"He Was the First One to Lower His Head."

Trigger Warning for Rape, Murder, and Torture

Great profile of Nusreta Siva, a Bosnian concentration camp survivor who used her experience—and years of collecting and transcribing first-hand accounts of other rape victims—to persuade the international war crimes tribunal to classify rape as a war crime.

A young judge, Nusreta Sivac was one of 37 women raped by guards at a concentration camp in Bosnia. They never discussed the nightly traumas — their pained glances were enough to communicate their suffering. She also witnessed murder and torture by Bosnian Serb guards — and was forced to clean blood from walls and floors of the interrogation room.

She told herself to memorize the names and faces of the tormentors so that one day she might bring them to justice.

Why Is the U.S. Media Ignoring Rape in Syria?

Similarly, Soraya Chemaly piles on the evidence that, despite much attention being given to events in Syria of late, most of the coverage ignores the pervasive weaponization of rape or talks about it in sanitized terms.

Last Monday, for example, the Washington Post ran a lengthy story titled “In grim milestone, UN says number of Syrian refugees tops 1 million.” Like others pivoting around realization of the proportions of the crisis, the article was lengthy and detailed in its discussion of the causes, consequences and destabilizing regional effect caused by the massive out-flux of fleeing Syrians into neighboring states. The content and tone of the piece was similar to a July 2012 Congressional Research Service assessment summary to Congress, “Armed Conflict In Syria: US and International Responses.” It reviewed the Syrian state’s collapse and made recommendations for possible steps the U.S. should take. The report mentioned the importance of Syrian leaders’ “kinship ties” and fighters’ and community “morale” in the conduct and passage of ongoing conflict. However, it did not mention the fact that rape and sexualized violence, which at that time were already evident in humanitarian relief reports, are unique in the way they redefine “weapon” and “conflict,” affect kinship ties, communities and morale, and by extension, state security and disintegration.

The media is all about money. People publish what they think will get them more readers. I’m not saying this is right, but it is true. I suspect The Washington Post and others know that people don’t actually want to hear how widespread and hateful rape has become in Syria. And that statement—if true—is far more unsettling to think about than the errors of omission being committed by The Press.

UK Borders Agency Plays the "False Accusation" Card to Keep Rape Victims Out of Britain

Fiona Bawdon at The Guardian wants to know why the immigration authority perpetuates a “culture of disbelief” toward women seeking asylum in the United Kingdom because of sexual assault in their home countries:

[Activist organization Asylum Aid] says asylum seekers are still subject to the kind of questioning that would provoke outrage if it were police treating rape complainants in this way. In one case a male UKBA official asked a trafficked woman if she enjoyed working as a prostitute; another victim was asked if she had tried to stop a man raping her; a case worker had never heard of “female circumcision”. There were examples of women being interviewed for up to five hours without a break.

Dr Russell Hargrave, head of public affairs at Asylum Aid, says reforms introduced by police and criminal courts are not being applied to those going through the asylum process.

Rape culture is systemic and takes time to dismantle, but this is ridiculous. It’s hard not to imagine a racist component to this problem, as well—that non-white women may be seen as less trustworthy and more sexualized, and therefore less capable of being raped. (We all know only completely virginal women can be raped.)

Department of Education Opens Investigation into UNC Suppression of Sexual Assault Reports

Back in January Melinda Manning, former Assistant Dean of Students at the University of North Carolina, lodged a complaint with the Department of Education, claiming the University had under-reported the number of sexual assaults on campus. Last week the DOE decided to investigate the matter.

In a letter to Chancellor Holden Thorp dated March 1, Robin Murphy, a team leader on the Washington Office for Civil Rights, wrote that the office would open an investigation into the women’s complaint. She added that the office also found that there were individual allegations of disability discrimination. Those would be handled separately, she wrote.

“Please note that opening the allegation for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to the merits of the complaint,” Murphy wrote. “During the investigation, OCR is a neutral fact-finder, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence from the complainant, the recipient, and other sources, as appropriate.”

Can I hope that an organization with “civil rights” in their actual name will not contribute further to any oppression or silencing of victims? I’m going to hope it.

Via ThinkProgress.

Lieutenant General Overturns Service Member’s Rape Conviction

Lt. Colonel James Wilkerson had been convicted by a jury of abusive sexual contact and aggravated sexual assault, but Lt. General Craig Franklin used the little-invoked power of “convening authority” to overturn the decision, claiming insufficient evidence.

The Lieutenant General’s decision has warranted outrage from members of Congress. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said “The military needs to understand that this could be a tipping point. I question whether, after this incident, there’s any chance a woman assaulted in that unit would ever say a word. … There’s a culture issue that’s going to have to be addressed here.”

Apparently in making this decision Franklin considered a “clemency package” of letters of support for the defendent, because we all know that someone whose friends say nice things about him couldn’t possibly rape anyone. All rapists are evil, soulless men in black masks who jump unsuspecting women in alleyways.

Anway, McCaskill and others are calling for an investigation by the Air Force Chief of Staff, so maybe this won’t be the end of the story.

Somali Court Clears Woman Alleging Rape; Reporter Still in Prison

Remember the Somali woman who was sentenced to a year in prison for falsely accusing rape? In case you don’t, I’ll remind you that her conviction rested on the unreliable and misogynist two-finger test, and that a journalist who had interviewed her but never published a story was also sentenced to a year in prison.

The judge said that journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim had disrespected the country’s law, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a Sunday statement, noting that it was unclear exactly what law he broke. His one-year sentence was cut to six months.

“The court acquitted a woman who should never have been charged while upholding an unjust conviction of a journalist,” said Daniel Bekele, the group’s Africa director. “After this case, who in their right mind would suggest to a victim of government abuse that they report the crime? Or tell their story to a journalist?”

You know the saddest part of this story? That it’s now considered a win if neither of these people go to prison, when the authorities should be looking for a rapist.

"How Do I Report the Government to the Government?"

Trigger Warning for Rape/Sexual Violence

The testimonies filed to a Nairobi court last week are difficult to read. A woman is raped in front of her daughter, first by police and then by looters. A student is dragged into the bush and has his foreskin cut off. A terrified woman hides under her bed as attackers scale her roof but they find her, beat her, then three men rape her.

These horrific stories constitute a tiny fraction of the sexual violence that exploded amid the post-election chaos in 2007 and early 2008. There are no definitive figures on how many women and men were sexually abused, but activists estimate at least 3,000 women were raped, with at least 60% of the reported gang rapes attributed to the security forces. No one has been convicted.

The eight stories filed to the high court on 20 February are also chilling because on 4 March, Kenyans will go to the polls to choose a president, MPs, senators and county representatives. Campaigners fear a repeat of sexual atrocities if violence erupts.

I’m going to give away the ending because you’ve heard it before: you have to change the culture, starting with male superiority over women.

Two U.S. Servicemen Imprisoned For Rape in Japan

The Naha District Court handed down a sentence of 10 years to Navy Seaman Christopher Daniel Browning and nine years to Petty Officer Skyler A Dozierwalker for raping a Japanese woman after attacking her in a parking lot.

The rape occurred in October 2012.

At the time, both men were visiting from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Texas.

After their arrests, Lt. Gen. Salvatore Angelella, commander of U.S. forces in Japan, put troops at Okinawa’s Kadena Air Base on a curfew and apologized to the victim.

Finally, someone responds to rape by restricting what men do, not what women do—exactly the response I want out of the United States military.

Can a Wrist Watch Really Cure India's Rape Problem?

No. (That one’s a gimme.) A watch that texts your friends and family and the police with your location and records video of the event is, on the whole, only a small step in overcoming centuries of patriarchy, misogyny, and governmental and police disregard for the problem. But every little helps.

More importantly, other groups are starting to use technology to prevent, not just report, rape.

The Rape Foundation recently partnered with tech firm Possible to develop Safebook, an app they hope to release by the end of the year. Safebook aims to shift the burden to the friend, the bystander, the person that witnesses assault by creating groups and allowing them to check in on members. Its target demographic is college women, one in five of whom report being sexually assaulted during their four years on campus. Realizing this susceptible group is spending most of its time in the digital world, the partners hope to use social media campaigns to target them where they’re most comfortable—similar to campaigns that have already been successful for gay rights awareness and bullying.

Of course, prevention and reporting do not directly address a culture that views rape as acceptable, but they contribute. As more people and government agencies begin to take the issue seriously, the collective consciousness will start to shift.

University Of North Carolina May Expel Rape Victim For Telling Her Story

Landen Gambill has been accused of “disruptive” and “intimidating” behavior because she went public with the story of her rape by another student. She will have to attend a hearing before the school’s “Honor Court”.

Most likely, UNC’s action against the student is revenge. Gambill’s story first came to light as part of a case against the school in which a former assistant dean accused UNC of intentionally under-reporting cases of sexual assault. Gambill was one of three students providing evidence to prove the dean’s case. After it went public, Gambill publicly addressed the failings of UNC’s system, reporting that they “were not only offensive and inappropriate, but they were so victim-blaming… They made it seem like my assault was completely my fault.” The school even tried to leverage her suicide attempt, which happened after her sexual abuse, against her.

Do the people who dream up these accusations really not think about the terrible publicity they’ll get as a result, or are they just that sure they’re going to win?