Afghanistan’s Parliament Tables Violence Against Women Act Vote

On Saturday May 18th, 2013 the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament delayed a vote on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) act. No date was scheduled for a future vote. Previously this legislation was simply an executive decree issued by the President in 2009 which can be overturned after the next presidential election, depending on who is elected. Passing it through Parliament would solidify the legislation.

(image from http://www.fawziakoofi.org)


Many reasons were given as to why the act was so furiously debated prior to the delay, but the most prominent reason seems to be that the legislation was “un-Islamic.”

Citing things like:

“keeping the legal age for marriage 16,

providing shelters for victims of domestic abuse,

and limiting the number of wives permitted to two instead of four.”

Now, I disagree with the notion that equality is inherently “un-Islamic,” but as I am not an Islamic scholar I’m going to direct you to Google phrases like ‘Islamic Feminism’ or ‘Muslim Feminism’ because there is some really cool stuff out there about the intersections of feminism and Islam. Or you can even check out the Wikipedia page on it! However, that is an entirely separate article.

Also, honestly, I am somewhat perplexed about the idea that having two wives is somehow more secular than having four wives. But, I digress.

But before we start condemning the Afghan government for their gross neglect of women (which delaying the vote was), let us keep in mind that the United States House of Representatives let our Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expire for an entire year before finally reauthorizing it in 2013.

And that we also got gems from our politicians, like Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) who explains her opposition to the reauthorization due to the bill being too inclusive, “When you start to make this about other things it becomes an “against violence act” and not a targeted focus act… I didn’t like the way it was expanded to include other different groups.”

Yes, because having an act against all types of violence would be bad?

But we shouldn’t give up on all of humanity just yet.

Fawzia Koofi is the woman we have to thank for the introduction of EVAW to the Afghan Parliament. And she is very cool.

She currently heads up the women’s committee in the Lower House. But don’t think that’s where her ambitions end. Koofi is also planning on running for president in the upcoming 2014 election. All of this in spite of the fact that the Taliban has tried to assassinate her because of her aspirations.

So don’t give up hope because there are amazing women all over the world doing incredible things.

Here, as a present, is Fawzia Koofi talking to Jon Stewart on The Daily Show:

Good Reads for SAAM and Beyond

As April 2013 comes to an end here in New Jersey, I’m noticing all kinds of changes: the days are longer, I don’t need to allow extra time to scrape ice off my windshield in the morning, and, most importantly, we are wrapping up Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) 2013. According to the font of all knowledge (more commonly known as Wikipedia), this year marks the 12th year SAAM has been observed nationally in the United States.

Just because we have a month dedicated to raising awareness of sexual assault doesn’t mean we can’t raise awareness year round, and what better way to do it than read a book? For those of you who know the joys of commuting via public transportation, this is a great opportunity to spring for a hard copy of something with a shocking title so you can frighten and/or enlighten your fellow commuters.

Reviving Ophelia

by Mary Pipher

In Reviving Ophelia, Pipher does not focus exclusively on rape culture, but as a practitioner who has worked with adolescent girls throughout her career, she makes some important observations about the messages we give girls compared with the ones we give boys.

I first read this book in college, and one part that sticks with me is Pipher’s reflections on how girls approach the world around them. Up until 9th grade, girls are openly curious about how things work and enjoy math and science. After 9th grade, they become more apprehensive about the world around them. It’s also interesting to note that Pipher points out that girls tend to identify more closely with others they perceive as vulnerable.

We need caring and nurturing people, but it shouldn’t just be up to women to be caring and nurturing. When that happens, all girls and women become are the people who take care of someone more important.

Pipher’s case studies and observations illustrate these points in a powerful way. So if you have not read this book yet, I definitely recommend it.

I Never Called it Rape

by Robin Warshaw

This is a terrific choice if you want to scare creepers on the bus with a book title, but you might weird-out some of the other folks while you’re at it. Still, whether you choose to read it on your commute or in private, it’s essential. If you are reading this blog, you probably already know that “date rape” is the most common form of rape most women experience. Warshaw supports the premise that date and acquaintance rape is a pervasive problem through data gathered through surveys as well as statistics from the Department of Justice. If you need to prepare a talk for students or a community group, this is a great resource for statistics and definitions. Warshaw also includes a helpful section on how to help someone who has been sexually assaulted.

Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking the Link Between Masculinity and Violence

by Myriam Miedzian

The title really says everything you need to know about what this one is about.

What I love most about Miedzian’s work is she bases all of her conclusions on research instead of adages that let perpetrators off the hook. She also offers suggestions for parents, teachers, and anyone else working with young people.

Manifesta [10th Anniversary Edition]: Young Women, Feminism and the Future

by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards

If you are sticking your toe into this whole feminist movement thing for the first time, Manifesta is a good introduction to what has happened, what has been done, and what still needs to happen. Also, it has a lot of good information about the hard facts about the status of women in the United States: legally, we are not equal to men. Consequently, there are still some really bizarre laws on the books about things like the right to own property and other interesting things.

This book could make you a little paranoid, but you will be better off and stronger for it.

With that, I empower you to go forth and read!

This Is An Enthusiastic Consent Appreciation Post

Picture the scene: you’re about to have sex. Good for you! But before you get going, there’s something you’ve got to do first. You need to get enthusiastic consent from your partner.

via The New School

April is designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year’s campaign is about preventing sexual violence through conversation, and the tagline is: “It’s time… to talk about it! Talk early, talk often. Prevent sexual violence.” The focus is on child sexual abuse prevention, but it’s a lesson that can be applied to sexual violence prevention in general. The characteristics of healthy sexuality need to be taught so risks and harm can be identified. The sex education that children and teens receive places a lot of focus on STDs and contraception, and not enough on actual sex and its workings. If kids don’t know about consent, how can they respect it or practice it? If kids don’t know what assault is, how can they prevent it?

So, back to you, and your imminent sexual experience. You know, I hope, that if they said “no”, you need to stop, because anything you do after that point is rape. But you also need to realise that consent is much more than simply saying “no”. “No” can mean a myriad of things. It can mean that the person is too scared, too shy, too embarrassed to say anything else. It can mean that they’re too intoxicated to say anything at all. And if you have sex with someone who doesn’t want it, because you didn’t make absolutely sure that they did, then that makes you a rapist too.

We need to not only place a greater focus on consent, but move the focus away from “no means no” to “yes means yes.” Because “yes” really is the only thing that means “yes.” Silence doesn’t mean “yes.” “Maybe” doesn’t mean “yes.” “I don’t know” doesn’t mean “yes.” In fact, as far as you need to be concerned, they all mean “no.”

Unless someone gives you enthusiastic, informed consent, then you need to assume that they do not want to have sex with you, and until you receive that “yes,” you should not be trying to have sex with them. Even if they’ve been making out with you all night. Even if they told you that they wanted it earlier. Even if you’re in a relationship. Even if you’re married. Even if you’ve already had sex with them. Even if you’ve already had sex with them that night. Nobody is guaranteed sex with anyone, and nobody is obligated to have sex with anybody. You need to make sure directly before you have sex that whoever you’re with still wants it. And that includes not assuming that, if, say, they consented to oral sex, that they consent to sexual intercourse. Or that if they consent to having vaginal sex, that they consent to having anal sex.

Basically, you need to talk to them. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

So maybe you don’t get it. But that kills the mood! It’s not sexy, it’s awkward, to ask these sorts of questions. Which is funny (not really), because the fact that getting consent is considered so unsexy and awkward can be attributed to the pervasiveness of sexual assault in the first place. I mean, what could be more sexy than knowing that the person that you want to have sex with wants to have sex with you? Unless you want to rape, or, unless sex is something that you feel entitled to. All it takes is a simple question, a simple “wanna fuck?” or an “are you into this?” And what it achieves goes so much further.

But we’re in a relationship/we’re married, you say. I know their body language well enough. Which might be true. In fact, it’s possible to guess that someone you’ve never met until that night consents, judging from the signs they give off, too. But don’t take anything for granted. You can’t make assumptions, and like I said, it could result in you being a rapist. The fact that this could even be considered a worthwhile exchange for not asking one little question says way too much about society.

It’s a vicious cycle, too. If consent is considered unsexy to attain, then it must be considered unsexy to give. And if you feel obliged to have sex, and that the consequences of not doing so are worse than doing so against your will, why would you report that as rape? Make no mistake: it is. And this is why we need enthusiastic consent. More generally, this is why we need to talk about healthy sexuality, and why we need to teach it.

Consent, or the absence of it, is at the heart of sexual violence. It needs to be at the heart of ending it, too.

If you are interested in learning more about consent and healthy sexuality, the below resources are a great place to start:

Project Respect, a youth-driven program aimed at preventing sexualised violence

Sexual Assault Awareness Month’s 2012 campaign resources on Healthy Sexuality

Sexual Assault Violence Prevention, Vassar College’s initiative for the prevention of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking on its campus

+ If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse of any kind, please don’t hesitate to talk to someone. Contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) for help and for resources.

Enough is Enough: Ending Negative Uses of Social Media

“You’re a slut.”

“Will you have sex with me?”

These are just two examples of the harassing and victim-blaming text messages that Rehtaeh Parsons received after pictures taken of her being gang-raped were sent out to her peers. The harassing messages were not limited to texts, but also spread on social media networks, like Twitter, where it has been noted ‘friends’and strangers alike publicly shamed her.

Rehtaeh was taken off life support on Sunday after attempting to commit suicide. News has spread, and the outrage is high, but only now, after her life has been tragically cut short. The story of Rehtaeh Parsons does not raise ‘new concerns.’ At this point, we are well aware of the potential harm of social media, evidenced by the numerous cases of cyber-bullying over the past few years. But her story sheds light on the dire consequences of choosing not to act.

More on that choice soon.

In the age of Twitter, communicating has never been easier, and never more dangerous. The 140-character limit of Twitter lends itself to fast and terse statements on everything from reactions to a new film to attempted conversations with celebrities to cruel and vicious bullying. Twitter, and most social media platforms, provides the ability to communicate with any individual, or to reply to any given topic. While this can encourage positive discussions, there are also drawbacks. While a name may be attached to a tweet, the individual is veiled. A person-to-person interaction is no longer necessary to tell someone how you feel; your feelings can be posted for all to see. This removes accountability from the equation. Or rather, true accountability. While I do not know for certain, I am sure those who bullied Rehtaeh may have thought about their words  more carefully before speaking to her in person.

Laws against cyber-bullying have been introduced, but there has not been much action. In this particular case, according to an article on Think Progress, authorities dismissed the use of the virally disseminated photos as evidence because “they couldn’t prove who pushed the photo button on the phone.” Rehtaeh’s mother noted the lack of a serious reaction from the police, even when it was made clear Rehtaeh was fifteen at the time the photos were taken, meaning they constituted child pornography. While the laws, in theory, may have caught up to the times, those who represent the law nullify this bit of progress. If those in authority do not take cyber-bullying and rape seriously, how will the public?

After reading about Rehtaeh’s story, it is easy to become overwhelmed. However, if we are to ever see a world where rape culture and cyber-bullying are issues of the past, we must speak out and foster change. This is the choice I referenced earlier. While this story deals with the negative aspects of social media, there are many positives as well. Utilizing social media in positive and constructive ways can make a difference! Here is a small list of things you can do to make a positive impact in honor of Rehtaeh:

  • Write your state’s members of Congress or local government officials, asking if the police and judicial authorities in your area have to undergo training specifically centered around cyber-bullying and sexual assault. While there should be programs in place, it does no harm to bring these issues to the forefront for our political leaders.
  • Speak with your local high school/college about hosting an awareness event about cyber-bullying, sexual assault, consent, and/or healthy relationships. Contact a local Rape Crisis Center, and ask if they have any programs they can present.
  • If you see something, say something. If you see a friend being harassed on social media, or if you know it has been happening via text (or in anyway), let someone know. Don’t take matters into your own hands, and use careful judgment. It may not be appropriate to engage in conversation with those perpetuating the bullying. Speak with someone you trust.
  • Or if you are being harassed, please speak with someone you trust. While you may feel ashamed, those are unwarranted feelings.
  • Do not let someone else’s judgment of you affect if you will tell or not.
  • Talk with others. Reach Out provides a safe and anonymous space to discuss issues, such as the ones mentioned here and others, that you may be facing. However, use caution when navigating any forum. While the discussions can be assuring in knowing you are not alone, reading about the experiences of others can act as a trigger. When posting, make sure to begin yours with “trigger warnings,” or keywords. These alert readers to the content, helping them decide early on whether they are comfortable with proceeding. These forums are available at www.reachout.com
  • Lastly, if you are present at the scene of a crime (i.e. rape, gang-rape), do something. Again, use caution and careful judgment, but contact the police. Do not be a bystander to a crime.

If you or a loved one is struggling with any of the issues mentioned in this post, do not hesitate to speak with a trusted adult. If you do not feel comfortable doing so, please refer to the contact information listed below for organizations.

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network): This organization  provides the National Sexual Assault Hotline, which will connect you with your local Rape Crisis Center. Your call is anonymous and confidential, and a trained representative will answer any question you have, or simply provide a listening ear. The number is 1-800-656-HOPE. RAINN also provides an online hotline, which can be accessed through their website at www.rainn.org
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-TALK. Their website also lists helpful resources, such as a services locator for therapy and counseling.

“Vaginas of Justice” Link Roundup: The Feminist Porn Conference and Awards

Howdy Feminists, and welcome to a good ole fashioned link round up about a not-so-ole-fashioned topic. The Eighth Annual Feminist Porn Awards took place last week, accompanied by the First Annual Feminist Porn Conference, an off-shoot of the Feminist Porn Book. The FPA is sponsored by Good For Her, a feminist toy shop, and has been around a while – their mission and history, as quoted from their website, is a noble one:

At Good For Her, we are feminists and we sell and rent porn. In 2006 we decided that it’s not enough to criticize adult films for not adequately representing the diversity of women’s, trans folk’s- and in many cases, men’s – sexuality. So we decided to do something about it. As porn star and performance artist Annie Sprinkle famously said“The answer to bad porn isn’t no porn…it’s to try and make better porn!”  Good For Her couldn’t agree more.  We acknowledge that what one person finds “bad porn”, another may enjoy.  We also believe that erotic fantasy is powerful, and that those who do not identify with the mainstream offerings deserve to put their dreams and desires on film, too.  As feminists and sex-positive people, we want to showcase and honour those who are creating erotic media with a feminist sensibility that differs from what porn typically offers.

The Conference, while organized separately, is an academic approach to this same issues regarding the  portrayal of female sexuality in pornography. Both events are presented by the movers and shakers taking back the porn industry and transforming into (super hot) tools for sex education and accurate portrayals of what we do in bed. Together these two events present a really well-rounded, industry-driven view of women making and participating in porn.

Because we couldn’t all fly out to Toronto and participate (sad face to the max!), here are some links to talks, videos, press and photos from this amazing duo.

Award Show063

Check out all the pictures from the Feminist Porn Awards 2012 on their Flickr page (and that’s where the lovely pictures in this post came from, just fyi).

And you’ll probably want to take a look at all the winners, because they’re all awesome – for instance, 50 Shades of Dylan Ryan, directed by Madison Young and just about guaranteed to be better than that book we shall not talk about, won for Hottest Kink movie. Infidelité by Ovidie took Movie of the Year, and Jiz Lee is (of course) 2013’s Heartthrob (how could they not be?). Jiz also provides a list of the winners that includes links to their mentioned work on their website.

Award Show137

Rachel Kramer Bussel has an essay about the FPA on the Daily Beast entitled Organic, Fair Trade Porn: On the Hunt for Ethical Smut:

The very act of defining “feminist porn” is one that’s still up in the air. Certainly it’s not the Sheryl Sandberg endorsed book Porn for Women, with its wink-wink photos of hunky topless guys doing housework, which was exquisitely skewered by online comic xkcd, nor is it “a man and a woman meet at Planet Organic after a gender studies lecture, discuss intersectionality over vegetarian food, and then go back to her flat to bone on last Sunday’s Observer,” jokingly offered up by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter in The New Statesman.

Now onto the academic side of things:

The Feminist Porn Conference has a list of all their sessions and panels. And Dr. Carol Queen, staff sexologist at Good Vibrations, has her own play-by-play of the Conference. And Emily Nagoski, director of Wellness Education at Smith College, posted the entirety of the essay she presented at the conference, entitled Vaginas of Science, Vaginas of Justice: Representations of Healthy Female Sexual Functioning in Feminist Porn. One of the creators of the Feminist Porn Conference and one of the editors of the Feminist Porn Book, Tristan Taormino, has an excellent recap of her experiences. And Courtney Trouble has an essay on Feminist porn and “Anti-Feminist Pornographers” entitled Feminist is Not a Dirty Word: and other thoughts on porn.

Award Show127

Know of any other corners of the internet where the Feminist Porn Awards and Conference are being discussed? Leave it all in the comments and enjoy jilling off to this changing industry.

We Need Your Words: A Call for Writers

Movements are about voices. THE LINE wants yours!

i took this photo at my day job, so copyright carmen rios

We’re seeking new writers for the campaign blog; members of the blogging team will be expected to contribute regularly (on a self-declared and -designed schedule, but ideally once a month to once a week), and can publish on a series of topics including feminism, media, sex, sexuality, and rape culture. Anything ranging from personal essays about sex and consent to write-ups on ongoing rape hearings or ripping apart terrible media coverage of the same will be accepted with open arms. Writers can pitch their own stories or wait to see what I dig up and pass around. Candidates will hopefully be totally badass, come bearing valuable activist or writing experience, and know how to work within WordPress to write and edit their own posts before submitting them to me.

Although writers aren’t compensated, I can promise you the following as blog editor: an opportunity to grow as a writer and little working bee, a chance to immerse yourself in a cause you care about, and the ability to speak your mind to an audience of millions around the world growing every day. And did I mention the outpourings of love? Because I am really great at emailing people outpourings of love.

If you’re interested, email me – rios.cmarie+writers [at] gmail [dot] com – and attach a resume and writing sample. (I know the email looks crazy but just do it: “rios.cmarie+writers @ gmail.com.”)If you don’t have a writing sample from print media or another blog, please write one! Seriously. Just go ahead, pick a news story from another outlet, and write about something as if you were writing it for us. Length of your samples doesn’t matter. Don’t write a cover letter because they make me sad, and I think it’s unfair how much time it takes to write one. Just send me a paragraph about who you are and your favorite flavor of ice cream instead.

If you’d just like to contribute casually or submit a single post, we have a way for you to do that right here! The Internet is amazing.

Applications accepted through April 1.

Circle of 6 iPhone App Launches Today!

“Thanks to the creativity of these developers, young people now have a new line of defense against violence in their lives.” – Vice President Joe Biden

We’re so excited to announce that Circle of 6, the free anti-violence app  is launching TODAY, March 20th!

Dating violence and sexual assault are widespread problems among young women, with nearly 1 in 5 reporting assault while in college. With only two taps, Circle of 6 connects users threatened with possible sexual assault and abuse to a network of trusted friends, using GPS technology, anti-violence online resources, and a commitment to support each other: “I won’t let violence happen in my circle.”

We are thrilled by the great press we’ve received so far from: Cosmopolitan, MTV Act, The Christian Science Monitor, The NY Daily News, Cult of Mac and more!

We’re incredibly proud of this all volunteer, 100% DIY, feminist project! Our team includes me, Nancy Schwartzman, Deb Levine of ISIS-Inc., Thomas Cabus our designer and Christine Corbett-Moran, our developer. Check out our anti-violence resources, Circle of 6 video, and iPhone download at circleof6app.com.

Please help us spread the word! On Twitter, use the hashtag #C6, or use one of these pre-written tweets:

Prevent sexual violence with @circleof6app, the free, award-winning app from @thelinecampaign & @ISISorg #c6 www.circleof6app.com

Apps Against #Abuse contest winner @Circleof6app has launched! Pledge to never let violence happen in yr circle: www.circleof6app.com #C6

.@VP Biden says @Circleof6app is “a new line of defense against violence” for young people. Get it free at www.circleof6app.com #c6 #fem2

On a date that just won’t end with someone who’s giving you the creeps? Use @Circleof6app to get out safely: www.circleof6app.com #C6 #fem2

Never get separated from your friends on a night out: @Circleof6app uses GPS 2 help u find each other & stay safe. www.circleof6app.com #C6

.@Circleof6app puts your friends at your fingertips, helping you stay close & prevent violence b4 it happens circleof6app.com #C6


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!

The Line Needs YOU: seeking MANAGING EDITOR for WIYL blog.

I’ve been working here at the Line for some time now, but I’ve really only recently been struck hard by the fact that, well, The Line Campaign is important. With every screening we do, and every person we touch, we open the floor to new voices, opinions and increments of effort towards winning the fight. And when I say ‘the fight’ I don’t just mean an end to violence against women, but ending preconceptions about sex, desire and relationships – because things just aren’t that simple. This is is a forum to complicate, a channel to different points of view.

A few weeks ago, I read about the Long Island murders, and it was written that someone said – ‘when a reporter asked, ‘What can sex workers do to prevent violence?’ I said, ‘Well, maybe people could not kill us.” I cried because she told a story about a feeling that I felt too. I realised then that I joined The Line as an intern last year not just because I wanted to share my story, but because I wanted to help others tell theirs. When Latoya Peterson in her interview talked about bringing feminism to different, other worlds, it rang true for me, but this certainly wasn’t the case for others. That kind of difference is what makes this place unique – Nancy’s commitment to storytelling rings true and has been the reason such a diversity of voices have an opportunity to contribute to better understanding how and why we should care about these issues – whether reproductive justice, street harassment or sexual assault. That’s what this blog is for, a space where each person’s words, however arranged, matter. It’s important that it continue.

I’ve learned so much and had so much fun as managing editor of the WIYL blog over the past couple of months! Unfortunately, as I move on to graduate school, and begin pursuing other projects in community building in the literary arts, I’ll have a limited amount of time – and have had to make the sad decision to leave my post here.

And so, we’re looking for our next managing editor – someone invested in listening to stories and making sure they get them out there for others to read! We’re looking for you to become a leader in this community, to rally passion, relate it to our message, and foster always, more conversation in social media.

Responsibilities will include:

– managing a team of bloggers and creating their schedule

– finding news stories and relevant events to suggest to bloggers for coverage

– working to ensure a steady flow of content, on schedule

– editing and copyediting posts before publication

– researching news sources and ensuring you stay on top of current events

– keeping everyone excited and ‘on message’


– enthusiasm, patience and creativity

– familiarity with wordpress and social media (twitter, facebook, myspace, tumblr)

– an open mind to all kinds of stories, opinions and experiences

– ability to juggle multiple tasks under deadline

– ability to communicate clearly and effectively, both verbally and in writing

– ability to work independently and with minimal supervision

– comfortable working on outreach to guest bloggers

– passionate, dedicated, and hoping to have fun

I can’t recommend working with our team enough, because stories are important, and I believe that if we keep telling them relentlessly, we’re sure to be heard.

If you’re interested, please contact Nancy and me at thelinemovie [at] gmail [dot] com, with ATTN: Trisha Low in the subject line. Provide us with a sense of your experience, your background, and why you want to help. No official requirements insisted upon apart from strong organisational ability and desire to stay current and keep delivering great content. This position provides a small stipend, but is rewarding and provides opportunities to work with activists, artists and youth. Managing editor can be located anywhere and work is estimated to be 5-7 hours a week.

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.

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