Friday, October 30, 2009

Where Did Those Gang Rapists And Their Cheering Section Get Their Ideas?

To answer the question of how the gang rapists in Richmond, CA got their sense of entitlement for such a brutal crime you don't have to look far.

First, to understand the beliefs of this group of gang rapists and those who saw nothing wrong with what those rapists were doing look at how those who interceded and likely saved this girl's life learned about this gang rape:

They were watching "The Proposal" on television Saturday night when word suddenly arrived from campus, two blocks away: A girl got drunk after homecoming. A bunch of guys stripped her naked and were using her. At school. Right now.

"I was on Emeric (Avenue) with some friends when some dudes walked up and were like, 'There's a drunk girl back there,' " said Raul Rubio, who brought back the news to his girlfriend. "They said she was naked, and if you want to get f---ed, go back there."

Rubio did not. [He and others decided to call 911.]
This casual offer to join in on a gang rape is appalling, but it isn't surprising to me since I have read multiple comments from men who blame rape on women getting drunk which echo these types of words. The latest comment of this type I've seen was left on a Daily Mail article about date rape drugs:

want a girl?

2 am saturday town centre take your pick...any position but mostly flat on the floor.... great town if you like visiting the clinic on the Monday

- john, leicester, 27/10/2009 9:24
Of course John and others who repeat this type of statement will claim that they don't support rape when they are in fact giving explicit instructions for rape. They will claim instead that their words are designed to prevent rape by telling girls to not be one of those "drunk gals" while they ignore the choices made by rapists who commit so-called easy rapes.

This is not a prevention message, it is instead a way of helping rapists rationalize these types of rapes. Every girl has likely heard someone say, "If you don't want to be raped, don't get drunk." Since those girls got drunk, they must have wanted to be raped and if they wanted it then it's not rape.

Those who claim this isn't what they mean reveal that this is lie when they react negatively to the prosecution of men who rape drunk girls or women. This negative reaction shows they aren't seeking to prevent rape, only to excuse it in the name of prevention.

When John writes, "Want a girl?" what he is really saying is, "Want to rape a girl? It's easy." This is the true message of the guys in Richmond: "If you want to join a gang rape, go back there."

Rape is the only possibility in both of these statements since truly consensual sex with a semiconscious or unconscious girl is impossible. If a man can just take his pick then consent or lack of consent is clearly off the table even from the perspective of the person making this claim.

This behavior is what I would call the sexual vulture rapist. Many people will incorrectly claim that these rapists are passive and that if women were more restrained in their behavior that these men would stop raping, but these men are far less passive than they want people to believe they are and there is nothing accidental about their actions.

When they want to rape in this way they make the decision to go where they feel they can do their best hunting when they believe they can maximize their success. Some will network with other sexual predators so that an individual rape becomes a gang rape. If they don't find a vulnerable target they may push other potential victims to drink to the point of not being able to consent. Some of them will spike their intended victim's drink.

If what they consider satisfying sex is to swoop down and rape lifeless bodies then the whole process of actually talking to girls above the age of consent or women and seeing if any of those conversations lead to having mutual sexual encounters is likely going to be highly unappealing.

These men aren't far removed from the 2 men who saw a picture of a young woman who had recently died and decided to dig up her grave so they could have sex with her corpse. The girl who was gang raped wasn't far from becoming a corpse. Those who were fine with assaulting her while she was unconscious likely wouldn't have noticed or cared if they continued after they and their buddies murdered her. To them she was at best just a body. At worst she was an object of scorn who deserved the violence done to her.

The ethics expressed by the boys and men in Richmond to another guy who thankfully was appalled by this "opportunity" and the ethics expressed by John in Leicester are no different from the ethics expressed by a man who tells men how to get past security measures at the local college to get into women's dorm rooms at 4 am or how to use a doggie door to get into a woman's home in order to rape her or how easy it is to pull a gun on a woman at a stoplight.

The only difference is the cultural opinion about these different sets of victims and the acceptable or unacceptable tools to use during a rape. Some admitted rapists look at other rapists who choose different victims and/or methodology with disdain and the desire to be seen as nothing like "those" rapists.

Many people who claim to be decent human beings adamantly agree with this idea of acceptable and unacceptable rapists including a judge who sympathized with a rapist, and pub owner, who injured his drugged victim by doing what the judge described as "rough play." The judge previously called what this rapist did a crime of opportunity when explaining why this rapist wasn't being sent to jail.
Medical examinations determined that a man had vaginally penetrated her, and also found sedatives in her system. [...] He was initially charged with sexually assaulting three other women, and administering a noxious substance, though those charges were eventually dropped.
The judge would have to know about those other charges yet indicators of a predatory pattern didn't matter. The only reason for this not to matter is the judge's opinion of this man's preferred victims. I doubt the judge would feel the same way if this man owned a restaurant which didn't serve alcohol and was spiking customer's soft drinks. Same vulnerability, same crime. Different acceptance of rape.

When the subject turns to what needs to be done to stop alcohol or drug facilitated sexual assault those who relate to or sympathize with many rapists will demand that women be the one's who must change their behavior and their thinking.

Some people who don't like rape but who view the victim's actions as the root cause or trigger will side with cold-blooded rape apologists. Many of those who are not okay with these rapes have locked themselves into a belief that the situation girls and women face is fixed and any attempt to move this fixed object is futile.

The problem with this premise is that the requirement to avoid specific risks such as going to bars or drinking because a significant number of women are preyed on in those situations must apply to different situations as well. In Canada it's been estimated that 38% of sexual assaults are committed by the victim's husband. This means, under this premise, that women who don't want to be raped shouldn't get or stay married.

If women who drink are being legally irresponsible because of the number of rapes against those who have been drinking then women who marry must be viewed as legally irresponsible as well. Since those who warn girls and women against drinking don't also warn them against marriage the theory of legal irresponsibility is a convenient sham.

The Internet provides a window into the darker and more raw version of this rape prevention advice.

From fbardamu: Sluttiness implies consent or how feminists encourage violence against women:
Yes, a woman is “never at fault for rape,” like how a white supremacist who walks into a black neighborhood wearing white sheets and throwing burning crosses onto front lawns isn’t at fault if he gets the shit beaten out of him and possibly arrested. It’s not like he put himself in a bad situation or did something incredibly stupid!
This analogy reveals the hostile rationalizations of many rapists and those who on a practical level have their backs. Who can truly blame men for responding violently when they are being threatened and attacked? Racists burning crosses in people's yards with the potential to burn people's houses to the ground has been made equal to women who walk down the street looking slutty but who won't consent to have sex with whatever boy or man who sees her. Don't we all know this?

Looking at the ugliness behind what is often presented as helpful advice can be difficult but it critical if we are serious about genuine rape prevention -- reducing the number of those willing to perpetrate and the number of those who will cheer or shrug when they learn about a rape.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:42 PM   4 comments links to this post

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Examining Evidence Behind Spiking of Drinks With Date-Rape Drugs As Urban Myth

The Daily Mail has an article about this supposed myth with a headline which reads: Date-rape drug? No dear, you just had too much to drink.

Date-rape drugs are largely an urban myth used as an excuse by women who booze themselves into a stupor, it has been claimed. They are willing to 'hide behind' the idea that a stranger poured poison in their drink - rather than face up to the fact that they had simply been binge drinking.
Rather than go into more detail about this article's bad and dangerous interpretation of the research which led Daniel Martin of the Daily Mail to write this article in the way he did, I want to look at the press release from the university where the research originated.

According to research led by the University of Kent and reported in the latest issue of The British Journal of Criminology, the perception of a drink spiking threat has become so pervasive that students think it is a more important factor in sexual assault than being drunk, taking drugs or walking alone at night. Rituals to protect drinks from contamination with sedative drugs, such as taking drinks to the toilet in clubs and bars and buying only bottled drinks, have become commonplace. The fear has also created a market for products designed to prevent drink spiking or reveal the presence of hypnotic drugs.

The research team, led by Dr Adam Burgess from the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research[1] at the University of Kent, set out to investigate why there was such a pervasive belief when systematic police investigations have found no evidence that drink spiking is commonly implicated in sexual assaults. The researchers surveyed and interviewed students in three UK locations and one in the USA about the threat. They discovered that female students regularly judged certain 'bad-night-out episodes' (loss of memory, blackouts, ill feeling and dizziness) as likely to be related to tampering of drinks rather than the quantity of alcohol consumed. [emphasis mine]
The highlighted word shows how the Daily Mail article transformed a discussion about what is or is not common into a discussion of what is or is not possible. To conflate these is irresponsible and is harmful to those who have had their drinks spiked and who are likely to be met by smug certainty that they are deluded or lying.

The problem however goes deeper than a misreading of the press release about this research. It extends to the survey itself and the assumptions used to interpret the survey results. What the press release said is "no evidence that drink spiking is commonly implicated in sexual assaults." The key here is implicated.

The researchers seem to be conflating the failure of the toxicology tests to detect date rape drugs with proof that date rape drugs are not being used to facilitate sexual assaults. I don't have access to the entire study so the study might address this and if it does that's great but it doesn't undo the false impression contained in the press release.

As a coworker at IBM once told me when we were discussing something we didn't know how to measure, "If you can't measure it, it doesn't exist." That mindset seems to be at work in studies of police toxicology tests where drink spiking might be alleged. I highlighted one of the studies of toxicology tests in Feb. of 2007 and the glaring flaws I saw then which led researchers to make unfounded claims against those who believed their drinks had been spiked are just as glaring in the way the Kent University press release refers to toxicology reports.

The premise that spiking a drink with date-rape drugs is nothing more than an urban myth is provably false, in both the general sense and when it comes to specific drugs most identified as date-rape drugs.

Evidence of spiked drinks have been found. Below are just a few examples.

A testing kit showed positive in Texas prior to the intended victim ingesting the drink and the man, a reserve police officer, who was seen spiking the drink was arrested for cocaine possession and other charges.

GHB was found in toxicology tests after a chiropractor and his friend were caught dragging a woman to his car. And in that case a bottle of the drug was also found in the doctor's possession. This was a non-stranger crime.

A woman who had GHB and Klonopin slipped in her drink was raped and then died from the effects of the drugs. This was a non-stranger crime.

After 2 women working at a bar saw a man spike a drink with what turned out to be zalepron, a prescription sleeping drug sold as Sonata, they interceded before the intended victim drank. This was a non-stranger crime.

The pattern of verification I see in these examples and in most other cases where the spiking has been proven is that the drug was detected because someone saw wrongdoing early on, long before a forensic exam toxicology test would have been done, or the victim died.

Many of the cases don't fit the popular narrative that drinks are spiked by lurking strangers. Drinks can be spiked by non-strangers and they can be spiked by people you might trust to watch your drink for you and who you might trust to help you get home safely if you need assistance for any reason.

A case in Santa Barbara ended with guilty verdicts earlier this week where Steven Neff was found guilty of injecting 2 women (1 a jogger who didn't know him, 1 a co-worker) with Ketamine before sexually assaulting them. He skipped the drinks and forced the drug into his victims' bodies directly. He admitted to 2 earlier druggings for which he couldn't be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired before the police connected him to those crimes.

What Neff did sounds like an urban myth, but it was real. I can easily see friends or the police getting a true report of this type of drugging and absolutely refusing to believe it and then responding with slander against a victim who told the truth.

Unfortunately, the assessing of study subjects accuracy of judgment in their survey responses is little more than guesswork. This study could not do a verified measure of this accuracy or inaccuracy. Even if they surveyed only those who had drug testing this would not be proof that no additional drugs had been given since the timing of a toxicology test can be critical in detecting date rape drugs.

This raises the question of whether all those who believed they'd had their drink spiked were automatically assumed to be liars or deluded. If that's so then this injects corrupting bias into the study's conclusions.

The only way to test perception versus the actual contents of the drinks would be to have a blind study where participants were given spiked or non-spiked alcoholic drinks. However, the ethical problems with such a study would be immense.

Here's information on another study, this time in Northern Ireland, which looked at toxicology tests.
Dr Janet Hall undertook a Masters research project with supervisors Dr Tara Moore and Professor Edward Goodall on drug facilitated sexual assault within Northern Ireland. They examined toxicology results compiled from victims of alleged sexual assaults over a six year period from 1999 to 2005. The findings demonstrated that the average alcohol levels at the time of the alleged assaults were almost THREE TIMES the drink/driving limit.

The research undermines claims that the use of ‘date-rape’ drugs or ‘spiking’ of drinks is the major factor involved. The study failed to find any trace of specific date rape drugs such as GHB, Rohypnol or ketamine, although it did caution that delays in reporting alleged assaults or in taking samples could mean that such drugs could no longer be detected.
Notice the caution. This is important. The researchers don't note how long after the suspected drugging these samples were taken so it is unknown whether there was any reasonable possibility of finding any traces of these specific date rape drugs in any of these toxicology tests.

The number of cases where high or very high levels of alcohol were found in the alleged victims increased over the same period. Although the involvement of drugs, other than alcohol, in the samples doubled in the six year period, their contribution to the assaults remain unclear. Many of the drugs detected were either prescription drugs or recreational drugs. Some drugs which could have been used to spike drinks were detected, but they also may have been simply prescribed for use by the alleged victim.
Again what the researchers don't know is immense. The amount of alcohol seems to be assumed to all have been ingested by choice, but the first drink spiking I was ever warned about involved alcohol. Just as non-alcoholic drinks can be spiked with booze alcoholic drinks can be spiked to increase the percentage of alcohol in the drink. This study mentions that drugs not classified as date rape drugs can be used to spike drinks which means their presence needs to be counted toward potential evidence of drink tampering.

So basically, these studies tell us nothing about the commonness of spiking drinks with specific date rape drugs or spiking drugs in any way except to highlight what is not known.

If the inconclusive results of toxicology tests weren't given far more weight than they deserve, the Kent University survey could be useful at getting people to look at trends in perceptions of risk including why and where people decide to be hyper vigilant and why and where they decide to not be vigilant at all. It could also be useful in sparking a widespread examination of why the problem of alcohol and/or drug facilitated sexual assault is so focused on the actions of victims and potential victims instead of being focused on the actions of rapists and those who might be tempted to rape.

We need to be more focused on the role of alcohol in sexual assault perpetration if we are serious about effectiveness of preventing rape. The heavy drinking of men has a much more direct relation to sexual violence than the heavy drinking of women does.
When the victim was sober, the greater the perpetrator's intoxication, the more likely she was to be physically injured during the assault. However, when they both consumed alcohol, intoxication (victim's or perpetrator's) was unrelated to victim's injuries. These findings suggest that when the victim is sober and the perpetrator is intoxicated, her resistance strategies may anger him and lead him to use more force, thereby producing more injuries.
This goes directly against what many people say about drinking and sexual violence. A popular narrative is that if you are sober you are less likely to be hurt. But this is only true if you have not been targeted by a rapist.

What I've seen of the Kent University study raises serious questions about the effectiveness of any repeated warning to girls and women about specific dangers even when those dangers are known to be real. No amount of caution by potential victims is going to guarantee they won't be raped. Those who believe it does are assuming that rape is something that happens by accident and if men aren't tempted with women unable to defend themselves they simply wouldn't rape.

If instead rape is something with a root cause other than the actions of victims then the number of people willing or eager to commit rape remains constant. If vulnerability is their trigger then those who work in a hospital are likely to violate hospital patients if they can't get their sexual violence fix elsewhere.

It is much more effective to seek to change the general conditions which help rapists succeed and to seek to change the rationalizations of those who want to commit rape. If drinking a six-pack helps a man who likes to rape let go of what normally stops him from raping then it is more important for him and others like him to be told not to drink.

By keeping the focus on those who have harmed others or who plan to do so then fewer rapists will be excused or forgotten simply because their victim didn't follow 1 or more popular anti-rape warnings.

As long as the victim's or potential victim's behavior is the primary focus then rapists benefit.

The author of the Daily Mail article and too many others who examine toxicology test results unfortunately want to maintain this non-perpetrator focus by blaming rape on girls and women's binge drinking and positioning girls and women as unreliable based on flawed analysis of flawed data.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:03 PM   3 comments links to this post

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Contrasting Response To Richmond CA Beating And Gang Rape And Other Reported Gang Rapes

From the LA Times:

Outrage grew in a Bay Area town over the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl as police made more arrests overnight.

National attention has been focused in Richmond over what police described as a gang rape of a 15-year-old student who struggled with attackers -- some of whom took photos and laughed -- as more than a dozen witnesses passed by and did nothing. Police said last night that as many as 20 people saw the attack, and some might have shot video on their cellphones.[...]

Police were alerted after a female student overheard people talking about a rape. She called 911 and told dispatchers what she had heard, Gagan said.
I wish this level and duration of violence shocked me, but it is supported by so many attitudes from people who view themselves as against rape and by so many sex crimes which get dismissed by so many people as consensual or the victim's fault because she allegedly overlooked boys and men's animal nature.

There is a solid foundation in our society for this type of crime but there is also a strong movement to try to dismantle this foundation so even far less brutal acts of sexual violence would spark national outrage and a national determination to let go of the myth that there is nothing we can do to stop the endemic level of sexual violence except wait until crimes like this happen and then lock up as many of those involved as we can.

When I first heard about this crime I wondered why it instantly was viewed as a real crime in comments of sites which usually teem with rape denial and baseless speculation about the victim's honesty. Then I read that in addition to gang raping her, they beat her severely enough that she had to be rushed to the hospital where she was initially in critical condition.

Those who regularly respond to rape allegations with the statement that girls and women lie and that about half of all reported rapes are false couldn't get away with those flip responses in this case and for many of those people this severity of violence in sexually motivated crimes is what is needed before they will acknowledge a rape, even a gang rape, as a real crime.

This is the type of rape which is allegedly minimized when people such as myself focus on and oppose all non-stranger individual or gang rapes where the rapists didn't leave their victims maimed or dead or where the victim is described as failing to clearly communicate lack of consent.

The problem with the minimization theory is that once what an individual doesn't want and doesn't actively and freely consent to stops being relevant to the moral and legal judgment of actions taken against that individual then the door has been opened to the sexually violent for any nonconsensual behavior including beating.

The rapist or rapists are having a great time and under many people's model of consent it is not their legal responsibility to ensure that their actions don't cross the line into criminal actions. Yet those who put forth this model are shocked when it is used in cases which they themselves acknowledge as real crimes.

To deny this connection many of those who dismiss many sex crimes need to view those who raped or beat this girl or who watched it like the finest form of entertainment as born monsters whose thinking is in no way similar to the rapists who are defended as decent men who made a mistake by misreading the situation. One way this separation between excusable and inexcusable rapists happens is through racism.

The gang rape which had a very different response which comes to mind also happened in California. That is the De Anza gang rape case where 3 women athletes rescued an unconscious girl from an in-progress gang rape yet the prosecutor refused to file charges because there was insufficient evidence that a crime occurred.

That a girl was unconscious when discovered wasn't enough for many people to accept that what those men did to her was wrong let alone a crime. As one of the men in the room said, "she did this to herself." One of the men implicated later complained that he was a victim and the unconscious girl was not.

These attitudes need to change. As long as the outrage is limited to the most horrific rapes then we've failed to do anything to prevent the next bunch of guys from committing gang rape. The only lesson they might learn from the conflicting responses to reported gang rapes is to be careful during their gang rapes to not leave their victims with undeniable non-sexual injuries.

Our tolerance level for sexual violence needs to be at zero and no accusation should be made against an alleged victim unless there is specific credible evidence and the person making the accusation is willing to be legally accountable for his or her allegation.

In both the De Anza and Richmond gang rapes no boy or man who knew or heard about what was being done to a girl took any actions to stop the violence. This must change. Silence is tolerance and tolerance enables sexual violence and that is an important part of the foundation for violence such as this latest gang rape case.

Correction: According the Mercury News a boy or man named Raul Rubio heard rumor about the assault and he verified the rumor and then went to his girlfriend's home where she called 911. So thank you, Mr. Rubio for intervening. If other boys and men assumed that the only way they could intervene would be to physically challenge rapists then we need to do a better job of educating boys and men about what they can do as bystanders.

Update: I just learned that those who watch someone being raped and who do nothing or who even enable the rape to continue have not committed any crime under California criminal statutes.

What makes this crime so shocking is that police say at least 20 people were involved in the rape or stood and watched the crime without going for help. "These are witnesses that are encouraging and allowing behavior to continue," Gagan said.

For those who watched and did nothing, it may be morally reprehensible, but it's not illegal. "Although this is a very difficult crime to hear about, the fact is California law does not impose an affirmative obligation on anyone to do anything when you are watching a crime," said Trent Copeland, a legal analyst.
This must change.

It's one thing when those who witness a crime might not realize what they are seeing in the distance. But when people become an active audience for rape or other crimes that needs to be criminal because they have made decisions which make them active participants even if they never touched the victim. Not being sure whether the victim had at some point consented should also not be a valid defense. True consent must exist in each moment.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:32 PM   5 comments links to this post

Carnival Deadline Tonight

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

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 @ 10:02 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Looking At Why Winona State University Named 11th Safest in USA

From the Rochester Post Bulletin story, Simple things lead to a safer Winona State campus, by John Weiss:

WINONA -- The two young women walking through the Winona State University campus didn't know it, but some simple things like how trees were trimmed and placement of bushes were making them safer.

Trees are trimmed high so no one can hide beneath them, said Don Walski, head of security. And there are no bushes near windows, offering even fewer places for stalkers to hide or peer into the building. [...]

WSU's campus also has 10 code-blue stands allowing passersby to press a button to get security and 100 security cameras, he said. Even good signs helps direct people to the right place and subtle ways, such as berms, to keep people on sidewalks, helps, he said.
The safety ranking came from The Daily Beast story listing the safest universities in the US and is by the admission of those doing the ranking this determination is an imperfect process.

For WSU it is important to note that their overall safety strategy is one of pervasive primary prevention rather than basing their strategy on calls for students to become great at self-defense which is what I see in most stories about college student safety. In those other stories the idea of primary prevention seems AWOL.

Self-defense classes can be useful, but they must be a bonus feature.

The story relates that the campus has 3 full-time officers. The campus also has 65 student trained as security guards.

These numbers alone don't mean increased safety. Less than a year ago the chief of police for Colorado State University was suspended after multiple complaints.

Having poorly selected, poorly trained or poorly managed security staff and volunteers can be worse than having no security at all since those assigned to protect can become perpetrators.

This happened where a man in the UK assigned by a university staff member to see an intoxicated woman safely home sexually assaulted her. The criminal justice system can make this worse if the law or the person charged with upholding the law fails to recognize that consent should never be a valid defense in this type of situation. That's what happened in this case. The judge declared that drunken consent was still consent when all that judge had was a counter allegation of consent from the defendant.

Since those who were asleep or passed out cannot testify that they didn't mumble something which might be taken as consent many of these cases are tossed out when it is clear that the victim couldn't have given meaningful consent.

One of the changes at WSU was to make the campus alcohol free which is much more effective than allowing alcohol but telling only potential victims (usually women being warned about rapists) not to drink. This double standard creates an atmosphere of official victim blaming whenever someone, especially a woman student, was assaulted. If alcohol is contributing to significant numbers of college crimes then any ban or restriction must be applied to all students.

The University of Wisconsin La Crosse, a non-dry school, was also included in the list of safest colleges. They do restrict the sale, possession and usage of alcohol on campus. However, they do have issues with alcohol and safety, but most of that is non-crime danger.

In 2006 one of their students, Luke Homan, drowned in the nearby Mississippi River. There were rumors of foul play, but no evidence was found by the FBI. A major factor is the design of the levee and its proximity to the downtown bars which can make it too easy for someone impaired at night to not realize they are close to falling into the river. Because of the number of drinking and drowning incidents in La Crosse, efforts have been made to reduce the risk of drowning.

As I pointed out in my post titled Safety & crime prevention tips for new students with emphasis on sexual violence drinking by college students contributes to an estimated 1,700 deaths and 599,000 injuries each year. These numbers weren't included in the calculation unless they happened during a crime.

The most important take away message for me is that pervasive safety happens by designing safety into all aspects of a college from landscaping to student conduct policies and that the administration and all those in positions of authority on a college campus must reject victim blaming and not just for sex crimes.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:20 AM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, October 26, 2009

Guys will behave as much of gentlemen as women require of them

From a comment on an article titled Dignity has place on Halloween where a man named Dan writes to a woman he overheard talking about her planned "slut it up" Halloween costume at a Starbucks, Franny Glass wrote in part:

Guys will behave as much of gentlemen as women require of them.

My response was as follows: "So what you’re saying is all guys are sluts at heart and those who don’t behave like sluts are only doing so because women are blocking them from expressing their inner slutitude."

I reframed this sentence in this way because those who make these types of statements in order to change women's behavior often don't think about what their statement implies about all men. Not surprisingly, after reading my response Glass backtracked and accused me of not reading her full comment. Yet her comment began with:

Nicely written, Dan. It is illogical for women to be surprised by a lack of respect from men when they lack respect for themselves.
If women are surprised by how they are treated then this treatment by definition is non-consensual and unwanted. This so-called logic where certain women should expect men to act with a lack of respect toward them again contains a very negative view of men. The reason this logic isn't seen by those who promote it as anti-male is that negative behavior by men is positioned as not their fault or responsibility. The women who are subjected to unwanted behavior have been faulted and made responsible for the actions taken against them.

My criticism isn't specific to Glass since her way of thinking has been around for decades and most likely much longer than that. My parents never talked to me about sex, but I grew up with the expectation that each girl was responsible for containing boys sexual aggression against them. My older sister developed breasts early and I watched the crude disrespect toward her.

The message was that she caused what was done to her against her will by growing large breasts which of course boys would naturally want to grab. She was the one responsible for preventing boys from groping her. Boys were not responsible for sexually and physically assaulting my sister or other girls who looked the most sexually mature.

They were not held responsible, but in reality they were responsible for their actions when they groped or cornered a girl or did worse because of how she looked or what rumors boys were passing around about what a particular girl would let boys do to her. That girls may not have "let" boys do anything either because the rumor was a lie or the spin of a boy who sexually assaulted a girl didn't matter because that reality didn't fit into this line of thinking.

Glass has no way of knowing if the women she is criticizing in reality don't respect themselves. All she knows about the particular woman Dan described is the general type of costume that woman was planning to wear for Halloween. Yet for that choice alone that woman should expect to be treated with a lack of respect from men.

So much of the demand that girls and women behave with dignity uses negative assumptions about the sexual morality of all boys and men, sometimes to the point of excusing rape as nothing more than an animal reflex beyond a man's control while focusing all the disapproval and responsibility onto girls and women.

It is important to bring these negative assumptions about men to the forefront since they underpin so much of the victim blaming women get for men's behavior toward them.

Dan mentioned that he visited a Halloween store and "was hard-pressed to find any female costume that wasn't a "sexed-up" version of something innocent" yet rather than speaking up against that reality he extolled a woman he dubbed Starbucks Girl to create a Susan B Anthony costume "complete with bonnet" or to create some other costume which met Dan's standards of dignity. At one point he wrote, "I don’t mean to tell you how to live your life," but actually that's what he is doing. He has fallen into the trap of being a patronizing ally.

He wrote:
Starbucks Girl, you didn’t notice, but I turned around to look at you. You were pretty! Too pretty to parade your body around on a cold October night just for attention, and far too pretty to risk being taken advantage of by some drunken idiot at a party or bar.
The reference to her prettiness is odd. Like it would be okay for a less pretty girl to be taken advantage of by some drunken idiot. If this woman wanted to connect with some drunken idiot then that drunken idiot wouldn't be taking advantage of her -- at least not from her perspective. This statement is why the issue of rape was raised in the comments.

The statement which I first quoted by Franny Glass in the headline of this post, as written, contains the false claim that men will abide by women's requirements. If this were true there would be no girls or women raped by boys or men. Yet even the most fervent rape denialists don't deny all rapes committed by men against women.

Those who repeat this false claim will need to deny all but the most horrific non-stranger rapes because those rapes, if believed, show this belief to be a dangerous lie. To hold onto this belief most female rape victims must be seen as having not required enough of the boy or man who raped them. If any fault can be found with her then no fault can be found with the boy or man who raped her.

I've lost count of the times I've heard or read someone going on about a nice boy or man who regularly has sex with one or many sluts where his behavior is the same as hers or worse but he remains classified as a nice boy or man because of how behaves around and toward nice girls and women.

When these nice boys/men rape girls or women viewed as sluts and those rape are reported the relative classification under this model (gentleman, slut) has been used as an excuse for many so-called dignified people to declare the defendant to be innocent. Kathleen Parker used this contrast in a column declaring a convicted rapist wrongfully convicted. Parker's evidence focused on everything except the assault itself and basically boiled down to, "I like him, I detest her."

This belief system is likely comforting to girls and women who view themselves as inspiring nothing but gentlemanly behavior. They may even know that many boys and men around them eagerly sexually exploit girls and/or women. As long as those dignified girls and women can find fault with those other girls and women who have been exploited or raped, they can feel safe even if they are hanging out with serial rapists.

This is a dangerous safety strategy.

A man who can rationalize raping a woman who is considered immoral can find ways to rationalize additional rapes. His status centered view of boundaries will at times protect the women who would blame his violent behavior against women they disapprove of on those women.

However, imagine if that dignified woman who is protected by this belief system waits several years until a gentleman rapist is done sowing his wild oats and even waits until marriage. That might sound wonderful and her gentleman/groom's respect for her might make him seem safe now. The only problem is that under the status centered view of boundaries a marriage license is a license to have sex whenever he wants with his wife. As long as he doesn't have sex with any other woman he can still be considered a gentleman.

If his wife didn't consent to all that sex, too bad. He is only as much of a gentleman as he is required to be.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:43 AM   1 comments links to this post

Sunday, October 25, 2009

To Woman Who Filled Out Survey On My Website Early This Morning

Thank you for filling out the date rape survivor survey. My heart goes out to you. I read your comment and encourage you to contact your local victim advocacy agency. They can help you with your current need. If you are in the US you can find the agency which covers your area by entering your zip code at: You also have the option of using their online IM hotline if you aren't ready to call anyone.

To this woman and anyone who has survived a sexual assault.

If you are in the US there are agencies which can provide general support and who can be advocates for you with the criminal justice system. If you first contacted police on your own you don't have to be on your own in future interactions with the police. Advocates can also help connect you to resources even if you haven't reported and don't plan on reporting or are unsure about reporting.

Those in other countries may also have similar organizations. If you are feeling alone please check to see who is available to you.

There is a site specifically aimed at men who have had "unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood."
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:52 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, October 23, 2009

Criminal Defense Lawyers Cast Doubt On Old DNA Evidence

From the New York Times:

Nearly 10 years had passed since a college student was raped on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and with no known suspect in the 1993 case, the police were not close to an arrest. But what they did have was nearly as critical: the rapist’s DNA profile.

Prosecutors in Manhattan — aware that the legal clock for bringing a case was running out — devised the novel strategy of indicting the rapist’s DNA. Four years later, the sample was connected to a man, Victor Rondon; he was eventually convicted and sentenced to 44 to 107 years in prison.

While there have been many celebrated cases in which DNA evidence has been used to overturn wrongful convictions, often many years after the trial, such evidence has become essential in solving cold cases.
Because of advances in forensic science and because of laboratory backlogs I believe that the statute of limitations needs to be eliminated for rape with no conditions related to DNA. The problem with conditional statute of limitations is that they can exclude cases which were clearly meant to be included in the conditions but aren't because of rape kit backlogs or clerical errors.

I've read many opinion pieces for why rape should not have the statute of limitations removed in all US states, but the reasons often incorrectly overlook the fact that the prosecution, not the defense, has the burden of proof.

The perspective of these opinions often are limited to how laws impact defendants and don't address how laws, including the statute of limitations, impact public safety or they gloss over this public safety impact by incorrectly assuming that all serial rapists have been caught and are in prison or on sex offender registries.

This latest article adds an objection to DNA warrants I haven't seen before.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, in a resolution against John Doe DNA indictments, said DNA samples can degrade over time and said that errors in the “collection, handling and storage of DNA samples” can lead to wrongful prosecutions.
If the allegation in this NACDL resolution is true then this undermines the validity of all DNA exonerations which use evidence older than the NY statute of limitations for rape which is 10 years. It certainly undermines any call to process all old DNA evidence for all prison inmates and to have any mismatch of that old DNA evidence used to overturn the conviction.

When exonerations based on decades old DNA evidence are announced they are not announced as actions which merely cast doubt on the original conviction. They are announced as proving the defendant's innocence. Because of this, states have paid out large sums of money. If this resolution is correct then some of these payouts may have been made to the guilty.

If these errors cannot be detected by defense attorney experts then they can't be detected, period.

If old DNA evidence is unreliable enough to leave a reasonable doubt then it alone cannot be used to exonerate anyone. There would need to be corroborating evidence of innocence if this group is correct. There have been exonerations where other evidence besides the newly processed DNA evidence supports the convict's innocence. For example, Timothy Cole was a non-smoker while the real rapist was a chain smoker who waited until after the statute of limitations expired to confess.

Steven Avery was exonerated on rape charges after 18 years in prison and 2 years after he was released he murdered Teresa Halbach. He was convicted of murder but is hoping his lawyers can get him out of prison again.

This NACDL statement supports the credibility of the claims of a rape survivor who refused to believe old DNA results were accurate because she is still sure she IDed the correct man. This statement undermines the credibility of all those who declared her to be a proven liar.

The same standards related to DNA evidence must apply whether lawyers are trying to prove a defendant guilty or whether lawyers are trying to prove a convict innocent. Yet the NACDL group seems to be supporting a dangerous double standard.


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

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Breaking Free Candle Light Vigil Oct 27 and Thoughts On Prostitution

Breaking Free, a non-profit organization, presents:

7th Annual Candle Light Vigil
Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 6:00 PM
770 University Ave., St. Paul, MN

The organization's goals are:

To expose human trafficking/prostitution as violence against women
To educate the community about the effects of commercial sexual exploitation on women and girls
To provide supportive services to prostituted women/youth to permit escape from violence and exploitation
To operate within a culturally appropriate and age and gender-specific context
To provide transitional and/or permanent housing and rental assistance to our target population
The work they do is important, but a few dedicated individuals shouldn't be the only one's who take a stand against the harm done to those who are prostituted and they shouldn't be the only ones who are working to provide practical help to those who have been harmed.

The scope of the exploitation is immense and the response to this exploitation can and should be immense as well.

As I've said before harm reduction isn't enough. We must have harm elimination. Those who believe prostitution (or sex work) can be done without violence need to step up and prove their claim by working to eradicate all harm in prostitution. Not some, all.

When discussions have turned to how women dress immodestly, it is common for someone, man or woman, to bring up the term whore. This is a snippet of a comment from Amanda:
I agree women should wear what they want to wear, but YOU KNOW YOU CAN’T. Guys WILL AND DO rape when you dress like a whore. It’s sad but we all know it happens. That’s probably why he put this out there for WOMEN. He IS guy and he knows how guys think.

If this violence is viewed as certain, and the woman's fault, when a woman does nothing more than dress in a way people label as looking like a whore, what amount of violence is tolerated when a girl or woman has been prostituted? The answer, unfortunately, is a huge amount of violence.

The problem is the behavior of men who use this label as permission to rape and the tolerance or even expectation of this behavior by people who claim to be against violence. Being a guy does not mean automatically turning into a rapist if a woman looks a certain way. Those who assume it does are the ones who make the only difference between non-rapist man and rapist to be opportunity.

Amanda's comment helps men who are violent against those she labels as whore whether she intends to or not because she let's them blame their victim and man's basic nature. Yet Amanda's warning does nothing to protect girls and women since not dressing like a whore is no protection from rape or sexual misconduct.

In May, an abstinence only counselor was charged with sexual assault of a student at the church run program at the Mount Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport, CT. When those in positions of authority are charged with sex crimes against girls too young to consent it is common to see supposedly good people who focus on the victim and if the word whore isn't used to describe the girl it is often implied.

The harmful attitudes around people's idea of whore or prostitute or sex worker are pervasive, but we can't allow that pervasiveness to cause us to do nothing. Just as each time someone speaks up in a harmful way that contributes to real harm, each time someone speaks up or acts in contrast to that harm that contributes to reducing harm.

This vigil is one way of contributing to reducing harm. If you are in the Twin Cities I encourage you to attend.
Breaking Free would like to invite everyone to join us at our 7th Annual event to end prostitution as we remember the many women and girls who have been killed while involved in prostitution and to make a statement in the community that prostitution is violence against all women and girls.

This event will begin promptly at 6:00 p.m. After a brief introduction, we will all join in a short walk down University Ave (known as a high trafficked prostitution area) peacefully protesting (in cooperation with the St. Paul Police) the violence of prostitution.. We will return to 770 University Avenue and begin our presentations and candle light vigil remembering all those of whom we love and who have been killed while involved in prostitution. We will also remember Sergeant Jerry Vick for the work he has done in trying to eradicate prostitution as a Peace Officer in a kind and respectful way. He will never be forgotten. We will be joined by guest speakers.

Violence against prostituted women and girls has gone unrecognized for many years by minimizing the harm associated with it. Prostituted individuals have been treated as “throw away people” and have been left trapped in their misery without a voice. Everyone in our community is somehow impacted by this vicious cycle.



For more information call (Joy) @ 651-645-6557

HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!!!! Refreshments will be served after the program.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:34 AM   1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

National Survey On Children's Exposure To Violence

From the abstract of Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey:

Presents findings from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, the most comprehensive survey to date of children’s exposure to violence in the United States. The survey was conducted between January and May 2008, and surveyed more than 4,500 children or their parents or adult caregivers regarding their past-year and lifetime exposure to violence.
This research (pdf) is important because so often we make incorrect assumptions about when and where children are exposed to violence. Children in the US are exposed to more violence than adults in the US and a recent study found those aged 12 to 19 were twice as likely to be victims of violent crimes than the general population.

This exposure to violence and victimization has lasting impact but can be made worse or reduced depending on how adults respond or fail to respond. One response I see too frequently when girls are victims of sexual violence is the labeling of those girls as sluts or whores or declaring they were no innocent victims. This secondary verbal assault often comes from people who present themselves as moral which sends a very negative message about what it means to be moral.

Over 60% of the children surveyed were exposed to violence in the past year. Nearly half of the children and teens surveyed were assaulted at least one in the past year and more than a tenth were injured in an assault. Just over 10% suffered from child maltreatment and 6.1% were victimized sexually.

18.7% of girls aged 14 to 17 reported having been a victim of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. When these numbers include attempted sexual assaults or even completed sexual assaults instead of completed rapes too many times I will hear people, especially men, dismiss this number because to them an attempted or even completed sexual assault might not be something they view as a big deal. This tolerance or even acceptance of many acts of sexual violence is a huge part of the problem.

The study lists these types of victimization:

  • sexual contact or fondling by an adult the child knew
  • sexual contact or fondling by an adult stranger
  • sexual contact or fondling by another child or a teenager
  • attempted or completed intercourse
  • exposure or "flashing" sexual harassment
  • consensual sexual conduct with an adult
The rejection of any of these types of victimizations is wrong. The last item is often rejected once the child reaches a certain level of physical maturity. However, this ignores how adults can manipulate their targets or exploit earlier sexual victimizations or child maltreatment. Many sex offenders who target children present themselves as a safe harbor. 38.7% of children experienced 2 or more direct victimizations in the previous year and 10.9% experienced 5 or more direct victimizations in the previous year. If a child's home and/or school feels unsafe having a person who seems safe and supportive may be like having a lifeline.

The peak age group for sexual harassment is 10 to 13 and this makes sense since children this age are beginning to physically mature which many people use as reason to excuse sex offenders. Lies told by a sex offender whose victim was 5 years old start getting accepted when their chosen victims are viewed as old enough to start experimenting sexually.

To dismiss the harm done by those who present themselves as a lifeline or an ally to a child because the victimization they do is classified as consensual is very dangerous.

To me these various numbers indicate that violence prevention must be integrated into daycare, preschool, grade school and faith organizations. And the same must be true for services which help children who have been traumatized or who have gotten into legal trouble.

To protect children we must challenge attitudes held by adults which contribute to children's exposure to violence. This change needs to be strategic since the problem is so severe and pervasive and this strategy is being explored in many areas including child maltreatment.

We also need to look to see where exposure to violence is linked to substance abuse and high risk sexual behaviors.

Domestic abusers who only target adult partners need to understand that they are harming children who see or hear this abuse whether the adult means to harm them or not. Non-violent adults who excuse certain types of violence as just part of growing up or boys being boys need to be challenged when they make these types of statements. If certain fatalistic views helped children cope as they endured exposure to violence then as those children become adults they need to review their childhood beliefs to see if they can contribute to reducing violence.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:42 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Date Rape Drug Testers As Deterrence

From a Times Daily article by Bernie Delinski:

The news gave Francisco Guerra a sick feeling in his gut. Guerra, president of SnowMasters, had just found out a female friend was the victim of a sexual assault.

"I knew somebody who was date raped, and I couldn't believe nobody had a product to stop it," he said. Guerra, who already had his snow-making industry up and running at the time, decided to add something completely different to his product line: A device that detects common date-rape drugs GHB and ketamine.
Turning a personal realization into an effort to prevent rape is to be applauded. Too often people respond to personal realizations about sexual violence with the belief that someone else should be doing more and that's where their efforts end. The other cause of inaction related to prevention is when those who have these realizations assume that nothing they can do will make a noticeable dent in the problem so why even try.

We all need to figure out what we can do even if that is making it clear that we support those who are working to help victims and/or to prevent future violence and making the commitment to purge all victim blaming, minimization and denial from what we say and what we believe. The cumulative effect of many personal decisions is huge.

In previous stories I've read about these types of testing devices the main emphasis was on getting potential victims to use drug testing items as self defense. One company has a line of lipstick which comes with a test strip which will turn blue if it detects GHB or Ketamine.

That approach leaves huge gaps including that not all those who spike someone's drinks will use drugs with these 2 ingredients. When we tell women to test all drinks provided to them while doing nothing to prevent a backlash from men offended at not being trusted and don't make it clear that spiking drinks is a serious crime, the result will be bad and the victims will be the ones blamed for this bad result. When victims are blamed perpetrators become invisible or blameless when they should be neither.

Under the self-defense model, a victim's decision not to test may be seen improperly by some as indicating stupidity or foolishness or even as evidence that reduces the severity of the crime committed against this victim.

The other gap in the self-defense model is many victims are left feeling safer than they really are. Men may incorrectly assume they are safe from this type of drink spiking when the reality is that men have been targeted for sexual assault and drink spiking isn't done only with the motive of sexual assault, it can also be done to commit robbery or other crimes.

The approach Guerra took was to view important parts of his market as universities where drinking can be pervasive and to sell to those who provide alcohol to others and to use the testers as a general deterrent to those who are tampering with a legal product.

Drinks can be spiked anywhere and even non-alcoholic drinks can be spiked, but general attitudes about victims who had hot chocolate spiked are different from attitudes about victims who had alcoholic drinks spiked. This means less denial when a victim reports blacking out after only 1 drink and more risk for the person committing this crime.

The cost of these types of products is likely seen by institutional buyers as reducing liability risks.
The incident in early September, which led to the arrest of Brad Hellums, 46, a Dallas reserve police officer, made major news in Texas, according to reports. He is charged with tampering with a consumer product, possession of cocaine and public intoxication.[...]

Glover said the irony in the Hellums case is the bar where he is accused of slipping the drug into the drink had earlier turned down a DrinkSafe distributor. "They said it sounds great, but they don't have that problem in their bar," Glover said.

Fortunately, a bartender at the restaurant noticed the suspect slip the substance into the drink, Glover said. The bartender knew the bar across the street has DrinkSafe coasters, so he called police and went to the other bar, got a coaster and tested the drink. A spot on the coaster turned blue, and Hellums was arrested.
This scenario, where testing products provided quick results after the sighting of possible illegal behavior, maximizes the chance of preventing harm. In a bar where one person is distracted many other people remain in visual range and if all of them have the mindset of noticing potential crimes and some tools available to help them take action that is much more effective than ordering each person to only watch their own drinks.

Clearly this is not an absolute deterrence, but if bars actively embrace this concept to proactively protect their customers from tampered drinks and those who will resort to this crime and other crimes, that changes the environment in important ways.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:39 AM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, October 19, 2009

Personal Responsibility For Vulnerability: All or None

When women report being harmed by those they know while they were drunk it is far too common for people to focus on the woman's decisions and to minimize the responsibility of those who took non-consensual actions against her.

After reading comments in a post titled Big Story on the Michigan Messenger at the blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars with a link to a story about a teacher who had her body used as a canvas against her will while she was passed out and who alleged having been sexually assaulted before she passed out, I wrote:

I'm troubled by the dismissive response of some commenters here. The line from Raging Bee: "leaving themselves vulnerable to harm" is deeply problematic since most of us could be accused of doing this many times even if we never drink alcohol.

There was a murder case in my area earlier this year where the man who broke in used the homeowner's gun to kill a father, his son and to try to kill the mother. Having a gun left that family vulnerable to harm, but it didn't cause the jury to find the defendant not guilty and I doubt that Raging Bee or others would be so quick in that case to put any responsibility for this horrific crime onto the victims or to use it to minimize or negate the responsibility of the man who exploited this vulnerability.

Vulnerability is not what causes people to take actions which exploit someone's vulnerability. The cause lies within those people who view vulnerability as an opportunity. If someone doesn't consent or can't consent then the only legal choice is to not take an action unless it is an emergency such as taking someone to the ER.

Since this non-consensual behavior was done by teachers that raises serious questions about what non-consensual actions they will approve of or tolerate when done by students to other students.

In another comment Democommie wrote to me:
Nice analogy--totally inapt, I think--but nice, nonetheless. Yes, multiple murders is equivalent to what happened here.
Here's my response:

You are wrong that my analogy is inapt and your response supports my point rather than disproving it. The reason it feels inapt to you is that you take someone committing multiple murders seriously enough that you automatically reject focusing on how victims made themselves vulnerable or using this to reduce perpetrator responsibility.

The amount of shifting of responsibility onto the vulnerable person is usually linked to personal opinion of the seriousness of what the non-vulnerable person did to the vulnerable person.

If those who made themselves vulnerable are partly responsible for what was done to them then this must always be true no matter what was done to them or how they made themselves vulnerable. If it isn't always true then it is never true and only reflects on the bias of those placing responsibility on certain vulnerable people.

After this comment Democommie got more personal and claimed that I was trying to make drunk shaming and murder into equivalent offenses. He wrote:
The discussion on this thread, in the majority of its comments has been re: whether it is appropriate for the criminal justice system to be involved in this and whether the available statutes offer a legal structure for doing so.

What he misses is that bias about women "leaving themselves vulnerable to harm" can and does skew this type of discussion and it can and does skew real life consequences for those who harm other people.

This portion of his comment is highly relevant because along with drunk shaming, this woman reported a sexual assault and there are clearly available criminal statutes to cover this unless people view victim drunkenness as nullifying the possibility of a sexual assault.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:24 AM   3 comments links to this post

Friday, October 16, 2009

Steps To Prevent Rape Poster

Original poster (for reference only):

Revised poster (newest version)

After attending meetings and a conference on primary prevention of sexual and/or domestic violence and reviewing posters which claim to be prevention messages but are not I decided to create my own primary prevention poster related to alcohol facilitated sexual assaults which is now available for purchase on Cafe Press.

Please let me know what you think. Can anything I included come across as victim blaming?

Update (10/17): I've created an alternative poster (the one that's right justified).
Update (10/18): I've updated the alternative poster to address feedback.

Update (10/25): one more update.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:02 AM   12 comments links to this post

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 80

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

Quick FYI for those unfamiliar with blog carnivals and who wonder about this terminology, the term refers to 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 Guest Blogger Starling: Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced posted at Shapely Prose, we get a discussion in response to non-rapist men who complain about not instantly being seen as non-rapists which continues into extensive comments.

In Who's really lying on that casting couch posted at Feministing, we get a discussion about the stereotype of women using sex to obtain career benefits.

In Oklahoma Wants to Publicize Your Abortion posted at Feminist Law Professors, we get a discussion of a new law which has been challenged as unconstitutional.


In KY Supreme Court Strikes Down Retroactive Application of Residency Restrictions posted at Sex Crimes, we get a discussion about a recent ruling on a sex offender law.

In Roman Polanski As Described By Grand Jury Testimony posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss the core details of a case which has been incorrectly described by many people as nothing more than a statutory rape case where no force or coercion was involved.

In AK Judge Lets Serial Rapist Cop Out on Bail posted at Feministing, we get a discussion of the troubling way a particular rape case was handled.

In "Banned from churches, sex offenders go to court" posted at Sex Crimes, we get a discussion on new laws restricting where registered sex offenders can go and the challenges those laws are facing.

media watch

In Child sexual abuse: is this topic too taboo for you? posted at Beauty UnSilenced, we get a discussion about how sexual abuse is reported including stories which gloss over the realities and we get several resources which can help journalists navigate the hazards of reporting these types of stories.

In GW Paper Criticizes Sexual Assault Victims' Lack of "Responsibility" posted at The Sexist, we get a discussion about coverage of 2 different types of assaults against students where a male student wasn't subjected to the same call for responsibility.

In Getting Over It posted at Feministe, we get a response to what many people have been saying about Roman Polanski's victim based on her age at the time of the crime from someone who was also raped at 13.

In Hollywood thinks rape is okay, just not “rape-rape” posted at the Hathor Legacy, we get a discussion of how comments from people, including the sister of Sharon Tate incorrectly cast Polanski as nothing more than a victim or someone who didn't commit a serious crime.

In Filmmaker Allison Anders on Polanski: Art Is Not Enough posted at misswhistle, we get insight from a woman who is a fan of the work of Polanski on understanding the need to separate what someone does artisticly from what someone does which harms others.

In Fox News corrects inaccurate Kevin Jennings article. Politico does the same posted at Pam's House Blend - Front Page, we get a discussion about distortion of facts about an education adviser in the Obama administration who was incorrectly accused of protecting the perpetrator of statutory rape.

In On Violence, Erin Andrews posted at Feministing, we get a discussion about the arrest of Michael David Barrett for illegally filming the sports commentator and how some hotels responded to his request to have a room next to hers.

In So What If Mackenzie Phillips Has a Book Deal? posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion about why some people who don't deny sexual abuse happened focus their criticism on the fact that a survivor might make money by discussing sexual violence and abuse.

raising awareness

In Elizabeth Smart Shines A Light posted at Third of a Lifetime, we get a short response to the testimony given against Brian David Mitchell, during a hearing to determine if he is competent to stand trial.

In The Problem with Hoping Rapists Will Be Raped posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion which highlights that there is nothing just in making this wish and how instead it promotes rape as conditionally acceptable.

In Consent, Silence, Inaction and Agency posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss how often a girl or woman is defined as having intentionally consented because she didn't do or say anything.

In Teenagers and Young Adults Beware of Crime in Web Communities posted at Prevention Works, we get a discussion about how those who seek to harm others online may be violating laws and could face serious civil and criminal punishments.

In Do I Have to Scream Into the Wind posted at rmott62, we get a discussion of the challenges of escaping prostitution and speaking about it.

In But, What If He Married Her?? posted at Surviving Therapist Abuse, we get a discussion sparked by someone who believed that if a therapist were sexually abusing a patient that the situation would be better if the therapist later married that patient.

In Send Roman Polanski to jail posted at Letters Home, we get a to the point post which refuses to accept anything but the details of the case in determining the desired outcome.

In An Either-or-Choice posted at aagblog, we get a discussion of what it means to victims of sex crimes when so many people rally behind a known perpetrator such as Roman Polanski.


In Rape Myth Acceptance posted at CALCASA, we get a discussion of research published online in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence where the authors examined rape myth acceptance scale specific to Korean culture.


In MN Man Conference Break Out Sessions posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss information and insight from a conference on the primary prevention of sexual and domestic violence.

In Meier Receives ABA Sharon Corbitt Award posted at Feminist Law Professors, we get information about the winner of an award for “exemplary legal service to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.”

In Touchstones for An Abolition Grand Strategy posted at THE NORTH STAR, we get a discussion of some of the most important things which need to be kept in mind when working to stop human trafficking.

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

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

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

Marcella Chester

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:03 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

PA Superior Court Overturned Troubling Ruling On Adult Alleged Victim Competency

From the Times Leader:

WILKES-BARRE – In a decision that will have statewide impact, the state Superior Court on Tuesday overturned a Luzerne County judge’s ruling that ordered an alleged rape victim to undergo an involuntary psychiatric evaluation.

The court, with one dissent, determined Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. misapplied the law when he determined the defendant, Daryl Boich, had presented compelling evidence that the evaluation was needed to ensure the woman was competent to testify.[...]

[Boich’s attorney, Al] Flora sought to force the woman to undergo a psychiatric examination after she testified at Boich’s preliminary hearing that she could not recall various details regarding the evening.

The woman also acknowledged she was taking prescription medications and that she was intoxicated. Flora argued that the only way to determine the cause for the “blanks” in the woman’s memory was through a psychiatric examination.
This overturned ruling is very dangerous since many of those who commit sexual violence use alcohol and/or drugs to help them commit their crimes. Temporary incompetency (or the victim slipping in and out of consciousness) due to intoxication is often desired by rapists or even facilitated by them with or without the knowledge of their victims.

But the impact of the original ruling could harm more than those who are intoxicated. Those who are classified as having disabilities are at a higher risk of being assaulted than the general population and this ruling, if it is reinstated by a higher court, could have a major impact on their safety.

The first national study on crime against persons with disabilities was released today [Oct. 1, 2009] by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Office of Justice Programs. In 2007 persons age 12 or older with disabilities experienced about 716,000 nonfatal violent crimes, including rape or sexual assault (47,000), robbery (79,000), aggravated assaults (114,000) and simple assaults (476,000).
The increased violence against those who have disabilities is even greater when it comes to sexual violence. According the NCVS report (pdf), "Persons with a disability had an age-adjusted rate of rape or sexual assault that was more than twice the rate for persons without a disability."

Those with cognitive functioning disabilities experienced the highest rate of violent victimization of any group with disabilities.

To have the vulnerability sex criminals exploit be used to help alleged rapists escape legal accountability is abhorrent. The entire premise of the psychiatric exam in this context is flawed because it doesn't matter why an alleged victim has "blank" moments.

If there were a valid claim that the woman might have been incompetent and therefore should not be allowed to testify it would have be about the non-blank moments when the defense is claiming no sexual contact happened. There would need to be evidence that the alleged victim had previously suffered delusions and could not tell the difference between those delusions and memories which are spotty due to impairment.

If the defense is correct in the assessment of the alleged rape victim's competency on the night of the alleged rape then she would have been unable to give meaningful consent and that would make any sexual actions the defendant took toward or with this alleged victim a sex crime and therefore any defense claim that the alleged victim consented would be invalid.

Since Boich gave the alleged victim a ride after she left a bar intoxicated, the possibility that the woman was not competent to consent wasn't an unknown possibility. When there is interaction between a person who is clearly competent and someone who is potentially not competent then the burden for ensuring mutual competency belongs to the clearly competent individual.

The bottom line is that if the defense attorney is correct about the alleged victim's incompetency and sexual contact happened then this attorney's client is guilty of rape by intoxication.


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

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blunders And Excellence In Sexual Assault Cases

From the London Evening Standard:

Suburban street stalker Kirk Reid, 44, and taxi driver rapist John Worboys, 51, were finally jailed earlier this year after separately carrying out a succession of attacks across the capital.

The cases had already prompted an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission after it was revealed during the men's trials that blunders by detectives had allowed the pair to evade capture.

Today, however, it emerged that 14 officers, including at least one of superintendent rank, have been given “Regulation 9” notices by the investigators warning them that they could be liable for disciplinary action or prosecution.
This is an important move because these errors contributed to additional sexual assaults. Not only did these errors harm those who were not yet victims it harmed those victims who did what sexual assault victims are told to do. Report.

Too often malpractice in investigating sexual assault cases is only considered important if an innocent suspect or defendant is harmed when the reality is that injustice has a much wider scope and must have a much wider response.

Reid attacked 27 women that the police know of and Worboys attacked at least 14 woman, some who were assumed by investigators to be liars when they were telling the truth.

When the problems are this pervasive the solution can't just be to discipline particular police officers.

In contrast to the handling of those 2 cases in the UK, I watched a recent Dateline episode on the "wooded rapist," Robert Jason Burdick, who committed rapes for 14 years in 3 counties in the Memphis area before he was caught. But the delay in catching that serial rapist wasn't caused by police errors. The police processed all the evidence available and got DNA evidence from the first rape and subsequent rapes. Because the DNA evidence was examined and processed the police confirmed they were dealing with a serial rapist. What they didn't have was a name to go with the DNA.

Unlike some other cases, Burdick's DNA wasn't in any agency's warehouse unprocessed and the lab results weren't sitting unfiled and forgotten. There was no botched 911 call. When the oldest case was nearing the statute of limitations the prosecutors filed John Doe charges using his DNA as his identity rather than incorrectly assuming there was nothing they could do.

Because the police did their job consistently, Burdick was eventually spotted close to a reported sighting of a masked man. He was let go but only because there was no legal grounds to hold him or to search his vehicle. The investigators checked out his excuse for being in the area and when it was shown to be false they made sure to go after him and his DNA legally. Last year, I blogged about the challenge to that police stop of Burdick, but because the police weren't sloppy that challenge failed.

Burdick was convicted of the most recent rape, and is about to go to trial again for the first known rape, and what struck me first about that case beyond the technical details of the investigation was how the victims who agreed to be interviewed spoke highly of the police handling of their cases during the years when they had no suspect.

This combination of technical excellence and respectful treatment of rape victims is vitally important to avoiding botched cases but the needed steps are no secret and not just a matter of random good luck.

All 3 of these serial rapists were stranger rapists, but only Burdick broke into his victim's homes. Reid grabbed his victims as they were walking and Worboys raped women who got into his taxi. This difference can unfortunately impact investigators opinions of the victims. When rapes happen in good neighborhoods, after the rapist broke into a house, victims are at the lowest risk of being viewed negatively by investigators.

From the handling of Burdick's rapes I can't tell anything about how well those police departments handled other rape cases and other rape victims. If they didn't handle all reports of sexual assaults with this level of competence and respect for those who reported then they need to begin doing so.

This competence must extend beyond police departments. It must extend to school districts and parole systems and every organization. Competence must include laws and policies.

An example of this happened in the US Senate which recently passed an amendment submitted by my newest senator, Al Franken, which prohibits defense contractors from requiring arbitration from employees about their allegations of sexual assault. This amendment to the defense bill was passed after Jamie Leigh Jones testified to the senate about what happened to her in Iraq and after she made it home. While this amendment is good, others who are raped while on the job by coworkers may still be forced into secret, binding arbitration rather than being given the right to sue their employers.

This excellence in practice and rules matters for solving cases, but it also matters as deterrence. If those considering committing sex crimes know that no matter who they assault or how they assault that the police and everyone else will be committed to investigating them and prosecuting them, and will do that competently with the possibility of serious consequences, some of those people will decide committing the sex crime, or allowing bad practices, isn't worth the risk.

There can be no excuses accepted from governments who fail to get and maintain great investigation teams. There can be no excuses for procedures or laws which interfere with justice.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:12 AM   0 comments links to this post