Friday, February 26, 2010

Finding Fault In The Binary Of Guilt

In my post At fault for being a tease, slut or idiot? I addressed the body of the post Blaming the Victim over at Feminist Mormon Housewives. This time I want to focus on one of the comments.
Paul (#8) wrote:

I think that “blame” can be shared. I’m inclined to believe that someone who willingly goes to someone else’s apartment, into his bedroom (or invites him into hers), disrobes, gets into bed, and invites the other into bed, willingly engages in fondling, and then says “No” to sexual penetration, is a tease.

The law says that anything after “No” is rape. To my mind, this rape isn’t in the same league as forcing someone to engage in sexual intercourse.

In the first example, I would assign much responsibility to the woman - so much so that I would be unlikely to vote for conviction. The second example is the opposite: perpetrator bears entire responsibility.

The tougher cases - for which some would “blame the victim”: being out late at night, in the wrong neighborhood, wearing immodest clothing, willingly ingesting alcohol or drugs, making poor choices re “situations/circumstances/places/people” etc.

Unfortunately, the law is binary: either rape occurred, or it didn’t. The perpetrator is either guilty or not guilty. He can’t be “a little bit” or “mostly” guilty. The sex was either consensual, or it wasn’t. Not “mostly” or “a little.”
What Paul is advocating is viewing certain consensual actions of women as equal to the sexual violence of men. Any girl or woman he views as a tease is as bad as the men he acknowledges as rapists.

Once he labels a woman as a tease a man forcing her to engage in sexual intercourse is no longer in the league with a man who forces someone to engage in sexual intercourse. The same violence which Paul condemns as a felony becomes non-criminal.

This thinking clearly provides a road map for how a man can rape and have men like Paul be their accomplices in getting away with that crime.

Rapists and their attorneys love people like Paul. The defense attorney may need nothing more than the insinuation that the victim was a tease to get jurors like Paul to dismiss the evidence proving the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt as just so much noise.

If Paul's thinking is valid then it must be wrong that we have a binary system for all crimes including murder. If Paul walks in a good neighborhood during the day then the man who murders him from across the street without warning is fully at fault for shooting Paul to death.

If, however, Paul is in a bad neighborhood and swears at a mugger rather than immediately handing over his wallet then Paul is mostly at fault for being shot to death. The man who shot him with the intent to kill should not be convicted. Paul's logic tells us so.

Yet unlike the rapists Paul excuses, Paul most likely understands that both of these murderers are a danger to others. Paul's logic prevents him from viewing how the acquittal of certain rapists puts all those Paul views as blameless at greater risk of being raped. In Paul's worldview men who rape someone labeled as a tease can never be the same men who rape children or adults who did everything Paul believes they should do.

There is no evidence to support this worldview so when Paul would vote to acquit men on trial for rape who have been proven to have committed rape Paul has no way of knowing how many people he views as innocent will be subsequently raped by those rapists.

In this scenario would Paul be willing to assign as much responsibility to himself as to all of the rapists Paul would not convict who are serial rapists for all their rapes against those he doesn't blame? He clearly believes that non-rapists can equally share the responsibility for rape. If that belief is good enough for rape victims it must be good enough for men like Paul who would acquit known rapists.

Paul would most likely have voted to acquit a man who raped a woman he knew who agreed to be with him in his car and Paul's bias would prevent him from imagining that the same man could later abduct, rape and murder a Brigham Young University student.

All Paul sees is a major fault in viewing all rapists as guilty of rape because of Paul's harsh opinion of many rape victims.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:41 AM   5 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 25, 2010

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.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:40 AM   2 comments links to this post

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Expert Ignores Abuse In Proposed Solution to High Conflict Divorce

In a NY Times op-ed titled No Fault of Their Own by Ruth Bettelheim, a marriage and family therapist, she writes in part:

Given that reducing family conflict is good for children, the best way to protect them during divorce would be to minimize the acrimony of the proceedings. No-fault divorce, now practiced in every state except New York, has been one step toward this goal. But issues relating to children in divorce cases are still very often decided by long, heated contests between the parents. Custody disagreements are settled by a judge’s determination of what is in “the best interests of the child.” In practical terms, this means that both parents do their utmost to demonstrate that they are the better parent — and that the other one is worse, unfit or even abusive.
This statement ignores that someone who is divorcing may be doing their utmost to demonstrate that the other spouse is abusive because the other spouse is actually abusive and is a danger to a child or children rather than being motivated by how a judge makes a custody determination. It also ignores that someone who is abusive may seek to use the family court system to continue the abuse since this behavior is different from behavior caused by the structure of the current system.

According to Stop Family Violence a significant percentage of "high conflict" custody disputes involve a spouse who has committed domestic violence.

Abusers who didn't previously direct their abuse at children have used children as pawns in their abuse against someone who has left the abuser. Parents have gone so far as to murder their own children after communicating this intent to the other parent. Dismissing reports of these types of threats as the product of "high conflict" custody disputes needlessly leaves children's lives in danger.

When those who are in abusive relationships have children with their abusers people who assist victims of domestic violence are beginning to understand that safety plans must extend beyond 30 days after getting out. Some safety plans need to extend 20 years or longer.

What children need instead are no-fault custody proceedings — which could be accomplished with two changes to state family law. First, take the money out of the picture by establishing fixed formulas for child support that ensure the children are well taken care of in both homes, regardless of the number of days they spend in each. Second, defuse tension by requiring parents to enter mediation to find a custody solution that best meets the needs of all concerned.

Agreements reached through mediation would need to be binding (subject to the approval of a judge), so that they could not be discarded or contested later if new disagreements were to arise. Although some parents might worry that this would diminish their opportunities for recourse, mediation would actually give them greater control over the outcome than a judge’s unilateral verdict does.

In an adversarial custody battle, no one wins, but children are the biggest losers of all. Intelligent legislation could promote the one thing that children of divorce need most: peace between their parents.
This no-fault custody proposal sounds good on the surface because children would be better off if their parents or guardians could work out an amiable solution, but mediation doesn't make a "high-conflict" situation magically low conflict and could turn a "high-conflict" situation into a high-danger situation for children and exes during the mediation process and after the custody issues are considered resolved.

If 1 parent is abusive then tension can't be eliminated by forcing the parents into mediation. This requirement is more likely to increase tension. With an abusive parent there is no way to get an outcome which makes everyone satisfied unless the abuse is recognized and dealt with carefully. This reality must be acknowledged not ignored.

Letting spouses leave a marriage without proving fault by the other spouse is not parallel to deciding which parent gets custody or how visitation will be handled without considering certain faults.

The problem with Bettelheim's proposal is that it ignores serious dangers which can rightfully cause a good parent to become adversarial while a dangerous person could seem like the more reasonable of the divorcing parents. A parent who physically or sexually abuses children might be happy with what is considered the ideal outcome in divorces and custody disputes. This could cause a mediator to incorrectly view the person making a rightful allegation and a rightful demand for no unsupervised visitation as the problem parent.

This failure is more likely when people believe Bettelheim's default motivation for all custody disputes: money.

Mediation when one of the spouses is abusive disregards real dangers and does nothing to reduce the harm done by an abusive spouse and parent. Making what could be a dangerous solution binding increases the danger to children.

Improvements in how custody issues are handled are needed, but this proposal is not the fix for the current problems.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:31 AM   2 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

At Fault For Being A Tease, Slut Or Idiot?

Over at Feminist Mormon Housewives, a guest post titled Blaming the Victim by Martin includes:

Again, this in no way means she is at fault for getting raped. She’s merely at fault for being a tease, a slut, or an idiot.

The problem I have with the popular “you’re blaming the victim” diatribes is that I feel that in the justifiable attempt to free the victim from guilt for a horrific crime, they’re minimizing the responsibility we have towards one another.
Earlier Martin detailed an experience he had with road rage to help him make this point.

Many years ago when I was younger and rasher, I did something extremely stupid. I was trying to get to my new job during rush-hour and I had to pass through a bunch of road construction. Knowing the area, I managed to bypass much of the construction by sneaking in from a side street, but I had to cross a couple lanes of accelerating traffic in order to make my left turn. This wasn’t easy because people were grumpy from the road construction, so I eventually had to make a somewhat aggressive lane change in order to make it into the turning lane. Boy did I piss off the guy behind me. Judging from his honking and wild gesticulations, I’d just about killed us both. He pulled into the turning lane behind me, no longer honking but with his finger pressed against his windshield. His overreaction was starting to irritate me, but I decided to ignore him.

Until he followed me. All the way into the parking lot. At first, I became a little concerned, but as he followed me through the parking lot to my building, my concern turned to anger. I was absolutely incensed that this SOB was trying to intimidate me in this way. “What,” I though, “he wants to have it out in the parking lot? Fine. Let’s have it out.” I stopped abruptly without pulling into a parking space, thereby blocking his progress. I got out of my car with my fists clenched, and loudly asked if the guy had a problem with me he needed to discuss.

The car stopped and out climbed a 250-lbs linebacker-type. And he pretty much beat the crap out me.

Not really. What really happened was that his eyes became huge, he backed up, drove a couple rows away, parked, and hurriedly walked into the building.
Notice first, that Martin admits that the other driver likely believed Martin could have killed him with his driving which means that Martin's fault was 1) in his premeditated choice to drive unsafely which put other people's lives in danger and 2) in his choice to follow that decision with physical and verbal aggression which itself was an act of road rage.

Martin believes the other man overreacted, but it could as easily be Martin who is underestimating the situation.

The other important detail is that Martin assumed that the only reason the other car also entered this parking lot was that driver's road rage even though the expression of that other driver's displeasure had ceased.

If this example is in any way analogous to rape or a near occurrence of rape it would be more apt to reverse the roles with Martin himself standing in parallel to the would-be rapist since he was the only one intent on violence by his own admission. That other driver in his view provoked him to violence by his response to Martin's driving violation. Yet in his introduction to describing this event his summarization of his actions was only that "I did something extremely stupid."

The victim-centered question in the road rage example then becomes whether the other man was blameless for Martin's aggressive actions or if that other driver's decision to honk and make a rude gesture in response to Martin's reckless driving provoked Martin to physical violence.

The parallel sex crime scenario would be a man in a bar in such a rush to get to his goal of sex that he began with a sexual boundary violation in a situation where he felt justified in doing so. After all, she's a slut who he believes will have sex with the first man who makes his sexual intent clear and other men are crowding around her. When the woman he violated got angry he used her angry response to justify escalating the level of violence by later blocking the woman's path with his fists clenched.

This changes the person in the rape scenario who becomes the subject of these questions by implication:
What if he had (beaten the crap out of me, I mean)? Would I have deserved it? I mean, I kind of invited him to. If he had turned out to be 250 lbs of linebacker, and I decided at the last moment to withdraw my invitation, would he have been within his rights to take a few shots anyway? What would the cops and judge have said? What if this guy had physically maimed me? Would I go through life thinking “Well, I guess I deserved it”?
The analogous question would become, What if she had beaten the crap out of me when I threatened her, would I have deserved it? Or, "What if a man saw what I was doing and beat the crap out of me because I was threatening a woman with more violence?"

This corrected analogy would mean this man who committed a sexual violation and who is now threatening physical violence against the woman he violated would at most summarize his own actions as "extremely stupid."

Since Martin was the aggressor 2 times over and was clearly willing to commit physical assault any positioning of himself as being blameless of course doesn't make sense. His action in that parking lot was in no way an invitation to a consensual brawl so to position it as such is nonsensical.

Getting his analogy of this interaction backwards means his conclusions about his own lack of blamelessness cannot be applied to victims of sex crimes and must instead by applied to those who sexually violate others.

He wrote:
I actually wonder if the respondents to that survey really felt women can be partly to blame for being raped, or whether they simply felt women could be guilty of provocative behavior.
The use of the word provocative in this usage is different than someone who talks about seeing a provocative film. This usage makes the rape victim into the primary aggressor and by default turns the rapist into the target of that aggression. This means that the backwards analogy was an intentional choice.

If the sexual action or contact between a man and woman is consensual but doesn't go as far as the man hoped for then that is not a woman being sexually aggressive. Calling this sexual aggression doesn't make it actual aggression, but it does make it easier for people to respond to that woman's actions or choices as if the man who made the choice to rape was himself under assault.

To equate doing something which causes a woman to be labeled a tease, a slut or an idiot to jumping out of your car eager to engage in a physical brawl after driving recklessly is to contribute to the rationalization of rapists whether this is the intended result or not.


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

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bookend Rape Denial Attitudes Highlighted In UK Survey

The main focus in the media in response to the Wake Up To Rape report (pdf) was who viewed victims as responsible for their own rapes. I blogged about general attitudes and attitudes held by women last week. But this survey contains other revealing attitudes.

79% of respondents said they would report being raped to the police which is a much higher percentage than actual reporting rates. The survey results help explain this gap.

40% of women respondents have been in a situation where they could have been made to have sex they didn't want compared to 20% of men.

23% of the women reported that they had been made to have sex they didn't want compared to 15% of men. Yet the survey found that men take more safety risks than women take.

26% of men have been so drunk they lost their memory. This means that taking safety risks alone doesn't increase sexual violence victimization. College men have become so intoxicated that they have fallen in rivers and drowned, with the latest case I'm aware of happening earlier this month in La Crosse, WS. Other boys and men have died from a mix of alcohol consumption and hypothermia, including a 15 year old boy who was found in a snowbank by his father.

If these men and boys were viewed in the same way as girls and women are routinely viewed when someone rapes them while they are under the influence, the response to these deaths would include "What did they expect?" and far worse.

This level of vulnerability makes these boys and men easy targets for sex offenders. The difference in sexual victimization comes down to who sex offenders try to rape and under what circumstances.

This contrasting risk taking and sexual victimization means that victim behavior prior to rape cannot be accurately viewed as being responsible for rape.

This second rate doesn't specify the gender of the person who made men have sex they didn't want, but some of these men would have been made to have sex by women which means that men who shrug off women's attitudes as not affecting them may discover firsthand that they are wrong. Because some men commit sexual violence against other men, those men who shrug off other men's attitudes may also discover firsthand that they are wrong in feeling safe.

Despite these high numbers of unwanted sexual experiences, 18% of respondents agreed with the statement, "most claims of rape are probably not true" with 27% of the men surveyed agreeing with this statement while 14% of women agreed.

That bias mixed with other attitudes measured in this report is key for understanding the gap between people's belief that they would report and the actual rate of reporting. The reasons these people dismiss most reports of rape can make those same people who believe they would report being raped decide that reporting will subject them to the assumption that their truthful report is probably false.

18% of respondents do not know whether it is rape when a man in a committed relationship makes his partner have sex that partner doesn't want and 10% believe this is not rape. When you add these numbers to the rates at which people believe victims should take responsibility, many people are fine with supporting a rapist-friendly environment and many people are likely to make a false accusation against someone who was raped and who reported that rape truthfully.

Too often genuine consent is viewed as optional. Instead what many people seem to believe in is setting a tolerable level and context for non-consent.

Besides the most common actions which people view as making someone responsible for being raped, 14% of respondents blamed victims for their rapes if they kissed the person prior to being raped and 13% blamed victims who accepted a drink and engaged in a conversation prior to being raped. This means that a large number of women behaving as expected on a first date will be blamed if their date sexually assaults them. A goodnight kiss can become incitement of rape. Those who accept this are the ones who share responsibility when rapists act according to their beliefs.

Combine all these attitudes and nobody needs to wonder why the conviction rate is appallingly low and why the frequency of sexual violence is appallingly high.

The way to reduce the frequency of people willing or trying to commit sexual violence is rooted in getting people who don't consider themselves to be part of the problem to understand that general attitudes either support or undermine sexual violence.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:45 AM   1 comments links to this post

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thoughts On Why Women Hold Some Rape Victims Responsible

In my last post I focused on the general attitudes expressed by those who hold some rape victims at least partly responsible for their own rapes as expressed in the UK survey Wake Up to Rape. In this post, I want to focus specifically on women's attitudes about other women.

I believe a huge contributing factor to the scenarios where women blame rape victims at higher rates than men do is a mix of rape prevention advice and the reaction those who are raped or nearly raped get when they disclose. For too many survivors the first question they get is focused on what they might have done wrong such as, "What were you wearing?"

When people suffer horribly it is natural to look back and wish that you could have avoided that terrible suffering. This process of looking back for the causes of trauma is tainted for most rape survivors by the pervasiveness of focusing only on the victim as if the rapist's actions were non-actions sitting there passively like a patch of black ice.

Rape is too often accepted as a natural consequence of the victim's actions. When this dangerous error in thinking happens it opens the door to people believing that certain rapists shouldn't be viewed and treated as criminals.

The Daily Mail contains an article I was drunk, wearing a short skirt and agreed to go back to his house. Does that REALLY mean I deserved to be raped? by Jenni Murray which begins with:

As a young woman - I was 19 and a university student - I did what, on reflection, was an extremely stupid thing. I went with a group of friends to the home of a much older man.

I was wearing what my mother described, disapprovingly, as an extended belt, but what to me was just a fashionable mini skirt. We'd been drinking in the pub and carried on drinking at the man's flat.
The problem with linking any of her actions or any of her choices even speculatively with her being responsible for her rape is that many of us who have been raped took similar actions and were completely safe. Her rape happened in 1969 and mine happened in 1974 so the attitudes and policies which allowed most rapists to be free from the risk of prosecution or the rightful label of rapist were similar.

She seems to reject the attitudes which contributed to her rape and her decision to tell no one about her rape even though these attitudes persist to this day. However, she seems to fall into the trap of believing that she and others around her would be safe from rape if only they avoided what she calls stupid decisions. This is not true.

All the violence I've experienced has come from those who were viewed by people around me as the lowest risk or who were the most respectable. The cause in her rape and my rapes were in the lack of ethics of our rapists. Some of us who have been raped are raped by those mothers warn girls about but others are raped by those even the victim blamers trust.

Clergy sexual abuse is a huge problem but going to church is never listed along with getting drunk as a dangerous contributory behavior.

After someone is raped non-stupid decisions are frequently transformed into stupid decisions in people's minds simply because they preceded that rape. Opening the front door to accept a delivery becomes a stupid decision if the person at the door holding a box is intent on rape. It becomes assumed that the person raped should have been able to detect danger in time to avoid being raped.

I always promised myself I would never turn into my mother, who would frequently say: 'Don't think you're going out in that', as the skirts in the Sixties got shorter. I believe we all have a right to wear whatever we choose, whether it's a mini skirt or a burka.

Sadly, I'm not sure that the highly sexualised society in which we live offers young people much of a choice. Children are lured into 'sexy gear' before they're old enough to be trusted to take a bus on their own. [...]

Is it a surprise that in such a society assumptions are made about a woman's availability?
While it is not a surprise that many societies continue a long history of making generic assumptions about a woman's availability, those assumptions have been and will always be inexcusable. It will always be negligent to make assumptions based on a girl or woman's level of sexualization whether those who are negligent are held legally accountable or not.

Being lured into 'sexy gear' doesn't mean being lured out of having the right to not be raped. Anyone who makes decisions about their sexual actions based on assumptions about a woman's availability is making the decision that committing rape is an acceptable outcome. It's not good enough for someone to guess that their actions aren't rape because of the harsh opinion many people have about the girls and women they are making assumptions about.

Murray's rapist likely operated with the same mindset she is excusing. In the late 1960s it would be no surprise that assumptions were made about women's availability. It would also be no surprise that her attempts to stop her rapist before that rape was completed would be dismissed as not changing peoples belief that she was asking for it. Many people would have viewed her as paying the price for playing a dangerous game rather than viewing her as a crime victim.
I may, I'm afraid, have to concede that it's not a good idea to go out in the skimpiest of clothing, totter about in the kind of high heels in which you could never run to get out of trouble, get blind drunk and fall over in the street having first taken off your knickers - if you were wearing them in the first place.

Should the worst happen, you could hardly be surprised if a jury felt you had been guilty of a degree of contributory negligence and compromised your safety.
What is not a good idea is to view tottering in skimpy clothing or being falling down drunk or without knickers as the cause of rape. These in no way are the causes of rape. Men can and do choose not to rape when a woman could not protect herself from him and when many people assume that raping that woman doesn't count as a real crime.

Again this attitude could apply just as easily back when Murray was raped. Only then she was likely assured that this attitude would be found in nearly every police station.

This quoted description by Murray makes rapists invisible. Instead of humans, rapists are "trouble." Rape isn't something one person inflicts on another, it is something that "happens."

Allowing a rapist to be less accountable because of opinions about the victim's choices encourages more rapes even if people don't intend to provide this encouragement and wish nothing other than to reduce the number of rapes.

If not being able to outrun a criminal equals being viewed with contributory negligence and compromised safety then a huge segment of most societies must never ever go outside alone or with people who might leave them alone.

In 2007 there was a trial of teens who mistook a woman unsteady on her feet from multiple sclerosis for being drunk and 2 of those teens raped her while the third acted as a lookout. This crime happened because of attitudes which Murray defends as unsurprising.

Those who reduce rapists accountability for any reason are the ones who are practicing contributory negligence. This negligence must stop immediately.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:59 AM   7 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Do Men Wear Pants Because They Are Afraid Of Being Raped?

The question in the title of this post is one most people would answer with no, but that question makes as much sense as many people's accepted attitudes about who is responsible for rape.

In a recent survey of over a thousand people in London, the majority of respondents believe a subset of women rape victims are at least partly responsible for their own rapes for taking actions such as wearing miniskirts. These attitudes raise important questions and highlight important contradictory beliefs.

From the BBC:

More than half of those of both sexes questioned said there were some circumstances when a rape victim should accept responsibility for an attack. [...]

An Amnesty International report five years ago found that a significant minority of British people laid the blame for rape at victims themselves.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw says this latest study suggests attitudes may have hardened. And the findings may help explain why juries are reluctant to convict in some rape trials.
Some of those who reacted to this survey focused on the fact that in certain circumstances women were more likely to hold rape victims responsible, but when more than half of both sexes sometimes held rape victims responsible, men cannot be viewed as generally having a great attitude in this area.

The only great attitude is never holding rape victims responsible for the actions of rapists and always holding rapists responsible for the rapes they commit no matter what those people think about that rapist's choice of victim or their choice of when to rape.

One of the findings of the survey (pdf) was that women blame other women more than men blame women for getting into a bed with a man. These harmful attitudes too often have their roots in what is incorrectly passed off as rape prevention advice. It is common to read people write or say something like:

Women have a responsibility to do everything they can to keep themselves from being victims.
The first problem with this type of statement is that if it is valid for women related to sex crimes then it must be valid for everyone and for all types of felonies.

Men who are murdered are much more likely to be murdered by acquaintances or strangers than women are. This means if men are going to do everything they can to keep themselves from being victims they have a responsibility to avoid all strangers and severely limit the number of their acquaintances, especially other men since men are 10 times more likely to commit murder.

These are clearly unattainable responsibilities. Men are not expected to avoid normal activities such as putting fuel in their cars or going to work with other people. Going into a store isn't viewed as risky behavior but men have been murdered doing just that. When this type of advice is applied beyond the limited scope of sex crimes it quickly becomes clear that this expectation is unreasonable and that doing everything to keep from being a crime victim means doing absolutely nothing where you come in contact with other people. And even this is not protection from crimes such as home robberies and arson.

Some people will protest this parallel by saying it is easy for women to avoid everything on the common list of actions for which rape victims are blamed. Take being on the same bed. Easy to avoid these rapes, right?

Not if your rapist is your husband. This also overlooks the fact that someone a woman knew well and was planning to have sex with can turn violent. If a woman's boyfriend who seems completely safe suddenly wraps his hands around her throat until she's afraid she's going to die in his bed she's not responsible for that action or the rape that follows. Those who advocate waiting for sex until marriage may only delay when men like this feel they have the opportunity and right to be as sexually violent as they want to be.

Many people set up beds so they are used like a sofa or a lounger most of the time, but if a rapist attacks someone on a bed arranged as a sofa that rapist's defense attorney will use the bias shown in this survey to create an intentionally false picture.

Beds don't cause rape. Being in or on a bed with someone doesn't cause rape. Attitudes about beds do contribute to rape and contribute to rapists believing they can use details related of the rapes they commit to shift responsibility from themselves to their victims. This means a non-stranger rapist who sneaks into his victim's bedroom and then attacks his victim on her bed can use these attitudes and the stereotypes about women who lie about rape to get people who hate rape to side with a rapist.

The very reason women trust a man who turns out to be a rapist can be the reason that other people refuse to believe the rapist could have committed rape and instead believe the rape victim is lying or delusional.

If women who dress or act provocatively are responsible for their own rapes then businesses which require any employee to dress or act provocatively must be responsible for the rape or stalking or other criminal targeting of those employees. A woman in Florida was recently murdered by a man who became obsessed with her when she worked at Hooters. Because of him she left that job and moved. If people reject holding Hooters responsible then they must reject holding individual women who are victimized by violent men responsible in any way for those men's actions.

The second problem with statements about girls and women's responsibility to avoid becoming victims of sex crimes is that it is rare to get a similar statement from the admonishers where boys and men are explicitly given the imperative responsibility to "do everything they can to keep themselves" from being perpetrators.

This failure to have parallel beliefs and warnings cannot be excused by saying this second responsibility is obvious. By the numbers of sex crimes committed each year (estimated at over 200,000 against those aged 12 and above in the US alone) this responsibility is not obvious.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 2:10 PM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Report On MN Summit To Prevent Sexual Violence

I encourage everyone to check out the e-report on the Minnesota Summit to Prevent Sexual Violence.

From the main page:
This electronic report contains text summaries, audio recordings, and videos from MNCASA’s Minnesota Summit to Prevent Sexual Violence held in St. Paul, December 3-4, 2009. This report is designed not only to bring you an experience of The Minnesota Summit, but also to provide ideas and resources for leading prevention initiatives in your spheres of influence (see Resources and Tools).

Select the segment you’d like to view by clicking on the title boxes above. Following each summary of a Summit presentation, you’ll find a link to the audio or video recording of that presentation via PreventConnect. Audio recordings are all full-text. All other videos can be accessed directly by pressing the play arrow on the screen.
This e-report is such a wonderful resource and highlights a groundbreaking approach to the primary prevention of sexual violence.

True prevention is possible and is so much better than focusing on the actions of potential victims. We must remember that the problem is not the so-called risky behavior of victims or potential victims. The problem is the behavior and thinking of those who commit sexual violence or who are at risk of committing sexual violence.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:56 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Thoughts On Oprah Show On Women Sex Offenders

The previous Oprah episode on child sexual abuse (Mon. Feb 8) focused on an interview she did with 4 men who were convicted sex offenders with child victims.

Yesterday's show was different beyond the gender of the offender. Rather than being an interview with one or more women offenders, it was primarily an interview with a man, Greg, who had been the victim of a woman sex offender who was also his mother. His sister, April, who survived less severe abuse was also interviewed. This difference takes nothing away from this show as this perspective from 2 survivors is something we must never forget when we think about offenders.

With the belief some people have about what childhood sexual abuse does to boys because of the claims of many boys and men convicted of sexual abuse it is important to demonstrate that becoming a sexual abuser is never predetermined even when abuse seems normal to that child as the abuse is happening.

Greg: The sexual abuse began when he was around 8 yrs old, but grooming wasn't seduction of pretend kindness in the way described last week by the 4 interviewed sex offenders. His mother beat him into complying with sexual abuse. If he complied to his mother's satisfaction then he got the least non-sexual abuse. His mother was more verbally and physically gentle during sexual abuse but he continued to associate sexual abuse with the brutality of physical abuse. His mother, like many sexual abusers and rapists who target non-strangers, told him that he seduced her. His mother was the center of his universe so he wouldn't have stopped her abuse of him.

This childhood abuse continues to haunt him. Part of him was lost. It was easier for him to admit to being physically abused than to admit to being sexually abused. He described his mother as someone who controlled his body.

He coped while the abuse was being done to him by thinking of the person who sexually abused him as a separate person from his mother. In school he craved normalcy and others saw in him what he wanted them to see.

His mother was an alcoholic who prostituted herself beginning when he was about 7 and after she started to abuse him she started prostituting him (age 8 or 9) to adult men. If he couldn't block an erection, he felt like subsequent abuse was his fault.

Oprah said something about the manipulative thinking and narrative used by abusers related to their victim's physical responses which seemed to trigger the recollection that his mother and the men who paid to sexually abuse him would tell him that he liked the abuse using his body's natural response as their proof.

His mother told him what she and those men did wouldn't have happened if he didn't respond sexually. He had earlier talked about viewing the abuse as consensual and at that point he listed the cause of the change in his thinking as his body maturing sexually to the point of being able to have an erection. However, this description of what abusers told him about his body's response is more likely what really caused him to think of the abuse as becoming consensual.

He was told it was consensual and I suspect if he didn't agree or appear like he agreed he would pay for the truth in an increase in some type of abuse.

Oprah made a speculative remark about his mother being a damaged person who obviously had a lot of pain in her life and who didn't know how to love her children. Some will see that as minimization and possibly gendered minimization, but I disagree since this general idea that hurting others is rooted in inner pain or inner brokenness is an idea I've heard from Oprah when she wasn't talking about rape or sexual abuse. In the show where she interviewed men who committed sex crimes against children she seemed surprised that 1 of the 4 men had never himself been sexually abused.

Oprah made a remark about the shame causing more harm than the actual contact and Greg agreed. This is something that many people are likely not to understand and which could be misused by some to separate out the emotional impact from the sexual abuse itself. Shame related to abuse causes victims to change the way they act and react but this shame is caused by the abuse and I believe it is also caused by the way abusers manipulate victims in order to make victims take on responsibility for their own abuse. I also believe that the commonness of direct and indirect victim blaming from people who are not abusers contributes to victims feeling shame.

His mother wanted him to feel fear. People suspected what was happening in his home was abusive in part because his mother's behavior in public but adults in the neighborhood only told their children to stay away from him and his family. In school, obvious signs of general abuse and neglect were ignored or were used to torment him.

Greg's younger sister, April, was also sexually abused by their mother. This abuse fit more into the MO of the sex offenders Oprah interviewed last week and went on for a couple of years until Greg intervened on his sister's behalf. When April was around 7 Greg realized that his mother had allowed a man to pay to sexually abuse or rape April and before that man could touch his sister he told sister to hide and then took his sister's place in an attempt to protect her. He worked to make it difficult whenever his mother again tried to prostitute his sister.

The abuse stopped when he was 11 after he called a relative repeatedly and they were removed from their mother. He talked early in the interview about his mother being his world and not taking action to stop the abuse, but this action when he realized that his sister was in danger and after disrupting the abuse against her highlights that he didn't internalize his mother's rationalizations and that he was willing to shake up everything he knew.

His sister, April, understood that something bad was happening to her brother and it was clear that she was terrified. Her admiration for her brother then and now came through clearly.

Greg still has regular nightmares about the abuse. As a teenager he became promiscuous and couldn't maintain a relationship. He was afraid to tell the woman who became his wife about being an abuse survivor. Having someone you trust violate that trust has a huge impact on being able to trust others who are not abusers.

Greg said that education saved him. It gave him independence and opened the door to his getting help. His adult son talked about his dad and it was clear that Greg's fears that he would turn out to be a parent like his mother in some way never became a reality. Being abused doesn't mean you turn into an abuser. Being an abuser is a choice.

This last statement is key especially in evaluating how Oprah described Greg's mother. Greg's mother could be a damaged person who didn't know how to love without that removing her full responsibility for her choice to abuse her children and her choice to let adult men pay her to abuse her children.

The discussion ended with information about RAINN including providing their helpline.

This episode focused on this one woman as a sexual abuser, but it is important to highlight that the men who paid this woman to gain access to a child must also be viewed as sexual offenders even if they would never harm children without paying first. Too often abusers who pay to abuse tell themselves and others that their victim was no innocent child and therefore what they did was not abuse. This is a lie.

If the laws in any jurisdiction allow this lie to make someone immune from full prosecution those laws must change.

If Greg hadn't been motivated to shake up his world at age 11 to protect his younger sister he might have continued to be prostituted until many people would stop looking at him as a true victim. If his typical response to abuse of being promiscuous had happened while the abuse was continuing many people would view his consensual actions as nullifying the validity of his claims of being abused. This exact type of baseless attack is why there is a continuing need for rape shield laws.

His staying wouldn't have been a choice to be abused yet many people allow their ignorance to convince them that complying at some point does equals consent. This happens even when children are abducted by strangers.

I can't remember the number of times I've heard someone talking about rape say, "If it happens more than once it's consensual." Most of these people think of themselves as being opposed to rape when this type of statement encourages abusers to be repeat offenders and contributes to victims of systematic abuse feeling shame and misplaced responsibility for the abuse done to them.

When those who are working against prostitution talk about the average age of entry being low many people continue to view this as just a number rather than looking at this from the perspective of the children being prostituted. Greg cooperated with abusers who paid his mother, but that never made him any less of an innocent victim of his mother or of the men who she let in their house and it never made any of those men who paid Greg's mother into lesser sex offenders or non-sex offenders.

Update: at least for now the full episode of this show Women Who Molest can be watched online.


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

Monday, February 15, 2010

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 88

Welcome to the February 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:

creative expression

In I wrote this poem. It doesn't really have a title yet. posted at Sublimely Ridiculous, we get a powerful description of how physical and emotional violence intertwine and how violence can be followed by the determination of a survivor.


In Dumb MRA says dumb MRA things posted at Anti-Porn Feminists, we get an analysis of the use of "masculine fantasy" in excusing actual non-consensual practices in the making of porn and the dismissal of accountability for boys and men who aggressively mimic what they see men doing in violent porn as just making a learning mistake.

In Therapetic Abortion in Nicaragua posted at IntLawGrrls, we get a discussion of laws changed in 2008 which make abortions illegal even when the fetus has no chance of surviving such as with a tubal pregnancy and which makes doctors guilty of a crime if they provide necessary medical treatment during pregnancy which unintentionally harms a fetus.


In I Have no Title for this post ... Only Lots of anger and shame is all what I Have posted at sumesh's space, we get a discussion of many rape cases in India where the victims were denied justice.

In Man twice a rape suspect back in court on probation violation posted at Cops and Courts, we get a discussion of a Montana man who pleaded no contest to felony sexual assault but spared prison time by the judge overseeing his case.

In Women are Unbelievable! (In Family Courts) posted at Family Court Crisis-Abusers Getting Custody..!!, we get a discussion of family court judges who choose stereotypes about lying women over the evidence presented to them.

In MN Judge Set Higher Bail In Domestic Violence Case To Reflect Higher Danger posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss a judge's response to a man accused of terrorizing his wife with a gun she didn't know was unloaded who then violated a no-contact order in his bail conditions.

In The Innocence Fraud Project posted at Crime and Consequences Blog, we get a discussion of how a death penalty abolitionist incorrectly positioned Roger Keith Coleman who was executed in 1992 for rape and murder as if he were an innocent man victimized by a corrupt system when DNA tests done in 2005 confirmed his guilt and invalidated the allegations that Coleman was a victim of a corrupt and/or incompetent system. This is important even if you don't agree with those who highlight this error since it shows how a compelling story can cause people to believe a lie from someone proven guilty.

In Competent Opinion: Supreme Court Of New Hampshire Reverses Sexual Assault Conviction Based Upon Incorrect Competency Ruling posted at EvidenceProf Blog, we get a discussion about the determination about whether the alleged victim understood the duty to tell the truth.

In School District Not Liable For Harassment by Former Teacher posted at Title IX Blog, we get a discussion of a case against a school district which knew about a teacher's wrongdoing and opted to remove him quietly and to provide a positive letter of recommendation to his next employer because the school district had no duty to protect students outside of their district.

media watch

In Fuck you, Google posted at Fugitivus, we get a discussion of the dangerous privacy flaws in Google's new product Buzz in how it uses email contacts.

In Victim Blaming and Transgender Rape Victims posted at The Sexist, we get a discussion of commenters on the New York Daily News website who invented dozens of reasons why an alleged sexual assault could never have occurred, and if it did happen why the victim deserved to be raped.

In Look on! The ICTY on film posted at IntLawGrrls, we get a discussion of Storm, a German/Dutch film which tells the story of a woman prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and her attempts to bring down a war criminal.

In Resolved: Abandoning Your Rape-Victim Wife Is A Dick Move posted at The Sexist, we get a discussion of the advice given by different advice columnists related to men's reaction to their wife's rape and the pregnancy which resulted from rape.

In Punch Drunk: On Rape Apologists and Hollywood Misogyny posted at Jane Claire Bradley, we get a discussion about the work of Todd Phillips including the movie The Hangover which included convicted rapist Mike Tyson.

In On gender, rape, and media narratives posted at The Feminist Texican, we get a discussion about the assault of Michael Mineo by NYPD officers and how the word rape is omitted from media coverage of the case.

In Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching posted at Feminist Review, we get a review of a book by Crystal Feimster which focuses on the Post Civil War South predominantly through the political writings, speeches, and lives of two prominent female figures of the era. Rebecca Latimer Felton, a white woman from the stately plantation class, educated and raised during antebellum south, and Ida B. Wells, a the daughter of former slaves, raised during the reconstruction era.

In Write On! Sexual violence/conflict in Africa posted at IntLawGrrls, we get a call for proposals for the 2-day workshop "Sexual Violence and Conflict in Africa" to be held May 5 & 6, 2010, at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

In Why don't we call it what it is? posted at Adventures of a Young Feminist, we get a discussion of a storyline in the TV show 24 involving the character Renee who is a former FBI agent.

In My Thoughts On Oprah's Interview With Sex Offenders posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, I discuss the interview Oprah did with 4 men who were convicted of committing sex crimes against children.

raising awareness

In Sexual Abuse is about Abuse, not Sex posted at Kellevision, we get a reminder that the excuses abusers use are dishonest and can cause victims to feel they somehow are responsible for their abusers actions.

In Pervasiveness of reproductive coercion posted at Modus dopens, we get a discussion about how the narrative of placing boys and men's pleasure as the highest priority in discussions of safe sex contributes to unsafe sex.

In Women Lie Narrative Overwhelms Man's Admission Of Violence Costs Young Boy His Life posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, we get a discussion of a case where a man admitted to a judge that he had hit the woman seeking an order for protection.


In Reproductive Coercion is Sexual Violence posted at The Curvature, we get a discussion about the report "Pregnancy Coercion, Intimate Partner Violence and Unintended Pregnancy" and the implications from the report about where messages related to violence fail.


In How a Good Campus Sexual Misconduct Policy Fights Oppression posted at Tufts University Survivors of Rape, we get a discussion about how a narrow view of sexual violence and what is needed to deal with sexual violence contributes to creating an environment where sexual violence is more likely to happen and where the handling of sexual violence cases can reinforce other inequities.

In On the Importance and Necessity of Sexual Assault Policies (Peace Corps Edition) posted at Change Happens, we get a discussion about how the principles which are needed to make college campuses safer also apply to other institutions including one designed to make the world a safer place.

take action

In ACTION ALERT: National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence is swinging into action. posted at Family Court Crisis-Abusers Getting Custody..!!, we get a discussion of important work being done to prevent violence.

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

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

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

Marcella Chester

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

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Self Portrait Painted in Anonymous Comments

This morning I woke up to a series of anonymous comments from a man or men written between 3 am and 4 am which highlight distorted thinking which support violence and/or injustice against girls and women.

Here's the first one which was left on my post, Rape as a way to break reproductive monopoly & injustice against men:

If a starving person has nothing to eat and is on the verge of death, would it be in the best interest of that person to take the abundant food of another so as to sustain their life essence?

If a childless person has no children and is on the verge of death, would it be in the best interest of that person to take the abundant reproductive capacity of another so as to sustain their life essence?

Would it be right?
Or are the hungry deserving of death.
And the childless deserving of the same?

The lack of human compassion is a trademark of psychopaths. Is it any wonder then that you are given the title of Feminazis.
That this man who defends sexual and reproductive violence calls me a "feminazi" for opposing the violence he defends is telling about his distorted view of the world. The types of opinions which come from those who use the term feminazi end up turning this into a shorthand way of them describing their own views.

This man uses gender neutral language, but I doubt he has the same compassion for a childless woman who takes a man's reproductive capacity and then takes his other resources to sustain her life essence.

Here's the next anonymous comment from last night left on my post The purpose of this blog:
So your life now revolves around victimhood? Perpetual and eternal. That's sad. You should move on. Life's too short. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

Hope is not the antonym for abyss. If you dont have the hope already of overcomming your abyss you will never have closure. So i take it you aren't really after closure? Well then perpetual and eternal victimhood is all you will have. Thats sad. You should move on. Life's too short.
This call for me to move on is a call for me to ignore sexual violence. Not wanting people to focus on sexual violence from the perspective of a survivor is in no way an opposition to victimhood.

Revolving my life around victimhood (stopping it, that is) is bad, but apparently revolving your life around attacking victims of rape for speaking out against that violence is good and is never a waste of precious time.

When people demand that I stop speaking out against sexual violence and try to package their desired action as an expression of concern for me they have zero credibility as their callousness is impossible for them to hide.

Here's the next one left on my post Research On Response To Sexist Jokes And Rape Proclivity":
of course you would have no problem with the calls to exterminate males
from many prominent female feminists. It is jokes, and sexist jokes at that
which raise serious issues about a joke tellers ethics. A feminists ethics? of
course not. Its never a two way street for them. Or is it.
I've never heard any calls to exterminate males except from those who claim to be repeating what they heard from many prominent feminists.

Notably this man doesn't express any opposition to sexist jokes where women and/or girls are the butt of the jokes. He chooses to ignore the research about the relationship between men enjoying sexist jokes and having a proclivity to commit rape.

Here's the last in the series of last night's comments from Anonymous on my post Gender Non-specific Action vs Gender Equality:
current system gives more to boys and men and directly neglects or harms girls and women.

So you are saying that runnign water, sanitation, houses, food on shelves, police/security, education, THE CLOTHES ON YOUR BACK..... everything, everything around you that is the product of men is directly NEGLECTING OR HARMING GIRLS AND WOMEN! This whole "system" around you that is sustaining prosperous life is neglecting or harming women? You are insane.
Here's my response to this comment.


It is interesting that you use "the product of men" to falsely remove women from the production of running water, sanitation, houses, food on the shelves, police/security, education, the clothes on your back, and everything around you that sustains prosperous life.

I won't call you insane for wanting to give men credit for everything you value, but you have chosen to distort reality. That distortion includes your decision to omit a key part of the quoted sentence I wrote in order to distort the meaning of that sentence. What you left out is my claim that MRAs often oppose equal resources when more is given to boys and men and when a system neglects or harms girls and women. In case you need it spelled out, that is not the same as saying everything favors boys and men and everything neglects or harms girls and women.

Twisting reality and then twisting my words and then calling me insane just makes you look like a foolish bigot.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:53 AM   7 comments links to this post

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another Alleged False Police Report

As I was watching the news on KTTC last week, there was a brief mention that police believe a reported stabbing near Dodge Center, MN to be a false report. I kept waiting to be able to find something documenting this belief but still have been unable to find anything on this development. This isn't the first time I've heard this type of announcement related to a non-sex crime and not been able to find any documentation online.

I don't know what the police discovered which caused them to announce their disbelief of a man's claim that he had been flagged down by the driver of a car sitting at the side of a county road and subsequently robbed and stabbed.

The reason this announcement and the lack of information is important is that many people use news coverage posted online to make claims about the number and type of reports police believe to be false. Too often these statements of belief are repeated as if they are statements of proven crimes when they are allegations which may or may not be followed by criminal charges.

This belief by the police in this case seemed to be nearly non-news by those who received this information. When someone makes a false report of a stabbing there isn't the same backlash against everyone else who reports being stabbed.

This backlash isn't caused by the number of verified false reports of sex crimes, it is caused by bias which can lead an investigator to decide that a report is false when that report was in fact true and to then coerce a confession in order to quickly and cleanly close the case.

I don't know if this man who reported being robbed and stabbed made a false report, but I know I want all decisions in that case and all other cases to be based on credible evidence.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 2:12 PM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Carnival Deadline Approaching

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

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.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:48 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mobilizing Anti-Violence Inactivists

Yesterday I posted on Oprah's interview with 4 convicted sex offenders and last week I posted about how several cases were mishandled prior to 2 9-month-old boys being murdered by their fathers. In 1, the father claimed the mother had threatened violence against their son. In the other, the father admitted hitting the woman but blamed her for his actions. I got several frustrated responses about how few people care in a meaningful way.

There is a huge and dangerous contrast far too often between what many people say about sex offenders and those who commit violence against family members and how reports of sexual and domestic violence are handled and talked about. There is also a dangerous contrast between what people say they believe in these areas and their actions.

For most people the dangerous difference is that they do nothing. I was in this group for two decades and my lack of action was related to my trauma. I coped by avoidance and until I was able to deal with my trauma, I couldn't look at these issues with any depth and I couldn't say anything beyond the most general type of statement.

Some of this contrast comes from the mistaken belief that all those who commit these types of violence are complete monsters or are criminally insane or that sexual violence is caused by sexual starvation or the inciting actions of the victims. Then there are the stereotypes that those who are dedicated to stopping violence against women hate men and that eliminating loopholes in rape and domestic violence laws are efforts to persecute men.

These incorrect beliefs create stereotypes that are too often used to evaluate individual allegations. One of the keys to reducing false allegations and false assumptions is to recognize the role of attitudes about women in systemic failures related to sexual and domestic violence.

Police officers who accept more rape myths were less likely to believe victims who did not adhere to the cultural stereotyped victim characteristics.
This research and other research are important because they can highlight where cases are evaluated based on cultural stereotypes thereby protecting those who choose violence.

These stereotypes are too often used to baselessly label victims or witnesses as false accusers, sometimes when the person who reported provided credible evidence and there is no credible evidence that the report was false, only an allegation from the person accused whose motivation to lie is too often ignored.

The meaning of constitutional rights such as innocent until proven guilty are often twisted to presume those who report violence to be guilty. If someone honestly discloses violence but can't prove that violence happened too often they are treated as if they are proven liars. This "failure to prove" is often linked to the belief that victims can incite sexual and domestic violence which is different from acting in self-defense.

She reports she was raped by a trusted friend, he reports that she was walking alone and willingly accepted a ride from him. When people believe that accepting a ride with a man means that man must be acquitted they become conditionally pro-rape even if they still call themselves anti-rape.

One example of how stereotypes about sex offenders can help sex offenders is when an attractive, popular man is rightfully accused of rape. Too many people instantly reject the claim and all credible evidence because, "He doesn't need to rape anyone." This stereotype ignores the fact that many people commit many different crimes they don't need to commit. Wealthy people who don't need money sometimes do steal anyway.

Some people who are not stereotypical monsters get more pleasure from hurting and dominating others than they do from mutual sexual activities and healthy relationships. Some people get even more pleasure when their lies about their victims are believed and repeated by people who hate violence.

When judges ignore the evidence given to them which shows that someone is dangerous, not enough people stand against these failures and not enough who do stand up will keep the pressure on until these failures are eradicated.

I don't believe the problem is how few people care, I believe the problem is that most of the people who care are inactivists for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that both violence and attitudes which help violence happen seem overwhelming and unchanging so that being an activist seems like it will make little to no difference on a broad scale.

This is wrong. There have been huge positive changes since I was first raped. Some changes haven't given the promised results, but that just means there is a need to review and adjust. We also need to evaluate whether changes which are labeled by individuals as bad are ineffective or if they are just bad for those who used to have an easier time getting away with harmful actions.

There is much more to do, but the needed changes are attainable. One of the key changes from the review of past efforts is the need to focus on primary prevention to reduce violence. For primary prevention to work, the actions need to be pervasive so that prevention in one area isn't undermined by actions in other areas.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:07 PM   2 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

My Thoughts On Oprah's Interview With Sex Offenders

I want to begin by warning readers that the video interviews Oprah did and which parts were broadcast on yesterday's show can be triggering.

Oprah got so many of the dynamics of sexual offending right, but I need to begin by disagreeing with Oprah on her apparent belief that those who are in the sights of sex predators can always deflect those predators by being more confident and therefore less vulnerable.

There is no absolute protection which can be done by a child.

Sometimes vulnerability is in a child's unmet need for love and attention, but sometimes vulnerability is in being any child within the control or reach of someone willing to misuse that control or access. Some abusers will back off if their attempt is met with resistance or immunity to their lures, but others will double their efforts and may threaten the life of a child's parent if that child doesn't comply.

We are all vulnerable at times and in ways which are normal parts of life. We cannot protect children or adults by eliminating vulnerability. Going to sleep is a vulnerability which can be exploited by those willing to disregard others rights.

One of the men Oprah interviewed abused his daughter as she slept who he had recently been given custody of. She did tell her mother immediately and continued to be vulnerable only because of external circumstance including her father's successful lie that his daughter made up the abuse in an attempt to be returned to her mother.

Vulnerability can be caused by a child being where those who respond to allegations are quick to assume that disclosures of abuse are false or by living where the response system is ineffective for any reason.

The issue of vulnerability reminds me of a joke about 2 men being chased by a bear which ends with the punchline, "I don't have to be faster than the bear, I just have to be faster than you." If all we are addressing is the behavior of potential victims and their non-offending family members this is what is happening. It isn't enough if all we are teaching individual children to in effect be faster than other children.

The root problem is the number of people willing to exploit others sexually. Some of these people start young so we need to look at where children get their motivation to start thinking like abusers.

I applaud Oprah for making it clear that vulnerability or even having a child enjoy the attention of an abuser never equals that child being to blame for abuse or that abuse being non-harmful. She also made it clear to those men that what they did was just as wrong even if their victims got some physical or sexual pleasure.

Oprah's previous work supporting law enforcement efforts to monitor Internet child porn and use that information to try to rescue victims is a critical part of protection. If potential offenders see their intended behavior as likely to quickly have a negative outcome they may decide that the offense is not worth the risk no matter how vulnerable their desired victims are. But we are not close to having systems where most offenders believe they can't get away with their crimes.

Many abusers are sickened by the most stereotypical acts of sexual violence and we need to find a way to have all acts of sexual violence be just as repulsive. Part of this is for everyone to start seeing abuse done by coercion and manipulation as just as clearly wrong as abuse done with the aid of a gun. One way for this to happen is if people view coercion and manipulation as types of poisons injected into otherwise safe objects and activities.

I was glad that Oprah and the woman who worked with these sex offenders kept focusing on how these offenders premeditated their crimes and called these men on their minimizations whenever they described something as just happening. We all need to do this to those who are non-offenders when they dismiss certain sex crimes as accidents or less serious than other sex crimes. This minimization often happens when the person who exploits children or younger children is charged or convicted of a statutory offense.

These 4 men Oprah interviewed have admitted their guilt and have apparently been in sex offender treatment for multiple years yet I noticed a continuation of minimizing and rationalizing in much of what they said. This means that while this may be an unusually candid discussion, it cannot be considered an absolutely truthful discussion.

Rationalizations, minimization, shifting of responsibility and denial run deep. One of the main areas where this appeared was in response to Oprah's question of what would have stopped these men. They seemed to want to say that if their victims had responded differently they would have stopped, but I believe at most it would have caused them to shift their attention to a different target. These men might have responded by changing their strategy because the cause was in their mindset and the payoff they got from offending.

I believe that these men didn't feel what they were doing was truly harmful, but this belief was cultivated rather than being evidence based. This incorrect belief is supported by so much of what many people who are appalled by these men's actions continue to say about non-stranger sexual assaults and victims of non-stranger sexual assaults.

A key element of how many people talk which helps offenders is placing primary responsibility for preventing sexual violence onto victims.

Too often the person considering committing sexual violence is ignored or treated as if that person is acting naturally by exploiting others in certain situations. For each time we talk about what should be done to defend against violence, we need to talk as much about what should be done to reject committing violence.

Many people say that everyone understands that sexual violence is wrong, but from the number of known sex offenders including child molesters, this clearly is not true at a soul-deep level.

The introductions provided valuable insight about how these men differ from the stereotypes about child molesters.

Lee: First committed sexual harm when he was a child of between 10 and 12 against 3 children, then at 14 raped his girlfriend. He earned official label of sex offender many years later for his actions when he was around 63 or 65 against a 5 year old girl. After being caught, he offended again against another child.

I noticed that Lee talked about his girlfriend who he raped letting him commit offenses which is contradicted by his statement that this "letting" happened because he had control over her. Compliance is not the same as letting someone do something.

Darren: He first committed sexual harm by raping 2 teenage girls when he was in his early 20s but got away with those rapes. He entered this offender program because he sexually molested his 12 year old daughter. He seemed to blame his behavior on being in a dark place in his life yet many other men also feel lonely and unloved and would never fantasize about molesting their daughters let alone take actions to make those fantasies a reality.

It's so interesting that he described crossing the line as when he turned his attention to his daughter when he was by that time a 2 time rapist. His daughter reported his first criminal action against her to her mother and he falsely claimed that his daughter was making a false accusation.

Child protective services learned about the girl's disclosure and when she was interviewed at school she denied the truth. As I heard that part I wonder if where this girl was interviewed contributed to this girl feeling pressure to not disclose.

David: He molested girl relative who was 3 years younger beginning when he was around 8 until he was around 20 years old. His interaction was manipulative from the very beginning yet he tried to make it look like his interest was simple childish curiosity. He had never been molested and wanted to fit in with teenagers he knew. He used this younger relative's admiration for him as a weapon in his abuse of her.

Robert: Had 5 victims. His first victim was 12 when he was 18 and she liked him so he used that to manipulate her into being more vulnerable before he raped her. At one point he claimed that if his victims had told him no he would have stopped, but he was challenged by his counselor that he only let no deflect him at the very beginning of the process of offending which was likely at the victim selection stage.

Even though the full 2 hours of video are hard to watch I encourage those who are able to listen to these men's truths and to their deceptions.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:35 AM   14 comments links to this post

Monday, February 08, 2010

Violence Against Mother In Pro-Life Tebow Ad

I had other plans yesterday so I didn't watch the Super Bowl or the ads on TV, but this morning I read a recap of the most memorable ads or the ones which were most anticipated. Previously I blogged about the unintended messages in the then unseen ad paid for by Focus on the Family which focused on the decision made by Pam Tebow when she faced medical issues when pregnant with Tim Tebow, her son who went on to win the Heisman Trophy.

Some people seem to believe that the Focus on the Family ad was completely benign and those who viewed this ad as having a non-benign message were wrong. That's not the message I got from watching this Super Bowl ad.

The Tebow/FotF ad shows mom Pam Tebow telling what is clearly positioned as a heartwarming story about almost losing her son, a miracle baby, yet before she finishes talking she is body slammed into the floor without warning by her football hero son. This out-of-the-blue violence of course doesn't hurt her at all which mirrors the fantasy that women who ignore doctors warnings about how pregnancy might kill them will come through that pregnancy unharmed. Another version of this ad apparently left out the tackle, but I haven't watched that one so I won't comment on it.

This violence reflects a general disregard for women that is contained in the hard line anti-abortion position where no girl or woman should be allowed an abortion under any condition. Sacrificing a child for a mother is murder according to this mindset, but sacrificing a mother for a child or even for a delayed death of a fetus is never murder. By talking about a miracle baby, those girls and women who have no earthly chance of surviving seem to be expected to generate their own miracles. If they can't, so what. The claim of one miracle makes murderous laws into benign pro-life laws.

Notably, Tim Tebow doesn't share a similar heartwarming story about his miracle mother who he could have lost. Her possible death during pregnancy isn't important enough to mention. She talked of continuing to worry about his his health, but her health isn't worth mentioning. If her life and her health were also miracles, they were of far less value.

Tracy Clark-Flury called this a tempest in a TV spot, but I disagree that omitting the political position makes the ad harmless. By positioning the Tebow's beliefs as warm and fuzzy and harmless then that falsely positions those who disagree with their political position as mean or irrational people. How dare we be against miracle babies! How dare we be against life!

This ad reflects attitudes and actions in other worldly ads. A Snickers ad showed Betty White being body slammed by a man, but that action is not and act of violence similar to the Tebow ad because it was done in a tackle during a football game where the woman tackled was a willing participant. In the Tebow ad the mom is blindsided by her loving son while talking to the camera not during a family football game.

The punchline was that "Betty White" was really a hungry young man who played like Betty White until he took a bite of a Snickers bar. The ad ends with Abe Vigoda (another older actor) being tackled with the clear understanding that that is a hungry young man playing like Abe Vigoda. The closer comparison to the Tebow ad in disregard for women's lives was in an ad for Bridgestone tires where a man mishears, "your Bridgestone tires or your life," as "your Bridgestone tires or your wife" and throws a woman to the nasty villains.

Women's rights and lives being expendable is not a warm and fuzzy belief no matter how warm and fuzzy the packaging is.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:54 AM   6 comments links to this post

Friday, February 05, 2010

Women Lie Narrative Overwhelms Man's Admission Of Violence Costs Young Boy His Life

From the Hi Desert Star:

TWIN PEAKS — Sunday’s murder-suicide was the culmination of months of threats and online and text rants from Stephen Garcia to Katie Tagle of Yucca Valley and her family. [...]

At that hearing, on Jan. 12, Tagle went before Judge David Mazurek in the Joshua Tree courthouse to show cause for a restraining order.

“…On Dec. 31, we were doing our exchange, and he proposed to me, and I said no. He got angry and stole my phone and pushed me down. I made a police report about that,” Tagle told the judge, according to a transcript.

Garcia told the judge the report was “falsely made up.”

Mazurek denied Tagle the restraining order.

“If I grant the restraining order, how do you think that’s going to help with respect to you two being able to raise Wyatt together or work together to make sure Wyatt grows up happy and healthy?” the judge asked, according to the transcripts.

“He would have both of us still,” Tagle responded.

Asked about an e-mail in which he confessed to hitting Tagle, Garcia told the judge he had slapped her during a fight, but it was Tagle’s fault for “pushing and pushing and pushing until she could get something from me.”

Tagle pointed out she was nine months pregnant when Garcia hit her.

“I kind of get an idea of what’s going on,” Mazurek said.

He denied the restraining order, saying, “I don’t think that Mr. Garcia poses a threat to Ms. Tagle.” Mazurek went on to suggest Tagle might have ulterior motives for alleging domestic violence.

“I get concerned when there’s a pending child custody and visitation issue and in between that, one party or the other claims that there’s some violence in between. It raises the court’s eyebrows because based on my experience, it’s a way for one party to try to gain an advantage over the other,” he said, according to the transcripts.
If this boy hadn't been murdered then this case likely would have been added to Judge David Mazurek's perceived experience with one party (the mother) trying to gain an advantage over the other in a custody dispute. Then it too could be used to rationalize disregarding testimony which was truthful and accepting testimony which was false.

Judge Mazurek had a man who confessed to committing an act of violence in an email and who then repeated that confession to him directly and yet that judge still couldn't see this woman's allegation as even possibly true. All he could see was his stereotypes about those who report violence when there is a pending child custody issue.

This judge had a man who claimed that the allegations were falsely made up confess to violence and that judge couldn't see any reason to criticize that man for his actions. The fact that violence can interfere with a mutual agreement on child custody and can lead to a dispute doesn't seem to be even a possibility on Judge Mazurek's radar.

When the truth isn't viewed as a possibility that is bold-faced incompetence.

But the reported mishandling of this case continued. After this hearing Stephen Garcia sent Katie Tagle a text message telling her to check her email where she found an email sent anonymously which contained a story with 2 endings which she correctly viewed as a threat to her son's life if she didn't do what this man demanded.

The deputy who responded to her 911 call is to be commended for seeing this as a serious matter and working to get her an emergency restraining order. But the judge who reviewed this emergency order, Judge Robert Lemkau refused to uphold it and ordered this woman to immediately give her son to a man who had threatened indirectly that he would murder that boy.
Transcripts from that hearing are not yet available, but family and friends who were in the court that day with Tagle said the judge appeared not to have read the evidence she presented, including the “Necessary Evil” story and the emergency restraining order obtained by a sheriff’s deputy.

“Just from the very beginning, he didn’t want to listen,” said Rick Tagle, who was in the courtroom. “He started out by saying, ‘One of you is lying and I think it’s you,’ and pointing at Katie. ”The judge also allegedly warned Tagle there would be consequences for lying.
Stephen Garcia didn't immediately murder their son but these false accusations from 2 judges caused this concerned mother to stop fighting the system which had clearly sided with her abuser. She was likely afraid that if she continued to tell the truth that her son would be taken from her permanently.

In the end that's what these judges actions did. These 2 ruling took this innocent child from his mother forever and ended any chance this innocent child had of growing up happy and healthy or in growing up at all.

Both of these judges should be immediately blocked from hearing any cases where abuse is alleged pending the completion of ethics reviews and review of all their domestic violence cases. If the reported bias in evaluating the evidence or failing to evaluate the evidence is confirmed then both these judges should be removed from the bench. If either of them are also attorneys they should face ethics reviews by their state bar associations.

This case shows clearly that lives can be at stake when judges make their decision based on bias rather than evidence.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:46 AM   9 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 04, 2010

MN Judge Set Higher Bail In Domestic Violence Case To Reflect Higher Danger

From a Minneapolis Star Tribune opinion piece titled Is higher bail the answer in domestic violence cases? by Abby Simons:

It looked like the setup to another case of marriage ending in murder.

Police say that on Jan. 1, Brian Andvik of Albany, Minn., put a pistol in his wife's mouth, told her she'd never see her children again and pulled the trigger.

The gun was empty, but Stearns County [MN] authorities jailed Andvik for felony assault and domestic strangulation, crimes his wife said were just the latest in a series of chokings, gun threats and other violence he'd inflicted upon her.

By Jan. 18, police say, after Andvik had posted $125,000 bail, he violated no-contact orders and snuck into his now-estranged wife's house while she and their two children slept. But he set off a newly installed alarm and was arrested again.

This time, Stearns County Judge Skipper Pearson decided to try changing the course of a story, and possibly its ending. He set Andvik's bail at $1 million -- $500,000 with conditions -- an amount typically reserved for accused killers. Assistant County Attorney Joshua Kannegieter had argued that the high bail was necessary to prevent Andvik from becoming precisely that.
This increased bail is appropriate in cases where murder or serious bodily harm was threatened, promised or attempted or where limits were ignored. What should be considered a threat or a promise must include indirect statements and patterns of statements or actions which individually might be dismissed as meaningless.

While what happened on Jan. 1 is an alleged crime and is too often dismissed as one person's word against another person's word and therefore allegedly not appropriate for higher bail or allegedly not appropriate for an immediate arrest, what happened on Jan. 18 is harder for the dismissive people to reduce to a "he said/she said" dispute.

The risk which the dismissers often ignore or view as acceptable while focusing on the feelings of the person accused of domestic violence goes far beyond the person who made the initial report. Family, friends, bystanders and the police are all at increased risk. The idea that domestic violence is a private matter is dangerous nonsense.

On Jan. 30, a 17 year-old boy was stabbed to death in St. Paul, MN after a 19 year old man violated his ex-girlfriend's order for protection and broke in to her home.

In January, a Maplewood police officer was determined to have been justified in using deadly force in Sept. 2009 when she shot a man who had just killed a North St. Paul police officer when they were responding to a call from the man's estranged wife reporting that he was in her apartment with a gun.

Too often not enough is done until someone who has been abusive crosses a line that the minimizers can no longer shrug off as simply 1 person's word. If we are concerned about public safety we must address the potential danger before it escalates to the promised or threatened most extreme acts of violence.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:23 AM   1 comments links to this post