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Chicagoans organize around cases of police violence

Last Saturday, about 2,000 people filled the streets of downtown Chicago for SlutWalk, a global protest movement demanding an end to rape and the pervasive victim-blaming attitudes and policies that help facilitate violence.  It was the very first sweltering hot day of Midwest summer.  We talked excitedly about the power of bringing a public voice to this otherwise silent social problem, and we networked to organize for future events around sexual violence and institutional violence.  The energy and outrage from the crowd was absolutely palpable.  SlutWalk participants could feel that we were starting something much bigger than ourselves.

The symbolic reclaiming of the streets has a long history in liberation activism, and I think it’s an especially poignant act in Chicago, which still holds the coveted title of the most racially and economically segregated city in the United States.  Chicago’s history of systematic institutional violence once inspired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to report from the city’s streets, “I have seen many demonstrations in the South, but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today.”  At a recent workshop hosted by the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), Jerry Boyle from the National Lawyers Guild aptly described government-sponsored Chicago street politics as “low intensity warfare against marginalized groups,” especially organizers.

SlutWalk reminded Chicagoans: These are our streets, and we have the right to own them. And the message could not be timelier.

On June 1st, Chicago police officers Paul Clavijo and Juan Vasquez were both indicted on charges of criminal sexual assault and official misconduct for their actions against a 22 year old woman identified as Jane Doe.

While patrolling the 23rd District around Wrigley Field at 2am on March 30th, Clavijo and Vasquez saw the extremely intoxicated young woman crying and walking home alone.  They invited her into the marked squad car under pretenses of offering her a ride to her apartment two districts away in the Rogers Park neighborhood.  Jane Doe tried to take the back seat, but Clavijo insisted that he sit on his lap in the front seat, where he sexually assaulted her the first time while Vasquez went into a liquor store.   Clavijo and Vasquez then took Jane Doe to her apartment, where they sexually assaulted her until she pounded her fists on the walls and screamed for help, at which point a neighbor helped her.

Police reporting to the scene found Jane Doe “in a ‘hysterical’ state.”  The victim’s blood alcohol level was .38 by the time she received medical treatment at a hospital hours later.  That’s about five times the legal limit to drive in Illinois and, according to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, it’s not possible for someone that incapacitated to provide consent for sex.

Several elements surrounding the accusations against these officers reveal some unsettling inferences about the culture of impunity for police violence.  Clavijo and Vasquez were heavily-armed, on-duty, uniformed, and using a marked squad car to pick up a drunk woman in a public space.  That kind of abandon suggests that these law enforcement officers were completely confident that they would get away with their “misconduct.”  In fact, it should not surprise those readers with even a cursory understanding of sexual predators that Officer Paul Clavijo faces a second sexual assault charge for almost identical actions against another woman just twenty days earlier.  These elements tell us a great deal about the lack of oversight and accountability for police violence in Chicago.

This case is deeply disturbing, not least of all for its capacity to completely demolish the cultural conception of police as trustworthy and protective figures.  It’s hard to adequately describe the psychic violence suffered by an entire community when police commit violence.  Our New York readers might know what I’m talking about.  The queer people, trans folks, homeless youth, sex workers, and people of color targeted by police know what I’m talking about.

Results from a 2009 study by the Young Women’s Empowerment Project found that police misconduct accounted for 22% of reported incidents of institutional violence against girls involved in street economies.  At SlutWalk, SWOP’s Crash Crawford reminded attendants what this means for Chicago sex workers:

Predators are often reassured of their impunity by society’s attitudes towards such ‘whores’ and ‘sluts.’ Many a serial-killer has admitted to targeting sex-workers because they felt they were ‘easy targets’; that they ‘wouldn’t be missed.’ […]  Also to be feared is the all-too-common ‘un-sympathetic’ agents of law enforcement; abusers in their own right; often extorting sexual acts at the point of a night-stick, or by threatening arrest. Sadly, it is not unheard of for officers to attack sex-workers overtly, especially those also in the transgender community.

So what happens to police who abuse the citizens they’re paid to protect?

According to a 2007 study by Craig Futterman at the University of Chicago Law School, the odds that a Chicago police officer charged with abusing a civilian will receive any meaningful discipline is only two in a thousand.  In more than 85% of the abuse investigations analyzed, Futterman found that the accused officer was never even interviewed before complaints were dismissed.  Alarmingly, about 75% of officers with multiple charges of abuse never received any disciplinary action of any kind whatsoever.

On Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel started the first leg of his “anti-crime” PR project by moving 150 police officers from administrative jobs to beat positions.  Not surprisingly, Rahmbo didn’t say peep about plans to improve oversight while our tax dollars pay police to target minorities in our own streets and homes.  Meanwhile, given this rape case, the actions of Internal Affairs who allegedly threatened Tiawanda Moore for attempting to report a sexual assault by a police officer and the zeal with which our State’s Attorney has pursued felony charges against her, those of us who used to feel safe with cops around might feel differently the next time we see those blue lights flashing.

We are sick of being treated like enemies in a warzone when we walk down the street.  A lot of us are fed up and, in the spirit of SlutWalk, we’ve decided to do something about it.

Jane Doe has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago and the two police officers who allegedly raped her, charging ten counts of assault and battery, failure to intervene, and conspiracy.  Doe’s attorney told Chicago Public Radio,

The city shares some of the responsibility and some of the blame for not having a good system in place to deter misconduct because of the failure of supervision and discipline.

Chicago advocates and allies agree.  This author is working with a highly energized, passionate group to help organize around police violence.  We want effective, thorough investigations into every allegation, oversight, accountability, and an end to cultural impunity for violence.  We want Chicago to know that a victim of rape is never to blame — especially when the assailant wields a gun, a baton, a tazer, mace, and a badge.

If you experience harassment or abuse at the hands of a law enforcement officer, call the National Sexual Assault Crisis Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE).  You may want to consider filing a complaint against the offending officer with the Independent Police Review Authority, in which case you should contact an attorney immediately.  If you’re not interested in pursuing action through the justice system, contact this author to participate in victim-centered, community-based strategic action and organizing around police violence in Chicago.  And stay tuned for updates as Chicagoans organize!

Why We Need SlutWalk

In January, Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti spoke at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, sharing a few safety tips with the community.  One tip in particular resonated beyond the crowd that day: “I’ve been told I shouldn’t say this,” Sanguinetti said, “however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

In response, about four thousand people marched on April 3rd at SlutWalk Toronto, outraged about the harmful myths and stereotypes that perpetuate widespread sexual violence.  SlutWalk satellites have quickly spread from Canada to Australia, Chicago, the UK, South Africa, and beyond.  SlutWalkers are helping to create a global rally to end sexual assault and challenge rape culture, and we are fed up with the unwillingness of authorities like Sanguinetti to work toward the same ends.

It is fundamentally disturbing that any law enforcement officer would openly advocate policing female sexuality as a means of preventing violence against women.  Disturbing, but sadly not surprising.  The recent media backlash against SlutWalk provides some insight into how thoroughly victim-blaming attitudes inundate our cultural discussions about sexual violence and confirms the timeliness and absolute necessity of SlutWalk’s mission.

Anti-pornography activist Gail Dines might’ve been the first of many major media contributors to distract from the movement’s goal in order to broadly criticize SlutWalk for using the pejorative word “slut.”  Clearly the word is problematic, but who is Gail Porn-Makes-Men-Rape-Says-Me Dines to tell you what you can and can’t find empowering?  And shouldn’t she be more worked up about the police constable who called rape victims “sluts” than the handful of SlutWalkers who’re sick of being told that enjoying sex means that they deserve to be raped?

Dines nicely paved the way for Fox News’ Sean Hannity to assure his audience, “I don’t think you can ever blame the victim, ever,” then proceed to blame the victim.  There’s this infuriatingly out-of-touch and open display of racist nastiness from Margaret Wente at The Globe and Mail, in which rape is not a problem for anyone anywhere ever – except in South Asian and aboriginal households cuz racial minorities are super rapey.  Then of course there’s the endless stream of opinion pieces about how “slut” is not a word worth reclaiming, blah blah.  Cool, thanks for the press – ya’ll are still missing the point.

Whether you personally choose to reclaim the word “slut” or not is sort of irrelevant since embracing sluthood is not a prerequisite to protest rape and rape apologism.  SlutWalk is an exercise of solidarity: everyone is at risk to sexual violence until our culture gets it shit together, stops teaching that sex is evil, and starts teaching that rape is wrong.

This is an international public and political display of thousands upon thousands of people uniting to end rape.  Shut up about how protestors dressed for five seconds and just appreciate how long it’s been since your country has done anything even remotely like this. Or better yet, get out from behind the computer and organize an even better, smarter event to protest violence in your community.  I will be there, bright and early.  I’m serious, I’ll even carpool with some of my anti-violence allies.

Is the SlutWalk movement perfect?  Of course not, but no social movement is. And even now in its infancy, I don’t think anyone honestly believes that SlutWalk is the magic pill that will unfuck our society — hopefully the movement will continue to grow in strategy and diversity. But the media has wasted the better part of a week trying to wedge apart feminists on different sides of the debate and clutching its pearls at the droves of “scantily clad” women taking to the streets, all in an effort to shout over SlutWalk’s more nuanced messages about violence and sexuality.

No one deserves to be raped, ever.  Just because someone asks for sex does not mean they “ask for” rape.

When our culture talks about rape prevention, the word “responsibility” recurs constantly but rarely in reference to the person doing the raping.  When we engage victim-blaming attitudes, we make it harder for victims of sexual assault to come forward and report a serious violent crime, we become complicit in the unwillingness of authorities like Constable Sanquinetti to help victims and pursue allegations with the gravity they deserve, and we make the world a safer place for rapists.

This is exactly what SlutWalk aims to change.

SlutWalk has placed an international spotlight on an otherwise silent social problem.  Thanks to these community organizers, privilege, violence, consent, and sexual autonomy are being openly discussed across many diverse communities.  Even if it’s a clumsy discussion, I for one am glad people are having it.

Badass-Activist Friday presents JESSICA SKOLNIK of SlutWalk Chicago!

It’s Friday, and we all know what that means! Interviews with your favorite badass feminists and activists. Whether social media queens and kings, creative artists, sex educators, or just kick-ass personalities, these people harness righteous anger, instigate movements and inspire culture change. We’re here to honor them and their work, but more importantly, to highlight how we can all get up, plug in, and Just Start Doing.

Feminism is an wide-ranging movement, and we at WIYL feel it’s so important to include activists working to broaden our perspectives and work in negotiating the complexity of intersectional oppressions, making the voices of marginalised groups heard. For this mini-series, we’ll be focusing on men and women who critique the gender hierarchy across all boundaries – cultures, race, age and medium.

So without further ado…

Here’s Jessica Skolnik of SlutWalk Chicago!

Jessica Skolnik is a Chicago activist, community organizer, musician, blogger, zinester, and all-around bad-ass.  Together with Jaime Keiles, Jessica is co-organizing SlutWalk Chicago, an international grassroots response to widespread victim-blaming and rape culture, on Saturday, June 4th at the Thompson Center Plaza.  Jessica is also an enthusiastic member of the Sexual Health Education to End Rape (SHEER) Collective, a new survivor centered, sex-positive coalition in Chicago, and the resident shredder of synth in the post-punk band Population.  Jessica’s spent the last ten years organizing several communities for sexual assault survivors and administering an educational workshop on enthusiastic consent, rape culture and issues of sexual assault within small communities, specifically within punk communities.

What’s your philosophy of anti-violence?

Violence is not just personal but structural. We live in a society that glorifies violence to the point where many of us are inured to it. I see interpersonal violence as often encouraged and exacerbated by a struggle for control and power that stem from structural inequalities (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc). Yes, we need to educate ourselves as to how to deal with specific and personal incidents, but we will not seriously change this society toward nonviolent ends until the entire playing field is leveled.

How did you become involved in anti-violence work and community organizing?

I am a survivor of multiple incidents of sexual assault and relationship violence. Combine that with growing up in DC in the early ‘90s with parents who encouraged my burgeoning interest in the DIY punk scene, and you have a recipe for a young riot grrrl who learned everything she could from the older activists at Positive Force and other activist collectives. I read as much as I could, learned as much as I could, and listened as much as I could.

Eventually I realized that activism would help me heal and allow me to help others. I realized that healing from trauma doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and connecting with other survivors is part of that process. I drew from my academic background in labor history and cultural studies, and I started thinking about how I could use my knowledge of organizing and education to change the dominant culture.

One of the sexual assaults happened when I was barely 13.  I brought the incident to my counselor at school who encouraged me to report it to the police. It was one of the most dehumanizing experiences I’ve ever encountered with bureaucracy — and that’s saying something. They questioned me in a way that implied that I was at fault — I didn’t behave like a “good girl,” I wasn’t dressed “correctly,” I was sexually active at a young age and I had “led them on…” It was as far from the myth of the supportive, understanding police from Law and Order: SVU as possible, and there was no follow-up on my report.

After I digested the pain and dealt with the feeling of being violated all over again by people who were supposed to help me, I realized that traditional structures may not be the answer for everyone. I decided that I would spend the rest of my life involved with alternative community organizing by other survivors and active advocates.

I’m really interested in the strategy and skills behind working within subversive counter cultures to create culturally relevant narratives of sexual violence. What strategies do you use in your workshops to help create punk communities free from rape and sexual violence? What are some obstacles to anti-violence work specific to punk culture?  Are there specific persistent attitudes or beliefs that have helped to normalize rape within punk communities?

The first strategy I use in my workshop model is to systematically debunk myths and narratives specific to punk culture, as well as the ones we’re more familiar with in mainstream culture, and examine how they are all connected. Punk communities are obviously not immune to rape culture, as much as we’d like to think we are.

One of the most pervasive myths about sexual violence in punk communities is that it’s not supposed to happen there, and that myth in and of itself is an enormous obstacle to ending violence. There’s this narrative that just because we’ve created this culture and community where the line between consumer and artist is less demarcated, where we control creativity as much as possible, that we’ve also created a world where oppression doesn’t exist. Anyone who’s spent even a cursory amount of time in the punk scene knows that’s not true. All the -isms and phobias from mainstream culture are still present, they just emerge a little differently – which makes them more difficult to recognize.

One thing that always baffled me is that, inevitably, when you bring up an allegation of sexual assault within the punk community, you’ll get an echo of voices asking why the person making the allegation didn’t call the cops. There’s a long history of punks resisting police brutality and police culture — it speaks volumes to me that the only time you’ll ever find punks trust the word of the police over the word of a fellow community member is when someone makes an allegation of sexual assault.

Nobody wants to believe that a member of a small, close community could perpetrate such a horrible act. There’s an immediate defensiveness that arises because the allegations are so serious. But violence happens at fests, within collectives, between activists and musicians… It’s hard to talk about rape when many of us don’t feel as if we have the right vocabulary for it. Regardless of our cultural participation in it, we still live in a world without adequate training about what consent looks like, what crossing that line looks like, and we need to trust the word of survivors. Yes, false accusations happen, unfortunately, but very rarely. The more we learn about consent and how to talk about it, the more equipped we are to support one another without immediately assuming that a survivor isn’t telling the truth.

How did you end up co-organizing SlutWalk Chicago?  What do you have planned for SlutWalk in Chicago, and what do you hope the event will accomplish?

I first read about SlutWalk on Tumblr through various feminist blogs as the Toronto organizers were putting together their event. I was outraged and frustrated by the persistence of this institutional attitude that I’d encountered when I reported to the police in 1992, the attitude that a survivor is responsible for an assault if she or he doesn‘t act in certain socially prescribed ways. I was inspired by all the photos and reportage from the Toronto event, and when Jamie Keiles (my co-organizer) posted on her blog that she was going to take on the challenge of organizing a satellite SlutWalk here in Chicago, I didn’t even think twice about emailing her to offer my organizing help.

We’re planning a really wonderful event here in Chicago — not just a march but a rally with live music, speakers, tabling by some of our ally organizations, and possibly other forms of entertainment. We’re looking into burlesque and comedy at the moment. We want this to be a chance to meet up with likeminded folks similarly interested in dismantling the culture of shame. SlutWalk will be a celebration of the work the sex-positive rape crisis and survivors’ community has done to change that victim-blaming dynamic and a celebration of our future potential as a united movement going forward.

We also have two after-parties planned, as we’d like to keep the momentum going from the event through the day. We’ve organized a patio party for directly after the walk at Zella. My band happens to be playing a show that night with two other great bands, Martial Canterel and Anatomy of Habit, and that’s our official after-after-party. There’s more information on our website as our plans unfold!

Has the reception for SlutWalk Chicago been pretty positive?  I’ve heard a lot of anti-violence activists question the use of the pejorative word “slut” for an event that’s supposed to be empowering… How do you respond to that?

I’m actually amazed by how positive most of the feedback has been — I was expecting a few more trolls, to be honest! Maybe they just haven’t come out of the woodwork yet, who knows. I credit the original SlutWalk in Toronto for paving the way and opening a dialogue.

The response from the anti-violence activist community has been roughly what I expected: positive but cautious. I was actually dubious about the use of the word “slut” when I read about the initial event and started organizing this one. At one point in my life, I was very much invested in reclaiming the word for myself, since I had been labeled a slut by others and found that reclaiming my enjoyment of sex was personally enormously healing. But that’s a goal I’ve found less personally profound over the years.

SlutWalk Chicago’s stance is that whether you find it personally empowering to reclaim the word “slut” or not, we stand with you. Using the SlutWalk name doesn’t just ally and align us with the work done by the amazing organizers in Toronto and all of the other satellites around the world, it really gives us a unique opportunity to talk about how sexual double standards and slut-shaming are cornerstones of rape culture and how a sex-positive attitude ties into the dialogue about consent, and I think that is enormously valuable.

What can our readers do to get involved with SlutWalk?  And do you have any advice for starry-eyed activists in-the-making?

Email us at slutwalkchicago@gmail.com to get on our volunteers’ mailing list. Ally your organization, business or blog with us! Print out the posters we have available and hang ’em everywhere. Invite your friends and post all over your social media about SlutWalk, connect with us on any number of social networking sites (all linked from our main website).  Enter our DIY SlutWalk poster contest!  We’re organizing a poster-making session before the walk, details are on our website.

Show up on Saturday, June 4th at the Thompson Center plaza (100 W. Randolph) for the SlutWalk step-off at noon! And if you are so moved, organize your own SlutWalk satellite in your city!

To activists-in-the-making: whatever cause and perspective you align yourself with, there is an enormous wealth of community resources and a world of movements to connect with, both locally and globally.  Before you strike out on your own trying to build a movement from the ground up, check out the work other folks are doing and see how you can get involved or build off of it. Listen and learn, as well as contributing your energy and ideas!

Remember to take care of yourself at every step of the process. Personal healing and growth are as much a part of an activist’s journey as larger community and cultural change. Everything is connected.

The Line Campaign is proud to ally with SlutWalk Chicago. We support SlutWalk’s mission to promote education about sexual assault and to make it known loud and clear that victims of violence are never the ones at fault and no one asks to be raped.

A revolution between the sheets

Nan Goldin, Simon and Jessica Kissing in the Pool, Avignon, 2001

To current and future lovers: I do not need to be coerced into having sex.

I know what you’ve been taught your whole life about gender roles and sexuality because I was taught the same lies.  Women never want it and men can’t get enough of it, right?  So this date is basically a game whereby you play your cards right and hopefully convince me to, well, give it up.  And women aren’t supposed to like sex anyway, so why should you care if I get off or even have a good time?  Then you win something and I lose something because that’s all sex is, right?  A zero-sum game or just an exchange of quantifiable goods, the act of one person conquering another, colonialism between the sheets… right?

Well, I don’t accept that.  It’s lazy and hopelessly antiquated – and dangerous.  Too many of our cultural narratives surrounding sexuality help to confuse sex with rape, and I see that crystallized in context more and more when I date casually.

Every time a new (usually cis male) partner tells me they’re surprised by how self-assured I am in my sexuality, I am reminded that our culture pretty much sucks at providing us with the tools we need to first recognize and then express what we actually want and enjoy from sex.  It’s not enough to assume consent to sex in the absence of opposition: if you don’t actively confirm that your partner is fully comfortable and enjoying every aspect of sex play, you’re doing it wrong.

I recently did something really outrageous, something I’ve never done with a partner before.  On a lazy rainy Sunday, we camped out in bed and created “Yes/No/Maybe” lists categorizing our comfort levels with different aspects of sex play.  I’m an adventurous kinda girl and I figure that, under the right circumstances, I could potentially be up for trying just about anything – which is obviously very different from saying I’m up for everything all the time.  So almost all of the sex acts on my list went under “Maybe,” which gave me and my partner an opportunity to talk about comfort levels for each act and explore fantasies surrounding those acts we’d never tried.  We discovered new intimate details about our selves and each other thanks to this amazing conversation about the fluid nature of consent and pleasure.

And readers, let me tell you that it was totally hot.

We have to talk about what makes sex great in order to have great sex.  It took me years to find a partner who asked me flat-out, “What turns you off?  What turns you on?  What gets you off?”  Great sex can be as simple as laying it all out at the beginning of a sexual relationship. Until I really thought about it and discussed it with someone who actually wanted to make me feel good, I didn’t realize how critical the basic question of pleasure is to healthy, consensual, great sex.

When we communicate with our partners about consent and pleasure, we create a precedent, and not just between us, also between the people with whom we have sex in the future.  When we talk about how to have great sex, we’re talking about how to not rape.  If I’m with someone new and the conversation seems more difficult, I always say that this is a learning experience for both of us.  And if they don’t agree, they’re just not ready.

Unlearning those lies about what sexuality should mean and what sex is supposed to be can feel impossible.  Defining your line and creating your own unique narrative about sex is a process of self-exploration.  It takes time, endless patience, mindfulness, constant movement, and speaking truth to power.

There are few things more empowering than knowing that you own your sexuality, and the journey is truly revolutionary.

When victim-blaming gets desperate

There are rare instances where a rape case gains national notoriety not for a high profile defendant, but the slanted and unscrupulous media coverage surrounding it.  Small town Cleveland, Texas has thus entered the national spotlight, thanks in part to a sloppy story by the New York Times.  The bizarrely desperate victim-blaming that’s inundated both media coverage and a community’s response to violence has helped crystallize some disturbing aspects of American rape culture.

Earlier this month, the Times reported on the small town’s reactions to a police investigation of 18 young men and teenage boys (13 adults and 5 juveniles), all of them charged with participating in a vicious gang rape of an 11 year old girl.  The very same day, online news forums and popular blogs immediately began protesting the article and its author, James C. McKinley Jr., demonstrating that the insensitive and regressive ways in which our culture talks about rape are often more revealing than any crime statistic.

In the first place, McKinley Jr. used passive voice to transfer agency from the alleged perpetrators to the child.  The men did not allegedly gang rape a little girl — “the girl had been forced to have sex with several men.”  See what he did there?  Clearly this is a tragic case of a middle-schooler getting herself raped.  Passive voice distracts readers from the act of gang rape as (1) a choice (2) made by grown men who (3) should know better.  Instead, rape is figured as a pit into which little girls will trip and fall: unfortunate but ultimately just an accident.  It’s a subtle but classic form of victim-blaming in rape case reporting, and there’s no justification for it.

Secondly, McKinley Jr. supplied ample sympathy for the alleged perpetrators through the myopic views of local rape apologists while failing to interview a single person who sympathized with the actual victim.  Nor did he confirm or deny the obvious conclusion that there is in fact something in the water that’s turned everyone in Cleveland, Texas into sadistic monsters.

Finally, in the most insidious instance of victim-blaming I’ve ever seen, McKinley details anonymous and entirely irrelevant accounts of the child’s behavior, suggesting that wearing makeup and “dressing older” than one’s age somehow explains how 18 men and boys could be “drawn into such an act,” as McKinley so underhandedly phrased it.  Frankly, the Times may as well have reported that the little girl ate a peanut butter sandwich the day those men chose to rape her for all the difference it makes.  A victim’s behavior has absolutely no bearing on a person’s decision to commit rape. The fact that one of our country’s most reputable news organization would entertain accusations against even a middle school-aged victim speaks volumes to our culture’s inability to place culpability where it really belongs.  It’s also very interesting that McKinley chose not to point out that, despite what the townspeople apparently think, the age of consent in Texas is 17 — what happened to that little girl is most definitely rape, there’s no question about it.

In response to a flood of outraged letters to the editor, a Times spokesperson released a statement arguing (predictably) that Mr. McKinley was merely reporting his findings of a community affected by a horrible crime.  But that argument doesn’t pass muster when you consider the fact that the article doesn’t provide any context for the Cleveland community’s vitriol by consulting a victim’s rights expert for an alternative view.  On a basic level, it is disturbing that any editor would publish a story documenting a town apparently populated by child rapist sympathizers without somewhere stipulating that sympathizing with child rapists is, well, really fucking immoral.

While almost 50,000 people have signed a petition demanding an apology from the New York Times, the article under question is just a drop in the bucket compared to how routinely victim-blaming is employed in popular discourse about sexual violence.  Even Florida Republican Representative Kathleen Passidomo has caught the victim-blaming bug in this case.  During a subcommittee hearing for an otherwise innocuous school dress code bill last week, Passidomo inexplicably announced,

There was an article about an 11 year old girl who was gang raped in Texas by 18 young men because she was dressed up like a 21-year-old prostitute. And her parents let her attend school like that. And I think it’s incumbent upon us to create some areas where students can be safe in school and show up in proper attire so what happened in Texas doesn’t happen to our students.

Yeah.  She went there.  This is what happens when you publish a story suggesting that a child is responsible for being gang raped, New York Times. It’s not rocket science, you assholes.

So clearly East Texas doesn’t have a corner on crazy: even state legislators think people will stop raping little girls if little girls just stop “dressing like prostitutes.”  But wait – shouldn’t that tell us something about the climate in which 18 boys and men came together in one room to gang rape a small child, a climate where not one of them said Stop This Is Obviously Really Wrong, a climate where countless classmates saw a “viral” video recording of the gang rape… but only one came forward to report it?  Instead of wasting all our time and energy policing the behaviors of potential victims, maybe we should consider the role that normalizing sexual violence plays in facilitating crimes like this in the first place.

At The Root, Kellee Terrell wrote about the divisive role of race in the victim-blaming surrounding this case.  All of the alleged rapists are black men and boys, which was evidence enough for Quanell X, leader of Houston’s New Black Panther Party, to cast doubt on the validity of the charges at a rally in Cleveland.  While it is a truly, well, discriminating anti-oppression activist who speaks out for the humanity of men and boys at the expense of a little girl, Terrell points out that the anti-racism movement has a history of rape apologism as an effort to counteract the myth of the sexually savage black man that fueled widespread lynchings.

And while, in 2011, African Americans no longer worry about public lynchings, we are consumed with fear about the prison industrial complex and an unfair American legal system. In the minds of some black folks, speaking out about rape means handing over our men to the oppressive “system.” Therefore we make a conscious (or unconscious) decision to sacrifice women’s well-being for the freedom of men.

The vitriol surrounding this rape case is a testament to our culture’s continued refusal to call systematic violence against women and girls a pervasive and preventable social problem.  Oppression is not possible without violence. When we stand up for survivors of violence and speak out against violence in all its forms, we take a step to dismantle oppression on behalf of all its victims.  When we respect each other enough to expect better from men, we remind ourselves that violence is a vestige of oppression, not a component of masculinity.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. That is the road to social change.  It starts everywhere, including your community.

Badass-Activist Friday presents HOLLY KEARL of stopstreetharassment.com

It’s Friday, and we all know what that means! Interviews with your favorite badass feminists and activists. Whether social media queens and kings, creative artists, sex educators, or just kick-ass personalities, these people harness righteous anger, instigate movements and inspire culture change. We’re here to honor them and their work, but more importantly, to highlight how we can all get up, plug in, and Just Start Doing.

So without further ado…

Here’s anti-street harassment expert Holly Kearl .

2-12-11 HollaBack Baltimore Party

Holly is the program manager at the women’s equity nonprofit the American Association of University Women. She is also the founder of the website stopstreetharassment.com and author of the book Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women. She regularly gives talks and writes articles about street harassment and recently founded the First Annual Anti-Street Harassment Day, on March 20, the First Day of Spring.

Let’s start off by defining street harassment – What is it and why should we care? How many people are affected? Who is affected and who’s doing the harassing?

Street harassment is sexual harassment that happens between strangers in public places. Most women everywhere in the world have experienced street harassment, commonly in the form of whistling, kissing noises, vulgar gestures, leering, unsolicited comments about your appearance, sexist or sexually explicit comments, demands for sex, blocking your path, following, masturbation or flashing, groping, and purposely rubbing up against someone in a sexual way. Street harassment can escalate to rape. In some cases, it’s escalated to murder.

There aren’t enough studies on the prevalence of street harassment, but the studies that exist show it impacts anywhere from 80 to 100 percent of women. I conducted informal online survey of 811 women from 23 countries and 45 US states and found that 99 percent reported experiencing forms of street harassment.

Gender-based sexual harassment in public spaces is largely perpetrated by men against women. While some women on occasion may harass men in public, gender inequality means that the power dynamics at play, frequency of the harassment, and the underlying threat of rape is rarely comparable. For these reasons, I primarily focus my work on men harassing women, though I certainly don’t believe anyone should have to face unwanted attention from strangers in public. While public harassment motivated by racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, or classism— types of deplorable harassment which men can be the target of and sometimes women perpetrate—is recognized as socially unacceptable behavior, men’s harassment of women motivated by gender and sexism is not. Instead it is portrayed as complimentary, a joke, “only” a trivial annoyance, or women’s fault because of what they were wearing or the time of day they were in public. One of my goals is to change the social acceptability of gender-based street harassment. Despite what the larger society thinks, this kind of harassment has a very real impact on women’s lives by reducing their sense of safety and comfort in public and thus influencing them to limit their time in public.

How did you get started in street harassment research and education? Was there a specific experience – personal, academic or professional – that confirmed your passion for this work?

While researching a master’s thesis topic I read about a new website called HollaBackNYC that encouraged women to share their stories about street harassment online. I had never heard the term street harassment before, but I immediately recognized it from my own life. In public places, men I do not know have honked and whistled at me, made sexually explicit comments, followed me, and one man even grabbed me sexually when I was on the street. In college, I experienced this type of harassment daily. I rarely talked about it and hadn’t made the connection that it was a form of gender violence

When I wrote my thesis, I found almost no books on the topic, so, a year after I turned it in, at the suggestion of my parents, I decided to start writing a book to help fill that gap. Each time I receive stories from women for my blog or when a woman shares her story in person, they reconfirm my passion for this work. Often it is their first time talking about street harassment, sharing their stories, and finding validation for being upset about what happened, and they remind me why this work is necessary. And each time I face harassment or one of my friends or family members does, it reminds me on a very personal level why this work matters and is important

As a street harassment expert, have you had any experiences or discussions or learned something that really surprised you about this subject?

Last month I came across a report on the website of the U.S. Department of Transportation that talked about how as early as 1909 people were advocating for women-only cars on the new transit system in New York City because of men harassing and soliciting women. I suspected that harassment on public transportation was nothing new, but it still surprised me. More than 100 years later, men harassing women on the New York City subway system is still a huge issue and that is why anti-harassment PSAs launched in 2008. But clearly we need to do more.

What are the consequences of street harassment, immediate or long term, on both a personal level and a broader community level?

The consequences of street harassment are actually quite serious. The more often a woman experiences harassment, or the scarier her experiences, the more likely it is she will take preventative actions like avoiding going near the place it occurred, avoiding being out alone at night, altering what she wears, and generally distrusting men that approach her. On the extreme end, I found that some women move neighborhoods because of harassers (almost 20 percent in my survey) and change jobs because of harassers along the commute (almost 10 percent of the women in my survey). Street harassment results in women limiting their time in public spaces and limiting their access to the resources there. Scholar Cynthia Grant Bowman calls this the “informal ghettoization of women” to the home. Women will never achieve gender equality with men as long as harassment keeps them from having that equal access to public places.

What do you think are the root causes of street harassment? What aspects of our culture facilitate or condone this behavior?

Some of the root causes for street harassment include societal disrespect for women, the objectification of women, and unhealthy definitions of masculinity that encourage men to harass not only women but also other men, particularly men who do not seem to adhere to traditional definitions of masculinity. The media truly is a prime example of this — from marketers that use women’s bodies to sell products, to industries that value women’s looks more than their brains or talents, to commercials that tell men what “real men” do or don’t do.

I also see a lot of reinforcement of these ideas from generation to generation. From older women or mothers who tell girls that the harassment is a compliment or that they should just learn to avoid it or ignore it, to men who harass women in front of their sons or try to bond with sons or younger brothers over objectifying and harassing women. Over and over, I encounter people who believe street harassment is a compliment and this really reinforces street harassment, silences women who experience it, and give men a free pass to continue to do it.

In my experience, street harassment can be a really scary and dehumanizing experience. It’s also really frustrating because it happens so abruptly and we’re so conditioned to keep to ourselves in public spaces, it’s hard to know how to react safely and effectively at the time harassment occurs. What can victims do to counteract harassment and reclaim power? Can you recommend some strategies for our readers?

At minimum, it’s really important for targets of harassment to recognize that it’s not our faults and that nothing we’ve said or done is causing the harassment. This is a societal problem. Recognizing it’s something most women deal with can inspire, enrage, and empower us to do something about it.

In general, thinking about something you can say or do that challenges the behavior of the harasser in a non-violent, non-aggressive way (no insults or profanity because that is more likely to escalate the situation) works well. Turning what the person said into a joke, simply telling them to stop or back off, asking them how they would feel if a man treated his sister/mother/girlfriend/wife/daughter that way, or announcing to people around you what he just did are all examples of what to say.

Also, if the person works for an identifiable company, report them to their company! I’ve read several success stories from women who have reported construction workers or delivery truck drivers and the harassment stopped. And if you’re on a bus or subway, report the harasser to the driver or transit manager. I’ve also received several success stories where harassers are kicked off the bus or told to leave the subway car.

Are there opportunities for victims to pursue legal action against street harassers, here in the United States or elsewhere around the world? Are there any individuals or organizations working to make this happen?

Yes, often if the harassment is extreme enough that it makes you fear for your safety or fear attack, depending on the state or city laws, you can press charges for public harassment. The limitation is that this usually requires repeated harassment and threatening behavior. Also, since there are often laws against public lewdness, if someone flashes or masturbates on you, you can report it. And if someone gropes you or assaults you, then you can report it under assault charges.

On an international level:

- The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights is working with members of parliament to pass a new anti-sexual harassment law that would include harassment occurring in public spaces.

- In Delhi, India, there is a law that encompasses a lot of street harassment behaviors. Since January, police have been cracking down on harassers (“eve-teasers,” as they call them). During the second week of January, I read that they arrested 26 harassers in one area for “passing lewd remarks at women.” There have been a lot of suicides among young women in Bangladesh because of street harassment. In response, last year the police started actually enforcing a law that encompasses street harassment behavior, and last spring the first harassers were arrested under it.

- Since last spring, the UK Anti-Street Harassment Campaign (ASH) is lobbying politicians to take on the issue of street harassment and pass better laws.

What can our readers do to stop street harassment and prevent it from happening in the first place? What can men do to support efforts to end street harassment?

It’s so important to break the silence on this topic, so just talking about it, sharing stories, and sharing strategies is essential. Talking specifically to young women or young men you know is really important in preventative work: let them know what is or is not acceptable and teach them how they can respond in an empowering way so they do not feel victimized.

In my book and on my website I really break down what we can do into four main categories: educating men, empowering women, raising awareness in our communities, and creating anti-street harassment campaigns.

Men can learn about this issue from the women they care about. Ask a woman what experiences she’s had and how they have impacted her life. Men can be good bystanders when they see harassment occurring, though it’s important to use non-violent, low aggression tactics rather than inadvertently escalating the situation. And, most important but also the most difficult, they can challenge sexist talk and not promote or reinforce harmful gender definitions.

What is unique about your approach to street harassment and how do you work with other organizations to the same ends?

A lot of the work that I do is raising awareness about street harassment and providing ideas to people for how they can help end it. My website and book are depositories of knowledge on the subject that include resources. I take a comprehensive approach to street harassment in my work, including a historical perspective, exploring the intersections of gender + race, class, sexual orientation, dis/ability, examining that through a global lens, acknowledging that not all women view street harassment the same way, and looking at why some men are street harassers and how definitions of masculinity treat that harassment as socially acceptable behavior. In fact, a lot of what I do is idea sharing. I collect what people have used and done and share those ideas so other can find inspiration for taking on street harassment in their community. One example of this collaborative aspect occurred when I met with Emily May of HollaBack and Oraia Reid of RightRides in 2009 to interview them for my book. I mentioned some of the activism going on internationally, including that Egyptian women were developing a system so people could report harassers via cell phones. Emily and Oraia loved the idea and a year and a half later, the HollaBack iPhone and droid apps were released. I work with other organizations to promote their work and include them as resources for others. I’ve also had the opportunity to collaborate with groups like Girls for Gender Equity, and Men Can Stop Rape for community events on street harassment, and I hope there will be more opportunities for collaboration in the future.

If you’d like to participate in the first ever Anti-Street-Harassment Day, on March 20th, more information here!

Chicago public forum on violence a mixed bag

On Tuesday, I went to Chicago’s first ever mayoral candidates forum on violence against women and LGBTQ people.  All of the candidates for Mayor of Chicago were invited to answer questions and outline their plans for addressing issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and hate crimes.  Interpersonal violence is an extremely important issue for political candidates anywhere because it’s a widespread social and public health problem – in fact, Chicago women are five times more likely to experience domestic violence than any of the most prevalent communicable diseases.  Moreover, violence prevention and intervention are deeply entwined with the policies and practices of municipal systems like public education, law enforcement, and government funding.

Candidates Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins, Carol Moseley Braun, William “Dock” Walls III, and Miguel Del Valle addressed a packed auditorium of concerned citizens and local experts.  Unfortunately, mayoral candidates Gery Chico and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel didn’t bother to show up.  This despite the fact that the Chicago Public School Board recently called domestic violence and sexual assault “top agenda items” that the future mayor should address.  I guess Rahm and Chico don’t agree.  Or anyway, their scorecards from Gender JUST certainly indicate that’s the case.

I’m not sure what I was expecting going into this historic event, but I left feeling disenchanted with the game of politics and thinking about how much work goes into bringing awareness to interpersonal violence.  In the first place, the candidates didn’t exactly speak to their audience, many of whom were seasoned experts from Chicago’s most respected anti-violence organizations.  With a couple exceptions, it was pretty clear that they were uninformed and uncomfortable speaking to the topic specifically, especially where the LGBTQ community was concerned.

Carol Moseley Braun referred to “non-traditional people,” and Walls ruffled the audience when he said “violence against people with unusual lifestyles,” then bizarrely insisted that he was referring to panhandlers (slightly NSFW for the ads).  Moseley Braun also suggested (inexplicably) that the abundance of crisis hotlines providing services in the Chicago area poses a “barrier to access” because victims don’t know which one to call.  That was especially obtuse considering the obvious advantage to having specialized crisis services since everyone experiences violence and trauma differently.  Add to that the fact that Chicago enjoys a huge queer population but still does not have a rape crisis hotline meeting the specific needs of LGBTQ victims or a single emergency shelter for men who are abused by male partners, and Moseley Braun’s proposal to “reduce redundancy in services” seems a little imprudent.

The candidates veered off topic to make broad strokes about economic policy, spoke exclusively about street crime rather than the more common violence that happens behind closed doors, reiterated a “zero tolerance” policy for violence (a loaded phrase that makes some activists squirm for its roots in the prison-industrial complex), and favored vague generalizations to clear, pragmatic solution strategies.

Like most first-times, it was awkward and unsatisfying.  But there were a couple of thought-provoking highlights.

Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins, who has a strong background in community organizing, proposed using evidence-based models like Cease Fire to engage communities in preventing violence before-the-fact.  She said that violence against any group is everyone’s problem.

Miguelle Del Valle pointed out that an annual spending package of $275,000 for every rape crisis center across all of Cook County is “not enough, not even close, that’s a tiny drop in the bucket,” and promised to advocate for better funding as mayor.  He also suggested that a cultural change needs to start by embracing diversity, and as long as Chicago is racially segregated, our 77 communities cannot unite as one city to end violence.

In light of February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, the candidates were asked if they agreed with the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women’s recommendation to require public schools to develop lesson plans in dating and sexual violence prevention education.  All of the candidates agreed that this should be a requirement, except Carol Moseley Braun.  She suggested that parents be allowed to let their kids “opt out” of programming and noted that the lack of sex education in general and the current rate of 1 nurse for every 725 public school students are more urgent matters.  Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins poignantly suggested that the message of nonviolence be completely integrated into each school’s lifestyle, not just limited to one class requirement.  “If you put the students in a room and give them a dose, they won’t absorb it,” she explained.  “It needs to be part of their lifestyle, so it sticks with them.”

While attendants may not have been completely satisfied by some of the candidates’ answers on Tuesday, one thing’s for sure.  Everyone recognized that this forum was absolutely essential in the ongoing effort to educate the public and engage community leaders in open, honest discussions about violence. I’m very grateful to the candidates who took the time to address this issue and the anti-violence groups who organized this important event. What is your city doing to create a nonviolent environment? Do public forums like this happen where you live?

Nation Mourns, Looks for Answers Following Tragedy in Tucson

A vigil outside Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' office in Tucson. From the Christian Science Monitor

I’m from Tucson, Arizona.  This is not something I readily admit to people, especially those I meet for the first time here in Chicago.  This is mainly because I don’t want anyone to assume I’m a racist, homophobic, gun-toting, birther meth addict just because my state (like many others) is widely criticized for housing a fair number of ‘em.  In fact, by and large, Tucson is far more politically moderate than most of the rest of Arizona.  So when I sat down with a cup of tea to read the news on Saturday, my stomach hit the floor.

Twenty-two year old Jared Loughner opened fire at a community event in a grocery store parking lot not far from my neighborhood in Tucson on Saturday afternoon, killing six people and wounding 14 others.  Among those killed are Judge John Roll and a nine-year-old girl with the face of a little angel.  Democratic Rep. of Arizona, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the head and is alive and in critical condition, at the same hospital where my nephew was born.  She is the third woman in Arizona’s history to be elected to Congress.  Loughner was apprehended at the scene and was charged with attempted assassination in court on Monday.  Apparently, he went to Pima Community College (PCC), where my brother is earning his degree.  In September, Loughner was suspended for multiple disruptive incidents leading to campus police intervention.  At the time, PCC recommended that Loughner “obtain a mental health clearance indicating, in the opinion of a mental health professional, his presence at the College does not present a danger to himself or others.”  No word yet on how that panned out or why the recommendation didn’t come with a court order.

In the wake of violence, it’s natural and understandable for people to search for reasons why someone would do such a thing.  Following an inappropriate but understandably heated comment from Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, many writers and radio hosts are blaming “toxic” rhetoric from the political right.  In the New York Times, Paul Krugman wrote that the vitriolic language and escalating tension from the far right is at fault for inciting violence.

Last spring Politico.com reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.

Krugman names Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly as potential culprits.  Others have highlighted Sarah Palin’s use of that problematic target graphic.  In an article for The Guardian, Jessica Valenti points out that this persistent rhetoric of violence in politics is a cornerstone of our culture’s obsession with violent masculinity.  It’s clear that eliminationist rhetoric has skyrocketed in the U.S. since swaggery man’s man George W. Bush employed such charmingly medieval epithets as “evildoers” and “crusade” to justify war and, as Susan Faludi demonstrates, exploited our country’s Puritanical ideals about the gendered roles of protector and dependent to pursue it with such zeal.

But as long as we’re identifying potential causes of violence, I think we also need to take a closer look at the culpability of broader systems that continually fail to provide adequate and widely accessible mental health care to people in need.  Let’s talk about the estimated four million Americans who are believed to have severe psychiatric disorders.  Let’s talk about how few of them have emotional support from friends or family, and how when they turn to the state for help, they get stuck in a revolving door and usually come out empty-handed.  Let’s talk about the serious lack of federal funding for mental and behavioral health.  Or the fact that, even if you have insurance, odds are it won’t cover mental health.  Or, you know, we could talk about how the American Dream is sort of crumbling under the reality of our recession, and maybe the pressure is weighing on some people more heavily than others.  Let’s ask how many missed opportunities there were to keep Loughner from hurting these people.

It’s easy to blame sensationalists like Palin, Beck and O’Reilly for extreme behavior.  But obviously not everyone who listens to them will take a semi-automatic weapon on a murderous rampage.  It’s easy to label Loughner a “nutjob” and tuck him away under maximum security somewhere.  Then we can just forget about him since he’ll no longer be a threat to society — that’s what we do with criminals, “out of sight, out of mind,” right?  It’s a lot harder to assess the serious flaws in those institutions responsible for providing the kinds of social services that prevent violence from happening in the first place.  Doing so requires massive policy reform and fundamental soul-searching in the ways our country treats those afflicted with mental illness.

Krugman also writes,

The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.

I have a serious problem with calling an incomprehensible tragedy like this “inevitable”, even if it’s to make a broader political point with which I might agree.  Sorry, no, this was not inevitable.  I will say it again and again and again: Violence is never inevitable.  Watch the news in the next couple of days: we will start hearing reports from friends and family lamenting early warning signs, maybe we’ll hear about the bureaucratic red tape Loughner may have faced if he did seek help.  I am personally very distraught about the shooting, as I’m sure are many of our readers.  But this violence was absolutely, 100 percent preventable.  As we learn more details about the circumstances surrounding that day, I encourage readers to think carefully and critically about the failed systems that allow Loughner and others to fall through the cracks.  As always, I encourage readers to challenge the ways in which our culture facilitates and contributes to acts of violence, and I encourage readers to promote positive social change.

Please send your thoughts and prayers to those whose lives have been impacted by this tragedy.  If you are inspired to make a positive gesture at this time, Rep. Giffords’ husband has suggested making a charitable donation to one of her favorite charities.  If you are thinking about hurting yourself or someone else, or if you’re in crisis and need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).  If you’d like to share any thoughts or personal experiences with mental health services, please do so in the comments — this is a safe space, we value and welcome your input.

WikiLeak’s Julian Assange, rape charges and the court of public opinion

Espionage! Government misconduct! Political intrigue! International notoriety! Rape, molestation and unlawful coercion – Wait, what?

Julian Assange has gained international notoriety for his role as editor-in-chief for WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website.  People are torn on his website’s impact and his work – is he a threat to international security (like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contends) or a muckraking hero upholding freedom of knowledge by disclosing shocking misconduct?

One aspect of Assange’s fugitive status is relatively cut-and-dry: in September, a Swedish court reopened a sex crimes case against him, and he’s steered clear of Sweden ever since. Alas, it seems that Assange and his lawyer, Mark Stephens, have gone to great lengths to ensure that the rape charges are tried in the court of public opinion rather than a court of law.

Here’s a run-down of the case.

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Buyer’s Remorse and the Buck Rape Controversy

Ken Buck, rape apologist

The legal process for a sexual assault case is a long and often harrowing experience.  In Illinois, where I live, once the State’s Attorney (the same elected position as a District Attorney) finally decides to prosecute based on a police investigation of a sexual assault, that case can take one to two years before it even goes to trial.  And it’s no secret that our “justice” system ultimately offers little justice for victims of sexual assault.  According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, of the 40% of sexual assaults that are actually reported to the police, about 15 out of 16 alleged rapists walk free without spending a day in jail.

The legal system is broken, thanks in part to people like Ken Buck, current Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Colorado.  Buck and other legislators have taken it upon themselves to make the legal process as difficult as possible for victims of sexual assault and as safe as possible for rapists.

As District Attorney, Buck refused to prosecute an essentially open-and-shut rape case in 2005, despite the fact that the suspect admitted to raping the victim in both the police report and a police transcript of a taped phone call.  Most rape cases come down to a he-said-she-said situation, which can make prosecuting the case very difficult.  But when a police investigation finds that the suspect apologized to his victim, admitted the victim was drunk, unconscious and said “no” several times, and admitted that what he did was rape — in fact, that the suspect’s story is completely consistent with the victim’s story…  Well, prosecutors dream about getting cases like this.

So why did Ken Buck refuse to give the victim a chance to prosecute the man who raped her?  Because Buck does not want to end sexual assault.

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