Wednesday, March 18, 2009

U.S. military rape reports rise, prosecution still low

By Anne Gearan, AP

WASHINGTON - More people came forward to report sexual assaults in the U.S. military last year but a significant percentage wouldn't give details needed for an investigation.

The Pentagon said it received 2,923 reports of sexual assault across the military in the 12 months ending Sept. 30 2008. That's about a nine-per-cent increase over the totals reported the year before but only a fraction of the crimes presumably being committed.

Among the cases reported, only a small number went to military courts, officials acknowledged.

The Pentagon office that collects the data estimates only 10 to 20 per cent of sexual assaults among members of the active duty military are reported - a figure similar to estimates of reported cases in the civilian sphere.

The military statistics, required by Congress, cover rape and other assaults across the approximately 1.4 million people in uniform.

Kaye Whitley, director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said most victims are women, most cases involve young people and alcohol is often involved.

The yearly increase in reports is more likely due to larger numbers of victims being willing to come forward, than to an overall increase in sexual violence, Whitley said.

That increase includes a jump in cases from combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, to 165 from 131 the year before.

Congresswoman Jane Harman, a congressional critic of the military's handling of sexual violence, said the statistics show the problem is still rampant.

"While the report shows modest improvement, we're far from Mission Accomplished," the California Democrat said in a statement.

"Military women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq."

The latest figures include 2,280 cases in which a victim provided full accounts and physical evidence when possible and 643 in which a victim sought care or made a report but refused to provide all the information necessary to pursue an investigation.

The Defence Department allows those limited reports on the theory it encourages victims to at least seek care when they might otherwise keep silent.

Prosecution is slow and large numbers of cases are thrown out or dropped.

The most recent figures, which include cases left open from previous years, show only 317 cases were referred for courts martial, or military trials. Another 247 were referred for non-judicial punishment.

More than 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in her lifetime

According to Amnesty International, Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the United States in general. A complex maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions allows perpetrators to rape with impunity and in some cases even encourages assaults.

Read more.

5 Mistakes we make when we talk about Rihanna

Similar to that post from Yes Means Yes, there is another great article in Newsweek about the Chris Brown assault. I know we've been talking about this a lot lately, but with so much in the news about "what provoked him" and how "she is rich and famous, so why doesn't she just leave him?", these pro-survivor (and unfortunately, alternative) perspectives are important!

By Raina Kelly

Last week, R&B singer Chris Brown was formally charged with two felonies, assault and making criminal threats, in connection with the alleged beating of his pop-star girlfriend Rihanna on Feb. 8. Though we will never know exactly what happened that night, many of us have seen Rihanna's bruised and bloodied face on the front pages and read horrific details of the alleged attack from the affidavit of an LAPD detective in which he describes contusions on the singer's body. At same time, rumors are that the 21-year-old singer is back in a relationship with Brown, whom she has accused, according to the affidavit, of biting, choking and punching her until her mouth filled with blood. While we can argue about how much of all that is true, it really doesn't matter. This sad story doesn't have to be verifiable for it to potentially warp how Rihanna's hundreds of thousands of tween fans think about intimate relationships. We've all heard that this should be a "teachable moment"—a chance to talk about domestic violence with our kids. But children and teens aren't just listening to your lectures, they're listening to the way you speculate about the case with other adults; they're absorbing how the media describes it; they're reading gossip Web sites. When you tune into to all the talk about Rihanna and Chris Brown, it's scary how the same persistent domestic-violence myths continue to be perpetuated. Celebrity scandals may have a short shelf life, but what we teach kids about domestic violence will last forever. So rather than "raise awareness," here are five myths that anyone with a child should take time to debunk:

Myth No. 1: It was a domestic argument, and she provoked him
We need to remember that any discussion of domestic violence should not revolve around what the couple may have been arguing about, or as one CNN anchor put it: "the incident that sparked the fight." Nor should we be using the word "provoked" when describing this case, as in the Associated Press account that said the "argument" was "provoked" by Rihanna's "discovery of a text message from another woman." Domestic violence has to do with, well, physical violence, not arguments. There isn't a verbal argument that should "spark" or "provoke" an attack of the kind that leaves one person with wounds that require medical attention.

Cable news has to stop referring to this incident as a "violent fight" [unlike this New York Times article]. A "fight" involves two people hitting each other, not—as is alleged in this case—a woman cowering in a car while a man punches and bites her. If Rihanna had called the police beaten and bloodied and alleging an attack of this nature by a stranger, no one would be calling it a "fight." They'd say that a man was being accused of severely beating and choking a young woman half his size.

Myth No. 2: Evolution makes us do it
Steven Stosny, a counselor and founder of an organization that treats anger-management issues believes that the tragic tendency of women to return to the men who hurt them (battered-woman syndrome) is a product of evolution. Stosny was quoted on as saying "To leave an attachment relationship—a relationship where there's an emotional bond—meant certain death by starvation or saber-tooth tiger."

Apologies to Mr. Stosny, but that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. This is the kind of argument that really boils my blood because it seems to naturalize the torture of women. Very little is known about the emotional attachments of early humans. And trust me, after 50,000 years, our fear of saber-tooth tigers has abated. In most domestic-abuse cases, we're talking about a situation where one person is wielding power over an individual through pain, fear and domination. It's not about being scared to leave because of the dangers that await you in the world, it's about being too scared of what's at home to leave.

Myth No. 3: People make mistakes. Give the guy a break
When singer Kanye West talked about the Rihanna-Brown case with his VH1 audience recently, he asked: "Can't we give Chris a break? ... I know I make mistakes in life." Kanye's not the only one saying this kind of thing, so let's get something straight: People leave the oven on or fry turkeys in the garage and burn their house down. One may even accidentally step on the gas instead of the brake and run over the family cat. Mistakes resulting in tragic consequences happen all the time. But one cannot mistakenly beat someone up. You do not accidentally give someone black eyes, a broken nose and a split lip.

Myth No. 4: Brown said he was sorry and they're working it out
Experts will tell you that domestic violence is an escalating series of attacks (not fights) designed to increase a victim's dependence on her abuser. According to the police documents released last week, Rihanna told police that Brown had hit her before and it was getting worse. Sorry means you don't do it again. In discussions about abuse, we need to make it clear that sorry is not enough.

Myth No. 5: She's young, rich and beautiful. If it was really as bad as the media says, she'd leave
The secret to the abuser's power is not only making his victim dependent on him, but convincing her that she is to blame for the attack. No amount of money or fame can protect someone from the terrible cycle of emotional dependence, shame and fear that keeps them with abusive partners. Women who are abused look for ways they may have "provoked" an attack, finding fault with their own behavior to explain the unexplainable—why would someone they love hurt them? And it doesn't help when people outside the relationship blame the victim. In this case, Phylicia Thompson, a cousin of Brown's, told "Extra TV" that, "Chris was not brought up to beat on a woman. So it had to be something to provoke him for Chris to do it." As the rumors swirl about whether Rihanna is back with Brown, understand that those who are abused do not stay with their abusers because they want to be beaten again, or because they are really at fault; it's usually because they feel trapped and guilty.

You may have noticed that the words power, control and domination running through my rant. That was purposeful. What we need to remember, and what we need to teach our children, is that yes, you should never hit anybody and you should never let anybody hit you. But, we also need to tell them that love does not guarantee respect and that any relationship they find themselves involved in should be based on both equally.


VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Feminists of the world sit down before you read this. The Vatican newspaper says that perhaps the washing machine did more to liberate women in the 20th century than the pill or the right to work.

The submission was made in a lengthy article titled "The Washing Machine and the Liberation of Women - Put in the Detergent, Close the Lid and Relax."

The article was printed at the weekend in l'Osservatore Romano, the semi-official Vatican newspaper, to mark international Women's Day on Sunday.

"What in the 20th century did more to liberate Western women?," asks the article, which was written by a woman.

"The debate is heated. Some say the pill, some say abortion rights and some the right to work outside the home. Some, however, dare to go further: the washing machine," it says.

It then goes on to talk about the history of washing machines, starting with a rudimentary model in 1767 in Germany and ending up with today's trendy launderettes where a woman can have a cappuccino with friends while the tumbler turns.


Rush Limbaugh, ever supportive of women's and survivor rights (not) chimes in, saying that it wasn't the washing machine or pill that liberated women most, it was the vacuum cleaner.

Is this a joke?


Pakistan survivor, women's rights advocate, marries

(For first MediaWatch post on this story, link here.)

A Pakistani gang rape victim who won international acclaim as a campaigner for women's rights has married.

Mukhtar Mai wed a policeman who is still married to another woman. He threatened to divorce his first wife if she did not marry him.

Ms Mai said she decided to do so to avoid family break-up.

Four men raped Ms Mai as punishment after her 12-year-old brother was accused of adultery in 2002, but she fought to have her attackers convicted.

She ignored taboos about her ordeal, becoming a champion for women's rights.

Six men arrested and sentenced to death in connection with the gang rape are still in custody pending a retrial.

Ms Mai had said she was not sure she would ever marry, but on Sunday wed police constable Nasir Abbas Gabol in Muzaffargarh district, near Multan in Punjab province.

"When you get married, you have to have faith in your partner and his family. I will try to cooperate with them," she told Associated Press.

"You know, I never said that I would not marry, I said that these things - relationships - are in the hands of Allah. I said if I got a good man I would get married.

"Now, as I thought fit, and with the agreement of my parents and other people, I've got married."

Mukhtar Mai is one of two wives of constable Nasir Abbas. The marriage was solemnised at a simple ceremony in her village, Mirwala.

She first met Nasir Abbas when he was posted at the police station in the village after her gang rape in 2002.

"Eighteen months ago, he sent his parents to ask me if I would marry him. I declined because I knew he was already married and I didn't want to ruin his first wife's life," Mukhtar Mai told the BBC Urdu service.

Nasir Abbas did not take his rejection well and "threatened to divorce his first wife. He also tried to commit suicide", Mukhtar Mai says.

His sisters are married into his first wife's family - and in a tit-for-tat move they were threatened with divorce too if Nasir Abbas divorced his first wife.

Nasir Abbas's first wife and his two sisters approached Mukhtar Mai and pleaded with her to marry Nasir Abbas.

"So I married him on humanitarian grounds. I didn't want three families breaking up because of me," she says.

Mukhtar Mai won widespread international support when she spoke out after being raped - allegedly on the order of a village council.

She has also written a best-selling autobiography and opened a school and a chain of women's crisis centres in Pakistan.

In 2005, she was honoured as Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine in a ceremony in Washington.

The award praised Ms Mai for "her incredible courage and optimism in the face of terrible violence".

Critics of Pakistan's judicial system and social systems say the Mukhtar Mai case is an example of appalling treatment often handed out to women, particularly in feudal, rural areas.

Her rape was allegedly ordered by a village council as a punishment for a misdemeanour blamed on her brother.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Many Boston teens surveyed say Rihanna is at fault for assault

By Milton J. Valencia and Jenna Nierstedt

Here's a conversation starter: Nearly half of the 200 Boston teenagers interviewed for an informal poll said pop star Rihanna was responsible for the beating she allegedly took at the hands of her boyfriend, fellow music star Chris Brown, in February.

Of those questioned, ages 12 to 19, 71 percent said that arguing was a normal part of a relationship; 44 percent said fighting was a routine occurrence.

The results of the survey, conducted by the Boston Public Health Commission across the city and equally among boys and girls, are startling for local health workers who see a generation of youths who seem to have grown accustomed, even insensitive, to domestic violence.

"I think you'd have to be pretty jaded if you weren't startled by it," said Casey Corcoran, director of the health commission's new Start Strong program.

The program began in the fall as part of a Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships Initiative, a private foundation program that was offered in 11 cities across the country. Corcoran said the four-year, $1 million competitive grant program will allow the city to train mentors and outreach workers to speak to 11- to 14-year-olds about the dangers of domestic violence.

Corcoran said the Rihanna and Brown controversy, which is one of today's top entertainment news stories and a topic of conversation for young people, allows for teachers and parents to begin conversations about the dangers, and prevalence, of domestic violence.

"This is something tough for parents to bring up, but this is a very big case regarding domestic violence," said Corcoran, pointing out that Oprah Winfrey devoted her television show yesterday to teen dating violence and featured the Start Strong initiative.

"This is an opportunity to start those conversations; it shouldn't end with a survey," Corcoran said.

The Brown-Rihanna incident has created much controversy, mostly because of Rihanna's reported continuance of her relationship with Brown after alleged past assaults. The case has been pointed to by advocate groups for domestic violence victims as an example of the challenges victims face in confronting domestic violence.

Health counselors are specifically concerned with teenagers' views of the controversy. Of the teens questioned, more than half said both Brown, 19, and Rihanna, 21, were equally responsible for the assault. More than half said the media were treating Brown unfairly, and 46 percent said Rihanna was responsible for the incident.

Local teenagers from the Hyde Square Task Force in Boston said they found the case, and the survey, troubling, adding that the pop stars are supposed to serve as role models. But unfortunately, they are seeing such violence too often.

"I had friends getting beat by their boyfriends and coming to school with black eyes," said Kendra Lara, 19, of Jamaica Plain. "Some people do take it, and I don't understand it."