Tuesday, January 20, 2015
But now, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to decide a case that will determine the future of this key legal protection. Next week, the court will consider whether the Fair Housing Act prohibits policies that have a discriminatory effect, regardless of whether they were adopted with the intent to discriminate, in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.
Without the ability to bring disparate impact claims, many domestic violence survivors will have no recourse when they face the same double victimization as Ms. Alvera: first abuse, then an eviction notice blaming them for the violence in their homes. Even more disturbingly, landlords usually only become aware of the violence after survivors call for help, and so survivors are forced to choose between seeking safety and keeping their homes.***
Most of the time, landlords that hold victims of abuse responsible for violence perpetrated against them do not say they are making their decisions because they intend to discriminate against women. Yet, as we described in our amicus brief, it is clear that the majority of domestic violence victims are women, and that time and again, the homes and security of female victims of domestic violence are jeopardized because ostensibly neutral housing policies that evict entire households following criminal activity are enforced against them.
Monday, January 19, 2015
Or so argues Phyllis Schlafly in Salon.
Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly is worried that college campuses are populated by too many women, a phenomenon she insinuated has contributed to increased sexual assault on campus.
In a Monday column for the far-right website World Net Daily, the longtime anti-feminist crusader lamented the declining portion of university enrollments accounted for by men. Schlafly — BA and JD, Washington University in St. Louis; MA, Radcliffe College — argued that it may even be time to implement quotas to ensure that men constitute at least half of a college’s enrollment.
“Long ago when I went to college, campuses were about 70 percent male, and until 1970 it was still nearly 60 percent,” Schlafly wrote. “Today, however, the male percentage has fallen to the low 40s on most campuses.”
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Prosecutors recounted graphic crime details on Tuesday at the opening of a trial of two former Vanderbilt University football players charged with raping a female student at the school in 2013.
The woman was raped and sodomized by Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey while unconscious in Vandenburg's dorm room on the morning of June 23, 2013, Deputy District Attorney General Tom Thurman told the jury.
Thurman added that Batey urinated on the victim while using racial slurs and the rape was recorded on a cell phone.
Defense attorneys countered that the two men, who both pleaded not guilty, should not be convicted because Batey was too drunk to make a conscious decision at the time and that Vandenburg did not do anything. ***
Batey's attorney said the football player from Nashville was influenced by a campus culture of sexual freedom, promiscuity and excessive alcohol consumption that contrasted with the manner of his upbringing.***
All four men were kicked off the football team and banned from campus after the charges were leveled.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Thursday, January 8, 2015
With just a few weeks left in her Air Force career, Capt. Maribel Jarzabek decided to vent a little. She posted a few messages on a U.S. senator’s Facebook page, supporting the lawmaker’s push to overhaul the military justice system for sexual-assault cases.
Not long afterward, Jarzabek received an e-mail from a higher-ranking officer, informing her that she was under criminal investigation. The allegations? That she had wrongfully advocated “a partisan political cause” and expressed opinions online that could undermine public confidence in the Air Force.
Jarzabek is a military lawyer assigned as part of a new program to represent victims of sexual assault. Although the Defense Department has promoted the program as a success story and part of a broader campaign to crack down on sex crimes within the armed forces, Jarzabek had grown disillusioned and said she felt the Air Force was papering over deeper problems.
Monday, January 5, 2015
Orna Alyagon Darr, Carmel Academic Center, has uploaded an article forthcoming from the Yale J. of Law and Humanities. It's titled "Relocated Doctrine: The Travel of the English Doctrine of Corroboration in Sex Offense Cases to Mandate Palestine." The abstract reads:
The spread of the British Empire was accompanied by the relocation of legal doctrines, which took on new meanings and uses. This article follows the relocation to Mandate Palestine of the common-law doctrine of corroboration of victim testimony in sex offense cases. In England, corroboration was a cautionary rule that expressed mistrust of female complainants. In jury-less Palestine, the rule also expressed deep distrust toward non-English complainants, especially children. While the British rulers of Palestine prided themselves on imposing sexual regulation tailored to protecting women and children, an analysis of the way corroboration was applied in that setting reveals a rigidly imposed and hard-to-meet evidentiary standard. British colonial judges maintained that demanding corroboration in sex offense cases was an implementation of English law. However, the rule was not simply a ‘transplant’ that reproduced the original but, rather, acquired its meaning within the specific social context and in the subjectivities of its users.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
Harvard Law School has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to update its sexual assault and harassment policies after a four-year investigation concluded its handling of student complaints did not comply with Title IX.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights concluded the school gave law students accused of sexual harassment or assault with more opportunities to present evidence and appeal decisions than it did their accusers, according to an announcement on Tuesday.
Additionally, investigators concluded that that law school set too high a threshold for determining when harassment occurred—a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence rather than the “preponderance of evidence” standard required under Title IX.
Investigators examined the two cases of sexual harassment filed by law students since 2005. “[The Office for Civil Rights] concluded that the law school failed to provide a prompt and equitable resolution of the two complaints,” Department of Education said in a letter to law dean Martha Minnow.
More background on the original complaint filed in 2011 is here.
The civil rights division of the US Department of Education is investigating Harvard Law School after a Boston lawyer filed a complaint with the agency alleging that school policies regarding response to sexual assault allegations violate Title IX rules against discrimination on campuses.
She said the most troubling violation is the school’s policy of waiting to address complaints on campus until police and prosecutors have finished investigating, a practice she called “running out the clock.’’ Murphy said criminal investigations can drag on until after victims graduate, leaving them vulnerable to retaliation from their attackers and others during the rest of their time in school.
Friday, January 2, 2015
The story about Southern Methodist University:
DALLAS — Southern Methodist University violated federal discrimination laws and has agreed to provide a safer environment for students who allege sexual assault or other gender-based violence, the U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday.
SMU violated Title IX, a 1972 law that bars discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs or activities.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Nancy Leong (Denver), in Slate, Domestic Violence is Violence
On Saturday, Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot his ex-girlfriend Shaneka Thompson in the stomach. If that were all he did, most of us would never have heard of him today.
We live in a country where shooting your ex-girlfriend is at most local news. According to media reports, the management of Thompson’s apartment complex distributed a letter to other residents stating that her shooting was the result of a “domestic dispute” in order to reassure them that “this was a private, isolated incident.” When three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every single day in the United States, domestic violence is just another routine event—merely a landlord-tenant-relations issue of no concern to anyone else.
Of course, later that day Brinsley went on to murder New York police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, so we now know that his shooting of Thompson was no private, isolated incident. The more difficult question is why anyone ever assumed that it was.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Jeannie Suk in The Trouble with Teaching Rape Law revives the argument against teaching rape in the classroom due to the potential traumatic effect on students who might have experienced it.
Corey Yung disagrees, arguing the importance of this area of law in Jeannie Suk on Teaching Rape.
In this week’s New Yorker, Jeannie Suk laments what she perceives as the increasing difficulty in teaching rape to today’s law students. I was a bit surprised in reading Suk’s article because her descriptive account of today’s law school classroom environment regarding rape is at completely at odds with my own. A few years ago, I attended SEALS where there was a panel discussing teaching rape in the classroom. I asked the panelists whether the reluctance to teach rape, most famously described in James Tomkovicz‘s 1992 Yale Law Journal article on the subject, was simply outdated. Almost everyone else was teaching rape and students were reacting positively to that choice. And that is why Suk’s article struck me as particularly strange – teaching rape has become the majority rule in 1L Criminal Law.
Of course, the reluctance to teach rape articulated by Tomkovicz was somewhat different than the one now described by Suk. Tomkovicz was primarily focused on classroom controversy, potential professional consequences, and students being marginalized because of classroom discussions. In contrast, Suk focuses on trauma of rape victims in the classroom. She is concerned that students seem to want trigger warnings or no discussion of rape in the classroom.
Given the prevalence and front-page news of the issue of rape today, and debates over what "legitimate rape" or "campus rape" or "sexual assault" is, it seems like this topic is critical now more than ever. And much more than academic.
Urban Dictionary now lists the song under the heading “Christmas Date Rape Song.” Recently, it was given a “feminist makeover” in the clever, if not quite as catchy, YouTube video “Baby, It’s Consent Inside.”
Is all this controversy over a catchy classic really warranted?
Upon first listen, maybe. The tune was penned in the 1940s by Frank Loesser — writer of Guys and Dolls — to be performed as a duet with his wife at Los Angeles parties. Its predatory nature is apparent from the original notes, which label the male’s part as “wolf” and the female’s as “mouse.”
And try reading the lyrics with a moderately critical eye. She doesn’t want to stay. He tries to convince her. “It’s cold outside,” he croons over her protestations, “gosh your lips look delicious.” Over the course of their back and forth, she infamously wonders what’s in the drink he handed her. Oy.
However, the story behind the tune isn’t quite so uncomplicated. As feminist blog Persephone Magazine noted in 2010, the song’s historical context matters. At the time they were written, an unmarried woman staying the night at her beau’s was cause for scandal. It’s this fear we see reflected in the lyrics, more than any aversion on the part of the woman to staying the night.
Friday, December 19, 2014
Joe Biden gave a speech about fighting violence against women. Here were some comments he made about the moral obligations of manliness:
But unlike most people of my dad’s generation, he went further. He was a gentle man, but he raised us to intervene. He taught us, where we saw it, the definition of our manhood was not what a great football player, baseball player me or any of my brothers or sister were, it was to stand up and do the right thing.
I remember when my sister, my younger sister, was beat up by a young boy when she was in seventh grade. I'm older than my sister, I was two years ahead of her. I remember coming back from mass on Sunday, always the big treat was we would get to stop at a doughnut shop at a strip shopping center. We went in, and we would get doughnuts, and my dad would wait in the car. As I was coming out, my sister tugged on me and said, ‘That’s the boy who kicked me off my bicycle.’
Read the rest here.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Callisto, an online sexual assault reporting system under development by a nonprofit called Sexual Health Innovations, aims to change this and provide better options for victims of sexual assault on college campuses.
The project builds on the idea of “information escrows” proposed by Ian Ayres and Cait Unkovic in a 2012 Michigan Law Review article. Mr. Ayres, an economist at Yale’s law school, and Ms. Unkovic, a graduate student at the University of California-Berkeley, suggest that reporting of misbehavior that is difficult or costly for victims to disclose might be increased if people had the option to report that information to a third party who would make the disclosure only if others also reported misconduct by the same individual.
Friday, December 12, 2014
BOULDER, Colo. — He was suspended for three semesters by the University of Colorado Boulder for “sexual misconduct,” even though police filed no charges against him and his accuser admitted she wanted to scare him when she made the complaint.
So John Doe, as he is known in court records, filed a lawsuit last week against the university saying his rights had been violated under Title IX, the 1972 law that forbids universities from discriminating on the basis of sex.
“CU Boulder has created an environment in which an accused male student is effectively denied fundamental due process by being prosecuted through the conduct process under the cloud of a presumption of guilt,” says the Nov. 21 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado. “Such a one-sided process deprived John Doe, as a male student, of education opportunities at CU Boulder on the basis of his sex.”
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Disturbing story from the New Republic:
The most stirring art has the ability to make us stop, think, and even act, but a new interactive documentary made in Peru may just help decide the political future of the whole country. Created as a result of collaboration between the University of Bristol and London-based Chaka Studio, the Quipu project relays the story of a recent and very dark moment in Peruvian history. As many as 300,000 women in rural areas of Peru were possibly hoodwinked into being sterilized during the mid-to-late 1990s, all in the name of bringing an end to poverty.
The scale of the heinous medical campaign remained buried until recently, as the village areas most affected did not know that both neighboring and far-flung areas had also been hit. Various legal cases on the issue brought against right-wing former-president Alberto Fujimori have hit the buffers and the local headlines, but the story has largely remained unknown outside the urban centers of Peru.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
The TV show "The Newsroom" (admittedly one of my favorites) "in an astonishing case of prescience, created a plot that hewed closely to the recent article in Rolling Stone magazine about an accusation of gang rape at the University of Virginia."
The New Yorker, The Newsroom's Crazy-Making Campus-Rape Episode
From Legal History Blog, New Release: Pliley, Policing Sexuality: The Mann Act and the Making of the FBI
New from Harvard University Press: Policing Sexuality: The Mann Act and the Making of the FBI (Nov. 2014), by Jessica R. Pliley(Texas State University). A description from the Press:
America’s first anti–sex trafficking law, the 1910 Mann Act, made it illegal to transport women over state lines for prostitution “or any other immoral purpose.” It was meant to protect women and girls from being seduced or sold into sexual slavery. But, as Jessica Pliley illustrates, its enforcement resulted more often in the policing of women’s sexual behavior, reflecting conservative attitudes toward women’s roles at home and their movements in public. By citing its mandate to halt illicit sexuality, the fledgling Bureau of Investigation gained entry not only into brothels but also into private bedrooms and justified its own expansion.
Monday, December 8, 2014
Op-Ed from the Boston Globe:
Well, this is awful.
The Web blew up Friday afternoon with the news that Rolling Stone magazine no longer stands behind last month’s horrific, explosive story of a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. A report in The Washington Post cast central elements of her story into serious doubt. Her friends and supporters now say they’re dubious, too.
It’s disastrous for everybody involved. At this writing, the victim, Jackie, insists she was telling the truth about being raped by seven students. Whatever the truth, she must be in a world of pain right now, particularly if she tried to extricate herself from the magazine story before it was published, as she now maintains.
The destructive fallout goes beyond one woman’s suffering. The Rolling Stone story, which had helped make it all but impossible to ignore the scourge of campus sexual assault, is now going to do the opposite. Because now, emboldened by this one possibly fabricated story of rape, the chorus of people who believe women routinely make these things up will grow louder.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Feminist legal theory "asks the woman question," that is, questions the law from the perspective of the woman in the case, focusing on considerations of gender. In the Elonis case heard by the US Supreme Court yesterday, then the legal question should ask how did the women in the case understand the threats, and what is the implication of the case for other women's rights. But once again, we get another SCOTUS case with enormous threat to women's rights, but cast in sheep's clothing, this time of free speech.
Here, the defendant threatened to kill his wife, detailing the blood and gore, mocked her protection order, and threatened to kill an FBI agent, also a woman. Once arrested, he offered "the rap defense," that this online terror was just rap lyrics to his own little song. The question for the Court reads out the gender, framing the issue as whether online words (taking out even the gendered context of domestic violence) should be evaluated from the subjective perspective of what the defendant says he meant by the comments, or by the objective standard of a reasonable person. Why not the standard of a reasonable woman? Why not ask what would a reasonable woman think sitting in the shoes of the wife here to whom the threats were directed?
Others including amici in the case, have emphasized the potential damaging implications for domestic violence advocacy by adopting a legal standard that credits the self-serving statements of the stalker or batterer himself as to the intended meaning of his threatening words. Brief of Amicus Curaie, The National Network to End Domestic Violence; Brief of Amicus Curiae, National Center for Victims of Crime; NPR, Is a Threat Posted on Facebook Really a Threat?
Justice Alito, the former prosecutor, briefly acknowledged the issue during the oral argument, though it was quickly dismissed:
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, what do you say to the to the amici who say that if your position is adopted,
this is going to have a very grave effect in cases of domestic violence? They're just wrong, they don't
20 understand the situation?
MR. ELWOOD: I mean, it is in their interest to have a standard that requires no mens rea because
it makes it much easier to prove these.
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, this sounds like a roadmap for threatening a spouse and getting away with
it. So you you put it in rhyme and you put some stuff about the Internet on it and you say, I'm an
aspiring rap artist. And so then you are free from prosecution.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
With public revulsion rising in response to snowballing accusations that Bill Cosby victimized women in serial fashion throughout his trailblazing career, the response from those in the know has been: What took so long?
What took so long is that those in the know kept it mostly to themselves. No one wanted to disturb the Natural Order of Things, which was that Mr. Cosby was beloved; that he was as generous and paternal as his public image; and that his approach to life and work represented a bracing corrective to the coarse, self-defeating urban black ethos.
Only the first of those things was actually true.
Those in the know included Mark Whitaker, who did not find room in his almost-500-page biography, “Cosby: His Life and Times,” to address the accusations that Mr. Cosby had assaulted numerous women, at least four of whom had spoken on the record and by name in the past about what they say Mr. Cosby did to them.