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Anti-Rape Bill Could Create Wedge Between Different Anti-Feminist Factions

8:35 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Former Republican Senate Candidate Todd Akin

As Todd Akin and the country at large learned during the 2012 elections, pregnancies resulting from rape are very real and sadly all too common. If there was one silver lining in the entire debacle and “debate” over Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment, it was that it helped expose a previously under-reported problem: 31 states allow rapists to sue for custody or visitation of children conceived by rape. It might initially seem like it wouldn’t be much of a problem—most of us probably ask ourselves why rapists would bother to want these children at all—but the fact of the matter is that rapists rape because they like to hurt and control women. How better to make your victim’s life a living hell than going after her through her children? Nothing says “I have power over you” like forcing yourself into someone’s life through their children. Now a bipartisan group of congressmen are trying to close up this loophole in custody laws, with the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, which creates financial incentives for states that bar rapists from suing their victims for custody.

Shauna Prewitt, a woman who chose to give birth after her rape resulted in pregnancy, was with the congressmen when they announced the bill. Prewitt filed charges against her rapist after she gave birth, and he retaliated by suing her for custody. There aren’t any numbers out there to assess how common it is for rapists to abuse the family court system in this way, but there are thousands of women who choose to raise children conceived by rape every year, and we know that rapists are often dogged in their sadism, making suing their victims a tantalizing opportunity for many of them. Wife batterers are notorious in legal circles for their eagerness to abuse the family court system to continue the pattern of hurting and controlling their victim, so it makes sense that rapists—who have a lot in common with and are often batterers themselves—would be attracted to the same strategy. And if they get visitation rights or custody? Now they have tons of access to manipulate and hurt their victim for 18 more years.

Needless to say, it’s probably not the greatest idea to let these men, who think it’s okay to force sex on unwilling women, raise children, especially if there are alternatives—like the mother—available.

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How Domestic Violence Survivors Get Evicted From Their Homes After Calling the Police

1:04 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

A sheriff at an eviction

Why are some cities evicting domestic violence victims?

On June 23 of last year, Lakisha Briggs’ ex-boyfriend, Wilbert Bennett, went to find the 33-year-old mother of two at her house in Norristown, Pennsylvania, which she rented with a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 voucher. Bennett, who was just released from prison, wanted to get back together, and he refused to take no for an answer.

“You are going to be with me or you are going to be with no one,” he allegedly threatened.

Even though Briggs was terrified Bennett would hurt her or her 3-year-old daughter if she forced him to leave, there was something she feared even worse: calling the police for help. If she did, she could be kicked out of her home, and that wasn’t a risk she could afford. Feeling defenseless, Briggs succumbed to his intrusion and demands, allowing him and the friends he invited over to stay.

As outlined in the federal lawsuit filed April 24 on behalf of Briggs by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA), and Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP, Briggs had already been given three strikes under Norristown’s discretionary Rental License Ordinance. The ordinance gives the Montgomery County municipality the right to countermand a landlord’s rental license and provoke a tenant’s eviction if police respond to three “disorderly behavior” calls in four months, including domestic disturbances in which a mandatory arrest in not required.

The strikes Briggs received were the result of police calls made in April and May of last year — two of which were due to acts of domestic violence committed against her. In May, the borough began proceedings to revoke her landlord Darren Sudman’s rental license, but granted the property — and by extension Briggs — a 30-day probationary period after a late May hearing. Any violation during that period would have resulted in rescindment and eviction, claims the lawsuit.

Despite her reluctant surrender, on the evening of June 23 Bennett assaulted Briggs, according to the suit. Her lip was bitten and torn. A glass ashtray was shattered against the right side of her head, leaving a two-inch lesion. She was knocked down. Grabbing one of the large glass fragments, Bennett stabbed her in the neck. Briggs become unconscious as blood surged from the four-inch-deep wound.

Though the attack was brutal, Briggs didn’t call the police, because she feared provoking eviction. But a neighbor did, and soon Briggs was airlifted to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital for emergency medical care.

According to the lawsuit, David R. Forrest, Norristown’s municipal administrator at the time and one of the defendants named, considered the police response a violation of her probation. Three days after the incident, he told Sudman his rental license was rescinded and Briggs had ten days to vacate. She had just returned home from the hospital when Sudman broke the news.

“[Sudman] tried very hard to help her. He was very supportive of her and didn’t think it was fair that he should have to evict her,” Sara Rose, an ACLU-PA staff attorney and representative on the case, told RH Reality Check. “Ultimately, the borough gave him no choice.”

Although Magisterial District Justice Margaret Hunsicker overturned the eviction, allowing Briggs to remain in the unit, Norristown officials continued to pursue it, asserting they had an “independent right” to enforce the city’s ordinance. They ostensibly planned to remove Briggs from her home and condemn the property.

Legal Challenge

This is where the ACLU intervened. According to Rose, the group sent a letter to Norristown officials in September charting the ordinance’s First, Fourth, Fifth, and 14th Amendment infringements, as well as other legal issues identified under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which prohibits housing discrimination based on a number of identifiers, including sex.

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Teach Your Children Well: Men Must Be Leaders in Changing the Culture of Abuse

1:34 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Boy in a locker room

Men must teach the next generation of men not to rape.

We have seen much — and much-deserved — criticism of the mainstream media coverage of the Steubenville rape verdict. Some reporters, notoriously, have focused on what “good students” the convicted young men are and what “bright futures” had been squandered by their actions. While these may have been misguided analyses of the verdict, the outrage stems from the fact that such comments are part of a broader social narrative.

The lack of discourse and concern for the future of the Steubenville victim points to a deeper social problem; it’s a double-down on blaming the victim. Even identifying her as the “accuser” positions her as the one who was imposing upon her assailants. The reality is that her future and her life have been tragically altered by the actions of several boys. She deserves the love and compassion of us all who hope for a just and loving society.

The future of the perpetrators was tragically altered by their own actions. They must own that.

For those of us looking at this case from afar, disconnected from the emotion of the Ohio courtroom, we must resist lamenting the future of the perpetrators and consider their past if we are to make sense of this case and prevent it from happening again. Yes, these boys deserve our compassion and hope for a better future. However, we should not sympathize with the consequences of their behavior, but for the condition of their humanity that led to their actions. We must be honest in our recognition of the culture in which so many boys are raised and nurtured. As a society, we continue to teach boys that girls and women are “less than,” with language and attitudes that challenge and encourage masculinity through threatening and degrading comparison to girls and women (“you throw like a girl,” for example).

Further, very often the role of girls and women is ornamental to, or in support of, the male experience. In many contexts, sports cheerleaders, swimsuit models, and the like reinforce the deeply-held assumption that women’s social, and often professional, roles are subservient to men. The disparity in wages, especially in an economy that many men view as a meritocracy, is a glaring example of cultural patriarchy in which the goals and aspirations of men are seen as more noble and superior to those of women.

Those of us concerned for these young people, both victim and perpetrators, have a moral obligation to recognize how the messages of our culture are manifest in the behavior of high school boys at a party.

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Dear Conservative Christian Leaders: Why Are You Silent about Rape?

6:30 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Dear Conservative Christian Leaders:

According to the Pew Foundation, the majority of Americans are members of your churches and look to you for spiritual and moral guidance. I am writing because you have been stunningly and tellingly silent on one of the most pressing moral and social issues we face today: rape. At least twice in the past three months, you have had occasion to speak out about the issue of rape, and you willfully cast those opportunities aside.

Stop Rape

Stop Rape

 

The most recent example is the press conference/prayer service that six pastors from your ranks held in Steubenville just two days before the trial of two young men accused of raping an unconscious teenage girl. You cited as the reason for calling your prayer service a desire to end the “discord” that was tearing the town apart. You could have moved the town closer to resolving the conflict by using the moral authority you wield in that community to clarify that inserting anything into the body of an unconscious person is rape. You could have used the occasion to denounce sexual assault in more general terms. Instead, you prayed for mercy for “the alleged victim, the alleged perpetrators of the crime and all those who may have somewhat contributed to it” and urged the town to engage in “amelioration.” Your plea for unity and peace sounded an awful lot like, “Sit down, shut up, and stop talking about rape.”

A more global example is what happened this past Christmas. The world’s attention, prayers, and good wishes were focused on the New Delhi rape victim. As the Pope gave his Christmas sermon, the victim hovered between life and death. But rather than use his time at the world-wide microphone to condemn rape or even to pray for the victim’s recovery, he used the festive occasion to rail against homosexuality.

The problem does not seem to be that you feel shy or squeamish talking about sex. You have talked in exhausting depth about a long list of what you see as America’s sexual sins—everything from pornography to gay marriage. You have written entire series of books telling women how to be pure and other books, such as Every Man’s Battle, instructing men on how to keep themselves from lustful thoughts. And on the other side of the equation, there are countless Christian sex manuals that tell married couples in very explicit detail how to have a mutually satisfying sex life.

Yet, in the thousands of church services that I have attended, in the countless hours of Christian radio I have listened to, and in the hundreds of books I have read by Christian authors, not a single one has exhorted the faithful not to rape. I conducted dozens of Google and Yahoo searches and was unable to find a single instance in which a conservative Christian leader has advocated publicly for consent in sexual interactions.

My second year in Bible College I was intrigued by why no one spoke about rape—not in our ethics classes, not in chapel sermons, and not in the churches we visited. I began asking pastors and professors why they were silent on the subject. I continue to ask that question of the many pastors and priests whom I meet as a researcher. Consistently, I get a variation on one of two answers.

The first answer is usually delivered in a very defensive tone. I am told that you do not need to preach about rape for the same reason that you do not preach against robbing banks. It is self-evidently wrong, and nobody in your congregation would do such a thing.

The idea that all rape is self-evidently wrong is belied by the fact that a significant percentage of Americans do not even believe that penetrating unconscious woman is rape. And the notion that no one in your congregation would do such a thing is equally and obviously false. Google the words rape and Evangelical, or rape and Catholic, and you will discover that not only are many of your flock committing rape, but a significant number of your pastors and priests are committing the crime as well.
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Why Zerlina Maxwell Is Almost Right About Teaching Men Not to Rape

11:58 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Last week, Democratic strategist, writer, and rape survivor Zerlina Maxwell went on The Sean Hannity Show and argued that men and boys should be trained not to rape. Maxwell was viciously attacked by conservatives following her appearance. But if there’s any problem with Maxwell’s argument, it’s not that it went too far — it’s that it could have gone even further.

Zerlina Maxwell, screenshot

“I don’t think we should be telling women anything. I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there for prevention,” Maxwell said on Hannity’s show. “You’re talking about it as if there’s some faceless, nameless criminal, when a lot of times it’s someone that you know and trust.”

“Women need to know that these situations arise,” responded Hannity, apparently unaware that women know all too well that rape is a constantly looming threat. It affects our decisions on a daily basis: when and where to jog, when to walk with our keys in between our knuckles, and when to hop out of a cab a block from home if the driver gives us the creeps.

Maxwell was on the show to address the newest twist in the ever-misinformed public conversation about rape. The subject was the role of firearms in rape prevention on college campuses — a hot topic since the Colorado state legislature has been wrestling with HB 1226, a proposed bill that would ban concealed weapons on campus. (The sponsor spiked the bill after the hubbub surrounding Maxwell’s appearance.)

Maxwell argued that, while problematic on a several levels, the argument that women can prevent rape by packing heat is primarily a failure because it is not rooted in the reality of campus rape.

“I want women to be able to protect themselves, yes, but I want women to not be in this situation,” said Maxwell.

“Knowing there are evil people, I want women protected, and they’ve got to protect themselves,” responded Hannity.

Maxwell doubled down: “Tell men not to rape.”

Glenn Beck’s The Blaze called her argument “bizarre.” But it’s disingenuous to suggest that women must choose between being armed or being raped. Saying that a woman should be able to pack heat for self-protection is one thing. But self-defense is not the same thing as rape prevention — and carrying a gun certainly doesn’t guarantee defense against rape.

“If firearms are the answer, then the military would be the safest place for women,” said Maxwell. “And it’s not.”

For her audacity, Maxwell received a torrent of abusive tweets. These Twitter users said she should be gang-raped and that her throat should be slit. They called her a “nigger.” Many others simply insisted on perpetuating a false, twisted representation of her argument: Zerlina Maxwell believes women should be raped instead of using a gun on a rapist.

So it’s come to this: We now must add carrying a gun to our victim-blaming checklist. “She wasn’t carrying a pistol; she must’ve wanted it.”

As if that list wasn’t already long enough.

Maxwell is right, of course. The only problem with her argument is that it didn’t go far enough. For men and boys to be taught not to rape, they have to first learn what rape is.

College women are more likely to be raped than their unenrolled counterparts, and the vast majority of college rapists are trusted acquaintances of the victim, not a man in a ski mask hiding in the bushes wielding a knife or a gun.

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Rethinking Immigration: Moms Will Do Whatever it Takes to Protect Their Kids

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

immigration rally

Immigration Rally

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

Cross-posted with permission from the National Immigrant Justice Center blog.

Congress needs to understand something important as it works to pass a new immigration law: Neither a border nor even the threat of detention can keep a determined parent from trying to reach a child who needs her care.

To ignore this fact, when we have the opportunity to create an immigration system that truly meets the needs of our families and communities, would not only be a lost opportunity for good public policymaking, but also would put countless lives at risk.

I have spent the majority of my career working with immigrant victims of domestic abuse. Although it can be challenging, it has proven to be extremely rewarding and fulfilling work. For more than a decade, I have had the privilege to work with men, women, and children who have taught me how to persevere.

Harsh Laws Undermine Critical Victim Protections

Fortunately, in most of the cases I see, something can be done. I often can assist my clients with filing self-petitions under the Violence Against Women Act based on domestic abuse, or applying for U Visas based on being crime victims, or at the very least can refer them to counseling services and assistance to obtain orders of protection. I have learned to appreciate the many small steps it takes a person to move from a life of abuse, victimization, and dependence to a life of freedom and security. It is not easy, and dealing with the complex bureaucratic immigration system is a burden that often takes a backseat to the more urgent issues of personal safety, survival, and escaping abuse.

Despite progress in our laws to protect victims of domestic violence, the U.S. government’s focus on harsh enforcement practices and rollback of basic due process protections — including the chance to see a judge before being deported — have led to victims being denied true security. Deportation can be life-threatening for people who are forced to return to countries where they will not be protected from domestic violence, or for the children they leave behind in precarious situations in the United States. Deportation can mean death.

When Carmela’s* case came to me, she had recently been released from immigration detention. As a child, she was abused by her parents and older siblings. The abusive home life led her to get married at a very young age, but her husband also became abusive. Carmela fled her husband’s abuse and came to the United States. She eventually married again in the United States, only to be victimized again.

In 1995, an immigration judge granted Carmela voluntary departure. She left the United States to comply with the judge’s order. Unfortunately, the attorney she had at the time did not submit the appropriate paperwork so that the U.S. government would know that she complied with the departure order. Thus, her voluntary departure, which would have allowed her potentially to return to the U.S. lawfully at any time, turned into a deportation order, which permanently barred her from lawfully returning to the United States.

Carmela’s Struggle to Be Near Her Children

Carmela’s abusive husband insisted that she return to the United States and arranged for her to return unlawfully. Carmela felt desperate, as if she had no other choice, because she needed to care for her children. She returned to the United States, only to again be caught by immigration officials, detained, and subject to reinstatement of her deportation order. Even after she was deported, the abusive cycle continued and Carmela’s husband once again arranged for her to return to the United States unlawfully.

Carmela eventually was able to leave her abusive relationship, but without legal immigration status, it has been difficult to provide financially for her family. Her 17-year-old daughter Magaly is an excellent student who has lived in the United States since she was one. Magaly is applying for temporary protection from deportation under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Carmela also has helped to raise an “adopted” U.S. citizen daughter. Another daughter, Ariana, has become a naturalized U.S. citizen and begun a family of her own.

After a car accident in 2012, a police officer arrested Carmela and transferred her to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. She was detained for three months, during which Magaly was left without her mother. Current immigration law denies Carmela a hearing in front of an immigration judge because of her prior deportation order. NIJC has helped Carmela file two applications for a stay of removal and a request for prosecutorial discretion, since she easily falls into what the Obama administration has designated as “low priority” for deportation.

However, with her prior removal order, Carmela does not qualify for any long-term immigration relief. If Carmela were able to qualify for permanent legal status, she would be able to solidify the roots she has established in her community, with her family. Carmela and Magaly would not be afraid that ICE could show up at their doorstep any day and take Carmela into custody again. Magaly would have the opportunity to become a permanent resident and be able to pursue dreams of a college education after she graduates from high school this year. Instead, the family lives in fear that Carmela can be deported any day.

Laws Should Protect, Not Punish, Families

Congress needs to rebuild our immigration system so that it includes people like Carmela and Magaly. Carmela should not be punished for returning to the United States to care for her children. She should be afforded a hearing in front of an immigration judge and an opportunity to share her story. She should not have to fear returning to immigration detention. She is not a criminal or a flight risk. Rather, she is a mother and a provider. She should be allowed to stay in the United States and obtain long-term immigration status to build a life with her family, free from abuse and fear.

And if my argument is not persuasive enough, read Magaly’s own words from her DACA work authorization application, where she tells the U.S. government why she wants a chance for her family to build a future in the United States:

 photo magaly_zps5180b5b3.jpg

*All names have been changed

Photo by Loretta Principe released under Creative Commons License

One in Three: Silenced Stories of Survivors of Sexual Assault and Women Who Have Abortions

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Valentine’s Day is a day when we are supposed to remind those we care about that we love them. But it is also V-Day, a day where people around the world share stories of physical and sexual violence against women in order to remind the world that we care about women and will not tolerate rape, battery, and abuse. This year marks the 15th Anniversary of V-day and the 40th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade. So I thought it would be appropriate to draw a connection between the silenced stories of the 1 in 3 women worldwide who have experienced physical and sexual violence and the silenced stories of 1 in 3 women in the United States who will have an abortion in their lifetime.

As a survivor of rape and a woman who has exercised my right to choose abortion, 1 in 3 is much more than a statistic. In my view, the social stigmatization that blames women and tells women they should remain quiet and be ashamed of having been assaulted is rooted in the same view of women as second-class citizens that says abortion should remain unnamed and unspoken about in public. Gender-based violence takes many forms and our concept of gender-based violence should be broad enough to include the structural violence inherent in a society that seeks to control and regulate women’s bodies and denies them the ability to exercise their reproductive rights in the absence of stigma, shame, harassment, and a slew of unnecessary legal and financial barriers to reproductive health care.

Today, I offer my abortion story as a means of complicating the assumption that a legal abortion is necessarily a safe abortion in a social and political context that denies women’s reproductive autonomy and moral worth as citizens. I want to challenge society, policymakers in particular, to see that it’s not enough to keep abortion legal, as difficult as that fight has been. I want to offer my story to a collection of stories that make the case for positive and unrestricted abortion rights and hopefully challenge people outside the movement to view my choice in the context of my humanity.

I have dedicated both my personal life and my professional life to the advancement of women’s health and rights. Throughout college I defended women’s access to abortion and right to reproductive autonomy both through academic engagement and activism — I’ve done everything from screening on abortion hotlines for women in distress to serving as a clinic defender, protecting women from the harassment of protesters as they entered the clinic for abortion services. As a young professional, I advocate for women’s health and rights every day, nine to five and beyond.

My decision to pursue a career in the reproductive justice movement was based on my own experiences coming of age with a uterus, but it was also deeply influenced by experiences as an advocate in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, watching as pregnant young women were bounced around from foster home to incarceration without so much as a single conversation about the circumstances of their pregnancy or whether they wanted to be pregnant, and without receiving even an approximation of adequate representation in court as they endeavored to keep custody of their baby if they wanted to be a parent. I knew one young girl who desperately tried to self-induce an abortion from a prison bathroom and another young woman in the throws of despair as her new baby was removed from her custody without cause.

All of these formative experiences taught me how vital it is for women to be in control of their bodies. I had no idea that I would eventually need to exercise my own right to choose abortion. But I understood that it is fundamental to women’s freedom and liberty as human beings that we have the right to choose when, whether, and how to become parents and that we be fully empowered legally, politically, and socially to safely make our reproductive choices.

Women have countless reasons for choosing abortion. For some women, abortion is needed as a result of sexual violence. For some women, their abortion will be the means of escaping the violence of an abusive partner. For some women, having an abortion will be a means of keeping the children they already have in the context of a society that makes it difficult for poor families to provide for their children’s basic needs and that punishes poor parents by removing their children from their custody and placing them in foster care. And for some women, having an abortion will simply be about making the affirmative decision that they do not want to be a parent or have another child.

For me, pregnancy was like this: My body had been implanted with a foreign entity that made me violently ill from the time I got up in the morning until I got home from work at night. Worse, it was threatening to grow larger and larger until my whole life was subservient to its needs and desires, and others’ expectations of what I should be. I wanted and desperately needed one thing and one thing only: not to be pregnant. My choice to have an abortion was not one marked by moral ambiguity or internal conflict; not one rife with grief over the potential life that some would tell me I should feel an innate sense of duty to bring into existence. Not to be pregnant — it was a need that I can only describe as primal.

From the clichéd bathroom scene moment when I learned the result of the pregnancy test until after I had the procedure, I was overcome with a feeling of absolute desperation. The instant that second pink line appeared on the positive pregnancy test, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that had always been an abstract reassurance, suddenly became an offering of grace and a tangible pathway to safety and security and the freedom to determine my future in one of the most vulnerable moments of my life.

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The Pope, Pregnant Children, and Violence Against Girls and Women

11:48 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Pope Benedict Pope Benedict XVII find it strange that Pope Benedict XVI chose a week that will culminate in a global strike to protest violence against women to retire. And for health reasons no less. Orange smoke and irony and all that. On Thursday of this week, all over the globe, people will gather and dance for One Billion Rising, a day dedicated to striking against violence against women. As Eve Ensler, the founder of  V-Day which has organized the strike knows better than most, “violence against women is a global, patriarchal epidemic.

Part of that epidemic is compulsory pregnancy. The Pope’s rationale is that his “age means he lacks strength to do job.” You could use the exact words to describe the nine-year old girl the Pope excommunicated for having a life-saving abortion after being raped and impregnated, with twins. It seems to me that her age meant she lacked strength to do the job, too. Actually, the job would have killed her.  These things happen. She and 16 million other pregnant adolescent girls a year, two million of whom are under age 15, strike me as 16 million good #reasonstorise.

As does this girl: last Thursday a friend posted a story on Facebook, ”Dafne, 9-Year-Old Girl, Gives Birth To Baby Girl In Mexico.” Millions read and shared it over the weekend.  The link appeared with this caption: “The girl reportedly delivered a 5.7 pound baby by Caesarian section on January 27. She was 8-years old when she became pregnant.” Picky, picky feminist wordsmithy me thinks the caption should read, “The girl underwent a dangerous Caesarian surgery to delivery a 5.7 pound baby on January 27. She was 8-years old when a 17-year old boy forcibly inseminated her.”  Eight-year olds cannot consent to sex. They also cannot consent to having contraceptives implanted in their arms, but that’s now happened too. Just in case she gets ideas. On the same day, by coincidence, a 12-year old in Argentina gave birth to twins after she “fell pregnant.” Like she tripped by accident.

While nine is very young, girls this age having babies is not as rare as we’d like to think. The United States has more “teen” births than any industrialized nation, including girls as young as 10,  and our rates have been climbing.  However, 95 percent of teen births take place in poorer countries. According to W.H.O., “Half of all adolescent births occur in just seven countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and the United States.” Many girls die because they do not have control over their bodies and their own reproduction.

Last year, after a 10-year old in Columbia gave birth, experts blithely explained that “a C-section delivery for such a young mother is not unusual.” Given global trends (researchers, armed with competing theories, have noted that the average age of the onset of menstruation for girls has been steadily declining for decades) we can reasonably expect to see instances involving younger and younger girls. Little girls, and women who find themselves raped and pregnant often “want to die.” It’s only one reason why raped people shouldn’t be forced to carry pregnancies to term. Guess what else, besides the Papacy, of course, is a “job or life with no retirement age?” Whereas the Pope is retiring to “go back to his priesthood,” girls who are raped, pregnant and give birth or die cannot go back to their childhoods.

This was the conclusion reached by a doctor last year in the case a mentally-disabled girl, 10-years old, in Kansas, who had to have an abortion after becoming pregnant as a result of rape.  Many people, like these at the Landover Baptist Church think, “Ten-year old sluts getting pregnant is no reason for abortion!” That’s pretty much what the Kansas medical review board that revoked the girl’s doctor’s license seemed to believe. Which was a relief for people who want girls to get this message: “Ten year old sluts in Kansas are being given a simple message: GET PREGNANT IN KANSAS AND YOU WILL HAVE A BABY!” I realize that these quotes seem to be from a lunatic fringe, or just any number of misguided priests, but these words are bluntly stated distillations of common victim-blaming ideas and believed by many people.  In Mexico, authorities “don’t know if [the girl] is being entirely truthful.” Mainly because of her age, but interesting choice of words. Is she saying she was raped? Or is she saying she wasn’t? The article linked to doesn’t say which. Turns out she’s saying that the boy was her “boyfriend.” As one commenter speculated, the child “may have even had feelings for” her rapist.  Authorities, in a perverse game of “he said/she said,” acknowledge that they are looking for the missing father, a 17-year old boy, “to acquire his own account of what occurred between the two.” In case he reveals that she was wrong in her assessment and wants to make it clear that he raped her?

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One Billion Rising: Ending the Pandemic of Violence Against Women

1:40 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Violence Against Women

(Photo: Paul Garland/flickr)

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

Every day, girls and women the world over face a broad range of assaults which, in the aggregate, inhibit equality everywhere. In the United States we are dealing with a legislative assault on women’s rights, well documented here, that few people understand as a real and violent assault on women’s physical integrity and right to bodily autonomy. More often than not, people think of the “war on women” in the United States as a politically expeditious metaphor when it is not. There is nothing abstract or metaphorical about it. That’s too squeam-inducing for many people to consider. However, in direct and more obvious, “forcible” and “legitimately” recognized ways, women in the United States  experience directly recognizable physical violence, too. Among developed nations, the United States has a higher than average rate of violence against women. This violence sits squarely in the full spectrum of violence, much more crippling and extreme, that takes place in other parts of the world. It’s all of a cloth.

Last Fall, I wrote an article in the Huffington Post called “Violence Against Women is a Global Pandemic.” If you click on the link, you can review the still relevant deplorable statistics. It goes without saying, a scant 10 months later, that data regarding the chronic and oppressive reality of systematized gender-based violence are still valid. For an updated, dynamic and mappable resource, it’s useful to explore the Womenstats database, the most comprehensive of its kind in the world.

The good news is that more and more people and organizations are working diligently to raise awareness and confront the pervasive risks that girls and women face just for being female. Among upcoming efforts are the United Nations UNITE to End Violence Against Women campaign, which recognizes the 25th of every month as an awareness raising Orange Day;Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October; The Pixel Project’s Paint it Purple initiative; and, at the end of November, the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence takes place.

A visionary in this fight is Eve Ensler, who today released a short film on YouTube, One Billion Rising, to raise awareness for a Feb. 14, 2013 global strike to end violence against women. This strike is being organized by V-Day, the international organization she founded 14 years ago whose vision it is to end this violence. They are doing this by organizing a global network of activists, artists, grass-roots movements and more. The #1billionrising movement imparts – to quote a Tweet, an amazing message: “1 Billion Women Violated is an Atrocity. 1 Billion Dancing is a Revolution.”
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House VAWA Bill is Racist, Elitist, Homophobic, and Anti-Victim

11:01 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

See all our coverage of the 2012 VAWA Reauthorization here.

There’s a big secret about the bill to address the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, introduced by Representative Sandy Adams (R-FL), that’s no longer so secret: it’s racist, elitist, homophobic and anti-victim. The bill, which purports to support “true victims” of domestic and sexual violence while excluding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) survivors, forcing immigrants to tell their abusive partners where they are and gutting protections for Native women. So, using my secret decoder ring, I have to assume that “true victims” equals heterosexual, non-transgender, non-immigrant, non Tribal, non-people of color victims. Or, to remove the negatives, “true victims” equals straight, white women. 

The Adams bill (H.R. 4970) is in sharp contrast to the recently passed Senate bill (S. 1925) which had 68 bipartisan votes last Thursday. Senate Bill 1925 covers all victims of violence, including LGBT survivors; maintains confidentiality protections for immigrants; and provides protection for Native women in Tribal courts. That bill, championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reached across the aisle and focused on what survivors of domestic and sexual violence need to stay safe instead of partisan politics. We are in an extraordinary political climate when fights over the passage of VAWA in Congress is news: prior to this year, VAWA had sailed through both the Senate and House with bipartisan support that addressed the real needs of victims of violence. That we can no longer assume that our legislators would support protections for victims of violence is shocking. That we have to decode their messaging to figure out which victims they will support is offensive.

In case it needs to be stated explicitly, all victims and survivors of violence need support.  Those in the margins, such as LGBT, immigrant and Native survivors, need more support than most because of the specific obstacles they face in seeking safety. VAWA has fundamentally shifted the way this country responds to domestic and sexual violence. In its evolution, at each reauthorization, VAWA has been refined to protect those most vulnerable. Never has VAWA distinguished between “worthy” and “unworthy” victims for good reason: Choosing between victims is not only offensive, it’s lethal. 

So here’s my question for every representative in the House: can you support a bill that would not just roll back protections for all survivors of violence in this country but that would specifically and explicitly say to some victims:  we will not protect you.  We do not care about you. You are not worth it.

Can you do it?  If you can, then we know who you are and what you stand for.  You can feel free to openly promote a racist, elitist, homophobic and anti-victim agenda. Because House members who support a bill like the Adams VAWA bill will no longer need to speak in code – we can hear you loud and clear.