's just passed judgment on more than one woman, he has passed judgment on all those who reported rape and whose cases didn't result in a conviction.

This case is only typical in the way it is handled and how often those who report rape stop cooperating and how often those who report rape are subsequently tainted as guilty from people who claim to be against this practice.

This BBC personality's report has been declared false because she later retracted her allegation. This is not the same as proof of guilt on her part. It isn't even a strong indicator of guilt since there are many reasons why real rape victims would stop cooperating and retract their allegations.

The number one reason is that a real rape victim realizes that she has become the only suspect because of investigator bias and training which encourages investigators to quickly turn on those who report rape if there are any inconsistencies.

In the interviews with survivors of the US Air jet which crashed into the Hudson River I noted many inconsistencies. People were panicking. Nobody panicked. Everybody knew the plane was going to crash. One woman didn't realize they had crashed until she was told to evacuate out an emergency door. Survivors talked about remembering new details days after the crash. Despite these inconsistencies we know the jet crashed.

Yet again and again in rape cases the presence of inconsistencies is presented as absolute proof that the reported crime couldn't have happened.

These inconsistencies can be details which don't make sense to the investigator. The problem is that investigators bring their biases about real rape to their analysis which can easily taint the investigation. This bias is especially common when rapes are reported against someone the victim had a relationship with.

Many people don't believe there can be repeated rapes within a relationship because -- if they believe rape can happen within a relationship -- they assume they would leave the relationship after the first rape and that anyone who didn't leave must have consented and is only expressing bitterness. This story plays on those assumptions.

This story has been picked up by several anti-feminist blogs which vocally oppose assuming guilt -- of men. It is telling that so many people are eager to do the very thing they claim to be against as long as the person they are assuming to be guilty is a woman who reported rape.

This woman has not been proven guilty.

Those who talk as if she has been proven guilty have in fact only proven that they have no credibility on the subject of false accusations.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:02 AM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lamenting Man Haters By Expressing Disdain For Women

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "OK Readers: Support Bill To Eliminate Statute Of Limitations...":

I have no quarrel with what Glenn Sacks says. My quarrel is that he bothers to say it. He is wasting his time.

Protection for innocent, falsely accused men and women is so simply one would think even an idiot could understand it, and it is the basis of criminal law in the US.

Yet, you are incapable of understanding it. Ditto for most American Women, twisted with fear and hate by the man-haters.

So, Glen should not be wasting his time explaining it to you.

American men should leave in even greater numbers than they have. In UK, which has similar women, it is reported that one million men are "missing", that is presumed to have moved to a place where innocent men are protected, and women who file false charges are punished.

Anonymous age 66, writing from Mexico where people who can't understand the difference between innnocent and guilty are never put in charge of the bathrooms.

This man takes a typical position where the only "innocents" who exist are those accused of violent crimes. I'm surprised that he bothered to include women in this group of innocents. The majority of those who echo this man's comment entirely exclude women from the label "innocent."

And of course these men refuse to acknowledge that most women who are accused of filing false charges against men have themselves been falsely accused. These false allegations don't matter and wrongful treatment, wrongful charges and wrongful convictions of real rape victims also don't matter.

When he talks of men moving to "a place where innocent men are protected" he is including countries that stone rape victims or throw them in prison for adultery or fornication.

Girls and women who are raped and assaulted and who see their attackers escape justice and girls and women who are raped and assaulted because someone else's attacker escaped justice are effectively erased. Their lives and possibly their deaths do not matter and should not be considered.

Those of us who do consider these girls and women become obvious man haters. It's our only possible motive in the minds of men like this commenter for wanting the statute of limitations for rape eliminated.

If I don't support his desire to have laws which cater to his desires and the desires of other men like him then I hate all men even though he expresses a gendered hatred that I have never felt and have never expressed. To him effective rape laws and effective rape law enforcement are acts of man hating.

Before the US rape laws were updated after the first rape crisis centers opened it wasn't innocent men who were protected by those laws, it was guilty men who rationalized their actions as not "real" rape.

The most extreme injustice against innocent men accused of crimes is the death penalty, but none of those who rant about false accusations of rape expect the criminal justice system to ignore most murders in the name of protecting the innocent. Yet too many people demand that our criminal justice system ignore most rapes in the name of protecting the innocent.

Women who report rape are to be disbelieved but all claims by men of their innocence are to be believed without a shred of proof. We are not supposed to wonder if this man is living in Mexico until the statute of limitations for his crime or crimes expire. We are not supposed to wonder if he sees this proposed change to the Oklahoma statute of limitations as ruining his plans of returning home without fear of being held legally accountable for his actions.

No, we are supposed to see this man as a proven victim who had to flee injustice.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:34 AM   2 comments links to this post

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On Agency And Terminology

From the blog Shut up sit down:

When talking about sex workers, my friend is in the habit of saying “Sex workers, sic” while making quotation marks with her fingers, or using the term “prostituted women” instead. When challenged on this, she replied that she does not see it as work, so “can’t” use the term sex worker. [...]

I can be - and am - against the sex industry, which I believe harms women, without demeaning and dismissing the women involved in it by showing a total lack of respect for them and without trying to take away their dignity by refusing to use the words that they themselves choose to describe their occupations.

I take particular umbrage to the term “prostituted women”; not in general, but when used to refer to women who self-define as sex workers. “Prostituted women” infers coercion or force, and women who define themselves as sex workers clearly do not see themselves as having been coerced or forced into sex work.

I don’t disagree that the majority of workers in the sex industry have been guided there, whether by circumstance, upbringing, education or actual force. I also don’t disagree that there are women in the sex industry who have chosen to be there and who enjoy what they do (though of course then we have the whole discussion of their enjoyment being on the backs of the majority who do not enjoy it and do not get to have voices). Whether I agree or disagree with prostitution, pornography or the many other manifestations of the sex industry doesn’t matter. What matters is that we allow women their agency.

There is a core problem with this position which seems to advocate for using the term "sex worker" as the default terminology.

Anji provides several analogies which have fundamental differences with the term "prostituted." One analogy is someone who calls a transwoman a man. The other is anti-abortion rhetoric which positions women who want abortions as incapable of making their own decisions about pregnancy. In neither of the analogies are people doing the problematic labeling talking about people who have been explicitly controlled, coerced or exploited by others.

If children and adults are robbed of full agency and personal safety by sex traffickers, pornographers and Johns then no label will magically restore their agency. Yet the terms "sex worker" and "occupation" falsely position all those who are labeled this way as being fully willing participants who have full agency.

This view explains why those who are victims of sex traffickers have been treated by most police agencies as if they are criminals who are no less legally culpable than their traffickers. If those we call "sex workers" are genuinely empowered then they should be treated by the law in just this way. Allowing people their agency comes with legal responsibility for their actions.

Another issue is that the term "sex worker" is not the term of choice of all those who would be described as "sex workers" or ex-"sex workers." Women who did not have full agency and who after getting out and gaining full agency, have rejected the term "sex worker" so using this term as the default dismisses and demeans them. They are in essence positioned as playing the victim.

The majority of those who are in reality currently "prostituted" don't have a voice in this debate or their voices are controlled in the same way that their bodies are controlled. Acknowledging this fact is not what robs these children and adults of their agency.

Many anti-feminists defend their rape denial by saying that they are empowering women. Feministing has a post about the film The Monstrous Regiment of Women which highlights this denial.

You'll see in the trailer that our favorite female misogynist Phyllis Schlafly kicks things off with her wisdom on feminism, saying the movement tricks women into thinking that they're being victimized.

Nobody who criticizes Phyllis Schlafly's position is described by other feminists as dismissing and demeaning Schlafly or large groups of women. Yet when some feminists echo this theme of victim denial in their rejection of "prostituted" as the default those feminists who reject this same theme are often described as dismissing and demeaning those feminists.

If all those in the sex industry are described in a way which gives them full agency then there will be no support to spend tax money helping those who don't in reality have full agency. Those who express urgency to rescue victims of sex trafficking, and to provide the services those victims need after being separated from their exploiters, can then be falsely labeled as infantilizing women or hating sex workers when they are directly opposed to those who do this through their exploitation of the "prostituted."

This lack of support for using the term "prostituted" as the default directly benefits those who are prostituting other people.

I have seen some bloggers who identify as feminist "sex workers," and who demand this term be the default, oppose legislation which would help those who are sexually trafficked and support legislation which would harm those who are sexually trafficked. This is what causes some feminists to be suspicious.

The actions taken against most of those in the sex industry is what robs those girls and women (and to a lesser extent boys and men) of their agency. Calling those who were in fact prostituted by others "prostituted" is not what disempowers those children and adults. Overall this term is more accurate than "sex worker." Being accurate does not demean and dismiss those have in fact been prostituted.

Even the term sex industry whitewashes the reality that the sex industry is also the sexual exploitation and rape industry.

If we label children forced into prostitution as child "sex workers" and declare that once they reach 18 they have full agency we ignore the systematic violence done to them and we deny the real barriers which blocks them from successfully getting away from this exploitation. Barriers which don't magically disappear on someone's 18th birthday.

The Oakland, CA police are learning how traffickers control "prostituted" children with physical and sexual abuse so that they can be more effective in their response. The old view of these children was as young criminals who freely decided to be sex workers.

Widespread denial of the barriers around the "prostituted" is what allows people to assume that those who are separated from their traffickers and who return to those traffickers are proving their agency. What this often proves is that the barriers are high and complex and that we are failing those who are "prostituted."

Using "sex worker" as the default clearly does nothing to empower a large number of girls and women.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:23 AM   16 comments links to this post

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sentence For Gang Rapists Who Left Victim With Burns Questioned

From the BBC:

The Attorney General is reviewing the sentencing of three rapists who threw caustic soda over their victim, after criticism that it was too lenient.

The 16-year-old girl, who has a mental age of eight, was repeatedly raped in north London last January. [...]

The girl, who has learning difficulties, was in a coma following the attack at a flat in Seven Sisters, north London, in January 2008. She has been left with burns to more than 50% of her body.

One of the men, Rogel McMorris, 18, from Seven Sisters, was jailed for nine years for two counts of rape and grievous bodily harm at Wood Green Crown Court on Monday. Co-defendants Jason Brew, 19, from Tottenham, north London, and Hector Muaimba, 20, from Walthamstow, east London, were jailed for six years each for the rape.

This case matches what many of those who reject most rape cases call real rapes. If repeated rapes and tossing caustic soda on the rape victim are viewed as not justifying a sentence of at least a decade then rapists who don't permanently disfigure their victims will be much more likely to feel like victims of injustice if they are given any prison time.

From comments made by Judge Shaun Lyons about the primary offense coming from the caustic soda it seems like he seriously discounted the harm done by the multiple rapes of this girl. He may have fallen into the trap of believing that if he can't see the impact of a crime then that particular crime wasn't all that serious.

He can see her burns so that must the primary offense rather than there being multiple primary offenses. Too often in even the most horrific gang rape cases defendants can claim that what happened was a consensual encounter that ended badly.

Deborah Kitson, director of The Ann Craft Trust, said victims with learning difficulties often faced "hurdles" in getting justice. "Most people don't realise that people with learning disabilities are more likely to be victims of rape," she said.

"They can also face lots of hurdles in getting justice and fear not being believed if they come forward. Sentences such as this can damage people's confidence in the courts."

Seven other men had been originally charged over the attack.

The number of men who were involved in some way, as participants or observers, in this gang rape and the subsequent physical assault reinforces why the sentencing of these 3 men needs to be reviewed.

If the age of the defendants are what caused these sentences to be so light that sends a dangerous message that gang rape is no big deal as long as the perpetrators aren't a decade or more older than their victim.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:36 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, January 23, 2009

OK Readers: Support Bill To Eliminate Statute Of Limitations

From KATV:

Little Rock [Oklahoma] - A legislative committee is expected to debate a bill next week that would remove the statute of limitations on rape and first-degree sexual assault.

This change is needed and long overdue.

DNA evidence is one reason for this change. Because of backlog issues related to processing forensic evidence, the longer statute of limitations when there is DNA evidence still can allow rapists who can be identified through DNA to escape justice after the statute of limitations for rape cases without DNA evidence.

For an example of how rapists who have been IDed via DNA have escaped justice under complex statute of limitations, read my post about the LA rape kit backlog.

Another reason to eliminate the statute of limitations is that many serial rapists will be treated like a serial rapist only if there is no statute of limitations for rape. This can and does impact sentencing and the decisions made by parole boards.

The responsibility for proving guilt falls on the prosecution so arguments that innocent defendants will be victimized by eliminating the statute of limitations is false.

Despite this indisputable fact, there are men's rights advocates who oppose this change because as Glenn Sacks wrote in Men's News Daily, "While the goal of convicting more actual rapists is laudable, this is yet another proposed change in the law of rape that does not take into account the unjust effect on innocent men and boys." [correction this quote was written by Pierce Harlan, Esq. in Glenn Sacks' MND blog which indicates that Sacks approves of this statement]

Notice the prioritization. Catching rapists is laudable, protecting all men accused of rape who haven't been convicted before the current statute of limitations expire, is imperative.

People like Glenn Sacks would be screaming if those he opposes on this issue mirrored his own views by writing, "While the goal of protecting innocent men accused of rape is laudable, this is yet another law that does not take into account the unjust effect on innocent rape victims." He would acknowledge what the use of "laudable" really means.

Glenn Sacks and his ilk put the desires of men who fear being accused (wrongfully of course) above the rights of those who were raped. They support guaranteed injustice in the name of protecting men from possible injustice.

If you live in Oklahoma please contact your state legislators to voice your support for this bill. Without feedback from voters many legislators will assume that nobody cares about this issue.

There are 2 other bills under consideration in Oklahoma related to victim rights.

SB 894 will allow a rape victim to have immediate access to medical care without pursuing legal charges against her attacker. At this time, a nurse or other medical professional is required to contact local law enforcement at the time a victim seeks medical attention. [...]

[Senate President Pro Tem Glenn] Coffee will also offer SB 932, allowing those who have sought protection from an emergency Victim’s Protective Order to obtain an emergency concealed carry license for their protection.

Both of these bills are worthy of support. The concealed carry bill will help victims who don't choose to carry a gun since the possibility that they have a gun may serve as a deterrent for some violent people.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:09 AM   4 comments links to this post

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Colorado State University Police Chief Suspended

Before I get into the details of this suspension it is vital to point out that while one man in law enforcement demonstrated the worst traits of those in law enforcement, several other men in law enforcement demonstrated the best traits of those in law enforcement even though doing so was not easy or without risk.

From the Collegian:

While the sudden suspension of CSU Police Chief Dexter Yarbrough last month came as another shocking challenge facing a transitioning administration, several campus officers say his absence comes as a breath of fresh air to the department -- putting what several independent sources called his "reign of terror" on hiatus. [...]

Despite a consistent flow of complaints of harassment, fraud and threatening behavior to the school's Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (OEOD) and to former CSU President Larry Penley, Yarbrough was promoted last year to vice president of public safety in addition to being chief of police. [...]

The tapes were recorded by Aaron Gropp, a 38-year-old graduate student and former Larimer County Sheriff's deputy. [...]

The lecture that inspired him to gather recordings, Gropp said, was one in which he says Yarbrough told the class "women want the dick, even when they say 'no.' They want the dick."

"In my book he just kind of condoned rape," Gropp said. "I was just floored … that was when I decided to start recording things and file a complaint." Gropp brought his collection of recorded lectures along with complaints from other students in the class to OEOD, but no public action was taken against Yarbrough.

The responsibility for allowing Yarbrough to remain at CSU for so long and for allowing him to be promoted despite a flow of complaints belongs to the leadership of CSU at the time of those complaints and at the time of Yarbrough's promotion.

This suspension is not related to the tapes Gropp made since the official investigation of the content of those tapes was closed.

The allegations against Yarbough were related to more than dangerous comments he made. He was accused of falsifying an accident report to make damage to his police cruiser seem like it came from a hit and run accident.

But Lt. Karl Swenson refused to falsify his report and contacted the DA's office after another officer created a police report to Yarbrough's liking. The falsification wasn't considered criminal and no charges were filed.

In another instance, an officer making a routine arrest from a bank of active warrants was publicly reprimanded for arresting a student athlete without first discussing it with the chief, sources said. The chief took over the investigation and changed policy to provide special treatment for student athletes. [...]

Yarbrough's eventual acquisition of the conference room was never justified to the staff and left officers with only holding cells and interrogations rooms to interview victims of crime, sources said.

So the CSU chief of police protected student athletes from outstanding warrants while putting all CSU crime victims in a hostile environment where they would feel like the suspect instead of the crime victim.

From the description of the newest investigation which finally resulted in Yarbrough's suspension it looks like administrators finally saw something for which they could be criminally culpable if they ignored it or treated it in the same way that previous complaints were handled.

CSU has an interim president and it will take time to see if Tony Frank will ensure that the behavior of people like Yarbrough will never again tolerated or if this move will only deal with one person.

I applaud every student and every CSU employee who filed complaints against Yarbrough and who tried to see that this man would be held accountable for his words and actions.

H/T: Feministing

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:37 AM   1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Through A Rapist's Eyes: Part 3

In the comments of part 1, Sophie sent me a link to a post on the blog Cows gone Wilde which quotes a comment by Dr. Mark Cowling on the blog Too Much To Say For Myself.

Here is part of that comment:

Therefore, in my 1998 book, Date Rape and Consent, I discuss the idea of communicative sexuality in the context of an example of date rape offered by Andrea Parrott. It comes from her introduction to Acquaintance Rape: The Hidden Crime (New York, John Wiley, 1991, p. 9):

Mary and John had been dating for two weeks. Both Mary and John had slept with people in the past but they hadn’t had sexual intercourse with each other. On their fourth date, after John took Mary out for a lobster dinner and then to a wild party to meet some of his friends, the couple went to John’s apartment. Mary was wearing a sexy, provocative dress. She had spent a lot of time getting ready, because she wanted to look her best for a special evening. After they got to his apartment, they shared a bottle of wine, listened to music, talked, laughed and kissed. Mary told John what a wonderful time she was having with him. John suggested that they move to his bedroom where they could get more comfortable. She nodded in agreement. In the bedroom, they started dancing erotically and kissing passionately. John caressed Mary’s breasts, and Mary moaned. When he started to unbutton her blouse, Mary asked him to stop. He kissed her gently and continued to undress her. She begged him to stop. She told him ‘No!’ emphatically and said that she was not ready for sex with him. He continued anyway, telling her that he knew she wanted it. He told her to relax and that she was really going to like it. John assured Mary that he loved her and that he had been thinking about this moment ever since they first met. He pulled up her skirt and pulled down her panties. While holding both of her arms with one of his hands, he unzipped his fly, took out his erect penis, and penetrated her.

Andrea Parrott is making the point that this is rape, even though many people, possibly including Mary herself, would not recognise it as such. I agree that it is rape. (An interesting point about the example is that John’s motive is presented as a desire for sex, not domination or revenge. This seems to me to fit the survey evidence about date rape, which finds little violence and is more a case of the man ‘just carrying on’ when the woman has asked him to stop. However, it doesn’t fit with many accounts of rape where the motive is said to be anger, domination, revenge etc.) I would also agree that this was rape even if things had gone considerably further and Mary had consented to John having sex with her, but had subsequently asked him to stop and he had simply gone on.

However, I have some sympathy with John. Why has Mary allowed him to get so far if she does not want things to go any further? There are 12 choices that Mary makes where she chooses to do things which, while not being consent to sex, point in that direction. This is why I suggest that it would be appropriate for her to offer some kind of an explanation. Hence my suggestions about headaches, illness, forgotten appointments etc. I am not suggesting that she has to give such an explanation, merely that it would be better not to treat John as an automaton whose sexual desires can be switched on and off instantly and at will.

The only way for Cowling to have any sympathy with John (who is fictional but reflective of too many real rapists) after this list of actions is if Cowling has the same mindset as John. This mindset disregards women in sexualized interactions. This is reflected in the minimizing of rapes where the man is "just carrying on" when there is no consent or when consent has been withdrawn.

John forcibly raped Mary, he wasn't "just carrying on" without her.

This concept of "just carrying on" effectively erases the rape victim since it eliminates the fact that rape is something done to another person. This erasure falsely makes consensual sex and rape on a date indistinguishable experiences. Under this erasure, the only difference becomes a matter of labeling.

No wonder rape conviction rates are so low.

Sexual desire does not equal sexual actions. A man can be bursting with sexual desire and not grab the nearest target and try to rape that person. A woman can expect sexual actions to stop or to not escalate without treating a man like an automaton or bringing rape upon herself.

This erasure is what allows many rapists to claim that what they did wasn't "real" rape. Genuine "just carrying on" would have been if John let go of Mary, walked into the bathroom and masturbated until he had no more sexual desire.

If John didn't like the fact that Mary wasn't ready or if he was hurt by her refusal, he had many options besides rape. Cowling blames Mary for creating this situation with her, "No," which fails to consider the likelihood that John himself was to blame for that, "No," or for getting it in the way he did.

In the bedroom before Mary said, "No," John abandoned mutuality and went for what he wanted with no regard for anyone but himself. That decision to rush Mary could be as effective of a turn off as if John had thrown ice water in her face. In both cases, what had been wonderful and anticipated could instantly become uncomfortable at best.

Instead of even considering that John's actions played a role in that, "No," Cowling effectively positions John as a completely innocent victim of Mary's late announcement that she wasn't ready. This assumption falls back on the stereotype of women as cruel teases. This rape then becomes nothing more than a biological response to a woman's unreasonable actions.

If John's referral to "getting more comfortable" was meant to be a request for sex and it wasn't received in that way, John has nobody but himself to blame for thinking he had agreement when he did not. Someone who refuses to be clear in the process of getting someone else's consent because being direct is not romantic has no excuse for rape since rape is even less romantic than direct communication.

Unfortunately, for too many people consent -- or assumed consent -- is the point where the person who believes they have consent can stop caring about what the other person wants, likes or hates and can do whatever they want to that other person.

If this view of consent were applied beyond sex crimes, that would mean allowing someone inside your home gives them legal permission to do whatever they want in your home and if you try to stop them then you are the one who caused that person to assault you. Few people would sympathize with a guest who ran roughshod over another person in their own home and who assaulted that person when they objected. Yet many people who will always sympathize with the homeowner will always sympathize with the assaulter if the home being overrun is their body.

In this example John absolutely decided to dominate Mary -- and to abandon the pretext that they had any sort of genuine relationship -- when the evening didn't proceed exactly as he hoped it would.

Yet Cowling fails to see this domination. He also fails to see the decision to rape as possible revenge for a date saying, "No."

John decided that it was okay to rob the woman he "loved" of her right to decide what she was ready for or how far she was willing to go that night. He decided that it was okay to subject the woman he "loved" to the trauma of forcible rape. Not only is that criminal, it destroys the very thing that John claimed to value.

Any claim that John's actions were irrational or purely hormonal are contradicted by his words which show that he was rational and had non-hormonal reasons for committing rape.

That makes John a liar.

Believe me, hearing "love" used as an excuse for rape cannot in any way reduce the trauma of rape. But John and Cowling aren't interested in this rape or this relationship from any perspective other than the rapist's.

This is beyond dehumanizing. A man will not intentionally harm the car he loves and wants to keep. Yet people continue to sympathize with men who intentionally harm girls and women they "love" through rape as long as they do it in the right context.

The only questions are, "When can John or other rapists rationalize rape?" and, "When can those around rapists also rationalize or minimize rape into something that shouldn't be treated like the crime it is?"

Would John have rationalized rape if Mary had said no before they entered the bedroom? Would he have rationalized it if Mary said no before she entered his apartment?

Cowling's suggestion that Mary should lie to John rather than telling him "no" is bad advice. It wouldn't have prevented this rape. However, it could result in real men like John claiming that Mary's lack of consent was unclear and therefore what he did was consensual.

It doesn't matter how many actions a woman takes that point toward consent. In fact this concept of "pointing toward consent" as mitigating rape is a dangerous concept that helps rapists rationalize rape. It also helps them escape rightful conviction.

A woman who is raped by someone she was considering having sex with or even hoping to eventually have sex with is still raped. The physical trauma is not reduced and the personal betrayal is far greater than in a stranger rape.

Men who bemoan women's sexual stinginess, lack of clear communication or distrust of them related to sex need to blame rapists who rape women who seem to be up for it.

The impact of those rapists is real. It doesn't matter if their rape victims never feared for their lives or if their rapists were only thinking about themselves and didn't spare a thought for the trauma they created.

Being raped by those who seem like decent human beings can make recovery more difficult because those rape victims lose their sense that other decent people can be relied upon to act like decent people. This is magnified by every person who denies or minimizes rape under these circumstances or who focuses most of their criticism on the rape victim.

Too many people who think of themselves as being firmly against rape cling to their belief that rape under these circumstances causes no harm and that these rapists are not dangerous criminals.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:08 AM   6 comments links to this post

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Through A Rapist's Eyes: Part 2

As promised in part 1, here is the viral email that has been going around in one form or another since 2001. I have chosen to include the entire email (quoted section by section) that my reader received with my comments after each section.

Through a Rapist's Eyes (No Joke)
A group of rapists and date rapists in prison were interviewed on what they look for in a potential victim and here are some interesting facts:
This claim cannot be verified. Further, while date rapists were allegedly interviewed, this entire list is centered on stranger rapists. Since about 73% of rapists are known to their victims this list -- even if it were a perfect descriptor of stranger rapists -- does little to prevent most rapes.
1) The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun, braid or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed . They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair . Women with short hair are not common targets.
While individual rapists may have hair preferences there is no evidence that women with short hair get any protection from their hairstyle or that rapists make the decision to rape based on whether they can grip a woman's hair.

This item seems to fall back on stereotypes of rapists and cavemen who drag their victims off by their hair.
2) The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women who's clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around specifically to cut clothing.

Unless a stranger rapist has what has been dubbed a rapist's kit, I've never heard of any rape which involved the use of scissors.

The danger with this claim is that it reinforces that women wearing certain types of clothing were not raped if their clothes are not cut or torn. This belief contributed to an Italian court saying that women in jeans can't be raped.

3) They also look for women on their cell phone, searching through their purse, or doing other activities while walking because they are off-guard and can be easily overpowered.

Some stranger rapists may attack someone who is distracted, but not being distracted isn't reliable protection and it is no protection against rapists who introduce themselves to their intended victims in what is viewed as a safe environment so that they can claim, "it was consensual."

4) Men are most likely to attack & rape in the early morning, between 5: 00a.m. And 8:30a.m.

There is no credible evidence to support this claim.

5) The number one place women are abducted from/attacked is grocery store parking lots. The number two: office parking lots/garages. Number three: public restrooms.

There is no credible evidence to support this claim but this claim does match stereotypes about where truly innocent rape victims are attacked.

6) The thing about these men is that they are looking to grab a woman and quickly move her to another location where they don't have to worry about getting caught.

Some rapists want to abduct their victims but most do not.

7) Only 2% said they carried weapons because rape carries a 3-5 year sentence but rape with a weapon is 15-20 years.

When it comes to stranger rapists this percentage is low. When it comes to rapist/kidnappers this percentage is likely dangerously low.

8) If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they get discouraged because it only takes a minute or two for them to realize that going after you isn't worth it because it will be time-consuming.

This advice could result in a rape victim being murdered. The decision to fight cannot be generic.

9) These men said they would not pick on women who have umbrellas, or other similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands

Keys are NOT a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon. So, the idea is to convince these guys you're not worth it.

Some stranger rapists might not attack women with umbrellas, but others won't care. These devices are meaningless against acquaintance rapists. The hassle of carrying a long umbrella every time a woman is alone is so high that all this advice might be good for is making a woman who sometimes carries an umbrella feel guilty if she is attacked when she isn't holding her umbrella.

10) Several defense mechanisms he taught us are: If someone is following behind you on a street or in a garage or with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question, like what time is it?, or make general small talk: 'I can't believe it is so cold out here,' 'We're in for a bad winter.' Now you've seen their face and could identify them in a line-up; you lose appeal as a target.

This might be true for some rapists, but for others they would see this as evidence they can use to prove sexual consent if they are identified. Some might even see this as consent so that they can convince themselves that they did have legal consent.

11) If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell STOP! Or STAY BACK! Most of the rapists this man talked to said they'd leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. Again, they are looking for an EASY target.

If women followed this advice every time a man came toward her she'd be viewed as paranoid to the point of mental illness. Rapists saying they would stop if ordered to sounds more like the rationalizations of people dodging responsibility.

In some situations yelling commands may work for a variety of reasons, but it is no way going to get reliable results.

12) If you carry pepper spray (this instructor was a huge advocate of it and carries it with him wherever he goes), yell I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY and holding it out will be a deterrent.

Again this assumes that rapists are strangers or it assumes that women should carry pepper spray constantly even when with friends.

13) If someone grabs you, you can't beat them with strength but you can by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the Arm (between the elbow and armpit)OR in the upper inner thigh VERY VERY HARD. One woman in a class this guy taught told him she used the underarm pinch on a guy who was trying to date rape her and was so upset she broke through the skin and tore out muscle strands - the guy needed stitches. Try pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it - it hurts.

The concept of outsmarting rapists is good, but this technique seems iffy at best. If this move hurts but doesn't allow the rape victim to break free some rapists will respond with increased violence.

14) After the initial hit, always GO for the GROIN. I know from a particularly unfortunate experience that if you slap a guy's parts it is extremely painful. You might think that you'll anger the guy and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists told our instructor is that they want a woman who will not cause a lot of trouble. Start causing trouble and he's out of there.

If going for the groin will help someone break free, fine. However, many rapists expect trouble and may be anticipating this move which brings the victim closer. In a non-stranger rape this move may result in the rapist claiming to be the victim of an unprovoked assault.

15) When the guy puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible. The instructor did it to me without using much pressure, and I ended up on my knees and both knuckles cracked audibly.

See my comment on #14.

16) Of course the things we always hear still apply. Always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can and if you see any odd behavior, don't dismiss it, go with your instincts!!!

You may feel a little silly at the time, but you'd feel much worse if the guy really was trouble.

Being aware of your surroundings is good, but the idea that women shouldn't go anywhere alone is absurd. First, this advice means that women can't even go to work alone. Second women who have been with men have been attacked by stranger rapists so not being alone doesn't magically protect women from rapists.

1. Tip from Tae Kwon Do : The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do!

If you aren't in a stranger rapist's physical control, escaping should be the first option. If a stranger rapist has a gun this move may result in the rape victim being murdered.

2. Learned this from a tourist guide in New Orleans : If a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Toss it away from you....chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you, and he will go for the wallet/purse. RUN LIKE MAD IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!

This is good advice in a mugging, but women can't toss their vaginas and run.

3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won't see you, but everybody else will. This has saved lives.

Newer cars have trunk release pulls. For anyone concerned about being placed in the trunk of their own car it won't hurt to find that release so that you can use it to get your whole body out.

4. Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping, eating, working, etc, and just sit (doing their checkbook, or making a list, etc..) DON'T DO THIS! The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU GET INTO YOUR CAR, LOCK THE DOORS AND LEAVE.

Since rapists allegedly look for easy targets then all that would be required is to lock the doors. The latest cases I heard about on the news where women have been attacked in or near their cars was in or around their own garages in neighborhoods which were considered very safe.

Most parking lots are busier than private driveways.

a. If someone is in the car with a gun to your head DO NOT DRIVE OFF, repeat: DO NOT DRIVE OFF! Instead gun the engine and speed into anything, wrecking the car.
Your Air Bag will save you. If the person is in the back seat they will get the worst of it. As soon as the car crashes bail out and run. It is better than having them find your body in a remote location.

This is a possibility under certain circumstances. The most important thing to understand is that promises from gun-toting criminals are meaningless. If someone is carjacked in an area where there no safe place to run then this advice might backfire and the victim might be murdered.

5 A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot or parking garage:

A.) Be aware: look around you, look into your car, at the passenger side floor, and in the back seat.

B.) If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.

C.) Look at the car parked on the driver's side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out.

Again, awareness is good, but this advice for all women at all times crosses the line into paranoia. It also ignores that most rapists are people you know.

IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)

This juxtaposition is a false one. Being paranoid may do nothing to make most women any safer. Women who follow all of these rules can still be raped. For women who are being stalked then having effective anti-stalking laws will provide more protection than requiring those women to look over their shoulders every second of their life.

6. ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. (Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot. This is especially true at NIGHT!)

Please. If a building's stairwells aren't safe then their elevator isn't safe either unless women can taser any man who tries to get into the elevator car with her.

7. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times. And even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN, preferably in a zigzag pattern!

In some situations the advice to run is good, but in some situations such as rural areas where there is a long distance to safety running may not be a viable option.

8. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP! It may get you raped or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well-educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked 'for help' into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.

Being sympathetic isn't what got those women killed. A predator is what got those women killed. The example Bundy gave us is that surface attributes are no guarantee of a person's genuine character. If we made people stop doing everything they were doing when someone was raped and/or murdered nobody would ever do anything

9. Another Safety Point: Someone just told me that her friend heard a crying baby on her porch the night before last, and she called the police because it was late and she thought it was weird. The police told her 'Whatever you do, DO NOT open the door.'

The lady then said that it sounded like the baby had crawled near a window, and she was worried that it would crawl to the street and get run over. The policeman said, 'We already have a unit on the way, whatever you do,DO NOT open the door.' He told her that they think a serial killer has a baby's cry recorded and uses it to coax women out of their homes thinking that someone dropped off a baby. He said they have not verified it, but have had several calls by women saying that they hear baby's cries outside their doors when they're home alone at night.

Please pass this on and DO NOT open the door for a crying baby --- This should be taken seriously because the Crying Baby theory was mentioned on America's Most Wanted when they profiled a serial killer in Louisiana.

This story is a hoax.

Forward this to all the women you know. It may save a life. A candle is not dimmed by lighting another candle. Don't just send this to the ladies only, but "guys" too. For the love of mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, etc., pass it onto them, as well.

This is a classic hoax chain mail closing. It might as well say, "Forward this email or someone is going to die."

If people want to reduce the number of rapes this is NOT the way to do it.

In part 3 I will respond to statements about rape by an author which were highlighted in a comment by Sophie in part 1.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:57 AM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, January 19, 2009

Through A Rapist's Eyes: Part 1

I received an email from a reader asking me if I had seen a viral email with supposed expert rape prevention advice. This led me to revisit a post I included in the latest edition of the Carnival Against Sexual Violence called Nothing to fear but fear itself. This post analyzed this viral email, possibly with some variations, sometimes titled "Important Information FOR YOUR SAFETY" which has been in circulation since 2001.

For those who want to understand rape through a rapist's eyes in order to avoid becoming a victim there isn't one perfect source. Even if there were this understanding is not rape prevention. At best it is rape avoidance where those who have been targeted learn to recognize early signs of danger or learn strategies about how to minimize harm once a rape or rape attempt is in progress.

Genuine rape prevention works effectively to reduce the number of rape attempts. The best and least expensive way to do this is to challenge all of the rationalizations and support rapists use to tell themselves that they aren't real rapists or that their victim is getting what she/he deserves.

This support is something that many non-rapists who see themselves as non-supportive of rapists provide through their actions, words or their failure to act or to speak up.

This means abandoning all victim blaming and victim responsibility for rape -- especially in rape prevention advice. And it means abandoning all rape denial. Rape is still rape even if the victim flirted first or allowed limited sexual contact or didn't clearly communicate lack of consent.

Making this change is harder than following rape avoidance advice since it means examining everything we have learned about sexual interactions with a willingness to recognize dangerous messages which may have been given to us by people who loved us and wanted us to be safe. It means rethinking everything we say about rape and everything we say about what we consider to not be rape.

Those who have provided support to rapists by attacking teen rape victims or by telling rape victims that they only think they were raped will find this examination painful and many of these people will not have the courage to work through that pain. If their examination isn't painful it will be because their dangerous attitudes are so entrenched that they cannot see what they have done from any perspective other than their own.

This rape prevention strategy which seeks to reduce rape attempts isn't dependent on the type of hyper-vigilance which this viral email advocates.

The greatest number of rapists only attack people they know because these non-stranger rapists have the greatest social support for their crimes, but the advice in this viral email is almost entirely focused on random stranger danger.

Before I was raped my gym teacher talked to all of her students about rape and we even practiced self-defense moves so we would be ready if we were grabbed by a stranger. My gym teacher talked about strategies for tricking stranger rapists into lowering their guard. There was never a single mention that rape could be committed by someone we knew and trusted.

I wasn't taught to recognize disrespect for personal boundaries and to see that disrespect as a red flag that the boundary violator might also violate sexual boundaries. I wasn't taught that sexual contact, by someone I knew, without my consent was a sex crime. I was taught to take the responsibility for boys' and men's sexual actions which I didn't or couldn't block. This teaching helped my rapist view himself as having done nothing criminal. All he ever admitted to was having made mistakes in our relationship.

One type of rapist, which I think of as the superior rapist because of this type of rapist's sense of entitlement and feeling of being generally superior to this rapist's victims of choice, is highlighted at Interactive Theatre:

I raped a woman. I do not believe that I am a pathological sex offender, but all the same, I raped. I don't think I am a bad guy. I have a college degree in the arts from a prestigious school and I get along well with my parents, who are still married. I do not hate women or the world, or myself, for that matter. My female friends, as well as many of my ex-girlfriends, think I am a bright, caring, understanding person. But all of that did not keep me from raping.

This particular rapist found his victim at a bar, but this mindset can be present inside churches and respectable businesses so avoiding bars and wild parties is not effective rape prevention.

This man had plenty of social support for his admitted crime and for his initial denial that what he did was rape. Even in this article where this man admits rape he practices minimization. His rape victim was a visitor from England which meant that she would be unlikely to be able to stay for a full investigation or for a trial. Yet he never mentions how that fact could embolden him to rape.

You can also get a good perspective of the conditions many rapists need in order to justify rape from reading the words of the anonymous men online who claim that 98% of rape reports are false. Not all of these people are rapists, but their denials provide insight into the thinking which invalidates almost all rapes.

That process of exclusion can tell us why the rapes they deny are so common.

To be effective, rape prevention which focuses on changing the standard behavior of potential rape victims would need to include teaching all potential victims how to mind read and how to get X-ray vision.

Since that isn't going to happen in the real world, the most effective rape prevention actions must create a hostile environment for rape supportive attitudes.

Legal and freely given sexual cooperation or bust.

In part 2, I will include the email my reader received with my comments after each section.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:06 PM   2 comments links to this post

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Jane Crow HHS Rule Challenged In Court By 7 States

From the NY Times:

Seven states sued the federal government on Thursday over a new rule that expands protections for doctors and other health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions and other medical procedures because of religious or moral objections.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut at a briefing on Thursday in Hartford.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut filed the lawsuit in federal court in Hartford on behalf of the states — California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island, which joined Connecticut in the lawsuit. The states are seeking a court order blocking the new rule.

They claim the federal rule, issued by the Bush administration last month and set to take effect on Tuesday, would trump state laws protecting women’s access to birth control, reproductive health services and emergency contraception.

Mr. Blumenthal said the regulations were “flawed and defective” and would “unconstitutionally and unconscionably interfere with women’s health care rights.”

This lawsuit gets to the heart of what the HHS rule does. It allows people to deny girls and women their basic constitutional rights in the name of protecting constitutional rights. I first wrote about what I saw as the desire to write Jane Crow laws a few months after I started blogging.

I and many others commented on this rule when it was proposed and those comments were ignored by the Bush Administration.

H/T: Feministe

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:56 AM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tampa Police's Rape Story Has Inconsistencies

From Tampa Bay Online story titled Police Can't Verify Woman's Rape Report At Gasparilla '07 about the woman who was arrested by the Tampa police on an outstanding warrant after she reported rape:

On Jan. 27, 2007, the woman, then 21, told police she had gone to the Gasparilla parade on with friends, then walked alone to her car to fetch her ID. She said a man dragged her into some bushes on South Howard Avenue, forced her to the ground, raped her and took her panties, the report states.

The woman called a friend and reported the rape. The friend insisted the woman call police, but she refused, so the friend called for help, police said. [...]

The report describes a March 1, 2007, meeting at Moore's office, where Detective Melanee Holder outlined the inconsistencies and "a few other facts that could not make any sense if this crime occurred," the document states.

Holder explained the lack of DNA and other physical evidence, and suggested the woman had filed the report "to make her friends feel guilty for leaving her and letting her walk to her car alone."

The police detective's suggestion which gives this woman a motive to lie is disproven by a key verifiable fact given by the police. This alleged rape victim didn't want the police called and she wasn't the one who called the police.

What this suggestion does communicate is a motive for the Tampa police to view every little detail which doesn't give them exactly what they get from the ideal rape case as if that detail were damning evidence against this woman. The now-dismissed lawsuit this woman filed against the Tampa police after she was jailed provides the Tampa police with further motive.

This is the type of inconsistency often used against those who report rape. The reality is that all the police have proven is that they cannot verify the original report. This happens in many real crimes, but you wouldn't know this by the statements made by Tampa police officials.

I've previously blogged about what it means when there is a lack of DNA evidence.

One of the details which was mentioned in this story was that this woman didn't give up the shirt and bra she was wearing. I've been with rape victims when the issue of surrendering their clothes comes up and this was almost always a major issue. Not wanting to lose your clothes, which you will likely never get back, after you've been raped is a natural response. This can relate to their feeling of having even more taken from them and it can relate to the loss of privacy which might feel as obvious to the victim as going home in a hospital gown.

These rape victims' reluctance went up for pieces of clothing which the victim knew couldn't possibly contain DNA from their rapist(s). To turn this natural response into incriminating evidence that no rape occurred is incompetence at best and negligence at worst.

If surrendering clothing became a standard practice in all personal crimes because of advances in forensic analysis and if this meaning were assigned to every non-sex crime victim who didn't surrender everything they were wearing then many victims of non-sex crimes could be easily described in a way that would make them look guilty of filing a false police report.

If the police are this sloppy when they are making public statements then their approach to the actual investigation is unreliable. There is no credible evidence that the Tampa police didn't do exactly as they were accused of doing: Assume this woman was a liar the moment they learned that she had an outstanding warrant and stop investigating this report as if it could be genuine and begin an investigation where the alleged rape victim was the only possible suspect.

This woman's decision to retain a lawyer and have that lawyer be her liaison between her and the Tampa police is positioned as evidence of this woman's likely guilt when it is evidence that the Tampa police violated this woman's trust by jailing her. From that moment on she rightfully doesn't trust them to respect her legal rights and to continue with a good faith investigation of a reported rape.

After learning she was jailed, if I were raped in Tampa, I'd absolutely call a lawyer before calling the police.

The police have admitted that they don't have enough evidence to charge this woman with a crime, but they are clearly communicating that they have enough evidence to publicly treat this woman like she has already been proven guilty. The problem is that if you don't have enough evidence to charge someone with a crime you don't have enough evidence to talk about them as if they have already been convicted.

For all those who call these types of police statements wrong when they are made about alleged rapists who haven't been convicted you must call these types of statements wrong when the target of this PR war is an alleged rape victim. If you don't then you don't have a problem with this tactic, only with the selection of who is the target of this tactic.

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

Friday, January 16, 2009

No Clear Presence Of Non-Consent

sailorman has left a new comment on your post "Understanding And Misunderstanding Genuine Consent...":

The unfortunate reality is that your statement regarding legality is not really true. Mind you, this is most assuredly not a good thing. But I think it's important when discussing laws to distinguish between "should be" and "is." So when you say this:

For sex to be consensual and legal there needs to be a clear presence of freely and legally given consent.

That is wrong. We don't define that which is "legal;" we only define what is illegal Most laws (including rape laws) don't talk about what you CAN do, they only talk about what you CAN'T do. IOW, technically there is often no such thing as "legal" sex--there is only "non-illegal" sex. Similarly, the definition of legality is always skewed towards the defendant, so it's really a problem of proving lack of consent.

So your sentence is backwards.

You say "Legal = clear presence of consent."

but in fact it is "Legal = non-illegal = no clear presence of NON-consent."

Confusing? Yes. But it is a crucial distinction, because it serves to illustrate the problem with rape law and with criminal codes in general: Lots of behavior which is BAD (like non-freely-consented-to sex) may still be LEGAL.

Sailorman is the one who is getting confused about the definition of rape. His decision to add double negatives changes the definition of what is legal unnecessarily.

To test the validity of Sailorman's definition imagine that someone who was allowed into another person's house, at a party for example, found the homeowner's coin collection and then walked out with that collection without being challenged.

In this action there was no clear presence of NON-consent which by Sailorman's definition means that this action must be defined as non-illegal. Yet we -- and criminal law -- recognize that the person who used stealth rather than a gun to steal someone else's possessions is still a thief.

This is true even if the homeowner greeted the future thief with, "Make yourself at home."

The actual definitions are as follows for both crimes:

illegal = sexual contact/taking someone else's possession without freely given consent

not illegal = sexual contact/taking someone else's possession with freely given consent.

Both of these are clearly defined with no gap between the 2 and with no gap between the reality of the offense and the reality of the law related to that offense.

The traditional backwards definition for rape which Sailorman provides catered to the desires of those who wanted the legal right to proceed when they did not have the other person's freely given consent and when there was no stereotypical presence of non-consent (other person shooting you so you wouldn't interpret "no" as "yes, but I don't want you to think I'm easy.").

This gap is where most rapists falsely claim, "I might be a jerk, but I'm no rapist."

From Minnesota Criminal Statutes:

Subd. 4.Consent.

(a) "Consent" means words or overt actions by a person indicating a freely given present agreement to perform a particular sexual act with the actor. Consent does not mean the existence of a prior or current social relationship between the actor and the complainant or that the complainant failed to resist a particular sexual act.

(b) A person who is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless as defined by this section cannot consent to a sexual act.

(c) Corroboration of the victim's testimony is not required to show lack of consent.

As this legal definition shows consent can be clearly defined in positive terms while the law as a whole defines what is illegal.

The only question in Minnesota is which degree will apply: Criminal Sexual Conduct In The [1st through 5th] Degree. All 5 degrees are felonies yet many people treat anything less than first degree as if it isn't real rape.

With a positive definition of consent the prosecution still has to prove that the alleged rape victim did not freely consent to a particular sexual action. This proof from the prosecution wouldn't be enough to prove rape under Sailorman's definition.

I'll repeat: Consent is something you do not something you fail to do. We have no problem with this concept in practice and in the criminal law except when it comes to sex crimes.

Any jurisdiction which still has any criminal statutes on the books which match Sailorman's confused definition need to be updated ASAP to prevent continued injustice and false accusations against rape victims.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:51 AM   7 comments links to this post

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 63

Welcome to the Jan. 15, 2009 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.

Before I begin the carnival, I want to again highlight my fundraising effort for my travel expenses to the WAM! 2009 conference where I and my fellow panelists (Cara Kulwicki of The Curvature, Ashley Burczak of SAFER and Ashwini Hardikar of SAFER) will be presenting:

Pulling the Plug on Rape Culture One Word at a Time:
Using Accuracy to Undermine Dangerous Attitudes and Injustice.




I'm actually $20 over the amount listed above. Thanks to all those who have already donated. I'm still far from my goal so if you support what I'm doing and are able to help even a little (no donation is too small), please consider donating.

Read my post on this conference for more information.

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

gender


In The natural basis for gender inequality posted at Greg Laden's Blog, we get a discussion which shows why naturalistic models cannot be used to justify systematic social, cultural, legal, economic, philosophical, or political inequalities and we get a discussion about claims that men's violence is firmly rooted in nature.

In "The good kind of feminist' (by Suzie) posted at ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES, we get a discussion about the dismissiveness contained in what is packaged as praise.

legal


In Senator Alquist introduces Statute of Limitations for Sex Crimes (SB 46) posted at CALCASA Public Policy, we get a discussion about a California bill which seeks to eliminate the statute of limitations for rape.

In Proving our innocence (by Suzie) posted at ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES, we get discussion about how in rape cases even with overwhelming evidence that the rape victim is often assumed to be guilty during the trial so that even the tiniest detail which differs from juror expectations can result in an acquittal.

In FEATURE: Rape Victim Presses Case of Police Abuse in Japan posted at Women's eNews, we get a discussion of a rape survivor's efforts to prevent other rape victims from being treated the way she was treated after she reported having been raped.

In "Shocks fit well into the brothel business model because they cause agonizing pain and terrify the girls without damaging their looks or undermining their market value." posted at Feminist Law Professors, we get a discussion about sex slavery and the assumptions people make about where sex slavery does and does not happen.

In Teacher accused of having sex with teen 300 times posted at DetentionSlip.org, we get a discussion of a teacher accused of abusing a 13-year-old student.

In Human Rights Watch studied abuses posted at CrimProf Blog, we get a discussion of a lawsuit against the Michigan Dept. of Corrections by female inmates over sexual assault, sexual harassment and other inappropriate practices.

In 4th Circuit Got it Right in Comstock posted at Sex Crimes, we get a discussion of a ruling which found that the part of the Adam Walsh Act which concerns the civil commitment of sex offenders after incarceration is unconstitutional.

In Woman Who "Did Not Want to Have Sex" Arrested for Biting Penis posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion of a case where the husband's physical violence was ignored because it was labeled as self defense yet the woman's decision to bite wasn't considered to be self defense for a possible sexual assault in progress.

In More Garden Variety Male Sexual Aggression? posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss the charges against 2 Santa Ana College football players and their friend made after a video of the alleged assault was turned over to police by an anonymous source.

media watch


In There Are Holocaust Deniers, There Are People Who Argue That Slavery Was Good For African-Americans And Many, Many Rape Victims Are Disbelieved. posted at Feminist Law Professors, we get a discussion of an article in the NY Times by Nicholas Kristof about sex trafficking.

In Bad Habits: A Love Story posted at Feminist Review, we get a review of fiction by Cristy Road where the protagonist is an abuse survivor.

personal stories


In All the difference in the world… posted at Shakespeare's Sister, we get a discussion about sexual attacks against women by groups of straight men for no stated reason other than to turn lesbians straight and how positioning those who are gay as sexually defective feeds into the rationalizations of the sexually violent.

recovery


In Linking Sexual Abuse To Mental Health Problems posted at SEXUAL ABUSE HELP, we get a discussion about how often the cause of seemingly causeless mental problems is sexual abuse which the survivor hasn't fully dealt with.

In Abuse Victims Engage in Dangerous "Magical Thinking" posted at SANCTUARY FOR THE ABUSED, we get a discussion of the problems which can come when the victim clings to baseless hope.

raising awareness


In "Not Rape Epidemic": The Modeling Industry Is Anything But Immune [Modelslips] posted at Jezebel, we get a discussion of what is often dismissed by rape apologists as garden variety male sexual aggression.

In Rape Culture posted at Rants from a Disruptive Feminist, we get a discussion about being at a family function and hearing a man teach his two-year-old son to chant 'NO MEANS YES! NO MEANS YES!'"

In Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself posted at I'll Follow the Sun, we get a discussion e-mail that has been going around recently, usually under a header like “Important Information FOR YOUR SAFTEY.”

In It Takes "Two to Tango"? posted at BARBARA'S TCHATZKAHS, we get a discussion of the common response when people hear about abuse within a relationship.

In Date Rape=Rape posted at this ain't livin', we get a discussion about the common denial pushed onto survivors of rape committed by someone they knew.

In Understanding And Misunderstanding Genuine Consent posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss the unavoidable, and often unanticipated, problems that are created whenever the definition of rape is even partly dependant on making the non-consenting person responsible for clearly communicating lack of consent.

recovery


In AFTER ABUSE posted at HELP FOR ABUSE - STOP DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, we get a discussion of how to return order to your life despite the many long term effects of domestic violence.

In January 5-11 is Women’s Self-Empowerment Week! posted at Healing Yourself Heals the World, we get a discussion about the link between self-empowerment and self care.

In "You're Just Bitter" posted at BARBARA'S TCHATZKAHS. we get a discussion of how often women's reactions to abuse or violence are dismissed as being a problem within those women.

research


In Young men believe rape myths posted at roffemix, we get a discussion of a study of young men in Norway which reveals disturbing attitudes towards rape.

In 18% Of Rape Cases In India Study Declared False posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss a study where the designation of whether the case was false was made by psychologists where the emphasis was on the harm that can be done to defendants who are innocent while ignoring the impact of incorrectly labeling a real rape victim as a liar.

In Research round-up 4: When people lie posted at Deception Blog, we get a discussion of various studies including how police assess identical testimony differently based on their assumptions about the meaning of emotional displays.

In Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse II posted at What about when MOM is the abuser?, we get a discussion about research into abuse and attitudes which prevent victims disclosure from being treated as valid which adds to the original trauma.

solutions


In Hate Crime Legislation is NOT the Answer posted at The Smoking Argus, we get a discussion about how the rise of hate crime statutes since Matthew Sheppard was murdered haven't reduced the number of anti-gay crimes which fall under that designation as highlighted by the brutal gang rape of a woman near San Francisco.

In Combating Teen Dating Violence posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion about teaching teens about violence and the importance of doing more than just telling them that hitting is wrong. We must also teach all of them (not just potential victims) appropriate, non-abusive boundaries.

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 Jan. 29 at 11 pm and the next edition will be out on Feb. 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, http://carnivalagainstsexualviolence.blogspot.com/

Marcella Chester

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:02 AM   4 comments links to this post