Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wrongful Conviction Overturned For Woman Whose Report Of Rape Disbelieved By Police

From the Standard (via):

A WARRNAMBOOL [Australia] woman has won a five-year battle to clear her name after being wrongfully convicted of making a false report to police. Belinda Howe, 36, made a report to police in 2003 alleging a former partner had committed sex offences.

Police charged Ms Howe with making a false report to police and she appeared in the Warrnambool County Court during 2004. A judge questioned the state of Ms Howe's mental health before she was given a three-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.
The exoneration came only after her former partner was tried and convicted for sex crimes against another victim. What this indicates is that the police had no truly credible evidence of her guilt and instead relied on stereotypes about who files false rape reports and what real rapists look like.

This case highlights how much bigotry can influence a case and why the word alleged must always be used when the police announce they have charged someone with filing a fraudulent police report.

While most stories about rape arrests now use the word alleged most of the stories I've read about arrests of those who reported rape continue to lack that word. Cases where the police announce that a report of rape was false while also announcing that no charges will be filed tend to be the worst at assuming the alleged rape victim's guilt.

Often those who repeat, "Innocent until proven guilty," when responding to a man being charged with rape are the quickest to forget or abandon this concept when a girl or woman is charged with lying about rape.

Just as rape convictions don't guarantee that all those found guilty are guilty as charged a conviction of someone who reported rape doesn't guarantee that all those found guilty of filing a false police report are guilty as charged.

Competent and thorough investigations are needed to protect all who are innocent whether they are crime victims or crime suspects. Sloppy investigations cause harm across the board.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:06 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, June 29, 2009

Transforming Communities to Preven Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation

From Minnesota's Sexual Violence Prevention Network e-newsletter:

Policy brief: Transforming Communities to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: A Primary Prevention Approach

Prevention Institute announces a new resource for preventing child abuse. Transforming Communities to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: A Primary Prevention Approach presents the distilled research and critical thinking of a diverse group of local and national experts in the field of child sexual abuse and exploitation. Via candid dialog and interviews, these leaders developed and prioritized primary prevention strategies, analyzed environmental factors and norms that perpetuate these problems, and outlined policies and practices for transforming our communities and our nation during these turbulent political and economic times.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:08 AM   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, June 28, 2009

States Which Don't Follow Prison Rape Prevention Guidelines

WASHINGTON - States receiving federal money for prisons could see their funding cut if they fail to adopt new measures to reduce sexual violence in correctional and detention facilities nationwide, according to a report released Tuesday.

The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission issued an extensive report, five years in making, that found that more than 60,000 inmates are sexually abused every year.

Based on a 2007 survey of tens of thousands of incarcerated people, 4.5 percent of those surveyed reported being sexually abused in the previous 12 months — and more prisoners claimed abuse by staff than by other inmates.
The work of this commission is important, but even the best analysis cannot reduce violence if that analysis isn't applied systematically. With the cuts being made in other areas by states with budget shortfalls it would be easy to drop existing violence reducing efforts before this compliance rule kicks in if those programs are seen as optional.

It's important for those who want to prevent prison rape to acknowledge that prison rape goes far beyond the easy stereotypes and tasteless jokes. Prison rape doesn't just happen to men in prison and it isn't only committed by other prisoners.

And it is important for those who have no sympathy for those who are raped while incarcerated to realize that disregard for certain rape victims by those assigned to uphold the law sends a dangerous message to inmates who are least likely to be victims of prison rape.

Convicted rapists, whether victimized personally or not, might view prison rape as proof that they are no worse than anybody else and the only difference is they got caught.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:09 AM   2 comments links to this post

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Baker County OR Man Convicted Of Rape While Victim Unconscious

From the Baker City Herald:

A Baker County [Oregon] jury deliberated into the evening Thursday before returning to the courtroom to announce their findings of guilty on all three counts against a man accused of raping a young woman he’d supplied with tequila who had passed out in her bed and was incapable of consenting to sex.

Charles Matthew Ferguson, 29, of [...], was convicted of one count each of first-degree rape, second-degree sexual abuse and furnishing alcohol to a minor.
On the most serious charge the jury initially announced they were deadlocked despite the woman's testimony that a lack of consent was clearly understood and despite a text message from Ferguson in which he wrote, "I could have told you nothing happened and you wouldn’t have known.”

I consider that text message to be an admission of guilt which makes me wonder how any juror could view the allegations of rape as not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This victim testified about being a virgin prior to the rape and communicating that she planned to remain a virgin until marriage which is only relevant to the case in that she communicated this to her rapist.

Yet for some jurors this status could have swayed them one way or the other depending on their bias. Some could have seen this as a motivation for her to lie and others might view this as the sole reason to believe her testimony.

I didn't realize that in Oregon someone can be convicted on a 10-2 vote, but that's what happened on the sex crime charges in this case. Here in Minnesota convictions require all members of the jury to vote guilty in order to convict the defendant.

Maybe the problem was that, like many acquaintance rapists, Ferguson told the victim afterwards that he cared about her. His arrogant and mollifying behavior is common from non-stranger rapists but many people view that behavior as mutually exclusive to the crime of rape since that type of rapist doesn't fit their belief in the rapist-as-monster stereotype.

Not surprisingly, the defense attorney trotted out the tired and familiar stereotype about girls and women who report rape committed by someone they know: "Regret is not rape."

Being upset over having been raped isn't merely regretting sex, it is the impact of being raped.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:45 PM   0 comments links to this post

Carnival Nomination Deadline

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

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

Together we can help reduce the acceptance of rape and the myths related to sexual violence which support rape and injustice against rape victims.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:03 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, June 26, 2009

DNA From Domestic Assault Solves Cold Rape Case

From This is hull and east riding UK:

Detectives fear a sex attacker who was caught after 18 years could have struck many times before. They have taken the step of releasing police mug shots of Paul Dook so potential victims can identify him and come forward.

The 45-year-old, of Green Lane, Burton Pidsea, was convicted for raping a 22-year-old woman in 1991 after a jury at Hull Crown Court took just one hour to find him guilty. [...]

Det Sgt Watts said: "The DNA database was only built up after 1995 and he slipped through the net when he committed the indecent assault in 1995. His DNA was taken following the domestic assault in 2006 and even though no further action was taken, it remained on the system. Without his DNA remaining on the system, we would have never found out who he was."

I've heard people call for a change to the DNA database which would have removed Dook's DNA from the database once the investigation became inactive. This case highlights the serious consequences of any proposed change which is marketed as a measure to protect the innocent when those who are labeled as innocent have not in fact been proven factually innocent.

Those who are guilty aren't always prosecuted and they aren't always convicted even if they are prosecuted. Purging their records from the DNA database or other databases will protect serial offenders.

For example, with a 6.5% UK conviction rate for rape, a lack of conviction doesn't communicate anything about the lack of validity of the 93.5% of the rape reports. However, there is evidence that this low rate of convictions is caused at least in part by serious problems in how the initial reports are handled. Much of this comes down to bigotry against those who report which can be expressed by assumptions about the alleged victim's lack of credibility or an immediate assumption that the report is false.

This case happened in the UK, but it highlights why all reports of violence should be investigated fully. Unfortunately, many reports of domestic assault and sexual assault in different jurisdictions are not investigated at all and some may not be filed properly by investigators. This can happen because of investigator bigotry or it can happen because of assumptions that certain cases cannot be successfully prosecuted.

Rape victims who know their rapists are too often rebuffed when they attempt to file police reports and officials may never know if additional victims of Dook tried to file police reports and were effectively rebuffed from doing so. Some investigators will assume that an assault was no big deal simply because of the relationship between the person being accused and the person trying to file a police report. But physical and sexual assaults are a big deal even when those who committed those assaults aren't strangers.

Many of the same issues exist in domestic violence cases so it is important to keep relevant information which has been collected unless it's been proven that the information was collected based on a fraudulent report. Acquittals are not proof that the original report was fraudulent. Neither is an investigator's statement of belief.

There may be many more cases which can be solved in this way and it is important that those who see that as a bad outcome aren't allowed to use the excuse of, "We are trying to protect the innocent," as a way to protect the guilty.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:32 AM   2 comments links to this post

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Youth Adult Institute On Effective Social Change

From Minnesota's Sexual Violence Prevention Network (SVPN) E-News:

Youth/Adult Institute on Effective Social Change, June 27, 2009, St. Paul (see below for additional dates and locations)

MNCASA brings....Introduction to Changing the World: A Youth/Adult Institute on Effective Social Change

Coming to the Twin Cities on June 27, 2009.

Youth and adults will practice the keys to ensuring the spirit of “We the People” and discover how to mobilize available resources to change the world. This hand’s on institute is TOTALLY fun, interactive, and filled with content that will support you in being a more effective citizen and agent of change. Our mission is to inspire you to a lifetime of service to your community, state, and nation.

Presenter, Derek Peterson, is native of Minnesota. After college he left to increase justice in the world. He has presented over 2000 institutes and workshops around the globe.

Date: June 27, 2009, Time: 8:30 am- 4:30 pm
Location: Hamline University, Room: Kay Fredericks Ballroom (3rd floor of the Klas Center)
Campus Map (Recommended parking: Drew Parking lot)

Additional dates/sites include:
Saturday, July 11, 2009 Bemidji
Sunday, July 12, 2009 St. Cloud
Saturday, July 18, 2009 Rochester
Sunday, July 19, 2009 Marshall
Saturday, July 25, 2009, Duluth
Please help spread the word in your community! Please also consider gathering a few youth and attending with them!!

For more information or to register, contact Lindsay at MNCASA (MN Coalition Against Sexual Assault) 651.209.9993 x203 or www.civic-us.org.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:54 AM   0 comments links to this post

Oscar Winner Joseph Brooks Charged With Sexual Assault of 11 Women

From the NY Times:

A 71-year-old Academy Award-winning songwriter who the authorities said used his Oscar to dazzle aspiring actresses was arrested Tuesday on charges of raping or sexually assaulting 11 women lured to his East Side apartment from 2005 to 2008. His female assistant was charged with helping him.

The songwriter, Joseph Brooks, whose hit “You Light Up My Life” won the Oscar for best song of 1977, recruited the women, ranging in age from 18 to 30, many of them from the Pacific Northwest, with advertisements on Craigslist and a talent Web site offering movie roles, then “incapacitating them” with wine and “intimidating them” into silence, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, said.

If these ads were for a non-existent role then that proves that Brooks wasn't mixing business with romance and was instead setting a deliberate trap. This undermines any possible claim by Brooks or his legal representatives that these alleged rapes were instead consensual sexual encounters.

That these ads brought women to New York and far from their homes is another sign of criminal premeditation since reporting in a different city and state is even more intimidating than reporting locally. From what I've read, none of the alleged victims in this current case are from New York which again reinforces that the goal was rape by intoxication.

I disagree with the use of the word dazzle in the quote above since the Oscar was likely used to give the alleged false story credibility.

There are many situations where credibility causes us to make choices which leave us vulnerable to those who decide to be predators. When we open the phone book or go online to get a broken air conditioner fixed and we verify that we are in contact with a reputable contractor, we let the worker from that company into our homes. They haven't dazzled us.

But certain positions provide opportunities those people wouldn't have otherwise. If a plumber tried to give me a drink, I'd instantly know something was off. But when I go to a restaurant I not only don't get upset when I'm given a drink I haven't seen prepared I thank that person.

We repeatedly trust people and the problem isn't that we're dazzled or too trusting, the problem is that some people exploit our reasonable assumptions and are untrustworthy.

If there was no acting role then charging Brooks' assistant for setting up a bogus ad and for reassuring those who expressed concern about the details of these meetings is absolutely correct. It doesn't matter if she thought of what she was doing as setting women up to be raped. When you lure someone thousands of miles on false pretenses and with false assurances of safety, you have deliberately crossed the line into criminal activity.

If it isn't already, placing a fraudulent ad to lure someone to another location should be a crime and when mixed with other crimes should be treated as an aggravating factor.

I'm sure some people will believe the allegations are true but will refuse to label what Brooks did as rape. Instead they will call it seduction or one man being a jerk. They might look at how Brooks and his assistant worked and decide that any young woman who didn't want sex could have gotten away if she really wanted to. This premise is faulty since it is based on the assumption that everyone who answered the ad would know upon entering the apartment that the audition was bogus.

Not all of those who will deny rape in this situation will be anti-feminists or MRAs. Some feminists are so locked into the idea of female empowerment that they view certain rapes as the victim's failure to assert herself.

This view requires making premeditation and deception on the part of Brooks and his assistant irrelevant.

I cringe every time I hear someone tell women that they are only victims if they choose to be victims. This is a false statement. Often what is meant is that women may not realize how much power they have and how many options they have to get away from abusive situations. But sometimes people truly believe that when violence doesn't come from a sudden and unknown source that the victim who doesn't evade that violence has consented to it.

These people don't know what they are talking about and contribute to creating an environment where victims of people like Brooks are afraid to report their rapes to the police.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:32 AM   3 comments links to this post

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

LA County Suspends Rape Kit Processing California State May Soon Follow

From the LA Times:

Out of cash and understaffed, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has suspended its faltering effort to analyze DNA evidence from thousands of rape and sexual assault cases.

The department halted shipments of the genetic evidence to private crime laboratories at the end of May after funds allotted for the testing ran dry, according to a report submitted by Sheriff Lee Baca to the county Board of Supervisors late last week.

Sheriff's Department officials said they expected to receive federal grant money next month, and more funds in the fall, that would allow them to continue testing for four or five months. After that, however, the department will have to rely on an uncertain stream of state funding, officials said.
The unsteady stream of California state funding seems about to run dry.
A state legislative budget committee recently recommended that funding for the California Department of Justice lab be slashed by $20 million next fiscal year -- a move that, if approved by lawmakers, would force the lab to stop providing free DNA testing to 47 of the state's 53 county governments.
If this amount of funding is cut for DNA testing there is no excuse for lawmakers to not immediately remove the statute of limitations for rape with no conditions related to DNA evidence.

Delays may be unavoidable due to tight budgets and the priorities of those in control of those budgets, but they don't have to guarantee permanent injustices.

Too often when budgets are tight is when people cut funding for efforts which don't truly matter to them because they can do so while blaming the budget not their own priorities.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:50 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

US Supreme Court Rejects DNA Testing Request On Behalf Of Alaska Man Convicted Of Rape

From CNN:

A convicted rapist seeking to prove his innocence with a new DNA test lost his appeal Thursday at the Supreme Court. The justices ruled 5-4 that inmates cannot use a federal civil rights law to press for advanced DNA testing that was unavailable at the time of the crime.

Forty-four states and the federal government have laws allowing post-conviction access to biological evidence for such testing, but that number does not include Alaska, where William Osborne was sentenced 15 years ago for a vicious attack on an Anchorage woman.

One of the problems with these types of appeals is that requests for post-conviction DNA testing can be made not because the defendant was denied due process rights or had incompetent representation or learned of new evidence after the conviction but because a defense attorney made a reasonable strategic and informed decision, with the defendant's permission, not to seek additional or better DNA testing prior to the trial.

In this situation post-conviction advances in forensics aren't relevant since the defense attorney wasn't pushing for cutting edge forensic identification for reasons which actively served the defendants best interests.

If this defense strategy is followed by a favorable appeals court ruling or favorable supreme court ruling only because that strategy didn't result in an acquittal, what is being gained isn't justice but a strategic do-over after taking the best defensive shot the first time around.

If a defense attorney knew that a pre-trial DNA test would either ensure a conviction or make no difference to the outcome of that trial, then there is no injustice to be corrected by post-conviction DNA testing.

This is exactly the scenario which happened during the original trial.

Osborne's trial attorney in Anchorage made a strategic decision 16 years ago to forgo more sophisticated DNA testing of the evidence in the criminal assault case, believing it might end up working against her client. Several years later, the Alaska inmate sought access to the state's biological evidence to have a state-of-the-art DNA test done.
This is far different from a case tried before DNA testing was viable or where the evidence with potential exonerating DNA was unknown.

This man's attorney viewed the DNA results from a condom (which didn't rule out Osborne while matching 1 out of 6 African Americans) as more favorable evidence for the defense than what could have been reported from more exact DNA processing. A man who is guilty is going to have good reason to agree with his attorney on this issue.

If other attorneys know that their client if convicted will likely get the DNA analysis which wasn't desired prior to trial upon appeal then it makes even more sense for defense attorneys to deliberately not seek the best practice DNA analysis prior to trial. Prosecutors are often criticized for not seeking to reveal the truth in court, but defense attorneys represent many clients where the truth is the enemy to a successful defense.

Because the goal of a defense attorney can be to hide or obscure the truth, inconclusive or no DNA evidence can be many defendant's best shot at an acquittal. There are many reasons why someone who is found guilty while having a great representatives will file an appeal. Factual innocence is only one of those many reasons.

One of the elements of the US Supreme Court ruling in DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE FOR THE THIRD JUDICIAL DISTRICT et al. v. OSBORNE was that Osborne wasn't denied his due process rights. For me this is key in assessing the appropriateness of this ruling.

There is nothing about this case or this man which indicates he didn't get a fair trial or that he was wrongfully convicted. In fact within months after William Osborne was paroled for this crime, which he admitted to one time after he was convicted, he was arrested for a home invasion in Anchorage and was convicted of kidnapping and assault and is currently awaiting sentencing on those charges.

I doubt those who disagree with this ruling because they want any convict who requests DNA testing to get it would be in favor of changing our criminal justice system so that prosecutors could get a similar do-over after an acquittal. Yet DNA evidence and improved technologies which can prove a defendant's guilt have come in after acquittals, but under our criminal justice system that evidence becomes immaterial even if it proves someone's guilt.

If the only goals were truth and justice then our current understanding of DNA evidence should cause a widespread call for a constitutional change so that criminal acquittals in cases where the forensics are absent or unclear could be appealed on the same grounds which underlie this case.

I'm not advocating that change, only highlighting what would need to be done to our system to reach some advocates stated goal.

If the goal is to get at the truth about the accuracy of our criminal justice system then those who say they support this goal should work to find the funding to pay to test or retest all old DNA evidence using current best-case practices whether or not that case ended with a conviction, an acquittal or dropped charges or if no suspect has ever been identified.

If what is wanted is a total review of the accuracy of our system then that's what should be done, not a one-sided review which only looks for one type of error or one area of uncertainty. Incomplete data can lead to skewing the criminal justice system away from impartiality and fairness.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:20 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, June 22, 2009

Milwaukee Serial Killer Has At Least 7 Victims

From ABC news:

A prostitute whose strangled body was found in a vacant house has become the seventh known victim of a serial killer who targeted streetwalkers in Wisconsin for more than two decades, police said Tuesday.

Police believe the suspect, whose identity is unknown, strangled five other prostitutes and had sex with a 16-year-old runaway whose throat was slashed. Another suspect likely killed the teen, police said.

DNA results came back Tuesday linking the death of Florence McCormick, 28, to the killer. [...] The earliest death linked to the serial killer was in 1986 and the latest was in 2007.
Additional DNA testing is underway for 2 dozen additional unsolved murders.

Whenever I hear about a case like this where all the police have which concretely identifies the murder victims to a specific individual is DNA I think about the many DNA testing backlogs around the US and the decision of some police departments to not submit certain rape kits for testing.

Chaunte Dean Ott was convicted in 1 of these murders, the only one where the victim was not a woman of color, but his conviction was overturned because the DNA in that case didn't match Ott. That victim, Jessica Payne, was a 16-year-old runaway. The story doesn't say what connected Ott to Payne. According to the story it hasn't been determined whether Ott will be retried.

As a story in the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal highlights, this DNA match alone doesn't prove guilt so the presence of another man's DNA doesn't alone prove innocence. However, the odds are against this DNA belonging to a man not involved in these murders.

The tests show the same person had contact with seven women who were murdered, Gahn said, but that does not guarantee a conviction or even enough to charge the suspect - assuming he is found.

"Until the person is identified, I don't think we can make any conclusions about the strength of the case," Gahn said. "It goes behind a person of interest. That person has some explaining to do."

Investigators have run the DNA profile found on the murdered women against DNA databases nationally with no hits. That means the suspect is not in prison and has not provided law enforcement with a genetic sample in any state, he said. Wisconsin has required all felons to provide DNA since 1996.

This case especially highlights the flaw in not testing rape kits when the identity of the alleged rapist is known and consent is used as a defense. Those who will rape people they know may also commit serious crimes against strangers and vice versa. If the same criminal's DNA is present in both types of crimes the undeniable crime (murder, for example) may be solved by thoroughly investigating all rapes which are viewed as unprovable (spousal or date rape, for example).

In a recent case the DNA collected from a flasher matched 2 unsolved rapes so this connection can be made between known and unknown offenders. Processing all rape kits in a timely manner can do more than solve existing cases, it can save lives.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:55 AM   1 comments links to this post

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Advice For Fathers Who Want To Talk To Their Children About Dating And Safety

From a Nebraska TV article by Howard Seidman:

Many fathers do discuss dating with their tween daughters, but they may be in the dark about what really goes on. About two thirds of parents think they know "a lot" or "everything" about their tween's relationships. But only about half of all tweens agree. [...]

What can you do?

Before your daughter starts dating, she needs to learn that good relationships are built on respect. [...]

Teach your daughter to recognize the warning signs of abuse. [...]

Explain to your daughter that people who abuse their partners often use excuses to justify their behavior. Your daughter needs to know that she shouldn't put up with abuse or put aside her concerns.

What I appreciate about this article is that it doesn't fall into the trap of making the victim of dating or relationship abuse responsible for prevention.

The only problem with the article is that it fails to ask fathers to have similar talks with their sons so they too will understand the importance of having healthy relationships. If parents don't talk to their sons then those sons may learn by watching boys who develop unhealthy relationships. Since abuse can have short-term benefits for the abuser, boys may incorrectly view abusers as being successful at relationships.

While more girls are victims of relationship violence than boys we can't forget that boys can also be subjected to abusive or unhealthy behavior.

For information on how fathers can talk to their sons, check out the It starts with you. It stays with him. campaign. They have tips specifically aimed at fathers.

Several of the items on the list of warning signs for fathers of daughters were present before my boyfriend raped me in a relationship which I didn't think of as abusive since the only area he was interested in controlling me was the sexual part of our relationship.

Because other fathers (and mothers) may not be providing good guidence in the area of relationship violence, please support comprehensive prevention efforts. At the US federal level, you can:
Urge your Representatives to Vote YES on the Reichert Amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2847) [...]

Congressman Dave Reichert (WA) will be offering an amendment later this evening to support funding for the STEP program (Supporting Teens through Education and Protection Act). STEP was created in the last VAWA bill, but has never received funding.
Preventing abuse and violence is good for all children.

For fathers (and mothers) of children who will be going to college soon, I recommend reading this article on rape prevention for college students which focuses on supporting positive behavior rather than just stopping negative behavior.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:03 AM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Today Is World Refugee Day

June 20 is World Refugee Day.
The United Nations General Assembly designated June 20 as World Refugee Day to recognize and celebrate the contribution of refugees throughout the world. Since then, World Refugee Day has become an annual commemoration marked by a variety of events in over a hundred countries.

This year’s World Refugee Day theme is “Real People, Real Needs”. Despite the efforts of many, the needs of refugees worldwide are far from being met. Behind the unmet needs are not just numbers but real people with real stories.
It is estimated that there are around 14 million refugees in the world today.

From the Greater Chicago Red Cross blog:

Refugees across the world are helpless – but not hopeless. We can work together to recognize their hardships and help them rebuild their lives after having experienced such unimaginable circumstances. World Refugee Day takes place every year across the globe (this year it’s Saturday, June 20 in Chicago), and American Red Cross chapters across the country will be taking part to show their support for the cause. World Refugee Day draws attention to the plight of refugees, celebrates their courage and renews commitment to solve refugee problems. We’ll also recognize the contributions refugees make to their communities.
I appreciate everything various agencies do to provide important services and this day gives me a specific opportunity to communicate my support.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:52 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, June 19, 2009

Study: 1 in 4 South Africa Men Admit Having Committed Rape

From BBC:

One in four South African men questioned in a survey said they had raped someone and nearly half admitted having attacked more than one victim.

The study, by the country's Medical Research Council, also found three out of four who admitted rape attacked for the first time while in their teens. It said practices such as gang rape were common because they were considered a form of male bonding.

The MRC spoke to 1,738 men in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces. The research was conducted in both rural and urban areas and included all racial groups.
The findings that 73% of men who have raped started raping before leaving their teens is important especially considering how frequently people in many countries dismiss or minimize rape committed by teenagers.

If this survey accurately represents the overall population of South Africa or is even close to doing so then rape by teenage boys cannot be explained away by the physiology of teen boys because over 80% of those surveyed did not rape as teenage boys.

What this survey shows is the danger which comes from minimizing most rapes committed by teenagers. This also shows why formal and informal rape prevention efforts need to focus on the behavior and choices made by boys related to sex. This type of prevention is not in any way based on the idea that all boys are rapists, it is based on the idea that prevention needs to be directed at those who are taking the action which we want to prevent before a significant number of those boys have made the choice to rape.

Rape prevention which focuses on controlling the behavior of potential victims tacitly supports rapes committed against those who don't comply with certain social norms. This support for certain rapes shows itself in the backlash against the alleged victims in certain reported rapes.

Five percent of the men surveyed admitted raping a woman or girl in the last year. If that rate is consistent across the estimated population of 47 million then the number of rapes committed in South Africa in the last year is so high I can't make myself estimate the number of rapes.

Girls and women weren't the only targets. Ten percent of the men surveyed said they had been raped by other men and 3% of the men surveyed had raped a boy or man using coercion. These rapes provide another reason why only warning girls and women about the risk of becoming a rape victim are ineffective.

The story mentions that gang rape is considered by some boys and men as a way to strengthen male relationships and this is an idea which must be debunked in rape prevention efforts so that boys understand that committing rape -- especially gang rape -- represents failure rather than success. Shared failure is just failure on a bigger scale.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:29 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Support Truly Comprehensive Sex Education Not Single Goal Sex Ed

From RT Reality Check: Failure to Launch: Obama's New Teen Initiative Can Be Fixed, and Here's How by William Smith and James Wagoner:
Congress and the White House must listen to the chorus of consensus within the majority of the advocacy community and support the changes requested by the broad community of advocates and experts engaged in this issue. [...]

We have a chance to do something fundamentally different this time around but the first step is a critically important one and has to be placed on terra firma. The job of advocacy groups is to push for a firm foundation that will withstand changing political winds and to differentiate that foundation from the thin layer of top soil that can easily be washed away.
This education is desperately needed. It isn't enough to just stop abstinence-only sex education and the dangerous misinformation which is often an integral part of that education.
SIECUS and Advocates for Youth, along with nearly 200 of our nation's leading health organizations, are seeking change that breaks from this mold. That is why, during the 2008 election and subsequent transition, for example, this large and informal coalition strongly advocated for deep investments by the new Administration in comprehensive sex education, rather than solely on one aspect of a broader problem. Comprehensive sex ed provides teens with information and life-skills training that will reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections while addressing other aspects of sex and sexuality, such as responsibility, respect, mutual consent, identification of abusive or controlling relationships, and other critical skills.
Comprehensive sex ed must include addressing child sexual abuse to help give survivors the information and resources they need while still children to either recover from past abuse or to escape current abuse and it must include addressing what is and is not genuine consent.

Currently, the impact of violence and abuse on a survivor's long-term health result in "increased health care expenditures of up to $750 billion annually." I believe this impact will be reduced once prevention and response are made a regular part of our educational systems.

Schools have become an important part of other prevention systems as most recently highlighted by the CDC's directives to schools about when to close after a student tests positive for the H1N1 flu so this model is not a new one.

Because some rapists and sexual abusers are parents and/or guardians the administration of sex ed programs needs to be careful about when adults can block their children from getting this education.

Comprehensive sex ed must include teaching children about how some people who intend harm will present themselves as someone who will be that child's best ally. If children believe that rapists and abusers are all thugs who are instantly untrustworthy then they will be more vulnerable and more likely to view a predatory relationship as mutual.

Any sex ed program which puts any of the blame or responsibility for any rape onto the victim harms children. Some programs which blame victims do so indirectly such as a program in Ohio while some such as Choosing the Best Life by Bruce Cook do so directly.

p. 13. Lesson Two: What Do You Know About 'Date Rape'?

Question 5. True or False: The victim shares in the blame of the rape.

(answer: True).

The harm from education like this impacts more than victims of sexual violence the harm is done to those who use the victim blaming or rape denial they are taught to help them rationalize harmful behavior which may lead to rightful sex crime charges and rightful convictions.

Children who have been sexually abused may have had their defensive boundaries destroyed by their abusers and may have been taught that voicing a lack of consent will result in more violence. While it is good to teach these children to create healthy boundaries, the responsibility for enforcing proper boundaries must never placed on the person who doesn't want a particular action.

We must teach children that they are responsible for ensuring that their own actions don't cross an ethical or legal line and that other people are responsible to do the same.

This means teaching children the danger of assuming consent based on shared opinions about which other children or teens will consent so that they realize they may be learning instead the identify of a student who is vulnerable to being sexually exploited or they may be learning the identity of a student who is being slandered, possibly by one or more students who have sexually harmed that particular student.

Comprehensive sexual education should of course include so much more than talking about how people should behave. It must include accurate biological information.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 2:31 PM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Community Corrections Contractor Accused Of On The Job Rape Of Woman With GPS Monitor

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Brima Kemokai, 26, is in jail on one million dollars bail for rape, criminal confinement and official misconduct charges. The Marion County Prosecutor said the community corrections contractor raped a woman on home detention at the beginning of June.

The alleged victim said Kemokai asked her to come to the Community Corrections facility so he could fix her electronic monitoring ankle bracelet. [...]

She told police Kemokai raped her in a dark, back office. She said she got away when he was suddenly startled by a noise in the hall. "I couldn't actually leave because he had my monitoring system and I thought I would've gotten into more trouble," said the victim.
She didn't immediately report because she feared that she wouldn't be believed since she had a criminal history. Thankfully, she got support from her family, called 911 to report and had her report handled respectfully and professionally.

If the police or prosecutors had dismissed or ignored her report because of personal credibility issues that would have been malpractice. People who can be labeled as non-credible are raped and people who can be labeled as credible do commit rape.

Since that report, Brima Kemokai has also been accused of making unwanted advances toward another woman detainee and threatening her when she refused those advances. Police believe there is a third victim of Kemokai since he has admitted to having sex with another detainee at her apartment and they suspect there may be more victims.

Since one of the requirements for an action to be genuinely consensual (whether a jurisdiction's laws reflect this or not) is the freedom to be able to say no without the fear of harm, the sex Kemokie admitted to should be viewed as non-consensual even if that woman gave verbal agreement. His position provided him with an, "or else," threat that didn't need to spoken.

The official procedures for the job Kemokai held need change to reduce the risk to those being monitored by GPS systems. With the increasing use of GPS monitoring having effective protections for those being monitored needs to be incorporated into every monitoring program.

That may need to include having employees sign a statement that they understand that there can be no sexual or non-work personal relationship with those being monitored. With the number of times people in authority claim ignorance when rightfully accused of abusing their position this type of statement would be both educational and insurance against claims of sincere ignorance. This type of agreement would also allow those who cross this ethical line but who aren't charged with a crime for whatever reason to be fired for cause.

It should be a crime for anyone with this type of control and power to make any verbal or physical advances toward a person who is being monitored. This protection needs to extend to family members since a direct or implied threat to harm the person being monitored could lead to non-consensual contact with someone not on a GPS monitoring system.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:53 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Man Admits Rape Of 13 Year Old But Defends Himself By Claiming Victim No Virgin

From The National Life:

Nothing in his appearance suggests he could be a comedian. With his bulky, tall frame, Moses Achawanike strikes you as exactly what he is: A mean criminal with an evil mind. But penultimate week, the 42-year-old rape suspect threw the entire Ojodu Divisional Police Headquarters, Lagos into a frenzy when he confessed to the rape of 13-year-old [name redacted] but insisted he did not meet the girl a virgin.

The suspect, whose countenance portrayed him as a man with a long history in the criminal act, argued that deflowering a virgin is accompanied with loss of blood by the female. His words: “When I did not see any blood, I knew she had been doing it before”. [...]

“I said I wanted her to buy something for me. She entered and I did it. I told her not to make any noise. I did not intimidate her. I only promised it won’t be painful. She then cooperated and I did it”, he said.

This story is out of Nigeria, but unfortunately many of the attitudes openly expressed by this man are too common no matter where a child rapist lives. In some countries those who hold these attitudes are more careful about revealing their beliefs or they reveal these beliefs in a more roundabout way.

Telling a 13-year-old girl to not make any noise is intimidation and is also a threat that if she doesn't comply there will be undeniable pain. I've lost track of the number of times that this type of excuse about a lack of overt threat or overt violence is used to claim consent or to say that what was done doesn't rise to the level of real rape.

Whether this girl was a virgin or not is irrelevant, but for too many people this is the only detail which matters. For those people if the rape victim wasn't a virgin then either that victim asked for it or there was no violation or trauma.

While this story describes this man as criminal with an evil mind, it also blames the victim.
[the alleged victim], who lives in the neighbourhood, innocently fell into his trap. She could have detoured and saved herself such assault if she had declined to run errand for Moses.
This statement makes agreeing to run an errand for an adult as the cause of rape when it is no such thing. Neighbors of this man are described as not viewing him as a potential rapist, yet a 13-year-old girl is supposed to know that she was dealing with a potential rapist.

For the majority of crimes if the crime victim had detoured in some way prior to the crime that person would have been saved from violence. But if this girl were raped by a stranger as she ran the errand for this man then I doubt this story would place the burden of prevention onto her.

Moses provides the police with his rationalizations and expected those rationalizations to exonerate him from wrongdoing.

He recalled: “When I saw the police, I knew that the girl had revealed the secret. I could not do anything than to follow them and tell the truth. I am saying the truth to shame the devil. I know the implication of what I did, that is why I am pleading for leniency. And I will not do it again”.

A bachelor at 42, Moses insisted on his promise, saying, “I would rather look for somebody to marry.”

So not only is the victim to blame, the economy and his marital status are to blame. This "truth" isn't genuine truth, it is rationalization. Being able to convince himself that he did nothing wrong is not or should not be a viable defense.

The story closes with character assassination against the alleged victim:

While Moses is paying the price of his insatiable sexual urge behind the bars, National Life also gathered that the girl was not like the girl next door. A source disclosed that she had in the recent past exhibited a trait of a deviant.

“There was a time they found her in a questionable place on the street around 11pm, when she was expected to be in the cool comfort of her parents’ home. Nobody complained of anything then but one can deduce that she was already exposed to such indecencies”, the source said.

This dismissal of the confessed actions as nothing more than an insatiable sexual urge is common in many countries as is the nasty rumor about the alleged rape victim. If anything, the details if true, mean that this girl has likely been victimized multiple times.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:28 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, June 15, 2009

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 72

Welcome to the June 15, 2009 edition of the Carnival Against Sexual Violence.

I'm now on Twitter as Abyss2hope so if you Twitter please follow me and then let me know you arrived from this blog through the @ reply or DM.

Thank you to everyone who nominated a post or who wrote a post against sexual violence whether it was nominated/selected or not. Nominations that came in after the nomination deadline will be considered for the next edition of the carnival.

If you support the purpose of the carnival, you can help get the word out about it and all of the posts included in the carnival.

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

creative expression

In THE CRITIC WRITES POEMS: Survivors posted at Galatea Resurrects #12 (A Poetry Engagement), we get 3 poems about the feelings survivors have at different times.

In Our Little Secret posted at The Viewspaper, we see the impact of sexual abuse from a narrative told from the perspective of a 10-year old.


In On late-term abortions and sex ed/contraception posted at Hoyden About Town, we get a discussion about how traditional pregnancy prevention will do nothing to reduce late-term abortions because those abortions are linked to serious medical conditions in planned and wanted pregnancies and related to the rape of children.


In Paedophile ring 'abused children in State homes' posted at Clerical Whispers, we get a discussion of abuse in Ireland and elsewhere in the UK which was outside the scope of the Ryan Report.

In 15-Year-Old's Accused Rapists Will Not Be Charged in Florida posted at Zelda Lily: Feminism in a Bra, we get a discussion of the reason 2 men who admitted to "receiving a sex act” from an underage girl in an alleged six-man assault, will not be charged for their crime.

In La. Gov. Scraps Civil Commitment Program posted at Sex Crimes, we get a discussion of a decision made by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

In Just Released: Sexual Harassment Alive and Well in Baltimore posted at Womenstake.org, the official blog of the National Women's Law Center, we get a discussion about why the U.S. Court of Appeals should reverse the harmful decision in Harris v. Baltimore.

In Man Accused Of Arranging Wife's Rape On Craigslist posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss why the man who agreed to a husband's request cannot validly claim that he had consent.

In Man Allegedly Rapes Girlfriend Live on Webcam posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion about the case where man in Arizona was arrested for raping his girlfriend while she was unconscious.

In My About-Face on the Death Penalty: Goodbye Tori posted at The Den of Psychosis, we get a discussion about the ongoing case of Tori Stafford from Woodstock, Ontario.

media watch

In Darn Women, Getting Themselves Raped and Making Life Difficult for the Menz posted at Shakespeare's Sister, we get a discussion about the semantics which turn rape into sex.

In Rape of the Heroine: examining rape as a tool in Sara Douglass' fantasy novels posted at o filthy grandeur!, we get a discussion of how rape is use to further the plot or to create a character flaw in an otherwise sympathetic character.

In I apologize for linking to Glenn Greenwald posted at Reclusive Leftist, we get a discussion about how someone who is against torture cannot see torture even when it is included in the work of an extreme pornographer such as Max Hardcore.

In isn't "hate sex" rape? posted at skeptifem, we get a brief discussion of an article on Playboy's website where an author focused on conservative women.

In Summer Reading posted at Men Standing Up: Taking Action Against Sexual Assault, we get a review of the book Goat: A Memoir by Brad Land.

In Harsh words make my point posted at Stop Baptist Predators, we get a discussion of an article in the Associated Baptist Press about the book, This Little Light, about clergy abuse.

In Misogynistic Lyrics and Acts of Resistance posted at Change Happens, we get a discussion of Eminem’s latest album, Relapse which includes lyrics where the POV character commits rape and efforts by different students to respond to this musical support for violence.

In m did not rape you he just drew a diagram posted at Tiger Beatdown, we get a discussion which takes another blogger to task for thinking posting about wanting to rape -- complete with a diagram -- make him edgy, provocative, or a great and individual thinker who is somehow being oppressed.

In Rape Isn't a Game posted at AAUW Dialog, we get a discussion of the relationship between harmful gender stereotypes and rape simulation video games.

In David Letterman's Joke About Knocking Up Gov. Palin's Daughter posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss the joke told by Letterman and the cultural narrative which that joke tapped into about the assumed lack of sexual morality of girls who become pregnant.

In Might As Well Just Hit Myself With A Rolled-Up Cosmo posted at Relationship Underarm Stick, we get a discussion of an article entitled Is It Ever Okay To Stay If He’s Hit You?

In victim blaming shrouded in sympathy posted at What a crazy random happenstance, we get a discussion of articles which present basic data about domestic violence situations before jumping right back into backhanded and subtle victim blaming.

personal stories

In Rape Jokes: Still Not Funny posted at Daughter of the Ring of Fire, we get a discussion about how the introduction to a poetry event went sour during a reminder for attendees to drink responsibly.

In In the Eye of the Camera posted at rmott62, we get a discussion about the added trauma of having sexual violence recorded as porn.

In "Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it" posted at Nothing personal, we get the first entry of a novel, based on a 10-year ordeal of violence and recovery, being written live through blog entries.

raising awareness

In Students Active for Ending Rape posted at Equality Standard, we get an Interview with Margaret Mikkelsen, Executive Director of S.A.F.E.R.

In Sexual Abuse at Abu Ghraib posted at Gender Across Borders, we get a discussion about why the photos documenting abuse should be released to the public even if they include photos of sexual abuse.

In Sexual Assault Within Fraternities: The Intersection of Homophobia and Hypermasculinity posted at Speaking Out., we get a discussion about the changes in frat culture and how those changes relate to sexual violence.

In Are All Men Capable Of Refraining From Rape? posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I respond to the question about whether all men are capable of committing rape with a question of my own.

In University of the Pacific Says Date Rape is Not Rape posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion about the statements made by a university spokesperson which equates rape only with the actions of someone who jumps out from behind a bush.


In My Inner Warrior is Weeping posted at rmott62, we get an insight into the real impact of violence denial of someone harmed by prostitution.


In Not for Sale posted at Cold SnapDragon, we get a discussion of book called 'Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography' edited by Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant.

In Of Abuse & Avatars — And Outrage posted at Relationship Underarm Stick, we get a discussion about research which focuses primarily on the impact of the behavior of victims & potential victims which can lead to them being held accountable rather than centering research on perpetrators so they are viewed as being the cause of abuse.


In Reaction vs. Prevention posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion sparked by a response from a politician's staff which conflates helping victims with violence prevention.

In Bystander Intervention posted at Men Standing Up: Taking Action Against Sexual Assault, we get a discussion about what people can do when they see behavior which is problematic such as a man pressuring a woman or when they hear statements or jokes which support violence or abuse.

In RESPECT! Campaign Provides Tools Related To Respectful Relationships posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I provide information on a new campaign to help prevent dating and domestic violence.

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.

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

Links to everything related to the carnival can be found on the blog dedicated to this carnival, http://carnivalagainstsexualviolence.blogspot.com/

Marcella Chester

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

Sunday, June 14, 2009

More Examples Of Untested Rape Kits

From the Chicago Tribune:

Illinois law doesn't require that police submit kits to a crime lab for testing -- only that kits be retrieved from the hospital within two weeks.

The suburban police departments said rape kits are stored untested if the victim recants the allegations, doesn't want to press charges or is found not to be credible. They are also kept if investigators don't believe the case is strong, if the suspect acknowledges he had sex but says it was consensual, or if the state's attorney's office refuses to prosecute.

"Part of it is, you want to see where the case is going before you use those resources, how is it going to shake out," said Kurt Bluder, deputy chief of the Downers Grove Police Department, adding that police can always pull kits out of storage if they later decide testing could prove valuable.

"Are you going to get a confession? Is there a suspect? Do we want to put things in the pipeline and system without knowing for sure we're going to need it? If every department sent in every piece of evidence to be examined, we'd bring the system to its knees."

The Illinois State Police Crime Lab continues to struggle with a DNA backlog, causing nearly yearlong delays in the testing of some rape kits.
The decision to not test certain rape kits, and the reasons given for doing so, reinforces how important prevention is.

Investigators commonly urge all sex crimes victims to report, but many law enforcement agencies can't keep up with the current rate of reporting. If the number of reports increased significantly there could be much more pressure to quickly close cases which don't seem likely to result in conviction. A handy way of doing this while keeping the rape statistics low is to mark more cases as unfounded or false.

One of the reasons given not to test a rape kit is the alleged victim's lack of credibility. However, testing those rape kits could prove that the non-credible victim was telling the truth.

Another reason given was that the suspect claimed consent, but testing the rape kit would provide evidence if the suspect later claimed there was no contact. Testing the rape kit with a known suspect may also provide a match to an unsolved crime or one where the charge is identified by DNA alone.

If every rape kit collected in the US were processed then the number of matches would go up and what had seemed like unrelated unwinnable cases could become one winnable case once the number of alleged victims with a similar pattern of perpetration increases.

The problem involves different police forces, but the problem is bigger. Are we as citizens willing to pay for the processing of more forensic evidence? Are we willing to pay more in the short run to develop primary prevention programs to save money and reduce trauma in the long run?


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:14 AM   1 comments links to this post

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Victim's Giggles Apparent Motive Of Man Who Pleaded Guilty To Rape Murder

From KPTV:

VANCOUVER, Wash. -- A man who raped and killed a teenage girl will spend the rest of his life in prison after changing his plea Tuesday in a Clark County courtroom.

Darrin Sanford, a 30-year-old convicted sex offender, pleaded guilty to raping and killing 13-year-old Alycia Nipp. The attack occurred in a field near Northeast 13th Avenue in Vancouver on a weekend night in February.

Sanford entered the packed courtroom at about 4:20 p.m. Tuesday with his hands securely cuffed in front of him and his legs shackled. In a statement read by his lawyer, Sanford admitted his guilt.

While this man admitted his guilt in this girl's murder, he didn't actually admit his guilt in her rape since he wrote: "I killed her after having sex with her." That a man who can admit murder still refuses to correctly name rape shows how entrenched his rape denial is and how dangerous this man still is. If his life sentence without possibility of parole is ever changed to life with the possibility of parole by a change in state law, this man should not be paroled no matter how non-violent he is while in prison.

The prosecution believes Sanford's motive for murdering this girl is that she giggled at him. Combine this motive with this man's continued rape denial and you get a man who will always be a danger. This won't change no matter how old or frail Sanford becomes.

Some other murderers who are not rapist/murderers may not pose the same lifelong risk as this man does and if policies or sentencing laws are ever changed based on budget pressures and on what is understood about the murderers who will not repeat their crimes there is the potential that this man could eventually be released.

Too many people assume that all those who are violent will eventually age out of their violence, but as the fatal shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC demonstrates, being 88 years old doesn't mean someone will not choose to commit murder. If it weren't for the actions of the security guards, including Stephen Tyrone Johns who was slain, the death count could have been much higher. The chief of staff of the museum estimated that there were a couple of thousand people inside the museum at the time of the shooting.

Old clearly does not equal harmless.

This murder like the murder of Alycia Nipp was rooted in ways of thinking which are deeply entrenched in segments of our population. This entrenchment of thinking provides external support for both of these very different murders. One segment practices rape denial while the other practices holocaust denial and both put the blame onto their targets.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:24 AM   5 comments links to this post

Friday, June 12, 2009

David Letterman's Joke About Knocking Up Gov. Palin's Daughter

From the NY Daily News story about a comment made by David Letterman on his show:

[...] during the seventh inning, her [Sarah Palin's] daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.

The first problem for David Letterman is the fact that the daughter who attended the Yankees game wasn't new mother Bristol Palin who at 18 has chosen to be a public figure, it was her younger sister, Willow, who is only 14 years old.

"We were, as we often do, making jokes about people in the news," Letterman said.

"These are not jokes made about her 14-year-old daughter. I would never, never make jokes about raping or having sex of any description with a 14-year-old girl," he added.

"Am I guilty of poor taste? Yes. Did I suggest that it was okay for her 14-year-old daughter to be having promiscuous sex? No," Letterman said.

I believe Letterman's clarification, but his word choice in his second question is telling since it plays on sexual stereotypes about the younger sisters of teen girls who become pregnant.

Unlike many people who have reacted to David Letterman's jokes I don't believe they were rape jokes because those jokes relied on attitudes about the assumed sexual aggressiveness of certain girls. These jokes depend on the erasure of the possibility of rape of those girls. The difference may seem small but it is significant.

A commenter who goes by pissonrushsgrave wrote on a YouTube story about the jokes and the backlash:
you sound like an ignorant hick..Bristol is no virgin, unless she is the Virgin Mary...and the Palins set themselves up for humor when they claim to represent virtue and morality AND insinuate that those on the left are immoral. The joke was funny because it had truth to it. If Bristol ever met A-Rod she would be all over him.

This is why Letterman's joke is so dangerous even if he was talking about Bristol Palin being the one knocked up as he claims. In this view, A-Rod would be the hapless target of a promiscuous girl who might not take no for an answer.

The harm is in more than the target's hurt feelings. The harm is in how this stereotype impacts boys' and men's behavior toward girls and women, how it impacts the way sex crimes are investigated and prosecuted, and how it impacts the perceptions and behaviors of bystanders.

Bristol isn't a virgin, therefore Bristol has no sexual morals and will have sex with just about any man. This attitude about teenage girls who give birth is not just a liberal attitude as it reflects pervasive attitudes which are also held by many conservatives who support or demand abstinence-only sex education because of their belief about what teens would do if they were given comprehensive sex education.

The virginity pledge is predicated on this good girl, bad girl binary. I've lost count of the times an otherwise respectable man is arrested or convicted of statutory rape of a girl and some commenter to the story will make it clear that the victim, "was no innocent victim."

Talking about all non-virgin girls as if they are no different from dirty toothbrushes is even more offensive than what Letterman said and the damage it can do to girls who have been victims of repeated sexual violence has been ignored by the conservative groups who have rallied against David Letterman.

The difference is that comparing a non-virgin girl to a dirty toothbrush isn't done as part of a joke. It is done as serious education. And this education directly feeds the attitudes which Letterman tapped into when he made sexual jokes about Sarah Palin's daughter.

If we are against the message which underpinned David Letterman's joke because the message itself is toxic rather than simply because of which family that joke was directed at then we must be opposed to all permutations of this message.

When Bill O'Reilly made serious and dangerous comments about victims of violent criminals, including about Shawn Hornbeck who was kidnapped and sexually assaulted beginning when he was 11 years old and only ending over 4 years later, I saw no efforts by conservatives to go after O'Reilly's sponsors until he was fired.

When people protested the decision by the It Happened To Alexa Foundation to have O'Reilly give a keynote address those protesters were mislabeled by many conservatives as being against rape victims. The labels applied to O'Reilly's protesters included, "These radical left wing loons are right out of Nazi Germany."

If protesting those who hired Bill O'Reilly after his offensive comments about a child kidnapping victim and a murder victim is right out of Nazi Germany then so to are the demands that David Letterman be fired from CBS.

If we are serious about challenging dangerous messages which harm children then both David Letterman and Bill O'Reilly must be acknowledged as having crossed dangerous lines. Those who demand that Letterman be fired need to demand that O'Reilly be fired as well.

Dangerous is dangerous no matter whether that danger comes from a comedian or a pundit and no matter whether it comes from the left, middle or right.

H/T: Social-psyche via email

Update: For the conservatives who agree with Sarah Palin that Letterman owes all girls an apology for contributing to dangerous attitudes about girls, please speak up against your fellow conservatives whenever they do something like describe a 14-year-old alleged rape victim as a whore.

From The Coos Bay Thunder Pot by John Obermyer, who is a conservative blogger as evidenced by his blogroll, about a case where 2 15-year-old boys are accused of getting a girl drunk prior to an alleged gang rape:

Did the girl just happen to find herself drunk? Did the boys force the alcohol down her throat at gunpoint? Was the girl kidnapped?

Mothers need to teach their daughters to not booze and whore with anyone.

This is the type of conservative message which undermines the credibility of Sarah Palin's and other conservatives concern for all girls. This order to mothers in no way supports good values since it denies rape.

Update (6/13): Last fall when it was announced that Bristol Palin was pregnant, Jay Leno made a similar joke (via Alan Colmes).

"Gov. Palin announced over the weekend that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant. And you thought John Edwards was in trouble before! Now he has really done it."

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:00 AM   22 comments links to this post

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Need Nominations

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 @ 8:49 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Sentencing For Man Who Was Spared Commitment Because He Found Religion

In Seattle, Washington a man who had already been sentenced to life in prison for 2 rapes is facing another life sentence for a sexually-motivated murder committed within a week of those 2 rapes during May 2004.

This murder and those 2 rapes wouldn't have happened if the effort in 2003 to have Curtis Thompson committed as a sexual predator had been successful. They also wouldn't have happened if the sentence for those first 4 rape convictions hadn't been just 18 years.

From the Olympian:

Thompson previously spent time in prison for four rapes, but in 2003 a Seattle jury declined to commit him as a sex predator because he said religion had transformed his life.
I believe that jury was conned not only by Thompson who had been convicted of 4 rapes at that time which were described as extremely brutal, but they were also conned by our general assumptions about sexual violence which too often are quick to negate specific information about the crimes and criminal habits of sex offenders in favor of general stereotypes.

This is an extreme example of the harm which can be done when someone's general manner in or out of prison doesn't fit our assumptions about those who commit rape or who will continue to commit rape once released from prison.

Some might see this man's crime spree as proof that my positive answer to the question: Can all men refrain from committing rape? was the wrong answer. But I believe this man was capable of refraining from violence and he made the deliberate decision not to do so based on his personal values and beliefs related to the treatment of women. In the short term rape and murder gave this man a huge payoff.

Finding religion is often presented as a magic cure-all, but a study on inmates found that sex offenders with lifelong religious beliefs committed more serious sex crimes than their non-religious counterparts. Since some popular religions view women as subservient to men a sex offender who genuinely embraces a new religion or who reconnects with a familiar one may feel justified in holding onto all of the dangerous beliefs which aided that person's history of sexual violence.

That now-religious person could in fact become more dangerous. Religion has a long history of being misused to justify genocide and terrorism. Many of the so-called decent people who blame girls and women for rape point back to the story of Adam, Eve and the apple as their proof for their unapologetic decision to side with certain types of rapists.

This is rationalization and that means rational decisions which means the person who rationalized violence found a way to support the choice to be violent.

Throughout the trial, Thompson had many outbursts including threatening to kill the judge, the prosecutor, and also berated Byars' family.
These outbursts might be seen as more evidence that Thompson was incapable of controlling himself, but I believe he had no genuine interest in self-control at this point and no respect for the law or the criminal justice system. Disrupting this trial likely was likely very satisfying to this man.

Some people's violent habits and violent tastes make them too much of a danger to ever risk that they will refrain from rape. The traditional criminal justice system should be able to deal with this danger, but when it always does so it also risks locking away those who will choose to not reoffend.

Thompson's crimes after his unsuccessful commitment trial are highlighted in the efforts last year to commit another Washington state sex offender, Richard Hosier.

"Without a doubt, Richard Hosier is a disgusting and repulsive individual," [defense attorney] Price told the King County jury Thursday. "There's no one in this room who would dispute that." But, she said, her client isn't a high risk to reoffend and could be treated outside the walls of the McNeil Island center. [...]

In interviews with detectives, Hosier said he "mistrusted all females from birth to death." "Their existence had no value for him other than sexually," Senior Deputy Prosecutor Rod Scarr told jurors Thursday, reading from a police statement.

With a history of sex assault since he was a teen, Hosier has admitted to raping about 30 women and children during the late 1970s and early 1980s, often picking up hitchhikers and assaulting them. Most recently, he was convicted of leaving sexually explicit notes at several locations around Snohomish County, including a day care center.

Again, I believe this man was capable of refraining from rape, but his beliefs give him little reason to refrain and that makes him very dangerous. Not surprising, to me at least, this man was a model prisoner and an example to other prisoners. But most of those he dealt with during his time in prison were other men. Since sexual violence is about control, not a lack of control, many sex offenders don't have a problem coping with a highly controlling environment.

In the end the jury agreed with the prosecutors and Hosier was civilly committed. This isn't a perfect system but it a system we cannot afford to ditch unless or until a better system is in place.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:49 AM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

RESPECT! Campaign Provides Tools Related To Respectful Relationships

From a press release from the Family Violence Prevention Fund:

The Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) and Macy's have developed RESPECT! Tools a collection of tips, information and conversation starters to help parents, coaches, teachers, mentors and others talk to children about healthy, loving, respectful relationships. RESPECT! Tools is part of the FVPF's RESPECT! Campaign aimed at helping adults talk to young people about healthy relationships so that they can help to shape a world free of relationship violence. [...]

The RESPECT! Campaign is the Family Violence Prevention Fund's (FVPF) latest initiative to advance a national movement to promote healthy relationships and stop relationship violence through positive role modeling and respect education. Sponsored nationally by Macy's, the RESPECT! Campaign encourages individuals to help prevent and end domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and other forms of relationship abuse by talking with young people early and often about respect, and modeling that behavior in their own relationships. Through conversation guides for parents, lesson plans for teachers, tools for coaches, and other instructional Respect Tools, the campaign offers a variety of resources to support moms, dads, teachers, coaches, and other living, breathing role models who have critical roles to play in helping our sons and daughters shape a world that is free of relationship violence.

To learn more, visit http://www.giverespect.org/.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:12 AM   2 comments links to this post

Monday, June 08, 2009

All The "Wonders" Of Stripping As A Career

In late April of this year Alternet published an article called Should you try stripping? by Lily Blau which begins with:

It used to happen every six months or so. I would be on my way home from the restaurant where I work to make ends meet, smelling of salsa and coffee and the tequila I didn't drink, and wondering how over the past 14 hours of horror I hadn't even made $100. And then it would come to me, this pleasingly simple thought: Maybe I could be a stripper.
This pleasingly simple thought is followed by a simple article which would be considered pleasing by those who want the image Blau glorifies to be seen as the definitive image of working as a stripper. I view this article as a serious misrepresentation of the true answer to the question asked in the title of Blau's article.

[...] stripping is what I think about as my bills pile up. Since our economy formally began its downward spiral, I've started to have those thoughts almost once a week. And you know it: I'm not alone.

Applications in every job market have skyrocketed since this time last year, but unlike so many other industries, most strip clubs don't have hiring freezes. They are doing better than ever. [...]

Although I increasingly fantasize about it as a get-my-career-off-the-ground strategy, I haven't stopped to ask too many questions. So when, in the name of journalistic inquiry, I decide to check one out, I figure a chaperone was a good idea.

Blau talks about stripping being a current fairytale then goes on to present strippers who work under the status of an independent contractor as being so much better off and less restricted than working as an actual employee (as a waitress for example). Using "The New York branch of Rick's Cabaret International Inc., an operation of upscale gentlemen's clubs (one that's publicly traded on NASDAQ)" as her sole example and proof, Blau writes:

Randi's been stripping for seven years. She started out as a waitress, then one rough Valentine's Day after a messy break-up, she took her top off and a new career was born. Rick's Cabaret, where she's been working for the past year, doesn't seem like a bad place to make ends meet. And she does better than that, averaging $2,000-$3,000 a week. [...]

At Rick's, Randi is an independent contractor, which means she makes her own schedule. If she wants to fly off to South Africa or Berlin for a month, or even spend the weekend catching up on laundry, she doesn't need to ask permission. At my restaurant, when I take time off, I'm usually punished with bad shifts the following week. And I have to beg, often unsuccessfully, to get the days I want to myself. Sure, every job has its frustrations, but when I ask Randi about the worst part of hers, she has to think for a moment. "My feet end up hurting at the end of the day," she says. Ah, another thing we have in common! Only that's so not the worst part of my job.

Contrast this description, where strippers never face being assaulted while on the job and the only side effect is sore feet, with the details of a lawsuit filed on behalf of 2 women who danced at the King of Diamonds Club in Inver Groves Heights, Minnesota. This federal lawsuit names and directly challenges the picture Blau paints of what you get if you decide to work as a stripper:

The women allege that their only income came from customers' tips. Besides having to pay a house fee ranging from $50 to $100 a night, they claim they were forced to pay the owners "late fees, fees for failing to sign up for their shifts in advance and fees for leaving early."

"Certainly, in some instances, the entertainers would make money at the end of the night," said E. Michelle Drake, a lawyer representing the women. "But there were some cases where they lost money. From a legal perspective, they shouldn't.

"You can't make your employees pay to come to work," Drake said. "The law is very clear. Money only flows in one direction, from the employer to the employee."

This club's fee and tip structure, which isn't unique to this club, seems designed to give the club more control of the dancers than they could get away with under US labor laws if those women were employees while using the contractor status to take as much money as possible away from those women. Even though these women were officially independent contractors who rented space, they were required to share their tips with club employees.

US labor laws include rules about what makes someone an employee even when the employer doesn't give that person the correct label or compensation.

One of the reasons given for women who work as strippers not filing more of these types of lawsuits is the stigma which is attached the job. This stigma then directly benefits strip club owners who can use it as a way to control those already harmed by the stigma. And it directly benefits abusive strip club patrons who view strippers as having fewer human rights than other women possess.

This isn't the first financial issue which involved this club. Last year, the club's founder, Larry Kladek, gave ownership of the club to his wife after pleading guilty to tax evasion. He was accused of cheating the government out of nearly $913,000 from 2000 to 2003.

The amount of money strip clubs can make for the club owner is not a fairytale, but the idea that this income will be shared equitably with all those who work as strippers is a fairytale.

Since strippers are the primary reason people go to strip clubs fair compensation for stripping needs to be in line with the strippers financial contribution to the business' bottom line. This lawsuit is alleging that the opposite is happening. Strippers could end up earning less than minimum wage after all the fees, penalties and tip sharing.

That is unacceptable and those who claim to be providing career advice to women while ignoring issues such as these are guilty of malpractice.

Being ripped off financially isn't the worst a strip club owner or employee can do to after someone is promised a dream job. As a case in Tampa, Florida shows adults and children can be sexually trafficked inside strip clubs so Blau's fairytale presentation of the working conditions in strip clubs hurts more than those who make a choice to strip and who are only harmed financially.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:25 AM   1 comments links to this post

Friday, June 05, 2009

Are All Men Capable Of Refraining From Rape?

In response to the Silence is the Enemy campaign many bloggers are discussing why someone who didn't rape prior to a war will rape during a war or even after it.

From Is there a rape switch? by Greg Laden:

This question is shorthand for a larger and more nuanced set of questions that has emerged over the last 24 hours here and here as people engage in this very interesting and important discussion about rape, especially wartime rape and related post-apocalyptic rape cultures.

"The switch" is a term I first heard from Victoria Brandon, who wrote a term paper for me on this in 1993. The basic idea of a switch would be supported if more or less randomly (though age biased, likely) selected men, put into a certain situation, tended to commit rape on a much larger scale ... or more exactly, a much larger percentage of the men rape under those circumstances ... than would ever be predicted based on anything anyone knows about these men before or after the circumstances prevail.

In other words, when all the young men stay home, they are mostly not going to rape anyone. In contrast, when the same exact men go off to war, an alarming percentage of them rape. Switch off, switch on.

I won't go into depth on the issue of how many of those peacetime non-rapists are actually rapists who have never been reported or viewed as rapists because of their choice of victim and their methodology for peacetime rape. However, failing to label all peacetime rapes accurately can make it seem like the rate of rapes has risen more than it actually has once a country or region is at war.

A society which ignores spousal rape will have a very different idea about those same rapists when the spouses they rape are not their own.

If the meaning of switch is that individual men can be switched by external circumstances then I don't believe in a rape switch. But if the meaning is that circumstances can make it easier for men to flip the switch between not committing rape and committing rape then I do believe in a rape switch. This is also true of women, but in peacetime and wartime the rates of female perpetration are much lower than they are for men in similar circumstances. It's more than biology which accounts for this difference of perpetration by gender.

This second idea makes flipping that rape switch something people do prior to committing rape. It does not mean that the circumstance causes the rape, only that the circumstance can be conducive to rape and to rapists. This can be a lack of punishment for rape and it can also be a reward for rape such as peer approval for joining in on a brutal gang rape of someone considered to be the enemy.

One way men can more easily flip the rape switch in peaceful circumstances is to duplicate the switch and then to rename the new switch. It might be thought of as a "this isn't a real rape switch." Many of these rapists are aided in pulling the switch when their actions are dismissed as nothing more than insensitivity. These rapists will point to that original switch called the "real rape switch" and swear honestly that they have never and would never jump out from behind a bush and flip that switch.

Greg Laden's question about whether there is a rape switch led another man to ask a related question.

Are-all men capable of rape? was asked by Duwayne Brayton.
But what about the other end of this discussion? Because the question is not; "Are all men capable of rape, if their social context is one wherein rape is a cultural norm?" The question is; "Are all men capable of rape?" which implies all men, as we exist within any social context. This is a much tougher question - not because it doesn't have a very simple answer, but because that simple answer rides atop a rather complex set of variables and because it is extremely difficult to approach this question objectively. The simple answer? Yes, all men are capable of rape, all men, regardless of the social context or cultural norms they were raised in.

Brayton later changes the question to, "Are all people capable of rape?", but removing gender from the question can cause people to ignore the reality that the commission of rape is highly gendered in peacetime and in wartime. He continues:

But no matter how abstract my thinking, no matter how creative I can be, no matter how actively I try to conceive of it, I simply cannot conceive of a situation in which I would rape anyone.
The problem with this as an answer to the question he asked is the word, "would." There is a clear difference between what people are capable of doing and what they will do. The other issue is about his definition of rape. Some people define rape as something only strangers do.

I am capable of picking up a gun and firing it into the flesh of someone I don't like, but I choose not to do so and this choice is deeply ingrained in who I have chosen to be. My ethical choices were definitely influenced by the ethical beliefs of my parents and my community, but I had the ability to reject those influences. I did reject some of those general ethical beliefs since they allowed harm which I view as unacceptable. As part of this choice related to guns I reject any rationalization for firing a gun at another human being except in self-defense.

For me the most important question is, "Are all men capable of refraining from rape no matter what circumstance or environment they occupy?" I believe the answer is yes.

Much of the so-called rape prevention advice directed at potential victims on the other hand is based on the premise that the answer to this question is a firm no, not all men are capable of refraining from rape.

Some people will flat-out say that all men are animals who cannot control their sexual behavior once they are sufficiently sexually aroused. This puts girls and women in control of boys and men's rape switches. The only prevention under this model is for girls and women to never do anything which could sexually arouse a boy or man, thereby flipping his rape switch, unless that girl or woman is willing to accept that boy or man's mindless sexual aggression.

This is a handy way of thinking for boys and men who don't want to be held responsible for their own actions because they will only rape under specific circumstances. This can also give girls and women a false sense of safety since their choice to leave what are labeled as boys and men's rape switches in the off-position actually controls nothing.

In wartime, gang rape can be a deliberate strategy which means that the choice not to rape may alienate the non-rapist from his rapist allies and fellow soldiers. But that choice not to rape can be made.

The rate of sexual violence after war or after widespread violence depends on what it took for wartime rapists to flip their rape switch. If finding a girl or woman alone and vulnerable was all it took a wartime soldier to rationalize rape that rationalization will outlast the war. If, on the other hand, wartime rape was about bonding with fellow soldiers by gang raping someone considered the enemy that rationalization will come into play less often once that rapist is no longer a soldier. If rape is only justified as an acceptable stress reliever when a soldier fears being killed in battle, the rate of rapes will drop as soldiers fear of death drops.

All men are capable of refraining from rape because committing rape is a choice. We can influence an increase in the rate at which men refrain from rape by deciding to not accept any excuses for rape and by not accepting or minimizing rape even when it is packaged under a different label.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:03 PM   8 comments links to this post