On Oct. 13, Lou Dobbs, an anchor for Fox Business Network, helped circulate the address and phone number of Jessica Leeds, one of the women who have recently come forward to accuse Donald Trump of inappropriate sexual contact. Dobbs tweeted a link to a news site that published Leeds’ address and phone number taken from public records and also quoted a tweet that included Leeds’ contact information. Dobbs has 794,000 followers.
A new film opening July 8 focuses attention on a long-ignored war crime — the sanctioned and systematic rape of Polish nuns during World War II.
The Innocents (Les Innocentes) tells the story of a young French doctor who is called to a Polish convent to aid a young novice in a breech labor. She discovers that Soviet soldiers, with the approval of their officers, raped dozens of the nuns during the occupation, leaving five of them pregnant.
And my students are lucky. They have a college chaplain who, by virtue of my ordination as a Christian minister and my role as a pastoral care provider, can offer them the opportunity to tell their story on their terms. I provide them support and a safe place as they re-familiarize themselves with their own life and help them regain a sense of their own agency.
As I hold my college students and their stories in prayer, I often fight my own urge to ask them to report. The incredible injustice of rape makes me livid and I want so badly for my students to receive some sort of vindication for the wrong done to them. I try to remember that the only person capable of assessing what a victim needs is the victim herself. Some are ready to walk into the onslaught of the justice system in the hope of receiving some sort of public vindication. Most are not.
So the story, as presented, has been either one of the downfall of a Cinderella sports team or one of political hypocrisy. And left behind are the stories of women whose lives were forever changed and subsequently ignored, first by the administration and now by the media.
A judge has ordered that Bill Cosby stand trial for charges in a case of sexual assault. According to Reuters, a Pennsylvania judge decided "that there was enough evidence for the entertainer to be criminally tried on charges that he attacked a woman in 2004 after giving her drugs."
The woman is Andrea Constand, a former Temple University staff member who alleges that Cosby gave her pills and assaulted her in his home in 2004. More than 40 women have come forward with similar allegations, but Constand's case is the only one that has resulted in criminal charges filed; in fact, for many, the statute of limitations prevents it.
Sexual assault in the military has been a major issue for decades, and not only are the victims traumatized — they’re punished for speaking out. Human Rights Watch issued a new report and short documentary exposing how sexual assault and harrassment survivors have been discharged for "personality disorder."
Better dead clean, than alive unclean.
That Mormon mantra apparently was ringing in a young Brigham Young University student’s mind in 1979 as she leapt from a would-be attacker’s car on the freeway.
A harrowing UN report, released March 11, reveals horrific government-operated attacks against civilians in South Sudan, the youngest country in the world. The report stated that suspected opposition groups, including children and the disabled, are "being burned alive, suffocated in containers, shot, hanged from trees, or cut to pieces" by government or government allied forces.
A group of Baylor University students and alumni will gather for a candlelight vigil outside university President Ken Starr’s home on Feb. 8 in an effort to urge changes to how the school handles sexual assault.
The vigil is being organized by Stefanie Mundhenk, a recent graduate who described her own experience through the school’s Title IX process in her personal blog. Mundhenk’s account — coupled with a recent ESPN report accusing the school of mishandling cases of sexual assault by Baylor football players, and subsequent CBS Sports commentary calling on President Ken Starr to “stop stonewalling” about the rape cases — sparked outrage among Baylor alumni, many of whom responded in an open letter to the university administration over the weekend. Since the open letter was shared on Saturday, the list of signatories has risen from 50 to more than 1,300.
IN THE COURSE of a few months in the past year, I learned that three women and men close to me had been sexually assaulted—as children and as adults. Hearing their stories broke me out of many of the lies surrounding rape that I had fallen into without even realizing it.
Kate Harding’s Asking for It attacks the same lies and misconceptions. She explores how we, as a culture, embrace myths surrounding rape and sexual assault. Theoretically, we think of rape as a terrible crime that takes away people’s right to choose what to do with their bodies—but practically we have trouble believing that it actually happens, or if it does that it is really that bad. We joke about rape, we believe it is caused by women acting like “sluts,” or act like the only kinds of rape that really matter are those in which a white woman is attacked by a brown man. We normalize assault and minimize it.
We have built a society and criminal justice system that protect abusers and place the responsibility on women to avoid being assaulted rather than on men to not attack.
Sadly, none of this is surprising, but Harding’s exploration of these familiar truths is biting and unrelenting.
She is offensive at times, but about things we should be offended about. When I recoil at her describing a rape by saying he “put his dick in her,” I realize how much I should be disgusted by the assault itself. We can numb ourselves by using clinical language to talk about rape and sexual assault, but Harding refuses to give us distance from the violence of these attacks.
Harding suggests practical changes that we can make—such as educating our kids, reforming our criminal justice system, and changing our language. These practical measures consist of the minimum on which we all ought to agree: My conservative friends, together with my progressive ones, can agree that rape jokes are offensive, hurt people, and contribute to a society in which people are more easily hurt. As Harding notes, even when we have radically different ideas about the proper scope of sexual activity, we should all agree that clear consent is necessary for a healthy sexual relationship.
The former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw has been sentenced to 263 years in prison for raping and sexually assaulting eight women and girls. Holtzclaw, who is white and Japanese, intentionally sought out black women in poor areas as his victims.
Prosecutors noted a tendency to target women whose credibility would be questioned by both law enforcement and society in general. During the trial, defense attorneys tried to challenge the victims’ credibility by emphasizing their criminal records to the jury and asking about their past drug use. Holtzclaw’s family also accused the victims of fabricating their stories.
What do you do when you want to balance the budget and don't know how to compromise? Well, if you're Congress, you raid $1.5 billion from a fund set up specifically for crime victims and hope no one notices.
The Victims of Crime Act fund, set up by Congress in 1984, is distributed to states to support local domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and a variety of victim assistance programs for survivors of trauma and crime. The thing is, this is a self-sufficient federal fund — meaning that it doesn't come from taxpayer money but rather the fines and penalties imposed on criminals and offenders.
When I first read about the rape of Tamar, I was astonished. This tragic story of a beautiful princess — sexually violated by her half-brother and then betrayed by her powerful father — left me aghast. What could I do with this troubling tale, tucked among pages of scripture where I sought spiritual guidance?
Throughout my life in the church, I had never heard the name “Tamar.” No reference to this daughter of King David. No remembrance of her profound suffering and grief.
It’s not an easy story to hear, especially within the biblical narrative of God’s love and providential care for God’s people. It’s like a well-guarded family secret no one dares mention, as if it might swell into a crushing typhoon, leaving devastation in its wake. Following tradition, I hoped not to encounter Tamar’s story again.
If shunning the ancient biblical story of Tamar is all too easy, avoiding news of unrelenting violence against women is becoming harder.
During my freshman year of college, a girl who lived in my dorm was raped. It was during the first month of school. I didn’t know her well. As the rumors spread, I remember thinking, “Oh yeah, the blonde with the big boobs.”
I remember having a conversation with my friend about how nice the accused boy seemed. I remember that friend replying, “She did wear low cut shirts during orientation — makes sense she would start a rumor like that.”
The survivor transferred from my college the following semester.
During my senior year of college, my best friend was the president of his fraternity. During the fall semester, there was a reported case of rape that occurred with two males and one female in the basement during a party. All I remember is how stressed my friend was because, as president, he had to deal with the legal proceedings of the case. The case was closed without either of the men being prosecuted. I remember being upset because my favorite fraternity was put on probation (no parties on the weekend) for two months. I never knew the survivor.
The documentary The Hunting Ground taught me I was part of campus rape culture, and I didn’t even realize it. It is estimated that between 20 percent and 25 percent of women experience completed or attempted rape over the course of a college career. That means for every 1,000 women attending a college or university, there are 35 incidents of rape each academic year.
Silverman makes a startling pronouncement: “We should have more rape jokes,” she says.
And if they're donw within the right framework, she’s totally right. Though rape jokes have traditionally been made at the expense of victims or used to normalize rape (for example, Daniel Tosh’s stand-up routine in which he imagines a rape victim laughing while being attacked), Silverman recognizes that humor can be a powerful tool for dismantling rape culture.
Silverman recently demonstrated the power of jokes aimed at rape culture when a recent photo she posted on Twitter went viral. The photo captured a list of “Rape Prevention Tips” for potential rapists. The list included lines like: “Carry a rape whistle. If you find you are about to rape someone, blow the whistle until someone comes to stop you.”
Of course, what makes this photo powerful is how it challenges the dangerous idea that the best way to prevent rape is to teach individuals to avoid getting raped; as Lyndsey Christofferson explains in “Blaming the Victim” (Sojourners, May 2015) this idea has weaseled its way into how Christians interpret biblical passages about sexual assault (Bathsheba, anyone?) as well as how we teach young people about modesty. Instead, Silverman’s photo points out that the best way to avoid rape is to teach people not to be rapists.
Columbia University’s Journalism school released its report detailing the journalistic failures of Rolling Stone’s viral story ‘A Rape on Campus,’ which initiated, and later may have stifled, an honest conversation about the prevalence rape on college campuses. Read the full report. “[Writer Sabrina Rubin] Erdely and her editors had hoped their investigation would sound an alarm about campus sexual assault and would challenge Virginia and other universities to do better. Instead, the magazine's failure may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations.”
“Despite the fact that the world can now see Eric Garner being killed by an illegal chokehold — despite the fact that New York City Police Department banned chokeholds years ago — film of the incident did not result in the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, being charged. But thanks to the efforts of Ramsey Orta, who filmed Garner’s death, we know.”
3. Hope but Verify: The Iran Nuclear Framework
“House Speaker John Boehner recently said this about the broader instability in the Middle East: 'The world is starving for American leadership. But America has an anti-war president.' In the context of our faith — or even in the context of conservative ideals — is leadership that prevents war something to be maligned?”
4. How the Presidential Candidates Found Their Faith
“This season’s crop of presidential candidates reflects this country’s many contradictions in faith.” Newsweek explores the faith backgrounds of the apparent 2016 field so far.
Living in a different time zone, I was not able to watch the live coverage of the Golden Globes, but I turned to the next best thing: Twitter. It didn’t take long before the newsfeed sounded out a collective gasp from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s Bill Cosby rape joke:
“Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby.”
Some may have thought the joke too offensive, that rape is too serious a subject to use as speech fodder, but I found it genius. Fey/Poehler called out the offense of a powerful man in his own arena, the world of entertainment where he gained his prestige, against the women he allegedly assaulted. They brought a buried injustice up to the surface, making the rich and glamorous squirm with discomfort — is that not the work of modern-day prophetesses? The fact that it came from two women who know first hand the misogyny in the male-dominated industry of comedy added another layer of irony and punch to the boundary-stretching joke. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, women who are smart, talented, and gutsy enough to call out injustice, make me proud to be a woman. They are my people.
This past weekend, I’ve been following another event: the annual Gay Christian Network Conference in Portland. I take seriously my charge to find beauty in the margins. And whatever your stance is on the LGBT Christian debate, the fact that mainstream Christian media was conspicuously silent on covering the GCN conference is proof that within evangelicalism, gay Christians still live at the margins.
1. Hero mom calls into C-SPAN to berate her arguing pundit sons
Whether or not your family expects heated political debate over the holidays, you''ll appreciate the way this mom quiets her sons.
2. 14 Women of Color Who Rocked 2014
From the creators of #BlackLivesMatter to the founder of an organization focused on women with incarcerated loved ones, meet the women of color at the forefront of the fight for justice.
3. The Myth of Crying Rape
From Jim Wallis and Sandi Villarreal: "The reality is, these survivors are often re-victimized by a system that interrogates rather than advocates and then fails to deliver justice in a vast majority of cases ... Failure to recognize the sins of power and domination that influence the acts of violence against half of God’s creatures is simply bad theology."
4. Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State
A win for environmentalists that could set an important precedent.