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.
I assume that we all encounter “jokes” that are clearly perpetuating ideologies that lend excuses to violence. How do we deal with it? And how has this “joke” culture evolved with the advent of social media and facebook? I’ve seen a number of twitter trending topics and facebook statuses (and groups) that make my stomach churn. But, on to the article at hand: Note to ex-Facebook friend: Sexual abuse is not funny | JournalNow.com:
A recentFacebookpost read, “If a prostitute is raped, is it rape or shoplifting?” My stomach churned as I hastily replied, “As a survivor of incest andan advocatewho works to eradicate sexual, physical and emotional violence against all women, including changing the desensitized culture we’ve created and perpetuated that marginalizes these experiences, I ask that you be more thoughtful in your postings.”
Several minutes later, a friend of a friend “liked” my comment and within seconds the originalFacebookfriend had blocked me from viewing his wall posts.
And that is often how easily we close our eyes to the abuse of women we feel somehow “asked for it.” Women, we believe, brought the violence upon themselves.
Now I suppose I could have ignored the posting. At worst, the comment was misogynist. At best misguided. In the age of thesocial-media revolution, it seems as though anything goes, including off-color jokes that cause us to giggle with nervous laughter, slightly uncomfortable … about race, gender and sexual violence.
So, of course, myFacebookfriend wasn’t about to receive a pass. His attempt to silence me only strengthened my resolve. In order to create lasting change we must take action, not just offense.
I take offense because I am a woman. I take offense because I have a mother, grandmother, aunts, sisters and nieces. I take offense because my two sons may have daughters someday. I take offense because in the past three years that I’ve openly shared my own sexual abuse, I’ve heard from hundreds of women in our community sharing their stories of victimization and survival. Some of them prostitutes. All of them worthy of our protection.
I take action because in the words of poet and writerAudre Lorde, “Your silence will not protect you.”
Those of us who have suffered sexual abuse and violence are often silenced by shame and stigma. I speak for the women who have not yet found their voices. I speak for the 1 in 6 women inAmericawho will be victimized during their lifetime. I speak because somewhere in theUnited States, a woman is raped or sexually assaulted every two minutes.
I speak because I know a woman who spent 16 years as a prostitute. She was raped by her grandfather for five years. She was only 11 when the abuse began. In an effort to escape from the pain and terror of sexual violence, she began using drugs. At 16, she became a prostitute to support her drug habit. She worked street corners, back alleys and affluent neighborhoods. She’s been beaten and raped at gunpoint. She’s witnessed unimaginable horror. In 2007, she graduated from college with honors and lives and works in our community.
I don’t think she’d laugh at the punchline.
Rape is violent and never justified — whether the victim is a grandmother, college student orsex worker.
AishahShahidah Simmons, award-winning producer/writer/director of No! The Rape Documentary, spoke at a recent rally: “Again, I ask where do we draw the lines of who can and can’t be assaulted, harassed, and/or raped? As long as there is any group of people including but not limited to adolescent and teenage ‘fast’ girls, women, trans people, queer people, and sex workers who are marginalized, then all of us are vulnerable both because it’s all subjective; and the lines of the margins shift all of the time. Who’s acceptable today may not be acceptable tomorrow.”
I stand in solidarity and sisterhood with any and all women who have been raped. As for my former Facebookfriend, I hope somebody posts this on his wall.
It’s incredibly important to note that when, as women, we excuse assaults on certain women, a part of it is because we want to feel safe. We want to think that bad things happen to “those kinds” of people, and not us. When in reality we know that it can, and does, happen to anyone. Sexual and domestic violence know no boundaries, we know this, and by throwing our sisters “under the bus” as it were, we are perpetuating the notion that some women deserve it which keeps all of us unsafe because as the author notes, who “those women” are is subjective and the line shifts all the time. As women it’s important that we stand together, recognize and proclaim that violence is violence is violence and it won’t be tolerated any longer-no matter who it happens to.
Over the weekend the following news stories about violence against women broke:
68 year old woman reports a sexual assault . There was not a lot of information other than the fact that it happened.
Also from Sunday’s news, a young man was arrested for investigation of kidnapping, assault, and threatening his ex-girlfriend:
A 25-year-old man allegedly ordered his ex-girlfriend into his car, took her cell phone, assaulted her and threatened to kill her Saturday night, police said.
The man later turned himself into police and was arrested for investigation of kidnapping, second-degree theft, first-degree terroristic threatening, second-degree assault and violation of a temporary restraining order