I am evidence – real sexual assault cases are lagging

One of the longest running shows on American television is “Law and Order – Special Victims Unit” starring Mariska Hargitay and a terrific ensemble cast. The SVU investigates and hopefully solves heinous sex crimes in New York City. Unfortunately, real life SVUs are woefully understaffed, underfunded and behind.

It is not ironic that Hargitay has co-produced with co-director Trish Adlesic a documentary film called “I am evidence,” which focuses on efforts to remedy a US backlog of over 200,000 untested rape kits. That is not a misprint. The film is co-directed by Geeta Gandbhir and focuses on efforts in Detroit, Cleveland and Los Angeles.

Only eight states require the testing of every rape kit – Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. This boggles my mind as women who have been sexually assaulted and beaten went to great pains to be tested after being raped.

Two of the focal points of the film are Wayne County (Detroit) Prosecutor Kym Worthy and a reporter for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland named Rachel Dissell, who each brought attention to the backlogs in their two cities. With a spotlight on these travesties, gained funding and oversight, they are making huge headway in their local problems. But, it is more than local as many of the DNA samples have revealed serial rapists and repeat offenders  across state lines.

Many of these untested kits are ten years and more overdue. It also became clear by not testing these kits, more woman were raped. One rapist was a truck driver who raped many women across the country for years. And, in one chilling example, one serial rapist would abduct, hold, abuse and kill his victims. When arrested, the police found multiple women’s bodies in his home. One of the victims was able to escape an earlier abduction.

Letting the previous paragraph sink in will likely make you ill. The scarcity of resources is appalling. It also led to a prioritization of cases often based on race and notoriety of the victim. Worthy noted rape kits should be tracked, since these victims went to a lot of effort and remained unclean for hours as they were subject to tissue and semen sampling and verbal examination. One women said she was made to feel guilty as she answered questions – why were you there at that time, eg?

Worthy noted “If you can track a package when you order something from Amazon, then certainly you should be able to track a victim’s rape kit through the criminal justice system.” Is that too much to ask?

The good news is the progress that is being made. It is never too late and it goes without saying lives are being saved, some dignity restored to the victims and future rapes can be avoided. Please download “I am evidence,” and watch this important film. We owe it to the current and potential victims. And, as one oversight committee member noted, the success rate on testing the kits made every dime well spent as the DNA data leads to convictions and takes a rapist off the streets.

 

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Institutions and Organizations must do the right thing

My daughter is a college junior at a small college. She is flourishing in her environment and we could not be more proud. She has an enviable sense of right and wrong.

Right now she is frustrated with her college for failing to act when confronted by a sexual harassment claim by someone at the college. It was just reported the young woman and her family are suing the school and four officials. Apparently, the now former student’s harassment continued after she made her complaint with others joining in because her assailant was an athlete.

On top of this, Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education rescinded an Obama era requirement on colleges and universities to be more accommodating to those who file complaints. Now, more onus is placed on the victim to come forward, which will further stymie complaints.

Quite simply, institutions must stop protecting their image and do the right thing. In so doing, they will help their image by getting to the bottom of things. The Catholic Church greatly harmed themselves for decades by masking a huge problem. Penn State University failed to address a homosexual pedophile in one of their coaches after being aware of it for years.

Congress needs to do better at addressing sexual misconduct in their midst. And, our military, while doing better at addressing the tens of thousands of sexual misconduct claims, must take the added step of taking the investigation out of the chain of command or they will never reach where they need to be.

These numerous colleges and universities must do the right thing. Our daughters and sons deserve to be protected and their complaints heard. I told my daughter if something bad happens to you at the college, she should not go to the college police or town police and report it to the nearest city police. I believed this before I heard the latest news of the lawsuit.

Truth be told, small colleges are under significant financial pressures. Her college may have added to their pressures with a lawsuit which could have been avoided. Leaders must do the right thing. And, one thing they can start with is not look to leadership on this issue from the US Commander-in-chief. His reputation for sexual misconduct is renowned.

The more common sexual misconduct

Sexual misconduct awareness is arguably the story of 2017. Men of renown or in public service have been called on the carpet for past misdeeds, almost always losing their jobs or status. Yet, the more common stories are the countless male managers, supervisors or peers in a host of industries, retail stores, restaurants, manufacturing plants et al, who have preyed on women (and men) simply because the victims were powerless.

On Friday, a story hit the airwaves about Ford manufacturing plants where managers sexually assaulted and harassed female workers. Several allowed a culture of sexual harassment to occur and be perpetuated by peer male workers. A couple of examples stuck with me. A woman starting work would hear “fresh meat” being yelled at her by her male peers as she walked into the plant. Another woman said she had to sleep with her boss to get a schedule that would permit her to drop off and pick up her child from daycare.

For every Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Bill Cosby or Donald Trump, there are thousands of men who abuse their power and sexually harass women every day. The women have little choice as the jobs that pay the same are scarce. Or, they may be working for the main employer in a small town. So, many have to make a decision to acquiesce to a manager, put up with that environment or leave. Reporting the issue to HR may prove futile or backfire on the woman, especially if the employer has more clout in a small town.

Fortunately, more voices are being heard. We are at a tipping point, but it will have to be a long game to make the needed dramatic impact. As citizens, we must hold our leaders accountable. It matters not what tribe they belong to, meaning political party. As employees, we must not perpetuate or condone a sexual harassing environment, nor can we remain silent if we know of sexual assault.

The “times they are a changin” sang a Nobel prize winning songwriter in the 1960s. It could be sung now as well. But, maybe the anthem from a female songwriter from the early 1970s should be loudly vocalized. Helen Reddy sang, “I am woman hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.” Amen, sister.

Side of the Angels – Richard Shelby

I am not a huge fan of many of the positions of Republican Senator Richard Shelby, the senior Senator from Alabama. He tends to unyieldingly favor the banking industry at the expense of better regulations, for example.

Yet, I must give him a huge shout out for his political courage yesterday. He went on a televised political talk show to state his opposition to Senate candidate Roy Moore in his home state. He noted that he will not be voting for Moore saying the Republican Party can do better than this and he feels there must be a fire under so much smoke of sexual assault and harassment of teen girls. He will be writing in the name of another candidate.

I sent him note complimenting his courage as he will likely be unmercifully demeaned by the President, Steve Bannon and other Republicans. I mentioned the President has no currency on this issue. I told him he is on the “side of the Angels” on this and should be commended.

If Moore wins, there are four big losers. Our country loses as we seat a Senator who was banned from a mall for his trolling of young girls. Doubting Alabama voters should ask themselves why that happened? The state of Alabama loses as this is the third recent episode of sexual impropriety or corruption in elected officials, the latest being the previous Governor who had to resign.

The other two losers must be noted. Common decency loses. Our leaders need to be the best of us, not the worst of us. The office is more important than the incumbent, so when it is defamed, the incumbent needs to resign.

The final loser would be the Republican Party. With an incumbent President who has admitted to and boasted of sexual assault that he has been accused of and Moore, this makes the party look extremely poor. The image will echo for some time and should.

So, kudos to Senator Shelby. You are trying to serve your constituents and your oath.

Some men in power are running scared right now

If you are a man in power and have used your power to sexually harass or assault a subordinate colleague or third party, my guess is you are running a little scared right now. Sexually assaulted and harassed women (and men) are more empowered to tell stories that have eaten away at them for years.

Ex-judge and Senate candidate Roy Moore keeps asking why are these women coming forward now? Really? First, you apparently assaulted and harassed these women as impressionable teens and used your power as local DA to silence them. Second, you are interviewing to be a Senator of the United States. But, just read the news and you will know why these women are coming forward now.

Yet, if he did join the Senate, he will find some company in the halls of Congress on sexual assaulting and harassing women (and men). At least two have been noted to have either disrobed in front of a female staffer or French kissed one on the floor of Congress. Now, Senator Al Franken has been accused of sexual assault for inappropriately kissing a woman shortly before becoming Senator.

Then, there is the current President who has been accused by sixteen women of sexual assault, some who came forward before he was caught on the Access Hollywood tape admitting to such groping because he could get away with it. Yet, what failed to garner attention is the man admitted twice on the creepy Howard Stern show that he liked to walk in on unclothed beauty pageant contestants because he owned the franchise. That would include teen girls in the Miss Teen USA pageant. This, by itself, should have made him lose the election. It is too bad Harvey Weinstein was not accused last year, as that would have sealed Trump’s fate as the sexual assaulter he has admitted to be.

Yet, Hillary’s husband was also a known philanderer. I don’t know if he assaulted them, but he did use his power to garner attention. Bill Clinton will be remembered for being a good President who balanced the budget and under whom more jobs were created than any other President. But, he will also be remembered as a skirt chaser. To her credit and resolve, Hillary stood by her husband, but I hope she slapped the crap out of him when he needed it.

If our leadership dishonors their position, regardless of party, they need to be held accountable. A Speaker of the House was forced to resign a few years ago for taking advantage of young wrestler he coached and he paid for silence. If we have members of Congress who have sexually assaulted women or men, then they need to do the right thing. The same holds true for Roy Moore and should have held (and should still hold) true for the Man in the White House.

If some of these leaders are worried about future accusations, they have no one else to blame. As for the ex-judge, my guess is there will be more to come forward.

A little bit of this and that – the sad and farcical

Political news is quite sordid these days in both a sad and farcical way. My purpose is to show how absurd politicians can be as they try to “unsay” things or just outright lie to distract from painful truths. This is not meant to diminish anyone’s pain caused by the underlying events. That is real and these politicians should be held accountable.

Here is “a little bit of this and that” to illustrate the farcical nature of various politicians’ statements. In no particular order:

– The US President said and tweeted many interesting things on his road trip. One of my favorites is his distaste for Kim Jong-Un calling him “an old lunatic.” Trump tweeted he did not like being called “old.” So, by omission, “lunatic” must not have been offensive to him. Trump said he would never call Kim something bad, yet he seems to forget he called Kim “Rocket Man.”

– A close second favorite set of comments by the President is when he said he believed Putin about not hacking one day (even calling our spy leaders “government hacks”) and then tried to explain all of that away the next day, after these so-called hacks stuck to their intelligence and said Putin is lying. Trump seems to not realize we heard him the day before. Call me crazy, but employees don’t like being called hacks by their boss.

– Ex-Judge and Senate candidate Roy Moore apparently had a period of time in his 30’s where he liked dating (and admitted to doing so) young women beneath the age of majority. He has been accused by two women for sexual assault on a minor and three others for his failure to understand that as an adult, he would have been guilty of statutory rape had he consummated these relationships. He said he did not know one woman, but she has his signature in her yearbook. Mr. Moore, you would do better by not talking. But, you will get more chances to consider what you say as more women come forward.

– A Trump staffer tried to show his indignation toward Moore saying there is a special place in hell for people who do what Moore has been alleged of doing. I find that interesting, especially when his big boss has been accused by eleven more women than Moore (so far) of sexual assault and has admitted on three separate occasions on tape that he liked to grope women because of his power and liked to walk in on undressed beauty pageant contestants because he sponsored the show and felt that gave him the right. It should be noted, that one of these pageants was Miss Teen USA. 16 women allege Trump sexually assaulted them. The other stories of admission come straight from the horse’s mouth.

– I do want to take the time to note that ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner is behind bars due to his propensity to woo women by sending a picture of his private parts via his IPhone. The women’s response were likely twofold. “Why would he think that would be a successful wooing strategy?” And, “Could he be that stupid to send this picture electronically where it could be traced?” Apparently, he failed to understand these points and he finds himself in jail.

Well, that is enough political entertainment news for now. Like the Trump accusations, this Moore thing is not funny, as this alleged pedophile could still win if too many Alabaman Republicans don’t remember where they put their conscience. My strong advice is to think of this issue as a parent or, in the case of the inane defenses I have heard from some men, as a father.

For those who say these women are being politically motivated, Moore told these teenage girls he was the DA and no one would believe them. They have come forward as this man is interviewing to become one of the 100 most important leaders in our country and they feel emboldened by the women accusing Harvey Weinstein. I believe them as their stories are quite detailed and painful.

 

 

Women have made huge strides, but why are too many still being raped and harassed?

Two different stories this week frame an important issue. First, I read an article that said 15% of undergraduate women who attended the University of Texas at Austin had been raped. That is appalling.

Second, Bill O’Reilly has been re-signed under another Fox contract. This is after a story of five settlements of sexual harassment claims were unearthed by The New York Times. It should be noted the network who signed him let go Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News, for similar sexual harassment issues, but felt so badly they did not do it for “cause” and he was punished with a $38 million go-away settlement. Since O’Reilly has a following, his sexual harassment must be less relevant to the network.

These two stories come on the heels of the US Marine Corp sexual harassment scandal and the Baylor University football team rape scandal through a hostess recruiting program for players. And, we should not forget our President has admitted on at least two occasions that he sexually harassed or assaulted women because of his celebrity and power.

Women and girls are maltreated around the globe. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s powerful book “Half the Sky” graphically describes sexual slavery,  trafficking, mutilation, domestic violence, rape and second class citizen treatment. But, we have sexual slavery, trafficking, domestic violence, rape and harassment here in the Western world, too. Former President Jimmy Carter wrote of this in his book “A Call to Action,” which is an excellent follow up to the Kristof/ WuDunn book.

Western women have made huge strides in gaining more opportunity, yet the level of sexual maltreatment has seemingly risen. Perhaps, it is due to more rapes and harassment being reported. Or, maybe it is  due to women being framed as sexual objects though advertising, marketing and entertainment media. Sexual harassment and rapes continue to be a huge problem for the military (even before the Marine scandal) and college campuses.

What do we do about this? We need to say very loudly this is not right. We need to  come down hard on leaders and institutions who have looked the other way. We need to vote with our feet and not attend universities who don’t have their act together.

We should not vote for politicians who have maltreated women. I am still stunned that our President was elected after more of his sexual harassment was revealed. In my view, there were several reasons not to vote for him, but how could anyone do so after the Howard Stern interview and Access Hollywood tape became public?

To lessen this maltreatment, it has to have more than women’s voices behind the effort. All of us need to stand up to people and organizations that maltreat women or look the other way. Women hold up “half the sky,” so we all benefit by treating women like we want to be treated.