Happy Monday. Here’s a brief news round up:
First, some good news! The FBI will be revising their definition of rape at an FBI subcommittee taking place tomorrow, Oct 18. A few excerpts:
“The public has the right to know about the prevalence of crime and violent crime in our communities, and we know that data drives practices, resources, policies and programs,” said Carol Tracy, executive director of theWomen’s Law Project in Philadelphia, whose office has campaigned to get the F.B.I. to change its definition of sexual assault. “It’s critical that we strive to have accurate information about this.”
The definition of rape used by the F.B.I. — “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will” — was written more than 80 years ago. The yearly report on violent crime, which uses data provided voluntarily by the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies, is widely cited as an indicator of national crime trends.
But that definition, critics say, does not take into account sexual-assault cases that involve anal or oral penetration or penetration with an object, cases where the victims were drugged or under the influence of alcohol or cases with male victims. As a result, many sexual assaults are not counted as rapes in the yearly federal accounting.
“The data that are reported to the public come from this definition, and sadly, it portrays a very, very distorted picture,” said Susan B. Carbon, director of the Office on Violence Against Women, part of the Department of Justice. “It’s the message that we’re sending to victims, and if you don’t fit that very narrow definition, you weren’t a victim and your rape didn’t count.”
In some cases, however, police departments contribute to the problem. The Baltimore Police Department made sweeping changes in the way it dealt with sexual assault after The Baltimore Sun revealed last year that the department had been labeling reports of rape as “unfounded” at a rate five times the national average.
The problem, Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said, was rooted in the attitudes and lack of understanding of officers toward rape and rape victims.
“We didn’t just suddenly veer off the road and strike a tree — this was a very long process that led to this problem,” Commissioner Bealefeld said.
We’ll try to keep you posted on this subject, as it’s very important in our efforts to end domestic and sexual violence. We know all too well how flawed our statistics are – generally based only on those who enter the system – and how that in turn shapes funding, programs, outreach, etc. If they do change the definition of rape I believe we will see a huge influx of reports which hopefully can trigger the awareness that violence against women happens all too often. Hopefully we can see some progress! If you’re interested in taking action around this issue I urge you to consider contacting the FBI director and attorney general with this easy form to express support for updating the definition of rape. (It’s easy – just fill in the blanks!)
Some more good news out of India: Being assaulted in New Delhi? There’s an app for that. Excerpts:
One in every four rapes in India occurs in New Delhi, police say, with reports of women being bundled into moving cars and gang-raped before being dumped on roadsides, giving the city an unsavoury reputation as the “rape capital” of the nation. There is one rape every 18 hours, according to police.
The phone app “Fight Back” will be launched in November by a local charity and will function as an SOS alert device — sending out a text message with a GPS location to up to five people, including police, and as a post on Facebook and Twitter.
“Safety for women has become such a huge issue here and we felt that citizens of Delhi, where possibly the problem exists the most, could use this type of technological intervention,” said Hindol Sengupta, co-founder of Whypoll, which created the application.
“Women are harassed and molested everywhere on buses, at metro stations, in markets … we believe this is Asia’s first phone application aimed at making women safer.”
The “Fight Back” app will initially be available to download from the Whypoll website (www.whypoll.org) for a nominal fee and will be supported by a range of mobile devices such as Nokia and BlackBerry. SOS alerts will cost the same as an SMS.
Sengupta said the app, which is part of the Whypoll’s “Safe in the City” campaign, will also map the SOS alerts to build an accurate database of where and what gender-related crimes occur.
“We have created a platform where women can remain anonymous yet the incident will still be recorded and reflected on a map on our website — which will help us push for action in places where there appears to be increased risks to women,” he said.
Technology is so amazing. In an area where to come forward as a victim comes with heavy stigma and shame, where you don’t know if the authorities are trustworthy, etc. (which happens all over the globe, only varying in severity) this is perfect! This is a great example of how the power of people can, at times, make greater strides for safety and equality than the more typical means such as political lobbying and such. It also seems like a great first step to creating a coordinated community response to violence.
Okay now some not so good news – just some updates on the Topeka, Kansas ordeal :
The result: Domestic battery remains illegal in Topeka, because it’s still illegal under state law–lacking a city ordinance only means that the cases have to be prosecuted by the district attorney, if the district attorney were prosecuting misdemeanors, which he isn’t, so they aren’t. Without a way to charge domestic batterers after they’ve been arrested, all the police can do is hold them for 72 hours until they’re nice and pissed off and then release them–as has happened to 18 people so far. According to NOW’s Karri Ann Rinker, police have confirmed that one man has already re-offended: Within 48 hours of his release, he assaulted his wife again, was arrested again, and was released again.
The aftermath: Ultimately, the county blinked first, and Taylor agreed to do his goddamned job already, saying he would review all misdemeanors sent his way and prosecute, y’know, some of them.
If there’s one thing that’s as trivial and ultimately insignificant as a knockoff poker chip from the Mississippi Belle, it’s battered women, amiright? God forbid you should decriminalize pot-smoking or jaywalking to try and save those extra funds–when people’s lives are at stake, that’s the time for the district attorney to stick his tongue out at the county commission, and for the city to play chicken with the district attorney. It’s just people you’re using as pawns, women and men and children, and arguably the most vulnerable ones under the law’s protection. Nobody important, certainly not when you have a political point to score.
Also, the Kansas Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence responded to the DA saying he will review all misdemeanors:
“KCSDV is pleased to hear that District Attorney Chad Taylor has agreed to restart his prosecution of domestic violence misdemeanors occurring in the Topeka city limits. We remain vigilant, however, as he warns the community about the “consequences” of these recent events.
“We urge all citizens – here in Topeka, across the country and around the world – to learn more about your own community’s local response to domestic violence. We must all hold officials accountable for the components of a complete response to domestic violence that includes fully funded victim services, trained and competent professionals, and quick and appropriate consequences for criminal behavior. Learn more about these critical services atwww.kcsdv.org or www.nnedv.org.
“The fact remains that for almost five weeks in the City of Topeka, there were no criminal consequences for committing the crime of domestic battery. Whether it is Domestic Violence Awareness Month or not, let’s work together to make sure this never happens again. Budgets should never be balanced on the backs of victims.”
We’ll try to keep you updated as this unfolds – something tells me it isn’t the last we’ve heard of DV in Topeka.
Have a wonderful week everyone.
Topeka, Kansas has officially made domestic violence legal in a game of financial chicken where the parties at play have little to lose, while survivors’ and future victims’ safety is jeopardized in a major way. Excerpts:
On Tuesday night, the city council of Topeka repealed the local law that lists domestic violence as a crime, in turn making any actions that would have previously necessitated police involvement a matter of the state of Kansas, who the council says must rely on the county to enforce the charges. The county district attorney, however, has already stopped prosecuting would-be criminals citing budget shortfalls of their own.
“We had hoped that he would not put that group of victims at risk, that he would find some other way to absorb the cuts,” Shelly Buhler of the Shawnee County Commission tells The New York Times.
“I absolutely do not understand it,” Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, tells McClathcy Newspaper. “It’s really outrageous that they’re playing with family safety to see who blinks first. People could die while they’re waiting to straighten this out.”
Sharon Katz off Safehome in nearby Johnson County adds, “There needs to be a higher priority for people who are going to start getting killed.” With the state unwilling to have county prosecutors go after cases in the Topeka area, Katz is concerned that the epidemic could spread through Kansas and elsewhere in the Midwest and America.
Upon the repeal of the law yesterday, around 18 suspects awaiting trials of domestic abuse had those charges dropped and been released back into the public sans trial and sentencing.
The Kansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence put out a statement regarding this situation.
The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence and the National Network to End Domestic Violence are shocked that the City of Topeka and Shawnee County, Kansas, have decided that the safety of their citizens who are victims of domestic violence is not a priority.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, the city governing body just passed a resolution this week declaring that living free from domestic violence is a basic human right.
This is what prioritizing domestic violence prosecution and safety of victims looks like; not repealing city ordinances, not refusing to prosecute because of budget cuts, not tossing the safety of victims back and forth between city and county governments and prosecutors; not reducing or omitting funding for critical services and responses. This isn’t about budgets it’s about priorities.
For decades, KCSDV and NNEDV have urged state and local governments to prioritize the issue of domestic violence. We are saddened and shocked that during Domestic Violence Awareness Month these local governments have reversed time and turned their backs on victims.
I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this: Judge dismisses domestic abuse charge against former deputy… – Hawaii News Now – KGMB and KHNL Home. Exceprts:
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – An Oahu judge on Monday threw out a domestic abuse charge against a former state deputy sheriff after prosecutors said that they weren’t ready to proceed to trial as scheduled.
James Kimura, 44, was accused of choking his wife last April. Police arrested him at his Kalama Valley home.
Circuit Judge Jeannette Castagnetti dismissed the misdemeanor count of abuse of a household member with prejudice, meaning prosecutors cannot re-file the charge.
Deputy public defender Lee Hayakawa says his client was already terminated from the Sheriff’s Division because of another matter. He declined to elaborate.
Now here’s an interesting concept – A “most wanted” list for batterers. 3 Most Wanted domestic violence suspects arrested – San Jose Mercury News; Excerpt:
Police arrested two men and another man surrendered to authorities after they were featured in the county’s Most Wanted domestic violence list in October.
Also on Monday, 36-year-old Andy Acosta turned himself at the County Court clerk’s office after seeing his picture in the Sunday paper. He was released with a new court date, Carney said
I wonder what makes some offenders more wanted than others. What qualifies someone to be placed on a “most wanted” list… shouldn’t it be all of them?
What an interesting concept though. I remember reading one story about a group of feminist activists in Japan some years ago who would go to the work places of known dv perpetrators wearing roller skates, pink helmets, wielding bullhorns and publicly shame them. While there are obvious safety concerns with that, this idea of bringing these people into the light (through intense public shaming or simply a most wanted list) is very interesting. What do you think? Would this be an effective way of holding dv offenders accountable?
Wouldn’t it be incredible if more athletes would speak out against DV? Of course it would also be nice if athletes would stop perpetuating domestic violence (yeah, Manny Ramirez we mean you)
As we all know, Libya is undergoing vast socio-political landscape changes. Women want to continue the momentum of freedom from oppression and extend it to their every day lives: The World Today – Libyan women signal time to end domestic violence 28/09/2011. Excerpts:
Traditional taboos were set aside because the movement was desperate for volunteers.
Now that most of the conflict is over some Libyan women are working to make sure those gains are not lost.
ALAA MURABIT: You got beat in your dad’s house, you’ll get beat in your husband’s house, and then your daughters will be beat by your husband.
Like that was what it was.
Your brother is in charge of you. Even boys on the street will call you ridiculous names – and when you go home if you are one of those people who’s brave enough to tell your family that you were, you know, cat-called in the street, your brother will probably say, well why are you walking in the street?
It’s never anybody’s fault except for the girls here.
She says the revolution has given her the opportunity to start fighting for women’s rights again.
She says violence towards women has become so ingrained in society they can no longer recognise when they’re being abused.
ALAA MURABIT: When we had a seminar about a week ago, we’re like, ‘How many of you are abused?’ And about three girls raised their hand out of 20 girls.
And I said, ‘Okay, let me rephrase this: how many of you have been hit?’ Every single girl but one raised her hand.
So for them abuse isn’t classified in the traditional way because they don’t even know what abuse is anymore.
Like if a man slaps his wife because she didn’t cook him lunch on time it’s not even seen as abuse. It’s kind of like ‘Well, she should have listened’.
I think at this point it would be wise to realize how similar that is to our own culture. So often when discussing the plights of women in other countries we fall into a trap of believing they have it “worse” so we have it okay (why do so many people believe the women’s lib movement is over? or unnecessary?). It’s all relative. While we don’t live in a society where overt oppression and violence against women is condoned, it is still absolutely perpetuated in most of our social landscapes. As a generalization, we still believe that men should be in charge; many of us have a hard time recognizing coercion or control in relationships because it’s been normalized. When a woman is victimized many people wonder what she did to deserve it, why she wasn’t smarter, etc. – we still place blame on victims and don’t question why people believe they have the right to harm others nearly enough. But back to the article:
ALAA MURABIT: By educating and communicating with these women we can lead to the prevention and the understanding of what violence is.
Because you have to understand, for most Libyan women they don’t understand date rape, they don’t understand the idea of their husband actually is capable of raping them. They don’t understand these things.
They don’t understand that it’s wrong for a guy to say insulting things to her on the street. They don’t think they have those rights to go.
And I’m not saying that, you know, we’re demanding rights for women only. We also demand responsibilities.
We’re telling women – Invest in yourself, get a job, go to school, do well, be successful, and you might actually come up with a result where instead of being kind of the second-class citizen you can literally create the society that you want.
CONNIE AGIUS: But Alaa Murabit warns it’s important to find a balance between religion and women’s rights.
She says that certain Islamic practices should be respected.
ALAA MURABIT: I believe in women’s rights. I also believe that within the boundaries of Islam this needs to be approached in the most sensitive way.
Because if you go too strong with women’s rights men will go to their wives and be ‘Like pick religion or pick your rights’.
And every single woman, every single Islamic, Muslim woman will pick her religion and then it’s- so it’s a lose-lose situation for us.
DOD Offers Help to Prevent Domestic Violence
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2011 – Helping military couples and families build healthy relationships can help to prevent domestic violence, a Defense Department official said today.
Kathy Robertson, program manager for DOD’s Family Advocacy Program, said spouses with strong trust and good communication skills can address relationship problems before they escalate.
When violence does occur, Robertson said, the department offers a range of support resources for victims, beginning with reporting options.
Domestic violence victims can choose either restricted or unrestricted reporting options, and in both cases can receive medical help and counseling support, she said.
Unrestricted reporting involves notifying the chain of command, and appropriate first-responder law enforcement agencies. Restricted, or confidential reporting, which a victim can do by contacting a Family Advocacy Program victim advocate, counselor, health care provider or chaplain, allows a victim to receive medical, counseling and advocacy help while taking time to decide whether to proceed with an unrestricted report, Robertson said.
Restricted reporting is not possible in cases involving child abuse, or when a victim advocate judges the person reporting is in imminent danger, she noted.
The restricted reporting option has been in place since 2006, and is intended to offer domestic violence victims a chance to seek help despite fears they might feel based on their situation, Robertson said.
“A lot of times, victims don’t want to come forward — they’re afraid to come forward,” she added.
Often in such cases, Robertson said, abuse has escalated over time, and victims –- especially military spouses — may fear loss of finances, housing and family security. Restricted reporting offers them a safe avenue to help, she added.
Family advocacy staff members can help victims identify their options and make an informed decision about what to do next, she said.
“There are many families [we help] with intervention and treatment; they are able to reconcile, work things out and stay together,” she said. “Every case is individual.”
The department offers a range of on- and off-post counseling options, classes, and individual and group therapy, Robertson noted, and Family Advocacy representatives can help in guiding people to appropriate help.
“Military life is very challenging; it’s lots of long hours [and] deployments,” she said, adding that good communication can help couples work through the challenges.
“With a significant other, you know how to push each other’s buttons and pull those triggers,” she said. “We help them recognize those signs and get help before an incident happens — or after an incident happens, help them … [identify] those triggers … and improve their communication and their trust.”
In case you didn’t see this article in the Star Advertiser: Abuse arrests drop as calls for help soar – Hawaii News – Staradvertiser.com. Excerpts:
Declines of more than a third have been reported statewide for arrests and misdemeanor convictions under Hawaii’s main abuse statute, according to statistics from 2000 through 2009 compiled and recently released by the state Attorney General’s Office.
Yet calls to domestic violence shelters and requests for court protective orders have jumped dramatically over the same 10-year period, the data show. Use of shelter beds also is up.
Underlying both trends is a shortage of funding, contributing to pressures on the system to hold abusers accountable and handicapping agencies already struggling to help thousands of victims who suffer annually, often in silence. Many agencies have been forced to cut staff or services or both.
Women Helping Women on Maui, for instance, has laid off case managers, a deputy director and other staff and eliminated a children’s program that each year served roughly 200 kids exposed to domestic violence. At the same time, the nonprofit organization’s shelter — the only one on Maui — last year recorded its highest bed use ever.
The demand for services has increased even as domestic abuse calls to police fell 37 percent, arrests dropped 39 percent and misdemeanor convictions under the abuse statute declined 38 percent over the past decade, according to the state data.
Victims and advocates told the Star-Advertiser that many abused women are reluctant to involve the police and the courts, partly for cultural reasons and partly because those who did so often found that their situations didn’t improve and frequently became worse. Many said the abusers are not held sufficiently accountable.
Those who have turned to authorities consistently told the center they often were made to feel stupid, were accused of making things up or felt judged for not leaving the abuser. The women mentioned having to endure a lengthy court process — often having to take off time from work — for an outcome that usually made the abusive situation no better and frequently made it worse, Spencer said.
Gaps in legal services, a lack of alternatives to a western justice system, police apathy, court system barriers, the need for harsher consequences for perpetrators and police training and understaffing were the most commonly mentioned issues, according to Baker.
I found the comments on this article particularly.. hard to read. I encourage those of us who work within the field and know what it’s like for survivors to share knowledge (of course never with identifying information from specific cases!) about dynamics of domestic violence and the realities survivors face. Not a single comment focused on the need to end abusive behaviors in men.
Here is a document which outlines these gaps in services:
Nearly 1,500 derby skaters and supporters say yes, as a unique facebook group has skyrocketed in popularity over the past couple weeks. This proactive collaboration all started with just a few people from the derby community, looking for a place to communicate ideas on how to decrease the rates of domestic violence. Within hours the handful of members skyrocketed and continued to do so with numbers doubling and tripling.
The group was inspired by Lori Milkeris, also known as Lmbr Timber Onu of Emerald Coast Roller Derby, who was recently the victim of a domestic assault that nearly killed her. Lori’s story spread throughout the derby world and more than 5,000 people globally have been showing her support since her attack.