In the News (Feb. 8 – 21)

Ann Friedan on why she believes Dylan Farrow, and also why who you believe might depend on whose story you recognize. Also, sometimes children who are surviving sexual assault are believed by the authorities.

Who thought it would be a good idea to name a drink after a systematic act of sexual assault? Or to make a joke on a sandwich board outside a restaurant about chloroform? This is rape culture.o-HOUSE-OF-CARDS-facebook

Is educating people about acting – instead of being a passive witness — if they see a potential sexual assault going to make a difference in people’s behaviors?

Why do so many people graduate high school thinking rape is funny?

Dear Montana, what’s going on? The mother of a 5-year-old sexual assault victim allegedly told by the prosecuting attorney, “boys will be boys.”

A 17-year-old boy receives a 26 year prison sentence for his part in the aggravated sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl.

House of Cards doesn’t stay within the common TV troupes of either sexuality or surviving sexual assault (or coming to terms with someone you love being a survivor), and that’s a good thing.

Want to learn about how rape played a role in the Civil War? There’s a book for that.

Comments surrounding former NFL player Darren Sharper bring to light more (wrong) ideas about who rapes, and who doesn’t.

Despite books like Alissa Nutting’s Tampa attempting to shed light onto why a teacher might decide to prey upon a student – and the damages this can cause: Teachers having sex with (or sexually assaulting) students still isn’t okay.

“He Said, She Said” and Hot Wings

by Michelle Wolff

Two to three times a week I get a hot wing craving and – bad news for my budget – I indulge it.  A few weeks ago I just wanted to eat hot wings and talk to my friend.  At the restaurant, news about another sports player being accused of sexual assault was written in stark black and white text on the running ribbon of evil at the bottom of several TV screens.  I wanted to ignore it because I didn’t want that sinking feeling in my stomach, that cynicism which arises in anticipating that nothing will be done. Again.

This time, it was Jameis Winston, a football quarterback for Florida State University who was slated to be presented with the highly coveted Heisman trophy on December 13, 2013 (he did win).  He is accused of raping a young woman a year ago.  The reasons given for declining the case by the Florida State Attorney’s Office were that the victim had gaps in her memory, it took her a month to identify Winston as her rapist, and two eye witnesses report she gave consent.  In addition, DNA evidence recovered from her underwear included that of her boyfriend.  The gaps in her memory are consistent with a drug facilitated assault yet much is being made of a toxicology screen showing nothing was in her system.  Not much is being said about how quickly those drugs become undetectable.

There has been a lot of coverage on the subject of these allegations, even though  Jameis Winston is playing at the college level and this may be due to his upcoming award.  Some are saying the timing  of these allegations is suspicious, however the  case was actually reported in December 2012 immediately after the incident and the Tallahassee PD had been holding it as inactive.  This was not at all a case of delayed reporting.

Even more interesting than the articles about this case are what I read in the comments sections.  If you want to know the state of the general public’s attitudes on rape take a half hour and start skimming through comment sections.  What I found alternately horrified me but ultimately gave me hope and a direction to go with educating the public.

Heather Cox, an ESPN reporter was lambasted for having the temerity to question Winston regarding the case just after it had been closed.

Comments indicated varying views on the reporter’s questions being out of line.  They ranged from a sort of “how dare she” ask him about the issue  to a clear “why shouldn’t she” ask about it opinion.  Sports figures have become notorious for attracting scandal and it was surprising to see that some people thought he shouldn’t be asked anymore.  Possibly because they aren’t aware that with celebrity comes questions of all kinds inappropriate or not about all aspects of one’s life?  Possibly because of the subject matter? It’s impossible to determine.

Another article, which also has a video clip, described Winston and his family as “satisfied” that the case is closed. No mention was made of whether the victim felt satisfied.

Here is a sample of comments (as of this writing there are 64) from that article. The most disturbing of these comments is the one that suggests that if you can be labeled “promiscuous” then rape charges become harder to prove:

Michelle Wolff picture 1

This small sample has so many stereotypes in it. Promiscuity, “word against word,” they want attention, doing it for the money.  More than one commenter said the family is out to get a reality TV show contract.  That’s a new one on me I have to say and while Honey Boo Boo may be a depressing highlight of the worst of my Southern heritage it certainly doesn’t have parallels to a false rape report.

The best article I read, which was written by a far more articulate writer than I, discusses our country’s long history of letting sports stars off the hook and illustrates why Heather Cox’s questions were appropriate.  For the author’s trouble he is called a “Winston hater.”

Michelle Wolff picture 2

As with all heinous subjects, it’s easy to give up hope when you read things written out of ignorance, however if you look for it you can find the voices of reason.  Although those voices may be temporarily outshouted by the masses of the uninformed I have to believe it will change.  In the meantime, while I order more hot wings, I now understand that planting the seeds of education happens not on my FB page, it’s in the comments sections of articles such as these for this is where potential jurors hang out and this is where, just maybe, I can have an impact.

In the News… (Dec. 30 – Jan. 3)

This week’s In The News… is a bit shorter due to holidays, but (unfortunately) certainly not due to a lack of stories about rape and sexual assault.

Happy 2014 to all our readers, and thank you for helping spread the word about what’s happening in the news regarding sexual assault and rape.

A 16-year-old West Bengal girl was gang-raped and then burned to death by her attackers. Another 16-year-old girl was allegedly raped during New Year’s festivities in Philly.

This is rape culture.

A suspected rapist in Cape Town was stoned to death in a show of vigilante for stoning

Another college rape.

Sexual assault in the military: one man’s story.

Surprise, surprise, another ad campaign that confuses drinking “too much” with being sexually assaulted.

The PEW Research Center reports that Facebook is still the most popular social media platform (unless you’re part of certain demographics). Does this type of information reflect the way you use social media for outreach? What do you think about this in light of this recent news in which a Twitter user threatens to rape an unconscious woman or the recent news about Facebook not immediately taking down pages that glorify sexual assault? Let us know your thoughts about this in the comments below or contact us if this sparks an idea for a blog post.

In the News… (Dec. 21-27)

Six people were charged (and 10 arrested) for the rape of a young woman in India.

15,000 rape kits in Memphis haven’t been tested, and a survivor is suing the city over it.

A high schooler was kicked out after reporting she’d been raped in the band room, for “public lewdness.”

A prosecutor is appealing the decision of a judge to let a rapist with three charges against him avoid any prison time.

There are so many reports (or updates) about sexual assault on minors in the news this week, including this one about sexual assault against juvenile inmates in a Michigan prison and this one about a pediatrician.

Obama signed the defense authorization bill that will hopefully help survivors of sexual assault in the military.

Seattle rapist claims he raped because he is God.TR007241

A transgender man files suit against a police officer he says assaulted him.

Top 3 CCASA Blogs for the Holidays

In the past, CCASA bloggers have shared their own messages and experiences of healing and hope for the holidays.  Below are three posts we love (and know you will, too!) that reflect on the holidays, from the songs we hear to holiday meals with place settingfamily…

1)  “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” by Michelle Wolff talks about what many survivors of sexual abuse experience: seeing the person who sexually assaulted them at family events over the holidays.  What might you feel?  What can you do?  Michelle talks about all this in a humorous, yet serious, blog for the holidays.

2)  “Baby, It’s Cold Ou3b185-babyit27scoldoutsidetside” by Becky Owens Bullard suggests that the lyrics to that favorite old tune might not be what we realized. Becky looks at the lines of the song and says, “…The song’s two parts were originally written as a ‘mouse’ and a ‘wolf,’ with the male part obviously having the intention of devouring the female in some shape or form.” What? Ok, now you have to read this.

3)  “Surviving the Holidays” by Kemf0b52-survivingtheholidaysi Chavez talks about her experience of sexual abuse as a child and how that has impacted her experience of family and the holidays.  She shares what she has done, and encourages you to make the choices that will help you the most in your healing.

In the News… (Dec. 14 – 20)

Tuesday was International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Did you do anything to memorialize sex workers who died violent deaths?

Some college men think Title IX violates  their rights.

Illinois has a backlog of more than 4,000 rape kits.

Read an interview with the journalist who, fifteen years ago, followed up on an anonymous fax about R. Kelly, which turned into the stories about his sexual predations on teenage girls. And, if you’ve got the time, R. Kelly responds (there’s a link to a radio interview).

A year after the Delhi rape case in India, is there any progress?

Pro-choice activists are working to repeal the abortion-riders in Michigan.

Remember, abusive relationships are often complicated by pregnancy as abusers try to solidify their bonds with their victims.

An overview on prison rape in America.prison-bars-hands-narrow1

A man confessed to the brutal rape and murder of a 6-year-old girl in Bangkok, and ten other child murders. The situation is still unfolding and the details are horrifying.

What does it mean if people get more socially and politically conservative after having a daughter? Also, is that even a thing?

The Pentagon’s sexual-assault prevention chief retires.

Occidental College’s anonymous, online form for reporting sexual assault was spammed with false rape reports.

Rape Culture on College Campuses – UConn (2 of 2)

This is Part 2 of a 2-Part Segment about sexual harassment on college campuses. Click here to read Part 1.

Many universities around the country have become subjects in a stream of mishandlings of sexual assault cases.  Making headlines recently for mistreatment of reports of sexual assault is the University of Connecticut.UCONN Rape Trail, Quinn Becker

I lived in the state of Connecticut a total of four years.  As I graduated high school and found my way to the Midwest for college, many of my friends remained close to home and attended UConn in Storrs, Connecticut.  Ranked number 57 for national universities by U.S. News, the University of Connecticut boasts affordable tuition and a 92.5% first-year student retention rate.  Where the university seems to be lacking, though, is in its handling of sexual assault cases.

In July of 2010, University of Connecticut student Kylie Angell was raped in her campus residence hall.  Angell thought she had received justice for this crime when male rapist was expelled after she reported the assault in the beginning of the fall 2010 semester.  This student appealed the case, though, and two weeks later Angell found herself face-to-face with her attacker in a campus dining hall without any word from the administration that he was back on campus.  When Angell complained to the school, administrators told her that they had reviewed the students’ class schedules and decided the two would be fine, as they would not be in the same building at the same time.  Why is this considered acceptable?

The University of Connecticut’s recent past does not show improvement in dealing with rape culture on their campus.  In February of 2012, the student-run television network UCTV aired a sketch comedy segment that made a mockery of rape.  After protest and mass outcry, UCTV removed the video from its website and issued an apology.  That apology, though, does not remove the message of the video and the downplaying of sexual assault.  This video highlights a known UConn landmark: the “rape trail.”  This wooded trail connects residence halls on UConn’s campus to off-campus apartments with two exits- one at either end.  The wooded path has been the location of multiple reported assaults.

The acceptance of sexual assault and rape culture on UConn’s campus has led to the filing of two federal complaints under Title IX by seven current and former UConn students in order to investigate the violation of gender equity on the campus.  The other women in the case, much like Kylie Angell, report a mishandling in their cases, citing UConn’s failure to protect them from harassment, as well as failure to punish the perpetrators.  Unlike other universities facing similar situations and reports of sexual assault, UConn has failed to plan a review of their sexual violence policies. So, what can be done?

The University of Connecticut needs to recognize that sexual violence is a widespread issue, and their campus is not an exception.  They need to realize that survivors of sexual violence deserve justice, and perpetrators of that violence should be held accountable for their crimes. They need to recognize that comments made allegedly by campus police such as, “women need to stop spreading their legs like peanut butter or rape is going to keep on happening ‘till the cows come home” is not the correct way to respond to a report of sexual assault. They need to acknowledge the role University administrators and others have played in causing the victims to feel unsupported after reporting the assaults.

As a society, we must recognize that sexual violence persists – and a new study reaffirms that sexual violence is vastly unreported – and that the normalization of sexual violence witnessed through acceptance of a “rape trail” and a sketch comedy segment downplaying the severity of sexual violence must end because these things perpetuate problems with survivors not being believed or being afraid to come forward.

Quinn Becker is a junior at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa with a passion for raising awareness of sexual violence and a goal to help end it. She is the new Communications Intern at the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault.