Tag Archives: rape

Oh lawd.

For people who think we’re beyond feminism, I’ve got two women’s rights doozies this fine Monday: making miscarriages illegal in Georgia and a judge that rules that women who wear tube tops are never raped.  I’m fa real!


Ga. Law Could Give Death Penalty for Miscarriages


It’s only February, but this year has been a tough one for women’s health and reproductive rights. There’s a new bill on the block that may have reached the apex (I hope) of woman-hating craziness. Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin—who last year proposed making rape and domestic violence “victims” into “accusers”—has introduced a 10-page bill that would criminalize miscarriages and make abortion in Georgia completely illegal.

Both miscarriages and abortions would be potentially punishable by death: any “prenatal murder” in the words of the bill, including “human involvement” in a miscarriage, would be a felony and carry a penalty of life in prison or death. Basically, it’s everything an “pro-life” activist could want aside from making all women who’ve had abortions wear big red “A”s on their chests.

I doubt that a bill that makes a legal medical procedure liable for the death penalty will pass. The bill, however, shows an astonishing lack of concern for women’s health and well-being. Under Rep. Franklin’s bill, HB 1, women who miscarry could become felons if they cannot prove that there was “no human involvement whatsoever in the causation” of their miscarriage.

There is no clarification of what “human involvement” means, and this is hugely problematic as medical doctors do not know exactly what causes miscarriages. Miscarriages are estimated to terminate up to a quarter of all pregnancies and the Mayo Clinic says that “the actual number is probably much higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn’t even know she’s pregnant. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn’t developing normally.”

Holding women criminally liable for a totally natural, common biological process is cruel and non-sensical. Even more ridiculous, the bill holds women responsible for protecting their fetuses from “the moment of conception,” despite the fact that pregnancy tests aren’t accurate until at least 3 weeks after conception. Unless Franklin (who is not a health professional) invents a revolutionary intrauterine conception alarm system, it’s unclear how exactly the state of Georgia would enforce that rule other than holding all possibly-pregnant women under lock and key…

Read the rest of Phillips’ great essay at Mother Jones


Judge Lets Off Rapist Because Victim Was Wearing a Tube Top

by Lu Fong, Good Men Project

Kenneth Rhodes, who was found guilty of raping a 26-year-old woman back in 2006, was sentenced last week to a paltry two-year conditional sentence that allows him to remain free in the community. Why? According to Judge Robert Dewar, because “sex was in the air” and the rape victim was “inviting,” hence confusing the “clumsy Don Juan.” Dewar went on to specify that because the victim and her friend had been wearing tube tops with no bra, high heels, and heavy makeup, they had “made their intentions publicly known that they wanted to party.” As he put it,

This is a different case than one where there is no perceived invitation … This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior.

He went on to say Rhodes’ attorney, Derek Coggan, said that Rhodes never threatened the woman, didn’t have a weapon, and was simply “insensitive to the fact [that she] was not a willing participant.” Though Dewar was quick to note that he doesn’t blame the victim, saying that he’s “sure whatever signals were sent that sex was in the air were unintentional,” he claims that the situation was too ambiguous to determine “moral blameworthiness.” The victim—who still sports an impressive array of bruises scar from the attack—is justifiably aghast at the response:

This is beyond sexist. I don’t even know how to comment on it. No woman asks to be raped. … I’m a prisoner in my own home.

But never fear, folks, the hand of justice is kind. Judge Dewar has asked that Rhodes write his victim an “apology letter.” Because that is what will rectify the situation. 


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Juárez’s Dead Girls

This essay was written by Amy Littlefield at Gender Across Borders.  Expect more posts from this amazing blog.


In the lead sentence of a 2009 article about the murders of hundreds of young women in the Mexican border city of Juárez, one Los Angeles Times reporter wrote: “The streets of Juarez are swallowing the young and pretty.”

This dramatic lead, like much of the writing done about the rapes and murders of women in Juárez, romanticizes the crime by drawing attention to the youth and beauty of the victims.

But there’s nothing pretty, romantic or even mysterious about the situation in Ciudad Juárez, where at least 464 women have been murdered since 1993, according to the Mexico City-based newspaper La Jornada.

Many of the women have been young workers in the border city’s maquiladoras, factories famous for their abusive working conditions. Many have been sexually assaulted before being murdered. A few arrests have been made, but at least one investigation has shown that police and government officials are involved in the violence. At the very least, the response of the authorities has been inadequate.

While news reports have often responded with superficial dramatizations, Caridad Svich’s 2004 play Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (a rave fable) dramatizes sexual violence in order to make a point. The play is set in an unnamed Latin American city where a violent general is plotting to sacrifice his daughter (Iphigenia), believing her death will save his political career.

Iphigenia is a multimedia and multi-sensory experience replete with gender-bending, sexual imagery, absurdism, confusion, and Greek inevitability. It’s an acid trip, and it’s meant to saturate and provoke. But I’d like to highlight one aspect of the play that I found fascinating: the playwright’s decision to cast Juárez’s dead girls as men.

The imagery of pink crosses with women’s names written on them and references to the “dead factory girls” connect the play’s setting to Juárez. But the murdered women — who Svich calls fresa or “strawberry” girls, a term that can mean rich or snobby in Mexican slang — are cast as men in drag. The decision to cast the “dead girls” as men messes with the image of the young, beautiful, dead female body. In at least one version of the play, the fresa girls are cast in overdone doll makeup, wearing clothes that are too small. Such imagery satirizes the over-emphasis on female bodies in reports about sexual violence. Dressing male bodies up as “fresa girls” dramatizes the process of presenting death as beautiful or romantic.

But Svich takes it a step further, challenging the privileged tendency to romanticize feminicidio. At one point, the wealthy and privileged general’s daughter, who is dancing her way to a rave in order to escape her own inevitable murder, yearns to be a fresa girl — a victim of sexual violence and murder:

IPHIGENIA: I want to be just like you, girls.

FRESA GIRL 3: Like us?

IPHIGENIA: Names on a wall. Written by lovers who caress me.

FRESA GIRL 3: Caress us?

IPHIGENIA: You are beautiful girls.

Her naivete about the dead girls, murdered brutally by “lovers” outside dance clubs, indicts the naive reader or viewer. There is nothing beautiful about a dead body — even a young, female one — even one found outside a dance club.

Svich’s strategic casting decision messes with canonical conventions of victimhood and confronts the idea that beautiful women somehow deserve to be raped — or that raping or killing a beautiful woman is either more or less violent than killing a less attractive (or less feminine) victim. The casting of men in drag as “girls” also draws attention to violence against transgender and transsexual people and makes the point that sexual violence is not just a girl’s problem. Despite attempts by the play’s protagonist to dress up murder with drama, drugs and dancing, there is nothing romantic about this death — or its inescapability.

Amy Littlefield is Music Editor at Gender Across Borders.

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Rape rampant in US military – Al Jazeera

Earlier this year a house subcommittee held a hearing focused on sexual assault and violence against women in the military and at the academies - Getty

The following are excerpts from Dahr Jamail’s article at Al Jazeera here.

Report reveals alarming statistics

[Kira] Mountjoy-Pepka, [founder of the non-profit Pack Parachute] often works with male survivors of military sexual trauma (MST). She stated in a telephone interview that four per cent of men in the military experience MST. “Most choose not to talk about it until after their discharge from the military, largely because the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in over 60 percent of MST cases is too overwhelming,” she informed Al Jazeera.

Last week the Pentagon released its “annual report on sexual harassment and violence at the military service academies”. At its three academies, the number of reports of sexual assault and harassment has risen a staggering 64 percent from last year.

The report attributes the huge increase to better reporting of incidents due to increased training and education about sexual assault and harassment. Veteran’s Administration (VA) statistics show that more than 50 percent of the veterans who screen positive for MST are men.

According to the US Census Bureau, there are roughly 22 million male veterans compared to less than two million female vets.

In Congressional testimony in the summer of 2008, Lt. Gen. Rochelle, the army chief of personnel, reported the little known statistic that 12 percent (approximately 260) of the 2,200 reported rapes in the military in 2007 were reported by military male victims.

Due to their sheer numbers in the military, more men (at a rough estimate one in twenty), have experienced MST than women.

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Shamed into silence

Billy Capshaw was 17 when he joined the Army in 1977. After being trained as a medic he was transferred to Baumholder, Germany. His roommate, Jeffrey Dahmer, by virtue of his seniority ensured that Capshaw had no formal assignment, no mail, and no pay. Having completely isolated the young medic, Dahmer regularly sexually assaulted, raped, and tortured him.

Dahmer went on to become the infamous serial killer and sex offender who murdered 17 boys and men before being beaten to death by an inmate at Columbia Correction Institution in 1994.

Capshaw reflects back, “At that young age I didn’t know how to deal with it. My commander did not believe me. Nobody helped me, even though I begged and begged and begged.”

The debilitating lifelong struggle Capshaw has had to face is common among survivors of military sexual assault.

Later during therapy he needed to go public. Since then he says, “I’ve talked to a lot of men, many of them soldiers, who are raped but who won’t go public with their story. The shame alone is overwhelming.”

In 1985 Michael Warren enlisted in the navy and for three years worked as a submarine machinist mate on a nuclear submarine. One day he awoke to find another soldier performing fellatio on him.

He recollects with horror, “I was paralyzed with fear. I was in disbelief… shame. When I reported it to the commander he said it was better for me to deal with it after being discharged. Nobody helped me, not even the chaplain. The commander at the processing centre wouldn’t look me in the face. When I filled out my claim later they didn’t believe me. It’s so frustrating.”

Armando Javier was an active duty Marine from 1990 to 1994. He was a Lance Corporal at Camp Lejeune in 1993 when he was raped…”I was embarrassed and ashamed and didn’t know what to do. I was young at that time. And being part of an elite organization that values brotherhood, integrity and faithfulness made it hard to come forward and reveal what happened.”

Read on!

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Dexter: Feminist Serial Killer?

I’m not sure if I buy the argument that Dexter is feminist, but that could be because I’m still on season 4.  The show does, however, highlight the sexual relationships of its female characters (Deb, LaGuerta, Lila, the various prostitutes…).  What do you Dexter fans think?

By Natalie Wilson, Ms. Magazine

Dexter’s eye-for-an-eye vigilantism came to a gripping fifth-season finale this week with Jordan Chase (Jonny Lee Miller), serial rapist and murderer, brought to a bloody end by one of his victims, Lumen (Julia Stiles). If you are not familiar with the show, go here for a good feminist overview of the series, or see the series of posts here.

This season, the Showtime TV series had much to offer feminist viewers: blood-spatter analyst (and serial killer) Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) as single dad; female Lt. LaGuerta’s (Lauren Velez) betrayal of Dexter’s sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter); Deb’s mad detective skills and, at the heart of the season, a rape revenge fantasy involving Dexter and Lumen, who were bent on meting out punishment for a group of male rapists and murderers. This time around, Dexter’s partner in crime was an intelligent, articulate, tough woman–a female raped, tortured and nearly murdered who realizes that the violence done to her cannot be buried or denied and will forever change her view of the world and her place in it.

As noted at Feminists For Choice, “the show does an above-average  job of accurately depicting the agony of rape trauma syndrome and PTSD.” Why is this good viewing for feminists? Yes, the violence is visceral and the blood excessive. The administered justice is very harsh–with murder on the agenda for those serial killer Dexter decides “don’t deserve to live.” But underneath its brutal exterior, the show also presents us with deeper moral questions about a legal system that consistently fails to catch or punish serial killers, rapist, and child abusers–and deeper still about what type of society breeds such violence and if, indeed, our legal system creates just as many criminals as it attempts to apprehend.

Read on!


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That’s What She Said

This blog post is in response to the Purdue Exponent’s recent “Sex Position” cartoon.  The cartoon, entitled “The Prestige,” depicted two men sexually tag-teaming a woman without consent or knowledge.  Yeah, Exponent, that’s called rape.  The public response to this has only just begun although the newspaper has yet to address the issue as of September 18.

Michaela Null, creator of the Facebook group “Tell Purdue Exponent Advocating Rape is NOT OKAY,” posted this hilarious response to a misogynistic comic.



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Missing and Murdered Native Women

Everyone loves Canada, eh?  And no one can give you any specific details about Canada other than: two Olympics were held there, in Quebec they speak French, and, that it’s known for ice wine, ice hockey, and syrup.  *Update: Michael Moore isn’t from Canada.  He’s from Flint.*

But what about their issues?  Assuredly Canada deals with similar problems of race, class, gender, etc, but you never hear about Canada, so it must be fantastic there.  Right?

I recently learned from this Rabble news article posted on Racialicious that Canada has a high rate of missing and murdered native women, totaling nearly 600 women over the past 25 years, and half since the year 2000.  And more than half of these murders remain unsolved.  WTF?

In March, the Canadian Minister of Justice budgeted $10 million over two years to address the issue, yet they haven’t decided on how the money will be spent.  Many justice organizations, including Amnesty International and Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), suggest that the $10 million is not enough to support Canadian native women and solve “the problem.”  Mainly because the problem’s too damn big.

Photographs of missing or murdered women from British Columbia are displayed during a Sisters in Spirit vigil to honour the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday October 4, 2009. Vigils were held in dozens of communities across Canada to highlight the issue of murdered Aboriginal women and girls. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

So what’s the problem?

Andre Picard from The Global and Mail states that these kidnappings and deaths are a result of sexual violence, domestic abuse, and race-based violence:

The women, most under the age of 30, are overwhelmingly victims of sexual violence. They are being preyed upon systematically by sexual sadists, killers and probably more than one serial killer.  How can this not be considered a national priority for police, justice and public-health officials?

Sadly, when a native woman is murdered or vanishes under suspicious circumstances, it does not mobilize police action nor generate near as much media attention as similar cases involving non-native women: They were drunk. They were sex workers. They came from unstable family backgrounds. They were runaways. They were party girls. An endless litany of excuses for inaction is trotted out with shocking regularity.

But it is precisely these circumstances – alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual abuse, the sequelae of residential schools, poverty, survival sex, etc. – that placed them at much higher risk.

NWAC Sisters’ in Spirit director Kate Rexe said if the money is spent wisely with commitment from all levels of government and NGOs, there is an opportunity to change the system and how it responds to violence and the disappearance of Aboriginal women and girls.

NWAC recommends a comprehensive action plan based on four key areas of priorities: Increasing access to justice, reducing violence against Aboriginal women and girls, increasing economic security, and reducing the impact of children in care (welfare),” Rexe said.

"There is evidence that a serial killer may also be at work in Manitoba, and a single man may also be responsible for the carnage along British Columbia's infamous Highway of Tears . (Highway 16 - The Yellowhead Highway, which stretches 750 kilometres from Prince George to Prince Rupert has been the site of nine murders and disappearances since 1990, all but one of the victims young aboriginal women.) But the reality is that the Highway of Tears stretches from sea-to-sea-to-sea in this country: Aboriginal women have been murdered or disappeared by the score in every single province and territory in Canada," says Picard. Photo by Vancouver Sun Files

Not to pick on Canada – the United States has a serious problem with these same issues.  Here are some stats about the situation in America:

According to Amnesty International, one in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime – Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than a non-native woman.

In 2007, Amnesty International published its findings in the study “Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA.”

That same year, NPR did a two-part series on the subject: “Rape Cases On Indian Lands Go Uninvestigated” and “Legal Hurdles Stall Rape Cases on Native Lands.”

The NPR series chronicled horrific stories either ignored by law enforcement or unreported because they have become commonplace.  The investigation also revealed a system underfunded and often broken: a tribal health center inadequately staffed and without rape kits to collect DNA from victims; tribal leaders and Native police unable to prosecute non-native perpetrators; and a patchwork of confusing jurisdictions in which federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement intersect and clash with each other.

Underlying the issue is a terrible fact that makes justice all but impossible: 80% of rapes involve non-native perpetrators, and tribal authorities are powerless in these situations because only federal prosecutors can prosecute crimes on tribal lands.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) oversees law enforcement on the reservations, and many police departments are woefully understaffed; one reservation the size of Connecticut has only 5 officers to cover the entire area. One BIA officer told NPR he was “too overwhelmed and overworked to keep up with the number of calls for rape, sexual assault and child abuse” that came in each week.

The Current TV documentary series Vanguard investigated this issue in their segment, “Rape on the Reservation.”  Correspondent Mariana van Zeller visits the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, where 19-year-old Marquita was raped, beaten, and murdered in an abandoned house.  Zeller looks into Marquita’s murder along with other harrowing stories of rape and abuse, and exposes the difficulties women face in their attempts to seek justice.

So what can you do?

Learn. Act. Share.  But most importantly, we need to work to end racism and sexism in our everyday lives.

How to act:





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