Thursday, April 30, 2009

Appeals Court Restores Conviction And Common Sense


Ernest C. Gardner, 40, was sentenced to seven years in prison and seven years of extended supervision in 2007 for second-degree sexual assault.

[Wisconsin] Circuit Judge Paul Lenz had ordered a new trial because prosecutors failed to tell Gardner's attorneys that a neighbor sexually assaulted the girl years earlier. The appeals court said there was no evidence trauma from the prior assault motivated the girl to falsely accuse Gardner.
I'm glad Judge Lenz's order was overruled, but I'm appalled that any judge thought it was appropriate to require the prosecution to give out this kind of personal information about the alleged victim.

Past victimization is not related to the veracity of the current case. No defense attorney should be allowed to have information about a rape victim's previous victimization. Besides not being relevant, the potential for unethical use of this information takes my breath away. Knowing the defense had this information and worrying about how it could be misused could terrify a victim out of testifying.

The defense strategy with this information could have been about using it to reinforce bigotry. Too many people will assume that 2 crimes like this can't be committed against the same child for a variety of reasons. Because of that assumption they could see this previous victimization as proof of a false report or as reasonable doubt. This is a, "What are the odds?" kind of thinking. If they can't fathom something then it can't be true.

Defense attorneys have tried to use past reports of rape which didn't result in a conviction to make the jury believe that the previous report was a false one. Thankfully, this evidence gets ruled inadmissible when the burden of proving that there was a prior false report is rightfully placed on the defense.

For anyone who agrees with Judge Lenz then you also need to agree that all past crime victimization in non-sex crimes cases must be turned over to defense attorneys. If past victimization is relevant then it is relevant across the board.

Any defense strategy that is acceptable in a sex crimes case must be acceptable in all non-sex crimes cases.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:16 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

PBS NOW On Rape Kit Backlog

The full episode of PBS NOW called Justice Delayed (about 25 minutes) is online now. The show begins by focusing on stranger rapes, but thankfully highlights that by processing rape kits from acquaintance rapes investigators can get evidence that this type of rapist can be a serial rapist.

Maria Hinojosa has a related post up at Huffington Post.

The episode highlights the backlog in LA, but they do make it clear that this is by no means a problem in this one area. They also mention improvements in the way New York and one of those improvements is to test all rape kits.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 6:39 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lawsuit Filed After Police Release Information Useful To Rapist

From the News Times:

A Fairfield [CT] woman, who claims she provided key information to Fairfield police that led to the arrest of a man charged with trying to rape a 16-year-old girl, says senior police officials violated their promise to keep confidential information about her.

The woman, identified as "Jane Doe" in the lawsuit filed in Bridgeport Superior Court, claims she suffers anxiety and emotional distress because Police Chief David Peck and Deputy Chief Gary McNamara released information about her to the local news media.

"Despite being in fear of her life my client, a sexual assault victim, came forward and provided the Fairfield police with information to help their investigation after the officers promised to keep the information about her confidential," the woman's lawyer, Robert Berke, said Thursday. "But they broke their promise."

"We don't believe we did anything wrong," said Fairfield Town Attorney Richard Saxl. "She indicated to the department she would be willing to testify if necessary."

The response by the police indicates that they are still missing the point of this woman's lawsuit.

Being willing to testify in court against your rapist if necessary is different from having the police announce to the press your role in the case with enough information for your rapist to know you are 1 of 2 specific previous victims.

This didn't reveal her identity to the general public, but she wasn't in fear for her life from the general public. She was in fear for her life from her rapist who might find her and possibly kill her to prevent her from testifying.

This fear for her life was likely the reason she and the other rape victim from 2002 refused to testify in the original trial and why her rapist was given a plea deal which led to him being released from prison 2 months prior to the attempted rape of a 16-year-old girl.

All the police needed to announce to the press was that they got an anonymous tip and then refuse to give any additional information about the tipster.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:35 AM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Responding Injustice That Doesn't Just Happen

Cara responded to the Seattle Weekly story: The Lie That Just Happens by Laura Onstot and focused on how this article uses and misuses data related to the rate of false reports.

What I want to focus on are the systemic causes of the injustice against a man, called Dawit Bekele in this article, which are at the center of this story and look at how those same systemic issues allow lies and injustice to flourish from all directions.

The investigators and DA in this man's case are presented as people who made no errors, as people who were doing the best they could and as people who were merely blindsided by a false reporter. This is not true.

These types of errors are being made in numerous law enforcement agencies and the blame for these errors is being assigned to the wrong people.

Blaming those who actually file fraudulent police reports for systemic mistakes related to rape might feel good, but this scapegoating actually allows injustice to flourish in the name of fighting against injustice.

The justification for the arrest of this man highlights the first investigative error.

The Sheriff's department has staff who are specially tasked with determining whether or not an alleged victim is credible. [...]

Likewise, Bekele's accuser also underwent a joint interview with prosecutors and investigators, and also came off as credible, according to Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff in the King County Prosecutor's office. That's why prosecutors decided to file charges in the case.

Investigators began by trying to act as human credibility detectors and when nothing they heard made them think, "False report," they immediately moved to make their arrest and to collect evidence for a post-arrest investigation. Only, oops, that investigation proved the core evidence to be manufactured by the woman who reported.

What needs to be acknowledged by everyone is that this credibility process is unreliable.

Major decisions about arrests or investigations cannot be made based on this type of credibility test. When they are made this way this benefits those who are guilty -- no matter the guilty person's gender or status as alleged victim or alleged rapist.

That's malpractice and the blame belongs to those who decided to arrest first, check out the provided evidence second. Blaming the young woman who reported falsely for the choices of the police and the DA made is a dangerous mistake which makes no innocent person safer.

The police were right to investigate this woman's claim, and should have done so even if she failed their credibility test, but they were wrong in the way they proceeded with the investigation. The investigation should have verified the authenticity of the emails before the police considered arresting this man.

If there were safety concerns because of what this woman told the police then there were other ways of dealing with that issue. Also the credibility testing could have easily dismissed valid reports and valid safety concerns. This can leave a woman needlessly vulnerable to a violent man.

This case proves that not finding a motive for filing a false report is NOT proof of a valid report. Not so clear for many people is the corollary that finding a motive for filing a false report is NOT proof of a fraudulent report.

[Dr. Kimberly] Lonsway [Director of Research at End Violence Against Women International] says that it isn't only juries who need convincing—it can be difficult just to get police to launch a serious investigation into crimes like rape which depend heavily on a victim's testimony.

This is an injustice on the part of the police, but again it is women who fraudulently report rape who are held responsible for the choices made by investigators. The important difference is that in this particular scenario the failure is intentional.

And the responsibility for this failure belongs to the investigators who fail to investigate and those who allow those investigators to turn their backs on many who report rape.

Those who refuse to investigate certain rape reports are also likely to mark those uninvestigated rapes as unfounded or lacking evidence (which is what you will get every time a report is not investigated) and this bad data will then be used as evidence to justify repeating this type of intentional injustice.

More recently, the Pentagon's 2008 report on sexual assault in the military noted that of 2,700 reported sexual assaults, most from women, 39 percent were dropped as unfounded or lacking evidence.

Immediately before this quoted sentence was a reference to Kanin's 41% false statistic which while it is cited most often it is also provably without scientific rigor when it comes to measuring the rate of false reports.

Getting 41% of those who report rape to recant after being pressured by investigators who did not believe them is valid data, but it is not valid data for the rate of false reports. Kanin measured the effectiveness of skeptical investigators at getting their desired outcome without completing the investigation.

Connecting the Air Force report which does not measure false reports to Kanin's study which claims to do so, but does not, leaves the false impression that this Air Force data tells us something about the rate of false reports when it tells us absolutely nothing about the rate of false reports.

Omitted from this article are the systemic problems soldiers face when they report rape and the high rate of sexual assaults committed by one US soldier against US soldier. While this article is not about those problems, presenting data representative of those problems as evidence when discussing false rape reports without giving that data in the correct context is problematic at best.

For example, there was the case of the Air Force enlisted woman Cassandra Hernandez who reported being raped while intoxicated by 3 fellow airmen. Because of the way her case was handled she stopped cooperating and was subsequently charged.

One of the charges was for engaging in sexual activity with an Airman in front of two other airmen. Her 3 alleged rapists were given immunity from prosecution on the rape charges in exchange for testifying against her. After public outrage the charges against this woman were dropped, but those charges were not eliminated, only moved to an administrative action.

It's very likely that the Air Force investigators based the charges against Hernandez on their own credibility test which as Onstot showed in her article is an unreliable basis for filing charges.

When you mix credibility tests, misuse of data and assumptions about women's vs. men's honesty, you have created a toxic product that can't help but produce injustice. For many people, injustice against women in rape cases is seen as acceptable because, "a man's life is at stake."

Too many people dismiss the seriousness of rape and the seriousness of having investigators who enable most rapists in their jurisdiction by refusing to investigate certain rapes. Too many people who don't dismiss the seriousness of rape will view injustice against those who were raped as something unavoidable because of their beliefs about the near impossibility of proving rape unless the victim is maimed or dead.

Sir Matthew Hale's statement: "Rape is an accusation easily to be made, hard to be proved, and harder yet to be defended by the party accused." is still commonly cited to defend ignoring many reports of rape. For around 300 years this quote was read to juries in many rape trials in the US and the UK.

But those who use this quote and cite Hale as an expert on the importance of credible evidence don't know or don't care that in 1662, he presided over the trials of 2 woman who were executed for practicing witchcraft based on flimsy evidence. Hale also made at least one statement that was used to deny the possibility of spousal rape.

If Hale was subjected to a credibility assessment on this matter today, he would fail.

Hale's concern for the innocent and his standard of proof were clearly selective. And yet he is a model for some of those in the criminal justice system who continue to approach allegations of rape in a way that injects injustice.

Investigators deciding not to investigate reports of rape isn't the worst that can happen to rape victims. The credibility test, done formally or informally, can lead to investigators who view themselves as compassionate toward rape victims to not only fail to investigate the original allegations, it can lead them to mercilessly go after non-credible reporters.

This can include lying to those who report rape, not informing them that they are now the only suspect, aggressively interrogating those who reported being raped. The investigator may claim that there is proof that this was a false report and that the only acceptable action is for the alleged rape victim to recant. The investigator may feel that threatening to file criminal charges is likely to get to the truth when it can instead lead a real rape victim to break down in the face of this injustice and say whatever that investigator wants to hear so that the unexpected nightmare, which can be more traumatic than the original rape, will end.

Only, oops, sometimes the confessions extracted from non-credible women are false and the original report of rape was true. Unfortunately, you won't know this by reading most stories about wrongful accusations related to rape or about wrongful criminal charges related to rape. Many news outlets that are careful to write alleged rapist don't bother with alleged false reporter.

Onstot refers to local and national high-profile cases where accusations fell apart but presents it as a fact rather than opinion that all the girls and women in those cases are guilty of filing fraudulent reports. No charges and no convictions are needed.

The only conviction in the Duke case involved the handling of the case not the original report. The only reason for the Duke case to, as an attorney said, "set the rights of women in this area back maybe 15 years," is because many people wanted those rights set back 15 or more years and the Duke case gave them the leverage they needed to see more women who are raped be denied justice.

Men have been exonerated for murder where witnesses or even the real murderer lied, but those exonerations don't set back murder investigations 15 years. The reason for this is that everyone genuinely gets that murder is a serious crime. The correct solution to these injustices is to improve how cases are handled -- to move murder investigations forward -- so everybody's legal rights and safety are respected. This is the correct solution in rape cases as well.

Women who have been charged related to what were believed to be false rape reports have been exonerated. Other rape survivors who have been wrongfully charged or wrongfully implicated in the press are not so fortunate. This leaves more than a taint, it makes those women more vulnerable to additional injustices. One false allegation against these girls and women can be used to support a second or even a third false allegation.

In this Seattle Weekly article Onstot almost gets to this injustice.

Lonsway and her training partner, Joanne Archambault, a retired police sergeant living in eastern Washington, do an exercise in which they distribute a series of alleged rape reports to small groups of people, asking them to decide the veracity of each. In most of the cases, there are enough inconsistencies in the victims' statements that the groups deem them to be false. But the reports were in fact generated after a serial rapist attacked women throughout California, Lonsway says. Each of the reports was initially dismissed by officers, until one investigator finally saw enough similarities among the different incidents to suspect the same person was behind the crimes.

After this paragraph Onstot gives those wrongfully disbelieved women no consideration. She doesn't know whether any of them were accused of being the only criminal in their case because they failed the credibility test. She doesn't know if any of them were threatened with prosecution and told scornfully that they were the reason real rape victims were often not believed.

The solution to both problems is for all reports of sex crimes to be fully and competently investigated no matter the credibility of the person reporting rape or the credibility of the person accused of rape.

The same is true when the details of the rape seem non-credible.

Lack of credibility doesn't protect people from being raped and credibility doesn't prevent people from raping.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:29 AM   2 comments links to this post

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jeffrey Marsalis Convicted In Idaho Of Felony Rape

From Channel 2 Boise:

An Idaho jury has convicted a Pennsylvania man of sexually assaulting a woman at her condominium near the Sun Valley ski resort in 2005. A jury deliberated for two hours Friday before finding Jeffrey J. Marsalis, 35, guilty of one count of felony rape. He faces up to life in prison under Idaho law.
This is the man who lied to different women about his identity, and claimed to some that he was an astronaut, and who was accused of drugging and raping women in Pennsylvania. In 2007, he was convicted of 2 sexual assaults and acquitted of the other sexual assault charges after that defense attorney accused those women of lying to get revenge for Marsalis's lies about his identity.

Not surprisingly, the defense attorney in this case tried to convince the jury that this rape victim filed a fraudulent police report -- despite zero supporting evidence for this allegation -- because she was embarrassed over a one-night stand.

If there weren't witnesses who testified that this rape victim was unable to walk on her own when she left the bar, Marsalis might have gotten away with this rape, despite the fact that there was DNA evidence in this case and the woman reported promptly. The jury might have assumed that this counter allegation meant there was reasonable doubt even if they had no evidence to support the claim that the rape victim was a malicious liar.

This case, and the prior case against Marsalis, highlights why this speculative defense is nothing more than an attempt to distract the jury from the actual evidence in the case.

The defense attorney's hope was that some members of the the jury would believe the baseless and often repeated gender stereotype that, "women lie about rape," which means that women regularly lie about rape while men do not.

This stereotype causes the woman's decision to report rape to become a suspicious activity when that doesn't happen when a woman reports other crimes or when men report being raped despite the reality that a small percentage of people across gender lines do lie about being victims of all sorts of crimes.

Once jurors buy into this gender stereotype that women frequently report rape when they are embarrassed by their own behavior, or when they are angry at the man they agreed to have sex with, then it won't take much for those jurors to become suspicious of the alleged victim's testimony based on meaningless details.

Despite this latest conviction there are likely to be some people who still believe that all these women falsely accused Jeffrey Marsalis and that he is the only real victim. But this belief would be based on those people's illogical assumptions about rape such as the belief that date rape can never be real rape.

Those who continue to make this claim would never say that date murder was impossible because there is undeniable evidence disproving this ridiculous claim. Once we acknowledge that some people are capable of murdering their dates then we have to also acknowledge that some people must be capable of raping their dates. Being on a date doesn't protect that person from being murdered by the person they are dating and it certainly doesn't protect women from being raped.

Hopefully, with each success at prosecuting those who rape their dates, no type of rape will be considered safe by rapists.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:41 AM   2 comments links to this post

Friday, April 24, 2009

Subic Bay Rape Conviction Overturned

From the Huffington Post:

The Philippine Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, indicating the sexual act was consensual.

"No evidence was introduced to show force, threat and intimidation applied by the accused," the court said in its 71-page decision, which is final.

Since this was a case of rape by intoxication, none of these missing elements were required for a rape to happen. Testimony from witnesses at the bar indicated that "Nicole" appeared to be unconscious when the defendant took her out the front door of the bar.

This ruling was based on judging "Nicole's" character (she went with Americans to this bar and was no innocent woman) as impure and from there it was based on speculation about "what really happened." Women who aren't innocent and who flirt always say yes and the only reason they are found like "Nicole" was found is that those women have no shame. It couldn't possibly be true that "Nicole" was raped as alleged and immediately dumped unconscious/semi-conscious and half naked at the side of the road.

This ruling was not based on the evidence of the case. This is demonstrated by a reference to the alleged victim's refusal of the offer to clear the courtroom before her testimony. The judges are baselessly assuming that no real rape victim would make that decision.

What this ruling, which frees Daniel Smith, seems to do is to effectively make rape by intoxication legal in the Philippines.

In fact much of this ruling directly supports the rationalizations which are needed before someone can convince themselves that what is in fact rape is not rape at all and that the semiconscious/unconscious person clearly wants it. She was there, she was dancing, she was flirting, she's no innocent girl/woman, etc. What better rationalization can you get than having multiple judges say this type of woman wants it and the only reason she could report this as rape is if she is trying to hide her real character.

In the published recantation of "Nicole" she does not testify that she consented and much of her recantation is speculation about what might have happened during the time she blacked out or was unconscious based on testimony of defense witnesses.

If shows of force, threat or intimidation are required in rape cases then they must be required in all other crimes such as robbery. If someone in the Philippines is robbed while passed out drunk they are not robbed at all, but only if we use the standard applied to rape cases.

If the judges and the Philippine law are inconsistent so that being raped while unconscious is legal while being robbed while unconscious is illegal then that communicates something important about the acceptance of rape.

If drinking too much nullifies rape then it must nullify all other crimes committed against the drinker which don't involve force, threat or intimidation. It's important to note that none of these would be required to suffocate someone passed out drunk which would mean that murdering someone in this way would be legal if this standard is truly valid. The only difference is that this victim wouldn't be subject to pressure which could lead to a recantation.


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

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Commendable Lectures On Rape Prevention

I am posting this rejected comment from Daniel which he left on my post "Preventing Rape By Intoxication" because it pretends to be something it is not:

The action mentioned in the blog is commendable.

A word of caution though. The law is only intended to help women too drunk to give consent, not those who make a regrettable decision to give consent as a consequence of being drunk.

The recent acquittal of Peter Bacon in Great Britain is a good example of the latter.

Daniel's comment contradicts itself. His weak support for preventing people from committing rape by intoxication is only there to give him a springboard for his real agenda. Notice that preventing rape by intoxication isn't imperative, it is merely, "commendable."

Commendable is when I hold the door open for someone. If this commendable action isn't done nobody is harmed.

By cautioning me, he is claiming that I and many others who speak up against rape don't know the difference between rape and genuinely consensual sexual interactions. Yet a frequent defense for this type of rape is that the rapist misunderstood the other person's lack of consent or misunderstood the other person's state of consciousness.

A frequent response to the undeniable fact that a girl or woman did not consent is: "Knowing she didn't consent isn't enough evidence to convict. The jury needs to know that he knew she didn't consent or was unable to consent."

This alleged confusion is why girls and women are frequently lectured to make their lack of consent absolutely clear and to never ever pass out in mixed company. Boys and men who don't understand genuine legal consent are seemingly everywhere.

If defense attorneys dismiss a fully conscious rape victim's, "No," as not being clear enough communication because of the alleged tone of that, "No," then certainly a rape victim's intoxication will be even less clear to those who begin their interaction by assuming consent is present and requiring the other person to disprove the assumed consent.

So why isn't Daniel giving similar cautions to those who dismiss allegations of rape by intoxication as nothing more than drunk sex? Why don't we see comments from men like Daniel on articles lamenting false allegations of rape by intoxication? They would look like this:

The action mentioned in the blog is commendable.

A word of caution though. The law is only intended to help men who actually got legal consent from the alleged rape victim, not those who make a regrettable decision to proceed when the other person is vulnerable as a consequence of being drunk.

The recent acquittal of Peter Bacon in Great Britain is a good example of why the latter is so important. If he waited until that woman was in a state of consciousness where she could undeniably give legal consent and could remember consenting he wouldn't have been accused or tried.

The reason we don't see this second type of caution from men like Daniel is that he views women as much more likely to try to pass their action off as something it is not when sexual consent becomes a legal issue.

This is the meme behind this type of caution: Men take responsibility for their sexual actions, but women do not.

Yet not even Daniel could credibly deny that men who rape women are going to deny the truth of what they did because they don't want to take responsibility for their sexual actions. Men who commit rape through intoxication and who are rightfully accused will make the false accusation that their rape victims were clearly capable of giving legal consent, actually did so and later regretted doing so.

So there is no factual basis for Daniel's original caution and that caution clearly serves rapists' desire to escape legal responsibility for their crimes. In the end Daniel is the one who is need of being cautioned about who the law is intended to help and who needs to be educated about the difference between rape and and consensual sex.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:43 AM   1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

First Man Sentenced To Life Without Parole Under MN Dangerous Sex Offender Law

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

The crowd inside a Ramsey County courtroom was silent Friday as the female victim addressed Gari Lamont Stewart, the man convicted of attempting to kill her boyfriend and then raping her repeatedly before kidnapping her during an hours-long ordeal in 2007. [...]

Stewart, formerly of Robbinsdale, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by District Judge M. Michael Monahan. He is believed to be the first rapist convicted by a jury to receive life without parole under changes made to Minnesota's dangerous sex offender law. The changes stemmed from the murder of college student Dru Sjodin in 2003.

Friday's hearing came nearly two years after Stewart entered an apartment on St. Paul's popular Grand Avenue where a young couple slept. He stabbed the man and left him for dead, raped the woman, then set the apartment on fire and kidnapped the woman.

I don't know how long the video on KSTP will be active but they have a statement from Stewart's aunt where she complains that the sentence doesn't fit the crime. She claims that her nephew knew this woman (he'd followed them from Billy's Bar and Restaurant to the woman's apartment) and that her nephew and the woman raped had a prior relationship which should count for something -- as if turning this attack into attempted murder, arson, kidnapping and 2 acquaintance rapes would make it a less severe crime.

During the trial Stewart's attorney claimed they had IDed the wrong person which would make the acquaintance defense a tough sell at sentencing. What this aunt's statement does is disprove this claim that the prosecutors had charged the wrong man.

What's scary is that if this crime could have been positioned as the actions of a rejected boyfriend this woman's nephew might have gotten a lower sentence for identical actions. That's how pervasive the bias is related to rape between people who know each other.

For some people their idea of predator requires that only random strangers are the target. This seems to go back to the dangerous idea that some rapes are deserved.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:59 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Too Late To Accuse But Only If ..

... you are reporting rape. It's never too late to accuse an alleged rape victim of being a liar. And that's exactly what some commenters on this Cleveland Plain Dealer story do.

CLEVELAND — A Lakewood High School teacher raped a student in his classroom after school five years ago, prosecutors said. Brian Biermann, 35, of Rocky River, was indicted Monday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on charges of rape, sexual battery and kidnapping. [...]

Prosecutors said that on Jan. 6, 2004, a 15-year-old girl met the English teacher to review a paper she wrote. "While in his classroom, he became sexually aggressive toward her and raped her," said Ryan Miday, spokesman for the prosecutor's office.

On Friday, Oct. 10, 2008, the woman told another Lakewood teacher that Biermann raped her. The school called police, Superintendent David Estrop said.

The initial accusation made in the comments against this alleged victim is based on nothing more than the delay in reporting which means it is based not on evidence but on bigotry.

Too hard to believe 5 years later

This man who goes by the tagname, icu4whatur, conflates what he can't (or won't) believe with what is real. Later he makes the false claim that a not-guilty verdict is declaring that the defendant is innocent.

Several commenters make the false claim that our legal system related to rape is, "guilty until proven innocent," when this is a provably false statement which gets used to make the false claim that being acquitted of rape charges is being proven innocent. These people will acknowledge that innocent people can be found guilty while refusing to acknowledge that guilty people can be found not guilty.

Often refusing to reject the alleged victim's report immediately is conflated giving the defendant the legal status of guilty when this is invalid. Those who are calling this woman a liar have designated her as guilty of a crime. Something they claim to oppose.

What is real is that many rape victims don't report their rapes immediately. One of the reasons in this situation would be that teenage rape victims are often harassed. High school can be tough enough without this added trauma.

The allegation put forth that if a 15 year old girl was raped that someone would notice the change in her and correctly identify the cause is false and is then used as evidence that this report must therefore be false.

Reporting 5 years later, is in fact easy to believe when you look at the reality of being raped at age 15 by a trusted adult.

These accusers have based their accusations on this woman's potential motives which means they are fine with this practice even when accusations are directed at people other than those who report having been raped.

One of the commenters identifies himself as a victim of a false report and his reference to, "No DNA, no torn clothes, no injuries" indicate that his definition of rape is different than the legal definition of rape. He says he's learned not to make judgments based on media reports yet his judgment about this case is clear.

Commenter, spiritof1776, compares a teen being the victim of statutory rape with a teen accused of murder. That this person cannot or will not see that these are not even close to being parallel is telling.

And of course, a commenter, DonRedBerry, blames this case on feminism without any awareness that this is a backhanded admission that without feminism teachers who rape their students would always get away with rape -- unless that teacher also maimed or murdered that student. He goes on to write:

Waiting to inform authorities days, weeks, months, years, decades is not permissible. Men have rights too.

Got that? If you are a girl or a woman who is raped it is not permissible for you to wait days to report your rape. Men have rights too. And apparently the cornerstone of men's rights is to quickly allow men to know that they got away with rape. It would be just too cruel if men who rape have to worry about being legally accountable for more than a few hours.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:03 AM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Not Rape If She Changes Her Mind: Afghan Version

From the Telegraph UK:

But since the Shia personal status law was signed last month, it has drawn condemnation in Afghanistan and internationally. A clause stating that a wife must submit to her husband's advances, unless ill, has been interpreted as sanctioning rape.

A group of 300 Afghan women were stoned and subjected to verbal abuse from conservative opponents when they protested against the law outside Ayatollah Mohseni's Kabul mosque on Wednesday. Ayatollah Mohseni, who leads Afghanistan's Shias, said the law had been misinterpreted by politically-motivated critics. [...]

However he added that women do have a duty to meet their husband's needs.
"If a woman says no, the man has the right not to feed her," he said.

Those who agree with this ayatollah that this isn't a rape law, including some "wives must always say yes" Christians, are practicing one of the most common forms of rape denial. For them it's not rape if the rapist doesn't follow the scary monster rapist mold.

The scary monster rapist jumps his intended victim without speaking, brutally rapes that victim without pause and leaves that rape victim visibly and undeniably physically injured or murdered. Under this model any cooperation from the victim nullifies rape from being real rape because "consent is consent."

Real victims of scary monster rapists will choose death over compliance and will choose the worst possible death over trying to please that rapist. Real victims certainly won't pretend to enjoy being raped even if it is clear that the price of truth will be death. Taking sexual actions to reduce harm or to survive becomes legal consent under this model.

Remember, there is a meme that some women like being raped. Those who believe this meme will view compliance or cooperation as eager consent or at least reasonable doubt.

This law then merely helps husbands in their effort to get their wives to change their minds about sex according to this rape denial mindset. And as I've heard repeatedly by those denying non-scary monster rape, working to change someone's mind is legal.

What makes this clearer is that this law is about much more than ordering wives to have sex with their husbands. It establishes the marital hierarchy in multiple ways and all those way reduce the human rights of wives.

Everybody tries to change some other person's mind at some point. Are we going to make all those efforts a crime? This question intentionally ignores that coercion is more than the bland description, "trying to change the other person's mind."

If we accept the broad claim that trying to change someone's mind is legal then torture used to get someone to confess must be legal. The torturer in this situation is only trying to change the non-confessing person's mind about whether to confess. If torture works in this scenario the person tortured has changed his or her mind about confessing.

And this is true, but the person tortured has not freely changed his or her mind. Most people get this.

When a husband denies his wife food he isn't trying to change her mind so that she freely chooses to have sex with him. He is seeking compliance, not genuine consent. If a husband denies his wife food long enough this "denial" becomes murder which is just as real in the end result as if the husband stabbed his wife.

That leaves me wondering if those who practice rape denial in this situation would also practice murder denial. After all, the wife only needed to do her marital duty in order to live therefore she chose to die of starvation. Maybe the rape denialists will labels denial of food deaths suicides.

If a country has a such a law then they have defined a way for rape to be legal. This legalization doesn't make this rape less traumatic, or less rape, than whichever rapes remain illegal (at least on the books).

But then in this model, marital sex isn't about mutuality or a wish to spare wives sexual trauma it is about enforcing the marital hierarchy. In a view of marriage as a hierarchy men cannot rape their wives because they already own their wives bodies. It is only the wife who can commit a sex crime against her husband by in effect denying him his marital rights.

This means that denying your wife food is just another way to get her to do what she was obligated to do. The only crime in this scenario would be committed by the wife when she refuses her husband. If she's raped by her husband she must cooperate unless she's ill (hey, they aren't monsters) and if she does cooperate as ordered it isn't rape.

Nice little loop, at least for rapists and those who are looking out for their best interests.

The "consent is consent" crowd will likely assess this cleric's statement on a mix of their bigotry and their opinion about whether this statement will cross a line in popular opinion. The most popular rape denialists have become rape marketing experts.

They only sell the most popular rapes. The remaining rapes horrify them and they demand that the "real" rapists be punished severely.

With this line of thinking where compliance is consent and only stereotypical force counts then a man who pretended to be a waiter did nothing illegal when he took money from diners and walked out.

People who say, "consent is consent," when it comes to rape would be appalled if their standard of "consent" was always applied in every non-sexual situation -- especially in the situations where they were likely targets.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:07 AM   1 comments links to this post

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Another Man Who Claimed DNA Testing Would Exonerate Him Proven To Be A Liar

From the Kansas City Star:

For 25 years, Huntley Ruff claimed he wasn’t the rapist who attacked a guest at a downtown Kansas City hotel. And after a long court battle, the Missouri Supreme Court last summer ordered the DNA testing that Ruff argued would prove his innocence.

Turns out he shouldn’t have bothered.

Jackson County prosecutors announced Friday that the testing Ruff sought has confirmed his conviction, and they are now seeking legal sanctions against him for filing what they say was a frivolous motion.

According to prosecutors, the testing of genetic material that had been preserved since 1984 showed that the odds of somebody else other than Ruff having been the donor were one in 103.7 quadrillion.

“It’s frustrating to use the financial resources for a defendant who clearly knows he’s guilty,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jim Kanatzar.

These legal sanctions must be supported by all those who demand that women who lie about being rape victims must face legal sanctions. Both are rape lies and in both cases the liar is claiming to be a victim when that person is a perpetrator. The main difference is that this man is also in the set of violent perpetrators.

If the lies of a woman who fraudulently claims to be a rape victim harm real rape victims then this man's lies harm men who are real victims of wrongful identification.

The disappointment from Ellen Suni, dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, who represented Ruff in his appeals shows that she missed the main point of these results. Her efforts paid off. The forensic evidence was tested and the results are in.

If she's disappointed in anything it should be that she was suckered into believing that an inmate's consistent denial of guilt and convincing manner are evidence in themselves.

This result is good since it provides important evidence. To view this result as disappointing because the result upholds the accuracy and honesty of a rape victim who may have felt tainted by 25 years of false allegations against her shows that Suni lost perspective. There is a disturbing backlash against rape victims who are seen as being a party to a wrongful conviction.

Just as prosecutors should be seeking the truth rather than a conviction, those who take on the cases of convicted felons should be seeking the truth rather than working with the goal of overturning a conviction.

A previous story in the Kansas City Star by Laura Bauer looked at the statistics in this type of DNA testing.

In an era of DNA exonerations, where headlines scream of wrongful convictions and photos highlight vindicated inmates leaving prison, these aren’t the results destined for a made-for-TV movie.

Not as much is heard about the inmates who plead for DNA testing — and get it — knowing full well they’re guilty. “We’re obviously not going to put out a press release when we ask for DNA tests for somebody and it comes back nailing them,” said Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Chicago’s Northwestern University School of Law. “It’s not news when the criminal justice system operates the way it’s supposed to.”

I disagree with Warden. This is news if what you are seeking is the truth no matter what that truth might be. By choosing not to send a press release when a client is reconfirmed as guilty, Warden is choosing to uphold a false and deceptive image of our criminal justice system. This false image can falsely undermine the credibility of criminal trials which don't have forensic evidence.

From later in the story about the rate of exonerations:
In the last five years, The Innocence Project out of New York exonerated 43 percent of the inmates whose DNA it tested. But almost as many inmates — 42 percent — had their convictions confirmed. The tests couldn’t exclude them.
This ratio is important news. Consistent claims of innocence can come from those who are innocent and they can come from those who are guilty. Neither possibility should be ignored.

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

Friday, April 17, 2009

Preventing Rape By Intoxication

From CBS 8:

A Web site aimed at educating high school-aged students about the crime of rape by intoxication was unveiled today by law enforcement officials and community leaders.

The Web site,, includes compelling videos featuring interviews with sexual assault victims, a prosecutor, police detective, sexual assault response team doctor and college fraternity members -- all giving first-person accounts designed to educate young people about rape by intoxication.

"With the number of reported cases of rape by intoxication in San Diego County increasing 60 percent from 2007 to 2008, this campaign will provide the community with a valuable resource and help educate youth on the dangers and repercussions of this very serious crime," said Susan Golding, head of the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation, which provided major funding for the outreach campaign.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said taking advantage of a person who is too drunk to know what's going on is illegal.

This type of prevention effort is real prevention since it is aimed at preventing teens from taking advantage of others. Too often what is called rape prevention makes victims responsible for rape and feeds the rationalizations of rapists.

Here's the text from the home page of Know The Price:

Partying with alcohol can quickly turn into a dangerous situation that could ruin your life. Face facts: if she's wasted, intoxicated, asleep, or unconscious, there's no such thing as "consent." Rape by intoxication is a serious felony that destroys lives and puts offenders in state prison for 8 years. Look for the signs, and stop it before it happens. One choice can change everything.
The word intoxicated will cause some people to react negatively and claim that what is being labeled as rape might not be rape, but they are overlooking that using intoxication as a tool to get sex is using intoxication to rape. The gender specific wording will bother some people as well, but this wording is directed at a specific criminal trend and that trend is highly gendered.

Most of the excuses for rape by intoxication are gendered as well. A popular excuse is that most girls who want to have sex allegedly need to get wasted before they will agree to do what they really wanted to do while sober. Under this excuse a girl getting intoxicated is a girl communicating her unlimited consent. A similar excuse is that girls get drunk in mixed company as a way to get random sex without having to be personally responsible for that sex.

I've never yet heard someone who used these types of excuses claim that boys who get drunk are signalling that they want to be taken sexually in order to get the sex they want without the responsibility.

But what I have heard from some of these people is that if a girl exploits a boy's intoxication that she is a rapist. These people have granted consent by intoxication on behalf of girls and have denied consent by intoxication on behalf of boys. Unsurprisingly, to me at least, these attitudes reflect the demographics of rape by intoxication.

Those who use this type of excuse to justify their actions will have the consent only of those who make this excuse, but by law to not be a rapist you need consent from the individual you want to have sex with. If some man says that drinking to the point of passing out is consent this statement only applies to those who want to have sex with him.

Too often lack of clear communication about consent comes from bystanders when they make excuses for rape by saying that lack of consent might have been unclear. This attitude allows rape as long the rapist can find a way to rape without eliciting the word, "No." This also sets up those who don't want to rape to become rapists by teaching them that rape only counts when rapists view their own actions as rape.

Anything short of clear, freely given consent (verbal or non-verbal) is rape. Confusion, mixed signals, etc. all mean stop. And not please stop. Must stop.

The legal responsibility for preventing rape can never be with the potential rape victim. Not clearly communicating lack of consent is still lack of legal consent. Guessing that you have consent is not the same thing as actually having legal consent.

Just as important as the message about consent is the message that it is committing rape which ruins lives and which can put someone in prison. This means that the consequences are correctly assigned.

When rape prevention efforts say that the report of rape can ruin lives, the rape victim becomes the person who ruined the rapist's life when this is not true. Besides being untrue this assignment of responsibility can contribute to harassment, threats and physical violence against those who report.

If a teenager picks up a gun and shoots a classmate through the thigh on a lark it isn't that classmate who is ruining the shooter's life by reporting. The same is true if a teenager commits rape on a lark. The "on a lark" part does not nullify the crime committed. It should not nullify the consequences for someone who can so easily assault another human being.

Yet for far too many people rape on a lark or without a thought about what that rape will do to the victim is seen as something which shouldn't count as a crime. This attitude directly communicates those people's tolerance for rape and their willingness to dismiss the harm done t rape victims.


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

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Susan Estrich On Phil Spector Verdict And Victim Blaming

Susan Estrich wrote about Phil Spector's 2 murder trials, the second of which ended with a conviction.

Both Clarkson and Spector were on trial for the second time, after the first jury to consider murder charges against the music producer deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction.

Spector's defense, once again, was to portray Clarkson as the ultimate nut and slut, a has-been, a depressed former B-movie actress who would kill herself at the home of a man she met hours before. His defense lawyer vowed, in the wake of Spector's conviction, to fight the judge's ruling that had allowed testimony from five other women who claimed Spector had held them at gunpoint. [...]

As far as I know, none of the "other women" in the Spector case brought charges against a man they knew to be dangerous. Clarkson, had she survived the night, probably wouldn't have, either. The reason should be obvious. They would have been destroyed. If you think Clarkson's image took a beating in these two trials, imagine what they would have said about her if she were still alive and complaining. The only thing that saved her is the fact that she is dead.

This reality is why solutions which focus only on encouraging women to report are no solution at all. These so-called solutions are often a way for people to excuse other people's negative contribution to violence against women.

One of the common lies which gets put forth is that the only reason a woman reported against a man with money is that the alleged victim is a gold digger. This is often presented as the only possible motive and that depends on the fallacy that those with money are incapable of being violent -- physically or sexually.

Being poor doesn't make a man violent and being rich doesn't make a man non-violent. Being violent is what makes a man violent. But popular denial can help certain men cross the line between non-violent and violent. This denial can also communicate to those who want to be violent who they can select for their victims to maximize their chances of getting away with one or more felonies.

The verbal attacks, and too often physical attacks, against those who report violence isn't limited to those who report violence committed by the rich or famous.

Estrich focuses on the power of bystanders to deal with someone who chooses to be violent or abusive. In this case those people are friends and associates of Phil Spector. Their choice to ignore criminal behavior or to protect the person who is violent -- even if that means additional harm to those who committed no crime -- is a choice which needs to be focused on if we are serious about reporting and prevention.

In the long run bystander enablement didn't benefit Phil Spector since he will most likely spend the rest of his life in prison. And rightfully so.

Accountability may have come too late for Lana Clarkson, but it did come for Phil Spector.


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

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Leading Experts to Discuss How Preventing Violence and Abuse

I received an emailed press release about an event in Washington DC tomorrow which is important for everyone working to make the US safer even though most of us will not be able to attend.

How do physical, sexual and psychological violence affect a person's long-term health? How can reducing rates of violence and abuse reduce health care costs and improve health outcomes? Leading violence prevention and health organizations will host a Capitol Hill briefing to answer those and related questions on Thursday, April 16. Speakers will consider the role of violence prevention as health care reform advances.

Dating, domestic and sexual violence and child abuse are health care problems of epidemic proportions. Studies show that women who have experienced domestic violence are 80 percent more likely to have a stroke, 70 percent more likely to have heart disease, 60 percent more likely to have asthma and 70 percent more likely to drink heavily than women who have not experienced intimate partner violence.

Children who experience childhood trauma, including witnessing incidents of domestic violence, are at a greater risk of having serious adult health problems including tobacco use, substance abuse, obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression and a higher risk for unintended pregnancy.

Experts at the briefing will explore the connections between domestic, dating and sexual violence and health care costs and consequences.

I've gotten to the place where attacks from rape apologists don't trigger me, but for some reason this press release triggered me big time.

I think it's because this reminded me of the intrinsic change rape made to my life and to my body. If it weren't for the aftermath of rape I wouldn't have come so close to dying at age 16 of alcohol poisoning.

If it weren't for rape and self-medicating with alcohol after reaching out for help failed, which left me vulnerable to other sexual predators, I wouldn't have needed surgery to cut out all those pre-cancerous cells on my cervix when I was in my early 20's. Without a free women's-health screening those pre-cancerous cells might have stayed in place undetected until they become cancerous cells. I might have died from cervical cancer before reaching age 30.

Without rape I wouldn't have been an easy target for a man who saw me as something meant to make him happy. Without that first rape I might not know what it feels like to have someone who claimed to love me wrapping his hands around my throat until "till death do us part," seemed about to come true.

Part of this widespread health impact is due to the rapes being committed, but I believe that dismissive attitudes and widespread denial and ignorance continue to be a major contributor to the physical and mental health problems faced by rape survivors.

It's been over a decade since I knew for certain that those who dismiss me and many other rape survivors as not real rape survivors, and who excuse my rapists and many other rapists as doing nothing more than misunderstanding their victims, are spreading dangerous falsehoods, but there were more than 2 decades where those lies ate away at me and kept me from stating a simple truth.

"I'm a rape survivor."

We must do more to cause all rapists to be ashamed of their actions and to make those considering rape or abuse, under any circumstances, to decide that this is not an acceptable choice. Studying the long-term effects of this violence is an important part of this work as is communicating the research on these effects.

Without this research too many people will continue to believe the myth that the impact of most rapes lasts only as long as the rape itself lasts. This myth harms rape victims while it helps rapists rationalize their crimes as no big deal.

Note: The carnival schedule is different this month due to my attendance at the WAM! conference in Boston. Check out the April 8th edition if you have not done so already. The closing date for nominations will either be a few days before the end of the month or when the average number of nominations comes in, whichever comes first.

Update (4/16): At today's discussion a new report was released. It's available from

AVA Announces Publication: "Hidden Costs in Health Care: The Economic Impact of Violence and Abuse".

Violence and abuse leads to as much as a 250 percent increase in healthcare utilization in adults who've been victimized at some time in their lives, resulting in increased healthcare expenditures of up to $750 billion annually or 37.5 percent of all healthcare costs. Download the full Hidden Costs report.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:07 AM   4 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Exonerations And False Accusations Against Rape Survivors

I'm always amazed at how some men can read a story about a woman who is still convinced that she IDed the correct person as her rapist, despite DNA analysis which excludes the man convicted, and conclude that the rape victim is a liar.

Yet, this is exactly what another anonymous man has done as part of his rejected comment on a post about the harassment of teen rape victims.
DNA has disproved her and she think she can just lie, falsely accuse identify somebody and get away with it?
FYI for this anonymous and others like him, here is the definition of lie:
To make an untrue statement with intent to deceive (Webster's)

There is no evidence in this story which Anonymous linked to as his proof of this woman's alleged lies that this rape victim has ever had any intention to deceive anybody. The man trying to get a pardon from the governor of Virginia doesn't even make the allegation that the woman he was convicted of raping ever made an untrue statement with the intent to deceive.

Yet Anonymous makes this accusation despite a lack of supporting evidence. That fact provides evidence that this Anonymous has made an untrue statement about a rape survivor with the intent to deceive. He's angry about wrongful rape convictions, he arrived with a body full of resentment and he is determined that somebody must pay even if that person is innocent.

In short, he has proven himself to be the very thing he claims to hate. A false accuser who doesn't care about the person wrongfully accused.

This also describes those who harass teen rape survivors. They are false accusers who don't care about the person wrongfully accused. No wonder this Anonymous didn't direct any of his ire at them.

Here's the beginning of the linked story:

RICHMOND [VA] A DNA test has cleared a 56-year-old self-taught carpenter of a 1979 rape, even though the victim says she doesn't believe the results.

Victor "Bo" Burnette is the sixth person exonerated since 2001 based on saved swatches discovered in the stored case files of Mary Jane Burton, a former serologist for what is now the Virginia Department of Forensic Science. A pair of DFS reports, from March and June, 2006, both confirm Burnette is "eliminated as a contributor" of DNA gathered during a rape investigation on Monument Ave. in Aug., 1979.

"I've been carrying this load for now 30 years," said Burnette, who spent eight years in prison.But the woman who identified Burnette as the rapist says she has no faith in the tests.

"I know what I saw," said the woman, who is now 48. "And those tests can be wrong. I mean, lab tests fail every day. Who's to say their test is correct?"

Those who reject her suspicion about the accuracy of the tests must also reject the suspicion about the accuracy of these forensic tests if that suspicion comes from a defense attorney if these same test results end up matching that attorney's client.

If a review of the DNA tests and a review of the handling of this DNA evidence shows that the results are accurate then this man should be pardoned.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:54 AM   4 comments links to this post

Monday, April 13, 2009

False Allegations About False Allegations part 2

Since there are so many false allegations about false allegations it makes sense to turn my responses to all those false allegations into a series.

From an iFeminists post by Wendy McElroy:

Studies and statistics [about false rape accusations] often vary and for legitimate reasons. For example, they may examine different populations. But such a dramatic variance -- two percent to 50 percent -- raises the question of whether political interests are at work.

It is understandable why some feminists might wish to understate the incidence of false reporting. In the '50s, women who reported sexual assault or domestic violence were dismissed. To acknowledge false reports as a real problem might undercut the gains made toward taking women seriously.

But if the charges against accused men are proven to be lies over and over again, then against women reporting even real violence may occur. After all, rape usually carries a stiff sentence and extreme stigma. The highest level of evidence and credible testimony should be required before ruining a man's life in that manner.

Feminists should demand such a high level of proof.
Yet feminists are not supposed to demand such a high level of proof when the allegation is that a woman who reported rape filed a fraudulent police report.

Feminists are not supposed to ask why men are excluded from McElroy's list of those who file fraudulent rape reports. It can't be because men don't file fraudulent rape reports or have never been convicted, they have. This omission raises the question about what political interests are at work.

McElroy is acknowledging "real" violence against women who report rape yet she is not admonishing those who commit "real" violence to immediately stop what they are doing. She is admonishing feminists and is making them personally responsible for other people's decision to commit "real" violence against women.

Injustice in the name of protecting those believed to be innocent seems to be tolerable if that injustice involves "real" violence against women who reported being raped. I find this sickening so I guess by McElroy's standards there is something fundamentally wrong with me. It must be my feminist political interests.

I wonder how severe the "real" violence against women who report rape must get before the "real" violent person becomes the one held personally responsible for that "real" violence. If McElroy's logic is valid then "real" violence against men accused of rape must be caused by all those who help so many "real" rapists go unprosecuted.

Feminists are not supposed to understand why some people wish to overstate the incidence of false reporting. Reasons such as viewing most rapes as not "real" violence, for example.

Notice that while a high level of evidence is demanded, McElroy uses the statistically sloppy, "proven to be lies over and over again." Proven by whom and to what standard? If this claim is what leads to "real" violence then the level of evidence from those making this claim had better be at least as high as is used to rightfully convict men of rape.

If we count the number of times that rape reports have been proven to be lies (this would be convictions for those who repeat "innocent until proven guilty" when men are accused of rape) and compare it to the total number of rape reports this will tell us far more than, "over and over," does.

Yet McElroy doesn't cite the number of annual convictions in the US for this crime.

In 2005 the estimated number of forcible rapes reported was 93,934 for the US. If the rate of false rape reports has been proven to be 50% that would be 46,967 false reports. If the rate is 2% that would be 1,878 false reports of forcible rapes in the US in one year and almost 2 thousand false reports could easily qualify as, "over and over," which means that even if McElroy's claim that false reports are made "over and over" is true that fact doesn't disprove the lowest estimate for false reports.

There is data missing from my calculations above. The number of actual rape reports is higher than this estimate because of the uncounted number of reports which are rebuffed during the attempt at reporting and because of those who have their reports recorded as no crime. The number is also higher because rape isn't limited to forcible rape.

This means the number of rape reports proven to be false needs to be compared to the sum of the actual reports which are made (forcible and non-forcible) and the reports which people attempted to make but which were not recorded to get an accurate rate of proven false reports.

As McElroy admits, in the 1950's, most men rightfully accused of sexual assault or domestic violence easily saw the true allegations against them dismissed. To acknowledge that claims about high rates of false rape reports are used by those who wish to return to those good old days (for violent men, at least) might undercut the claim that these people are more objective than feminists.

The question about whether political interests are at work to get such a wide range of claims about false rape reports is valid yet the only people whose interests are questioned by McElroy are feminists. The only people she shows any concern for are the men accused of rape. Those decisions reflect on her political interests.

Some differences in the research on false allegations are legitimate, but most are due to bad methodology or measuring one item (investigator's belief about reports) while claiming to measure another item (proven false reports).

There is no acknowledgement by McElroy of false claims made by rapists or investigators. These false allegations don't seem worth counting or worth acknowledging.

The book Cry Rape: The True Story of One Woman's Harrowing Quest for Justice by Bill Lueders about the injustice done to a woman who was raped in Madison, Wisconsin should be required reading for everyone who brings up the issue of false rape allegations or who makes any assessment that someone who reported rape filed a fraudulent police report.

This lack of acknowledgement of an entire class of false allegations combined with statistical sloppiness mean that McElroy is not a credible expert on false allegations. Her decision to justify and excuse "real" violence against women who report being raped is the most telling about her political interests.

Here's part 1.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:41 AM   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thanks for over 200,000 visits

While looking at my blog traffic stats, I noticed that Abyss2hope crossed the 200,000 visit threshold sometime in the last few days. When I think about this number I am reminded of each of my fellow rape survivors who I've connected to in some way through this blog or the blogosphere. The courage I have seen while my fellow survivors have dealt with disrespect and disbelief leaves me in awe.

When I look at this number I'm also reminded of higher numbers I've blogged about:

Quarter million rapes estimated in the Congo during last 4 years from Nov. 2006.

Can A Crime That Happens 248,300 Times A Year In The US Really Be Rare? from Dec. 2008.

These numbers could leave me depressed if I only thought about the actions of those who find ways to justify their own individual violence and those who find ways to justify or deny the violence of others.

But I know for certain that I'm far from being alone in my "radical" opposition to all forms of sexual violence, in my "radical" opposition to all excuses for why certain rapists are not "real" rapists and in my "radical" opposition to those who slander or dismiss those who have been sexually assaulted.

The big lie which the rape apologists wish for us to believe is that there is nothing we can do ethically to dramatically reduce the number of sexual assaults.

This lie depends on:
  1. The false claim that the only way for rape victims to have any reasonable chance to get justice after reporting is for innocent men to be punished for rapes they never committed.

  2. The false claim that rape prevention efforts aimed at changing the behavior and attitudes of potential rapists is anti-male.

The truth is that competence and thoroughness of investigations and prosecutions benefit all who are innocent. Competence and thoroughness would discourage many would-be rapists who want to think of themselves as non-rapists. This would also discourage many would-be fraudulent accusers.

Sloppiness and ethical breaches benefits the guilty.

If this claim about reasonable conviction rates were true then the only way for those who have been victims of attempted murder to have any reasonable chance to get justice would be for innocent people to be punished for crimes they never committed. The denialists will claim that the difference is physical evidence, but in rape cases serious injuries or even death are often dismissed by defense attorneys as nothing more than evidence of rough sex.

Being suckered by a lie is not the same thing as having reasonable doubt. The best way for people to avoid being suckered by the lies of rapists and their defenders is for the general population to have a better understanding of the issues which are needed to prevent people from rationalizing rape.

The truth is that effective prevention efforts teach people -- children and adults -- about appropriate sexual boundaries. I believe that many rapists would not be able to rationalize rape if they had been taught about their responsibility to ensure that they have freely given consent prior to taking action and if they had been taught that no behavior they see justifies or cancels out the reality of rape.

The number of rapes would drop if everyone understood that nobody has a legal obligation to clearly communicate lack of consent to prevent unwanted sexual contact or actions.

This basic education would help boys and men ensure that they have not been misled by someone who will not face criminal charges for their dangerous advice related to consent.

This rape prevention education needs to be integrated into all sex education programs to prevent future violence but also to help children understand that any sexual violence or sexual abuse they have experienced is not sex.

The belief in any part of these lies related to the reduction of rape is what prevents positive change. When the task of preventing rape seems impossible that results in many people never trying to get the task done. Yet preventing rape is not impossible.

The reason rape prevention is not impossible is because rape is not caused by biology or by sexual desire, it is caused by how people -- rapists and non-rapists -- think about the ethics of sexual contact and the actions which follow those thoughts.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:02 PM   3 comments links to this post

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's Not "Date Rape" It's Not A Sex Scene It's Rape

Please go over to Huffington Post and take their poll about the backlash against the rape scene in the Seth Rogen movie Observe & Report. Right now the top vote getter is:

It's a JOKE people. Get upset about more important things.
And this reaction is given as a valid opinion at a blog with supposedly liberal readers who care about human rights issues. This has the unfortunate side effect of communicating that it is a liberal value for women to lose their basic human rights the second they go unconscious.

I can almost hear the apologists explaining this popular poll response: "You were raped while unconscious and you were retraumatized by a movie, which as the star explains, made that rape, 'Okay'? My God, what is wrong with you? Don't you get that some women secretly love being raped while they are unconscious?"

Just as conservative Christian rape apologists give Christianity a bad reputation, liberal rape apologists give liberalism a bad name.

The supportive reactions to this rape scene tell us exactly why so many boys and men commit rape and believe they did nothing wrong.

Yeah, if we are liberal, we should get upset about something more important than a movie which supports the lies and rationalizations of thousands of rapists, which allows these rapists and their allies to get away with slandering rape victims and calling them the only real criminals.

To paraphrase the Bush Admin's justification for invading Iraq in 2003, let's all fight rape over there in the Congo and other foreign nations so we don't have to fight rape back here at home.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:28 AM   3 comments links to this post

A Telling Absence Of Alleged

From the Sunderland Echo we get this headline: Woman accused over false rape claim. Notice that this headline isn't stated as an alleged false rape claim even though that's exactly what is is. Alleged.

The brief story attached to this headline supports the false assumption that this charge has already been proven. Yet there is no supporting evidence for this charge provided in the story. It's as if credible evidence has suddenly become optional. There is no consideration that this type of charge has been and can be made against someone who is innocent.

The possibility of innocence is real. Injustice for rape victims can go beyond seeing rapists get away with rape and being informally classifed by investigators and/researchers as a liar.

Only rarely will a wrongfully charged rape victim be able to have forensic evidence prove that person's innocence. If the rapist claims consent and the DA believes that claim then no forensic evidence can ever exonerate the wrongfully accused rape victim.

The constant demands for "real" rape victims to take a strong stand against false reports -- if they don't want to be viewed as man haters -- can cause people who want all rape victims to be treated fairly to ignore one of the biggest injustices a rape survivor can face.

Those who repeatedly bring up, "What if he's innocent?" are tellingly silent in cases such as this one.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:02 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, April 10, 2009

Trigger Warning For Movie Observe and Report

For those who haven't already heard about Seth Rogen's new movie...
NY Mag: Does Seth Rogen Rape Anna Faris in Observe and Report?

Not surprisingly a commenter scolds the author of this article for not waiting until everyone who was planning to go see this movie does so before raising this issue. For that man, fostering debate is far more important than warning people about a scene that could be triggering and traumatizing.

This attitude which puts one man's desire above other people's needs is more than ironic in this situation.

From the description given of the scene, Rogen's character does rape Faris's character, a woman unable to consent. Since this is a MO which is often minimized or flat-out denied by those who are quick to label reports of this type of rape as a "drunken romp" this is far more than a debate about whether people liked or disliked a particular movie.

The way this scene is framed by the rest of the movie is also important because that framing can easily reinforce dangerous attitudes which help people rationalize sexually violating another human being. Many times this rationalization is so entrenched that when someone rightfully reports rape they are widely accused of making a false accusation.

A movie can be respectful without being preachy. If a particular director or writer cannot do this then the problem is with them not the medium.

The Sexist discusses this scene and not surprisingly in the comments it is disclosed that a rape survivor was blindsided by this scene.

Also not surprisingly some men are more upset about the backlash against a date rape included in a movie than they are about the minimization of rape. At least one of these men flat out denies that this was rape because the movie decides to have the rape victim wake for a second mid-rape and fulfil the fantasies of rapists everywhere.

This movie making decision doesn't undo rape anymore than deciding that after having a character shoot another character that the character who was shot will realize he is bleeding to death and say, "Life wasn't that good anyway." We get that this statement doesn't retroactively turn a killing shot into assisted suicide.

If as I've seen alleged, this scene is okay because Rogen's character is unsympathic and unsympathic people often commit crimes then the discussion by people connected to this film will be about the rape scene. They might explain why one or more characters don't view a rape as being what it is just as actors explain why their characters don't view murder as being what it is. What they won't do is deny that this is a rape scene.

As another commenter responded: Consent needs to be given before sex begins. That this basic concept is so "radical" and nonsensical to some people tells us why rape is common and why so many people rightfully accused of rape are certain they have been wrongfully accused.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:18 AM   2 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Man Accused Of Serial Rapes Claims They Were All Consensual

From KTUU:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- On a cold December night in 2007 four hitchhikers said they got a ride from a strange man. The four women said he put a gun to their head and raped them or tried to rape them.

Airjetis Espinal is charged with raping those four women in less than an hour. He says it was consensual.

The defense is trying to characterize three of the four women in a negative light: one as a drunk, another as a prostitute, and the third as a crack dealer. But the prosecution says that still doesn't explain the rapes.

This case highlights the inherent logical flaws in the common defense strategy which relies on distracting the jury away from the evidence of alleged rapes. The goal of this illogical strategy is to have the jury so focused on dissecting the alleged victim's character or that person's every action or alleged action that the alleged rapist is forgotten or is given the default position of victim.

Because of the multiple victims, the defense attorney doesn't have a cohesive narrative and is figuratively throwing spaghetti everywhere and hoping something sticks-- even if what it sticks to is anti-rape victim bigotry. Every motive for reporting is tossed out except the most logical and most common -- these are all genuine reports by genuine crime victims.

Those who didn't report until Espinal was arrested are attacked by the defense attorney as non-credible but the content of this attack provides credible support for those women's decisions related to reporting.

One of the alleged victims reported being raped several years earlier and the defense is trying to spin a case that wasn't resolved into a proven false report so that again an alleged victim will be positioned as the de facto defendant who should be assumed guilty of being a serial criminal without proof.

If this allegation against one of the alleged victim's is credible then the defense should be required to get the person allegedly falsely accused several years earlier to testify under oath about what happened earlier for this defense allegation to be admissible.

Sometimes the goal of defense attorneys is to have the jury assume that an alleged victim cannot be honest when reporting being the victim of a crime, but more often the goal is more insidious -- and dangerous -- to get the jury to believe that if a rapist picks victims carefully that what otherwise would be a felony should be treated as if it were legal. This is the line of thinking which causes people to talk about the rape of a sex worker of someone who is prostituted as nothing more than theft of services.

When this happens the victim has been stripped of all humanity and is given a lower status than an animal. Once a person is assigned an equal status with a car wash, we have crossed into very dangerous territory.

If we as a society are genuinely against rape we have to be against it no matter who rapists pick as their victims. And that means prosecuting no matter who rapists pick as their victims.

I'm not sure how this defense attorney will try to spin witness testimony about gunfire and man chasing one of the alleged victims, but this spin could work if jurors are only listening until something fits into their bigotry against women who report rape.

The more often defense attorneys succeed at conning juries into acquitting guilty defendants because of bigotry the more harm will be done to defendants who are genuinely innocent. Yet defense attorneys who rely on bigotry rarely get the credit they deserve for the taint left on genuinely innocent rape defendants.

Update (4/15): The defense strategy worked and the jury acquitted Espinal of the rape charges even though they found him guilty of the assault charges. I'm sorry, but this is a common and nonsensical verdict which is based on bigotry in the face of undeniable violence.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:55 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 68

Welcome to the Apr. 8, 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 thank everyone who helped with my fundraising effort for my travel expenses to the WAM! 2009 conference. At our workshop, Pulling the Plug on Rape Culture One Word at a Time, we had a full room. I also gained valuable information which I will be using to get the word out to a wider audience.

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


In Drug rape doesn't happen... oh wait posted at The Feminist Housewife, we get a discussion of the danger that comes from refusing to believe reports of drug-facilitated rape can be accurate.

In That Horrible Taxi Rapist Guy posted at Cruella-blog, we get a discussion about the conviction of cabdriver John Worboys and how this crime can impact those who may never know if they were a victim of this type of rapist.

In Burglary is Not a Non-Violent Crime, #2: A Lesson on DNA and Recidivism posted at Crime Victims Media Report, we get a discussion of what happens when certain crimes are dismissed or under-prosecuted simply because they are deemed non-violent.

In Speechless posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion of the rationalizing statements made by Josef Fritzl when he pleaded guilty to only some of the charges against him.

In Thanks for your input, Rudolf posted at Fuck Politeness, we get a discussion of justifying comments made by the attorney representing Josef Fritzl.

In Rape Not Necessarily a Crime in London - Until Last Year posted at Change Happens, we get a discussion about the improper classification of reports to the police by women who believed they might have been raped while unconscious as no crime.

In It's not "sex," it's rape posted at Feministing, we get a discussion of a case where an 18 year-old man was given only 6 months in jail for raping two women.

In Dismissive attitudes towards rape victims persist in the Met posted at The F-Word Blog, we get a discussion of rape complaints that were repeatedly filed as ‘Crime Related Incidents (CRIs)’ rather than as alleged criminal offences in six Metropolitan boroughs.

In Two wrongs = suspended sentence for rape posted at In a strange land, we get a discussion of a judge who treated an underage girl being "severely drunk" as a mitigating factor when it came to reducing the sentences of two men convicted of having underage sex with her.

In Thoughts on Castration for Sex Offenders posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion about debates raging in Europe over whether is ethical and/or smart to castrate sex offenders as a form of punishment or rehabilitation.

media watch

In Sexual Violence in PostSecrets posted at This is Rape, we get a discussion the secrets related to sexual violence that are only disclosed in postcards.

In Rape Culture posted at Directionless Bones, we get a discussion of how a cartoon of an attempted rape has fans on a FaceBook group for those who love sex.

In MSNBC must have a pretty screwed up thesaurus posted at skeptifem, we get a discussion about what crimes and criminal allegations get described as a sex scandal.

In Spot the difference posted at Too Much To Say For Myself, we get a discussion about how headline writers interpret a rape victim's misplaced self-blame for a crime committed against her.

personal stories

In A Satirical "thank-you"-note to the opponents of feminism posted at Feminist at Sea, we get a discussion about how gross ignorance and bigotry can be a motivating force for positive action.

In 3rd Blog Anniversary posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss my journey of blogging against sexual violence and for prevention.

In Throwing Starfish posted at the voices of thistle farms, we get an analogy which is often used to motivate people to help when the problems seem overwhelming and a discussion of the flaws in this analogy.

raising awareness

In Some people are idiots posted at Mortality's Thoughts, we get a brief post about what it means when a woman can be sued for saying no to sex after a date.

In No Person is "Born to Rape" posted at A Womyn's Ecdysis, we get a response to a psychiatrist who claimed that a man can be born to rape.

In Open Letter to Chris Brown posted at Diary of a Black Male Feminist, we get insight from a man who has been guilty of viewing women as objects to be obtained and who went after an unattainable woman by manipulatively pretending to be a nice guy and who was shocked out of his arrogance by what he learned through his manipulation.

In Alleged Proof Of Bias Toward Women posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I respond to an anonymous woman's comment attacking a woman who reported rape, saying, "what about false allegations" while she presents men's accounts related to rape as factual or inherently more credible.

In Sleeping Beauties (Rape Awareness Month) posted at Jim C. Hines, we get a discussion about the myth that taking advantage of another person's unconsciousness is just having sex with that person when the reality is that this behavior is rape.

In When a Man is the Victim: A Second Study in Rape Apology posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion of the differences and similarities in how rape is denied or minimized based on the victim's gender.


In I Lay Down and Wept posted at rmott62, we get the overwhelming feelings that can come long after the violence has ended.

In Doormat No More! posted at Survivors Can Thrive!, we get a discussion about learning that you have the right to set boundaries and have those boundaries respected.


In Hope posted at Mortality's Thoughts, we get a discussion of positive changes to the way sexual violence is discussed by a professor.

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.

I will schedule the next edition depending on how fast the nominations come in, with the goal to get back to the normal 1st/15th of the month publication dates.

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 @ 12:01 AM   2 comments links to this post