rape culture

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.)

Occidental College Betrays Own Sexual Assault Policy

The college, responding to requests from students and faculty, recently agreed to implement a system whereby any time a sexual assault was reported to college authorities, the entire college community would receive an email notification to the effect. Then, two weeks ago, a sexual assault was reported, and no notification was sent out. Many were naturally outraged and organized a multi-level protest.

In response, the president of Occidental College, Jonathan Veitch, wrote a letter to the campus community. In it, he confirms what the students of Occidental fear: He is inclined to disbelieve students who report sexual assault. He writes that OxyAlerts in cases of reports of sexual assault are not “possible or desirable” because:

In the first few hours, days or even weeks, it is not always clear what has happened in incidents like these. Investigators need time to sort through conflicting accounts in order to provide a clear narrative of what took place.

By suggesting that “incidents like these” need vetting, Veitch is reproducing a bias against sexual assault victims that feminists have been trying to eradicate for decades. He is saying that sexual assault reports must be “sort[ed] through,” but reports of all other crimes can be taken at face value.

As the Ms. blog’s Lisa Wade points out, a report is just that—a report. Informing students that there has been a report of a crime does not indicate that a crime has actually been committed. No “sorting through” needs to happen to verify that a report has been filed. Veitch is—deliberately or not—conflating “reporting” and “trying”.

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.

"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.

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?

I Think We're All Losers Here

Last week Fox News commentator Bob Beckel was arguing on air with some more conservative colleauges about allowing guns on college campuses. Addressing the idea that women might use guns to ward off potential rapists, Beckel said, “When was the last time you heard about a rape on campus?”

Now, Beckel is clearly a blowhard and has made a number of outrageous and insensitive comments, so this shouldn’t really surprise anyone too much. Rapes do happen on college campuses, probably with greater frequency than in many other places. But I feel like this video depicts a lose-lose conversation; I don’t want to live in a world where women have to carry guns so they won’t be raped, even if those guns could be proved to pose no risk to society.

Women should feel safe from rape because no one (or almost no one; we’ll never achieve perfection) tries to rape them.

Egypt's Sexual Terrorism

Last month, the United Nations issued a statement expressing “deep concern” after more than two dozen women reported they had been sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square—in some cases, with extraordinary violence—during demonstrations marking the two-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. […]

On Monday, the human rights commission for the Islamist-dominated Shura Council held a press conference, provocatively stating that women are to blame for sexual assaults against them. Women “know they are among thugs,” said Adel Afify, a member of the committee representing the ultra-conservative Asala Party. “They should protect themselves before requesting that the Interior Ministry does so. By getting herself involved in such circumstances, the woman bears 100 percent responsibility.” Another member of the council alleged that the tents at protest sites encourage “prostitution.”

Protesters gathering to demonstrate against the surge in incidents of rape are refusing to be cowed by this sort of rhetoric, but they’re fighting an institutionalized misogyny. This war will not be over by Christmas.

"Something Goes Wrong"

The Amherst College Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct (SMOC) has released its report, “Toward a Culture of Respect: The Problem of Sexual Misconduct at Amherst College”, one of several such reports commissioned in reponse to the college’s chronic problem of sexual assault. Dana Bolger, writing for It Happens Here, an online magazine published specifically to discuss this very problem, dismantles a number of common rape myths found in the study. For example, blaming “accidental” rape on alcohol consumption:

The existence of a link between alcohol and sexual assault is undeniable. But the common conception of the nature of this link—a conception the Amherst report espouses—understands alcohol as a cause of rape, rather than what it is: a weapon. Studies suggest that the vast majority of perpetrators utilize alcohol to intoxicate their victims—or to target already intoxicated women or men—thereby diminishing victims’ ability to resist, eliminating the necessity for physical force (and thus the existence of physical evidence), and reducing victims’ likelihood of being believed if and when they report their rapes. So too is it a myth to say that intoxicated men simply fail to ‘read the signs’ and thus accidentally rape people. Further, studies indicate that perpetrators deliberately get drunk to lower inhibition so that they can proceed with an act they intended all along.

Via Feministing.

Skirt the Issue

Creative grassroots activism at its best: 25 Indian men spent this past Saturday wearing skirts as protest against the belief that women’s “immodesty” bears partial responsibility for rape.

One man said: “Please don’t judge a woman for what she wears, it’s more important that you respect her for her character and what she is. Whatever she does, please leave it to her.”