Apr 232014
 

More Federal Concern on Sexual Violence on Campus

April 22, 2014
By Inside Higher Ed

U.S. Department of Justice officials will visit about a dozen colleges this week and next to speak with administrators, police, students and others “about how best practices and lessons learned are plying out in areas such as prevention, public awareness and peer support,” the office announced Monday. The 11 colleges are recipients of the DOJ Office on Violence Against Women’s grant program “to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking on Campus.” The grant money is used for prevention programming and training, education, and creating “a coordinate community response to enhance victim assistance and safety while holding offenders accountable.”

The 11-campus tour starts Wednesday at North Carolina Central University and ends May 1 at California State Polytechnic University. Also next week, Obama administration officials are expected to comment publicly on the findings of a task force charged with recommending ways to better handle sexual violence on campuses. The report should provide a glimpse into forthcoming federal legislation.

Also on Monday, the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) released a letter that she and a handful of lawmakers (from both sides of the aisle) sent last week to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The senators suggest requiring that colleges conduct annual, anonymous surveys about sexual violence; that the U.S. Education Department appoint one person to oversee all national policy on sexual misconduct on campuses; and that the department’s Office for Civil Rights be more transparent about ongoing campus investigations by issuing updates and creating a searchable database.

Source: insidehighered.com

Apr 232014
 

Lawmakers Broadening Their Focus to Fight Against an Array of Sex Crimes

By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
APRIL 21, 2014

WASHINGTON — As the high-profile congressional fight over military sexual assault recedes, lawmakers are broadening their focus to an array of sex crimes like college campus assaults, preying on child and human trafficking.

Unlike the military assault measures, these efforts — almost all bipartisan — have gone largely uncelebrated. But as a group they represent a far-reaching effort to combat sexual abuse.

“What’s unusual right now is that there are so many issues getting attention at the same time,” said Scott Berkowitz, the president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. “There is a growing sense that these are winnable fights. We are excited and trying to make the most of it.”

The legislative attention comes as the White House is preparing to release, as early as this week, its recommendations on how to stem sexual assaults on college campuses. The actions are in concert with efforts by state legislatures over a variety of law enforcement issues related to sex crimes, like a nationwide backlog of untested rape evidence kits. About half of the states are considering some form of legislation, Mr. Berkowitz said.

Further, Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York and a central player in the military sexual assault legislation, has asked the White House to direct the Department of Education to streamline the way it handles sexual assault complaints and to require all colleges to conduct standardized, anonymous surveys on campus assaults.

“It is simply unacceptable that going to college should increase your chance of being sexually assaulted,” Ms. Gillibrand said in an email.

The increased interest stems in part, experts and lawmakers said, from a confluence of conspicuous assault cases, such as the conviction of a Pennsylvania State University football coach, Jerry Sandusky, over his sexual abuse of young boys and accusations that a Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, raped a freshman at Florida State University, along with a growing body of evidence underscoring the prevalence of sexual violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five women say they have been raped.

Among the bills being considered by Congress is a measure offered by Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, that would tighten background checks on people who work in schools and ban the practice of helping to push child molesters out of one school district and into another. A similar bill has passed the House.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, is pushing a bill that targets sex trafficking in the foster care system.

“I am not sure Congress really knew how bad this problem is,” said Mr. Hatch, who added that he was inspired to draft legislation after hearing the testimony of a victim at a recent Senate hearing in which it was revealed that 60 percent of child sex-trafficking victims came from the foster care system.

“To me, it was heart-wrenching,” Mr. Hatch said.

Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, both Democrats, spent last week in Mexico as part of their efforts to address human trafficking across borders.

Ms. Gillibrand and Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, have turned their attention to sexual assault on campuses. Ms. McCaskill, a former prosecutor, plans to conduct a survey of 350 colleges and universities nationwide to monitor their handling of sexual assault cases. The two are among nearly a dozen senators seeking new federal funding to battle campus sexual assaults.

Both senators were leaders on legislation that would make the military more accountable in cases of sexual assault. Ms. McCaskill was successful with some measures this year, while Ms. Gillibrand’s efforts to remove authority over such cases from military commanders failed.

While sporadic legislation in response to high-profile assaults has been commonplace on the federal and state levels, the new legislation tends to have broader and more systemic goals.

“There has been a lot of attention in the last couple of years on child abuse and exploitation,” said Mary G. Leary, a law professor at the Catholic University of America and an expert on the exploitation of women and girls.

“But what is different about the most recent wave is this focus on the institutional role,” she said. “With the Sandusky matter, part of what horrified Americans was the institutional response, and that was true again with the military institutional response.”

In many cases, lawmakers were inspired by particularly high-profile crimes in their states. For instance, Mr. Toomey and Mr. Manchin came together over the case of a teacher in Pennsylvania who molested several boys; the school then helped that teacher get a new job in West Virginia — a practice known as “passing the trash.” The teacher was later convicted of raping and killing a 12-year-old boy there.

The senators’ bill would require that states perform thorough criminal background checks on potential employees who work with children, and ban the practice of recommending a known child molester to a new school. Last year, the House unanimously passed a similar measure. “I think it’s a moral imperative that we do this,” Mr. Toomey said on the Senate floor two weeks ago.

Mr. Hatch and Ms. Klobuchar are focused on the exploitation of young girls, often impoverished, who are lured into prostitution and later arrested, essentially dumping them into a criminal justice system from which they have little way to escape, even when they are too young to give sexual consent.

Among his provisions, Mr. Hatch seeks to eliminate federal matching money in many cases for some group homes, in an effort to reduce the number of those homes, where Mr. Hatch said predators often sought their young prey. The provision is almost certain to be controversial.

Ms. Klobuchar, who traveled to Mexico with Cindy McCain, the wife of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who has a longstanding interest in the sex trafficking problem, is modeling her legislation on Minnesota’s “safe harbor” laws. It would require states to treat child prostitutes as victims rather than as criminal defendants and help victims of sex trafficking participate in the Job Corps program.

“One of the things that is nice is when it comes to protecting children from sexual abuse, it is easier to find bipartisan agreements,” said Cathleen Palm, the founder of the Center for Children’s Justice. “We have made great strides in the sense that our politicians are more willing to have their eyes open to child sexual abuse.”

Source: nytimes.com

Apr 232014
 

University of New South Wales Ethics Committee Quashes Faulty Domestic Violence Study

Robert Franklin, Esq.

April 23, 2014

It was business as usual for the domestic violence industry in Australia. The industry for decades has tried to convince anyone who would listen that, when domestic violence occurs, it’s overwhelmingly likely that (a) there’s a perpetrator and a victim (b) the perpetrator is a man, (c) the victim is a woman, (d) she took no part in the violence, (e) his violence was part of an ongoing pattern whose purpose was (f) to terrorize and control her. They were puttering right along as usual, peddling the same old snake oil when a funny thing happened.

That was the song they were singing way back in 1971 and it’s the song they’re singing now. In the early 70s, when Erin Pizzey founded the first DV shelter in the United Kingdom, she immediately learned from speaking to the women in the shelter that 60% of them were as violent or more violent than the men they’d left. The nascent DV industry responded to Pizzey’s revelations by threatening her life and probably killing her dog. Pizzey fled to the United States, fearing the violence of the domestic violence industry.

Since then there’ve been literally thousands of studies of domestic violence throughout the English-speaking world and we now know a great deal about the subject. Essentially all of what and is now widely accepted about domestic violence contradicts the claims of the DV industry.

Professor Edward Kruk, in his recent book, The Equal Parent Presumption, summarizes our state of knowledge on domestic violence. His summary includes the following: “A meta-analytic review of family violence research of 250 empirical studies concludes that women and men perpetrate and receive abuse at comparable levels; women are as physically aggressive as men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners. Archer’s meta-analytic reviews found that women are more likely than men to use aggression toward their heterosexual partners and more likely to be injured by them…. Whitaker et al also found that half of all partner violence is reciprocal. There is, however, a trend of increasing female-to-male violence being noted.”

Other findings by various researchers cited by Kruk include: “women are six times more likely than men to use severe violence in dating relationships and inflict more severe violence in cohabiting and married relationships;” “violence by women is not primarily defensive, yet is less disapproved of than male-to-female violence. Female initiation of partner violence is the leading reason for a woman becoming a victim of violence herself.” The “central finding” of the Centers for Disease Control in its survey of intimate partner violence “is that men and women inflict and suffer equal rates of interpersonal violence.” Canadian data “indicate that there is twice as much wife-to-husband as husband-to-wife severe violence.” “Intimate terrorism is… relatively rare” occurring “in only 2 to 4% of cases of abuse to which police respond.” “Unilateral severe violence against non-violent partners was three times as common for female perpetrators as for male perpetrators.”

Further: “Men are treated more harshly by the law-enforcement system at every step of the process.” “Criminal justice statistics on family violence thus reflect systemic biases in the way police handle and subsequently record domestic violence.” According to Dr. Donald Dutton, “almost without exception, the research based upon studies utilizing a “gender paradigm” explanation of domestic violence uses samples drawn from battered women’s shelters or treatment groups for men who batter, which are then generalized.” This research methodology is “highly problematic.”

That’s just a small sampling of Kruk’s summary of what we now know about domestic violence. In a nutshell, the domestic violence industry is wrong about most of what it claims about DV and always has been. Back in 1971, that might have been an excusable byproduct of the lack of empirical data on the subject, but that’s no longer the case. Now we have both broad and deep knowledge about domestic violence, who does it, when, how and why. It is far past time that we stopped pretending that the domestic violence industry is either honest about the problem or competent to solve it. If we are truly serious about confronting the problem of domestic violence, we will junk once and for all the notion that it is a “gendered issue.” It’s not.

Once we do that, we can at last begin to take a constructive approach to the problem. Such an approach will surely treat DV for what it is – less a criminal problem than a mental health one. Yes, there are cases in which the criminal justice system needs to be involved. Those are the cases of intimate terrorism, i.e. long-term ongoing violence used by one partner against the other for the purpose of limiting the other’s freedom and autonomy. Those are “2 to 4% of cases.” Otherwise, the sane approach will be via psychotherapy, couples counselling and the like.

And of course the family court system will have to take a sensible approach to the issue. It will need to start vetting cases in which domestic violence occurs or is alleged. Few instances of DV truly indicate an unfit parent, but rather one temporarily stressed by the emotional issues of divorce. For the most part, only those cases of DV that constitute domestic terrorism should result in limiting a parent’s time with a child. And of course false claims of abuse must likewise be treated for what they are – attempts to deny parenting time to the other parent. For that very reason, those false claims constitute child abuse if the parent knows or has reason to believe they’re false. As such, they should be a factor in a court’s considerations regarding parental custody.

But the DV industry’s got its story and it’s stickin’ to it. Never mind 40 years of empirical data showing virtually all of their claims to have been false. The DV industry makes its living saying what it’s always said and politicians, too frightened of some phantom “female lobby” to behave rationally, keep the money flowing to ineffective anti-violence programs and faulty research.

And so it was in Australia. At the University of New South Wales, a “study” was underway conducted by segments of the domestic violence industry known as the Gendered Violence Research Network, White Ribbon Australia and Youth Action NSW. And, given that it was the DV industry that was doing the research, it comes as no surprise that the research is seriously flawed. Again, that’s what these people do, so why would we expect them to change?

But what does come as a surprise is what happened next. As we learn here, men’s health advocates complained to the University’s Ethics Committee and the said committee brought the hammer down on the faulty and biased research (Men’s Health Australia, 4/14/14).

An online ‘domestic violence study’ has been ordered offline by the University of NSW Human Research Ethics Committee.

Flyers published by the survey organisers have been ordered destroyed.

The study, being conducted by the Gendered Violence Research Network, White Ribbon Australia and Youth Action NSW, was found by the Ethics Committee to have breached the University’s code of ethics…

Chair of the Ethics Committee, Professor Heather Worth, found that a quote on the original flyers claiming that “childhood exposure to intimate violence increased the likelihood of intergeneration violence particularly amongst boys” was incorrect. The ethics committee has ordered that the flyers be destroyed and replaced by a new flyer that has correct information, including any quotes.

Professor Worth also found that the participants’ information sheet referred to by the survey was not accessible as claimed. The Ethics Committee has instructed that the survey be suspended until the link is in place.

That’s good news. It turns out that even the DV industry can be held to basic standards of honesty. Well, I guess there’s a first for everything. Up to now, they’ve just created facts out of thin air, written studies citing those facts and then cited the flawed studies to pretend the false facts have an empirical basis. That type of intellectual log-rolling may be coming to an end. The editor of Men’s Health Australia, Greg Andresen said,

“The incorrect statement in question was lifted directly from current White Ribbon ‘Fact Sheets’ that haven’t been corrected.”

For the DV industry, it’s business as usual. But a funny thing happened on their way to coughing up the same old nonsense – someone called them on it. Not only that, but someone with the power to do something about the nonsense had the integrity to put a stop to it.

Source: https://www.nationalparentsorganization.org/blog/21680-university-of-new-south-wales-ethics-committee-quashes-faulty-domestic-violence-study

Apr 232014
 

The Truth About “Rape Culture”

By JULIUS KAIREY
April 17, 2014

We hear a lot about “rape culture” on college campuses nowadays. The basic idea behind the concept is that there is a widespread tolerance of rape at Cornell and other universities, largely because society teaches men to disregard the importance of the consent of women in sexual encounters. To those who believe in “rape culture,” rape is not the result of a few bad actors, but is tolerated, even encouraged, in our college culture. Few people seem willing to challenge this narrative for fear of being called insensitive to the suffering of those who have experienced sexual violence.

But a respect for the truth requires that the following question be asked: Is rape so widespread on campuses as to be an epidemic? The oft-cited figure that one-in-four women will been sexually assaulted at least once over the course of her time at college is of dubious accuracy. In fact, more reliable statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that one-in-forty women will be raped over four years of college. Even these lower statistics indicate that there is still much work to be done in reducing sexual violence on campus, and all decent people share the goal of a campus free of sexual violence. But the truth is that the overwhelming majority of people on this and other campuses do not condone or engage in rape.

I would be less concerned about the exaggerated statistics about “rape culture,” and thus less inclined to criticize it, if it were not causing concrete harm to students. But the belief that rape must be prevented by “any means necessary” has been used to justify the elimination of key protections for students accused of rape in campus judicial systems. Some want the claims of the alleged victims of rape to be accepted as true, and not scrutinized in a fair legal proceeding. Just two years ago, Cornell stripped those accused of sexual offenses of the right to retain an attorney in University proceedings and the right to cross-examine their accusers. A student accused of a sexual offense at Cornell is now not able to directly ask the person who is making a potentially life-ruining accusation a single question about the incident. This is an inexcusable erasure of the fundamental right to confront one’s accuser, a right that has existed for all of our country’s history. Such rights are not superfluous. They protect us against arbitrary action by those who hold the levers of power.

To make matters worse, the University has dropped the standard of proof in sexual assault cases from “clear and convincing evidence” to “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that a Cornell student accused of a violent offense that is sexual in nature will not have the legal safeguards given to others whose alleged offenses were non-sexual. With the punishment being so severe and so much on the line for the accused, how can we accept such a low standard of proof?

Given that this university has a tremendous power to punish students, we have an obligation to make sure that the innocent do not get hurt. Whenever the University makes the scales of justice unequal, the safeguards of due process and equal protection are put in jeopardy. We must always be presumed to be innocent until proven guilty and be allowed the basic tools needed to defend ourselves. Do not assume that you will never be accused of something you did not do.

If stripping away the rights of students is not the answer, what can be done about sexual violence on campus? The best hope for change lies in real dialogue about the importance of consent and what it means to consent to sex. This dialogue must come with the understanding that sexual relationships are often complex and that consent is not always clearly given or withheld. What one person sees as rape is not the same as what another sees as rape. As a community, we must form a consensus on what, exactly, constitutes rape and what constitutes consent.

Our paramount goal must be to protect both the innocent and the accused; we must do both. When we do, the Cornell community can have greater confidence that justice is being done for all parties. Our campus would be safer for everyone if the rhetoric of “rape culture” were replaced with an open-minded and inclusive conversation about these matters.

Source: http://cornellsun.com/blog/2014/04/17/throwdown-thursday-the-truth-about-rape-culture/

Apr 222014
 

Civilian named Exceptional Sexual Assault Response Coordinator

Apr. 19, 2014
By Kristin Davis

When Cindy Graver first went to work as the sexual assault response coordinator at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., in 2005, she was half of a two-member team in a job new to the military.

Eight years later, just about everybody has heard of the SARC. And the Air Force says Graver, who now leads an office of five, is among the best the service has to offer.

This month, Graver was named the 2013 Exceptional Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. She’s now in the running for the Defense Department-wide honor, which should be announced soon.

“This award represents and is for all the outstanding SARCs who do an exceptional job every single day in the field,” Graver said in an interview with Air Force Times. “I don’t know how anybody can pick just one person.”

She is quick to credit the hardworking, creative people she works with, from those in her office to base chaplains, first sergeants, commanders, investigators and others.

“We also have partners [off base]: local law enforcement, our hospital, the local rape crisis center, the local district attorney’s office. It takes so many people working together. The program can’t function by itself,” Graver said.

Graver and her team continue to come up with innovative ways to address sexual assault in the military, Col. Patricia Ross, 78th Air Base Wing vice commander, said in her nomination letter of Graver.

Among them: The base’s “iT’’ campaign developed by Graver and her team to address the difficulties people sometimes face when talking about sexual assault.

“ ‘Let’s talk about iT’ pamphlets have been distributed across the installation providing tools and resources to combat sexual assault. The ‘iT’ symbol was deployed across the installation and at every entrance gate, sparking a publicity campaign where all security forces members were trained on key talking points and 140 leaders from across the installation attended training to teach them how to have difficult conversations with their employees,” Ross wrote. “Being able to address and talk about ‘iT’ has brought about the beginnings of a culture change and has prompted several victims living with the stigma of rape for many years to finally seek the help they needed.”

For her part, Graver said she has been “very blessed to have been given the opportunity to work with some amazing people and with some people that I’ve been able to help. When you look in somebody’s eyes and you know you’ve made a difference, that’s the best feeling in the world. There’s nothing that will ever top that.”

Q. How did you get involved in sexual assault prevention and response?

A. My husband was active-duty [Air Force] and so we lived around the country — around the world, really. I have a bachelor’s degree in social work education and a master’s degree in business. I like to tell people, “I can hug you or balance your checkbook.” I’ve taught school, I’ve worked as a contracting officer for both the Air Force and the Department of Veterans Affairs. I’ve worked in the child care center [and] as a drug and alcohol counselor.

I love working with people and taking care of people. I have a passion for wanting to help people, to do the right thing, to help people heal, to just have people be healthy.

Q. What do you do from day to day?

A. It’s an awful lot of education and training. I spend a lot of time doing briefings. Right now we are working on the sexual assault prevention annual stand-down training coming up.

As victims come into our office to report sexual assault, we do whatever is needed. We get them whatever care they need: telephone numbers so they can reach us at night when they can’t sleep and thoughts start running through their head. We’re a 24/7 operation.

I am constantly impressed by the dedication of the helping agencies we have in the Air Force and the great job they do. I am constantly amazed and impressed by the strength and courage of people who have come forward.

Q. What can someone expect when they make a report?

A. It’s really important when a person has been traumatized, as victims of sexual assault have been, to give them control back in their life. I’m a strong believer in that. I’m a firm believer in the more options they have, the better off they will be, and that it is a start in the healing process.

Every report is different. We try to do what the person making the report wants. We talk about your reporting options. If you are active duty, you are eligible to make a restricted or unrestricted report. Restricted means we’re going to get that person the help they need — medical care, chaplain care, counseling care. If they need a forensic exam, we can do that. Evidence can be collected and we can give it an anonymous identifier code and [Air Force Office of Special Investigations] can collect it and keep it while the victim heals. Later on, if the victim decides, “I’m strong enough, I want to change this to an unrestricted report,” they can. Now OSI becomes involved and there will be an investigation.

We now have a new service that started in January 2013 called the special victims counsel program. Whether a victim makes a restricted or unrestricted report, they are offered a special victims counsel, an attorney who is available to talk to victims by telephone, in meetings, or if there is an Article 32 hearing or court-martial, they will absolutely come.

We’re going to talk to [victims] about victim advocates. If [a victim] makes an unrestricted report, we can talk about expedited transfers. It’s very similar to a humanitarian assignment. The purpose is to support the victim.

Q. How did the iT program get started?

A. We’re sitting around the table back in the fall trying to decide what we need to do next, how do we make a difference, how do we talk about it — “it” being sexual assault.

Sometimes people are afraid to use words that relate to sex or sexual terms. But we can’t change things by sticking our heads in the sand, and we can’t change things we don’t know. We started some classes for [base leadership].

We listed some sexual terms and slang terms, and we got all these from first-term airmen. The whole premise is if someone comes to talk to me and they start using terms first of all that I don’t understand and I have a shocked look on my face, they’re probably not going to talk to me. We want to get leadership comfortable enough to listen to the terminology, to say the words.

Q. Have you seen a shift in people’s attitudes toward sexual assault?

A. We’re seeing people coming forward and talking about it and making reports, and I see that as a good thing.

In 2005, if I had held a class and said come to this training if you want to, we wouldn’t have had very many people attend. We used to have no-shows in 2005 and 2006. Today, we don’t have no-shows. [Sexual assault is] taken very seriously.

[Now] when we’re holding classes, they fill up. And it’s not mandatory. That’s how I know the culture is changing. That’s how I know we’re doing something right and people are getting it.

Source: airforcetimes.com

Apr 212014
 

Preventing sexual assault discussed in Missoula

Apr 19, 2014
By Jacqueline Quynh

It’s not the pick up line that you’d think you’d hear at a bar, but it could be the one that will help prevent sexual assault.

We call it a pick-up line, but what it’s the start of a dialogue to get people out and about to pick up on what is going on around them – and that could stop someone from getting hurt.

“We just thought we’d like to see if you wanted to get a free taco?” explained Juilanna Larson with the University of Montana Student Advocacy Resource Center.

That’s how the conversation about sexual assault awareness was started by with the Make Your Move program Thursday night at the Rhino, and bar patrons who participated were rewarded with food items and other goodies.

“We have a really powerful tool which is the 95 percent of people who are not committing sexual assaults,” said YWCA Communications Coordinator Amanda Opitz.

The YWCA put on the program, and Opitz says people in the community being informed are key preventing assaults on women and men. She added that predators lurk almost anywhere, but they often use one simple tool.

“What we know statistically is that alcohol is the number one dark facilitated assault tool,” said Opitz.

But it’s not just in bars, or where alcohol is served – it can also happen in much more open spaces.

“So a couple of guys are shouting at a woman as she walks down the street, what do you do?” Larson asked a patron. “I would tell them to stop, and ask her if she needs help.”

This time there were rewards for playing along, but the point is to get people thinking about how to react when it’s for “real.”

Bartenders also received training to look for signs of predatory behavior, and becoming familiar with resources for help as part of the program.

The program coincides with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Representatives with Missoula Make Your Move, the YWCA and the UM Student Resource Center say they’re working to potentially have trainings as often as once a month around town.

Source: kbzk.com

Apr 212014
 

UC Berkeley sexual assault policies draw U.S. agency probe

By Katy Murphy
4/18/2014

UC Berkeley’s response to campus sexual assault is the subject of a federal investigation, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education confirmed Friday.

The probe began weeks after dozens of Berkeley students and alumni filed a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights, alleging the school mishandled campus disciplinary cases involving sexual violence.

Six of the women involved spoke publicly in February about the attacks on them and their dealings with the campus disciplinary system, which many students turn to for justice in addition to — or instead of — the police.

They said they were kept in the dark about the disciplinary proceedings and that the campus failed to adequately punish the accused.

“This is an important issue,” said Janet Gilmore, a UC Berkeley spokeswoman. “We certainly understand their interest and concern, and we’ll cooperate fully with their investigation.”

The outcry at UC Berkeley is part of a larger movement. Sexual violence victims nationwide are demanding their campuses deal swiftly and fairly with a problem that affects one in five college women, according to a White House task force report.

The Office for Civil Rights is investigating sexual violence complaints at 53 colleges nationally, up from 35 in January, according to the Department of Education.

UC Berkeley is also the subject of a state probe ordered by the Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee. That report is due in June.

Source: mercurynews.com

Apr 182014
 
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has released a report on Nonfatal Domestic Violence, 2003–2012 (NCJ 244697) which presents estimates on nonfatal domestic violence from 2003 to 2012.
Domestic violence includes victimization committed by current or former intimate partners (spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends), parents, children, siblings, and other relatives.

Highlights:

  • In 2003–12, domestic violence accounted for 21% of all violent crime.
  • A greater percentage of domestic violence was committed by intimate partners (15%) than immediate family members (4%) or other relatives (2%).
  • Current or former boyfriends or girlfriends committed most domestic violence.
  • Females (76%) experienced more domestic violence victimizations than males (24%).

Source: bjs.gov

Apr 182014
 

Are Trigger Warnings Inherently Anti-Education?

Oberlin College tables its trigger warning policy amid criticism that warnings threaten the mission of higher education.

By Colleen Flaherty

Trigger warnings, which are common in blogs but also have begun to appear on college and university syllabuses, are supposed to signal to readers that forthcoming material may be uncomfortable or upsetting. Trigger-warned subject matter—in literature, films, or other texts—usually relates to sexual assault and other kinds of violence, racism, and the like, and advocates say students have a right to know of sensitive material in advance.

But some critics of trigger warnings say that higher education is rooted in confronting uncomfortable ideas and experiences. And more practically, critics say, it’s nearly impossible in classes with students with differing sensibilities to define what deserves a trigger warning.

Given the lack of consensus on trigger warnings in the classroom, it was perhaps unsurprising that the extensive trigger warning policy Oberlin College published in its Sexual Offense Resource Guide proved controversial earlier this academic year. Faculty members criticized the policy from within, saying it had been drafted largely without their input, even though they stood on the front lines of such a policy.

And criticism flowed in from outside Oberlin as well, with outlets such as the Los Angeles Times and the New Republic questioning the policy’s implications for academic freedom and for the liberal arts, so central to Oberlin’s mission.

Now, Oberlin has tabled the policy, pending additional faculty input.

“What could trigger off somebody in the abstract is almost anything.”

Marc Blecher, Oberlin College

“This section of the resource guide is currently under revision, after thoughtful discussion on campus suggested that some changes could make the guide more useful for faculty,” Meredith Raimondo, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and co-chair of the Sexual Offense Policy Task Force, said via email. “As the resource guide has always stated, the task force values both academic freedom and support for survivors of sexualized violence. We do not see these as contradictory projects, but rather that both are necessary to create an appropriately challenging and effective learning environment.”

Oberlin’s sexual offense policy page for faculty contains a similar message under the heading “How can I make my classroom more inclusive for survivors of sexualized violence?”

Until recently, however, that heading gave faculty members lengthy and explicit guidance on the topic. (Oberlin officials note that the policy was to recommend trigger warnings, not to require them. Critics saw even a nonmandatory policy as raising issues about academic freedom.)

It advised faculty members to “[u]nderstand triggers, avoid unnecessary triggers, and provide trigger warnings.” It defined a trigger as something that “recalls a traumatic event to an individual,” and said experiencing a trigger will “almost always disrupt a student’s learning and may make some students feel unsafe in your classroom.”

“Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct, but also to anything that might cause trauma,” the policy said. “Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand.”

The policy said that “anything could be a trigger,” and advised professors to “[r]emove triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.”

In the event that a work is “too important to avoid,” the policy said professors could issue a trigger warning by avoiding “spoilers” but giving a “hint about what might be triggering about the material,” and explaining its academic value.

For example, it said, “Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a triumph of literature that everyone in the world should read. However, it may trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide, and more.”

The policy also said faculty members may “[s]trongly consider developing a policy to make triggering material optional or offering students an alternative assignment using different materials.”

Marc Blecher, a professor of politics and East Asian studies at Oberlin who has been one of the policy’s most vocal critics, said in an interview that many faculty members were surprised to see the intricate trigger warning policy upon publication. The task force’s work had been mentioned in earlier faculty meetings, he said, but because it bypassed established channels for curricular proposals—elected faculty committees—professors were caught off-guard.

The task force included one vice president who is also the dean of students; three deans, including Raimondo (who was appointed as a faculty member before she was named dean); and three students and two recent alumni.

Beyond questions of shared governance, Blecher said the problem with the policy and trigger warnings generally is that “what could trigger off somebody in the abstract is almost anything.” That means that professors in all kinds of disciplines could have to rethink what they teach and how—and how to warn students about it ahead of time.

Referring to language in the tabled policy, he said, “it had this long list of ‘isms,’ so you’d end up having to fill your whole syllabus with their advice or suggestions, depending on what you’re teaching.”

As to the policy’s alternative reading suggestion, Blecher added, “What are you going to do, have two syllabi?”

Blecher said several dozen professors expressed similar sentiments at a recent meeting for concerned faculty members. Others raised new points, he said, such as whether highlighting sensitive material in advance could worsen its impact on students, and that professors may want students to “feel the shock” of such material for pedagogical reasons.

But not all professors are openly opposed to the policy, and a recent editorial in Oberlin’s student newspaper, the Oberlin Review, called the argument that trigger warnings interfere with academic freedom “flawed.”

“Trigger warnings exist in order to warn readers about sensitive subjects, like sexual violence or war, that could be traumatic to individuals who have had past experiences related to such topics, not to remove these subjects from academic discussion,” the editorial says. “They do not ‘glorify victimhood’; instead, they validate the life experiences of certain members of our community and allow individuals to make informed decisions.”

It continues:

“[W]hen students feel so upset by memories tied to a particular subject that they feel they cannot participate in that dialogue, a process integral to liberal arts education is interrupted. Trigger warnings are a viable method of alleviating these situations. Ideally, individuals who are part of an academic institution should be challenged and forced to articulate and defend their perspectives, but in order to have a fruitful discussion about these topics, as many people as possible need to feel comfortable participating.”

The editorial does, however, acknowledge the “problem of how to effectively create these spaces.”

In his own classroom, Blecher said he’s used verbal warnings about a violent murder in a film he was about to show. So while he’s not categorically opposed to trigger warnings, he said, “I think you just rely on sensitivity and common sense.”

He added: “Trying to codify it is very hard.”

Blecher said it wasn’t yet clear how faculty feedback would be solicited for an amended trigger warning policy, but that Oberlin seemed to be “sincerely” addressing the matter, including through the recent faculty meeting.

Raimondo said that throughout the review process of the offense policy, “the task force has solicited faculty input along with other members of the Oberlin community.”

Source: slate

Apr 182014
 

VIDEO: “I hope you die in prison,” Michigan judge erupts on woman convicted of killing boyfriend

Apr 16, 2014

JACKSON, Mich. – If a judge could throw the book at a woman, he managed to do so on Wednesday.

Not physically, but certainly by his stinging words. He had a lot of words for 31-year-old Camia Gamet, the woman convicted of killing her boyfriend Marcel Hill in March. Gamet claimed it was self defense and showed no remorse.

A First Degree murder conviction by law meant she would get life behind bars. Still, while family members spoke she would only roll her eyes and laugh, but Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John McBain would have none of it.

“You’re gonna shut your mouth or I’m going to have some duct tape put on it,” said Judge McBain.

A jury convicted Gamet for stabbing and beating to death Hill. Her lawyer argued she acted in self defense, because she claimed she killed an unknown attacker in a dark room. The judge wasn’t buying that and called it the worst cold-blooded murder he’s ever seen.

The prosecutor argued Gamet’s actions were premeditated and deliberate. She stabbed Hill 11 times and had a history of violence against him.

Hill told police in March of 2013 she hit him in the head with a hammer.

Family members say justice was served and they hope a lesson was learned about how abuse can come in all forms no matter the gender.

Source: theindychannel.com