Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Why Prison Rape Goes On April 18, 2015

Filed under: politics,rape,sexual assault — philodaria @ 6:28 pm

Chandra Bozelko, a former inmate, has an op-ed in the New York Times titled, ‘Why We Let Prison Rape Go On,’ in which she explores why, even 12 year since the Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed, sexual assault in American prisons remains so widespread.

Ultimately, prisons protect rape culture to protect themselves. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about half of prison sexual assault complaints in 2011 were filed against staff. (These reports weren’t all claims of forcible rape; it is considered statutory sexual assault for a guard to have sexual contact with an inmate.)

I was an inmate for six years in Connecticut after being convicted of identity fraud, among other charges. From what I saw, the same small group of guards preyed on inmates again and again, yet never faced discipline. They were protected by prison guard unions, one of the strongest forces in American labor.

Sexualized violence is often used as a tool to subdue inmates whom guards see as upstarts. In May 2008, while in a restricted housing unit, or “the SHU” as it is commonly known, I was sexually assaulted by a guard. The first person I reported the incident to, another guard, ignored it. I finally reached a nurse who reported it to a senior officer.

When the state police arrived, I decided not to talk to them because the harassment I’d received in the intervening hours made me fearful. For the same reason, I refused medical treatment when I was taken to a local emergency room.

Subsequent interviews with officials at the prison amounted to hazing and harassment. They accused me of having been a drug user, which was untrue, and of lying about going to college, though it was true I had. The “investigation,” which I found more traumatic than the assault, dragged on for more than two months until they determined that my allegation couldn’t be substantiated. The law’s guidelines were followed, but in letter not in spirit.

I was also a witness in a case in which an inmate claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a guard and then told me she’d made it up. I reported her — and this time, I was perfectly credible to an investigator, who praised me for having a conscience and a clear head.

The Justice Department estimates that the total bill to society for prison rape and sexual abuse is as high as $51.9 billion per year, including the costs of victims’ compensation and increased recidivism. If states refuse to implement the law when the fiscal benefit is so obvious, something larger is at stake.

 

Rape and murder are not natural disasters, but saying so can get you arrested. February 15, 2015

Filed under: rape,Turkey,violence — axiothea @ 5:53 pm

Valentine’s day in Mersin, in the South East of Turkey, was marked by the funeral of a 20 year old student, Ozgecan Aslan, whose body has been found stabbed and burned after she was missing for three days. Ozgecan had been attacked by the driver of her bus, his father and friend, when she was coming home from her college in the neighboring town of Adana. She was last on the line and reportedly .

Women in Mersin attended her funeral en masse, defying the officiating imam, and an age old tradition forbidding women from approaching the grave or carrying the coffin. Big protests were held in Ankara and Istanbul the next day urging the government not to treat violence against women as inevitable, but to respond with tougher sentences, and stop blaming women for provoking men into rape, or dismissing the crime because there is no ‘observable psychological damage’.

The police intervened, blocking off the protesters’ march, and so far, five women have been arrested.

 

Sexual Assault & Students with a Disability February 13, 2015

“The hidden victims of campus sexual assault: Students with disabilities”

“Even Gallaudet University, designed specifically for deaf students, can get it wrong when it comes to rape”

“Nationally, research has shown that individuals with disabilities experience sexual assault at significantly higher rates than the general population and that they also face critical gaps in services when they seek help for abuse. At the same time, experts say, schools have yet to adequately assess or address the issue on their campuses. “

“Al Jazeera America’s six-month investigation into sexual violence at Gallaudet — which included interviews with a dozen current or former students who say they were sexually assaulted, senior Gallaudet administrators, Title IX and disability experts, and an analysis of the university’s judicial board actions — reveals that even a school explicitly designed for students with disabilities can struggle in dealing with sexual assault.”

One story:

“Melissa thought his [Mike’s] behavior was creepy, and she reported him to Gallaudet’s Department of Public Safety. Since he wasn’t a student, she hoped DPS would bar Mike from campus. Instead, she says, the DPS officer she met with didn’t take her seriously: “He was sort of casual.” He started asking Melissa questions about her blindness, she says, and whether she could really know if she was being stalked. “If you couldn’t see him,” Melissa says the officer asked her, “how do you know it was Mike stalking you, and not someone else?”

“Yes, she was blind, but Melissa had other ways of identifying people, she insisted. She gave the officer details about the roughness of his hands when he signed to her, the things he said to her, and even offered to show him his Facebook profile picture. But without visual identification, Melissa says, the DPS officer told her there was no way they could pursue the claim or bar Mike.”

Another story:

“The two women, whose names and some identifying features have been changed, began dating. But within a month and a half, Alma says, their relationship took a turn. It began with a light punch. As a survivor of abuse growing up, Alma told Lisa the punch triggered bad memories.

Alma says Lisa suggested that it was playful and described growing up in a difficult home. Feeling guilty, Alma scolded herself for not being sensitive enough.

But over the course of their five-and-a-half-month relationship, the abuse escalated, she says. If Lisa felt Alma spoke too loudly, she would pinch her. And when Alma reacted, she says, Lisa would snap, “Oh my God, do you know how awful you sound?”

Alma had no idea what her voice sounded like, but she did know that the fastest way to disempower her was to demean the way she spoke. “The verbal insults became the root of the relationship,” Alma recalls. “Before I knew it, I was getting in trouble for talking to my friends.” [It gets worse.]

“But the worst part, she says, were the questions the other officer asked her.

““Are you sure you were raped?”

““You call that rape?”

““Do you know what the definition of ‘rape’ is?””

On how the university handles sexual assault:

“in October, an article in the university’s newspaper told an unnamed survivor’s account of why she didn’t report assault. “It had nothing to do with how the university would handle it,” the piece began. “But it had everything to do with me being embarrassed.” Later, it continued, “I’ve seen how Gallaudet has improved in how they handle sexual assault and rape cases, and I have faith in how they run the system.” But while the university was being defended by its students, it was also trying to block the reporting that led to this article. During this investigation, Gallaudet, and representatives from a communications firm it hired, reached out to Al Jazeera America on several occasions to express concern about contacting sources for this story.

““We’ve all been dismissed as being the exception individually, even by people who are sympathetic and open to listening to our story,” explains one student who says she was groped by an unknown assailant one night. “People don’t want to see it as common [because] it’s scary. For one, it means it can happen to them. It also means admitting there is something wrong with a system they are a part of … Gallaudet is such a safe place in other ways, nobody wants to admit that there is an ugly underbelly.”” -Alma

 

 

The Hunting Ground January 26, 2015

Filed under: academia,rape,sexual assault,sexual harassment,women in academia — philodaria @ 12:26 am

The makers of The Invisible War have come out with a new documentary about sexual assault on American campuses. From Variety: 

Kirby Dick’s “The Hunting Ground,” a buzzed-about documentary about the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday afternoon.

“I want to thank to the hundreds of survivors who interacted with us,” Dick told the packed crowd at the Marc Theatre before the screening. Appearing with four of the victims featured in the film at a Q&A after the screening, which received a standing ovation, he added: “This is a problem at schools all across the country,” Dick said.

The film, which will be released by Radius/TWC in theaters on March 20 and on CNN later this year, persuasively argues that college campuses don’t respond to reports of sexual assault because they don’t want to scare off prospective students and alumni, particularly when it comes to fraternity and student athletes. The film not only talks to students, but administrators, parents and even a former police officer at Notre Dame who offered accounts of how the school turned its back on rape cases.

 

Consent education in a song January 23, 2015

Filed under: consent,rape — Jender @ 1:19 pm

Rachel Lark, daughter of philosophers Louise Antony and Joe Levine, offers a brilliant education in consent– in a single song, which manages to be both powerful and funny. To manage a witty, enjoyable yet educational song on this topic is an amazing feat. I’d love to see her brought in to universities as part of their consent education programmes.

 

Philosophers’ Carnival #171 by Nick Byrd January 11, 2015

Filed under: history of philosophy,intersectionality,rape — annejjacobson @ 6:06 pm

Nick gives us an interesting collection of recent web material, including some book reviews. Perhaps understandably, my attention was first caught by the following entry:

Human Errors and My Errata. Anne Jaap Jacobson has written four posts over at The Brains Blog. The overall project: “My intention in planning these four posts was to close on a kind of contribution very developed in feminist thought. The contribution has concerned how we account for human cognitive successes when we are actually rather error-prone creatures. The very general approach is to give up a kind of Cartesian picture of the mind. What is instead emphasized is the extent to which our knowledge depends on our social interactions”.

Other topics in the four posts include radically different senses of mental representation, both in contemporary and historical work, the neuroscience of action and its implications for standard philosophers’ understanding of belief-desire explanations (not good). Accompanying the different senses of ‘representation’ are different models of the mind’s cognitive relation to its environment.  OCD, affordances and dopamine are discussed, along with the implications of the abundance of fakes in our environment. Woven in among this are some reference to red pandas, including Rusty, the red panda who went for a walk about from the National Zoo in DC. I think iconoclastic members of other species should usually be treasured, and I understand that Rusty is something of a hero at the Smithsonian, which runs the zoo.

There’s a great deal of material in the Carnival; it would be possible to spend most of a day following the rewarding links.

 

How many college men are willing to commit sexual assault? January 10, 2015

From HuffPo:

Close to 1-in-3 collegiate males admitted in a recent study they would force a woman to sexual intercourse, but many would not consider that rape, Newsweek reports.

The survey found 31.7 percent of men said they would act on “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse” if they could get away with it, but just 13.6 percent said they had “intentions to rape a woman” if there weren’t any consequences.

The authors of this study note the difference relies on whether or not they described what constitutes sexual assault, versus whether they simply called it rape. For this study, the researchers defined rape as “intercourse by use of force or threat of force against a victim’s wishes.”

. . . The team surveyed 86 male college students, most of whom were juniors and Caucasian, at one university. In addition to asking them about forced sexual intercourse and rape, the participants were quizzed on various items to determine whether they held hostile attitudes towards females. The researchers concede their sample size was small, and hope to expand on it, but Edwards told Newsweek, “the No. 1 point is there are people that will say they would force a woman to have sex but would deny they would rape a woman.”

Similar to the results of this survey of would-be perpetrators, victims are often found to shy away from identifying their experience of forced intercourse as rape. For example, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 17 percent of female undergraduates said in a survey they experienced unwanted sexual behaviors involving force, threat or incapacitation. But only 10 percent of those MIT women also said yes when asked if they were sexually assaulted, and just 5 percent said yes when asked if they were raped.

The study is here: “Denying Rape but Endorsing Forceful Intercourse: Exploring Differences Among Responders

 

‘Somewhere in America’

Filed under: beauty,body,class,education,gender,glbt,politics,race,rape,sexual assault — philodaria @ 5:46 am

Via Bustle, a spoken word performance:

“The trio of teenage girls start the poem ominously: ‘The greatest lessons you will ever teach us, you won’t even remember.’ From there, they jump into fairly controversial, dark topics like rape, race, gun control, socioeconomics, and censorship. Emotions rage so hard in the three-and-a-half-minute piece, occasionally you can spot a small vocal crack in the performance, but that just lends more validation to the truth they kept spouting. ‘Somewhere in America,’ ushers in the hard-to-hear stuff,  ‘Women are killed for rejecting dates, but God forbid I bring my girlfriend to prom.’ Another: ‘The preppy kids go thrifting because they think it sounds fun. But we go ‘cause that’s all we’ve got money for.’ “

 

Two additions to the discussion of UVA and the allegation of rape December 6, 2014

Filed under: academia,critical thinking,rape — annejjacobson @ 10:42 pm

Let me add in two factors that might help the discussion. First of all, there’s memory. Secondly, there’s the need for a way to think about ‘rape reports’ which does not make them all questionable until proven otherwise.

First of all, memory. Ordinary people often enough take the fact that we have memories to show that we have recording devices inside us that somehow secure most of the details of our experiences. There are several reasons why this is false. If nothing else, calling up a memory and then restoring it alters it a bit. And memory follows vision in getting the gist of things better than getting the precise details down. There was a recent NY Times OpEd by two top researcher on memory and its fallibility. Given what we know about memory, we should expect this young woman’s memory to be gappy and to have errors. And even more so considering the trauma of the experience she was reporting. Because an organization was named by her, it may be that a reporter aware of recent memory research should have checked it.

But this does not mean that reports of rape are somehow particularly suspicious, or even that hers now is. I think we need a way to recognize that human beings are fallible, and empirical evidence is full of examples of how we get things wrong, but that does not mean we should view everything everyone says with a heavy dose of doubt.

Decades ago when I was working in epistemology, we had the useful notion of defeasibility. Perceptual statement can be wrong, but that does not mean that we can only accept those provable from premises mentioning only private, quite incorrigible experience. Rather, we recognize that our statements are defeasible; they may be wrong, but that does not give us a reason to think they are unless we start to get evidence against them.

It would be good if feminist philosophy had explored this area more and have worked out ways of appropriately evaluating statement without robbing injured women of their epistemic authority. Is anyone aware of progress in this area?

 

On knowing and doing nothing November 4, 2014

Filed under: rape,sexual assault,sexual harassment — Jender @ 8:05 pm

A thoughtful rumination on knowledge, complicity and responsibility.

Some of your friends knew the accused parties. Some knew the aggrieved women. Not all of the stories were straightforward. Some friends felt torn about accounts being aired online, in public, destroying reputations—about whether to call certain incidents “rape.” Others had no such hesitations. Tempers flared.

What do you do, you thought then, about actions that make women feel unsafe, violated, but do not cross the line of criminality? About gray zones? About the creeps in your midst?

Now, you think: If something seems kind of wrong, it is all too possible that it is very wrong…

If things are fuzzy, the human default is often to do nothing. It’s genuinely difficult to conceive and accept that something extreme may be happening, unless you witness it firsthand. Unless it happens to you. And as some of the women’s accounts make clear, it can be hard to absorb even then.

The worst thing, you realize, is that you tended to look down on [his] conquests. As if anyone who fell for his come-ons was a fool, instead of merely lacking the advantage of inside knowledge.

No wonder the women didn’t hope to be taken seriously. No wonder most filed no grievances, and none of them laid charges, nor spoke out in public, until they learned they were not alone. They expected not to be believed, and worse, that they would be hounded and humiliated

It’s about Jian Ghomeshi, and journalism. But we all know it could just as well be about philosophy.

 

 
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