Friday, May 1, 2015
Male students accused by their colleges of sexual assault are increasingly turning to gender discrimination and bias lawsuits to fight for exoneration, with many of them citing their colleges' obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 -- the same civil rights law meant to protect victims of sexual violence.
Monday, April 27, 2015
A male student accused of raping his classmate has sued Columbia University for failing to protect him against backlash and harassment.
Authorities rejected Emma Sulkowicz's case that Paul Nungesser, a German citizen, was a 'serial rapist' who assaulted her after class.
Nonetheless, the case gathered international attention as Sulkowicz, a senior majoring in visual arts, publicly paraded her mattress in protest, calling for his indictment.
And according to Nungesser's lawsuit citing 'gender-based harassment and defamation', Columbia presented the allegations as fact on a university-owned website.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Pants on fire are a frequent motif in Jon Krakauer’s “Missoula,” a book about date rapes on a college campus. Mr. Krakauer, who admits to having known or cared virtually nothing about this subject before a personal experience prompted him to explore it, has a lot to say about lying.
When the alleged assaults are he said/she said encounters, credibility is everything. His book asks what the truth means to victims, assailants, university officials, local police, prosecutors, journalists and, eventually, the United States Department of Justice — which sees such a mess in Missoula’s handling of rape cases that it initiates an investigation. Mr. Krakauer’s book was not scheduled for release this soon, and he was still making corrections to it in March. But he has said that its publication has been moved up in the wake of Rolling Stone’s botched andretracted article about an alleged fraternity gang-rape at the University of Virginia.
Friday, April 10, 2015
It was a bland bit of guidance from the Department of Education, cast in legal language and tucked into a footnote two-thirds of the way through a 46-pagedocument about how colleges and universities should address sexual assault on campus.
But it did not sit well with Celia Wright, president of the student body at Ohio State University. The footnote “discourages” having students sit on conduct boards in cases concerning sexual violence. Ohio State and many other campuses no longer let students serve.
Ms. Wright and student leaders from 75 other colleges and universities, representing 1.2 million students, have sent a letter to the department urging it to reconsider, citing “significant unintended consequences” and even discrimination against students who would sit on panels.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Legal History Blog, Katz on Judicial Patriarchy, Domestic Violence, and the Family Privacy Narrative
Elizabeth Katz, a doctoral candidate in History at Harvard University, with an JD and MA in history from the University of Virginia,has posted Judicial Patriarchy and Domestic Violence: A Challenge to the Conventional Family Privacy Narrative, which is forthcoming in the William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law 21 (Winter 2015): 379-471. Ms. Katz received the Kathryn T. Preyer Award of the American Society for Legal History for an earlier version of this article.
According to the conventional domestic violence narrative, judges historically have ignored or even shielded “wife beaters” as a result of the patriarchal prioritization of privacy in the home. This Article directly challenges that account. In the early twentieth century, judges regularly and enthusiastically protected female victims of domestic violence in the divorce and criminal contexts. As legal and economic developments appeared to threaten American manhood and traditional family structures, judges intervened in domestic violence matters as substitute patriarchs. They harshly condemned male perpetrators — sentencing men to fines, prison, and even the whipping post — for failing to conform to appropriate husbandly behavior, while rewarding wives who exhibited the traditional female traits of vulnerability and dependence. Based on the same gendered reasoning, judges trivialized or even ridiculed victims of “husband beating.” Men who sought protection against physically abusive wives were deemed unmanly and undeserving of the legal remedies afforded to women.
Although judges routinely addressed wife beating in divorce and criminal cases, they balked when women pursued a third type of legal action: interspousal tort suits. The most prominent example of this response is Thompson v. Thompson, 218 U.S. 611 (1910), in which the U.S. Supreme Court refused to allow a wife to sue her husband in tort for assaulting her. Judges distinguished tort actions from divorce and criminal suits because tort’s assertive legal posture and empowering remedy seemingly subverted established gender roles. In a world in which women appeared to be radically advancing in work and politics, male judges used the moral theater of their courtrooms to strongly and publicly address domestic violence but only in ways that reinforced gender and marital hierarchies.
See also a previous post on related scholarship,A Surprising History of Domestic Violence Protection
And see also Elizabeth Pleck, Domestic Tyranny: The Making of American Social Policy Against Family Violence from Colonial Times to the Present (2004)
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Four women who say they were victims of sexual abuse while on active military duty filed a federal lawsuit against the Pentagon alleging that the military created and condoned a sexually hostile environment. Speaking at a press conference in Washington on Tuesday, one of the plaintiffs, her lawyer, and several sexual assault prevention advocates described obscene and violent songs, violent sexual assaults, verbal and physical attacks, and retaliation when trying to report crimes and harassment.
Jennifer Smith, one of the plaintiffs and a former Air Force technical sergeant, described being sexually assaulted while deployed in Iraq and subjected to crude songs and pornographic materials stored on government computers while she was stationed in South Carolina. She says she reported both the harassment and the assault but "waited for months and never heard back from anyone."
"All of the officers [in my case] received nothing more than a piece of paper reprimanding them. All were in command, or supervisory roles. All will still lead. They will oversee rape and sexual assault claims and make decisions on whether the case will be prosecuted," she added.
The plaintiffs charge that the military has failed to "prevent and punish widespread sexual harassment" while permitting "widespread retaliation" against victims, and has deprived victims of their constitutional right to a fair trial. They also argue that it's inappropriate for most military commanders to oversee sexual assault investigations since they often have no legal experience and must supervise both the victim and the perpetrator.
Monday, April 6, 2015
Rolling Stone had reported about a rape that had occurred at frat house in UVA. After much criticism of its reporting, RS asked the Columbia Journalism School to assess its article. Columbia subsequently delivered a fatal critique of general incompetence. RS was never serious journalism on par with the WaPo, the WSJ and the NYT, but it is a very sad day for victims of rape whose stories are likely to be doubted because of RS's shoddy standards.
Monday, March 30, 2015
“You hold women in contempt”: Frat culture isn’t an aberration, it’s everything men learn about being a “real man”
...thus reads the headline from Salon:
There are a lot of stories out there right now about frat culture, which is maybe why I find myself circling back to bigger questions about masculinity. Or at least the version of masculinity on display in some of these fraternities.
Read the rest here.
The political arm of the national fraternity system—known as the Fraternity & Sorority Political Action Committee (FratPAC)—is getting involved in the campus rape debate. Sadly, it seems it wants to make it as hard as possible for schools to discipline students who sexually abuse or harass each other. Bloomberg reports:
The groups' political arm plans to bring scores of students to Capitol Hill on April 29 to lobby for a requirement that the criminal justice system resolve cases before universities look into them or hand down punishments, according to an agenda reviewed by Bloomberg News.
"If people commit criminal acts, they should be prosecuted and they should go to jail,” said Michael Greenberg, leader of 241-chapter Sigma Chi, one of many fraternities participating in the legislative push.
The sentiment may sound fair-minded; it's anything but. FratPAC is singling out sexual assault as the only crime it wants universities to handle in this way. Underage drinking, drug dealing, burglary, assault—all of these actions break both school rules and the law, but FratPAC is not asking universities to wait for the criminal courts to adjudicate these crimes before punishing the students for breaking their corresponding school rules. In the situation it's proposing, a school could punish a student for stealing from another student without waiting for the courts to adjudicate the matter; but if a student rapes another student, the school couldn't act.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
The sometimes ironically named "social" media brims with sexual harassment and shocking threats against women. Twitter, for one, seems to be aware of this but doesn't quite know what to do about it. From a story in the Guardian UK from February:
Twitter’s chief executive has acknowledged that the company “sucks at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform, and we’ve sucked at it for years”, in a leaked memo.
Dick Costolo’s statement was posted on Twitter’s internal forums, in response to an employee who had highlighted an article in the Guardian by columnist Lindy West about her experience with trolls on social media.
In the memo, obtained on Thursday by The Verge , Costolo writes: “I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.”
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
- Confronting the Gendered State: A Feminist Response to Gender Inequality and Gender Violence In the United States and the Irish Republic, 15 Wisc. J. Law, Gender & Society____ (forthcoming 2015).
- An American in St. Patrick’s Court: Gender-Violence, Gender Inequality and the Irish Feminist Response, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: A COMPARATIVE APPROACH (Oxford Univ. Press 2015).
Monday, March 9, 2015
As March 8 falls on what is rumoured to be the eve of the first round of negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Afghan women's rights activists were anxiously anticipating unadulterated assurances from Ghani to the effect that women's achievements will not be compromised in an eventual peace deal. Afghan women demand greater say in politics Though Ghani never directly mentioned the talks, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah's message read in his absence clearly stated that the government will present a red line on women's rights and will not compromise Afghan women's achievements in exchange for a peace deal.
Some women's rights groups, including the Afghan Women's Charter, have requested that at least one woman be included in the government's team of negotiators. They have further demanded that belief in women's rights be part of the criteria for selecting male negotiators.
Women's angst stems from a quivering political will that the Afghan political leadership has demonstrated in the past decade on the issue of women's rights and status in this male-dominated society. Afghan women, as determined and talented as they are, could not have achieved their gains of the last decade had it not been for the international community's presence and pressure on Afghan political leaders.
Saturday, March 7, 2015
A University of San Diego law student has filed a lawsuit against the school, claiming college officials discouraged her from reporting an alleged rape by two fellow students.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is investigating how the college handled reports of the same incident.
The lawsuit, filed Feb. 13, says the 29-year-old woman was raped by two men in the bathroom at an off-campus party in May 2013. The woman told NBC 7 she did not immediately report the incident to police because she was afraid.
"It's horrifying and stigmatizing. I didn't want to be that girl that got raped. Nobody does," she said.
But when she discovered one of her alleged attackers was in her evidence class the next fall semester, she informed her professor.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
You can come, but you can't leave.
A unanimous jury found Korean immigrant detainee and domestic violence survivor Nan-Hui Jo guilty Tuesday of child abduction charges filed by her child’s father and alleged abuser, Jesse Charlton. Now, Nan-Hui is also facing deportation and permanent separation from her child immediately after the hearing.
Nan-Hui Jo fled the U.S. to South Korea in 2009 with her then one-year-old daughter Vitz Da (known as Hwi) to escape abuse by Vitz Da’s American father Charlton, an unstable Iraq war veteran diagnosed with PTSD. For years, Nan-Hui raised her daughter in Korea during which time Charlton, unbeknownst to Nan-Hui, filed child abduction charges against her. When Nan-Hui traveled to Hawaii last summer to consider schools for the American-born Hwi and perhaps re-connect her daughter with Charlton if it was safe, she was immediately arrested and sent to jail.
On Friday, a federal court temporarily halted the Obama administration’s policy of detaining migrant mothers with children seeking asylum in the United States.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in December alleging that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) locked up women with children who were seeking asylum under their new “no release” policy, often inprison-like conditions for months at a time. The policy was adopted as part of the Obama administration’s “aggressive deterrence strategy” in response to the influx of Latin American migrants who crossed the southern border last year, as a way to deter future migrants from making the trek. The ACLU stated that in years past, detainees who were able to express “credible fear” that they would be persecuted in their homelands were released on bond or on their own recognizance.
Monday, March 2, 2015
Sara Bahayi is Afghanistan’s first female taxi driver in recent memory, and she is believed to be the only one actively working in the country. She’s 38, unmarried and outspoken. And in a highly patriarchal society, where women are considered second-class citizens and often abused, Ms Bahayi is brazenly upending gender roles.
Every day, she plies her trade in a business ruled by conservative men. She endures condescending looks, outright jeers, even threats to her life. Most men will not enter her taxi, believing that a woman should never drive for a man.
Yet she earns $10 (£6.50) to $20 a day, enough to provide for her 15 relatives, including her ailing mother. She relies on ferrying women shackled by traditions and fear, who vicariously live their dreams of freedom through her.
Saturday, February 28, 2015
A bipartisan group of 12 U.S. senators introduced legislation on Thursday that is aimed at curbing sexual violence on campuses in ways that protect both victims and accused students. The changes reflect heightened attention over the past six months to the due-process rights of accused students.
The Campus Safety and Accountability Act, sponsored by six Democrats and six Republicans, builds on legislation that was introduced over the summer but never came to a vote. The new version was strengthened with additional input from sexual-assault survivors, students, colleges, law enforcement, and advocacy groups, according to one of its main sponsors, Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat. A companion bill is expected to be introduced soon in the House of Representatives.
The revised proposal comes at a time when the Department of Education is investigating nearly 100 colleges and universities for possible violations of the federal civil-rights law known as Title IX. Colleges have increasingly been held responsible under that law to investigate and resolve alleged assaults promptly and fairly, whether or not the police are involved.
Friday, February 13, 2015
On Thursday a database will be launched online entitled Femicide Census: Profiles of Women Killed by Men. It is a project designed to force a recognition of the scale and significance of male violence against women and is the culmination of several years of work by Ingala Smith, who began a grim and time-consuming task of counting Britain’s murdered women and putting their names on her own blog back in 2012. There were 126 women killed through male violence that year, 143 in 2013 and 150 in 2014.
Scouring news websites and police reports, she pieced together what she says is an important pattern that was not being represented in the way crime and other statistics are collated. It became a personal tribute, too: “It’s really hard sometimes and I admit I’ve had a cry now and again. A photo captures a moment in time that trials don’t. A moment of the person who that woman was. What suffering she endured, and the suffering that continues for their family is so very hard to grasp.”
The database launch, by Ingala Smith – chief executive of London-based domestic violence charity Nia Project – together with Women’s Aid and the legal firm Freshfields, will mean a public tally of the dead is kept in a more formal manner, using police statistics as well as court reports. The site will be used to store as much information as possible on the background and the crime, available for approved subscribers – the first time such details have been held together – to make research and studies easier.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
All 50 states allow victims of domestic and sexual violence to get protective orders, Angela C. Vigil told the ABA House of Delegates Monday.
But only 19 states allow the orders when the victim and the perpetrator have no established domestic relationship, said Vigil, who is a partner at Baker & McKenzie and the chair of the ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Of reported stalkers, she said, 80 to 90 percent are not intimate partners.
Resolution 109A urges governments to remove the partner requirement. It passed unanimously.
Its sister resolution, Resolution 109B, urges governments to address the housing problems often faced by victims of domestic violence. Vigil said the resolution would support extending the Violence Against Women Act’s housing provisions to state law.
“We cannot make [victims] choose between trauma and a roof over their heads,” she said.
Monday, February 9, 2015
One of the better This American Life episodes recently aired. Lindy West is a blogger who had been threatened and degraded on the internet by a vicious troll. That troll would eventually apologize to her.
Her story is recounted in the Guardian UK . Here is some of the beginning of that story:
Being harassed on the internet is such a normal, common part of my life that I’m always surprised when other people find it surprising. You’re telling me you don’t have hundreds of men popping into your cubicle in the accounting department of your mid-sized, regional dry-goods distributor to inform you that – hmm – you’re too fat to rape, but perhaps they’ll saw you up with an electric knife? No? Just me? People who don’t spend much time on the internet are invariably shocked to discover the barbarism – the eager abandonment of the social contract – that so many of us face simply for doing our jobs.
Thursday, February 5, 2015
A Utah lawmaker apologized Wednesday for questioning whether a man who has sex with his unconscious spouse should be charged with rape.
Republican state Rep. Brian Greene said in a statement he supports a bill to make it clear that an unconscious person can't consent to sex but was worried about unintended consequences of the measure.
"I'm sorry for any unintended pain that my statements have caused," he said. "I abhor sexual assault under any circumstances, including within marriage."
On Tuesday, Greene rocked victims' advocates with his discussion of consent during debate on the bill.
"If an individual has sex with their wife while she is unconscious ... a prosecutor could then charge that spouse with rape, theoretically," Greene said, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. "That makes sense in a first-date scenario, but to me, not where people have a history of years of sexual activity."
In his statement, Greene said his comments had been taken out of context and "have allowed my intentions to be misinterpreted."
He said he was attempting to "clarify the issue" of removing consent from Utah rape law. He noted he had voted for the bill as it passed unanimously out of committee.
"I strongly support closing any loopholes that allow offenders to evade prosecution, and I believe this bill does that," Greene said.
Holly Mullen, director of the Rape Recovery Center, told USA TODAY she had not expected a debate.
"I was shocked," Mullen said. "He's a lawyer, you think he would know better. He just went off on a tangent. But with the kind of work we do, we realize that so many people don't understand this issue."