Nel's New Day

June 24, 2013

SCOTUS Decisions, Immigration Reform Amendment, Texas Anti-Abortion Continue

Although the Supreme Court did not deliver its rulings about marriage equality and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 today, they did divulge other decisions. SCOTUS did deliver a non-ruling on affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas. In the question of whether a white student suffered racial discrimination at the University of Texas, SCOTUS rejected a lower court’s approval of the school’s affirmative action plan but said that it will have to evaluate it again.

The constitutionality of race in university admissions, however, survived with the ruling that race may be considered as a factor as long as the policy is “narrowly tailored.” If “‘a nonracial approach . . . could promote the substantial interest about as well and at tolerable administrative expense,’” then the university may not consider race.

When states have banned affirmative action, the number of minority has drastically dropped. Today’s ruling allows universities to continue implementing diversity plans, but it does not preclude these state bans. In its next term, SCOTUS will review a Michigan ban that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down.

In his opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas compared any affirmative action to slavery. He has also said that he would vote to overturn the case next year upholding the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action policy. That means he doesn’t need to listen to arguments next year because he’s already made up his mind.

Courtesy seems to have disappeared in SCOTUS. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented to the racial discrimination ruling, asserting that the lower court ruling should have been upheld. She also read a dissent to the case (below) which makes racial and sexual discrimination easier by raising the level of proof to establish retaliation for complaining about discrimination.

Part of Ginsburg’s dissent was a “hypothetical” (meaning drawn from a real case) when a female worker on a road crew was subjected to humiliations by the “lead worker” and who now has no remedy because of the court ruling. According to Garrett Epps, Justice Samuel Alito pursed his lips, rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and shook his head “no.” There are no cameras to show the incident, but Epps reported that the audience made audible gasps.

SCOTUS gave sexual and racial harassment a boost up in the workplace through today’s 5-4 ruling in Vance v. Ball State University. Thanks to five Supreme Court justices, a “supervisor” is defined as having the power to make a “significant change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits.”

The definition eliminates all the people who still maintain power over employers through reporting their actions to employers—excuse me “supervisors.” One of these “non-supervisors” is a senior truck driver who coerced a female subordinate into having unwanted sex with him. Justice Elena Kagan also described the secretary whose boss “subjects that secretary to living hell, complete hostile work environment on the basis of sex.” That person is not a “supervisor” because it’s the “Head of Secretarial Services” who would fire her.

In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, the five conservative justices also allowed employers a greater right to retaliate against victims of discrimination who report that they have suffered discrimination.

The Senate is working hard to discriminate against immigrants through its reform bill. In a desperate attempt to pass the bill, the Senate passed a motion to debate an amendment by 67-27 with 15 GOP “yes” votes that would ostensibly make the bill more palatable to conservatives. It’s a Christmas gift to Halliburton, as  Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, because of the requirement for another 700 miles of fencing. Another piece of the amendment was doubling the number of border patrol agents to 40,000—one for each 1,000 feet of the southern border of the United States. The party that wants less government and spending cuts now helps support a bill that would cost an additional $46 billion.

Most of the publicity for the amendment came from the border security, but Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) managed other offensive provisions. One prohibits undocumented workers from counting past wages toward Social Security eligibility, and another prevents the government from providing welfare to immigrants until they become citizens. The provisions also called for an additional five-year ban on federal health subsidies under Obamacare for unauthorized immigrants who get a green card and tried to ensure these immigrants pay back taxes and penalties on any wages they earned while in the country illegally.

There may be more news about what’s buried in the 1,200-page amendment before the vote on Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile, Texas GOP members are using a special legislative session to push through more restrictive anti-abortion regulations. (What happened to their love for small government?!) The proposed law would criminalize abortions after 20 weeks and shut down health clinics, leaving no place in western Texas—a very large area—to obtain an abortion. Women would have to travel at least 600 miles to get an abortion for any reason.

In a peculiar quirk, the bill’s sponsor, Jody Laubenberg (R) refused to support an exemption for rape because—ready for this?—she thinks that the rape kit, used to collect forensic data on the rapist for a prosecution, causes abortions. She said, “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.” Laubenberg has displayed an even greater ignorance then Congressional legislators.

Someone needs to explain to Laubenberg that this is the procedures for use of the rape kit. A victim enters the hospital; staff collect bodily fluid, residue under the victim’s nails, and any relevant blood or hair samples for an investigation. Nobody gets “cleaned out.” States with abstinence-only sex education, such as Texas, have highly uneducated people, even elected legislators.

A survey found that 63 percent of registered voters don’t want any more anti-abortion laws, and 71 percent think that the legislature should worry about the economy and jobs instead of policing women’s reproductive rights. Almost three-fourths think that personal medical decisions about abortions should be made by a woman and her doctor, not by politicians. Also, 57 percent said that they don’t trust the governor or the legislature to make choices about women’s health care. Eighty percent think that anti-abortion should not be legislated in special session. And this opposition is from both parties and the independents.

The Texas Assembly passed the bill at 10:40 am today. Legislative rules require a 24-hour wait until the Senate can bring it up. The Texas legislature has until tomorrow night to get the bill passed.

This last weekend, dozens of people stood in line in Atlanta to buy exclusive LeBron James sneakers. When a man carrying a gun harassed them, a man in line pulled his gun and fatally shot him. The shooter then got back in line to wait for his sneakers. Some of the people thought that he wanted to rob them. A witness said about the dead man, “Sounds like he brought it on himself.”

Nobody said anything the man being dangerous, just that it was okay to kill him. Police have said they will not be charging the shooter because it was “self defense.” No need to wound him or feel any remorse—just kill him. This is the gun culture of the United States. 

January 23, 2013

We Need to End the Culture of Rape

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:58 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

For over a week, the media was obsessed with the mythical girlfriend of Manti Te’o, a Notre Dame football player, who was supposedly heartbroken because his beloved girlfriend had died last fall. Although he claimed that he had actually seen the young woman, it turned out to be a gigantic hoax.

But the death of a young woman connected to Notre Dame football players remained largely invisible as far as the media was concerned. Two years ago, Lizzy Seeberg was sexually assaulted by one of the football players. She reported this to the police who failed to investigate the assault. The attacker’s teammates terrified Lizzy, and she committed suicide. Another young woman taken to the hospital for a rape exam refused to accuse the Notre Dame football player who sexually attacked her because she had received bullying texts from the teammates. The university has called for an investigation into the Te’o event, but no disciplinary action was ever taken against the football players.

The situation at Notre Dame is not unique. After a two-year investigation, Human Rights Watch has uncovered “disturbing evidence of police failure” in the Washington, D.C. police force in their failure to investigate reports of rape. The 200-page report will be released tomorrow.

Carol Tracy of the Women’s Law Project, a legal advocacy group specializing in sexual violence cases, said, “This is a national crisis requiring federal action. We need a paradigm shift in police culture, because rapes and sexual assaults are being swept under the rug, and too many victims are being bullied.” In cities across the United States, the police list a large number of reported rapes as “unfounded cases.” Although the national average is 6 percent, Pittsburgh shelves 34 percent of its cases, North Carolina 31 percent, Atlanta 24 percent, etc. New Orleans shelved 50 percent of sex attack cases as “non-criminal complaints.” In New York, the number of recorded rapes declined, but the number of sex crimes labeled as mere misdemeanors rose.

According to experts, an average of 5 percent of reported rapes are falsified. Anything over that shows that investigators don’t believe large number of victims or threaten and arrest them.

Cities also report thousands of untested rape kits. Former Miss Arizona Hilary Peele is a rape victim-turned advocate after her rape kit was neglected following an attack in her apartment in 2004. Police didn’t test her kit for DNA until she had called every two weeks for eight months. In Cleveland, Ohio, serial rapist and murderer Anthony Sowell was caught in 2011 after killing 11 women, six of them after a rape kit was disregarded. Milwaukee serial rapist Gregory Below was finally sentenced to 350 years in 2011, but three of his victims said the police initially dismissed their cases.

The country has one-half million or more untested kits are stacked up around the country. In Illinois alone, 80 percent of rape kits were untested as of 2010. In Michigan, the Wayne County prosecutor, Kym Worthy, discovered over 11,000 untested rape kits, some dating to the 1980s.

Even worse, some states require women or their insurance companies to collect the evidence in these rape kits. In 31 states, rapists can get visitation rights if their victims carry pregnancies full term.

If you think that rapes only happen at Notre Dame or in India or in Steubenville, you are wrong. A person is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes, and many of these are in small towns, including where you live. For every 100 rapes, only three lead to jail time for the rapist.

These problems were made very clear at our most recent local NOW meeting when a special prosecutor for sex crimes in our Oregon Coast county spoke about the rape culture of this area. She talked about her first case when she took this position. The case had been abandoned in the DA office for four years because they thought it couldn’t be successfully prosecuted. Although it was common knowledge among the young man’s peers that he had raped several girls, he came from a well-liked family in the community.

Because the rapes were common knowledge, his freedom communicated the message–every day–that rape is acceptable. As the prosecutor said, every community has privileged kids who can act with impunity. People make justifications for not prosecuting rape: the victim was drunk, she is one of “those people,” she dressed like she wanted it. With their sense of entitlement, perps get told that it’s okay to violate “some people.” Forcible rape is frequently called “innocent sexual experimentation.”

It’s not just the rapists who make the act of sexual assault acceptable to the community. Police officers (as the report on Washington, D.C. shows) who overlook rape, attorney generals who ignore the arrests, and the judges who have their own biases, like the one in California who said that there is no rape unless the woman is “torn up inside”–these are the people who legitimize rape.

The talk by this international authority on sexual assault was tragic enough, but her message about the culture of rape in our community was compounded by the people who did not attend. Local police officers, prosecutors, judges, the DA, and all the other people who can stop the rape culture were notified. They just didn’t think it was important to come. That absence reinforces the silence that perpetuates the rape culture of any community. People are left to say, “It doesn’t happen in my county.”

Many times, a meeting likes this ends when people leave the room. I hope that this isn’t going to happen this time. One person attending has already written a letter to the local newspaper which read in part:

“We were disheartened that community leaders, law endorsement, and elected officials chose not to attend. It seems to send a message that sex abuse is to be tolerated and kept quiet, in effect sending a message to victims that nothing will be done if they report.”

The agenda for the next local NOW meeting is to develop a strategy designed to change the rape culture of our community. I look forward to reporting on that plan.


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