Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Roman Polanski As Described By Grand Jury Testimony

The Smoking Gun discusses the grand jury transcripts which were unsealed prior to Roman Polanski winning an Oscar for the movie The Pianist, these transcripts describe actions taken in 1977 when non-stranger rape was frequently ignored.

This is highly relevant since Polanski was arrested in Switzerland and is now facing extradition to the US which for some is viewed as the first step to seeing him get away with his crime and get away with fleeing justice before he was sentenced.

The teenager's troubling--and contemporaneous--account of her abuse at Polanski's hands begins with her posing twice for topless photos that the director said were for French Vogue.
This is child porn and if this was where the crime stopped this would, under current laws, be child abuse and a serious felony. But this isn't where Roman Polanski's crime stopped. Not included in this quote but included in the transcript is that he gave a minor alcohol soon after entering Jack Nicholson's house on the second photo shoot, an action which was and is a crime and which was witnessed by a third party.

He even used the glass of champagne as a prop in photos he took which gave that action an innocent overtone. He not only had her hold the glass but he had her drink while being photographed. This strikes me as highly deceptive. He could easily have her drink a soft drink of similar coloring if his only purpose was the one he claimed.

By using his authority as someone taking photos for a specific legitimate purpose it makes sense that a child would do as she was told by someone who seemed interested in doing nothing more than he'd gotten permission to do. She wouldn't know when the pictures being taken of her weren't for French Vogue. Her perception of danger would be reduced significantly under the influence of alcohol. She was quite literally, impaired.

This is called misusing authority. Writing that feels patronizing, but too many people refuse to understand this concept which plays out in the actions described during grand jury testimony.

One such person is Joan Z. Shore, co-founder, Women Overseas for Equality (Belgium), who wrote on Huffington Post in an article titled Polanski's Arrest: Shame on the Swiss:

But there is more to this story. The 13-year old model "seduced" by Polanski had been thrust onto him by her mother, who wanted her in the movies. The girl was just a few weeks short of her 14th birthday, which was the age of consent in California. (It's probably 13 by now!) Polanski was demonized by the press, convicted, and managed to flee, fearing a heavy sentence.

I met Polanski shortly after he fled America and was filming Tess in Normandy. I was working in the CBS News bureau in Paris, and I accompanied Mike Wallace for a Sixty Minutes interview with Polanski on the set. Mike thought he would be meeting the devil incarnate, but was utterly charmed by Roman's sobriety and intelligence.

Ms. Shore has some basic facts wrong in her portrayal of Polanski as the hapless victim. Several of which are easily verifiable.

If Polanski told people the age of consent was 14 and that he'd been promised a specific sentence, he deliberately lied which undermines her description of him and undermines everything he said to make himself sound like the victim which can not be instantly proven. Polanski had been accused of rape, not statutory rape so the victim's age is only relevant to what lesser charge Polanski pled guilty to.

Calling what Polanski did a seduction which happened after a mother thrust her daughter at Polanski shows why I need to write what should be obvious to everybody. The impression Polanski had on Ms. Shore and on Mike Wallace explains why a mother would trust him to be alone with her 13-year-old daughter and why that daughter would trust him when he deserved no trust. This idea that you can tell who is guilty of rape, or capable of rape, by their general manner is nonsense. Many heinous criminals can charm journalists with their sobriety and intelligence. It is journalistic malpractice to assume this is proof of their innocence.

Back to the transcripts which Ms. Shore should have read or needs to read again without her clear bias, I'm reminded of the story about how you can boil a live frog if you raise the temperature of the water slowly enough so that the frog doesn't realize it is being boiled alive. Instead of trying to boil a frog, Roman Polanski seemed to be figuratively trying to boil a 13-year-old girl.

Q: What happened after he showed you the jacuzzi?

A: He said, "I want to take some pictures of you in this." [Q&As about logistics including a call to her mother about the photo shoot continuing]

Q: After talking to your mother on the telephone, what happened?

A: We went out and I got in the jacuzzi.

Q: So you went outside --

A: No, wait. We went into the bathroom before and he took this little yellow thing. I don't know what it was. it was some kind of container. And he had -- he walked in before me. When I walked in he had the container. And he had a pill broken into three parts. And he said, "Is this a quaalude?" And I went, "Yes." And he says, "Oh, do you think I will be able to drive if I take it?"

And I said, "I don't know," you know. He says, "Well, should I take it?" I went, "I don't know." He goes, "Well, I guess I will," and he took it. And he says, "Do you want part?" And I went, "No."

And he says -- oh, at that time I went, "Okay," because -- I don't know.

The transcript seems to be missing quotation marks around "Oh," which is a significant error since that single word can convey so much meaning so that her, "Okay" is compliance not consent.

This behavior by Polanski shows clear forethought and manipulation. After giving her an unknown quantity of champagne, he made her call her mother and then he makes her responsible for his taking part of a quaalude. Since he knew what drug he had, his question to her about whether she recognized the drug seems to be his way of rationalizing the actions he had planned. He might tell himself that he wouldn't continue if this were an "innocent" 13-year-old girl since that would make him a real rapist.

If he were genuinely concerned about his ability to drive he would have introduced this drug into their conversation prior to having her call her mother. His quickly escalating actions after the call to her mother were like a recognition that the water was boiling around her and she hadn't jumped. But just in case, he introduced another substance which would further impair her and her ability to flee.

Then he got her into the hot tub after ordering her to take off everything she was still wearing. He took some pictures of her, but soon his pretense of a photo shot was abandoned allegedly because there wasn't enough light -- which he would have been aware of prior to having her call her mother to extend the photo shoot. So he clearly and plainly lied to this girl and indirectly to her mother as well.

For anyone who has read the official warnings at public hot tubs you will know that drinking alcohol magnifies the effect of the hot water and increases the risk of drowning. So the hot tub served as further impairment.

For too many people, her lack of recognition of how she was being manipulated will be incorrectly seen as evidence of her consent. Because of the call to her mother and because she didn't flee when told he was going to get in the hot tub with her, these people are likely to say she could have gotten away if she really wanted to.

But people, children especially, won't flee danger which is beyond their understanding. They've been taught to obey adults who have been given even temporary authority over them and for years have experienced not fully understanding why they are told to do something. An adult in a position of authority tells them to jump and they jump. This training in compliance doesn't magically disappear when a girl reaches her teens. And when Roman Polanski added impairment from alcohol, part of a quaalude and the heat of a hot tub to this already vulnerable dynamic, the chances of a passive response from someone who isn't consenting rises significantly.

Yet when she responded to his entering the hot tub by moving away from him he didn't respect her actions.

Q: What happened then?

A: He goes, "Come down here." And I said, "No, No, I got to get out."

And he goes, "No, Come down here."

That statement from Polanski is an order from an adult in a position of authority to a child.

And then I said that I had asthma and that I couldn't -- I had to get out because of the warm air and the cold air or something like that.
After complying with his demand that she move closer to him, she got out and asked to be taken home so she could take her medicine and Roman Polanski refused her request. The boiling frog strategy had failed, but he didn't stop. This shows premeditation and absolutely contradicts all those who claim this was only statutory rape and that he couldn't have meant to commit sexual assault.

This girl's use of falsely claiming to suffer from asthma shows that she felt like he had authority over her and only an acute physical emergency would give her reason to disobey his instructions. She'd been like the unaware frog but now she was jumping and seeking escape.

He asked her if she was okay and when she said, "No," it simply didn't matter to him.

She was afraid of him by this point but still effectively under his control. Maybe her fear was a turn on because at this point she is clearly not a participant, eager or otherwise. Or maybe he viewed the amount of time he'd spent taking photographs of her as too much investment to lose without getting what he really wanted from her. I won't detail the repeated acts of sexual violence she describes, but the transcript shows a clear disregard for this girl's humanity and basic rights as a human being.

For those who don't understand why real rape victims often don't physically struggle, remember this girl had been deliberately isolated and impaired. Which explains this response of what she did prior to being vaginally raped:

But I wasn't fighting really because I, you know, there was no one else there and I had no place to go.

The transcript also describes Roman Polanski demanding to know, mid-rape, if she was on birth control and when she said no, he demanded to know when she'd had her last period. Apparently, because Polanski was concerned about pregnancy he switched to anally raping her.

What a gem of man. What heartless people could possibly want to see him spend more than 45 days in jail for this crime? Maybe those heartless people who consider crimes from the perspective of what they do to the victims rather than limiting the perspective to that of the criminals.

Mid-rape a woman knocked on the closed bedroom door and those who have no understanding of non-stranger rape might assume this girl would scream if she were in genuine distress, but that assumption is dangerously wrong. In that circumstance fear can keep someone trapped in silence. Fear isn't always rational and those who expect it to be rational are lucky to not understand this firsthand. The girl got up while he was distracted and was trying to leave when he stopped her and resumed the sexual assault until he climaxed.

The description of what I believe to be shock after the sexual assault is familiar. I remember my shock which might have appeared to others to be simply coolness or moodiness. Some rapists may even comfort themselves when they see this shock since it allows them to believe the lie that what they did caused no trauma when they are seeing a direct after effect of severe trauma.

In a separate article on the Smoking Gun site, that woman is identified.

Investigators also interviewed actress Angelica Huston, who was present in Nicholson's home while Polanski was sequestered in a bedroom with the child. Huston said the teenager "didn't appear to be distressed," adding that "she seemed sullen, which I thought was a little rude."

The shock after being raped could easily be described as being sullen. Someone in this state wouldn't have the capacity to interact with proper politeness which could also be seen as rudeness. So this testimony supports the victim's testimony even if Ms. Huston doesn't believe what happened was a non-statutory sexual assault. Not looking scared after rape only violates Ms. Huston's expectations about what real victims look like not the reality of non-stranger rape. Men don't need to be "bad men" to commit sexual assault, once or repeatedly.

Only Roman Polanski saw what came after that initial shock, he saw her crying in his car as she sat waiting for the only escape she viewed as open to her. Even then he made her wait while he went back inside Jack Nicholson's house to speak to the woman. I'm sure he crafted a careful fiction. Maybe he even apologized for the girl's abrupt behavior.

I can't find the remainder of the grand jury transcript on the Smoking Gun site which covers events beginning with him driving her home. What I did find in my search was an article which links to the transcript pages I read which uses the terms "sex" and "underage sex escapades" which are pathetic descriptions of sex crimes even if Polanski's actions do disgust the article writer.

After reading the transcript I believe Roman Polanski understood the concept of placing a frog in pot of lukewarm water and then incrementally raising the heat so that even when the frog is being boiled to death it won't jump to safety.

As a Holocaust survivor and as a man whose wife, Sharon Tate, and unborn child were brutally murdered by Charles Manson followers, Polanski should understand the necessity of accountability. Yet so many people say, "Never again" and only mean it selectively. When it comes to non-stranger rape too many people might as well say, "Whatever, man."

This "Whatever, man," attitude explains why a man so many people see as completely admirable could rationalize committing rape against a 13-year-old child. If Polanski is genuinely remorseful for his actions then he needs to help stop the repeated cycle of "Whatever, man."

Instead his actions related to this case demonstrate total selfishness. Others should be accountable for their crimes but not him.

In his plea agreement admitting guilt to the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse, all Roman Polanski admitted to is having sex with his victim when he knew she was only 13 while the age of consent was 18. The plea deal was offered to spare his sexual assault victim the trauma of both the trial and the media which would cover the trial. By fleeing, he guaranteed that her trauma would be raised anew everytime he made the national or international news.

Since so many non-stranger rapes were ignored by the police in the 1970s and earlier, having the police actually take this case seriously may have felt like an injustice to Roman Polanski when the injustice really occurred each time a girl or woman's report of rape was ignored or she was treated like the only criminal for trying to ruin a good man's life.

However, Roman Polanski admitted in his guilty plea that he understood that he was pleading guilty to a felony.

Mr. Gunson: What is the maximum sentence for unlawful sexual intercourse?

The Defendant: It's one to Fifteen -- twenty years in State Prison.

The questions are laid out so the defendant has to know the consequences of his guilty plea. That includes understanding that the sentence he was scheduled to receive was not limited in any way to less than the maximum sentence for this charge. The only promise was to dismiss all other charges against Polanski who caused his victim repeated harm through his decision to flee the country before his sentencing and his decision to try and have his guilty plea tossed out.

Unfortunately, sexual abuse of models is something which is still happening, and Anand Jon Alexander who was convicted of multiple rapes may also feel like an injustice was done to him since so many others also rape aspiring models and get away with it with the public support of over 100 in film industry.

If Roman Polanski should be excused for committing a sex crime against an aspiring model, why not excuse Anand Jon and why not excuse Oscar winning songwriter Joseph Brooks who has been accused of raping aspiring actresses? All of them have done good work professionally and their victims agreed to be alone with them, right? These aren't men who attack strangers.

If we follow this line of thinking then those demanding Roman Polanski's freedom also need to demand the immediate release of music producer Phil Spector and ignore his murder conviction. If something besides the evidence nullifies the crime then this must be as true in murder cases as it is in rape cases.

Update (10/1): At the Daily Beast, Former prosecutor, Marcia Clark, reviews the transcript from the plea agreement which contradicts claims by Polanski's defense team that the judge promised only probation and a Sept. 19, 1977 court hearing after a court ordered assessment which includes:

[Dalton, Polanski's attorney said:] "This particular offense doesn't have the connotation of rape. It's not even an offense, a criminal offense, in about 13 of our states and in many places of the world… this is a crime that's been committed by policemen; it's been committed by probation officers assigned to counsel girls at a detention school; it's a crime that's been committed by people that have a far higher trust to their victims than did Roman Polanski… I feel he is a criminal only by accident; and that there are many complex social and psychological factors that were involved in this situational event which otherwise was a complete departure from his normal mode of conduct." [...]

[Prosecutor Gunson talking about 1 evaluation] "Doctor Davis seems to misunderstand the underlying circumstances, when he indicates that the offense occurred as an isolated instance of transient poor judgment and loss of normal inhibitions, in circumstances of intimacy and collaboration in creative work; and with some coincidental alcohol and drug intoxication. He also indicates that the sexual activities occurred naturally and mutually."

"From the testimony at the Grand Jury and from the Grand Jury transcript, we know that not to be true. We know from the probation report that—from letters sent in that Mr. Polanski is of very high intelligence. One friend indicates that Mr. Polanski is almost a teetotaler. And we also have information in the probation report that Mr. Polanski has received a prescription for 150 milligram quaalude, for jet fatigue in his travels throughout the world. However, the evidence indicates that if Mr. Polanski is of high intelligence, and if he is next to a teetotaler, and if he was not a user of drugs, then why do we have a—the situation that we have in this case?"

This push back by the defense attorney combined with falsehoods being spread about the victim's mother who according to grand jury testimony asked to accompany her daughter on the photo shoot and was rebuffed by Polanski are what caused the original recommendation that Polanski not be sentenced to jail to no longer be an appropriate sentence.

The defense's statement contradicts itself. He claimed what happened occurred "naturally and mutually" while similtaneously claiming other men have similarly abused their position of authority over girls and they aren't being prosecuted. If what happened was genuinely mutual there would be no abuse of authority.

A letter of support from Polanski's friend actually provided additional evidence that there was nothing recreational about Polaski's decision to introduce champagne and quaaludes into a professional photo shoot.

Polanski was, through his attorney, refusing to admit his guilt and instead was claiming that he had done absolutely nothing wrong and worse was even at this point positioning himself as the only victim. He was in effect calling his victim and her mother liars. This violated the list of what the victim and her family asked for in their support of the plea agreement in a letter from their attorney.

The bottom line is that it wasn't the judge who violated the terms of the plea agreement as Polanski's supporters and much of the media allege but Polanski himself who recklessly disregarded it. Then they claim to be shocked when that disregard had legal consequences.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:10 AM   3 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Does Sworn Statement Equal Proof Of Guilt?

The answer is yes from False Rape Society (I won't link, you can find the post if you want to). Sworn statements of guilt prove guilt. Always:
There is much utility [for the DA] in having a high profile false rape accuser sign off on a sworn statement admitting she falsely accused young men of rape. The cackling false rape "denialists" will have a difficult time spinning the clear words of this document. And even if Ndonye had been charged, there was no guarantee of a conviction, and even less of a more substantial punishment than she voluntarily agreed to.

He is referring to the Hofstra University alleged gang rape hoax in which the prosecutor has announced she won't be filing charges against the woman in exchange for a list of actions including the alleged hoaxer's sworn statement of guilt.

I use the term alleged gang rape hoax because this deferred prosecution agreement isn't a conviction so legally this woman is still innocent.

Criminal charges would bring in the cell phone video which has been described as proving her guilt and if the woman didn't plead guilty then she would have the same legal rights as any other alleged criminal. In this trial the men this woman accused wouldn't have the right not to testify and would only have the right to plead the fifth. The case would be decided on the totality of the evidence presented and that could be far different than the popular descriptions of this case.

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. — A Hofstra University freshman who falsely claimed she was gang-raped in a dormitory bathroom must undergo mental health counseling and perform 250 hours of community service in an agreement that saves her from criminal charges, a prosecutor said Friday.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said the agreement is far more than prosecutors could have expected if the woman, Danmel Ndonye, 18, of New York City, had been prosecuted.

Rice said Ndonye, whom she previously described as "deeply troubled," would have only been subject to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false report and there is nothing in the law to require her to undergo counseling and perform community service.
A woman who is "deeply troubled" and in need of mental health counseling may not be capable of participating in her own defense. That raises the question of whether she is mentally competent to sign any sworn statements.

I'm not a false rape "denialist" except in the minds of many anti-feminists like those from False Rape Society. I still don't know whether this case was a hoax or not and neither do all those non-participants who have not seen the video which allegedly proves the woman consented. The references I've read from those who have seen it refer only to what the video doesn't show so I actually know nothing about what behavior on this woman's part that the video does show.

To explain why I don't simply assume this woman to be guilty based on her recantation and her sworn statement I will refer to several cases and several organizations.

In Madison, WS, a woman raped by a man she didn't know was coerced by an investigator into falsely recanting and had her case described as false to the media. She was only charged with a crime after her letter of complaint about the investigator was read by the investigator. Her experience was the focus of the book Cry Rape: the harrowing story of one woman's quest for justice by Bill Lueders. FYI: despite the mishandling of her case and her recantation there was enough evidence to convict her rapist.

One case with a false confession of guilt could be dismissed as a fluke so I will reference those who highlight patterns behind false admissions of guilt.

From an article in the IPT Journal ("The Institute for Psychological Therapies is a private practice of clinical psychology. IPT's primary work is related to allegations of child sexual abuse, but also deals with cases of sexual harassment, claims of recovered memories of childhood abuse, accusations of rape, allegations of improper sexual contact by professionals, forced and coerced confessions, false confessions, personal injury claims, mitigating factors in sentencing, custody, and medical and psychological malpractice.") titled "Sex Offender Treatment":
When a person is accused of sexual abuse, the accusation is either true or it is not true and the accused may admit or deny the accusation. But there also may be plea bargaining, dropping of charges for insufficient evidence, dismissal by stipulation in family court, admission of guilt, admission of a mistake by the social service agency, and acquittal by the criminal court along with a finding of abuse by family court. An accused person may be required to enter a treatment program as a sexual abuser long before there is a determination by the justice system about the accusation.

Sound familiar? Yet this article describes this as coercive and likely to result in untrue admissions of guilt. This contradicts FRS's claim.

From a story about exonerations in a murder case:

Would innocent people ever admit to a heinous crime?

They sometimes do, says the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic that helps clear people wrongly convicted of crimes through post-conviction testing of DNA. In its first 130 exonerations, the group says, more than one in four of the defendants had confessed falsely.

Joseph J. Dick Jr. is one of the men who says his admission in the Moore-Bosko [murder] case was a lie. A young sailor from a working-class family, Dick was impressionable, slow and deferential to authority, his attorneys argue - a person who could be persuaded to confess under pressure. [...]

He and his new attorneys now say that he seized onto a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty and that he came to believe, for a while at least, that he committed the crimes.

If an innocent man can be persuaded to confess to a murder he didn't commit and can come to believe his false statement then a woman can be persuaded to confess filing false rape charges and can come to believe she is guilty when she is not.

If FRS is correct then the Innocence Project must be wrong and Joseph Dick Jr. must be guilty. Not only must he be guilty but more than one quarter of the Innocence Project's first 130 exonerations must have been wrongful exonerations since those defendants confessed.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:52 AM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tucker Max: Profiteer of Pain and Abuse

For anyone who hasn't heard of Tucker Max, the author of "I hope they serve beer in hell," (a NY Times bestseller) and the upcoming book, "Assholes finish first," his stock and trade is glorifying the abuse of women and the pain that abuse inflicts. His primary market seems to be college men. His target market is important because of the demographics of sexual violence.

His movie opened on Friday and I've been delaying blogging about Tucker Max in case some of my rape apologist trolls hadn't heard of him yet and would rush to see the movie on the opening weekend.

This isn't just "women are inferior to men" sexism which has it's own dangers, this is sexism which glorifies physically and sexually mistreating girls and women. He says of protesters who accuse him of upholding dangerous attitudes about rape:
[...] really kind of devaluing the seriousness of an actual crime . . . . Dude, I mean, the discussion about where consent lies and doesn’t lie is an important one, and should be had, but this is not the fucking forum. And, uh, and that’s never been an issue for me, so, I don’t know man, I feel like if that’s an issue to you, that’s great, and you should pursue it, but pursue it with the people who it needs to be pursued with. And not with me.”
Just because Tucker Max believes his sexual actions don't cross legal lines into sex crimes doesn't mean he is correct. What he might view a cajoling could in fact be criminal coercion. What he believes to be consensual sex with a drunk woman might be rape through intoxication. Someone who never thinks about where consent lies and doesn't lie is admitting to deliberate and dangerous ignorance.

Ignorance which he is marketing.

Tucker Max's defense is that what he does is creative expression and therefore above criticism. This is supposed to make him exempt from criticism and accountability. But calling the glorification of abusing girls and women "fratire" cannot and should not be acceptable to any human being who is genuinely opposed to abuse.

The term fratire for what Tucker Max does actively harms those fraternity members and alumni who are not accurately represented by him. They should be speaking out and making it clear that fraternity member does not equal women-hating asshole. Tucker Max is not only stereotyping girls and women he is stereotyping them.

The reason given for immunity from criticism doesn't stand up because much of this creative expression is presented as coming from Tucker Max's real actions.

Max's humor reminds me of the music of convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido. You can listen to Garrido sing if you have the stomach for references which are believed to be linked to his abduction and rape of Jaycee Lee Dugard. Like Tucker Max, Phillip Garrido had dreams of media stardom. Garrido gave copies of some of his recording to another man in hopes of fame and fortune.
In one song, Garrido sings, "The way she walks, yeah, subtle, sexy. What can I do? I fall victim too. A little child, yeah, look what you do."
"It's just a joke," is a lame and very old excuse which shouldn't be any more acceptable than, "It's just music."

Our media expressions come from who we are at the core. Those who claim otherwise cannot turn around and claim that those who are harmed by Tucker Max or any of his fans should have known better than to trust any of those people.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:04 AM   2 comments links to this post

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Carnival Deadline Tomorrow

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

For anyone unfamiliar with blog carnivals, these are collections of blog posts on a variety of topics. You can browse the list of carnivals some of which are active and others which are not.

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 @ 9:50 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, September 25, 2009

Link Between Sexual Abuse And Suicidal Behaviors

From Smart brief comes this summary:

A survey of more than 8,500 people in Britain found a strong link between sexual abuse and suicide attempts and suicidal intent, especially among women. Researchers said if sexual abuse were eliminated, the lifetime rate of suicide attempts would drop by 28% in women and 7% in men.
I wish this were surprising but it doesn't surprise me at all. I will go further than the survey and say that I believe there is a stronger link when sexual abuse is followed by victim blaming, denial and other related failures which negatively impact survivors. The reason I believe this is that post-traumatic stress disorder has been found to be made worse when rape victims lack social support.

Victim blaming and shaming work to undermine the social support of survivors. Too much of what I've heard and read from people who claim to be decent human beings blatantly sides with rapists while openly disdaining most victims of rape. "She might as well have been wearing a sign that says, 'Rape me,'" is only one of many comments which harm survivors while aiding certain rapists' feeling of self-righteousness.

In a different study researchers found that young adults with PSTD may be more likely to attempt suicide.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—but not exposure to traumatic events without the development of PTSD—may be associated with subsequent attempted suicide in young adults, according to a report in the March issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Approximately 421,200 to 842,400 Americans age 15 to 24 attempt suicide every year, according to background information in the article. [...]

Of the participants interviewed, 1,273 (81 percent) had been exposed to a traumatic event and 100 (6 percent, or 8 percent of those exposed to trauma) developed PTSD. Suicide had been attempted by 10 percent of those with PTSD, compared with 2 percent of those who were exposed to trauma but did not develop PTSD and 5 percent of those who had never been exposed to traumatic events.
This study didn't limit itself to a specific type of trauma and for good reason. The findings are important and highlight that victims of sexual abuse are not simply destined to be suicidal.

In contrast, Rutgers law professor, Vera Bergelson, wants to make victim blaming an explicit part of our criminal justice system in certain cases (including date rape and domestic violence) and if she succeeds the outcome of her effort will likely contribute to more victims having PTSD and suicidal thoughts and possibly contribute to more survivors actually committing suicide.

Her justification for the proposed changes is "fairness" but it is a distorted sense of fairness. This type of fairness is what leads non-stranger rapists to declare they can't be real rapists because they would never violently attack random strangers. Their victims all brought the assault upon themselves in some way.

This distortion which occurs frequently in the application of sex crime laws contribute to survivors feeling crazy. That in turn can put survivors at increased physical and psychological risk.

Our systems need to move forward to protect the rights and safety and even the lives of those who have been crime victims.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:40 AM   1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sexual Violence Primary Prevention Focus Group Thoughts

The discussion from yesterday's focus group is confidential, and rightfully so since that allowed everyone to speak candidly, but I can share general thoughts.

The most important thought is that it isn't just those of us who are seen as activists who support primary prevention. It isn't just us who want to take positive actions toward eliminating violence which uses sex.

This is huge since it is easy to view those who hold sexual violence supportive views as representing the general population. This feeling that those of who care are vastly outnumbered can cause us to assume that other people's silence on this topic means they are apathetic when they care deeply. For many people who care this subject can simply be too uncomfortable to discuss.

I came away with ideas for important actions which I never would have thought would be a part of primary prevention. These ideas came from people who had expertise I've never had and will never have. Some of these ideas highlighted unequal approaches or choices based on gender which impact many people.

One action which I can mention since it is underway is the clean hotels initiative.

The report summarizing these focus group meeting will be completed either late this year or early next year and I believe there will be even more important ideas highlighted in that report.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:53 PM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Focus Groups On Preventing Violence That Uses Sex

Later today I'll be participating in a focus group. The focus will be on how to "prevent the sexual exploitation of children and all types of sexual violence through the life span."

This is only one of multiple focus groups meeting around the state of Minnesota conducted by the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault with support from the MN Dept. of Public Safety and Public Health. This one is being done in cooperation with Victim Services for Dodge, Fillmore and Olmsted Counties (where I used to volunteer answering the rape crisis line) and Mayo Clinic.

This effort is exciting because it is focused on primary prevention. As more people are learning, primary prevention is focused on preventing perpetration at a core level not on preventing victimization. Teaching children to recognize when someone has crossed the line into sexual exploitation is important, but it is more important to reduce the number of people who find ways to rationalize sexual exploitation.

Focus groups are important because they can look for unintended consequences of proposed efforts and they can help expand the plans. Beyond that they are also a way for more people to get involved and informed. Prevention is most effective when it is pervasive and not just the responsibility of a small percentage of the population.

As I've said before I am hopeful in this area because my hope is supported by many people's actions.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:41 AM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hofstra University Rape Case Recantation And Anti-Feminists

I've lost count of the number of times anti-feminists have declared how much they hate the presumption of guilt when the suspect has not been convicted of any crime. But the response by most of these people to the recantation in the Hofstra University gang rape case shows this hatred to be selective.

Being effectively branded, stamped with a scarlet letter is evil when it is done to men accused of rape, but it is a must when it is done to women accused of fabricating an allegation of rape.

The evidence in this case indicating that the report of a gang rape was fraudulent looks strong, but when evidence looks equally strong that a man accused of rape is guilty that is not enough to declare a man guilty. The accused rapist facing what looks to be overwhelming evidence must still be called an alleged rapist not a rapist.

No such caution is being demanded from the anti-feminists in this case even though those people frequently claim that committing rape and filing a fraudulent rape report are equivalent crimes. If their claim of equivalency is to be seen as a valid claim made in good faith then the equivalency must permeate everything they say and do about cases where the alleged victims is declared by the police to have filed a fraudulent police report.

The first failure of equivalency is that these people are not referring to the Hofstra woman as an alleged false accuser.

According to the anti-feminists this story opening from the NY Times should not cause people to assume that the police got it right:

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) — A Hofstra University student trying to retrieve a stolen cellphone was lured into a men’s room in a campus dormitory and sexually assaulted by five men, the Nassau County police said on Tuesday.

Four of the five suspects, including the only Hofstra student among them, have been arrested on rape and other charges.

Detective Lt. John Allen of the Nassau County special victims squad said the rape occurred on the Hempstead campus about 3 a.m. Sunday.

While they believe headlines which say, "Prosecutors say Hofstra student fabricated rape charge," must cause people to assume that the police and prosecutors got it right.

When it is shown that the police have been sloppy in a rape investigations while the police assumed a report of rape to be genuine, we are to ignore this same sloppiness when the police believe the reported rape to be fraudulent.

Cases such as this one where the system ultimately worked in favor of those accused of rape are often positioned as undeniable proof that the system never ultimately works in favor of those accused of rape.

This contradictory claim is then used as the evidence for shouts of "The Laws Need To Change." The favorite proposed change is to disregard the testimony of all alleged rape victims. Those who report non-sex crimes also make fraudulent police reports but there is no similar call to disregard the testimony of all alleged crime victims.

Sometimes the testimony of alleged rape victims is viewed as suspect or as proof of that alleged victim's guilt because the described actions of the alleged rapist or rapists doesn't fit with the investigators assumptions about what rapists actually do before, during or after rape. This ignores the fact that different types of criminals can behave in ways which make no sense.

What is positioned as hopelessly unreliable -- alleged victim testimony -- often gets glorified when the alleged victim is a man who was first accused of rape. The chorus of, "alleged victims lie," goes silent. Most of those who claim that believing alleged victims presumes the guilt of the alleged criminal drop this premise when the alleged victim is a man who was accused of rape. He can be believed -- no, he must be believed -- even though the alleged criminal in his case has not been convicted.

I've lost count of the times I've read, "Better for a thousand guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be convicted," yet those who write this don't also write, "Better for a thousand false accusers to go free than for one innocent accuser to be convicted of filing a false police report." Their stated dedication to protecting innocent suspects evaporates.

Some people who want the names of rape suspects kept confidential unless or until they are convicted are rushing to publicize the name of the woman now accused of making a fraudulent rape report. She's a suspect but should not be treated as such.

Video evidence which allegedly proves a man to be guilty of rape is rarely accepted by anti-feminists based on the assessment of the police and prosecution. Everything about the video must be questioned. Yet these same people don't seem to be asking critical questions about the video in the Hofstra U. case. They don't seem to care whether or not the video recorded critical moments in the alleged interaction.

Those who refuse to make an absolute declaration of her guilt until that guilt is proven legally are painted as not caring about false accusations or false criminal charges. The truth that false accusations and false charges can go both ways is denied or ignored.

Any refusal to presume the guilt of those accused of filing a fraudulent rape report will be used to falsely declare that this is proof that the person believes that no girls or women ever lie about rape. Demanding due process is a must unless the person being denied due process rights first reported being raped.

If it is right to review and question the circumstances of some confessions to ensure that the confessions are true then it must be right to review and question all confessions even when those confessions are described as recantations.

If rushing to judgment is wrong then it is wrong no matter who is presumed guilty. Otherwise, the popular anti-feminist chant, "innocent until proven guilty" is nothing more than a sham designed to protect men accused of rape irregardless of whether they are guilty or innocent.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:53 AM   11 comments links to this post

Friday, September 18, 2009

Inside Edition On Nightclub Sexual Predators

After my local 6 pm news ended yesterday, I left the TV on and ended up watching a story on Inside Edition about sexual predators at nightclubs.

By day Luis Zambrano is a construction worker, but by night police say he's a sexual predator stalking intoxicated women in nightclubs. At the trendy Manhattan club Marquee, Zambrano was caught on surveillance tape accosting a 23-year-old woman who had passed out on a couch. Surveillance video shows that she woke up and tried to fight him off. But he didn't give up. As he dragged her limp body out of the bar, she fell to the floor, all the time no one coming to her aide. Then he dragged her down a flight of stairs. The video shows him lifting her into his arms, and carrying her out of the night club. Once again, nobody stopped him. According to police, he took her to his home and raped her.

The IE story sometimes missed the mark but sometimes it was spot on. If Zambrano's name sounds familiar it is because I blogged about his crime and his guilty plea only a week ago. However, the reality of his crime hit home in a different way when I watched the portion of his crime committed inside the nightclub. What I saw was premeditation, smoothness and coldbloodedness. After seeing that video I'd be shocked if this was in actuality his first or even his fifth offense. He looked like a seasoned predator who had done this many times before.

When the IE story focused on sexual predators and the repeated failure of bystanders, it was powerful. This included undercover footage which showed how young women leaving the nightclub were treated by men prowling out around the exits.

When two women, Kim and Allison, working undercover for INSIDE EDITION left a nightclub together, they heard the typical come-ons. But when Kim left a night club alone, something more alarming happens. She is immediately approached by two men who want to give her cocaine, get her in their car and take her home."You won't even try a little bit?" asks one man. "We can go back to my apartment."

Showing this reality is great, but responding to this reality by focusing on the behavior of women who are being targeted is not great. The troubling behavior came from those men. From first contact their behavior was coercive and they needed to be challenged for their behavior. If they are wanting to hook up, why aren't they doing so in a non-predatory way?

I also wanted IE to do some research to find out if any of those men trying to get a woman to leave with them had previously been accused or convicted of sex crimes. They wouldn't be the first convicted sex offender looking for women at that club.

IE had an expert give women patrons drinks which could have been spiked to test those women, but they did not have actors repeating the behavior which resulted in Zambrano's guilty plea to test nightclub employees or patrons about whether they would intercede.

Telling women not to leave nightclubs alone won't fix this underlying danger at the bars and nightclubs where the sexual predators and some sexual predator/murderers are circling like sharks. Same goes for telling women not to binge drink.

The desire and willingness to perpetrate violence against women which this story focused on is inside the men who are predators before any woman becomes vulnerable. Their behavior is not about their sexual desire it is about their desire to dominate and/or explicitly hurt women sexually.

Zambrano and the men who became more aggressive toward Kim alone than they were toward her and another woman show that they have great restraint. The stereotype of men losing their sexual control at the sight of sexy drunk women is contradicted by the evidence.

Right now I would recommend that women boycott nightclubs like the Marquee (the same club where Laura Garza went on what was likely the last night of her life, until the level of danger is reduced. The surveillance recordings may help catch criminals after the crime, but until somebody at the nightclub is paying attention to patrons who are unable to defend themselves or to the patrons who display predatory behavior then they are not doing enough to justify women's basic trust.

If all women who go to nightclubs do so in groups and are all determined to follow all of the safety advice and to leave as a group and if nothing is done to eliminate the circling of predators then those predators will adjust their strategies to create vulnerability.

The undercover work done for TV is a task the police should pick up on. If predators had to worry about whether the woman passed out inside or outside of a club was really passed out or was an undercover police woman waiting for a predator to strike and had to worry about whether any of his fellow predators was an undercover cop, some of those predators might reconsider committing crimes they likely look at as high return, low risk crimes.

One action which should happen for sex offenders with MOs such as Zambrano displayed is that they should be barred from entering nightclubs and bars, or loitering nearby, while they are on probation. This type of sex offender also needs to be on a curfew which requires them to be home or at work when women who drink are most vulnerable.

Without this pool of predators who are looking for opportunities to assault women, the women who go to nightclubs could be completely careless about their safety and they would remain absolutely safe from crime. Being predator-free doesn't mean being free of men. There are many men who will not rape even if they find themselves in situations where they could rape and be confident that they would face no legal consequences for their crime.

What I saw on the undercover video had no relationship to men trying to have honest sexual interactions with women. When those men highlighted in this IE story cross the line they do so intentionally. Unfortunately, if it hadn't been for the nightclub video Zambrano would have spun a too familiar counter allegation that the alleged victim willingly left that club with him and was not only capable of consenting but actively consent. Too many people who consider themselves opposed to rapists would accept this counter allegation as easily as the women in that nightclub accepted open drinks which could have been spiked.

Vulnerable women are not the core problem. The easy-to-find predatory men are the core problem and the strongest messages about needed behavioral changes to be directed at them and those messages need to be repeated at least as often as messages telling women to watch their liquor.

The biggest failure of the piece is that the nightclub owners weren't challenged about how an intoxicated woman could be dragged and carried outside without the man who did that being challenged by a single employee. This was the same club Laura Garza went to in December before she disappeared so they clearly understand that dangerous people can be patronizing their business.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:18 AM   9 comments links to this post

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Man Charged With Statutory Rape Person Of Interest In Victim's Murder

From Charlotte Observer:

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police knew for more than seven weeks that 15-year-old Tiffany Wright might have been the victim of statutory rape, but they didn't charge her alleged assailant until the pregnant teen was shot dead Monday.

Social workers reported to police on July 27 that Royce Mitchell might have sexually assaulted Tiffany, but police said they waited nearly four weeks to make any contact with Mitchell. A police official says a detective called Mitchell Aug. 20 and asked him to come in for an interview, but Mitchell declined.
This case should be a reminder that all sex crimes cases are serious and that the police should never assume that a suspect poses no danger to the victim. Victim testimony to the police is most often ruled inadmissible if that victim is murdered because the defendant has been denied the right to cross examine the witness granted by the sixth amendment of the US constitution. Alleged rape victim testimony has been allowed in at least 1 murder trial (I'll add the link when I find it) but with the stipulation that it is evidence of the defendant's motive which exists whether the original report was true or false.

Tiffany Wright was pregnant when she was murdered so the DNA testing on the baby, who so far has survived the shooting, may prove Mitchell guilty of statutory rape. However, what happened might have been more than statutory rape, it might have been flat out rape or Mitchell might not be the father so the case would depend on Wright's testimony.

While Mitchell is a person of interest in Wright's murder there is a chance he didn't commit this crime. All of the evidence, including the statutory rape investigation, needs to be evaluated to see if there is evidence which will prove Mitchell's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

This murder is also a reminder that victims who don't cooperate or who recant may be doing so out of very real and sensible fear. When I fail to automatically assume an alleged rape victim fabricated the original report of rape when that report is recanted I get falsely accused of refusing to believe that any girl or woman ever lies about rape.

When an alleged rape victim recants the only known fact is that that person recanted. It is not a given that recantation equals that person made a fraudulent police report. To treat these as synonymous is to guarantee false claims against some real rape victims. The same is true when someone confesses to committing a violent crime. Some confessions and some recantations happen when the person confessing is not guilty. To deny this in the name of protecting the innocent is nonsensical and counter to actually protecting those who are innocent.

The latest example where an alleged rape victim's recantation is being misused to make, so far, unfounded claims of fact is a gang rape case at Hofstra University. The DA is now doing a criminal investigation because of her statement that what she reported was true except that she consented to those sexual actions. Yet many people who claim to be against prematurely assuming guilt have done just that. They have become the very thing they claim to hate with a vengeance.

Besides getting threats, rape survivors can have their experiences invalidated by people they trust. "You only think you were raped," is far too common of a statement from those who claim to be knowledgeable allies. Then there is the practical ramifications of continuing to cooperate with a criminal prosecution while trying to continue with other commitments such as school work. The practical and immediate psychological cost might be less if a rape victim falsely recants a true allegation of rape.

From my time answering my local rape crisis line I know that real rape victims can be driven toward recanting by very real and harmful forces. These forces are one of the reasons that witness tampering is a crime and in some jurisdictions is a felony.

Here's more information on the murder of Tiffany Wright from WBTV:

The incident happened as the teen's foster mother said she went inside the house to get Wright a glass of water. The foster mother told police she later heard at least three gunshots. When she went outside, she discovered that Wright had been shot. When police officers arrived, they found Wright lying on the street suffering from a single gunshot wound to the head.

She was critically injured and transported to Carolinas Medical Center-Main where she later died. Doctors manage to save the unborn child's life and the baby remains in critical condition.

The CMPD said the shooting was no random act of violence and that it was the result of a domestic dispute. By 4:30 p.m., the CMPD said Mitchell walked into CMPD headquarters with his attorney and turned himself in.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:32 AM   2 comments links to this post

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Does Finnish Study On Youth Violence Miss Important Data?

From Helsingin Sanomat:

Finnish boys aged 15 to 16 are more likely to experience violence from their dating partners than girls of the same age. The matter comes out in a study by the National Research Institute on Legal Policy.

An extensive survey on youth crime shows that 22 per cent of boys in a dating relationship had been hit at least once by their girlfriends. Only six per cent of girls had experienced similar events.

The most serious types of violence is striking someone with a fist or a hard object, or kicking. Nine per cent of boys and two per cent of girls had experienced such attacks.

Being grabbed, or prevented from moving was the only type of violence that girls experienced more often than boys. The figures were 19 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.
The danger in using this survey to declare Finnish girls more abusive than Finnish boys in dating relationships is that girls who have been grabbed or prevented from moving may hit or kick that boy in self defensive. Grabbing someone and preventing them from moving could also be done in self defense, but the rates for this type of abuse are higher than what is listed as the most serious types of violence.

If up to 19 percent of boys are using grabbing and/or preventing a girl from moving as a way to control girls then some of the 9 percent of boys who have been struck with a fist or hard object or kicked must be restraining a girl when this happens. The question is what percentage.

The researcher may be right about how primary prevention messages directed at boys may allow girls to view violence against boys as acceptable or she may only be partly right. The problem with trying to quantify genuine acts of self defense is that those who are not acting in genuine self defense may rationalize their abusive actions as acts of self defense.

Gaining more insight into offensive vs. defensive violence is more than a gender spitting match. It will help those teaching teens about violence to understand the actual dynamics of the numbers being reported.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:18 AM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 78

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

Update: For those unfamiliar with blog carnivals, the term refers collections of related blog posts. Check out for more information.

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 Boys Will Be Boys? posted at After Silence, we get a discussion of a prosecutor who describes not having sex with someone you know against their will as a matter of etiquette rather than law.

In LIVING WITH THE DEVIL and Marital Rapes: A Crime Less Acknowledged posted at The Viewspaper, we get discussions of marital rape.

In Teaching Sexual Violence posted at Concurring Opinions, we get a discussion of teaching law students about sex crimes while being sensitive to the fact that some students might be survivors of sexual violence.

In Sex Offender Caught Roaming School With Gun posted at, we get a brief but troubling story about school safety.

In Rape is rape, no matter how you see it posted at Nil's Musings, we get a discussion about a report on the rape of Penan girls in Sarawak.

media watch

In Forget The "Sex Predator", How 'Bout His Wife, Eh? posted at The Dawn Chorus, we get a discussion about how a generic statement from a defense attorney becomes the headline for the story about the man's crime.

In Movie Review: Water posted at Genius With a Parachute, we get a discussion of a 2005 movie that looks at Indian widows in 1930s forced into prostitution and otherwise mistreated.

In Gatefail 2009 (or, A Primer on Stories that Scream) - HardcoreNerdity posted at Hardcore Nerdity, we get a discussion of a troubling plotline for the SyFy series Stargate Universe. (spoiler alert)

In Jaycee Dugard and Rape Apologism in the Media posted at California NOW, we get a discussion about how wording can imply consent and how easily that implication could be avoided.

In Onion Misogyny Enough To Make You Cry posted at Feminist Peace Network, we get a discussion about how t-shirt designs minimize sexual harassment and sexual trafficking.

In ~Words words words~ (2) posted at ~Macarena de Verano~, we get a discussion about the book In Spite of Myself by Christopher Plummer focusing on an underage girl and a reported rape in Barbados.

personal stories

In Thoughts from a Secondary Survivor posted at After Silence, we get a discussion from the husband of a rape survivor about what it is like for him when his wife is experiencing trauma.

In In Which I Am Threatened With Rape posted at Moira Manion, we get a discussion about harassment one woman has experienced early in the morning on her way to work.

In "Don't Call It Consent" - Being Groomed for Sex posted at Surviving Therapist Abuse, we get a discussion about a therapist plotted and carried out sexual abuse of his patient.

raising awareness

In Labor Day Holiday Message posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I responded to the common safety messages which focus on controlling the behavior of those viewed as likely victims by sending a crime prevention message to my male heterosexual rape apologist readers.

In Understanding Rape posted at Sound Off!, we get a discussion sparked by a friend's admission that he hadn't stopped after his girlfriend said no.

In Harlem, Dunbar Village, in contrast posted at What About Our Daughters, we get a discussion of very different environments which can deter or foster violence.

In How To Prevent Rape posted at Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Chicago, we get a discussion about how pervasive victim blaming is when many people talk about rape prevention and how important it is to shift pervasive thinking so that the responsibility for avoiding violence is placed on perpetrators.

In Blaming Bad Traits on Evolution posted at Biological Anthropology, we get a discussion about the simplistic explanation for actions such as rape.

In Some Thoughts on Tucker Max posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion about sexually predatory actions glorified on college campuses and different ideas on how to respond effectively.


In Research On Perception Of Consent posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss research done by Dan M. Kahan which found that a hierarchical worldview had a significant correlation to how people assessed a rape defendant's decision to ignore a woman's repeated, "no."

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 @ 12:02 AM   4 comments links to this post

Monday, September 14, 2009

Civil Commitment Sought For Serial Rapist in WA

From Pacific Northwest Local News:

A serial rapist who preyed on women and girls in Oak Harbor during the early 1990s was scheduled to be released from prison Sept. 1 after serving 16 years. The state Attorney General’s Office, however, stepped in and had 37-year-old Paul Harell transported to the Island County jail. The office is attempting to have Harell deemed a “sexually violent predator” and civilly committed to the state’s Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island.
What caught my eye about this particular effort is the contrast between the sentence and the list of rapes for which Harell got away with initially. This is the underlying problem which must be fixed so that we don't have to rely on the civil commitment process to provide the protection the public should have gotten through the criminal justice system.

The 13-page certification for probable cause, written by Baker, lays out the case against Harell. The document describes how he raped or sexually assaulted four women and two teenaged girls by the time he was 22-years-old. All but one of the victims were Oak Harbor residents.

Harell was convicted in Island County Superior Court in 1993 of rape in the first degree and two counts of second-degree rape with forcible compulsion. He was sentenced to 16 years and two months in prison.
Three of these assaults involved stalking and knife-facilitated attacks while his victims slept, but 2 of these assaults were against non-strangers: his own sister in 1988 (the earliest listed case) and his then girlfriend in 1992 (the same year as 2 break-in/rapes). The remaining case doesn't specify whether the victim knew Harell. So again this idea that non-stranger rape or more specifically date rape is totally unrelated to stranger rape is non-credible.

None of Harell's victims caused him to rape. It doesn't matter if something his victims did or said or wore allowed him to rationalize rape. It doesn't matter if that "something" matched cultural victim blaming narratives except if those narratives were used then those who support those narratives likely helped Harell in his rationalizations. They also likely helped explain why some of these rapes didn't end in conviction.

The only people who may not be at risk are boys and men and even that safety is questionable since a boy or man who tries to stop Harell during a sexual assault might be stabbed.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:49 AM   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mike Fleiss Creator of Bachelor Calls Most Female Reality Stars Skanks

Mike Fleiss, creator of the TV show The Bachelor, wrote a guest blog post for The San Diego Union-Tribune Bolts Blog. Sports columnist, Kevin Acee introduces this post as something which "amuses" him and which he hopes will amuse readers.

I have nothing against bisexual chicks and, of course, I deplore violence against women. But this particular girl is typical of the random skanks who populate most reality TV shows (not mine, of course).

[emphasis on telling disclaimer mine. Note to Fleiss: If you need a disclaimer you know you have failed at what you disclaim.]

Ms. Tequila has no discernable talent, no Juliard schooling, and, ultimately, no legitimate reason to be a star. What she does have is an ability to chase down the spotlight like Merriman hunts down a quarterback.

Trust me. A girl like Tila Tequila will do just about anything for publicity.
With her show long ago canceled, Ms. Tequila’s celebrity status was about to expire. She was spinning. And not just from multiple shots of Patron.

When these so-called “celebrities” feel their star fading, they become increasingly desperate to keep their names in the news. Fame is a drug and when you take it away from an addict, things get ugly.

Does that mean she was lying about everything that happened at 4 am at Merriman’s Poway home? Not necessarily. But believe me, Tila and her “representatives” were thrilled to be back in the headlines—even for just a week.

Nice career move.

It's ironic that a post claiming to be against false accusations makes a false accusation against an entire group of women who have been on reality TV shows other than the Bachelor.

Mike Fleiss has no actual evidence to back up his personal attack against Tequila. He's smart enough to qualify his personal attack. She wasn't necessarily lying about everything. When he later answers: "Was he guilty of assault?" with "Apparently not." he reveals his lack of understanding of our legal system. Dropped charges are not proof of innocence and they certainly are not proof of the accuser's guilt.

But hey, why let reality intrude? So, no, I will not trust you, Mike Fleiss. And you have given me reason to never trust anything you say or any "reality" you produce. If a woman on any of your shows seems to be a skank I will not be able to trust that I am seeing glimpes of the real her. Instead I will have reason to believe I am seeing her through your "most women on reality shows are random skanks" filter.

The problem is that being classified as a skank is no magical protection against rape while it can help men view some women as perpetually available when they are not. When men act on Mike Fleiss' opinion of certain women they may just find themselves rightfully accused of rape.

Rather than helping San Diego Chargers player Shawne Merriman, Fleiss has harmed him with this weak "she's a skank" defense.


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

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Women's Human Rights Film Series: Dishonored

On Tues. Sept. 15th, there will be a screening of the documentary, Dishonored, which will be shown at 7 pm at the Hamline Midway Branch Library located at 1558 W. Minnehaha Avenue, St. Paul, MN. A discussion hosted by advocates for women's rights will follow the screening.

From MN Advocates:

In June 2002, a dispute between clans in rural Pakistan was judged by a local tribal council, and when Mukhtar Mai pleaded on her family’s behalf, the local imam consented to her punishment of rape as honor-revenge. Her demand for justice received media coverage worldwide, eventually leading to changes in the Pakistani legal system.
I doubt that I'll be able to drive up to the Twin Cities to attend this event, but I encourage all who can attend to do so.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:41 AM   1 comments links to this post

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nightclub Surveillance Video Contributes To Man's Guilty Plea

From WCAX:
Prosecutors say the 23-year-old woman had passed out on a couch at Marquee Nightclub in Manhattan on March 22. Court documents said surveillance video showed [Luis] Zambrano fondling the unconscious woman, then dragging her down a flight of stairs and out the building. Prosecutors say he took the woman back to his home and raped her.
Zambrano pleaded guilty only to attempted kidnapping and attempted rape, but unfortunately this is outcome is better than many cases which are dropped because the victim can't testify about what was done to her because she was unconscious. Three and a half years is a paltry sentence, but again too often this is a better outcome than other similar cases where there is only testimony about what was done.

If more bars add surveillance videos covering all of their exits which have enough resolution to positively identify the suspect some men like Zambrano will stop assuming that they are committing a crime for which they can never be successfully punished. That increased concern about punishment may deter some would-be rapists. To make this concern even greater more people need to view what Zambrano did as a serious crime which must have serious negative consequences for the perpetrator.

Passing out from too much drink is not a crime, kidnapping and rape are crimes: very serious ones. Too many people still seem to have trouble grasping these basic facts and therefore judge rape victims such as this woman much more harshly than they judge those women's rapists.

Opportunity should never be a valid defense for rape any more than opportunity is a valid defense for murdering someone who has passed out from too much drink.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:39 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Illinois Paroled Rapist's Required GPS Monitoring Dropped Before 2 Additional Rapes Reported

Placing GPS monitoring devices on parolees is often presented as a way to protect the public from violent offenders upon their release from prison, but this is clearly no magical crime prevention device.

From the Chicago Tribune:
Cook County authorities tried multiple times to flag convicted rapist Julius Anderson as a sexually violent person who belonged behind bars indefinitely, but state corrections officials insisted he be released on parole.

When he was released this summer, the state Prison Review Board slapped Anderson, 59, with the toughest conditions it could, including a requirement that he be on GPS monitoring. But his Near West Side halfway house wasn't set up to handle GPS, so he was put on less-stringent electronic monitoring.

Within eight days of walking out of the halfway house Aug. 7, he forced a 25-year-old woman into a gangway and held her for 30 minutes at knifepoint as he sexually assaulted her, authorities said.

Anderson, authorities allege, had returned to the same pattern of chilling sexual violence that put him behind bars 30 years ago -- stalking women and raping them. He was charged Thursday with aggravated criminal sexual assault in the rapes of two women at knifepoint.
There are 3 problems here. The first is that this man was released at all under any condition. The second is that rather than revoking parole until all the conditions of that parole were met, those conditions were reduced. The third is the statutory requirement that Anderson either had to be paroled or civilly committed.

Since Anderson was found not mentally fit to stand trial on a rape reported in 1973 and after he was released from a mental health institution he was charged and convicted of rape and after serving that sentence he continued his pattern of crimes within months his history is a good match with the stated standards for civil commitment.

If Anderson is ever allowed to be this free again for any reason the system will have failed again and the public will be in danger again. Some sex offenders will be violent if they get the opportunity even if they need long-term care. This is a serious enough issue that legislators in states such as Oklahoma are working to ensure violent nursing home patients don't have access to other patients.


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

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Man On Electronic Monitoring Arrested For Rape

From Arizona Central:

Six months before police arrested a man wearing an electronic monitoring device in the rape of a woman on Mill Avenue, a Phoenix woman filed a sexual assault report against him in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Police Department declined to release the report, citing a department policy on open investigations, but confirmed that the 23-year-old reported that Akram Abdul-Hameed, 26 raped and choked her in a motel room in February.

Tempe police said the woman called the case detective in the Mill Avenue sexual assault after reading about the arrest, and that their department would be in contact with Las Vegas police to compare the cases. Police in Las Vegas also confirmed that detectives there would be meeting with their counterparts in Tempe. [...]

Abdul-Hameed was on an electronic monitoring system after he was charged with breaking into a home of a man he fought with, holding his roommate at knifepoint and punching the roommate twice. He changed devices twice in the two months he was on supervised release, and the radio-frequency device he used at the time of the rape could only detect when he was in his house.
The newer rape case mirrors the MO of the older rape case except that the woman who reported him in Las Vegas had known him since high school and the woman in Tempe didn't know him at all.

Not surprisingly to me even though the descriptions of the crimes were similar Abdul-Hameed hadn't been arrested for the reported rape against a woman he knew even though she had visible choking marks on her neck. The police and prosecutors in Las Vegas could believe the report yet feel that a case has low odds of a conviction because of how potential jurors view victims of non-stranger rapes.

This man's behavior is another reminder that those who dismiss non-stranger rapes as nothing more than relationship issues or miscommunication have it dangerously wrong. When non-stranger rapes are dismissed as such this does more than put potential rape victims at risk. The electronic monitoring device was placed there because of reported violence against another man.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:57 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

LA Sheriff Commits $3 Million For Rape DNA Testing

In June I blogged about the fact that LA county suspended rape kit processing due to budget considerations.

From Human Rights Watch:
"The sheriff's commitment of vital funds for rape kit testing, especially in the midst of a significant budget crisis, sends an important message to rape victims that seeking justice in their cases matters," said Sarah Tofte, US Program researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of "Testing Justice: Untested Rape Kits in Los Angeles City and County."

In the letter, Yaroslavsky wrote that Baca would apply $2.3 million of his budget to rape kit testing, and an additional $700,000 to hire crime lab staff necessary to increase the county's testing capacity. Yaroslavsky also noted that he has asked the county to find matching funds in its FY 2011 budget for the sheriff's rape kit backlog testing program.
This is great news but until this commitment turns into action this announcement does nothing to make a real difference.

When budgets are tight those who are not committed to protecting victims of sexual violence will use the budget as their excuse for doing what they wanted to do when there was no strain on the budget.

I encourage all those who live in LA county to let those who represent you know that this work is important to you.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:54 AM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Labor Day Holiday Message

This is for the heterosexual male trolls and rape apologists/deniers who rant about what I'm doing in comments or on MRA sites.

If you drink this holiday weekend, don't rape. And yes, if she says, "no" and you ignore that word because some girls/women mean "yes" when they say "no" your action will still be rape. Consent isn't about what some girls/women want it is about what a particular girl/woman actually wants and actually welcomes in that moment. Notice I didn't write that consent is about what you assume a particular girl/woman wants. There's a difference and understanding the difference might save you from what you would loudly and mournfully declare to be a false accusation.

If you don't drink this holiday weekend, still don't rape. No excuses.

I won't define genuine consent in great detail for you here. If you follow this blog you know the definition. But I will give you a hint, if you believe she might later, "suffer from morning after regret" as you like to call it and tell someone (possibly the police) at some point that what you did was a sex crime -- don't do it.

Grumble and swear about how feminists are ruining everything for men like you, but don't cross that line.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:24 AM   1 comments links to this post

Friday, September 04, 2009

Estimated 203,830 Rapes/Sexual Assaults In 2008

This estimate of 203,830 sexual assaults/rapes (164,240 female victims, 39,590 male victims) is from the latest crime victimization survey put out in a Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin (pdf). This victimization survey (abstract here) is for those 12 and over only so this estimate doesn't include rapes and sexual assaults of children under age 12. Because this is a victim survey it excludes any rapes/sexual assaults where the victim was also murdered.

The estimate for sexual assault/rape is down from 248,300 in 2007 which I hope means that the 18.5% drop reflects a real reduction in sexual violence. Unfortunately, the report says there is no statistical difference between 2007 and 2008 for any crime of violence. The trend between 1999 and 2008 for rape and sexual assault is a 52.6% decline which is statistically significant. This sounds great until I read that the annual rates of sexual assault/rape based on population have been stable statistically since 2000.

Those who view telling women how to avoid being raped miss the mark in their warnings. The highest percentage of perpetrators (42%) were classified as friend/acquaintance while only 32% of perpetrators were classified as strangers. Intimate partners (current or former spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends) were identified in 18% of the reports from women.

The number of sample cases for sexual assault rape was less than 10 so the statistics may not reflect actual trends.

What a press release from the Family Violence Prevention Fund focused on was that intimate partners were listed as perpetrators in 23% of all reported acts of violence against girls and women (504,980) while this rate for male victims was only 3% (88,120). This is important data. Just as important is that those aged 12-24 had the highest rate of victimization among those surveyed.

From the press release:
We have identified violence prevention programs that help stop domestic and sexual violence, and services that are effective in protecting victims. But we aren’t taking those programs to scale and implementing them as widely as we should. In fact, in some ways we are going backward. California Governor Schwarzenegger recently eliminated the state’s Domestic Violence Program, domestic and sexual violence programs around the country are in danger of being cut or eliminated by state legislatures, and Congress has yet to fully fund the Violence Against Women Act. If we want to continue the progress of the last decade, that must change.”

I agree. Fortunately, many individuals and groups are dedicated to making this change happen.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:04 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Research On Perception Of Consent

The abstract of Culture, Cognition, and Consent: Who Perceives What, and Why, in 'Acquaintance Rape' Cases by Dan M. Kahan, Yale University Law School:

This paper uses the theory of cultural cognition to examine the debate over rape-law reform. Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their perceptions of legally consequential facts to their defining group commitments. Results of an original experimental study (N = 1,500) confirmed the impact of cultural cognition on perceptions of fact in a controversial acquaintance-rape case.

The major finding was that a hierarchical worldview, as opposed to an egalitarian one, inclined individuals to perceive that the defendant reasonably understood the complainant as consenting to sex despite her repeated verbal objections. The effect of hierarchy in inclining subjects to favor acquittal was greatest among women; this finding was consistent with the hypothesis that hierarchical women have a distinctive interest in stigmatizing rape complainants whose behavior deviates from hierarchical gender norms.

The study also found that cultural predispositions have a much larger impact on outcome judgments than do legal definitions, variations in which had either no or a small impact on the likelihood subjects would support or oppose conviction. The paper links date-rape reform to a class of controversies in law that reflect symbolic status competition between opposing cultural groups, and addresses the normative implications of this conclusion. (emphasis mine)
The study results are informative. It shows that people will ignore legal definitions in favor of their personal bias. It shows that those who hold a hierarchical worldview are more likely to find it legally acceptable for a man to completely ignore a woman's verbal objections and continue against her will.

However, there is data which Kahan misses. That missing data is: "Which actions, if any, in this case are positive evidence of the alleged victim's consent?"

Kahan may have not sought this information because he assumed it wouldn't be included in the case information given to study participants.

I believe the meaningful evidence which was seen as consent outweighing the victims "no" by some study participants was included in the information given to study participants. This wasn't a matter of how people filled in the blanks.
In both law journals and law school classrooms, that debate ["no means ...?"] is frequently brought into sharp focus--and sharp contention--by examination of a controversial case, Commonwealth v. Berkowitz. In an experimental study, a large and diverse national sample of U.S. adults reviewed the key facts in Berkowitz, including the uncontested one that the victim in the case repeatedly said "no" immediately before and during intercourse with the defendant. The subjects then indicated whether they believed the victim consented to sex or could reasonably have been understood to have done so by the defendant.
From what I've heard from those with a clear hierarchical worldview about how they evaluate consent in non-stranger rapes it is the alleged rape victim's presence, choice of clothing and/or relationship with the defendant which are seen as evidence of her active legal consent.

This is a non-individual form of consent which is imposed from above and which cannot be easily overruled by the individual who is not consenting or who cuts off consent at some point. For those with a hierarchical worldview this non-individual consent can't or shouldn't be legally nullified by one "no" or even by many of them.

I believe that under a hierarchical worldview sexual consent or lack of consent is measured by how a girl's or woman's actions compare to the hierarchical gender norms which the participant believes in.

I've lost count of the times I've heard or read, "She was there," as if it is exonerating evidence. And I can see now why those who made that statement view it as such. Genuine individual consent from a girl or woman is not required and genuine individual lack of consent is meaningless.

The hierarchical gender norm here is that girls/women who are consenting will agree to be alone with a man who isn't part of her family and those who are not consenting will not do so. Under this worldview it wouldn't matter if a girl made it clear that all sexual interactions were off the table before agreeing to be alone with a boy and then said no when a sexual assault began.

The girl is considered to be dishonest by default (she really meant yes and only clearly communicated lack of consent to protect her reputation) and might as well have said nothing more than, "blah blah blah," while the gender norm is considered something a boy should stake his future on.

If the result is he commits rape that shouldn't be his problem since he was resolutely assuming her consent while ignoring any individual words or actions she took which communicated the opposite.

This is why often accompanying this "she was there" claim is "If she didn't want him to have sex with her she shouldn't have __ (been there, flirted, looked sexy, etc.)" The idea that a man who heard "no" and wasn't a rapist would actually stop and assume lack of consent until he verified otherwise seems shocking to some people. This study's correlation to hierarchical worldview helps me understand why.
Defenders of the common law reply that the traditional definition of rape sensibly accommodates contemporary practices and understandings--not only of men but of many women as well. The statement "no," they argue, does not invariable mean "no" but sometimes "yes" or at least "maybe."

The problem with this is that it is NOT a sensible accommodation for girls and women who want their genuine "no" to have any power. This argument is only a sensible accommodation for those who want the legal right to disregard "no." It supports the belief that boys and men should be allowed to blithely ignore "no" in certain situations even though doing so will absolutely guarantee that some boys and men will rape some girls and women. But of course because of how rape is defined by these people these rapes won't count as real rapes and the harm they do can be ignored or considered to be self-inflicted.

The equating of a woman thinking maybe to a woman legally consenting reveals the fundamental flaw in this rationalization. Meaning maybe is not equal to consenting. Meaning maybe is equal to not consenting.

This disregard for a woman's "no" likely doesn't happen when people are evaluating a robbery/sexual assault case where the defendant is claiming consent because the DA found him through DNA. There may be no overt force involved when a stranger assaults a woman in her own bed as she sleeps, but the gender hierarchical norms reject this man's behavior unless he or his attorney can make the jury wonder if there was a prior relationship. As long as he is assumed to be a stranger, he has no hierarchy over his victim so her lack of consent won't be ignored.

Inherent in any hierarchical worldview is that idea that what the person at the top of the hierarchy wants trumps what those lower on that hierarchy want or don't want. The general does not ask for the private's consent before taking actions which impact that private's life or death. The private's consent came upon enlistment. No additional consent is required. Protests from the private have no authority.

This is most obviously exhibited in marital rape exceptions and the opposition by many people to the removal of this exception from rape laws. To these people spousal rape is an impossibility.

In my introductory blog post I wrote:
At the age of 15, my life took an abrupt turn when I was raped by my boyfriend (he would say he simply made a executive decision). Being raped was bad enough, but being told it happened because he loved me (he was powerless to resist me, hah!) really messed with my head.
His rationalizations fit easily within a hierarchical worldview. I freely agreed to be his girlfriend and I freely agreed to be alone with him therefore my well-communicated and consistent lack of consent was as meaningless to him as the private's lack of consent is to a general.

My trauma was nothing more than collateral damage. Like a private with PTSD I was supposed to buck up and soldier on.

That he didn't think forcing himself on me counted as forcible rape should not excuse him legally. If people believe it does then they must insist that this standard be applied to all types of crimes. If there is only a debate over "no means ...?" when the crime is sexual assault then those who reject "no means no" are seeking an exception to all other meanings of legal consent.

If a man grabs the car keys for a car he has borrowed previously from where the owner left them and steals the car over the car owner's verbal protests then he shouldn't be considered a car thief or be legally liable after he goes out and totals that car.

Under the hierarchical worldview approach to the law, for that other man to possibly be held legally liable the car owner would have needed to tackle the other man and if that failed he needed to throw himself on the hood of his car as it was being driven away. The jury would need to see the car owner's bruises and torn clothing even if the defense agreed that the car owner said no.

If the car owner didn't jump in front of his car because he was afraid of being hit and killed, that shouldn't matter.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:01 AM   1 comments links to this post