Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

New sexual assault legislation planned July 31, 2014

Filed under: academia,rape,sexual assault,women in academia — annejjacobson @ 1:46 pm

From Inside Higher Ed

New sexual assault legislation unveiled

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of eight U.S. Senators on Wednesday unveiled legislation aimed at holding colleges more accountable for preventing and dealing with the sexual assaults that occur on campuses.

The lawmakers, led by Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, both Democrats, said that the bill responds to a national problem of campus sexual assault and the publicized cases of colleges mishandling investigations. …

[One measure:] The legislation would require all colleges to conduct anonymous surveys of students about their views of sexual assault on campuses. The results of the so-called “climate surveys” would then be published online for prospective students to see.

There are a number of other tough measures. Have a look.

 

How not to teach logic. July 30, 2014

Filed under: rape,sexual assault — philodaria @ 3:10 pm

A case in point, from Richard Dawkins:

Richard Dawkins has said “date rape is bad” and “stranger rape at knifepoint is worse” and contrasted “mild” paedophilia with “violent” paedophilia on Twitter. The writer, known for his atheism and books including The God Delusion, emphasised he was not approving anything but giving examples of a “syllogism” – logical argument where the comparisons do not imply any endorsement of either.

 

A Reply to Leiter July 26, 2014

Filed under: rape,sexual assault — Heidi Howkins Lockwood @ 9:58 pm

Professor Leiter has responded to my post from earlier today via an “update” to his original post, with a critique of Judge Flanagan’s ruling that goes beyond his original objection that Flanagan’s law degree does not come from a high-ranked law school.

In the update, Leiter argues that Flanagan’s ruling is flawed because: (1) “rape is always a kind of sexual assault, but not all sexual assaults are a kind of rape”; (2) the Sun-Times replaced the word “rape” with “sexual assault” in the headline once contacted by Ludlow’s attorney, which Leiter takes to mean that the Sun-Times “recognized the meanings were different”; and (3) contra Flanagan, Leiter feels that the “sting” of being accused of rape is not the same as the “sting” of being accused of sexual assault.

I’ll take each of these points in turn.

In response to (1): to argue for non-equivalence based on the assumption that rape is a subcategory of sexual assault is to miss the point of the paragraph in my original post which provides examples of various state laws. There are many states in which rape is not a subcategory of sexual assault, and indeed, many states – and many universities – in which the terms ‘rape’ and ‘sexual assault’ are no longer used at all, due to the fact that many state statues, university policies, and individuals have recognized that “mere” unwanted sexual touching, in which an individual’s sexual autonomy is violated, can be just as damaging as unwanted penetration. As any victims’ advocate will attest, many victims are so profoundly impacted by “mere” nonconsensual sexual contact – even fully clothed sexual contact – that they have been diagnosed with the full range of post-traumatic symptoms: PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc. (Recall that the undergraduate student involved in the Ludlow case was so distressed by the incident that she attempted suicide in the weeks following. Is the fact that Ludlow didn’t penetrate her really of much interest?)

In other words, to put some special emphasis on penetration is, quite frankly, bizarre, and jarringly out-of-synch with contemporary mores and sensibilities. In both U.S. culture and U.S. law, there has been a distinct shift over the past couple of decades, away from a focus on penetration, towards the protection of sexual autonomy. As one advocate wrote in a message to me earlier today, “what is the point of compartmentalizing violent sexual acts, when they’re all violations?” To insist that unwanted penetration is worse than unwanted sexual contact is offensive because it dismisses and belittles the reality of the actual experiences of most of the victims and survivors.

A brief review of trends in rape law might help paint the picture here. Not long ago, whether or not a sexual act was consensual was irrelevant to whether or not it was legal, and almost all acts of sex, with or without penetration, were illegal. If an unmarried man and woman had sex, it was fornication. If one of the two was married, it was adultery for the married party and fornication for the other. If a man lured a woman into bed through a promise of marriage, he committed the crime of seduction. If the couple were from two different races, they could be charged with miscegenation. If both were male, it was sodomy. Even married couples who engaged in consensual sex, in some states, could be charged with a crime if they used certain sorts of birth control to prevent conception.

In other words, the only legal sex was heterosexual, copulative, marital intercourse involving exactly two cisgendered partners. Obviously such laws – though still in piecemeal existence in different states – would be woefully out of synch with contemporary mores, for all kinds of reasons. One of these reasons, I’d argue, is because such laws focus on regulating penetration, in the interest of protecting pre-marital virginity and enforcing the idea that intercourse is for conception, rather than on protecting the sexual autonomy of the individuals involved. And, though I don’t have space to press this point here, I’d argue that there has been a corresponding revolution in sex law over the past two decades (it’s generally not even called “rape law” anymore), in which sexual autonomy has emerged as a sort of fundamental right. Indeed, many of the state laws codify this right by placing sex crimes in which an individual’s autonomy is clearly violated – e.g., in which, say, the offender takes advantage of the fact that the victim is inebriated to initiate a sexual act, without or without penetration – in the category of first-degree criminal offenses. (Ohio is a good example of this.)

Just in case I didn’t make this clear enough in my original post: note that, based on the examples provided by Yale’s sexual misconduct committee, Ludlow’s actions – actions that he himself has admitted – would be grounds, if he were a student, for expulsion. The fact that he is a senior professor and the student was a first-year undergraduate student – i.e., that there was a clear power differential – only makes it worse.

In response to (2): I have no idea why the Sun-Times’ act of replacing the word “rape” with “sexual assault” in the headline would necessarily imply that they recognized a difference. If the editors felt there was a significant difference, presumably they wouldn’t have used the words interchangeably in the first place. A much more plausible explanation of the change is simply corporate risk management.

In response to (3): Really? A re-reading of the response to (1) should make it clear why claiming that rape is worse that sexual assault is not merely wrong-headed, but offensive to survivors who have been harmed by sex crimes that don’t involve penetration.

 

Is sexual assault the same as rape?

Filed under: rape,sexual assault — Heidi Howkins Lockwood @ 5:58 am

In a ruling earlier this week, an Illinois Cook County Circuit Court Judge, Honorable Kathy M. Flanagan, dismissed Peter Ludlow’s defamation case against Sun-Times Media LLC and two other media defendants, arguing that the terms “rape” and “sexual assault” are interchangeable.

Ludlow’s case was based not on the accuracy of the news reports in question, but rather on the use of “rape” in the headline as a fair representation of the complaint, which was described in both the news reports and the student’s complaint as “sexual assault.” In other words, Ludlow’s attorneys attempted to argue that, while he may have sexually assaulted a student, he did not rape a student.

“In common usage and in dictionaries, the terms ‘rape’ and ‘sexual assault’ are synonymous,” Flanagan writes in her decision, “The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘rape’ cited by [the plaintiff, Ludlow] has ‘assault’ listed as a synonym, and the definition of ‘sexual assault’ has ‘rape’ listed as a synonym.”

So perhaps citing Merriam-Webster wasn’t a particularly well-thought-out move by the plaintiff’s attorneys. Setting dictionary definitions aside, we might wonder: are sexual assault and rape the same thing, in the eyes of U.S. law?

The short answer to this question is “yes, in many states” – though please note that I am not a legal expert, and am offering this answer not as advice, but rather as an observation based on reading the relevant statutes and codes. Readers who need legal advice should seek the advice of an attorney.

Penal codes throughout the U.S. make use of a wide variety of classification systems for sex crimes. In some states, like Ohio, rape is defined as “sexual conduct with another… when [for example] for the purpose of preventing resistance, the offender substantially impairs the other person’s judgment or control by administering any drug, intoxicant, or controlled substance to the other person surreptitiously or by force, threat of force, or deception.” The state of Washington characterizes rape as one of many different types of sexual assault. And In other states, like New Jersey, the phrase sexual assault has simply replaced the word rape in the statutes, with different degrees of sexual assault and sexual contact. The New Jersey Criminal Code characterizes “intentional touching by the victim or actor, either directly or through clothing, of the victim’s or actor’s intimate parts for the purpose of degrading or humiliating the victim or sexually arousing or sexually gratifying the actor” as a crime in the fourth degree. In some states neither term appears in the law. South Carolina, for example, avoids mention of rape and instead refers to unwanted sexual intercourse and unwanted sexual contact as “criminal sexual conduct.” A very helpful interactive map with links to the relevant laws for each state is available at the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) State Law Database.

In other words, it appears that Judge Flanagan’s argument that “sexual assault” and “rape” are interchangeable is quite reasonable, notwithstanding Brian Leiter’s ill-advised ad hominem attack on the pedigree of her law degree.

We might also wonder: are sexual assault and rape the same thing in the eyes of U.S. universities?

The short answer to this question, again, is “yes, at many universities.”

The story behind this is an interesting one. Over the past 10 or 15 years, universities have begun shifting to the use of “nonconsensual sexual acts,” in place of “rape” or “sexual assault.” The terms “nonconsensual sexual intercourse” and “nonconsensual sexual contact” were originally introduced when Title IX compliance consultants discovered that universities were reluctant to categorize acts of sexual misconduct – even acts that clearly involved force and penetration – as “rape” or “sexual assault.”

The use of “nonconsensual sex” and related phrases, however, is highly contentious. Many activists feel that calling an incident “nonconsensual sex” enables universities to avoid expelling or dismissing the perpetrator. In July of 2013, my own alma mater, Yale University, released the biannual report required by the Office of Civil Rights as part of a voluntary resolution in the wake of a Title IX complaint. In addition to 61 new complaints, the report revealed that there were four cases from previous reports in which there was “sufficient evidence” that an offender had engaged in “nonconsensual sex” – and yet all of the student perpetrators were allowed to continue pursuing their degrees. Headlines read: “Yale Fails to Expel Students Guilty of Sexual Assault,”and a Change.org petition rapidly collected more than 1,500 signatures.

In response, Yale administrators explained that nonconsensual sex does not always mean sexual assault, and produced an unprecedented “Sexual Misconduct Scenarios” document which provided a detailed description of different “scenarios” that would fall under the umbrella of nonconsensual sex – along with the corresponding punishments. (Much of the credit for this goes to philosopher Michael Della Rocca, who has just ended a three-year stint as the Chairperson of Yale’s University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct.)

One of the scenarios reads as follows:

Tyler and Jordan are both drinking heavily at an off-campus event. Tyler becomes extremely drunk. Jordan offers to take Tyler home. On the way, Tyler has trouble walking, and makes several wrong turns. Once in Tyler’s room, Jordan initiates sexual activity. Tyler looks confused and tries to go to sleep. Jordan has sex with Tyler.

There was no consent to have sex. A person who is incapacitated—lacking the ability to make or act on considered decisions to engage in sexual activity—cannot give consent. The UWC penalty would be expulsion.

It’s worth pointing out here that, in the past, it was rare for a university to expel a student who is found guilty of this or other forms of serious sexual misconduct. According to a 2010 investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, only 10 to 25 percent of students found “responsible” for sexual assault were actually permanently prohibited from returning to the university.

It’s also worth pointing out that a much-cited 2002 study of rapes on college campuses, in addition to a 2009 study of the DNA in 11,000 rape kits in Detroit, have demonstrated that: (1) as many as 6 in 10 rapists are serial offenders, and (2) alcohol is a very common tool for serial predators to use.

 

Who bears responsibility? July 17, 2014

Important questions about sexual misconduct in philosophy, being asked by Heidi Lockwood over at Daily Nous. Go join in the discussion!

 

How one college handled a sexual assault complaint July 15, 2014

Filed under: sexual assault,sexual harassment,women in academia — philodaria @ 5:21 pm

There is a really important look inside how one school (not atypically) handled a sexual assault complaint at the New York Times:

At a time of great emotional turmoil, students who say they were assaulted must make a choice: Seek help from their school, turn to the criminal justice system or simply remain silent. The great majority — including the student in this case — choose their school, because of the expectation of anonymity and the belief that administrators will offer the sort of support that the police will not.

Yet many students come to regret that decision, wishing they had never reported the assault in the first place.

The woman at Hobart and William Smith is no exception. With no advocate to speak up for her at the disciplinary hearing, panelists interrupted her answers, at times misrepresented evidence and asked about a campus-police report she had not seen. The hearing proceeded before her rape-kit results were known, and the medical records indicating trauma were not shown to two of the three panel members.

 

 

Another heartbreaking case of sexual assault gone viral July 12, 2014

Filed under: rape,sexual assault,social media — philodaria @ 7:34 pm

You can read about it here, and here. Jada’s bravery in coming forward is moving beyond words.

 

Sexual misconduct and silencing June 14, 2014

There’s a really fantastic and important piece up on Jezebel about silencing and retaliation in connection with Title IX issues on college campuses.

“I look at my entire career, entire education, and I just see the body count,” says Stabile. “I see the faculty members who quit 10 years into the job. I see the women who didn’t finish… and it’s not even that they just leave the university and don’t finish their education. It’s students who wind up killing themselves. It’s students who don’t survive.”

This is the price of valuing a college’s reputation over the well-being of the people who actually work and live there — failing rape survivors becomes an unspoken part of university policy . . .

However, there is hope for reform — college and university faculty members across the country have banded together to create a new organization, Faculty Against Rape (FAR), which hopes to help faculty respond to campus rape and institutional betrayal. According to Caroline Heldman, who is helping to launch the organization, FAR’s three main focuses will be developing resources for faculty to better serve survivors, helping faculty who want to be part of the anti-rape movement organize on campus, and providing strategy and legal resources for faculty who are retaliated against by administrations.

Although many faculty have been advocating against sexual assault for years, the increased media attention on the issue now may help them affect meaningful change. “This conversation is happening nationally,” says Stabile. “‘I’ve never seen this conversation before. It’s a moment where we can move to change things. When I can’t sleep at night or I wake up in the morning thinking about the students I’ve lost, I try to think about that, too.”

Theidon agrees with this sentiment. “I think ten years from now, twenty years from now, people are going to look back and say this is one of the most important social movements on college campuses,” she says. “And I know that if 10 years from now someone asks me, ‘What were you doing back then, Kimberly?’ I want to be able to answer, ‘I was standing up, speaking out, and supporting these women. What were you doing?'”

(Thanks Q!)

 

Good news, bad news June 10, 2014

Filed under: gender inequality,rape,sexism,sexual assault,violence — philodaria @ 10:11 pm

The bad news is that the Washington Post has been up to some sexist shenanigans. The good news is, it’s under fire for doing so. Read about it here.

 

New law on sexual crimes in Turkey June 5, 2014

Filed under: rape,sexual assault,Turkey — axiothea @ 5:33 pm

Women’s associations in Turkey are fighting a new law which looks like it will result in reduced sentences for criminals:

The platform underlined seven main objections regarding the law:

-    The draft law contains new arrangements providing “reduced sentences” for violence during rape and sexual abuse.

-    It lacks a legal provision that could prevent the reduction of sentences on the grounds that a victim may have allegedly “provoked” her assailant.

-    It also lacks a provision that will consider the testimonies of the victims as fundamental and ascribes the obligation of proving the contrary to the assailant.

-    It limits the time for filing a complaint to a barely six months after the attack.

-    The draft law also accentuates the risk of harsher sentences for teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 engaging in consensual sexual intercourse.

-    It brings a separation between “attack” and “abuse” in cases of sexual crimes against children, which leads to potential reduction of sentences.

-    It also mentions the possibility of a “cure” for assailants, which constitutes according to the platform an attempt to define sexual crimes as a disease, rather than a crime.

This should be read in the context of a large increase in reported sex crimes in Turkey over the last nine years:

Some 32,988 files were reportedly opened on sex crime charges in 2011, while the number of files was just 8,146 in 2002.

 

 
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