Monday, November 30, 2009

NPA Cont Ed

Reported Rapes Reach 20-Year Low

By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Rapes reported nationwide are at a 20-year low, according to new FBI figures showing close to 89,000 women reported being raped in 2008, down by almost one third (30 percent) since 1992.

Obviously this is news that deserves to be cheered. And most researchers are cheering it. The majority of experts credit the drop to changes in the criminal justice system and more widespread use of DNA evidence. One would hope that means rape is now a much tougher crime to deny responsibility for, or to get away with false denials.

Meanwhile, victims' rights advocates add that prosecution of rape cases is taken much more seriously than it was in the past. They also say victim-blaming is passé (as in, "She wore a short skirt and walked down a dark alley alone at night, so she deserved it.") The hope is that these changes have inspired women to be more likely to report rape crimes to police or military authorities.

There's only one possible flaw in this logic. Criminologists insist we will never really know just how many rapes go unreported each year. So the long-odd possibility exists that rapes may actually be increasing even though reported rapes are dropping. Let's hope that's not the case.

I love to hear that we're moving in the right direction, but what this really brings me to think is how long until we can live in a society in which these crimes are no longer a part of life? We shouldn't have to celebrate the fact that reported sexual assault is decreasing as it should not exist at all. Nonetheless, this decline is awesome. Let's keep up the fight.

Much love,

Stephanie K

PS: I also just read this story about Indian farmers in debt that give their wives to their lenders, essentially making sexual violence permissible. It's disturbing how a woman's body can be used as a form of payment. The story's here:

US Senate's Response to Backlog of Rape Kit Evidence

The Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009 was introduced to the Senate on November 5, 2009 by Senator Al Franken. Also called the Franken Bill, the purpose of this proposed act is to eliminate the backlog of evidence in rape cases. Unlike popular TV shows like CSI or Law and Order SVU where rape kits are used to collect evidence and sentence perpetrators in a matter of days or weeks, the real world is starkly different; thousands of rape kits sit collecting dust on shelves for months, or even years, when they are needed in the courtroom. The news story, Testing Justice: Rape Kit Backlog in Los Angeles City & County, is just one prominent example of this:

While this bill is a move in the right direction to minimize this backlog of rape kit evidence, will it be enough? Rather than outlining penalties for states that do not eliminate the backlog, the act offers monetary incentives to states that can reduce the amount by 50%. I do not think that this sends a strong enough message that rape is a serious and pervasive problem throughout our society that needs to be stopped. In addition, the bill is only now being reviewed by the committee--a stage that many bills and resolutions will never move forward from.

What are your thoughts on the backlog of evidence or the nation's response to it?


Thursday, November 26, 2009

What I'm thankful for...

Three hours into Thanksgiving and I have a two things to be thankful for:

Precious ( tells the story of a sixteen year old girl in the seventh grade and pregnant for the second time with her biological father's baby. She suffers from physical and emotional abuse by her mother, she is on welfare, and she cannot read above a second grade level. Clareece "Precious" Jones's story is based on the novel Push by Sapphire and is a fictional one - just like Victor Barrenechea's THE RAPE TUNNEL (, where Barrenechea, in his "apparent" stroke of art blogging genius, conceptualizes a criticism of modern art by using sexualized violence as his platform. In Barrenechea's fabricated exhibition, his fictional artist, Richard Whitehurst, intends to literally rape every person who walks down his rape tunnel: "I’m not necessarily concerned with the positive or negative effects of this project so long as there is some effect on people’s lives. I’ve merely set up a situation where there is potential to impact people in meaningful ways." Meaningful, huh?

As I said before, both stories are fictional - but I'm thankful for them nonetheless. Initially, I felt pure hatred in watching Precious and reading about THE RAPE TUNNEL. I felt like they were so awful and twisted that neither of them could reflect reality. But here's the thing - while these stories are fictional, there are millions of people with stories just like Precious and million more like Victor Barrenechea who think rape is a joke. We should feel angry about these realities - and even angrier that they exist together as one sick contradiction: the frequency of sexualized violence together with the humor and insensitivity of it!

Part of me takes ownership for this contradiction. Surely, I didn't make people think and behave this way. I cannot change the minds of people like Victor Barrenechea in one day, or even one lifetime - and I cannot change the lives of people like Precious in even several lifetimes. But I can take ownership of it because if I stopped pointing fingers at the abusers and the politicians and the bad role models who contribute to this reality, stopped alienating and marginalizing myself from all of the people whom I consider colluders of this reality; rather, I started listening to them, understanding them, and finally thinking with them as a whole rather than clashing as individual parts in a society bent on disagreement, maybe it could start the right dialogue to ending these violent trends and insensitivity.

This wasn't the bashing that I had hoped to do, but I guess I realized that I've been down the angry road before and what I thought would come out of it, didn't.
So today, I'm thankful for Precious and THE RAPE TUNNEL because, in a twisted way, they've helped me see a new future for ending sexualized violence and rape normalization. Go see them, and decide for yourself.

SAPAC love


Monday, November 23, 2009

Rape is not a synonym for something else....

We've all heard it. People using rape out of context... "That test just raped me" or "Our football team just got raped" are some common examples I often hear on campus.

These statements can not only be triggering, but trivializing, and they just need to stop.

Here a youtube clip of some popular media outlets doing the same thing...

University of Maryland Student's PSA

Last week, I was contacted by Shaina Wamsley, a senior at the University of Maryland. She wanted me to share a PSA she created for a group project about sexual assault awareness. Victim blaming, masculinity, and consent are just some of things mentioned in the PSA.

Check it out:

It's awesome to know that students all around the country are making the same effort to educate and inform their campus about sexual assault! Thanks so much, Shaina, and awesome job!


Friday, November 20, 2009

NPA Continuing Education: Florida State Women's Basketball Team

The Florida State women’s basketball team has taken a new approach
promoting its team.

Their new website,, highlights a picture of the team in formal attire showing a more feminine snapshot. Then by clicking on each
team member you are brought to an individual glamor picture either stepping out of a limo or leaning up against one.

The controversy about whether or not this is empowering or degrading remains unsolved. Does the femininity emphasize a pride and liberation to women or does it reinforce the idea that women must always fit into the beauty box?

-Lauren McIntosh

NPA Continuing Education: Sexual Assault in South Africa

This is a continuing education piece from the Networking, Publicity, & Activism Program by Paige Tassie.

This link is to an anti-rape PSA by Charlize Theron was released in South Africa. In it the actress says she struggles with answering the question of what the men in South Africa are like because more women are raped in the country than any other country in the world and 1 in 3 women living there will be raped in their lifetime. She closes the ad saying that "it's not that easy to say what the men in South Africa are like, because there seem to be so few of them out there".

The second link is to a BBC article explaining the controversy around why the ad was taken off the air. Some men were offended by the ad, saying that it implied all South African men were rapists and/or unaffected bystanders with no opinion on the matter.

I can see their point. I can empathize with an upstanding and honorable father of 3 daughters watching this announcement and feeling hurt that he is being portrayed as a potential rapist by virtue of the combination of his gender and nationality. While raising awareness about sexual violence it is important not to alienate the strong allies waiting to be called upon in too often unexpected places. As feminists and defenders of survivors of sexual violence, I think we sometimes go too far and push away the men we so sorely need in the movement through unintentional insensitivity and the generalizations we fight so hard against when they pertain to women.

-Paige Tassie

NPA Continuing Ed

Hey Everyone,

I recently read a book called the Road of Lost Innocence by: Somaly Mam. If anyone has time to read these days I would HIGHLY recommend it. The book is a true story about a young Cambodian girl who is sold into sexual slavery. It was horrifying to read everything that this woman had to go through, from the sexual abuse from her “uncle” to being sold to a brothel. It is amazing to me that things like this are going on in the world today. It was also terrifying to find out that the police are well aware of the situations and yet they let it continue, and even partake in it themselves. This story truly sent me on a roller coaster ride of emotions anywhere from sadness, to anger, amazement, and happiness. It was so inspirational to read the story of this woman who despite being through so much is still so strong. She was able to finally make it out of the sexual slavery she suffered for years and set up an organization to help get more girls out. The organizations started out small, in her own home, but have since grown. Below I have attached a link to the Somaly Mam Foundation’s website:

This foundation not only rescues girls from brothels, it gives them a place to start over. The foundation offers the girls shelter, counseling, medical treatment, schooling, and classes in activities such as sewing. They do all this so that when it is time to leave the shelter, the girls have the confidence and the skills to rebuild their lives. It was a truly amazing and inspirational story. If you can’t read the book I urge you to at least look at the website. I hope that we may all be as courageous and loving as this woman, she is truly an inspiration to our cause.

SAPAC love,

Renee Muller

Transgender Day of Rememberance

Today, Friday November 20, 2009 is the 11th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The event was founded in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to honor Rita Hester, whose murder in 1998 began the "Remembering Our Dead" web project and a San Francisco, CA candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.

This year, the day will be honored in 120 cities in 17 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

Sadly, there are more than 160 transgender people who were victims of homicide this year. Most reported cases have been from Latin America and North America, with the majority from Brazil (41), Venezuela (22), Honduras (16), and the USA (13). In total, 124 transgender people were murdered in 15 Latin America countries in the last year. The Latin American countries account for 75% of the world wide reported murders of transgender people.

Transgender Day of Remembrance raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, information that is often not included in current media. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of those who might otherwise be forgotten. It also gives allies a chance to step forward with the LGBTQ community and stand in vigil, memorializing those who have died by anti-transgender violence in the face of indifference and hatred.

Please take a few moments today to remember all of the transgender people who have been victims of homicide due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

November 18th 2009 Press Release from Transgender Europe

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More Diag Drama

Anyone walking on the diag can't help but miss a pro-life group's recent additions. I won't name all of the "clever" statements, but, I would have to say, the one that annoyed me most was "Women deserve better than abortion."

In my opinion, this sentence should really read: "Women deserve better than being judged for their pro-choice views."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Survivor Speak Out

SAPAC's 23rd annual Survivor Speak Out was held this past Thursday in the League Ballroom. Thank you to everyone who came out to support survivors of sexual violence. I want to especially thank the survivors who chose to spoke; your strength and willingness to share was very inspiring.

If you have any questions about Speak Out or about ways to help survivors, feel free to email!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sexism in Advertising--What Do You Think? GOOD or BAD?

While this advertisement positively provides support and value to the work women accomplish in the home, it also furthers gender stereotypes by implying that women's sole worth is to raise children and by quantifying that worth at $43,461.

Sexism in Advertising--the GOOD

Here, Tide shows a man, Tim Gunn, interested in fashion and clothing. This breaks common gender stereotypes that men should avoid any interest or activity deemed to be feminine, such as doing the laundry or picking out clothes. Tide is able to use a well-known male figure to show that people should be proud of their skills and abilities and that they should do what makes them happy, regardless of nonsensical gender role restrictions.

PokerStars uses a photograph of a female poker player in an ad. Not only is she not objectified, but she is positively portrayed as independent and confident. Because poker is associated with male players, it is refreshing to see a company that is attempting to show that women also have the ability to be strong and dominant. This advertisement breaks common gender stereotypes.

This advertising strategy is positive because of the ways in which Oceana portrays a woman in a very strong role. In this typical field people do not expect to see women being the ones that are willing to get up close and personal with sharks; men are usually the ones being brave. It is very refreshing to see that a woman is willing and very capable of doing this as well.

The got milk? advertisements are positive because they use photographs of strong and confident women, in particular Dara Torres. Not only is Dara a world class athlete, but she is also a mother. This ad makes a statement that women can balance a career, a family, and still be beautiful. On another note, the field of athletics is one that many people perceive as dominated by men, and it is refreshing to see a company that highlights the accomplishments of athletic women. Ultimately, this advertisement breaks common gender stereotypes.

These two Curvation advertisements show real world women with real world bodies. This breaks the distorted view that women need to be thin to be beautiful and confident. While the ads show two women in lingerie, they actually display the products that they are trying to sell and their goal is not to objectify the women's bodies, but to show women as proud, confident, and powerful in their own skin.

This Boost Mobile advertisement is positive because it portrays a female race-car driver in an ad without objectifying her, and instead makes her look confident in her athletic abilities. Because sports, especially race car driving, are often perceived to be dominated by men, it is refreshing to see a company that is attempting to show that women also have the ability to be strong and dominant. This advertisement breaks common gender stereotypes and tells women to embrace and be proud of their own athletic abilities.

The Serena advertising strategy is positive because it uses strong female role models. The women pictured in the two ads look confident, proud, and comfortable in their skin. The ads do not portray what a typical female body should look like, and the women are doing something they appear to be passionate about. This sends the message to women of all ages that being yourself is a beautiful thing. The ad encourages women not to be discouraged about things and to never use the words “I can’t.” It strengthens the message that women can do anything they set their minds to, if they just follow their dreams.