Friday, July 31, 2009

Doctor Convicted Of Rape Of Woman Hospitalized For A Week

From KSBW:

Carl Bergstrom, who was found guilty of forcible sodomy, was taken into custody immediately after the verdict was read. He faces up to eight years in prison.

The jury decided that the sex between Bergstrom, 53, and a woman he met at a Carmel bar back in April was not consensual, as Bergstrom had argued.

During the trial, jurors listened to an emotional 911 call in which the victim pled for help and said that, "He raped me bad. Oh, God, he raped me so bad," prosecutors said Monday.

The woman was taken to a hospital after being found by officers huddled in a gutter outside Bergstrom's home.
Not surprisingly, the defense claimed that Dr. Bergstrom's actions which caused this woman so much trauma that she was hospitalized for a week were consensual.

What is acknowledged by the prosecution and defense is that the woman consented to go to Dr. Bergstrom's home. How this fact is spun by the defense highlights what so many people refuse to acknowledge. Rape is about disrespecting other human beings' basic human right to control what exactly is done to their own bodies.

For too many people it is legally acceptable when girls and women are denied their human rights, sometimes with extreme violence, the moment they consent to any sexual interaction or seem likely to consent.

Another story about this conviction includes allegations against this doctor about on the job misconduct including drugs and possible malpractice over the alleged misdiagnosis of a man who later died of cancer. Two other women testified at trial as reluctant witnesses that they had been sexually assaulted in a similar manner. Their testimony was presented as corroboration of the victim's testimony.

From the Monterey Herald:
Defense attorney Tom Worthington said he thought the case raised "philosophical questions" about consent and personal responsibility.

"At what point is a female responsible for her own conduct?" he asked. "When you have two consenting adults, how far do you go down that path? And when the woman says 'no,' how clearly does she have to communicate that and how does he have to react?"

One juror, who did not give her name, answered the question as she left the courtroom Monday morning. "No means no," she said.
The core problem with this defense attorney's questions is that in this case "her own conduct" did not include anal sexual penetration. That was his conduct and it was unilateral.

Worthington's own comments about the planned appeal of this conviction nullify the validity of his own questions related to this case.
According to testimony, the woman's blood-alcohol level was more than 0.20 five hours after the incident and may have been as high as 0.31 when she was assaulted. The legal limit to drive is .08

While there is a law against having sex with a person who is unable to consent, Worthington said, forcible rape requires that the victim either denied or withdrew consent "granted freely and voluntarily by someone who knows the nature of the act involved."
If this woman was unable to consent as Worthington is now alleging then arguing that she was personally responsible for what she couldn't possibly consent to is nonsensical.

This claim by Worthington if true means that Dr. Bergstrom committed perjury in his testimony. If this woman was unable to consent to anal sex then she wasn't able to consent to any of the other sexual actions Dr. Bergstrom admitted in his testimony.

Shortly after he began having anal sex with the woman, he testified, she said, "Stop, stop, stop" in rapid fashion. Bergstrom said he immediately stopped. After more intercourse, he tried to have anal sex with her again, he said. She told him to stop and "she just sort of snapped. She jumped up, ran to the kitchen, grabbed my coat and two of my cell phones, and ran out of the house," Bergstrom said.

This testimony makes it clear that Dr. Bergstrom didn't have consent for anal sex before he began, but that communicated lack of consent (which likely signalled physical pain) only mattered temporarily. Dr. Bergstrom's admitted two attempts at anal sex and his actions left a woman in the hospital yet one of his defense attorneys after the conviction is still trying to blame the victim.

What is most likely is that Worthington and the entire defense team's first approach was to slander this rape victim in a way which tapped into bigotry about women who report having been raped and when that didn't work, he dropped the pretense that she consented in the hope that he could argue that his client was guilty but only of a sexual assault statute with a lower penalty.

This case does raise issues about consent and personal responsibility but not in the way that Worthington implied. The person who neglected consent and tried to dodge personal responsibility was the defendant not the victim in this case. He is supported in this dodging of responsibility by Worthington.

Defense attorneys and those who support accused rapists will frequently and falsely present unilateral actions as something "they" did which falsely positions those actions as mutual. The claim of "they had sex" is a counter allegation.

Worthington's first question would be more honest if it were reworded: "At what point is a female solely responsible for a man's conduct toward her?" and his follow up question needs to be: "When you have two consenting adults, how far do you go down that path before he can legally do whatever nonconsensual actions he wants to do her?"

Worthington's last question about how clear a woman's "no" must be before it has legal meaning is a popular question which makes rape legal by default since this question positions having actual consent as optional. His last question should instead be: "What does a non-consenting woman have to do, or have done to her, before her lack of consent will no longer be ignored with impunity?"

If it is okay to injure a woman who goes home with a man so severely that she spends a week in the hospital then Worthington's logic means that it must be legal to do anything to that woman including murdering her if doing so gives the man a sexual thrill. After all, most women (and men) don't clearly communicate their lack of consent to being murdered during sex and Worthington's questions clearly place all the responsibility for setting limits on the woman.

According to Worthington's logic if a woman hasn't clearly communicated a limit then that limit legally does not exist. If this logic is valid then it must be applicable to everyone in every situation. No exceptions.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:26 AM   3 comments links to this post

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Counter Feminist Encourages Men To Lie

From the Counter Feminist post: E-mail Campaign: Won't you join?:

After you have studied, pondered and completely digested every aspect of the matter in question, consider sending an e-mail to Christina Hernandez, the young greenhorn reporter in Florida who has not yet been sufficiently embarrassed in my opinion.

Please try NOT to sound like a wild, nutjob MRA spewing rabid spittle and brimstone. Instead, compose your message with icy civility and minimal politeness. Take the time to get your spelling and grammar right. And then, elliptically as you please, make her understand that she has achieved notoriety, that her "fame" is au courant for more than just a handful of people.

Kindly do not mention the False Rape Society (or CF) as the 'instigator' of your action. Make it sound like you simply discovered this all on your own, and felt "moved by the spirit" to speak your mind as any concerned citizen might do.

Then, inform anybody and everybody about this, and get them to join in the fun. Spread it through your network! (When I get done posting, I'm going to go and Twitter this!)
What is telling about this effort is that this campaign is in response to 2 alleged false reports of rape in 2 days which are discussed as if they have been proven to be false. This is the core and verifiable mistake made by the reporter at Wink News in the story for which she's being attacked titled: Two fake sexual assaults in two days, but false reporting is rare. From the original story:
Things are starting to get back to normal for students at Edison State College in Charlotte County. Thursday, a woman reported being attacked and raped at knife point in a bathroom on campus. Because of the alleged crime, the school was shut down Friday, but later that night, deputies said the alleged victim made the entire thing up. Both students and staff are trying to get back into their usual routine, but at the same time, the false report could keep real victims from reporting a crime. [...]

"The first thing we were trying to do was reassure people that the charges - the story - was entirely false, and that our campus is indeed a safe learning environment," Dr. Land said.

On Friday, a woman living in Cape Coral said a man broke into her home and sexual assaulted her. Police said she made it up.
Absolutely no supporting evidence is provided to show why either of these reports are classified as false.

One of the common complaints by anti-feminists which come from cases like these is that not all of the cases which are declared false by the police result in criminal charges. Their assumption is that a lack of charges is proof that police are letting proven criminals get away with their crimes when there may not be enough evidence to file charges let alone prove those charges at a criminal trial.

A truth that the anti-feminists ignore whenever it is convenient for them to do so is that the police announcing a suspect's guilt or filing charges against someone is not proof of guilt.

A woman sexually assaulted at gunpoint who was not believed by investigators was awaiting trial on charges that she manufactured a rape report to cover up stealing money from the convenience store where she worked when she was exonerated. This exoneration only happened because her rapist was caught in the act repeating his crime in another county and he then confessed during his police interview. The bias against those accused of lying about rape might have been enough for this woman to be wrongfully convicted if her rapist hadn't confessed.

In a rape which was labeled to the media as a false report in Madison, Wisconsin the police issued a similar statement reassuring the public. The rape victim with vision impairment so severe she was legally blind was labeled as a liar and was later charged after she recanted under duress. The only problem was that her rape had happened as alleged and the police collected, but hadn't processed, the forensic evidence which eventually identified that woman's rapist. Because of this woman's refusal to stop fighting the injustice done to her, her rapist was eventually convicted despite hostile testimony from the investigator who assumed her to be guilty and who refused to admit that he had made any mistakes. One of the core errors was that the investigator refused to believe she was legally blind and assumed her vague description of her rapist's features was proof that she was lying.

In Australia a woman was recently exonerated of filing a false police and had her conviction overturned after her rapist was convicted of raping someone else.

But the possibility of a repeat of this type of injustice isn't what has these anti-feminist men outraged. What has them riled is this line:
Mary Baer, Director of Sexual Assault Services said, "Only two percent of rape reports are false, and that is about the same number of false reports of any other crime."
False Rape Society cites Eugene Kanin's study which classified 41% of the rapes in the study as false reports and calls it the "most authoritative study ever conducted on the subject of false rape reports." The problem with this claim is that this study is only authoritative in that it accepted the police classification of rape cases without question or verification. And if the police say a crime happened and that someone is guilty of that crime, then that's good enough for False Rape Society -- as long as the someone accused also reported having been raped.

The alleged proof that the rate of false reports of rape is significantly higher than for crime in general is frequently given by anti-feminists is no proof at all. An article entitled False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault (pdf) published by The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women does a good job of examining the rhetoric of those making broad claims against those who report having been raped.

In this story which has anti-feminists riled the two women who have not yet been charged with any crime have been presumed guilty and this is just fine with those anti-feminists. The anti-feminist repeated concern over tainting the innocent with false allegations, false charges and false convictions disappears in a poof of bigotry.

The readers of Counter Feminist which is supposedly against falsehoods are told to create their own falsehoods and to spread the call to dishonesty throughout the Internet. If they are also spreading falsehoods about 1 or 2 actual rape victims that's of no concern to them.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:17 AM   4 comments links to this post

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On Family Shame Cause By Rape Victim's Decision


PHOENIX - Lured by promises of chewing gum then allegedly raped in a shed by four boys barely older than her, an 8-year-old Liberian girl is now in foster care and living with strangers after being shunned by her family.

The alleged sexual assault in Phoenix and reaction by her family have sparked an international outcry, reaching all the way to the president of Liberia, the home country of the girl's family and the four young suspects.

"I think that family is wrong. They should help that child who has been traumatized and they should make sure that they work with the U.S. law authorities to see what can be done about the other young boys who have committed this offense," Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told CNN. "Not only should they abide by the law, but they too need serious counseling because clearly they are doing something, something that is no longer acceptable in our society here."
This particular case has gotten a lot of media attention and many of the people who have been appalled by the actions of these parents have made their objections known. This response shows how much power we collectively have to send a united message against rape and victim blaming when diverse groups of people all take a public stand.

I am glad that the president of Liberia spoke out, but her decision to do so highlights how often US politicians fail to follow her example. Her point about the victim's family needing counseling is important because otherwise good people can buy into dangerous beliefs. This happened in Arizona, but I haven't read any public statements from the governor or other elected officials in Arizona echoing Sirleaf's support for this 8-year-old girl and echoing her commitment to reduce sexual violence and victim blaming.

The problem for me in this widespread reaction is that this scope of reaction is so rare when the reality of rape and victim blaming and family failure related to sexual violence are not rare at all.

Another rape case which happened in Illinios which ended in a life sentence for Gregory Simpson isn't making the national news even though a family member of 2 young sisters (in kindergarten and third grade when sexually assaulted) didn't report him. It would be easy to vilify this family member but many adults don't have a clue about what to do and so they do nothing.

From CBS 2 Chicago:
One of the girls first reported the allegations to adult family members who failed to take action. However, a DVD program implemented by the district brought this case to the attention of authorities in May. The program is called, "Think Before You Click: Playing It Safe Online," and it focuses on Internet safety, including a segment dealing with on-line predators. It was first presented to students in fourth grade on up in May 2008.

After viewing the DVD, one of the victims confided to her friend about what Simpson had done. The friend told her teacher of the conversation. The teacher informed school administrators, who reported the allegations to the Joliet Police Department for investigation.
I don't know why this family member failed these girls, but the bottom line is that this type of failure is common.

I wonder how many of the people who have spoken up about the Arizona case only reject victim blaming and secondary harm done by a victim's family because of the age of this gang rape victim. What if instead of 8 she were 15? If a father told investigators that he didn't want his 15-year-old daughter anymore would his reaction be reason to call in child services or would it be dismissed as shock or dismissed as evidence that the 15-year-old rape victim had done something prior to this rape to deserve this reaction?

From later in this story:

Ben Haines, who lives across the street from the building, said he was disturbed that the 8-year-old girl's parents supposedly blamed the assault on her. "That just sounds so wrong. She's barely old enough to know about that," Haines said.
This response highlights what concerns me. Victim blaming can sound right to many people once the victim is perceived as "old enough to know about that."

What if an 18-year-old gang rape victim wasn't allowed to return home because she had willingly and innocently followed 4 men who then raped her? Would all those who condemn this father reject this same behavior? Or would they start making excuses?

Too often people who would condemn this father respond to a rape where an older victim trusted someone prior to the rape by lecturing the rape victim on proper behavior.

Many people are linking the parents attitudes to being recent immigrants from Liberia, but many non-immigrants who are raped as children are not believed when they disclose to their parents or they too are blamed by their parents and are viewed as bringing shame to their families. These parents might not be so open about their attitudes in interviews with the police as this father was because they know that being completely honest could result in a backlash.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:14 AM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Carnival Deadline Approaching

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

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

Together we can help reduce the acceptance of rape and the myths related to sexual violence which support rape and injustice against rape victims.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:34 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, July 27, 2009

What Should Be Done To Those Who Fabricate Rape Allegations?

My question is directed at those who have declared the allegations against Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger in the recently filed civil lawsuit to be false.

What do you believe should be done to all those who fabricate rape allegations?

I've read many answers to this question on the Internet and one of the primary desired actions is to punish all these people as if they were guilty of rape. However, their answer when it comes to rape fabrications is most often limited to fabrications made by girls and women who claim to have been raped. Most often this punishment is viewed as deserved as soon as these alleged fabrications are made public. No criminal conviction is required.

Yet those who are the loudest in their opposition to rape fabricators almost always ignore an entire classification of fabricated rape allegations.

This classification of fabricated rape allegations are those which create a scenario about how or why a girl or woman who has disclosed having been raped must be a liar or must be treated as if she is a liar. Their claims fabricate rape out of existence or out of possibility.

Here's just one of this type of rape fabrication. This one from a comment on Sports Right Pundits by Donna which was given in response to the blog's request for reader's assumptions about the woman who filed a civil case against Roethlisberger:

she is smart like a fox and knew that bringing this up a year after he was in Reno would make it impossible to prove or disprove. Can anyone say “payday”?!?!?
This is a rape fabrication which makes a clear allegation against a specific person related to rape.

It uses one known fact of this case, the timing of the lawsuit, as a springboard. The statement that the allegation against Roethlisberger was only brought up when the civil suit was filed is based on the absence of a police report, but that is not the same thing as not making these allegations at all at an earlier date.

According to the lawsuit this woman did report having been raped to hotel security. I don't know whether Donna doesn't know about this detail, assumed it to be immaterial or assumed it to be a lie. Whatever the case, Donna made the choice to fabricate her own story about this rape case.

This fabrication is not presented as Donna's guess about what is true. Her allegations are about what is true and they have been fabricated with the help of longstanding bias against those who claim to have been raped. Some of them are so repetitive that I need to call them prefabricated rape allegations.

For example, successful athlete accused of rape = alleged victim is lying gold digger.

This prefabricated rape allegation has such a long history that many people simply accept it to be a known truth. Successful athletes who have been convicted of rape are either ignored or positioned as wrongfully convicted.

Donna acknowledges that rape fabrications harm those who "actually have been raped" but fails to acknowledge her own rape fabrication and how it too harms those who "actually have been raped" which might include the woman who is the target of her own rape fabrication.

For many people who claim to be against fabricated rape allegations this type of rape fabrication is not only tolerated it is celebrated. Several other commenters chime in with their approval of Donna's fabrication including one woman, Babs, who claims to be a rape survivor herself. Babs makes this fabrication:
Any woman who has truly been devastated by rape wants justice and to try to stop him from doing this to other women. They want the man arrested and put in prison.
Implicit in these 2 sentences is that any woman who has been raped will quickly file a police report. But this is a proven fabrication. The majority of women who have been raped never file police reports. This in no way proves that they weren't raped or weren't devastated by rape.

Those who do report rapes immediately and who go through forensic exams can also be subject to prefabricated rape allegations.

What is used in Bab's fabrication as evidence of truthfulness is presented in other fabrications against those who report rape as proof of dishonesty and vengefulness. In this alternate fabrication an alleged rape victim who wants her alleged rapist arrested and sent to prison is clearly seeking revenge for not getting what she wanted after having sex (if there is DNA evidence proving sexual contact) therefore she is an angry liar out to destroy a man's life.

The common fabrications made against women who have been raped and who have reported, criminally or civilly, is one of the primary reasons many women who have been raped refuse to report. For those who dismiss the criminality of most rapes because of victim blaming or entitlement under certain circumstances this is the desired outcome even if they scold "real" rape victims about their failure to report and blame those victims for rapists' subsequent crimes.

These fabrications can lead to rape victims who did report to the police being wrongfully described by the police as having reported a crime which never happened, wrongfully charged and/or wrongfully convicted.

These fabrications against those who report rape can also lead to bystander harassment, assaults and even murder plots against those who reported rape. These fabrications allow those who believe those fabrications against alleged rape victims to cross the legal line into witness tampering. These fabrications help many people view themselves as protecting the innocent when they are really protecting a rapist and mercilessly attacking a rape victim.

If the intimidation of the alleged rape victim is successful many people will use this outcome in their revised fabrications as proof that the alleged victim lied.

Some men have made their rape fabrications against this alleged rape victim after seeing a photo of her. This fabrication is based on another prefabricated rape allegation. Assessing alleged victim's sex appeal to observer = correctly assessing truth of rape allegations.

Others who are eager to make rape fabrications against those who report having been raped will seek more detailed information about an alleged rape victim and will plug this information into prefabricated rape allegations in order to create a more authentic sounding rape fabrication.

Some of the fabrications against this alleged rape victim are based on the claim that real rape victims want to stop rapists from repeating their crimes. The fundamental problem with this fabrication is that wanting to stop injustice can be the motivation of a real rape victim to file a civil lawsuit against her rapist and against those who didn't respond ethically to the allegation of rape.

If filing a civil lawsuit is proof of gold digging then all those men who have been accused of rape and who later file malicious prosecution lawsuits must also be considered to be proven gold diggers by those who label this particular woman as a gold digger.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:15 AM   1 comments links to this post

Saturday, July 25, 2009

In 1987 Man Admitted Sexual Abuse But Not Charged Until 2 Decades Later

From the Richmond Times Dispatch:
More than 30 years after a man sexually abused a 10-year-old girl in Louisa County, he pleaded guilty yesterday to charges of sodomy and taking indecent liberties with a child. Richard Clinton Moore Jr., 58, was convicted for crimes that took place in 1980 and 1981, when the girl was about 10.

Moore had been accused of sexually abusing the girl in 1987, and even though the allegation was determined to be founded by social-services officials in Louisa and forwarded to county law-enforcement officials, no charges were placed, authorities confirmed yesterday.

Moore had admitted in 1987 to abusing the girl and said he could not control his urges when around children, prosecutors said in court yesterday.

Authorities began a new investigation last year after the victim wrote a letter to the Virginia Commonwealth's Attorney Services Council -- seeking justice more than 20 years after authorities declined to charge Moore.
I'm left speechless.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:42 AM   2 comments links to this post

Friday, July 24, 2009

Feminist Author's Troubling Position On Rape

In response to criticism of parts of the book The Noughtie Girl's Guide To Feminism, the author, Ellie Levenson, wrote the following in a comment to her guest post at The F-Word about feminist in-fighting:

On rape:
"Rape is always wrong. I want to write that as clearly as possible. But, and this is where I expect I will get angry letters, I think we do women an injustice when we say that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. It is, after all, just a penis.

"Of course there are obviously many occasions when rape is coupled with violence, and that is not just a penis, that is about fear and no longer feeling safe and about being robbed of confidence. It was the feminist writer Germaine Greer who, writing about being raped herself aged nineteen, said it was not the rape itself, the sexual violation, that scared her so much as the violence and potential for violence.

"But the frames of reference around rape as so often about a woman's virtue. While maintaining that rape is a terrible thing to happen, I do think we have to move away from this idea of it as the worst thing that can happen. Being raped is a horrible thing, but by buying into it as the worst possible thing that can happen, we buy into the idea of it being about taking a woman's virtue and of that being her most important asset."

On being bought dinner:
"Sure, if you meet someone for dinner, and if they offer to pay at the end and you let them, that is not an agreement to have sex. Nor is going to someone's house for coffee. Nor is going to someone's house for coffee and kissing them. Nor is following that kiss with some fondling. And if the fondling moves to the bedroom and becomes naked fondling, even then either party can say no, of course they can. But at some point it can be argued that both parties have given clear signals that there maybe sex involved."
Ellie Levenson begins by making the classic and troubling move of adding a but after "Rape is always wrong." This statement as disclaimer is a common precursor to rape denial, victim blaming and/or rape minimization. For many rape survivors this disclaimer is like a notice which reads: Warning hurtful comments ahead.

If you have to make this disclaimer in order for all your target readers to believe that you get that rape is always wrong then you either don't believe what you are saying or you have failed in your communication and need to revise until the disclaimer becomes redundant.

By announcing that she expects angry letters she dismisses the contents of those letters (or comments or blog posts) and she dismisses the experiences of those who strongly disagree with her. She might as well tell all those who are harmed by her words to go take a flying leap.

Not getting why reasonable and informed people would label her words as rape denial, rape minimization or victim blaming or callous disregard doesn't make those people's views invalid. If some of those people are rape survivors or might be rape survivors then dismissing their opinions and experiences turns the disclaimer into an outright lie.

Levenson may have the luxury of not understanding all of the ramifications of her words but others have been robbed of that luxury because of sexual violence done to them and because of the secondary harm which too many non-rapists inflict on rape survivors.

I believe that her dismissal of certain feminists as humorless makes it easier for Levenson to dismiss valid criticism of her words as nothing more than further evidence that some feminists are simply suffering from "po-faced earnestness" and "where all too often humour has been missing".

I can be funny and I can tell rapist jokes, here's one:

Q: Why did the date rapist forgiven of all his sins by God still get sent to hell?

A: Because, Satan explained, when the rapist dropped a bowl of hot soup on himself he yelled, "Damn me to hell," and as he and his buddies always told each other, "Consent is consent. Doesn't matter how you get it."

By writing, "it's just a penis," Levenson is not trying to be humorous, she is dismissing the seriousness of most rapes. It doesn't matter what point she was trying to make about how rape is viewed or talked about.

According to RAINN only 11% of rapes involve a weapon. Those of us who have been raped without a weapon can also experience crimes which are "about fear and no longer feeling safe and about being robbed of confidence."

This section of her comment: "it can be argued that both parties have given clear signals that there maybe sex involved" is a hopeless and meaningless tangle. A clear signal of maybe?

A clear maybe isn't consent. And it should never be treated as if is consent.

But Levenson's "it can be argued" is usually done after a girl or woman has disclosed having been raped. This gives us feminists who declare, "She only thinks she was raped." or "She might have been raped, but we can't declare him a rapist under these circumstances."

In this type of rape the person who was raped might have eventually consented, but the rapist refuses to wait for a clear yes message and refuses to seek clarification since that might lead to, "No." This is still rape and nobody except the person who was raped can declare the level of trauma from this rape is less than the stereotypical real rape.

If, "No," was spoken to communicate lack of consent the "clear maybe" gets used to dismiss that word as insignificant due to oft-cited mixed signals. By raping in the maybe or mixed-signals zone rapists know they have maximized their chances of getting away with rape and they maximize their chances of being championed as the only real victim if they are rightfully accused of rape.

As someone raped by my boyfriend -- with his body as the only weapon -- with no fear for my life and raped the first time when I was a virgin I know that what was done to me wasn't just a penis. And the crime was not just to my virtue.

We all depend on trusting other people to some extent every second of our lives. When that basic trust is violated -- even without stereotypical violence -- that will have impact.

If a boy or man who claims to love you will rape you without a speck of remorse that has a serious impact on aspects of life which others take for granted. This can be made worse when this violence and rationalization is done at a time when you are just learning about romantic relationships. This aspect is important since approximately 44% of rapes happen to those under the age of 18.

When rape is described by people who claim to be your allies as just a penis that statement has a serious impact. Combine that with statements about what it means when you don't object to a guy paying for your dinner and the impact becomes greater. Direct victim blaming and direct rape denial are not required in order for significant harm to be done.

Many people who haven't experienced rape and who have not done genuine research about the reality that different rape survivors face continue to feel entitled to write about rape as if they are authorities on the subject.

There is too long of a history of so-called popular feminists who make a point of minimizing or denying the trauma of most rape victims. Katie Roiphe was one of the most successful rape denialists with her decision to dismiss date rape as nothing more than bad sex. I don't want to promote their work, but since these types of books are often the first ones many people read about feminism it is important to highlight where these authors echo dangerous beliefs which help rapists to rationalize their crimes.

To have a healthy sexuality the maybe zone needs to be welcome and it needs to be a legally protected place. If girls and woman only have unlimited yes and absolutely no, there can be no development of healthy and mutual sexual relationships. I've known both and being with someone who is able to embrace and respect, "maybe," is sexier and more fulfilling.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:30 AM   2 comments links to this post

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Minneapolis' Blueprint To prevent Youth Violence Going Statewide

I learned about this program by watching KSTP's 11 am news yesterday, but the Minneapolis program which will be expanding to other cities in Minnesota is new enough that I couldn't find information on this expansion on the KSTP website or through Google.

From the Minneapolis Blueprint for Action webpage:

The City of Minneapolis recognizes that youth violence is a public health epidemic that requires a holistic, multi-faceted response. Drawing on a mix of increased law enforcement and public health strategies to address the root causes of violence and significantly reduce and prevent youth violence in Minneapolis, the city, in partnership with a host of community stakeholders, created the Blueprint for Action.

Goals identified in the Blueprint:

Connect every youth with a trusted adult,
Intervene at the first sign that youth are at risk for violence,
Restore youth who have gone down the wrong path, and
Unlearn the culture of violence in our community.
This type of approach is something that many people have wanted for many years and it is something that certain groups have tried to do, but to reach these goals there needs to be strong governmental support so that public and private efforts can be coordinated and not undermined.

This effort and others have contributed to a reduction of violent crime in Minneapolis including a reduction in the murder rate.

The most eye opening statistic: Only six homicides so far in 2009. It's the lowest murder rate in the first half of the year since the Minneapolis Lakers played at the Armory back in the 1940's.

Police and residents are just hoping it stays that way. The sound blaring sirens in north Minneapolis are replaced kids playing, and families gather where gangs used to.
Clearly hope is important, but hope alone isn't enough. Too often when prevention efforts are effective many people assume those prevention efforts are no longer needed and will support cutting funding for these efforts.

From a Star Tribune article published last October:

Juvenile crime statistics show the plan is working. Two years ago, people 10 to 24 years old were responsible for nearly half the violent crime in Minneapolis. This year, it's decreased to 25 percent. But the nine youth murdered in 2008 is one more than the previous year.

The city's strategy to attack juvenile crime as a public health issue is getting national attention. The U.S. Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities will incorporate the plan into its national crime agendas.
This switch in thinking so that crime and violence prevention are viewed as public health issues is an important switch. This is different from the view which simply dismisses those who commit youth crimes in the hopes that youthful offenders will grow out of committing violence.

The only question I have about the program is whether the outreach addresses the culture of dating and sexual violence. I believe that comprehensive crime prevention programs need to be truly comprehensive even if talking to children about relationships and sex make many people uncomfortable.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:22 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Coaching Boys Into Men Event In Blaine MN on Aug 10

I received information from the Minnesota Men's Action Network about a great event in our state. This group has sponsored other prevention efforts and it is great that they aren't the only group in Minnesota which recognizes that preventing violence against girls and women needs to focus on teaching boys about healthy boundaries rather than simply hoping that boys learn to respect moral and legal boundaries.

These types of events help prevent violence against girls and women, but they also help boys. If a boy who is given healthy messages by a coach who has been at this training would have otherwise learned to interact with girls as a predator the change could help him be healthier in his relationships and it could prevent him from being rightfully accused and rightfully convicted.

The Domestic Violence Council of Anoka County, an action team of the Alliance for a Violence-free Anoka County, will be distributing our Coaching Boys Into Men Playbook for free at this event. This Playbook speaks to the "teachable moments" that coaches have around healthy relationships and teaching youth how to treat others, especially women and girls. We also will have door prizes, a golf clinic, a resource fair, and an interesting program! Please plan to join us!
If you are a coach in Minnesota I encourage you to attend. If you know any coaches in MN, please let them know about this event.

This event isn't limited to sports coaches. Those who coach children in other areas are also encouraged to attend.

Monday, August 10, 2009
6:00-8:30 p.m.
National Sports Center
1700 105th Ave, Blaine, MN

Here's more information about Coaching Boys Into Men.

To register contact:
Kelly Nelson at 763-422-7028 or


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:48 AM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Those Good Old Days Before Feminists Ruined Rape Trials

From Gender Across Borders:

The story of seventeenth-century painter Artemisia Gentileshchi has generated several books and one truly awful movie. Her art alone would be enough for her to be remembered, but her life has also drawn considerable interest. In particular, the story of her mistreatment at the hands of an older male artist and by the court that did eventually convict him sheds light on the way rape victims are regarded today. [...]

Technically, she was not on trial. Agostino Tassi, an artist her father had hired to teach her perspective, stood accused of raping her. Artemisia, however, was the one who was tortured to see if her story would remain consistent. The authorities used thumbscrews, tied cords around her hands and pulled them tight, which would be agonizing for anyone to go through but for a painter held a special horror. Tassi was not tortured, though his testimony was so contradictory that the judge told him repeatedly to stop lying. Artemisia was also subjected to a public examination to determine whether she had in fact been a virgin before the rape.
This was likely the best case scenario for a rape allegation in that time and place (Florence) since Gentileshchi had strong family connections, was from a respected family and her family patriarch clearly believed her.

Since one of the elements of this case involved experts trying to prove whether or not she was a virgin when she was raped, the legal view of rape at that time was for the law to view proven rapists as law abiding citizens as long as they selected female victims who were no longer virgins or who would have a tough time proving this status to a court's satisfaction.

Like in current times, the official system of justice caused the majority of rape victims to decide that reporting their rape was an unsafe option.

Many of those who currently decry the work of feminists related to sexual violence make references to the good old days before feminists watered down the rape laws. Because most people who hear these types of statements don't know the history of rape laws or the history of rape law enforcement this nostalgia may seem harmless, but it is not.

Those who want to roll back the rape laws and enforcement often talk about real rape, but this historic case highlights how easily a real rape from those good old days could be dismissed as not qualifying under their rape laws.

Real rape is usually defined by which rapes the person or system is willing to recognize and punish.

Unfortunately, the element of needing to prove virginity which has been eliminated from most criminal statutes persists in how many people continue to talk about rape and/or rape prevention. Whenever someone says, "It's not like she was a virgin," or, "What did she expect when she went out dressed like a slut?" that person is expressing a historic mindset where the only crime in rape was taking someone's virginity.

In the second statement there is an acceptance of forcible rape when the rapist believes he has raped a non-virgin. Those girls and women who go out looking or acting like non-virgins are viewed as ignoring the consequences of their own actions. But again this goes back to the idea that to be considered a real rape victim that rape victim must pass a purity test.

This perspective provides practical and emotional support for most rapists -- as long as they select the appropriate victim and commit rape under appropriate circumstances. The selection of victim and the circumstances of the rape can determine whether a particular rapist is championed as falsely accused due to consent, dismissed as a jerk who shouldn't be treated like a real rapist or if that particular rapist will be viewed as a monster.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:05 AM   6 comments links to this post

Monday, July 20, 2009

Husband Of House Parent At Faith-Based Care Facility Convicted Of Sexual Assault

From Tyler Morning Telegraph:

A 46-year-old man was sentenced to six years of probation for sexually assaulting a mentally disabled woman at a faith-based care facility in Tyler where his wife worked. Martin Metzner, was found guilty after more than five hours of deliberation by a six-man six-women jury in 7th District Judge Kerry Russell's Court. Metzner faced five years to life in prison.

He was on trial for sexually assaulting a 32-year-old resident of Breckenridge Village of Tyler in October 2007. Metzner's wife, Cheri Mickey, said she worked as a house parent on the Breckenridge Village campus before her employee status was terminated.
Since so many sexual assault cases which don't involve physical force get dismissed as something less than a real sex crime I'm glad this man was convicted. I'm not sure that probation will send a clear message that what this man did was a serious crime.

His wife's comments quoted in this article are deeply troubling to me and reflect dangerous attitudes which are often used by sex criminals to rationalize sexually exploiting others and then are used by those around sex criminals to deny or minimize the harm those sex criminals do.

Mrs. Mickey testified that, while she was angry with her husband for having sexual relations outside the marriage bed, she does not believe he forced himself or took advantage of the victim. [...] She said that the victim, along with other "high-functioning" residents, would hang out in groups and discuss sex, which she said was not permitted. [...] Mrs. Mickey cited an incident at the village where she saw the victim taking part in what she interpreted as sexual activity with a man she referred to as her boyfriend.

This reference to the victim's interest in sex and having a boyfriend does not negate the validity of the charges against her husband over activity which she acknowledged as an affair. What they do indicate to me is a disturbing level of victim blaming and victim shaming.

This woman's reference to some residents ability to vote isn't proof that any of those residents were able to consent to sexual activity with her husband since the dynamics in these 2 situations are very different. The closer analogy would be if someone in Mr. Metzner's position had tried to control how residents voted.

The expert who discussed the victim's ability to consent seems to have talked about this woman's ability to consent as if it the answer is either a universal yes or no, but for some people with cognitive issues the answer may be, "it depends."

There is a huge difference between the ability to consent to someone who is at a similar cognitive level and who has absolutely no situational control over the other person and the ability to consent to someone who has no cognitive impairment and/or to consent with who has been given access which this woman cannot control.

Just as important as judging someone's ability to consent is judging that person's ability to not consent and to have that non-consent respected in every way. This ability to not consent is situational and can effect people who otherwise undeniably have the general ability to consent. When an on-duty cop asks for sexual contact from a driver that driver has her or his ability to not consent reduced or eliminated.

Mr. Metzner might have had the victim's compliance, but that is not legal consent.

Even though Mr. Metzner himself wasn't an employee he had unsupervised access to this women and to other women living at this care facility. That gave him more power in the interactions than any of those women had. He could use that power, including the information he had about this woman, as tools and that is why consent in this case should not a valid defense no matter what the expert had said in determining this woman's general ability to consent. Mr. Metzner's interaction with all the residents was as a non-vulnerable adult to vulnerable adults.

That means he was in the wrong if he responded positively to any sexual overtures from any of those women and he could not initiate or suggest any sexual conduct with any of those women without being in the absolute wrong. Whether every state or jurisdiction recognizes this ethical line is immaterial to the reality of this offense.

He exploited this woman and that exploitation was rightfully classified as a sex crime.

Mr. Metzner's explanation to an investigator that the victim was being denied the right to a sexual relationship by the operators of this facility became a rationalization which allowed him to cast himself as someone helping her not hurting her.

But these types of rationalizations are dangerous lies which allow people to cause great harm and which too often allow sex offenders to get away with causing great harm. Thankfully there were many people involved in this case who took the correct stand against this lie.

We need more people to stand up against this type of harm.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:00 AM   2 comments links to this post

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sound Waves Speed Up Rape Kit Processing

From Chemistry World:

Separating the male and female components of sexual assault evidence using sound waves could vastly cut the time it takes to identify suspects, researchers in the US and Sweden report.

Typically, crime labs take up to twelve hours to isolate sperm cells from a sexual assault sample. This is because female skin cells greatly outnumber sperm cells, so careful handling and multiple cycles of centrifuging and washing are required.

This new method promises to greatly simplify the process, and takes only fourteen minutes to extract sperm cells from the mixture. It also leaves a very clean sample that can immediately be used for DNA analysis.
This advance in DNA processing has a double benefit if it can used in all crime labs. The first benefit is the speed and that is important because of how many jurisdictions still have unacceptable backlogs of unprocessed rape kits. The second benefit is that the more complex processes allow more opportunities for important DNA evidence to be lost or degraded.

From the rest of the story on this advance the developers are working to make the cost of testing each sample as low as possible. With government budgets being cut in many jurisdictions cost may make the difference in how long rapists get away with their crimes and how many new victims are harmed.

I applaud the University of Virginia's James Landers and West Virginia University's Max Houck and everyone else who is working on this project. These types of advances can prevent future crimes by correctly identifying unknown attackers and by confirming details of rape victims' testimony.

I can't tell from this story whether this is a refinement of the work of University of Virginia student Jessica Voorhees Norris which I blogged about last April, but from reading the original news release from UV I believe they may be related.

When I contact my state and federal legislators I will definitely highlight the need to fund this type of research and to fund the application of best practices.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:22 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kansas Attorney Sued After Showing Pictures Of Alleged Rape After Refusing To Prosecute

From Courthouse News:

A county attorney in Kansas violated a girl's privacy by showing around photos of her sexual assault, the teen and her mother claim in Topeka Federal Court. The Anderson County Attorney refused to prosecute the assailant, but showed other parents photos of the sexual assault, and was suspended from practicing law for 6 months for it, the family says.

The parents say their 17-year-old daughter attended an outdoor party in May 2007, where four men or boys forced her to take off her clothes. One of them had sex with her in the bed of a truck, despite her repeated pleas for him to stop, while others took photos of it, according to the complaint.

The girl says that she reported the assault to police, who referred it to County Attorney Frank Campbell. She says Campbell "decided he would not pursue prosecution of the male" involved in the sexual assault, but told a local newspaper that he would share the pictures with parents of the minors at the party.
This combination of actions highlights how often rape victims are treated like criminal offenders who must be punished while rapists are too often treated like overgrown toddlers who at most deserve to be scolded by their parents.

If 4 boys or men are forcing a girl to take off her clothes what follows is not sex, it's rape even if that girl doesn't protest. All 4 of those boys or men were actively involved in the crime and all should have been prosecuted for the sexual assault and since the picture qualified as child porn that would have allowed additional charges.

Campbell's response ignored the rape laws and supported the dangerous idea that girls who drink alcohol deserve to be raped or are asking for it.

The excuse Campbell gave for showing the pictures of this girl's assault is pathetic. Using pictures of a reported rape as if it is evidence of nothing more than underage drinking makes deterring teen drinking more important than deterring and prosecuting rape.

In reality it is Campbell's response which gives boys and men backhanded permission to commit rape under certain conditions. For that offense he should have lost his license to practice law for much longer than six months and he should have been banned from life from working as a prosecutor.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:59 AM   3 comments links to this post

Thursday, July 16, 2009

2009 Run For Congo Women

The following is from Women for Women International, an organization that supports women survivors of war worldwide, and is reprinted with permission.

Change Your Life. And Hers.

Join Women for Women International and stand up for women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Participate in a 2009 Run for Congo Women.

Run for Congo Women began with one woman’s determination to raise awareness about the dire situation in Congo and has become an international movement.

More than 5.4 million people have died since 1998 in this conflict.
Half of these deaths are children under the age of five.
For women in Congo, brutal gang rape and torture are a daily reality.

Run for Congo Women is your opportunity to support these women and children as they rebuild their lives.

Visit to learn more and register for one of the following runs today!
Morrison, CO - Saturday, September 19th
Portland, OR – Saturday, September 19th
New York, NY - Saturday, September 26th
Tempe/Phoenix, AZ - Sunday, September 27th
Chicago, IL - Saturday, October 3rd
St. Louis, MO - Saturday, October 17th

By signing up today, you will support Women for Women International’s program in Congo, in which women receive direct assistance, rights awareness and job skills training that make it possible for them to start their own micro-enterprises. You also allow them to provide for their family and to regain their role as an active member of their community.

When you join us, you help spread this message: Congolese lives matter. The lives of Congolese women are significant. The lives of Congolese children are precious. We are running to help.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:07 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 74

Welcome to the July 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:


In Another post about rape posted at Fugitivus, we get a discussion about how the gendered expectations of behavior in daily interactions help answer the frequent victim-blaming question, "Why didn't she fight back?" and how those who demand compliance with gendered roles have no right to demand that girls or women being assaulted break free from expectations to prove they were raped.

In Wife swapping in India: A Growing bad Business posted at South Asia Blog, we get a discussion about how often what is described as a personal choice is only the personal choice of the husband while the wives are forced to take part and can be mistreated by their husband’s families and relatives despite being the victims.

In Eighth Circuit to Women Prisoners: Take Parenting and "Health Lifestyles," Not Accounting posted at Title IX Blog, we get a discussion about unequal resources to prison inmates based on gender.


In Finally Rape is Rape In Oregon posted at Womanist Musings, we get a discussion of changes to rape laws which had viewed certain rapes as lesser rapes based on the rapist's strategy.

In Michigan Appeals Court Rules That Rape Victims Cannot Be Sued For Wrongful Prosecution posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss a ruling in a lawsuit filed for the attorney for a man who was acquitted (not exonerated) in his retrial for the rape of his ex-girlfriend.

In Sexual Abuse of Female Inmates in Oklahoma posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion of extremely horrifying allegations coming to of Oklahoma regarding the treatment of female inmates by male jailers. The allegations include sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and more.

In NZ Police says stopping rape is women’s responsibility posted at Kiwipolitico, we get a discussion about how preventing sexual violence focuses first on the victim and then on bystanders while completely ignoring the power those who choose to rape have in the number of rapes committed.

In A Matter Of Credibility?: New Hampshire Case Involves Important Impeachment, Rape Shield Issues posted at EvidenceProf Blog, we get a discussion about the rulings for and against defense motions related to the alleged victim's life history.

In Murderer Who Responded To Successful Appeal By Bragging About His Crime Seeks To Stop His Execution posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss the aftermath of a murderer who responded to a successful appeal which overturned a death penalty sentence by sending a gloating letter of confession which provided evidence for the additional crime of attempted rape.

In Sex Offender Cited for Two-Way Mirrors posted at Sex Crimes, we get a discussion of a case where the exact charges don't match the public description of the crime.

In Missouri Supreme Court rules that federal sex offender registration requirement trumps state limits posted at Sentencing Law and Policy, we get a discussion about a ruling which impacts which sex offenders must be included in the state sex offender registry.

In Designer Anand Jon Alexander's Rape Conviction Upheld After Juror Misconduct posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss the decision of Anand Jon's sister to not report a juror who slipped her his phone number during the trial and my belief that she was hoping that misconduct would save her brother from conviction and if it didn't would then be grounds to overturn her brother's conviction.

In Sex Offender Assessment Tool Held Inadmissible posted at Crime and Consequences Blog, we get a discussion of a recent decision out of New York which holds the Static-99, a common actuarial measure of sex offender recidivism, as inadmissible.

media watch

In The Onion’s Best and Worst Rape Jokes posted at The Sexist, we get analysis of different joke articles on the parody news site and see that whether jokes uphold or mock dangerous attitudes makes a huge difference.

In Asking for it posted at Bad Science, we get a discussion of an article in the Telegraph titled "Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, claim scientists" which made multiple false claims about research which were verified by a conversation with the woman who did the original research.

In No Is Not a Mixed Signal posted at How to recover lost marbles, we get a discussion of a victim-blaming post which attacked feminists for not blaming certain disapproved of women for their own rapes.


In "Rape Switch Hypothesis" still going strong: US rape stats evaluated. posted at Greg Laden's Blog, we get a discussion about what causes rape and about how bias can impact the number of reported rapes.

personal stories

In Stand Up posted at Missy, we get a discussion of one survivors experience following a sexual assault.

In Sisterhood of the Traveling Ass-Kickers posted at Feministing, we get a discussion of the experience of a college student after she was raped by her "feminist" boyfriend and how the first reactions she got when she disclosed to friends was denial which temporarily caused her to invalidate what she knew had happened and how once she rejected that invalidation that she talked to her younger sister about what real consent is.

raising awareness

In Fraternity men address sexual violence posted at Kelly & Becca: 2 Soul Sisters on a Mission, we get a discussion about how fraternity men should get involved in preventing sexual violence and providing effective support for survivors.

In Breaking the silence: ensuring justice for women posted at Bangladeshi Hindu, we get a discussion about pervasive attitudes which contribute to sexual and domestic violence in Bangladesh.

In A woman walks into a rape, uh, bar posted at Fugitivus, we get a discussion about why people tell rape jokes and what the "joke" really is and how it feels to be a rape victim listening to rape jokes.

In Why Some People Are Blind To Abuse posted at Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker, we get a list of reasons why a person may not be aware of the abuse that is going on in the world around them.

In The Josef Fritzl Trial - Public Reaction to The Victims posted at Russ Wood, we get a discussion about how people understand the difficulties Fritzl's victims can have which cause behavior issues, but how they fail to understand these same causes when someone's abuse or abuser isn't public knowledge so that survivors can be dismissed as "troublesome" people and not get the services they need.

In An Uncomfortable Subject posted at Vagabond Saint, we get a discussion about how the lack of testing related to rape kits isn't the only problem but also includes lack of testing for drugs which can be used by rapists and how victim blaming impacts systemic failures.

In Pregnancy As a Sign of Intimate Partner Abuse posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion about the way that intimate partner violence often takes the form of rape and other sexual coercion, and the dangerous implications of a failure to recognize this reality.

In CFP: First Amendment Meets Cyber-Stalking Meets Character and Fitness posted at Feminist Law Professors, we get a discussion about how the first amendment right to free speech relates to the speech intended to intimidate or harm specific people and how this relates to upholding ethical standards.


In Military Sexual Trauma-Veterans Administration in-patient treatment facilities posted at a males life after rape, we get a list which consists of programs identifying themselves as providing MST or sexual trauma-specific treatment in a residential or inpatient setting. Only programs open and actively accepting referrals are included.


In Can Expensive Advertising Beat Domestic Violence? posted at The Sexist, we get a discussion of high-tech poster at a bus stop in Germany which shows a couple looking happy when a camera detects someone looking directly at the poster and which shows that man about to hit that woman when those nearby are all looking away which matches the duality in the behavior of many abusers.

That concludes this edition of the carnival against sexual violence. Thank you for taking the time to visit this carnival and thank you to the authors of all the posts included in this edition.

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

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

Marcella Chester

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:03 AM   2 comments links to this post

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Man Kidnapped Ex-Wife Asked Police For Priest To Give Her Last Rites

From AOL News:

An advertising executive — who vowed he wouldn't be divorced until his ex-wife was dead — kidnapped her from a parking lot and called for a priest to give her last rites before setting their house on fire during a 13-hour standoff, police said.

Richard Shenkman gave up about midnight Tuesday as flames destroyed the South Windsor house he once shared with Nancy Tyler. The fire ignited about an hour after Tyler escaped, a handcuff dangling from one wrist.[...]

The couple's appellate court file includes a cassette tape of more than a dozen voice mail messages from Shenkman to Tyler, which contain numerous threats.

"We are not getting divorced," he said in one message. "It is not going to happen. Listen to my words. We're not divorced. We're not getting divorced. We were married 'til death do us part. We made vows in front of God. He was our witness, and you can only get your divorce one way, and that's death. You can only be unmarried by death."
This attitude and the direct threats which were made against this woman should have resulted in criminal charges. If his pattern of threats and past related crimes don't fit any specific statutes then the criminal statutes need to be changed.

Telling someone you are going to kill them unless they meet your demands should be a crime because as this case shows those who make these types of threats are dangerous. From statements made by a neighbor, Shenkman was quick to anger and that interacting with him was something to be avoided.

If Shenkman truly cared about protecting his marriage as a relationship and believed in having a marriage as relationship which lasted a lifetime then he wouldn't behave in ways which would cause his spouse distress. His view of marriage is a view of his wife as his property which he will destroy before letting go of it.

The reference to God to justify these acts of violence are nonsensical rationalizations.

This man's attitudes go so deep that he is a danger not only to his ex-wife, he is a danger to anyone who might do something which Shenkman's views as deserving punishment.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:33 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, July 13, 2009

New Orleans Police Call Over Half Of Rape Reports Noncriminal

From NOLA:

More than half the time New Orleans police receive reports of rape or other sexual assaults against women, officers classify the matter as a noncriminal "complaint."

Police, who have been touting a decline in rapes, say the share of noncriminal complaints reflects the difficulty officers face in coaxing rape victims to push forward with their complaints.

But former Orleans Parish sex crime prosecutor Cate Bartholomew says the frequent use of the alternative category -- referred to as a "Signal 21" in NOPD parlance -- is a problem, arguing that some of the cases she saw should have been categorized as sex crimes.

Bartholomew and some other experts say the alternative labeling of alleged sexual assault raises questions about the accuracy of the department's recent rape statistics, showing a sharp decrease from 2007 to 2008 in the number of rapes and attempted rapes reported to the FBI: 114 rapes in 2007, down to 72 rapes last year.
This classification issue does more than make New Orleans seem like it has fewer rapes (the hospital did 168 rape exams in 2008), it improperly shifts responsibility for this non-criminal classification onto rape victims.

Too often those who try to report rape are driven away by the very people who claim to be on the side of victims and justice. The way sexual assault victims are treated by the individual or the larger systems sends important messages which can contradict the official messages from law enforcement to sexual assault victims given through the media.

The messages which drive victims away could be open hostility, obvious dismissal of the crime, insufficient addressing of victims' safety concerns or it could be systemic issues such as understaffing which make working with law enforcement seem pointless. Unfortunately, it is easier to blame sexual assault victims for not doing their part than it is to deal with the core systemic problems.

The article says that one possible explanation given for the drop in NOPD rape stats is that there were fewer verifiable sexual assaults. The problem with this explanation is with the concept of verifiable. If this verification process is flawed then the resulting numbers will be just as flawed.
Archambault said departments need a noncriminal category for some situations, such as a call about a suspicious activity that turns out not to be a crime. But too often detectives will put cases into these alternative categories -- or declare a rape case to be "unfounded," meaning that it didn't occur -- when they can't substantiate a claim of a sexual assault.

That may happen, she said, if they can't track down a victim who reported the crime or the victim doesn't continue cooperating after making an initial report. While those circumstances frustrate detectives, they don't justify declaring cases invalid, she said.
This inflated rate of unfounded cases is why when people use the rate of unfounded rape cases as evidence about the rate of fraudulent rape cases that their comparison is meaningless. Yet too many people either don't know or don't care that the comparison is meaningless and will use the information in this story to claim that over half of the reported sexual assaults against women never happened.

Correcting the classification of cases should do more than adjust statistics it should cause cases to be reviewed in a way that can lead to closed cases being reopened and fully investigated.

The fact that the number of rape forensic exams is higher than the official number of rapes raises the issue of whether the number of sexual assault forensic exams should be a data point reported to the FBI.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:30 AM   3 comments links to this post

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Need Carnival 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 @ 9:00 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, July 10, 2009

Murderer Who Responded To Successful Appeal By Bragging About His Crime Seeks To Stop His Execution

From the Stafford County Sun:

Lawyers for a Virginia inmate scheduled to die next week for killing a 16-year-old friend are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the execution. Lawyers for a Virginia inmate scheduled to die next week for killing a 16-year-old — then bragging about it to prosecutors when he thought he couldn’t face the death penalty — are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the execution.

Paul Warner Powell’s lawyers argue that he was unconstitutionally convicted twice for the 1999 murder and attempted rape of Yorkshire teen Stacie Reed.[...]

Thinking he could no longer face the death penalty, Powell wrote a profanity-laced, taunting letter to prosecutors offering graphic detail of how he tried to rape Reed before he stabbed her three times and stomped on her throat until she quit breathing. “Do you just hate yourself for being so stupid and for (messing) up and saving me?’’ he wrote to Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert in 2001.
Most of the time when I read about efforts to stop the death penalty from being carried out the lawyers and the defendant claim that the defendant is innocent and someone else committed the crime, but in this case the certainty of this man's guilt seems to be what should spare him from a sentence which matches the actual crime he committed.

This case contrasts in another way as well. In the other cases, procedure is treated as something which must always be less important than the truth. The rules are described as something which must always be put aside in favor of justice because the rules are there to uphold justice.

However, in this case the defense attorneys want the truth to be less important than procedure and they want justice to be put aside in favor of the rules as they are interpreting them. From the details of the gloating letter this man wrote he has absolutely no respect for other people's lives and that attitude could make him an active danger to other inmates and to prison personnel.

I am almost always against the death penalty since there is so much inequality in the way it gets used. For me the death penalty should only be used for public safety purposes. Some murderers simply have so little respect for the lives of others that imprisoning them only changes which lives are at highest risk.

The fault here seems to belong to Powell who viewed a successful appeal of his original sentence for murder as the end of the process and who then couldn't wait to gloat about the cruel details of the multiple crimes he committed against a teenage girl. He confessed not only to the murder of which he'd been convicted of committing, he confessed to the separate crime of attempted rape. This confession gave the prosecutors evidence of a crime which they didn't have when the original charges were filed.

If this appeal is successful it sets a dangerous precedent which puts public safety at risk and not just from this man. If someone who committed multiple crimes including murder against the same person or during the commission of a crime spree and is convicted of one or more of the lesser crimes such as check fraud then that person, under this interpretation of the constitution, should be immune from prosecution for murder if subsequent evidence implicates that person.

If while in jail a convicted check forger is recorded confessing to murdering someone whose checks were forged then that person should not be protected from prosecution for that murder under double jeopardy rules. And just as check forgery and murder are separate crimes so too are attempted rape and murder.

Arrogance which causes someone to feel superior to the law should not prevent justice. Powell's confession to that separate crime was not coerced and if he didn't want it used against him he should have conferred with his attorneys prior to sending it.


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

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Retired Pro Footballer Steve McNair Victim Of Murder Suicide

From the Washington Post:
NASHVILLE, July 8 -- Former NFL quarterback Steve McNair was shot four times and killed by his girlfriend Sahel Kazemi, who then used the same gun to shoot herself in the head, according to a Nashville police investigation and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report.

As public pressure mounted to solve the July 4 murder of the one-time star of the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens, Police Chief Ronal W. Serpas, at a news conference, portrayed Kazemi, 20, as despondent and increasingly tormented by a rush of personal problems culminating with the discovery that the married McNair was also seeing another woman.
The majority of intimate partner murders are committed by men against women (in 2005, 329 men were victims compared to 1,181 women), but the violence is just as real and just as wrong when the person murdered is a man and when the person who commits that murder is a woman.

There are other ways for people, men and women, to deal with financial hardships and personal or relationship stress other than violence. From the details of the crime scene there is no way that the shooting of McNair was an act of self-defense. Instead the police believe that he was asleep when he was shot.

Kazemi bought a loaded 9 mm pistol from an acquaintance shortly after she was arrested for driving under the influence which was about 2 days before the murder. After that purchase she apparently talked about suicide, but it's unclear if the person she bought the pistol from broke any laws through the sale or had any hint that she was considering using it. What's also unclear is whether anyone who heard her talk about suicide was aware that she'd purchased a weapon.

Too often people who hear someone talk about suicide or even murder don't take any action because they assume that either the threat isn't real or they believe there is nothing they can do since no crime has been committed. This is why domestic violence and suicide hotlines are so important. Bystanders can call and seek options.

Sometimes the best efforts by everyone around people considering violence cannot prevent that person from crossing the line and sometimes the people considering violence can present themselves as incapable of violence. But sometimes bystanders can see signs of violence and can help someone see and take a non-violent path.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:12 AM   1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Designer Anand Jon Alexander's Rape Conviction Upheld After Juror Misconduct

From the LA Times:

A Los Angeles County judge upheld the sexual assault conviction of Beverly Hills fashion designer Anand Jon Alexander on Monday, ruling that a juror's contact with the defendant's sister before the verdicts did not prevent a fair trial. Attorneys for the Indian-born designer argued that the conviction should be thrown out, alleging that the juror sought sex or money from the defendant's sister toward the end of last year's trial and voted to convict her brother when she refused to meet him alone.

Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley ruled that the juror, Alvin Dymally, committed misconduct by approaching Sanjana Alexander twice in the courthouse and speaking to her on two occasions when she phoned him. Wesley also said he believed the juror lied when he denied under oath ever speaking to Sanjana Alexander before the verdicts. But the judge found that Dymally's actions did not affect the jury's guilty verdicts. [...]

Alexander, 35, who goes by the professional name Anand Jon, was found guilty in November of raping one woman and sexually assaulting six other girls and young women. The conviction carries a mandatory life prison sentence.

This ruling makes sense to me as does the decision to hold both the juror and Anand Jon Alexander's sister in contempt of court. If Ms. Alexander felt this juror was endangering her brother's due process rights she should have reported him immediately.

What this feels like is that Ms. Alexander saw this juror's interest in her as an opportunity and decided not to do report this juror in the hope that leaving him on the jury would result in a deadlocked verdict if the other jurors all believed the prosecution had proved her brother's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and if her brother was found guilty then this contact could then be used to try to undo this trial.

Her statement that if she had agreed to meet in person with this juror that her brother would not have been convicted supports this theory. If any of Alexander's legal team was involved in recording phone conversations between Ms. Alexander and this juror those people should also be held in contempt of court for not reporting this juror's misconduct before closing arguments.

In the recording which was transcribed Ms. Alexander responded to the juror's request to meet after the trial with, "Definitely, we will."

This type of misconduct on behalf of the defendant should not be rewarded.


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

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Rape Defendant Commits Suicide While His Trial Underway

From the Seattle Times:

In the months since Sankarandi Skanda demanded the right to represent himself in court against charges of rape, robbery and burglary, his intensity appeared to wane.

On Thursday, the lanky man with thick eyebrows and close-cropped hair sat quietly at the defense table asking few questions of the state's witnesses. It was a far cry from the early days of the trial when he fashioned a defense based on a claim — which some called far-fetched — that he was being falsely accused by a woman who once asked Skanda to kill her husband.

Skanda, also known as Franklin Antill, was found dead inside his cell at the King County Jail early Friday. Authorities say that a noose he fashioned out of bedsheets was tied around his neck and a hefty stack of trial paperwork was jammed against the cell door in an apparent attempt to keep jail staff from getting inside.

This man's suicide came after Skanda, acting as his own attorney, violated court rules in his questioning of the rape victim in this case. From the interviews done with some of the jurors this man's accusations against his rape victim were viewed as completely non-credible and they would have found him guilty if the trial hadn't been halted because of Skanda's death.

If he had been convicted he likely would have been sent to prison for the rest of his life. The defense attorney who acted as his advisor described him as a man who wanted to be in control and the way this case ended was in Skanda's control while it seems to have been clear to him by his changing manner as the trial progressed that the verdict was out of his control.

I had noticed this case and was waiting until the trial ended to blog about it.

From the ABA Journal:

Skanda is accused of breaking into the accuser's Wallingford home and raping her at knifepoint while her children slept nearby. Skanda is also known as Frank Antill. He used that name until, while serving prison time for a similar assault in Idaho, he converted to Hinduism.

According to the Post-Intelligencer, when Skanda began asking questions on topics that the court had previously barred, Prosecutor Kays objected.

She argued, "This is a court of law, not a court of terror for him, and I can't help but believe he is getting off on terrorizing this woman again. He is thumbing his nose at this process and he's using it to terrorize this woman."

With the improvements in DNA technology more stranger rapists cannot rely on claims that the visual ID process was faulty and that the DA charged the wrong man. So when the evidence of sexual contact is overwhelming, it is tempting for stranger rapists and many attorneys representing them to use the stereotype about how women lie about rape as the defense.

This isn't the only rape trial where there has been no evidence to support the criminal allegations against the alleged victims. Unfortunately, sometimes a baseless counter accusation results in an acquittal. This often relies on assumptions about whether an alleged rapist understood that consent was absent.

This strategy is a tougher sell when a stranger rapist enters the rape victim's home. Jurors who believe that the person who doesn't want sex has the legal obligation to clearly communicate that lack of consent don't have the same expectation in burglary rapes. They understand that in this scenario that the victim may be raped before there is a chance to say no or that fear may prevent the victim from speaking or fighting. What many jurors fail to understand is that the same can happen in non-stranger rapes.

Supporters of this strategy of making counter accusations without supporting evidence may point to a case (as happened in the comments of the ABA Journal article) where the alleged victim or victims were arrested to support the defense's counter allegation that the original rape report was fraudulent, but that makes as much sense as supporting the prosecution of men on rape charges without evidence because other men have been convicted based on credible evidence.

Notably people who support casting baseless doubt on alleged rape victims repeatedly fail to mention cases where rape victims have been falsely charged or falsely convicted. Many times a lack of conviction of the alleged rapist is used to claim that that person might be innocent while that possibility of innocence is ignored when girls and women who reported being raped are described as false accusers despite a similar lack of conviction.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:38 AM   2 comments links to this post

Monday, July 06, 2009

Too Good For Feminism Which Fought Legal Injustice Against Women?

From an opinion piece in the Independent UK by Ellie Levenson:

Most women my age don't like the word feminism and don't choose to identify as feminists. I know this because I have spoken to many women born in the Seventies and Eighties over the past couple of years as research for my book, The Noughtie Girl's Guide To Feminism, which is published today. [...]

Because feminism in the past has been characterised by po-faced earnestness, It is a movement where all too often humour has been missing. [...]

A man I know nobbled me at an event this week. He had recently started to work at English PEN, a writers' organisation that campaigns on behalf of persecuted authors around the world. As my own book comes out this week, he suggested that I join, which I will gladly do.

This commentary dismisses all the activism by feminists who helped Ms. Levenson have the many legal choices she so flippantly takes for granted.

She is furthering the stereotype that feminists who worked or are working to prevent injustice against women such as rape are nothing more than humorless women who are against gendered injustice only because they hate men.

Women who worked tirelessly on behalf of other women and girls who were raped or murdered by men are bad feminists -- who must be repudiated -- because when they did this work they didn't have enough humor.

Levenson says in her commentary that women can make any personal choice they'd like but by her repeated slams against older feminists this is clearly a false statement. Any choice which could get a woman labeled as humorless is the wrong choice.

When men organize to end world hunger or when people organize to fight a particular deadly disease I hear no criticism that when these men speak out against those harms that they lack humor.

To end this commentary by elevating men's humorless activism against the persecution of writers shows how little Ms. Levenson understands about the work of the feminists she disdains. In the end she's the one who comes off as humorless.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:47 AM   2 comments links to this post

Friday, July 03, 2009

Michigan Appeals Court Rules That Rape Victims Cannot Be Sued For Wrongful Prosecution

From Detroit News:

The appeals court reversed a federal judge in Detroit Wednesday and threw out 21 of Jeffrey Moldowan's claims in a federal lawsuit he filed in 2005, including his malicious prosecution and other claims against the Jane Doe who accused him.

The woman, who was severely and permanently injured in the attack, can't be sued for malicious prosecution, even if she testified falsely, the appeals court ruled.

Although the woman's identification of Moldowan, a former boyfriend, as one of her attackers "was critical to the Macomb County Prosecutor's decision to prosecute him, her statements were only part of a broader, independent investigation," the appeals court ruled in a published opinion.

Also, "victims of crime, especially the types of crime that occurred here, must feel secure that cooperating with the police will not expose them to lengthy and invasive civil proceedings," which "re-exposes them to significant emotional trauma." Such victims should have absolute immunity from civil litigation for their testimony, the appeals court ruled.

This ruling is the correct one. Crime victims are not the people who do the prosecuting and many times their testimony and their wishes related to prosecution are ignored.

Because of this woman's permanent injuries there is no dispute over whether she is a genuine crime victim, but in cases where a wrongful prosecution is alleged because the defendant claims that no crime was committed, protections need to cover all those who report crimes unless they are convicted of filing a false police report.

Criminal convictions are overturned when defendants are exonerated (proven factually innocent), but they can also be overturned even when defendants are guilty as charged. Failure to prove someone guilty in a court of law is not the same as proving someone factually innocent. The misuse of forensics such as bite marks can cause a conviction of someone who is factually guilty to be considered wrongfully convicted by the courts.

Many news stories confuse these two situations because in both cases people who were convicted have those convictions overturned.

Another man, Michael Cristini, convicted of participating in the same rape and who was released because of doubts about the same expert's testimony was arrested on new sexual assault charges related to alleged crimes against a child which began about 6 months after he was released from prison.

Moldowan and Cristini were both retried in Macomb County Circuit Court and acquitted after controversial bite mark evidence used by prosecutors during the first trial was called into question.

The case generated even more attention when a federal grand jury launched a probe into campaign contributions given to former Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney Carl Marlinga during his 2002 congressional campaign, including one given to him by Realtor Ralph Roberts, who had employed Moldowan’s sister.

The investigation focused in part on a brief Marlinga had submitted to the Michigan Supreme Court discrediting the bite-mark evidence used in the Moldowan trial. Marlinga was accused of taking an $8,000 campaign contribution from Roberts in exchange for using his position as the Macomb County prosecutor to influence the criminal case.

Marlinga wasn't convicted so there is no proof that there was any wrongdoing involved in the actions which freed these 2 men. Eliminating the bite mark analysis didn't, however, prove these 2 men to be factually innocent. They may in fact be innocent of the crime they were convicted of committing, but they weren't proven factually innocent.

That means the victim's testimony could have been both truthful and accurate. If the juries in the retrial heard evidence which only showed that these men could be guilty then they were correct to acquit them.

Because of all of these issues related to how cases are prosecuted and because of the burden of proof, crime victims must be protected from these types of civil lawsuits not just by the courts but by lawmakers so that victims don't have to worry about how individual judges or courts will rule.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:21 AM   0 comments links to this post