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Kansas NOW’s Kari Ann Rinker Schools Kansas State Reps on Jobs, Abortion and “Rape is Like a Flat Tire” Comments

1:32 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Kansas NOW’s state director and special to RH Reality Check Kari Ann Rinker testifies before a committee of Kansas state representatives.  She asks exactly how the legislature’s obsession with restricting women’s rights will lead to more jobs, and reminds Rep. Pete DeGraaf that you can’t “prepare for rape” like you would a spare tire.

 

Also read Rinker’s piece today on predictions for Kansas in 2012.

Underreported and Unchecked: Sexual Violence Against Somali Refugee Women

8:32 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Yifat Susskind for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Amal* left her village in Somalia when she realized that there was nothing left there for her. There was no food and no water. So she gathered her emaciated children and began the long trek to the refugee camps in northeastern Kenya. She thought that being forced to leave her home would be the worst thing to ever happen to her.

That was until she was attacked and raped by bandits on the way.

I recently returned from Kenya, where Somali women and families are seeking refuge by the thousands. I met with Hubbie Hussein Al-Haji of MADRE’s sister organization, Womankind Kenya, a grassroots women’s organization of Somali pastoralists. We talked about the most urgent needs for famine refugees—for food and water—and about how MADRE and Womankind Kenya can work together to provide for them.

And Hubbie told me about Amal and other women like her, who are arriving in northeastern Kenya traumatized not only from famine and displacement—but also from being raped along the trek.

Sexual Violence Rising in Famine-Struck East Africa

Women and girls seeking refuge at displacement camps must walk for days, along the long and dangerous routes to the Somalia-Kenya border. Bandits and Al-Shabaab militia patrol much of southern Somalia and have infiltrated deep into Kenya, often attacking women and their families to steal the few possessions they have. In Amal’s case, they took the only piece of gold jewelry she had ever owned. She had been hoping to trade it for food.

In these attacks, women have been raped. Even once they arrive at the displacement camps in Kenya, they are not safe. They need food and water, but there is not enough to go around. Many are turned away for lack of resources, relegated to the outskirts of the camps. There, local communities are struggling, not only to sustain themselves through drought and famine, but to offer aid to even harder hit famine refugees from Somalia. The women of Womankind Kenya come from these very communities and have long been mobilizing to confront this famine.

Even as refugees fight to survive, the threat of sexual violence persists. Women and girls are especially vulnerable when they venture out in search of firewood for cooking. As more refugees pour into the area, women must walk farther to find wood, putting them at greater risk of rape. In the area of Dadaab, now the biggest refugee camp in the world, violence against women and girls has quadrupled in the past six months.

Grassroots organizations like Womankind Kenya are a lifeline for rape survivors, especially those who have been turned away from the camps. These women are isolated and vulnerable, cut off from the communities of support they might once have had. Womankind Kenya can do more than meet their pressing needs for food and water. They can speak to women in their own language, breaking through their isolation to offer them care and a new source of support to lean on.

Looking Forward

We’ve seen this surge in sexual violence after disaster many times before. We saw it after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, after the massive flooding of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In each of these cases and many more, major disasters uproot communities and leave women and girls vulnerable to violence, including rape and sexual assault. In the chaos and loss of social cohesion that routinely follow disaster, women and girls in places as far afield as Somalia, Nicaragua or the United States are rendered more vulnerable to sexual attack.

To combat this rise in sexual violence, MADRE partners with local women’s organizations around the world that know well the gender-specific threats women and girls face after conflict and disaster – organizations like Womankind Kenya.

Now, Hubbie explained to me, Womankind Kenya is working to fill the gap in access to counseling services and medical care for rape survivors. MADRE is working with them to set up a mobile clinic to bring essential services to refugee women and their families. They will collaborate with local doctors and nurses, who they have worked with before, to reach out to women who need care. They will help women overcome fear of stigma by offering counseling and medical services that respect women’s privacy, and they will help women find their path to recovery.

When the women of Womankind Kenya reached out to Amal, she had all but given up hope. She had just arrived and was living at the edge of a camp. She had nothing, after having been robbed by her attackers. Womankind Kenya gave her emergency food and water, and what’s more, they listened to her story. It was only a first step but an essential one—for Amal and all of the refugee women and girls traumatized by rape.

*Not her real name

Rough Summer in the City: Recent Rape Cases and the NYC Rape Shield Law

12:16 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sarah Elspeth Patterson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This week, the public humiliation of Nafissatou Diallo that has been the “DSK Rape Case” has come to a close, as all charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn have been dropped. This motion marks the end to a case that has amounted to little more than a character assassination of a rape complainant who has endured a litany of shame-driven media accusations, including but by no means limited to the Post’s declaration that she “wasn’t just a girl working a hotel – she was a working girl.” This unsubstantiated claim of her sex worker status, in addition to problematic framings of her race, immigrant status and background, has been used in the media to reinforce the idea that she is not a credible witness and therefore unworthy of having her rape charges validated in a court of law.

It’s been a rough summer for rape cases going through the DA’s office in New York City, with no lack of victim-blaming happening all around. It’s been mere months since two NYC police officers were acquitted of raping a women in her East Village apartment after a call for their assistance at the same location. Since the victim was drunk, though, it wasn’t difficult to see how she would become the one on trial. In fact, there was enough victim-blaming to acquit two men who were caught entering the woman’s apartment on outside surveillance tapes not once, not twice, but three times. Enough victim-blaming to acquit a man who admitted to lying in bed with the victim while she was wearing only a bra and passed out drunk. Enough victim-blaming to have one of the officers, Officer Moreno, publicly declare post-acquittal that the results of the case “were a lesson and a win.” A lesson and a win, indeed.

How rape cases can play out in our criminal justice system, as seen this summer in NYC alone, is a lesson to every person that is socially vulnerable to the effects of a rape culture, and that’s a whole lot of people. If you have been raped, it does matter how you got there. It matters what your race is, what your immigration status is and how you’ve made a living. It matters a lot. For some rape victims, just being able to report the crime without shaming scrutiny is not a possibility. In the case of sex workers, for instance, sometimes the mere admission that they are sex workers leads to open refusal to document a rape. As one member of the Sex Workers Outreach Project explained:

I was taken very seriously until it came out that I was involved in sex work, that this man was going to get me work, and that I showed him my body. At that point, the cops started acting as though I had been dishonest for not revealing this sooner and started basically interrogating me. It was incredibly upsetting. One of the police officers actually said to me, “What makes it okay Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but not Thursday?” I was not arrested, but I feared arrest, having heard of cops doing that. I was relieved just to leave the precinct, and needless to say nothing came of my complaint. And I was reminded of the treatment I had received when I discovered that he was later arrested in California as a sex offender. Presumably he raped someone with a little more social cachet.

Sadly, it is not just the acts of a few that affect how the system treats rape complainants. There are also policies in place that directly affect how a sex worker is treated in the eyes of the court in regard to sexual assault cases. For instance, in the New York City Rape Shield Law, a criminal procedure code that provides that “evidence of a victim’s sexual conduct shall not be admissible” in a rape case, there is a noted exception to the code. New York is one state that permits the victim’s status as a convicted prostitute to be admitted into evidence if the conviction occurred within three years of the sexual offense. In the past, this practice has been defended on the grounds that such information speaks to the credibility of the rape complainant “as a witness” and somehow suggests that the complainant, being a sex worker, may have consented. In many ways, this practice being upheld represents how prostitution (and indeed, sex work in general) is still considered an immoral act and treated in the eyes of the law as representative of a person’s defective character.

In the aftermath of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn dismissal and the recent acquittal of two police officers accused of rape, both cases which had a great deal to do with vilifying the complainant rather than the defendant, we must recognize that the rights of rape victims are tied up directly with how we frame rape victims in general, both in the media and in public policy. We must also be cognizant of the notion that there is a hierarchy of victimhood and that issues of race, class and status go into making up that hierarchy. Laws like NYC’s Rape Shield Law uphold the notion that our courts are the arbiters of sexual morality. Likewise, a court system whose decisions are in any way shaped by a rape victim being a sex worker (whether a valid claim or not) cannot be held to treat any complainant with a reasonable level of dignity. All in all, it’s a real wonder how any of us could withstand the scrutiny of such a system of judgment.

New Jersey’s Governor is Taking His Time on a Rape Kit Bill

9:12 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

"Chris Christie"

"Chris Christie" Governor of NJ, by Marissa Babin on flickr

Written by Martha Kempner for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

In March, the New Jersey State Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to prevent sexual assault survivors from being charged for the rape kits used to collect forensic evidence.  The Assembly passed the measure in June. Months later, however, the bill remains “under review” on Governor Chris Christie’s desk prompting many advocates to ask what is taking him so long and some to start a petition demanding he take action.

Under federal law, health care providers must be reimbursed for the cost of these exams and the collection of evidence. They are supposed to look to government agencies for that coverage but bills are often sent to the assault survivor “due to administrative errors or attempts to get payment from a victim’s insurance company.”

The legislation that passed in New Jersey would prevent direct billing for any “routine medical screening, medications to prevent sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy tests and emergency contraception, as well as supplies, equipment, and use of space.”

Though it’s clear from his record (which includes “using a line-item veto to block funding in the state budget for clinics that provide family-planning services”) that woman’s rights and reproductive health are not a high priority for the Governor, it really is hard to understand why he’s dragging his feet on this bill.

Representative to Resign Over Accusations of Non-Consensual Sex

10:47 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Martha Kempner for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Representative John Wu (D-OR) announced today that he will resign from the U.S. House of Representatives as soon as the debt ceiling crisis is resolved amid allegations of non-consensual sex with a recent high school graduate.

According to the Portland Oregonian, a distraught young woman called Wu’s Portland office this spring, accusing him of an aggressive and unwanted sexual encounter.  The young woman, who did not go to the police, has been identified only as the daughter of a longtime friend of the congressman. Though her age has not been verified, she reportedly graduated from high school in 2010.

Continue reading….

Rape Victims Aren’t Victims, According to Georgia Rep.

8:58 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amie Newman for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Apparently, in Georgia, it’s not enough that women aren’t to be trusted to make our own medical and health decisions without government intrusion. Now, we’re not to be trusted when it comes to reporting crimes, either.

Republican State Rep. Bobby Franklin, of Georgia, has introduced H.B. 14 which mandates that rape victims, victims of stalking or harassment, or victims of family violence may no longer be classified as “victims” but as “accusers.” According to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, Franklin’s bill would,

change the state’s criminal codes so that in “criminal law and criminal procedure” (read: in court), victims of rape, stalking, and family violence could only be referred to as “accusers” until the defendant has been convicted.

To read the bill itself is like one long assault on women’s autonomy and capacity as thinking human beings. Each time the word “victim” is crossed out in favor of “accuser,” it’s another slap in the face to justice. Franklin’s utterly misogynistic, hateful bill tells victims that regardless of what they’ve experienced,  those experiences aren’t valid and they’re not to be believed until our justice system deems it so. Read more

Condom Sabotage Isn’t A Joke

8:39 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Without commenting either way on the validity of the accusations against Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks who was recently arrested under politically suspicious circumstances for rape charges in Sweden international officials would usually ignore, I want to say that the charges themselves are very serious.  I realize it’s hopeless to suggest that pointing out the charges are serious isn’t the same as stating he’s guilty.  And that it’s probably hopeless to beg people not to rehash the same tired accusations that are always whipped out against women who file criminal complaints about rape.  When someone who has ever done anything that someone else liked is accused of rape, Rape Apology Day is declared, and all common sense is usually thrown out the window.  But I beg of you, this article has nothing to do with the validity of the charges or rendering judgment on Wikileaks itself.

This is about the seriousness of the charges and of birth control sabotage. Both of which are being downplayed by interested parties who struggle to grasp both that a man could do something they admire and do something that is immoral and illegal. Not that he did do it (please, people, calm down!).  But surely grown-ups can realize that people are complicated, and many can have both good and evil inside them.

The charges in this case, from what has been accurately reported, are rape, sexual molestation, and coercion—including accusations of holding a woman down and having sex with a sleeping woman.  But, as Jessica Valenti reports, there has been some information to suggest that one of the women is charging that Assange assaulted her by having sex with her after she withdrew her consent because he reneged on a promise to use a condom.  Unsurprisingly, the usual rape apologists stood by their usual claim that if a woman consents to [fill in the blank], then a man has a free pass to force whatever sexual acts he wishes on her.  But more surprisingly, some people came up the novel idea that birth control sabotage is not, in and of itself, a good enough reason for a woman to withdraw consent. Read more

Abortion in Emergency Situations: The Story of the Democratic Republic of Congo

7:09 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Brenda Zulu for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

This is the seventh in a series of articles from Keeping Our Promise: Addressing Unsafe Abortion in Africa this week. The conference has brought together more than 250 health providers, advocates, policy makers and youth participants for a discussion of how to reduce the impact of unsafe abortion in Africa.

One in 13 women in the Democratic Republic of Congo dies in pregnancy or childbirth—that’s one death every half hour of every day.

Health problems related to pregnancy and childbirth remain the leading cause of ill health and death for women of childbearing age worldwide. But the impact is even greater in countries in the throes of a humanitarian emergency or crisis.

Addressing unsafe abortion in emergency situations at the ‘Keeping Our Promise’ conference in Accra last week, Dr Wilma Doedens of the Humanitarian Response Branch in UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund) noted that, in the unstable environment created by a humanitarian crisis, women are at risk for an unwanted pregnancies, whether as a result of a breakdown in the health system (making family planning services unavailable), or as a result of rape that has become a consistent weapon against communities in eastern Congo.

In this context, pregnancy is particularly dangerous.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Yale Daily News Editorial on DKE Rape Song Gets It Dangerously Wrong on Rape Culture

6:18 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Today, we published a powerful condemnation by Will Neville, our colleague from Advocates for Youth, of Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon pledge stunt encouraging rape.

In a comment, one of our regular readers and participants at RH Reality Check, Crowepps, linked to an editorial by the Yale Daily News in response to what must have been the widespread reaction by women’s groups to the DKE episode.  I have to thank her for the tip.

And boy, does YDN get it wrong.

Calling the DKE stunt an effort to "push the right buttons to get a rise out of others," and the chanting "idiotic," YDN goes on to say:

And yet, as groups rushed to condemn the foolhardy DKE bros, they threw overwrought epithets, some almost as absurd as the chants themselves.

What was almost as absurd as the chants themselves?  According to YDN, the response by the Yale Women’s Center and feminist blog Broad Recognition that called the chants “an active call for sexual violence.”  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Yale Fraternity’s Chant Reveals Depth of Our Culture’s Misogyny

6:52 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Will Neville for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

This article is crossposted from Amplify.org, a project of Advocates for Youth.

This is going to have to be short since I’m about to get on a plane, but I’m too angry NOT to write this. I feel too nauseous. I am too ashamed of my country and the culture we live in.

Apparently, a Yale University fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon decided to induct a new class of pledges with the following chant:

No means yes!
Yes means anal!
No means yes!
Yes means anal!
No means yes!
Yes means anal!
No means yes!
Yes means anal!


Fucking sluts!  . . . Read the rest of this entry →