Saturday, February 28, 2009

Due to Computer Problems Carnival Delayed

I'm still catching up after my computer crash and won't have time to put the carnival together today so the next edition will be delayed until the 3rd of March.
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Friday, February 27, 2009

Listen And Lead Sexual Violence Prevention: Part 1

Despite my computer problems I managed to get back online in time to attend a webinar sponsored by MNCASA about creating plans inside Minnesota for April activities for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

In this first section I'm only going address the part of that webinar about legislative action with a focus on primary prevention. I'm focusing on this first because the budget is currently under review and the earlier we can communicate with our representatives on this issue the better.

This is relevant to non-Minnesotans as well since many other states are also slashing their budgets. Primary prevention and services to victims are needed in all states and in all countries.

That topic and portions of a program entitled Stop Sexual Violence: Listen and Lead which is a coproduction of PBS station TPT channel 2 and MNCASA are included in a video archive of the Minnesota House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee.

To see the committee discussion led by Rep. Erin Murphy who is sponsoring this prevention effort and the presentation given by Donna Dunn of MNCASA (who I know from her time as the director of Olmsted County Victim Services) go to the MN House archives and scroll down to Feb. 11, 2009. Click on watch this program. Here's a direct link which didn't give me the video controls I got otherwise.

03:55 - Gavel, and discussion of HF587 (Murphy, E.) Sexual violence prevention demonstration grant funding provided, and money appropriated (informational hearing only).

The section of the hearing about sexual violence prevention is about an hour but I encourage everyone who wants to improve official prevention efforts to set aside an hour to watch and listen.

Donna Dunn used a different terminology which reflects the reality of sexual violence: violence that uses sex. This label applies even to so-called non-violent rape. Someone who views a lack of clear and freely given affirmative consent (verbal and non-verbal) as unimportant is being violent when that person proceeds whether they get the other person to comply or whether they use incapacitation as a tool.

This is an area where primary prevention is critical. There are too many people who don't believe it is rape if there isn't stereotypical violence or whenever the victim does anything which might indicate a potential willingness to have sex. These same people tend to define rape from the alleged rapist's perspective rather than from an objective perspective about whether or not there was freely given consent. This misdefinition gives us rapists who believe they have been wrongfully accused when they have in fact been rightfully accuse. These attitudes set up boys in particular to commit rape.

There was bipartison support for the prevention of sexual violence in this committee but it was clear that budgetary issues are the key barrier and this committee has no control over budget. This is where myself and my fellow Minnesotans can help by expressing our priorities and our willingness to back those priorities financially until prevention reduces the cost of not having systematic prevention strategies in place.

In 2005 the full cost of sexual violence in Minnesota (including public and private costs) was $8 billion according to a Minnesota Dept. Of Health sponsored study.

Primary prevention is cheaper in the long run than waiting until violence has happened and a sex offender must be sent to prison and subsequently included on the sex offender registry. This post-rape solution leaves many rape victims unprotected either because there isn't enough evidence to file charges or because a jury didn't believe the prosecution proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hostile people who come to this and other blogs demanding, "What about the men?" should be the first people writing to their legislators supporting sexual violence prevention.

The program Stop Sexual Violence: Listen and Lead also highlights the services available to victims and survivors. These services are at risk because of budget issues. A fellow volunteer advocate, Jonathan Sapphira, guest posted here about the local fallout from this budget crisis which put the approximately $400,000 worth of volunteer hours at risk for an agency that serves 3 counties because the position of volunteer coordinator was unfunded.

In Minnesota, 13 counties don't have grants to provide important services to the victims of sexual violence. Clearly, there isn't enough funding now to meet the current need. Again citizens do have much more power than they assume they do.

Gov. Pawlenty's proposed budget will reduce funding from $1.4 to 1.2 million for sexual assault victim program grants and while this funding deserves to go up not down, the funding should at least be maintained to not lose important services (paid and volunteer) in a time when victims overall will have fewer alternate resources because of the economy.

If you live in Minnesota, please contact the governor, and your legislators through this district finder. You don't need to be a policy expert to speak out.

Also included in this committee hearing is a discussion about other sexual health issues such as STDs, pregnancy prevention and sexuality education. I haven't had time yet to watch that but when I get a free hour I plan to do so since it is linked to sexual violence prevention.


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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Legislation Related To Addressing Link Between Animal Abuse And Domestic Abuse

I blogged about the link between animal abuse and domestic violence last October when I wrote about the Intimate Partner Violence workshop's session where Jan Egge talked about the murder of her sister.

This topic wasn't highlighted in the Meeting Survivor's Needs survey of domestic violence shelter residents but it might exist under conflicts residents have related to a shelter's rules.

From the Quad City Times:

DES MOINES [Iowa] — Victims of domestic violence should be able to seek court protection for a family pet to keep an abuser from causing harm to an animal or using a pet to gain leverage, advocates said Wednesday. [...]

As a potential remedy, legislation is working through the Iowa House and Senate that would expand the scope of judicial restraint in domestic abuse cases to include specifically named pets. Domestic-violence victims could petition the court to require that an abuser stay away from the family’s animals, as well as the victim and the children, under the legislative proposals.

A judge could issue temporary and permanent orders granting exclusive care, possession or control of a family pet. The court action also could order an abuser to stay away from the animal and forbid the abuser from “taking, transferring, encumbering, concealing, molesting, attacking, striking, threatening, harming, or otherwise disposing” of the animal.

This update is needed and similar legislation should be introduced in other states. Legislators in Maryland are considering similar legislation and other measures related to domestic violence. Unlike many other types of legislation this is not an expensive change.

Without this change judges may decide to include animals if those seeking orders realize they can make this request, but their inclusion still needs to explicitly be part of the official system. This protects both animals and the people who care about those animals.

Along with this change needs to be more coordination between animal shelters and domestic violence shelters so that concern for animals doesn't prevent any adult or child from seeking safety.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:50 AM   3 comments links to this post

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Online Again

I'm poorer now but thankfully I once again have a working computer that isn't borrowed. Blogging will be back to normal tomorrow.

This unexpected expense makes the help with my WAM! Conference expenses all the more appreciated.

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Carnival Deadline Tomorrow night

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.

Note: I'm still experiencing computer problems so emailed submissions may not be included until the following edition.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Experiencing Computer Problems

I've been having PC problems since Saturday and my hard drive has now crashed and is a goner so my online activity will be limited to when I can go to friends and use their computers until I get my PC fixed or replaced.
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PBS NOW Highlights Stalking Of Teenagers In The Workplace

From PBS's NOW description of their episode titled Is Your Daughter Safe at Work?:

A shocking statistic—teenagers are in more danger from sexual predators at their part time jobs than through the Internet. According to one estimate, 200,000 teenagers are assaulted at the workplace each year. It's a vastly underreported phenomenon, but some brave young women are stepping up publicly to tell their stories.

This week, NOW collaborates with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University to bring you an unprecedented broadcast investigation of teen sexual harassment in the workplace.

In the program, abused teenagers share their own stories with Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa. We track their legal journeys to justice, and how the issue impacts hundreds of thousands of teenagers across the country—many of whom don't know how to report workplace abuse, or to even recognize when their bosses cross the line.

Even if you cannot find this episode on your local PBS station, I suggest checking out all the links provided along with the description of this episode. A preview is available now and the entire episode may be available at some point.

I was sexually harassed and inappropriately touched on the job by my boss as a teen when I worked at a gas station that primarily hired teenage girls. My boss definitely didn't think what he was doing was wrong and at that time his initial boundary violations were dismissed by coworkers as all talk. I don't know if it was the stress or the fact that I worked at that job after I was raped, but whenever I have thought about my work history when filling out an employment application, that job never enters my thoughts. This is the first time I've thought about that job in decades.

Thankfully, that's the only time when this has happened to me.

This type of violence illustrates why lectures to avoid unsafe areas (even when an area is suffering from epidemic levels of violent crime) aren't sufficient or effective prevention. Violence can and does happen in every type of location which means that the solution is not to restrict potential victims but to deal with the full scope of the how and why the abusive/violent person chooses to harm others.

In some cases which are called sexual harassment what is really going on is an attempted sexual assault where bosses and coworkers use the commitments employees make to stay on the job, and the employee's economic needs, as tools to gain unwanted sexual contact.

Too often victims are blamed if they cannot find a way to fend off harassment or stop harassment from escalating into sexual assault. This is not only wrong it works against genuine prevention because it helps offenders shift the responsibility for their actions onto their victims.

If someone has to use leverage of any type to get compliance for what that person wants then it is certain that what that person is getting is not genuine consent because if there were genuine consent then leverage would not be required.

The importance of this type of show goes beyond causing teens and parents of teens to be afraid.

This type of show can highlight appropriate boundaries so offenders and potential offenders cannot rationalize away the hostile environment they are creating or maintaining. If abusive tactics are removed from the list of actions assumed to be acceptable then those who have been tempted to use these actions will start learning non-abusive tactics in their interactions. And they will learn when certain people they work with are completely off-limits.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Conference On Treatment Of Sexual Abusers April 1 and 2

There will be will be a conference on April 1 and 2 in Marlborough, MA on the assessment, treatment and safe management of sexually abusing children, adolescents and adults. This conference is sponsored jointly by Massachusetts Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (MATSA) and Massachusetts Adolescent Sex Offender Coalition (MASOC) .

From the MASOC web site:

MASOC is a coalition of professionals committed to stopping sexual abuse through early and specialized intervention, assessment, treatment and management in the lives of sexually abusive children and youth.

This work is very important since sexually abusive behavior is not caused by hormones as too many people continue to believe and because there are many dangerous myths being circulated by people who claim to be experts.

If sexual offending can be caught early and those who commit this type of crime can be dealt with respectfully, and with full accountability for their actions, that will help many people including those who commit sex crimes.


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Saturday, February 21, 2009

If You Die After You Make A Statement About A Crime Will A Jury Be Allowed To Know About It?

In at least one scenario in Iowa the answer is yes according to the Iowa Supreme Court. The jury was properly allowed to know about the victim's statement shortly after she (Holly Michael) was found by firefighters. The victim had been raped, bound and a fire had been set around her.

The testimony given at the trial of Sessions Harper about the victim's statements was ruled to be admissible and not banned as hearsay or because it denied the defendant the right to cross examine the person who made the statement.

From Evidence Prof Blog:

The recent opinion of the Supreme Court of Iowa in State v. Harper, 2009 WL 277087 (Iowa 2009), provides a nice (but disturbing) illustration of something that I teach my Evidence students: Statements falling under the dying declaration exception to the rule against hearsay also often fall under the excited utterance exception (and also the less useful medical treatment/diagnosis exception). [...]

At the emergency room, a hospital staff member heard Michael say "I think I'm going to die." An x-ray technician also heard Michael say, "please don't kill me" and "Harper did it, Harper did it." Furthermore,

One of the treating physicians initially thought Michael was dead based on the severity of her burns. After he discovered she was alive and conscious, he asked her what had happened. She said that Sessions Harper had raped her, tied her, and set her house on fire. The doctor asked her to repeat what she had said, and Michael again said that Sessions Harper had raped her, tied her, and set her house on fire. Another physician treating Michael also heard what she had said. Based upon Michael's statements, a doctor performed a rape kit examination. Another attending physician treating Michael asked her who had done this, and Michael replied "Sessions Harper. He tied me up, raped me, and left me in the basement."

Eighteen days after the incident, Michael died from complications from the burns and inhalation injuries. Harper was thereafter arrested and charged with first-degree sexual abuse, kidnapping, murder, and arson. After he was found guilty on all charges based in large part on the testimony of the above medical service providers, Harper appealed, claiming, inter alia, that Michael's statements were inadmissible hearsay and/or admitted in violation of his rights under the Confrontation Clause.

Thankfully Harper's appeal was unsuccessful and EvidenceProf explains in detail why this victim's statement was admissible under 2 exceptions to the ban on hearsay evidence because what she said was both a dying declaration and an excited utterance.

The court ruled that the victim's statements were not testimonial and therefore Harper hadn't been denied his right to confront the person making testimony against him.

If, however, she had filed an order for protection and been interviewed by police where she told them that Harper had threatened to rape her, tie her up in her basement and set her home on fire that testimony wouldn't have been admissible even though that testimony would have been relevant. This unfortunately rewards criminals who murder those who have testified against them and for that reason alone there needs to be a review of the evidence rules in this area.

If the Iowa Supreme Court had ruled that these statements by the victim were inadmissible then that would have indicated to me that Iowa's rules of evidence would need to be changed. If this appeal had been successful if it had occurred in any other jurisdiction that that jurisdiction then the rules of evidence need to be changed in that jurisdiction.


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Friday, February 20, 2009

Mankato State University Sees 3 Reports Of Rape This Month

From the Mankato Freepress:

Police are investigating three acquaintance rapes that have taken place at Minnesota State University dormitories this month.

No one at the Mankato Department of Public Safety could be reached Thursday to comment about the incidents, which were reported to campus security on Feb. 1, Feb. 6 and Tuesday morning. Some information about the incidents was available through crime alerts on the MSU Security Web site. [...]

Cooper said the university doesn’t believe the acquaintance rapes are related to two groping incidents, one on campus and one near campus and involving a student, that also were reported this month. That suspect has not been identified, so the university is required to post information about them because there is an ongoing threat.

3 reports so close together are unusual, but 3 rapes on the same college campus this close together may not be unusual at all. As colleges improve their responses to all those who report rape, including those who know their rapists, I believe that the number of reported rapes will rise. And this is good news even if it is shocking to many people.

The story reports that there have been no arrests in these 3 rape reports and that is normal. If any of these cases involved forensic exams, the police may not even consider filing charges until the forensic evidence is processed.

However, the university should not wait until the criminal investigation is complete to begin their internal process related to reports of on-campus rape. Universities can take strong actions without violating anyone's due process rights. This should include action on the individual reports and action related to education about what is and is not genuine consent. It may also require education about anti-harassment policies which must be combined with effective enforcement of anti-harassment policies.

Unfortunately, many people have been taught to view details such as being alone in someone's room, or flirting, as legal consent when they are no such thing. This can lead to rape and it can lead to real rape victims being treated as if they have filed a fraudulent report.


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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Meeting Survivors' Needs: A Multi-State Study of Domestic Violence Shelter Experiences

On Wednesday I attended a webinar about the findings of the study: Meeting Survivors' Needs: A Multi-State Study of Domestic Violence Shelter Experiences.

At the end of the webinar participants were told that the federal government's primary funding for DV shelters, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act expired last September.

I'm highlighting this before getting into the details of this study because continued funding is necessary to not lose the progress DV shelters and DV advocates have made in helping shelter residents with safety and practical issues and in doing community outreach which often focuses on violence prevention.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides some funding for coordinated community responses which includes domestic violence, but the core funding for DV shelters is critical. Many states are slashing their funding to a variety of programs and this will likely include cutting funding related to helping victims of domestic violence.

Unfortunately, those who have always opposed DV shelters and other services for victims of violent crime will use our current economic crisis as an excuse to heighten their opposition to funding these programs. Their excuse is invalid. Effective prevention and effective responses to violence is less expensive than waiting until the violence escalates to the point where it cannot be ignored.

I am asking each US citizen who reads this post to contact President Obama, your 2 senators (or 1 if you live in MN) and your representative and ask them all to support the reathorization and the funding for the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act. After you contact your representatives, please ask those you know to do the same.

Helping a victim get out alive is both a better outcome and cheaper than arresting, trying and incarcerating a man for brutally murdering his wife. This is also a better outcome for children who end up losing both parents.

Okay, back to the study.

This study was conducted by Eleanor Lyon and Shannon Lane of the University of Connecticut's Institute for Violence Prevention and Reduction at the School of Social Work in collaboration with the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, a project of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The heading on the press release (pdf) accompanying the publication of the report on this study captures some of the major findings.

Domestic Violence Shelters Are Meeting Needs of Most Victims, Comprehensive Federally-Funded Study Finds

Victims Report Satisfaction with Services, Help Achieving Long-Term Safety,
But Say More Help Needed with Health, Housing & Children's Issues
The Executive Summary and Full Report (pdf) are available at: Currently multiple links related to this study are on the right side of the main page. This web site also contains the toll free numbers for 3 different hotlines.

The study, with data collected from October, 2007 to March, 2008, is based on surveys of 3410 residents in 215 domestic violence shelters in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington. The shelters chosen for the study were selected because they represent the diversity of communities and domestic violence shelter clients in the US.

Thirteen men were surveyed so that 99.6% of the respondents were women. Most men served by DV shelters are given motel vouchers or stay at separate safe houses which weren't included in this survey. 68% of those surveyed had minor children with them at the shelter.

98% of shelters were able to accomodate people with disabilities.

Residents who participated in this study completed a survey at or near the time they arrived and they completed a second survey at or near the time they left. This allowed the researchers to measure their initial needs and to look at how well the shelter was able to address those needs during a client's stay.

This study highlights that domestic violence shelters are both needed and largely effective when they have funding to match the needs in their communities. The needs of residents went far beyond having temporary safe housing.

Needs included support groups, creating safety plans, legal help, assistance finding affordable housing, help making educational plans and meeting the needs of the children impacted by DV. This study highlighted areas where domestic violence shelters can do more to meet the needs of those who come to them or to help connect their clients to other services which can meet those needs.

One of the major needs highlighted in this report is for shelter staff to have strong conflict resolution skills. One-third of respondents (32 percent) said they had conflicts with other residents, and 73 percent of those conflicts were resolved.

Despite many stereotypes repeated by people who dismiss the importance of DV shelters these shelters are not the first resort for those who are trying to get out of a marriage or relationship.

The most important outcomes related to long-term safety for those leaving the shelter are having a safety plan and knowing what local resources are available to help them be safe and rebuild their lives.

Funding for shelters is already being hit so some shelters are having to cut back on their 24 hour services (hotlines, for example) or they are having to cut back on other services. This can increase the number of people who are turned away from DV shelters because the shelter is full.

There was a question about whether domestic violence increases during recessions and we were referred to information on economic distress and intimate partner violence. Studies haven't found evidence that economic distress causes domestic violence but economic distress can lead to an escalation of abuse and/or physical violence.

I applaud the researchers for studying the effectiveness of DV shelters from the residents perspective. Too often programs are designed and modified while those making important decisions (including funding decisions) remain disconnected from those being served by those programs. The results of this study will be used to give legislators important information which should help legislators support funding for DV shelters based on solid research about everything DV shelters can do for their clients.

The full report is available in PDF format.

Here are a couple more resources provided during the webinar:

National Network To End Domestic Violence

Helping Women Understand Their Risk in Situations of Intimate Partner Violence (requires subscription or fee to access full article)

For more on DV/Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) check out my series of posts about a one-day IPV seminar I attended last October at the Mayo Clinic.

Part 1: Barriers
Part 2: Universal screening
Part 3: A sister's story
Part 4: How to get men involved
Part 5: A physician's experience as a victim of IPV

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Man Allegedly Murdered Wife After Order Of Protection Filed But Is His Religion To Blame?

From WIVB:

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) - A shocking and gruesome story of a T.V. station owner's wife, found decapitated at the Bridge's Muslim T.V. network in Orchard Park.

In pictures of happier times, 37-year-old Aasiya Zubair and her 44-year-old husband Mo Hassan, who founded Bridges T.V.

While some non-feminist bloggers are focusing on the contrast between the peaceful mission of this Muslim TV network and the violence committed by this particular Muslim what I notice, based on my knowledge of domestic violence, is this case lacks contrast or surprise.

Because of the TV network and the fact that this woman was decapitated, this murder does have a built in story which catches the attention of many people who would otherwise ignore this crime where a husband murdered his estranged wife. This increased coverage in the blogosphere can make it seem like the crime itself is far different from the cases which don't get national traction.

But from the details presented, this case isn't significantly different from thousands of other murders committed by husbands against their wives. She was a wife who had filed for divorce and had filed an order for protection. Less than a week later, she had been murdered and her husband was charged.

Like many other spousal murders, this murder happened in the most dangerous time for women. The first month after they leave the relationship.

If this crime gets described by Hassan or his defense attorney as an honor killing I would view that as just another way to blame the victim. This habit of victim blaming is in no way unique to Muslims.

Too many people are willing, when the husband/murderer is like them demographically, to claim that the husband must have been pushed to this level of violence by the victim and the family court system.

For me honor killing is just another phrase which excuses murder and those who commit murder. It markets brutality and cold-bloodedness as something the murderer had to do.

In non-Muslim circles where this type of crime is excused or minimized instead of talking about honor killings they often talk about men being driven over the edge so that the perpetrator becomes a victim of the murder victim.

All those who condemn this man must also condemn all of the other men who murder their wives. If they fail to do so then it isn't the crime of murder itself which they are condemning.

Update (2/21): There have been responses to this murder from Muslim activists.

"Muslims don't want to talk about this for good reason," said Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, a Muslim author and activist. "There is so much negativity about Muslims, and it sort of perpetuates it. The right wing is going to run with it and misuse it. But we've got to shine a light on this issue so we can transform it."

There is evidence of movement in that direction in the 10 days since the Hassan slaying. In an open letter to American Muslim leaders, Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali of Sterling, Va., vice president of the Islamic Society of North America, said "violence against women is real and cannot be ignored."

He urged that imams and community leaders never second-guess a woman in danger, and said women seeking divorces because of physical abuse should not be viewed as bringing shame to their families.

Muslim women's advocates consider the statement significant after years of indifference in a community which has seen only recent progress - for example, the opening of shelters for battered Muslim women in a few major cities.

Unfortunately, just as in non-Muslim communities there are still Muslim's in the US who practice victim blaming and who rationalize violence against women. If the victim were just a better person or a more obedient wife she'd still be alive. According to this worldview the murdered woman brought the violence upon herself.

This view is shared by many people who in other ways are nothing alike and who may even hate each other.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:04 AM   4 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Denial and Neglect Undermine the Fight against Human Trafficking

From the press release about an assessment on human trafficking:
NEW YORK, 12 February 2009 (UNODC). The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today issued a Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. Based on data gathered from 155 countries, it offers the first global assessment of the scope of human trafficking and what is being done to fight it. It includes: an overview of trafficking patterns; legal steps taken in response; and country-specific information on reported cases of trafficking in persons, victims, and prosecutions. "Public opinion is waking up to the reality of modern slavery", said the Executive Director of UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa. "But many governments are still in denial. There is even neglect when it comes to either reporting on, or prosecuting cases of human trafficking".

The press release goes on to say that the rate of prosecution is lower than for rare crimes. Also 60% of those convicted are women. I believe the second statistic may be related to the first one.

The recent conviction of 4 women and 1 man I blogged about was for a very small time operation. The large organized traffickers are the least likely to be prosecuted and the most likely to be run by men.

The huge scale of human trafficking is one of the reasons that it is important to not assign those prostituted with agency they don't possess. If the trafficked are wrongfully assumed to have agency, possibly because they are not locked in by barbed wire, then freeing them won't be a high priority because they could free themselves if they really wanted to be free.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:11 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rape Denial Education Funded By Ohio

An abstinence-only education organization which operates in Ohio with public funding, Abstinence 'Till Marriage (ATM) is teaching teens that premarital sex is bad and they are doing so by echoing and amplifying dangerous rape myths.

They unfortunately make premarital sex and premarital rape indistinguishable in what they call the Party Room. Their disclosure however shows that this organization knows the reality of what they deny and who they blame.

We must emphasize that any crime occurring as a result of a risky decision is still a crime and ATM Education strongly encourages teens to seek a trusted adult or notify the proper authorities in such cases.
Translation: even if we believe it's your fault you were raped (rape occurred as a result of your risky decision not as a result of the rapist's decisions), our legal department has told us that we can't excuse your rapist from legal responsibility.

My message to teens is that anyone who agrees with this victim blaming or rape denial is not a trusted adult and to avoid making your first disclosure to these adults. RAINN has an online service where you can disclose confidentially and get help on what follow up actions you can take.
If you have disclosed to those who buy into the messages in this Party Room understand that their opinions are not reliable. This is especially true if they try to push you into denying that what was done to you was rape or if they push you to forgive your rapist.

This Party Room scenario is educational, but not in the way this program intended. It highlights the rationalization of rapists and how so-called expert and non- expert non-rapists are quick to align themselves against teen rape victims and to ignore important evidence.

Rochelle is the alleged rape victim.

Jason is the alleged rapist.

Monica is the alleged rapist's ex-girlfriend.

Tanner is supposedly a bystander with no emotional connection to any of the other 3.

Rochelle says in part: "Jason had been drinking and started making the move on me. I told him I liked him as a friend, but he didn't have a chance for anything else." She says she took the keys so he wouldn't drive drunk.

Jason's story is that Rochelle was all over him at the party, but this story is contradicted by his ex-girlfriend Monica's story. She states that it was Jason who was after Rochelle and that every boy wanted Rochelle because she has a reputation for "putting out." She states that Jason had something to prove which gives Jason a motive for forcing himself on Rochelle so he could use her as a trophy to soothe his wounded ego.

Tanner is quoted as having offered to drive Jason home with Rochelle turning him down because Jason needed more than a ride him. This incriminating statement comes from someone who clearly does have a connection with Jason yet who positions himself as not having this connection. None of the other 3 characters make any reference to Tanner's offer to drive Jason home so this interaction may not have happened in any form.

Monica's story gives Tanner another motive to lie. Resentment. All the boys were after Rochelle because of her reputation. This would include Tanner. Yet he watched her leave with Jason and likely assumed they would have sex because of Rochelle's reputation. For many teens Rochelle's reputation makes it impossible for her to be viewed as someone who could be raped.

Jason's story of what happened once Rochelle drove his car away from the party with him in the passenger seat is contradicted by Monica's testimony. According to someone who believed him innocent he was described as a boy with a goal, but according to him he continued to be the pursued not the pursuer.

After the alleged rape (in the middle of the night) Jason went to Tanner's house, got in without waking Tanner's parents, borrowed Tanner's cell phone and called his ex-girlfriend and begged her to take him back -- going so far as to declare his love for her. Since he allegedly consented to have sex with another girl shortly before this declaration of love this declaration is a lie. There is an obvious motive for this middle of the night begging. He needed Monica to be his ally and fast.

The scenario's choice of having Rochelle's father confront her so that she discloses immediately is stereotypical for what people expect when they believe a girl lied about rape to get out of trouble. Using this stereotype directs unsuspecting readers to a set conclusion which is rape denial. This is furthered by Rochelle's suspended driver's license and reputation as a girl who "puts out."

Monica defends Jason because he never raped her, but acknowledges that Jason respected her while he had no respect for Rochelle or other girls. The double standard where good girls must be respected while bad girls don't require respect makes this experience meaningless at pointing toward Jason's innocence.

Tellingly, Monica also admits that she gave Jason oral sex to keep him happy which means that she didn't do that freely. That's abusive even though in the scenario Monica doesn't see it that way. If the girl Jason "loved" doesn't get full respect related to her sexual boundaries, the girl Jason clearly doesn't love wouldn't get even that much respect.

The unrealistic scenario continues by showing the cops going to Tanner's house before the end of the night to interview him and when they discover Jason is there they immediately arrested Jason. This paints a false picture about what happens after someone reports being raped by a person they know.

In police departments that are hostile to many rape victims Rochelle would be discouraged from reporting and possibly even blocked from having a forensic exam because she willingly got into a car with her alleged rapist. She might even be threatened with being charged with filing a false police report. In better police departments interviews would be requested -- and not in the middle of the night -- from all involved before the police would consider arresting anyone.

This description of the middle of the night interview request and arrest reinforces the myth that all a girl has to do is say she was raped and the boy or man she accuses will be immediately arrested on her word alone.

At the end of this scenario readers are asked whose story is least credible. There is another disclaimer.

There are no right or wrong answers, just opinions.
This is butt covering and a lie. This scenario directs naive and biased readers to either call Rochelle a liar or to blame her for what was done to her while the actual evidence they present supports Rochelle's claim that she was raped and undermines Jason's claim that he was falsely accused.

Having a reputation for "putting out" actually increases the odds that a girl will be raped by boys who feel entitled to take whatever they want from that girl.

By making this false claim that this case is inherently unprovable this abstinence-only group is providing practical support for rapists. If a boy like Jason rapes a girl like Rochelle he may be shocked to find himself charged and rightfully convicted.

While their disclaimer tells those who are raped to disclose, their summation directly discourages those who are raped by friends to report that rape since, "you can be certain that arguments regarding their stories, their decisions, and their character will be fierce."

In other words, Rochelle's reputation will be used against her no matter how she got this reputation. In this scenario the only evidence of Rochelle's sexual history comes from the alleged rapist, his friend and his girlfriend who took him back. This could be a lie they created to make them all seem more credible than the alleged rape victim. If other teens reject the possibility that Jason could be a rapist they would likely feel justified in spreading lies about Rochelle or harassing her.

After numerous dangerous messages, ATM's Party Room closes by positioning Jason (who they admit could be a rapist) as "extremely vulnerable to his circumstances" which included being with a "hot" girl who comforted him.

This isn't vulnerability, this is a dangerous rationalization. The party room ends up providing support for teen rapists who might have previously feared being convicted for their crimes. ATM ends up telling these rapists they have nothing to worry about except getting STDs from their rape victims.

H/T: Feministe

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

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 65

Welcome to the Feb. 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:


In Sometimes It's Hard To Be A Woman posted at Deliberations, we get a discussion about the bias women lawyers face in jury trials.


In Algeria CIA Station Chief Accused of Drugging, Raping Women posted at Feministing, we get a discussion of the case where Algeria's top CIA operative has been accused of drugging and raping two Muslim women in his home.

In Shocking Concession Comes out of the Government in Eighth Circuit SORNA Case posted at Sex Crimes, we get a discussion of federal prosecution of sex offenders who moved to different states before the statute they were being prosecuted on was passed.

In "Bad Samaritan" gets 24 years in California freeway rape case posted at Victimized Over The AOC, we get a discussion of a case where a woman was raped after she ended up in the ditch to avoid hitting another car.

In Landmark Settlement In Title IX Rape Case posted at Terri Patraw, we get a discussion of a civil case where a former Arizona State University student who was raped in her dorm room in 2004 by one of the school's football players will collect $850,000, and the Arizona university system will establish a women's safety czar for all three major campuses -- ASU, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University.

In Blaming the victim posted at Grits for Breakfast, we get a discussion about comments made by the current DA in the jurisdiction where Timothy Cole was wrongfully prosecuted which blame the victim in that case while refusing to blame investigators who tainted the ID and ignored key evidence from the victim.

In Injustice From Those Speaking Out Against Injustice posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss the injustice of blaming a rape victim who was led to make a faulty identification and who had a key detail of her description of her rapist ignored.

In Possible Gender Discrimination in Statutory Rape Charges posted at Sex Crimes, we get a discussion about a ruling about why a 14 year old boy was charged while the 3 pre-teen girls he had sexual contact with were not also charged with statutory rape when the Massachusetts law doesn't exempt them from prosecution.

In The Law Doesn't Apply to You (if you a white, male Texas Sheriff) posted at Female Impersonator, we get a discussion of the former Texas sheriff, Bill Keating, released by the court pending his sentencing for raping a woman repeatedly.

media watch

In Sex crime reporting: You're doing it wrong posted at Ideologically Impure, we get a discussion of several stories about rapes where rape is minimized.

In Ahhh, rape culture posted at What a crazy random happenstance, we get a discussion about teens reading a Post Secret book.


In Coming Home posted at Everyone Needs Therapy, we get a discussion of the trauma which comes from actions which might not be considered a crime.

In The Rise of Teen Cutting and Self Harm posted at Spirit Happy, we get a discussion about how common self harm is and how it reflects inner pain.

personal stories

In This is Not Going to Be A Funny Post. Unless You're an Asshole. posted at Law With Grace, we get a discussion about the outcome of a survivor's rape trial.

In A Discussion About Rape Between Two Guys posted at The Frog Prince, we get to see how one man helped another man stop viewing certain rapes as gray or not rape.

In Just so you know, I do know what it's like to be falsely accused, socially, of sexual assault. posted at Polimicks, we get a discussion about the incorrect assumption that women can't be falsely accused.

In Rape Culture on the Bus posted at Daughter of the Ring of Fire, we get a discussion of the dangerous attitudes which express themselves in public when men feel they have the right to control women they don't know.

In Why I Don’t Rape posted at Mortality's Thoughts, we get a discussion of a question which doesn't get asked often enough.

raising awareness

In Yes, Statutory Rape Is Real Rape posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion of those who minimize statutory rape into a non-personal crime by claiming that other rapes are clearly worse.

In The Problem With Looking Into Our Hearts To Determine Guilt posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss the cumulative effect of believing someone we know to be innocent without the use of evidence.

In Tales From A Survivor posted at The Angry Black Woman, we get a discussion of the apologism spoken by people who minimize the actions of Chris Brown.


In What's your therapy? posted at Notes from a Survivor, we get a discussion of the struggles and benefits of therapy.

In Letting go posted at All Girl Army, we get a discussion of the complex process of recovery.

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 Feb. 26 at 11 pm and the next edition will be out on March 1.

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

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

Marcella Chester

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:04 AM   3 comments links to this post

Saturday, February 14, 2009

National Effort To Eliminate Statute Of Limitations

From ABC News:

"I was raped when I was 12 years old," said a Texas woman who asked that her name not be used. "The man broke into our house, and beat me and raped me at knifepoint while my parents slept in the room next to mine." So ended her childhood, and 25 years later, she still wrestles with the trauma of that horrific night.

Police investigated but the case went cold, until 2001 when her attacker was finally identified, thanks to DNA evidence. But he couldn't be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired. [...]

"And all these years, it's like, wonder, wonder, wonder. Is he in prison? Is he alive? Is he dead?" the victim said. "And really, truly after about 25 years, you begin to feel like you don't matter. Like you have been forgotten about."

But the 1983 case was not forgotten. While investigating another crime in 2001, a cold case detective discovered that the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences had been saving rape kits since 1981 -- preserved evidence could be examined with modern-day technology.

The DNA evidence in her case was analyzed and matched to Dewayne Douglas Willis, but he couldn't be charged because the statute of limitations for this case expired after 5 years. This match came shortly before Willis was set to be released from prison on an unrelated conviction.

Those who are willing to see the statute of limitations be eliminated when there is DNA evidence but who are unwilling to see the statute of limitations eliminated for rapes where there was no DNA collected unfortunately contribute to a system of unequal justice.

Rapists who commit rapes against those who are least likely to get a rape kit done will eventually be free from prosecution while other rapists who may have committed fewer and less violent rapes will always face prosecution and conviction.

This would skew the prosecution of older rape cases toward stranger rapes. But stranger rapes are not automatically more traumatic than non-stranger rapes. And stranger rapists are not always a greater continuing threat than non-stranger rapists. Brutality can come from those closest to us or those who with power over their victims.

Some rape victims can't get rape kits done even if they wanted to. Prisoners raped by their jailers is just one example where access to forensics exams is non-existent or severely limited.

When people defend a multi-tier statute of limitations they don't talk about these cases, they only talk about potentially fraudulent rape reports.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:56 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, February 13, 2009

History Of Using Rape Victims As Excuse For Injustice Against Black Men

After I wrote my post Injustice from those speaking out against injustice about people blaming Michelle Mallin for the wrongful conviction of Timothy Cole I had responses from Womanist Musings and James Landrith which incorrectly assumed that I do not know about the history of injustice against black men who are accused of raping white women. I am aware of this history and condemn this injustice.

This history of injustice against black men in the name of protecting white women is real and well documented. Less documented is another injustice which often goes hand in hand with that injustice. Scapegoating rape victims or those who reported being raped, or who allegedly reported being raped, as the cause of violence against and wrongful convictions of black men, or other men of color, including lynching.

This is what I saw happening again in response to Timothy Cole's exoneration and what I opposed. The current DA has joined in on this scapegoating.

This second injustice is used both to continue the first type of injustice and to make excuses for the actions of those responsible for the first type of injustice. If those who are responsible for the first injustice can get people to focus their blame on women who reported being raped then they can continue practicing injustice against black men unimpeded while increasing the amount of injustice against rape victims.

From Ida B. Wells' Southern Horrors essay on lynching from 1892:

To palliate this record (which grows worse as the Afro-American becomes intelligent) and excuse some of the most heinous crimes that ever stained the history of a country, the South is shielding itself behind the plausible screen of defending the honor of its women. This, too, in the face of the fact that only one-third of the 728 victims to mobs have been charged with rape, to say nothing of those of that one-third who were innocent of the charge. A white correspondent of the Baltimore Sun declares that the Afro-American who was lynched in Chestertown, Md., in May for assault on a white girl was innocent; that the deed was done by a white man who had since disappeared. The girl herself maintained that her assailant was a white man. When that poor Afro-American was murdered, the whites excused their refusal of a trial on the ground that they wished to spare the white girl the mortification of having to testify in court.

Too many of those who refer to this history of using rape to justify lynching aren't aware that a white rape victim having her genuine report of rape misused to commit an injustice is nothing new. Yet because of the unjust outcome she, like Mallin, most likely got wrongfully blamed for that man's death by many people opposed to injustice.

As this quote demonstrates most of those lynched were not accused of rape by any woman yet rape was used as a generic excuse. Despite this reality, women who reported being raped in the time of lynching are generally described as being the cause of those lynchings when this simply isn't true.

Rape or the fear of rape was nothing more than an excuse for lawlessness and terrorism.

After the Omaha riot in 1919 where Will Brown, jailed for rape, was lynched and burned the grand jury heard reports that white men darkened their faces before raping white women so that the victims would assume that they were raped by black men. The allegation was that the rapes were committed as part of a premeditated plan to spark a race riot. Prior to the riot a newspaper article claimed that the victim positively IDed Brown as her rapist but police reports contradicted that claim.

Those who lynched these 2 men decades apart wanted to lynch them and they wanted to excuse their terrorism by putting the responsibility for their actions onto rape victims. They were in no way helping those rape victims and their actions showed no interest in doing so. These rapes were likely seen as a great opportunity for those at the center of these injustices.

Those violent men wanted to shift their guilt for lynching an innocent man onto the girl who was raped by a white man and onto a woman who was either raped by a black man or a white one pretending to be black. These rape victim's trauma was meaningless to the lynch mob.

When false allegations were willingly made by a white woman against a black man those women were responsible for their part in that injustice. But just as with criminal allegations against black men, criminal allegations made against white women need to be based on credible evidence not merely on the excuses of those who commit injustices against black men in the name of protecting white women.

Not blaming Michelle Mallin for Timothy Cole's wrongful conviction doesn't mean not blaming anyone for the injustice done in her rape case. Yet for too many people "innocent rape suspect" always equals "guilty alleged rape victim" whether or not that alleged rape victim was actually raped or acted in good faith at all times.

I had a commenter who seemed to make the assumption of victim guilt in his comments about the exoneration of Darryl Hunt based on DNA analysis. What he failed to note was that the raped women was also murdered. He had heard that the rape kit exonerated a man and brought that up to undermine rape victim testimony in criminal trials.

Hunt's conviction came about because 2 male witnesses were led to ID him and Hunt's girlfriend was coerced by the police into incriminating Hunt. Yet for this commenter an innocent and murdered woman was the defacto agent of injustice.

For those who blame Mallin for not being aware of Cole's innocence there seems to be a belief that as a white woman she had far more power than she actually had. She has been described as having charged Cole with rape, but she didn't have the power to do that. The DA charged Cole with a rape he didn't commit.

Mallin is described as giving bad information to the police, but she gave a wide range of identifying information about her rapist and the police ignored her testimony that she was raped by a chain smoker. If they hadn't ignored her testimony then Cole would have been eliminated as a suspect before she was subjected to a faulty ID process.

Yet the reports are that the police relied on her completely. Clearly they did no such thing. When it was convenient to convicting Cole they relied on her testimony and when it wasn't convenient they ignored her testimony.

Mallin herself did not have access to the exonerating information or the information about the other suspect in her case for many years. Yet she has been blamed for the choices made by incompetent, unethical or hateful investigators and prosecutors.

This isn't about Mallin being unreliable. This is about her being the latest scapegoat for systematic injustice which goes back for over a century.

When the anger for Cole's wrongful conviction and early death is focused on the rape victim who tried to the best of her ability to identify the correct person and who when she realized that the wrong person was convicted worked to see him exonerated, those who are genuinely responsible for this injustice benefit.

If the tools of injustice are allowed to remain because most of the focus is on blaming the rape victim then there will be more injustices against innocent suspects in violent crimes and more injustices against innocent victims of violent crimes.

I don't want to see either of those happen again.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:45 AM   2 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 12, 2009

5 Guilty Of Forcing Women Into Prostitution

From The LA Times:

A federal court jury on Wednesday convicted five people in connection with a plot to lure impoverished young women from Guatemala to the United States with the promise of legitimate jobs, only to then force them into prostitution to repay their supposed debts for being smuggled into the country. [...]

The victims said they were almost always watched by the defendants and were beaten and threatened with violence, even witchcraft, to keep them from trying to escape.

A girl identified as Esperanza, who was allegedly 17 when she arrived in the U.S. in 2005, said she was told her legs would be cut off and her entire family killed if she tried to escape. Another girl, identified as Rosaura, sobbed throughout her testimony and told jurors that defendant Gladys Vasquez Valenzuela threatened to throw acid on her face if she ever tried to leave.

The prosecution argued that 5 out of the 10 victims were underage at the time they were trafficked but even though those victims looked to be their alleged ages, the jury decided their age wasn't provable because they didn't have documentation of their age.

Four of the defendants in this case are women and all of the defendants were related by blood or marriage and they preyed upon others from their home village. Compared to most sex trafficking operations this one seems very small and unorganized. An organization where only a small percentage of the traffickers were charged or jailed would be more likely to be able to successfully use fear to prevent victims from testifying.

Not surprisingly the defense attorneys tried to portray the victims in this case as seasoned liars who weren't prostituted and who instead freely choose sex work. The argument was that the victims were only claiming to be traumatized because doing so had practical benefits.

These defense attorneys hoped to use the behavior and lack of ethics of those who willingly prostitute others to discredit those who have been prostituted.

Thankfully the jury didn't buy this stock excuse used to deny the reality of those have been prostituted.


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

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Carnival Deadline Tomorrow

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

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

Together we can help reduce the acceptance of rape and the myths related to sexual violence which support rape and injustice against rape victims.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:13 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Arizona Rape Case Settlement Includes Changes To University Policies

From KVOA:

Arizona will revamp the way its three state universities respond to sexual assault and harassment claims as part of a settlement over a rape case at Arizona State University in Tempe.

The alleged victim in the March 2004 case and her family now will help set up and advise the new statewide Office of Student Safety Coordinator.

The office will produce an annual report for the next five years, documenting the universities' response to student and staff complaints about sexual discrimination, harassment and violence.

It is great that action is being taken, but it is terrible that it took a lawsuit for these actions to be taken. The woman who filed this lawsuit reported that Arizona State University football player Darnel Henderson raped her. The university process concluded that "nonconsensual sexual intercourse" happened (what a pathetic and dismissive way to describe the conclusion that this man committed rape) but no criminal charges were filed against him.

In late 2007 I blogged about the Arizona State University police's dismissive response to several reports of rape which reportedly happened inside fraternities. At that time in the previous 7 years there had been zero rape convictions resulting from the reports of rape made by ASU students. Not surprisingly one of the fraternities released a statement that incorrectly claimed that a lack of criminal charges meant that the fraternity had been vindicated.

The leadership of all universities and colleges must begin viewing the crime of rape as a serious crime which they cannot afford to ignore or minimize. If they don't view rape as serious because of the nature of the crime itself they need to view it as serious because of liability issues.

If college students considering rape know that they will be competently investigated and criminally prosecuted they might decide that rape isn't worth the risk. But as long as most rapists get away with rape on a specific college campus that campus is supportive of rapists and hostile to rape victims.


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

Monday, February 09, 2009

What About The Real Rapist?

As a follow up to my last post about those who blamed the rape victim who was presented with ID material which led her to ID an innocent man I need to write about something I noticed after reading more blogs on this case.

With all of the blaming directed at the rape victim, none of those who did so or who defended others doing so seem to have written anything negative about the one person who undeniably knew that Timothy Cole was innocent.

The man who raped Michele Mallin. Jerry Johnson.

Johnson did eventually contact Cole's attorney with an offer to help exonerate Cole, but Cole was already dead by that time. When Cole was on trial for a rape he didn't commit Johnson did nothing to help.

Unfortunately, too many people view this as not being an injustice. Johnson was just exorcising his legal rights. Yet Jerry Johnson's actions -- beginning with rape -- are the root cause without which Cole wouldn't have been wrongfully IDed and wrongfully convicted.

Thankfully, Johnson himself has acknowledged his key role in this injustice.

On Friday, the real rapist, Jerry Johnson, confessed in an Austin courtroom and apologized for the 1985 attack on a Texas Tech student. He also took responsibility for allowing Cole, a teenager at the time he was convicted, to take the blame.
"I am responsible," said Jerry Johnson. "I say I am truly sorry."

Johnson took the stand about 4 p.m. and read the words victim Michelle Mallin had written to describe her night of terror so many years ago. Malin, who had mistakenly picked Cole out of a lineup, sat in the packed courtroom and watched as her real attacker addressed the crowd.

After Johnson testified both Mallin and Cole's mother confronted Johnson about the impact of his crime and his silence as an innocent man was wrongfully convicted.

The criminal justice system needs to be improved so that bad processes won't be used no matter what motives investigators have for using sloppy and error-prone processes. But we cannot afford to forget the role that rapists play in the wrongful identification of innocent suspects.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:28 AM   4 comments links to this post

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Injustice From Those Speaking Out Against Injustice

From the Statesman:

It seems some people who chose to comment online about the sad case of Timothy Cole, reported in yesterday’s Statesman and online here, blame rape victim Michele Mallin for Cole’s conviction in the case, long prison term and death behind bars in 1999 at the age of 39.

Mallin, at the time a 20-year-old college student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, identified then fellow Tech student Cole (at right) as her attacker in 1985 in a photographic and live line-up. Lubbock police had no other evidence tying him to the crime and it turns out ignored evidence that another suspect, who years later confessed, could have done it.

Mallin, who is coming to Austin this week to help Cole’s family clear his name, has been reading the mean-spirited comments and defended herself in an e-mail:

“It just hurts that anyone would ever think that I did this maliciously. I mean I am a victim myself of a horrible rape which is how this whole entire NIGHTMARE began. If I had been made aware of the facts, such as the fact that there was another very valid suspect that I never even knew about or even that Tim Cole had asthma when I specifically told them the guy smoked, I would have been the FIRST one to want more of an investigation and to find the true culprit. Why on earth would I or anyone else want the wrong person to pay for any crime? That makes no sense and it just shows me how completely ignorant that people are to even think something like that.”

I wish I were shocked at these baseless attacks directed at a woman who has gone out of her way to correct a wrong that wasn't hers and to help see an innocent man publicly exonerated. The faulty methodology of the rape investigation and the decision by investigators to cling to that faulty methodology at the expense of a thorough investigation are to blame for this wrongful ID and wrongful conviction.

Attacks directed at this woman and the assumption that women who report rape are inherently unreliable witnesses miss the mark as to the cause of this injustice. Worse than not doing a thing to prevent a repeat of this type of injustice, their attacks inject additional injustices. These personal attackers become the very thing they hate: agents of injustice.

Different ID processes have been studied and some ID processes have been shown to lead victims and witnesses to ID a specific person who may not match the full description in obvious ways. Those who are traumatized by violent crime and those who were witnesses in a case when they were not traumatized can both have their doubts wrongfully shot down by investigators who see those doubts as wishwashiness rather than as potentially meaningful.

Too many jurisdictions don't have a standardized ID process or good training for all those who participate in the IDing process. This failure gets overlooked when people focus their attacks and criticisms on rape victims in cases where the wrong suspect was IDed and convicted.

This can result in the wrong person being convicted and it can also result in the right person being acquitted because the ID process which IDed the correct person is shown by the defense to be unreliable.

But for many people the first error is the only one that matters. If a bad process allows a rapist to rape again or if a bad process allows a stalker to murder the person stalked or allows a rapist to murder someone else that rape or death isn't viewed as a result of injustice by hose who are quick to make rape victims scapegoats because the person who was raped or murdered wasn't placed on death row or put into prison. Yet it is an injustice which is just as real as the death of someone wrongfully convicted.

For some of those who are quick to make rape victims scapegoats this second type of injustice doesn't seem to count because many of the victims of this type of injustice are women. Some of these people seem completely unaware that women are also falsely convicted of committing violent crimes. Victim of injustice for them equals male victim of injustice.

Because of this narrow awareness and narrow focus too many of those who claim to be against injustice turn around and support faulty methodologies and dangerous shortcuts when these lead real rape victims to be labeled as liars. This happens because those methodologies give these people results which supports their bigotry. That makes these people no better than investigators who use bad processes to strengthen the case against an innocent rape suspect they believe to be guilty because of their bigotry or their snap judgments.

The so-called second rape of those who report having been raped is too often defended as necessary to prevent injustice when it almost always creates an injustice. But rape victims being denied justice due to bad training or unethical practices is often seen as acceptable.

The faulty methodology of rape investigations is what gave us Eugene Kanin's study result which is used repeatedly to claim that about 40% of rape allegations are false. Yet many people who claim to be against faulty methodology and injustice quote Kanin's study as if it were gospel.

The replication of these study results do prove that the methodology of using tools such as the polygraph works quite well at getting confessions. But academic studies show that these leveraged confessions cannot be relied upon.

Further, DNA exonerations of those charged or convicted of violent crimes clearly shows that innocent people can be coerced into giving false confessions. Yet repeatedly those who acknowledge this fact will deny this same fact when the confession came from someone who reported having been raped. Or they simply fail to address the issue of false confessions when the person confessing rightfully reported being the victim of a crime.

This faulty methodology is what caused a victim of stranger rape in Madison, Wisconsin to be wrongfully charged with filing a police report. If this woman hadn't fought the system in her city the DNA in her case wouldn't have been processed and her rapist would have escaped justice. The city only compensated this woman for the injustice done to her shortly before the book Cry Rape was about to be released.

If this woman hadn't been able to prove that she was a victim of injustice, many of those who claim to be against injustice would have been willing to use her case as evidence to support the methodology which led to her false confession.

The attacks against Mallin are more than mean spirited, they reflect a dangerous attitude where injustice and false accusations are supported as long as the person being treated unjustly and being falsely accused was raped prior to that injustice.

Sloppy, unreliable and/or unethical investigation techniques are bad when they result in wrongful rape charges and they are just as bad when they result in wrongful accusations against real rape victims. If we are genuinely against injustice, we must be against all injustice.

Any one-sided solution will lead to injecting or supporting injustice. The approach to bad practices must be holistic for it to be effective.

And we must focus on the root cause which is the implementation of bad methodology whether practiced from ignorance or lack of ethics, and whether used against those who report a crime or those who are suspected of having committed a violent crime.

Here are a couple examples of approaches which miss the real cause of this injustice.

From The Black Man Next Door:

His family is extremely strong for not having ill feelings toward the rape victim for inaccurately singling him out in a lineup. I understand that she was traumatized -- but the right thing to do is simply be honest and say that you aren't sure.
This focus on the rape victim is dangerous because she was not the root cause of this injustice. She wasn't the one who singled him out. The photos presented to her did that.

Those who focus on her in this way are ignoring the root cause of injustice which is the faulty ID process and the investigators decision to ignore another suspect. Part of the reason people focus on the individual is because they need to believe that if they were a victim of a violent crime their responses could never be used to wrongfully convict someone.

That's as dangerously naive as assuming they could never be coerced into giving a false confession.

From Politics Unanimocracy: The Timothy Cole case: arrest and incarcerate Michele Mallin for conspiracy to murder by A. B. Dada:

Cole’s family worked to clear Cole’s name, with the lying Mallin attempting to help. Her weak excuse, as she states, was that she ”was very traumatized.” She says “I was scared for my life. I tried my hardest to remember what he looked like.” Her admission that she wasn’t sure, but tried, is proof that she is guilty of conspiracy to murder in the death of Timothy Cole.

This lying-under-oath “victim” says ”I’m trying to get his name cleared. It’s the right thing to do.” The right thing to do is to not lie under oath, or lie to the police, or put an innocence man in prison to watch him die a horrible and tragic death. The right thing to do is to turn yourself in, Michele, and go to jail for double the amount of time that innocent Timothy Cole did. You were a victim, but your crime against Cole is much, much worse.

I find sexual assault, or any property assault of an individual, disgusting and attrocious, but nothing is as evil as using the manipulative and powerful thuggery we call the State to do your bidding in revenge. Mallin’s desire for vengeance is as evil as Johnson’s act against her. Johnson assaulted women, Mallin’s words of hatred killed a man.

Let he who wields the sword be sliced by the sword. Let he who spits hate towards innocence have that hate returned to them in justice.

The correct ending of this last quoted sentence would correctly be "injustice." For that is what Dada is seeking, not justice.

This woman didn't spit hate toward someone she knew to be innocent. There is zero evidence that she lied. Being mistaken in a system which funnels a victim toward a mistake is not the same as lying. She did what all crime victims are told to do. She reported and she cooperated to the best of your ability.

Yet Dada labels her evil and wants to throw her in prison for doing so.

If Dada had been violently assaulted by a stranger and the investigators used the same methodology when they suspected the wrong man he would have been led to make the same mistake. Yet he needs to deny this in order to attack an innocent rape victim. He needs to view this rape victim as evil.

This faulty ID process isn't limited to rape cases and men have been led to wrongfully ID an innocent man. But Dada likely doesn't know or care about them. His vengeful ire is tightly focused on a rape victim.

Dada has made a false allegation of murder. But that's okay with him, and is in no way evil, because he's doing it in the name of fighting injustice.

This attitude contributes to wrongful accusations against rape victims and, even worse, this attitude contributes physical violence against rape victims. If he believes his rhetoric then he is guilty every time his assumptions are used to justify an assault on a rape victim by someone who believes that rape victim to be a liar.

According to his own logic he should go to prison for all retaliatory crimes committed against real rape victims. But his logic isn't valid so he won't go to prison for any crimes he helps people rationalize.

However, if his logic is used to justify an assault or a murder the person targeted won't have the same luxury Dada enjoys. That innocent person will pay the price for Dada's hatred.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:05 AM   16 comments links to this post

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Problem With Only Warning Girls About Online Abusers

From the Journal Sentinel:

New Berlin [Wisconsin] - A former New Berlin Eisenhower student was accused Wednesday of a pattern of manipulation and deception using the social networking site Facebook to coerce male schoolmates into sexual encounters.

Anthony R. Stancl, 18, posing as a female on Facebook, persuaded at least 31 boys to send him naked pictures of themselves and then blackmailed some of the boys into performing sex acts under the threat that the pictures would be released to the rest of the high school, according a criminal complaint. [...]

The sexual assaults occurred in a bathroom at the high school, the school parking lot, a New Berlin Public Library restroom, Valley View Park, Malone Park, Minooka Park and at some of the victims' homes.

I'm glad this man is being charged and I hope his 7 or more victims aren't blamed, mocked or dismissed as not being real victims because physical force wasn't used in these reported crimes. For consent to be genuine it must be freely given. Clearly communicating lack of consent is never a requirement and should not be treated like it is consent when sex crime statutes are applied.

Stancl originally came to the police's attention because of bomb threats against the school. During that investigation another boy came forward and reported being sexually assaulted.
Stancl's attorney, Craig M. Kuhary, said Stancl has cooperated with authorities during the investigation and is not a flight risk. After the hearing, Kuhary declined to comment, except to say that only one side of the case has been disclosed.

This is typical.

Because of approximately 300 images of underage boys and because of professionally made child porn found on Stancl's computer which resulted in child porn charges even a defense of, "it was consensual" will not protect Stancl from all accountability -- unless his attorney convinces a jury that Stancl might not be the one who put those images on his computer and is the victim of a mass conspiracy.

This nonsense has worked when girls are the victim so it will likely be attempted when boys are the victim.

Just as with cases where a man or boy has multiple female victims, police believe there are more boys who were victims of Stancl who have not come forward.

This case highlights why warnings about online predators that are directed only at girls misses the mark. Boys need to know that they are not immune from being targeted and they need to know that absence of physical force doesn't mean they weren't the victim of a sex criminal.

This case also highlights that those who use the Internet to commit sex crimes may not be a stranger to their victims. Unfortunately, many warnings related to the Internet assume that the danger comes only from strangers.

Awareness is not about requiring potential victims to live paranoid lives, it is about teaching children and adults to detect warning signs in the behavior of others and in their own behavior.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:23 AM   1 comments links to this post

Friday, February 06, 2009

Latest Edition Of The Carnival Against Child Abuse Is Up

It's over at Heal and Forgive.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:35 PM   0 comments links to this post

Join Me At WAM! Early Bird Discount Ends Soon

As most of my readers already know I will be presenting at the Women Action and the Media conference (WAM!) which runs from Friday March 27 - 29.

The workshop I will be co-presenting is:

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

If any of you are interested in attending, the earlybird registration deadline is approaching.

Here's more information about the conference:
Tired of what you hear on the nightly news -- and the ABSENCE OF WOMEN sources, speakers, pundits, and subjects? Ready to see women's ideas and lives treated as if we matter? Then don't miss these three days of workshops, keynotes, and connections. From the opening talk to the closing reception, you'll be taking your own place among people determined to change the conversation.

Join us at WAM!, an annual conference where progressive journalists, authors, activists, and students meet, share skills, and strategize to INCREASE GENDER JUSTICE IN MEDIA.
Register at:

Thanks to all of those who have already helped me with travel expenses. I'm not at my goal yet, but you all have helped me significantly. Here's the post about my fundraising effort.

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

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Rape Allegedly Used In Iraq To Get Victims To Be Suicide Bombers

From the BBC:

Detained in January by Iraqi security forces, [Samira Jassim] the mother of six is accused of converting dozens of vulnerable women into suicide attackers. In an apparent video confession, the middle-aged woman described how she identified potential bombers, helped supply them with explosives and led them to their targets.

She also explained, in a separate interview with the Associated Press, how insurgents used rape as a tool, with the "shamed" women persuaded to redeem themselves through suicide attacks. Her apparent confession could help throw light on the recent increase in attacks in Iraq involving female bombers.

When I read about this strategy of using a mix of persuasion and rape, to get vulnerable women to do what their rapists wanted them to do, this pattern of force and coercion reminded me of another pattern of force and coercion.

This mix of violence and faked helpfulness is what children and adults in the US and elsewhere are regularly subjected to when pimps/traffickers want them to cooperate with their own trafficking. This pattern of using force and coercion is well documented by sex trafficking experts. Just like those prostituted in the US this pattern of actions done to get someone to be a suicide bomber is not genuine persuasion. The person targeted to be a suicide bomber or targeted by a pimp has not freely changed her mind. It is systematic violence and coercion designed to get the unwilling to look like they are genuinely willing.

In both cases those who plan and execute violence against the vulnerable get all the benefits but their targets are the one's who pay the price for those plans. Those targeted are viewed as disposable.

The goal of those who use a careful mix of violence and fake helpfulness is to make their desired choice the only possible choice for their target. For those who are targeted to become suicide bombers the only choice to gain redemption is to die in a suicide bombing. For those who are targeted to become "sex workers" the only choice to gain stability and relative safety is to cooperate and become "sex workers."

If people have only one choice they are allowed to make without being subjected to physical or psychological harm then in reality they are given no choice.

Unfortunately, this story about female suicide bombers will be misused to indict all of Islam and will be misused to slam US feminists for not opposing Islam. To take this view people have to be ignorant of how this pattern is used by those who are not Islamic or they need to find this pattern acceptable when it is used in the US or the UK by non-Muslims.

The key difference between these 2 patterns of violent coercion is that those who are pushed to be suicide bombers are likely to harm people who did not get violently coerced while those who are pushed to be prostituted help people (Johns) who did not get violently coerced.

For too many people as long as random people aren't harmed this violent coercion isn't worth focusing on and it isn't worth stopping. Yet if this type of plan is wrong, then it must be wrong across the board not selectively.

Any claim that that the strategy to get someone to blow themselves up is more severe because murder is involved ignores the murder of the prostituted. Those who are prostituted have been murdered by their traffickers when this violent coercion didn't get sufficient compliance and they have been murdered by people who view the prostituted as not worthy of living.

It's also important to note that this Iraqi woman is described as recruiting female suicide bombers while a story in The Sun about using this same strategy to get young men to become suicide bombers has a headline of Al-Qaeda in gay rape horror.

This contrast sends a dangerous message which helps rapists as long as they don't rape boys or men.

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