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 10, 2014

George Will Needs to Go

Conservative pundit George Will wants to stop the rampant reporting of sexual assaults on college campuses because they are elevating the victims into a “coveted status that confers privileges.” According to the title of his June 6 piece, this is one way that “colleges become victims of progressivism.” If sex includes hormones, alcohol, or a “hookup,” then it’s not rape. He concludes:

 “What government is inflicting on colleges and universities, and what they are inflicting on themselves, diminishes their autonomy, resources, prestige and comity. Which serves them right. They have asked for this by asking for progressivism.”

Carl Gibson’s excellent commentary on Will’s outrageous support of rapists and the rape culture describes the experience of a friend who was raped on campus:

“She told me about the horrible experience rape survivors like her have and the profound effect it has on their lives. After surviving the ordeal, she was faced with the choice of either reporting it or allowing her rapist to go unpunished. When she reported it, she went through the entirely separate ordeal of reliving the experience to a bunch of skeptical, mostly male college administrators whose main concern was the university’s image and the effect it would have on recruiting new students.

“While she pressed for punishment and public accountability, administrators stalled and dragged their feet, asking her what she was wearing that night, how much she drank, her prior relationship with her rapist, whether or not her attacker was clear on his lack of consent, and if she understood how severe the impact would be on her rapist’s life and future if he were formally charged with rape. Ultimately, nothing happened: her rapist continued to walk free on campus, and my friend continues to struggle with depression. I can guarantee she doesn’t consider herself “privileged” as a result of her experience. And I doubt George Will would feel the same way if his wife or daughter were a survivor of a sexual assault.”

Will’s column resulted in rape survivors’ sharing their experiences through the hashtag #SurvivorPrivilege.

Will’s column goes farther than the rape apologist voices in mainstream media whose positions support the rape culture. In our society, the culture of rape is strengthened by attacking victims of this horrible crime. As I’ve written before, policing girls on their clothing without educating boys in respect only adds to the prevalence of rape. Other contributions to the rape culture are telling boys that the belief of taking control and not asking for consent is a manly behavior that attracts women and that the act of putting date rape drugs into women’s drinks is normal. And that’s just the beginning.

The United States isn’t the only place with a serious problem. Narendra Modi, newly elected Prime Minister of India, said about rape, “Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong.” A member of Modi’s party, the home minister of the Chhattisgarh state, said that rapes happen “accidentally.” These statements follow the violent gang rapes and other horrific crimes against women in India that led to massive street protests. After two girls, 14 and 15, were gang-raped and hanged from a mango tree, Indian riot police used water cannons against protesters.

The Washington Post maintains that it is being reasonable in questioning the sincerity of rape survivors. People can now decide if they will support the newspaper by reading it and buying products from the newspaper’s advertisers. Another question is whether Jeff Bezos, the newspaper’s owner and co-founder of amazon.com, supports the position that rape victims are privileged because of their “coveted status.” At least the Post published a rebuttal to Will’s column from Alyssa Rosenberg.

It’s not as if George Will’s outrageous column surprises people who have followed his career. Almost 35 years ago, he participated in stealing then-President Jimmy Carter’s debate briefing book for his debate with Ronald Reagan during the 1980 campaign. Immediately after the debate, Will appeared on Nightline to praise Reagan’s “thoroughbred performance” without mentioning his participation in coaching Reagan with Carter’s information and questions for Reagan. The host of Nightline, Ted Koppel, helped spin Will’s message by not revealing that Will was working for Reagan’s campaign.

After his unethical behavior was made public, Will did not pay any price—no criticism, censure, or loss of employment. Instead, he did the same thing during George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign when he previewed questions for the ensuing interview with the presidential candidate. During the meeting he gave Bush a 3 X 5 card with a question that he planned to ask him on air. Will said that he didn’t want to “ambush [Bush] with unfamiliar material.”

Other conservative pundits have written and spoken about their disbelief in the number of rapes, both on campus and in other places, but Will may have provided the tipping point of rejecting these myths. In the Chicago Tribune, Heidi Stevens pointed out George Will has now destroyed any credibility that he might have had:

“Will is helping spread misinformation. He’s no better than Holocaust deniers, Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists and the monsters who tell parents of school shooting victims that the massacres that robbed them of their children were a hoax….

“I’m not suggesting Will’s right to free speech should be curbed. He can go around as an American citizen saying whatever nonsense he wants to about rape victims, and plenty of places will be happy to hand him a microphone. He’s no longer credible as a journalist, whose first job, above all others, is to tell the truth.”

After 35 years the people of the United States need to recognize Will for who he is—a propagandist. As Stevens wrote, “If you deny the truth because it doesn’t fit your agenda, you’re not a journalist. You’re a propagandist.” He should be stopped from misrepresenting his radical right fantasies as information.

June 6, 2014

School Yearbooks – One Piece of the Rape Culture

The Utah high school yearbook that censored young women’s photographs was the subject of my writing on May 29. Following is more information about this situation and the prevalence of yearbook censorship in the U.S.

First, a bit of background on whether the school officials acted legally when they photo-shopped girls’ pictures to put more clothing on them. For almost 20 years, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1969 Tinker v, Des Moines protected students’ freedom of expression. School officials could not stop students from expressing their opinions on school grounds if they didn’t disrupt the school environment or intrude on others’ rights.

The same court stopped this freedom in 1988 when it ruled in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier that the principal of a school could legally censor controversial articles in the school’s newspapers. The material removed from the newspaper was a two-page center spread on teenage pregnancy, divorce, and runaways.

Writing for the majority of five justices, Justice Byron White stated, “Censorship of school-sponsored student expression is permissible when school officials can show that it is reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.” The school needs an official policy of prior review in place or has a history of prior preview. The court considered any publication with the school name to be curricular.

Over two years ago, Ceara Sturgis sued the Copiah County School District because her photo had been taken out of the school yearbook. She had worn a tuxedo for the picture. The case was eventually settled without a trial, and the portrait policy, requiring all female students to wear drapes for their yearbook photos, has been scrapped. This year wearing a tuxedo kept Jessica Urbina’s photo out of her yearbook at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School in San Francisco.

Jeydon Loredo, a transgender student in the La Feria school district, was luckier. He was first told that he had to wear “feminine attire” instead of a tuxedo because it violated “community standards.” After a meeting, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the district announced that the school had reversed its position.

Last year White Cloud (MI) High School refused to allow any photos that included baby bumps. According to officials, the pictures violated the district’s sex-ed policy of abstinence only.

Wheatmore High School Trinity (NC) asked seniors to include something in their photos that embodied an achievement or something that best represented them. There were no rules or requirements. Caitlin Tiller chose her two-year-old son. “He helped me get to where I am today,” said Tiller who is 17.  “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him.” After his birth, she worked hard, graduated early, started college, and works at a part-time job. The yearbook pulled her photograph with her son.

The 2013 Palmyra Macedon (NY) High School yearbook pulled senior photos for Sarah Stenshorn and several other special needs students. To show the school’s concern for diversity, the cover featured sign language.

052914_SydneySpiesTwo years ago, Sidney Spies managed to get her photo into the Durango (CO) High School yearbook only by paying $300 and running it as an ad. The school claimed the picture was too sexy.

 

As I wrote earlier, the yearbook photos of some girls at Wasatch (UT) high school were changed because they showed shoulders and tattoos. The girls weren’t notified; they didn’t discover the changes until the yearbooks arrived. Below is the change in Kimberly Montoya’s photo. [Kimberly’s father responded to the May 29 piece about the situation.]Wasatch-High-School-yearbook A closer look at last year’s yearbook showed the dress standards for boys—bare chests, tattoos, and underwear. And the title “Watsatch Stud Life” to show “Studs doin’ what studs do best!” The following image reflects a view of what Wasatch High School officials to be considered “curricular.”

stud-life

As one of the boy’s mothers said, “I keep hearing the word ‘modesty’ thrown around. So the girls are supposed to be modest while the boys are supposed to be ‘studs?’ That’s a huge double standard.”

While women’s bodies are sexualized and objectified in the United States, they are supposed to not express any sexuality in accord with society’s “purity culture.” Abstinence-only education, the shaming of pregnancy outside wedlock, “suggestive” photos, lack of “feminine attire,” tattoos—all these excuses for eliminating photos from yearbooks are symbolic of the nation’s attitude toward society’s requirements for women.

Beyond the yearbooks, these are some of the double standards between males and females in the United States:

Women are more likely to get fired for having sex outside of marriage. Unmarried pregnant employees are fired, but the men who impregnated them aren’t—even when employers know who they are.

Young women are blamed for the nation’s teen pregnancy rate. The boys are never targeted, even in education about making intelligent sexual choices.

Women wearing revealing clothing are blamed for men staring at them. School dress codes are almost exclusively concerned with girls’ hemlines and necklines. Businesses that give direction on how women should dress do not provide the same information for men. Women can be legally fired because their employers have lustful thoughts about them.

Women’s access to basic health care services is consistently questioned. Conservatives complain about the costs of paying more for women and object to fund their sexual activities, openly describing the women as promiscuous and “sluts” because they think that women should not be sexually active. Nothing has ever been said about the costs of medication for erectile dysfunction.

Women are not allowed to withdraw consent for sex. Society has the theory that only virgins can be raped because once a woman has had sex that she’s used goods. According to the same belief, any woman who has had sex will always be “asking for it.” Anyone reporting rape is blamed and harassed, especially if the rapist happens to be popular.

A prime example of rape culture promotion is A.J. Delgado’s piece in National Review Online about women being “brainwash[ed] into believing they were raped.” She uses a personal anecdote to draw the conclusion that “for every legitimate, actual rape claim there may be another that was not: a girl who cried rape.”

Zaron Burnett has an excellent article called “A Gentleman’s Guide to Rape Culture.” As the conclusion shows, the entire piece is well-worth reading:

 “Rape prevention is about the fact that a man must understand that saying “no” doesn’t mean ‘yes,’ that when a woman is too drunk/drugged to respond that doesn’t mean ‘yes,’ that being in a relationship doesn’t mean ‘yes.’ Rather than focus on how women can avoid rape, or how rape culture makes an innocent man feel suspect, our focus should be: how do we, as men, stop rapes from occurring, and how do we dismantle the structures that dismiss it and change the attitudes that tolerate it? Since you are a part of it, you ought to know what rape culture is.”

And yearbooks are part of the rape culture.

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