Nel's New Day

October 19, 2016

Court System, Nation’s Values Support Rape Culture

Filed under: Rape — trp2011 @ 3:56 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Donald Trump has been revealed as a sexual predator, but only 12 percent of registered Republicans think that he should drop out of the presidential campaign after they heard about his sexual assaults. His supporters claim that all men engage in the kind of talk from Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush or, Pat Robertson’s defense, Trump was just being “macho.” After a number of women accused Trump of assault and not “just words,” Trump called all of them liars and rejected their claims, supported by the women’s conversations at the time that Trump sexually attacked them. Trump’s campaign has also threatened legal action against the women. Thus the vast majority of Republicans have joined Trump and his campaign in their attempt to normalize a rape culture, the belief that men have unlimited rights to women’s bodies by downplaying sexual assault and denying the women’s stories.

The last presidential candidates’ town hall addressed Trump’s behavior, but men were not at all concerned about the issue. By contrast, Trump’s sexual predation was Number One. Soraya Chemaly, the director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project, pointed out:

 “It is an abstraction for most men. To try to explain why sexual harassment, street harassment, the threat of rape, affects our ability to go to school, walk freely, to get jobs, to keep working in certain places, it’s like it doesn’t matter. It’s like it’s just a trivial thing. And clearly, women’s response to this indicates that it’s not trivial to them.”

martin-blake-1A judgment in a Montana court shows that the judge believes rape is inconsequential. Forty-year-old Martin Blake of Glasgow (MT) admitted to three counts of rape and incest and was convicted for one rape. He pled out of a 100-year sentence to receive 30 years, yet Judge John C. McKeon suspended the prison term and gave him 60 days in jail minus the 17 days he had already served. McKeon found that this 60-day term and registering as a sex offender was sufficient for a man who raped his 12-year-old daughter.

Licensed clinical social worker Michael Sullivan testified that Blake would benefit more from community-based sex-offender treatment than from a prison term. Sullivan said that social support during his treatment was vital because he had lost his job and family. At this time, Blake lives with his mother, who spoke on his behalf. Public defender Casey Moore used Blake’s admission to his crimes as a plus on his side, but his “honesty” may have come from the fact that the girl’s mother walked into the room during one of the rapes.

“I’m not asking that he be given a slap on the wrist. He did spend 17 days in jail and he did lose his job, and will be on supervision for the rest of his life.”

The girl’s grandmother was concerned about how a prison term would impact the lives of Blake’s two sons. “His children, especially his sons, will be devastated if their dad is no longer part of their lives,” she said.

McKeon claimed that the sentence was commensurate to the nature and degree of harm and then insisted that Blake’s sentence was appropriate and safe, that the conditions of the sentence are “quite restrictive” and “quite rigorous.” Basically, Blake has to have a job, stay away from those under 18 years old without prior approval, and avoid sexual materials.

McKeon was upset because the prosecuting attorney said that Blake should be held accountable because he “repeatedly raped his daughter.” Jenson shouldn’t have brought up multiple incidents of incest, according to McKeon, because sentencing was for only one count of incest although the psychological evaluation submitted as a court document referenced the three sexual assaults.

More than 1,000 residents have called for removal of the judge, and a petition has almost 30,000 signatures censuring him. But McKeon gets off free because he starts collecting retirement from Montana taxpayers at the end of November.

Montana has gained national media coverage in the past for its light sentences. In 2013, District Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings sentenced former high school teacher Stacey Rambold to 30 days in prison after suggesting the 14-year-old victim—Rambold’s former student—was equally responsible for the 2007 rape. Public outcry resulted in Judge Randal Spaulding resentencing Rambold to ten years. The victim had committed suicide in 2010.

Nick Bata, Libertarian candidate for North Dakota insurance commissioner, now has media attention for his “Make America Rape Again” on his Facebook page. He described the comment as “an online discussion that got a little bit wacky.” The discussion resulted from a Buzzfeed article about a definition of the term “consent.” The comparison is that taking money from a person without their consent is the same as taking sex from a person without their consent.

Bata responded, “Rape culture is a myth [social justice warriors] created.” Just like Trump’s comments, Bata’s dismissals of rape as a crime were offensive to many readers of the social network discussion. His flippant remark “make America rape again” responded to a posting by Juan Carlos Gomez:

“Why are you so dead set against seeing the reality women live through on a daily basis? Is the reality that women you care about go through this too much for you to handle? Or can you be so arrogant to think that only your life experience is valid?”

Ali Owens concluded her piece on rape culture in Huffington Post by explaining gender attitudes toward sexual assault:

“The vast majority of the victims of rape culture are women… and the vast majority of people who tell me rape culture doesn’t exist are―you guessed it―men. Men who somehow believe they are qualified to make that call—to wave away the persistent threat of sexual violence that we women live with every single day of our lives, that is ingrained in us from the time we are very small. Go ahead―wave it away. Minimize it; pretend it’s not there. Because, to you―as someone who’s never had to deal with it―it’s not there.”

Owens’ piece is a must-read for everyone because it shows how women are criticized no matter what they behave—confrontational v. not fighting back, paranoid v. not careful enough, too friendly or nice v. not friendly or nice enough, etc.

In Donald Trump, society has a classic example of someone who represents the rape culture, one in which rape is not actively encouraged but passively condoned. Trump’s philosophies:

trump-at-2012-miss-universeWomen are sexual objects and judged as this, even to the point of Trump’s denying that he would not sexually assault a woman because she didn’t look good enough for him to do it.

Young girls are sex objects in training as shown by Trump, a grown man, tells female children that he’d be dating them in ten years.

Women will let men to anything to them if they have money or fame: this was the focus of Trump’s comments on the video with Billy Bush.

Women’s looks are used as currency as Trump talks about how women can’t succeed if they aren’t attractive.

Women are naturally sluts and men can’t help themselves from assaulting them, shown by his tweets about looking at the “sex tapes” for a women who criticized his advances or his accusation that the military has sexual assaults because they allow women to be soldiers.

Men decide when women can take offense, and they shouldn’t take offense because “it’s just words.” That’s the excuse that people use to cover offensive, suggestive, rape-inducing statements.

The fear caused by this rape culture perpetuates it. Far more women would probably come forward to describe Trump’s sexual assault if they weren’t afraid to suffer a loss of jobs, lawsuits, humiliation, relationships, friends, etc. They know that many people won’t believe them or will blame them for men’s actions. Coming out to others about sexual assault requires great courage; I applaud everyone who has shown that bravery.

June 9, 2016

White Male Privilege – Rapist Apologists in a Rape Culture

Twenty-year-old Brock Allen Turner, Stanford University student and wannabe surgeon, has been found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman and sentenced. The jury heard about how the victim became incoherent within 20 minutes of arriving at a frat party and how Turner was later seen straddling her completely unconscious body behind a dumpster. The woman did not regain consciousness until 4:15 a.m., and had no memory of the assault.The crime occurred in January 2015, the trial last March, and the sentencing this week. For this crime, California law carried a sentence of two to 14 years in state prison.

At the trial, Turner said that the 23-year-old woman seemed to be enjoying his actions. Yet he tried to run away after two graduate students saw him. They caught and restrained him. Witnesses and physical evidence all refuted Turner’s claims. His court statement explained that drinking can ruin a person’s life and then called the victim “the cause” and himself “the effect.” The jury found Turner guilty of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated person, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

Law enforcement refused to publicly release Turner’s mug shot to the media until after a huge outcry. Instead Santa Clara County used his sentencing photo until forced to provide the original mug shot (below left). Media typically used his photos on the swim team or one (below right) that appears to have come from a yearbook. The procedure was in direct contrast to stories about black men accused of sexual assault that typically use mug shots.

brock clean cutbrock mug shot

brock yearbook

 

Judge Aaron Persky, a past Stanford student and captain of the lacrosse team, sentenced Turner to six months in county jail and another three years of probation. The reasons? Turner is an All-American swimmer with Olympic dreams. He just made a mistake, and more than the sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner’s future. The judge added that he didn’t believe that Turner would be of danger to others and that he’s young.   Turner may be out of jail much sooner. He was sentenced on June 8, and his scheduled release date is September 2 of this year.  While DA in Santa Clara County, Persky prosecuted sex crimes.

In a letter, Turner’s father wrote that any jail time was too harsh. He added, “This is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 years plus of life.” The father also suggested that Brock Turner work to warn students about the dangers of “promiscuity.” Michael Miller mourned in the Washington Post that “his extraordinary yet brief swim career is now tarnished, like a rusting trophy.” Other defenses from family members and friends were equally disgusting.

Turner’s sexual assault on an unconscious woman wasn’t really rape, according to his friend Leslie Rasmussen, who sent a letter of support for Turner to the judge. She wrote:

“I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next ten + years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him. I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.

“This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her car in a parking lot. That is a rapist. These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement [sic].”

After the backlash for her comments about her support for a rapist, Rasmusson (below right) has apologized. But her indie grunge-pop band Good English has lost its gigs, and the judge’s light sentence still stands.

good-english-1

The judge’s sentencing sent two powerful messages.

  1. Color matters: Standout Vanderbilt football player, Cory Batey, was immediately remanded after raping an unconscious woman and got a sentence of 15 to 25 years; Brock Turner got six months for the same crime. Turner would probably not have been convicted at all if two Swedish graduate students hadn’t been riding by on their bicycles.  Batey is black; Turner is white.
  2. Campus rape doesn’t matter: Conservatives continue to blame women and their participation in the “hook-up culture” for their rapes while attacking colleges and universities for trying to decrease the number of sexual assaults on campus.

Turner defended himself on the rape charge by saying that he was drunk and couldn’t help himself. A Facebook post from Matt Lang explained what’s wrong with his defense:

“I’ve been drunk many times, even in the presence of promiscuous women who were also drunk, and I managed not to rape them, so I don’t think drinking and promiscuity are the problems. This here is the problem: some guys are entitled pricks, and they’re entitled pricks because their fathers and coaches and friends taught them to be entitled pricks. Because they are entitled pricks, they think they can have whatever they want, and that their worth is defined by what they have and what they take….

“Brock Turner and his ilk were never taught that [rape is wrong]. They were taught that they can have what they want, when they want, including women. And that’s called being a man. Brock Turner thought he was entitled to a little ‘action’ any way he could get it, and he thought that long before he got drunk. The alcohol didn’t introduce that thought, it unlocked it. That thought: ‘I can take whatever I want, including her,’ was planted and watered by a whole, rotten village.

“It is right that we shame him, and his father, and the friend who came to his defense, and the judge, and every other entitled prick we meet.

“Just as importantly, we need to love our boys, and teach them the dignity of the body, and how to live through disappointment and confusion, and how to navigate confusing feelings, and how to separate feelings from action, and how to communicate and listen. We need to redefine for them what it is to be a man, that their worth doesn’t come from that which they have and take.”

Thanks, Matt.

Over 100,000 people have signed a petition to recall Persky. The National Organization for Women has also published a letter endorsing this action. It is available here. Persky may think that six months in jail is a “severe impact,” but the real impact is the life-time sentences for all of the victims, especially the ones who no longer want to come forward about these crimes because of Turner’s light sentence. The only hope is that the country stay enraged about the actions of Turner, his supporters, and his judge.

November 10, 2014

Dress Codes Help Perpetuate a Culture of Rape

This op-ed piece in today’s Register-Guard (Eugene, OR) gives me hope for the next generation: From Pearl Cutting, a junior at North Eugene High School who attended Kelly Middle School:

“All shirts must have sleeves that fully cover undergarments at all times. Crop tops, halter tops, bare midriff, spaghetti straps or strapless shirts are not permitted. When sitting or standing, the shirt must meet or cover the top of the pants, shorts, or skirt at all times. The neckline of shirts must be no lower than three inches from the bottom of the collarbone or show no cleavage.”

This is the “Shirts” section of Kelly Middle School’s dress code, which is similar to the codes of many high schools and middle schools in the United States. Of course, these policies are meant “to minimize distractions from the learning environment,” as the Kelly Middle School Code states.

As we all know, girls and boys wear different clothes and Kelly’s regulations generally apply only to clothing females would wear. According to this section of the dress code, the female body is a “distraction” that keeps the boys from learning with their darn distracting skin.

Oh, no — what would happen if a boy were to see a girls “undergarments” or cleavage? Heaven forbid that males become aware of females having breasts or wearing bras!

The “Pants, Skirts, and Shorts” section states that pants must not have rips or holes. Short running shorts are not permitted. Yoga pants, tights and leggings are not permitted unless they are worn under a dress or skirt of appropriate length. Skirts should be no shorter than three inches from the top of the knee. Leggings may be worn only with skirts and dresses meeting length requirements. Shorts must have an inseam of at least four inches. Any pants, shorts or skirts that look like pajama bottoms or boxer shorts are unacceptable. Pants and shorts must not sag, and underwear must not be visible. OK, these seem sensible. This section, unlike the previous one, contains rules that apply to both genders.

However, the regulations for clothing that a male would wear are all about looking neat and tidy, while the rules for females are once again all about showing skin. Girls can not wear normal-length shorts or borderline short skirts. Is a leg really that much of a threat to a learning environment?

These regulations are enforced in basic school settings. Students grow up with these taboos ingrained into their brains. Creating all these rules about what females can and cannot wear grossly oversexualizes and exploits their bodies. If you do not allow females to show their legs, a leg suddenly becomes sexual — even though both genders have legs. If the same is done with a bra, immediately undergarments and breasts become grossly exploited.

If dress codes were based in an acceptance of the physical differences in boys and girls, students would become accepting of these differences as well, which would lead to the world’s future adults respecting and accepting each others’ differences.

These issues affect not only me, but all females: “Did you see what she was wearing? She was asking for it.” The epidemic of rape affects all females, even if they have not been victims. All females have been in situations where they have felt the potential of an assault by a male. Even if the assault does not happen, the fact that females feel uncomfortable in certain settings with males demonstrates that all females are aware of the looming possibility.

Starting with school dress codes, people are trained to blame the victim when their bodies are being exploited. Dress codes teach that a woman’s body is sexual, and if she is breaking the code, she is “asking for” verbal or physical assault. This is how rape culture is perpetuated.

School is about learning: learning the class material, learning how to make friends, learning about oneself. If the rules at the school amount to saying “Boys: don’t dress like a homeless person” and “Girls: don’t distract the boys with your skin,” these policies are not making the world more equal — they are only creating ingrained misogyny and oversexualization of women in the minds of the world’s future adults.

These rules say that boys will be boys, we cannot change them, they are not the problem; girls are the problem, girls are distracting, they have to cover themselves up so the boys can focus. Instead of giving girls referrals for wearing shorts, maybe we should teach students that a leg is just a leg.

Thank you, Ms. Cutting!

October 20, 2014

Take Action: Over 400,000 Rape Kits Still Untested

Filed under: Rape,Women's issues — trp2011 @ 4:01 PM
Tags: ,

Memphis (TN) is the latest city to discover untested rape kits on police shelves. The recent discovery of 200 untested kits brings the city’s total backlog to over 12,000 and contributes to the other 400,000+ untested ones in the United States. The DNA identified from skin, hair, bodily fluids, etc. left on sexual assault victims is invaluable in finding and convicting rapists, but only 3 percent of rapists ever serve one day in prison. An estimated 91 to 95 percent of rapes are committed by serial rapists, and serial offenders commit an average of six rapes each.

Because the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, the FBI’s criminal forensic database, was not available until the mid-1990s, police didn’t bother to have most rape kits tested from the 1970s and 1980s, leaving a tremendous backlog. The cost of between $500 and $1,500 to test just one rape kit also keeps police from testing all the ones that they receive. If the victim knows the attacker, police tend not to follow through with the testing. In the current climate, however, DNA is vital in prosecuting a case.

Sarah Tofte, vice president of policy and advocacy for The Joyful Heart Foundation (JHF), a nonprofit founded by actress and activist Mariska Hargitay, explained another reason for the backlog. She said that kits aren’t tested in order of receipt because of the overwhelming workload in labs. Police and DAs ask for what they consider the most deserving to be put at the top of the list.

Law enforcement choices in which kits are tested first–or at all–come from opinions about whether a victim seems untrustworthy or a victim has been identified, according to the National Institute of Justice. Priority is also given to cases in which the victim is visibly injured and the suspect is a stranger. In eight in ten rape cases, however, the attack is by someone who the victim knows at least slightly, and most rape cases lack signs of violence. According to David Lisak, a clinical psychologist, acquaintance rapists are often chronic offenders.

Testing the backlog of rape kits would cost Memphis $6.5 million, but its efforts thus far have led to 162 new investigations, 22 indictments, and 16 identifications of people previously convicted of rape. Detroit has tested 1,600 of its 11,000 untested rape kits and identified 100 serial rapists linked to rapes in at least 12 states with 10 of them already convicted. Cleveland’s clearing of 3,985 rape kits led to the indictment of 170 men. New York’s program to clear the backlog has raised the rape arrest rate from 40 percent to 70 percent. Ohio’s testing of more than half its 8,000 kit backlog led to more than 135 indictments; a third of those charged are linked to more than one rape.

One rape victim, Natasha Alexenko, founded Natasha’s Justice Project, a nonprofit focused on testing all the rape kits in the backlog. There could be far more than 400,000 untested kits because most jurisdictions do not have systems for tracking or counting rape kits. The GOP has blocked a bill to even audit untested rape kits for three years.

Before Congress left Washington for two months last month, it gave final approval to The Debbie Smith Act, a program that provides federal grants to law enforcement agencies to work through the backlog of DNA evidence. Without this five-year renewal, the program would have expired on the first day of October. Advocacy groups are requesting an additional $41 million in the FY15 spending bill.

Although Congress has appropriated $1.5 billion over the past decade to clear overdue DNA tests, states are not required to spend this money on rape kits and have little oversight. For example, Los Angeles County had 12,600 untested rape kits in 2009, yet its federal grant money was not used until public attention forced leaders to take action.

At this time, no federal law mandates testing or tracking rape kits, and only five states—California, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas—have legal requirements to count, track, and test rape kits. California’s requirement that all law enforcement submit rape kits to a lab within 20 days was signed at the end of last month. Labs need to test kits within 120 days or send it along to another lab within a month. The backlog can remain for over a year, though, because the law doesn’t go into effect until 2016.

In Oregon, rape kits are performed by certified SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) nurses within 84 hours of the rape. State law requires employing or contracting with a SANE nurse, but 14 of 36 counties don’t have any of the 132 certified nurses in the state. The state does not require certification, only 40 hours training. Only six SANE nurses in the state are certified to work with children younger than 15, meaning that raped children may have to travel a distance to have a rape kit performed on them.

Different areas are using a variety of solutions. Lawyer Robert Spence filed a federal class action lawsuit against Memphis because of its untested rape kits. Wayne County (MI) Prosecutor Kym Worthy got $1.5 million in federal funding to get Detroit rape kits processed. With 1,600 completed, she estimates that her office needs another $15 million to test, investigate, and prosecute outstanding cases. Through the Detroit Crime Commission on the Detroit Rape Kit Initiative, she is asking the public for donations.

Tofte said:

“We seek to change attitudes about sexual violence and abuse by removing the stigma around these crimes and shifting the focus from survivors to perpetrators. We seek to do so by educating the public, holding law enforcement accountable for treating sexual assault cases just as seriously as any other crime, and improving systems to lessen the trauma survivors experience and ensure greater access to justice.”

It’s time to audit and test kits, keep them up-to-date, track the results through CODIS, and mandate that federal monies allotted to these tasks be given oversight so that the money goes where the law directs.

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