Men’s sexual history and rape cases

Rape cases, particularly those involving people who know each other, or who have been drinking/taking drugs, are difficult to prosecute. Juries essentially have to decide whether or not the sex was consensual. The usual way to do this – notoriously – is to consider (amongst other things) the woman’s past sexual history, to try and decide whether she is the sort of woman who is likely to have consented. Now – in what is an obvious, and welcome move – Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has instructed prosecutors to focus more on the man’s sexual history, to assess whether he is the sort of man who is likely to have forced sex on someone without her consent.

This may include situations where an alleged rapist exercised controlling or coercive behaviour towards other women, including previous girlfriends.

There has been growing concern that many male rapists are getting away with their crimes because they are able to convince juries that the sex was consensual.

Victims who are too drunk to consent or give a lucid account of events are also often not believed when they give evidence under cross-examination.

The new move will see evidence collected from a variety of sources including CCTV, social media accounts and testimonies from witnesses, who may have seen the attacker’s behaviour in the hours leading up to the rape.

Ms Saunders said she wanted to see more attention being given to events leading up to an attack, so that juries were able to assess the whole picture.

She said: “We are looking at how to prosecute certain types of cases, the more difficult ones. They tend to involve drugs or drink and people who know each other.”

She said exploring the background of an alleged rapist, would also be key, with their social media history and habits likely to be relevant.

She told the Evening Standard: “Some of it will be if you have already been in a relationship, understanding the dynamics of coercive and controlling behaviour and presenting cases in a way that doesn’t just look at the individual incident.”

She added: “If it’s about drink and drugs in some of them there will have been a targeting element, either by buying drinks or standing back until you pick someone off.”

You can read more here.

If the UK Media Wrote about the UK like it writes about Latin America…

Some light satire for your Thursday afternoon, but the central point is well-taken.

As the May regime collapses into economic chaos and repression, what hope now for the British people?

Following a disastrous and disputed General election in which she could not secure a democratic mandate, the United Kingdom’s increasingly unpopular authoritarian leader, Theresa May, has resorted to side-stepping the constitution to protect her deeply corrupt and weakened regime.

A massive bribery scheme to buy the loyalty of Far-Right Northern Irish lawmakers and the support of pariah state Saudi Arabia are now all that keep the embattled Autocrat in her Downing Street base.

You can read the full article here.

Delia Graff Fara (1969-2017)

We are saddened to report the death of Delia Graff Fara.

Delia Graff Fara, a noted professor of philosophy of language at Princeton University, died peacefully at home July 18 after a chronic illness. She was 48.

Fara served on Princeton’s faculty for 11 years. She made exceptional contributions to her field and was a highly engaged member of the philosophy community, her colleagues said.

“Delia was an eminent scholar, an extremely conscientious teacher and an exemplary department citizen,” said Michael Smith, the McCosh Professor of Philosophy and department chair.

You can read the rest of the obituary from the Princeton webpage here.

Jason Stanley also has also written an obituary, posted at the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers, which can be read here.

Open letter on precarious and short-term contracts

We write as members (existing staff, students, and graduates) of UK humanities departments to object to the proliferation of precarious short-term teaching contracts across UKHE institutions. As the UCU has reported, nearly half of UK universities now use zero-hours contracts to deliver teaching, and more than two-thirds of research staff are on fixed term contracts.

We recognise the need for short-term contracts in limited contexts; we also recognise that such contracts can sometimes provide early career academics with useful experience on the road to more permanent positions; however, this can only be the case if such contracts are not precarious, and if the temporary staff members are treated ethically.

A ‘precarious’ short-term contract may:

– last less than 12 months and/or be less than 1.0 FTE
– require an appointee to undertake a full teaching load with no paid time allocated to research
– require an appointee to take the summer months as ‘unpaid leave’
– require an appointee to prepare for the post in his/her own time prior to appointment
– require an appointee to take up the position on a few days’ notice.

Unethical treatment of appointees while they are in post regularly compounds the disadvantages of these terms.

You can read the full text of the letter here.

BBC Pay Gap – Top Earners are Largely White Able-Bodied Men

The BBC recently published the salaries of its most highly paid employees. Unsurprisingly, to the jaded cynics amongst us, of its 96 top earners, only a third are women; the top 7 highest earners are all men; and male and female co-hosts on the same programme are, in some cases, paid very different amounts of money for doing the same job. Moreover, just 10 people on the list are from a BME background, and the highest paid BBC star – Chris Evans – earns about the same as all of these people put together.

You can read more here, and here.

A more fundamental question is why there is such disparity between people’s incomes more generally.

Child Tax Credit and May’s ‘Rape Clause’

Readers in the UK will no doubt be aware that as part of measures to try and save money prior to the possible disappearance of the UK economy down a large black-hole post-Brexit, Theresa May and her Tory Government have reformed the child tax credit system.

Child tax credits (or at least the child element of the new universal credit system) will now only be available for two children, except for certain exemptions. These include cases of:

  • Adoption
  • Kinship care
  • Multiple births
  • Rape

It is the latter that has drawn criticism from a number of sources, as women to whom the fourth applies will have to fill in an eight-page document, disclosing their situation to government officials in order to receive the benefit.

In so doing, women will be forced to relive what are likely to be traumatic and difficult experiences. It is a violation of their privacy to have to do this.

Whilst it will not be Department for Work and Pensions employees who assess the claims, but a Third Party (such as social workers, etc.), no training has yet been provided to DWP employees. Neither are Third Party organisations falling over themselves to take on this work.

Theresa May has defended the policy on the grounds that it is about fairness – people on benefits should be faced with the same choices about the size of their families as people supporting themselves solely through work.

But, of course, in a society with vast wage discrepancies, this is a complete load of nonsense. Is it fair that some people are born into wealthy families? That they will be able to go to better schools because their parents can afford to move near to them, or better yet, pay to school them privately? Is it fair that those same people can more easily afford university education? Or that they will then be able to take up the unpaid internships that are now pretty much a necessity for obtaining one of the better jobs this society has to offer? Is it fair that some people are randomly struck down by cancer? Or dementia? Or serious injury? Or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Or depression? Or anxiety? Or any of the other things that might impact one’s ability to hold down a job?

Info about the reform.

Commentary from the Huffpo.

Refugees welcomed in North Devon

Some of the children from Calais have been brought to Devon. Some quarters of the British press have, of course, had a field day screaming about how they’re not welcome and how the locals have been up in arms. But that’s by no means a complete or accurate story. There have been a minority of people protesting, but the much larger response has been one of welcome and compassion. It seems to me that these good news stories need repeating. We could do with some cheer in, what so often these days, seem like dark times. It’s also important not to let the haters have control of the narratives.

You may have heard that up to 70 child refugees have been temporarily settled in Devon. Indeed, refugees between 16 and 18 years old from Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, Pakistan and Eritrea are currently in the community in which I live, North Devon, near a town called Great Torrington.

We couldn’t be more delighted to welcome these young refugees to our area, and the solidarity with which our community has acted to make them welcome is truly heart-warming, and only right. Indeed, Devon Country Council says it has been “inundated” with compassion since their arrival, with retired and current health professionals offering medical assistance, and others offering language skills and translation, as well as sports and other activities.

Local facility The Plough Arts Centre has offered free film screenings to the organisation responsible for the refugees, and is currently acting as drop-in centre for locals to provide aid. Indeed, The Plough has had to stop taking donations for the youngsters as it has ran out of space.

Dave Clinch, local resident and volunteer at the centre told me there has “easily” been four car and van loads of new – not second hand – clothing, footwear and other essentials delivered by local people in the past few days. “It has been very moving, people have arrived in tears bringing things in,” he added.

You can read more here.

‘They’re adults lying about their age’

That’s what lots of commenters write on articles about Calais, including people who have commented on my posts here (I haven’t published those remarks). But here’s the thing:

No one said they would be toddlers. Calling them children is an accurate way to describe people who have not yet reached their 18th birthday. But 17 and 18-year-olds who have spent several months in a refugee camp look like adults. Trauma ages them. They might not have been able to shave recently. They might be on the very cusp of adulthood. But for now, they are children and it’s out duty to protect them. They will have spent a huge chunk of their childhood either living in a war zone or escaping it. Should they not now have a chance to rest and recover from that before starting adulthood? It takes a particular kind of callousness to insist they stay in a soon-to-be-demolished camp just because they can’t prove their credentials…

For those who ask harsh questions about where all the tiny children and girls are, I give you harsh answers. They didn’t make it. The girls have been sex-trafficked. The tiny children have died. The ones who are now arriving in the UK are strong looking because only the strongest have survived these harsh conditions. Seven-year-olds aren’t equipped to cross a continent and then fend for themselves in a makeshift tent. They die, they disappear…

More here.

And another thing: why exactly is it that some people are so unwilling to lend sympathy to young men? Can they not also suffer? This seems to be one pernicious effect of the way masculinity is constructed in our still patriarchal system: men are not vulnerable. Men should be able to fend for themselves. Men do not need protection.

What one white person learned whilst visiting Standing Rock

I’m home now in Chicago, but I was at Standing Rock just a few days ago. I know how it feels to sleep outside in two sleeping bags and a winter coat in below-freezing weather, and wake up to the sounds of people coughing from tents surrounding you. I remember feeling the ground shake as horses stampeded past on the way to the front lines. I can hear the elders on the microphone—the voice of the camp at the sacred fire—urging non-violence, keeping everything grounded in prayer and ceremony…

…By allowing Dakota Access to dig under the Missouri River to run this pipeline, the government is putting private interest before the public’s health. Flint, Michigan showed us what a water crisis looks like on a relatively small scale—“small” being an entire city.

By allowing the fossil fuel industry to occupy the land and rivers of the United States instead of shifting to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal, the government is putting private interest before the environment. In the past 12 months alone, North Dakota reported 272 uncontained oil spills, defined as “an overflow of the facility boundaries or a leak from a facility pipeline.” Contained oil spills: 904 in North Dakota alone.

By allowing this construction to happen on indigenous land, the government is putting private interest before Native American treaty rights. In September, the construction company dug up human remains from a Native American burial ground, which is why dozens of campers are occupying the land at this specific location, directly beside the burial ground. This is land that originally belonged to the tribe as a result of the Fort Laramie treaty of 1851.

Read more here.

Calais – situation still desperate

The situation in Calais is still completely desperate. Some refugees have been housed in good conditions, but there are a lot still left behind, and no-one is taking proper care of them except the volunteer aid agencies staffed by ordinary folk who’ve gone to Calais to try and help. Day 6, and there are still children sleeping rough, children sleeping in shipping containers being fed by volunteers, with the only government authorities present being the police.

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If you would like to help, the volunteer groups have asked for people to tweet about the situation.

We are about to take to twitter (Starting at 12.30pm GMT) to highlight the tragedy that is still unfolding before our eyes. Below are 5 tweets we are asking you to tweet out, you can retweet and share as much as possible by searching #refugeecommunitykitchen I have also included 2 photo’s here if you could attach them. Many thanks.

1500+ children spent night no3 in cold containers no news no help Broken promises. #actnow #AmberRudd #DubsNow #refugeecommunitykitchen

1500+ children in shipping containers #Calais & we are the only ones feeding them. #actnow #AmberRudd #DubsNow #refugeecommunitykitchen

We are still feeding people who have nothing. The situation is beyond cruel. . #actnow #AmberRudd #DubsNow #refugeecommunitykitchen

We are working all night to feed those left behind. Call your MP RT #DubsNow #AmberRudd #Calais #refugeecommunitykitchen

Urgent 1500+ forgotten in Calais. Govts act now. Working all night to feed them. Write to your MP & Amber Rudd #refugeecommunitykitchen