James Rhodes, on the importance of bearing witness May 27, 2015
“It’s important to bear witness, but also it’s important to give a message that bad things happen and we don’t lie about it, we don’t hide it, we don’t pretend it hasn’t happened, we don’t do everything we can to remove every piece of evidence that it happened, to erase the past.”
This is from an interview regarding his legal battle to publish a memoir in which he discusses his experience of being sexually abused as a child
But, he says, it’s also “a book about music. It’s a love story, it’s a book to Hattie, my wife, who’s the greatest thing ever. It’s a book about my son, about composers, about the extraordinary lives that these composers and musicians lead, it’s about all the things that are important to me. I don’t ever want this to be ‘the guy who was abused as a kid’, any more than I want, ‘this is the guy who’s a Pisces. This is the guy who’s 5ft 11in … 10½ … I live in Queen’s Park, I’m married to a woman who is a 10 when at best I’m a five and a half or a six on a really good day, I play the piano. . .
Last year, his previous wife took out an injunction against publication, on the basis that to have these “toxic” details in the public domain would harm their son. This was rejected in the first court case, but upheld on appeal, and in an elaborately restrictive judgment. “It ended up being a bunch of judges having editorial control over what I said. Literally to the point where I wasn’t allowed to use graphic language or vivid and colourful descriptions. I could use the word ‘rape’, but I couldn’t use the phrase ‘getting raped’ … ”He pauses, and recalls: “The shock of being told, in effect, you can’t say that. Not only can you not write it in a book, but we are trying to gag you from speaking anywhere in the world on any medium – on Twitter, in interviews, on TV – about not just sexual abuse but mental illness. Can you imagine? I wouldn’t be able to tell you now that I’m in treatment for mental illness without being threatened with imprisonment, had this been successful.”
Thankfully, he won in court. You can read the full story here.
Judge who said 14 year old victim was partly responsible for her own rape to be given an award April 30, 2015
Next month, less than a year after he was censured by the Montana Supreme Court for comments he made while sentencing a man who raped a 14-year-old girl, retired District Judge G. Todd Baugh will receive a lifetime achievement award from the Yellowstone Area Bar Association.
Marian Bradley, president of the Montana chapter of the National Organization for Women, said there is “something absolutely wrong” with members of the local bar giving Baugh the award, according to a report in Last Best News.
“Do they not have respect for the women and children of this community?” she said. “This is outrageous.” . . .
Baugh was censured by the state high court in July 2014 for his comments during the 2013 sentencing of Stacey Dean Rambold, who was a 47-year-old business teacher at Billings Senior High School when he raped Cherice Moralez, a student of his, in 2007.
Just before her 17th birthday in 2010, while charges against Rambold were still pending, Moralez committed suicide.
Rambold later pleaded guilty in the case.
Baugh was vilified across the country after he sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison with all but 31 days suspended.
During the sentencing, he said the 14-year-old victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as her abuser.
After his remarks went viral and sparked public protests in Billings and other cities, Baugh apologized for his comments and acknowledged that his lenient sentence in the case violated state law.
He tried to modify the sentence retroactively, but the Montana Supreme Court ruled that he could not revise a sentence he’d already handed down.
After the Supreme Court overturned Baugh’s sentence, another district judge sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison with five years suspended.
Why Prison Rape Goes On April 18, 2015
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.
From a letter written by undergraduate representatives to Brown University’s Task Force on Sexual Assault:
Through our work on the task force, we have seen first hand the difficulties in creating change in a bureaucratic system and understand that this process can be lengthy and frustrating. But the issues that the cases discussed over the past week have raised are not mere procedural hiccups. They are clear examples of the impact of bias, power and influence on this process. We strongly believe that policies protecting students who have experienced sexual violence must be implemented consistently and fairly, regardless of the power dynamics at play.
From our personal experiences of the process, we know that hearings are held when it has been determined that an incident could plausibly have occurred. As The Herald outlined in a March 4 article, Brown dropped chargesagainst the student accused of serving a drink with GHB. This alleged perpetrator has a father who sits on the Corporation’s Board of Trustees. The decision surprised both women involved, with one writing to an administrator that she thought the University would hold a hearing given the witness testimony provided.
This was our understanding of the hearing process, and we find it highly unusual that these women were not even allowed to present their case in a hearing. The University decided that the testimony of these survivors was not credible enough to be heard . . .
It is imperative that University policies and procedures are carried out equitably and consistently, regardless of connections, power, money or other extenuating factors. Definitions of consent need to be clear and consistent in policy and implementation and incorporate an understanding of the ways that date-rape drugs impact an individual’s ability to consent.
In order to regain the trust of the student body, the University needs to take seriously its obligation to protect all students, create a safe learning environment and take a stronger stance against external influence on the adjudication and sanctioning processes for sexual violence. It is our hope that the task force’s substantial efforts will not be undermined by unfair and inconsistent implementation.
And more from the Huffington Post:
Brown University is already under federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education into how it handles sexual violence on campus. Both men and women have come forward to accuse the school in Providence, Rhode Island, of failing to adequately punish offenders. And now, the messy handling of the drugging investigation has left alleged victims angry they were denied a hearing, while the fraternity is accusing the school of unjustly punishing it . . .
The women reported the alleged drugging and assault to the university on Oct. 18. Brown opened an investigation, collecting hair and urine samples from the women to be sent to two labs to be tested for date rape drugs, such as gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB). Carlson Company was contracted to conduct a hair test on the female student with the allergies, and Lifespan Laboratories to conduct a urine analysis on her friend who had reported being sexually assaulted. By the end of November, both tests had come back concluding GHB was present in the women, according to toxicology reports reviewed by The Huffington Post.
But the results were put in doubt in December after the student accused of drugging the women had his own expert review the toxicology reports, according to university documents and emails. That student obtained a court injunction on the hearing that month; the school then dropped the charges in February, school records show.
At issue, multiple experts who reviewed the toxicology reports questioned whether Brown had received tests that showed endogenous, or naturally occurring, levels of GHB, or exogenous levels, which would suggest a drugging. The toxicologist hired by Brown said the positive results suggested naturally occurring levels, but noted it’s rare to catch evidence of a GHB drugging in these tests.
Upon further review from independent experts, the school decided in February the toxicology results were “inconclusive” because the labs had not followed proper testing protocols. It cut in half the four-year suspension in it had given Phi Psi in January, when it deemed the fraternity had “facilitated” conditions leading to sexual violence.
On Feb. 23, Phi Psi started distributing on campus and to media outlets a statement that raised doubts about the results of one GHB test and said the second came back “conclusively negative.” This language is disputed, but members did not respond to request for comment on the discrepancy.
The women question Brown’s decision to drop conduct charges, since they say the university told them their testimony was credible enough to at least hold a hearing. Other students who have been involved in the student conduct process say hearings are often held based on complainant and witness testimony, and questioned whether the investigation was derailed by a conflict of interest.
Sexual Assault & Students with a Disability February 13, 2015
“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.”
“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.”
“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
The makers of The Invisible War have come out with a new documentary about sexual assault on American campuses. From Variety:
“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.
How many college men are willing to commit sexual assault? January 10, 2015
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.
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.’ “