Monthly Archives: April 2011

RAINN Calls on Congress to End Untested Rape Kit Backlog

How many untested rape kits are there across the country? I don’t know. The fact is, nobody does, because we don’t bother tracking these vital pieces of evidence and don’t test them in a timely manner.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) has launched a petition on Change.org in support of the SAFER Act, a bill that would speed up the elimination of the backlog and establish procedures to keep it from development again in the future. This SAFER Act follows upon another piece of groundbreaking legislation RAINN supported, the Debbie Smith Act, which provided funding to test these kits (so the current bill is no cost) that hold DNA evidence from the victims in rape cases.

“The evidence shows more and more that rapists are serial criminals,” Scott Berkowitz, founder and president of RAINN, told Change.org in an interview. “So by leaving evidence untested, and leaving them on the threats, we’re not only denying justice to the survivor in that first case, but we’re threatening the lives of potentially more victims down the road.” That’s an alarming thought — one that demands immediate action by Congress.

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At MSU, Rapists Get Away, While Anti-Rape Students Get Arrested and Fined

Megan Spencer and three fellow students now all have criminal records, thanks to Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon. What did they do? Stay past 6 p.m. at a peaceful teach-in about sexual violence at Michigan State University in response to the Administration’s failure to address rape allegations against two star basketball players.

“This is a really unfair standard to punish students who were protesting rape and not students who commit rape,” said Spencer, a member of the MSU Coalition Against Sexual Violence, a group of students formed last fall in response to a shocking incident in which two students athletes were accused of rape, with one corroborating the victim’s testimony to police — yet never faced any consequences. The Coalition of concerned students came together with nine demands to improve sexual violence on campus, demands over 1000 Change.org members have signed their petition in support of.

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Returned Volunteers Group Calls on Peace Corps to Fix Lacking Rape Response

Casey Frazee arrived in South Africa in 2009 as an eager young Peace Corps Volunteer, honored to be a part of an organization known for doing good around the world.

But after her sexual assault, Casey discovered a glaring flaw in the organization she idealized: a complete lack of support and victim-blaming response to rape. It was all the more shocking, Casey recalled in an interview with Change.org, because “in my mind I held them to this really high standard.” Within a month of her early return home, Casey founded First Response Action (FRA), a Returned Volunteers group devoted to improving the Peace Corps’ response to sexual violence. And she quickly discovered that her situation was far from an anomaly — despite what Peace Corps staff insisted.

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Put Your Blue Jeans on to Fight Sexual Violence: Today Is Denim Day

If you wear tight jeans, it’s impossible to rape you.

At least, so declared an Italian Supreme Court Justice in the 1990s. And then the women of Italy descended on Parliament decked in denim, turning blue jeans into a powerful symbol not of casual Fridays, but of protest against institutionalized rape apologism.

Today is Denim Day. As part of Change.org’s Sexual Assault Action Week, we ask that you join ranks with the women of the world and pull on your favorite pair of blue jeans — because your clothes have something important to say about sexual violence on this day. We also urge you to dress up your Facebook page and help start an online fashion trend by setting the image to the left as your profile picture today.

We’re wearing it, and we think it really suits us.

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Victim Faces Jail Time While More Chicago Cops Commit Sexual Assault

Tiawanda Moore was sexually harassed and assaulted by a Chicago police officer. Want to guess who’s facing the possibility of up to 15 years jail time?

If you guessed the victim, congratulations: you’re correct (and probably very jaded).

As part of our Sexual Assault Action Week at Change.org, we’d like to shine a glaring spotlight on sexual violence perpetrated by law enforcement. Tiawanda is not the only Chicago woman to allege sexual assault by a police officer — Anna North writes at Jezebel that “claims of police misconduct have been somewhat common in Chicago recently.” In another case that hit the headlines earlier this month, as many as three Windy City cops were fingered for the rape of a woman they offered a ride home, and at least one has a prior record of sexual misconduct while on duty.

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Illinois Legislature Takes Steps to Prevent a Rapist From Being Your Gyno

Going to the gynecologist is hardly on most people’s list of “favorite things to do.” But what if the doctor you’re opening wide to (down south) is a sex offender — what if, in fact, he’s raped other patients? Worst. Nightmare. Ever.

But that’s just a bad dream, right? Wrong. Last November, I wrote about a Chicago Tribute expose of a gynecologist, Bruce Sylvester Smith, accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape by eight of his patients. Eight. How could he be allowed to practice? Surely, if the assaults were brought to light, he would be swiftly stripped of his legal claim to being a professional when poking about in women’s genitals. But, alas, we are disappointed again: after being found responsible for the sexual harassment or assault of three patients, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation suspending him a mere nine months.

Luckily for Illinois women (who might be crossing their legs in discomfort right about now), the Chicago Tribune investigation and the deep revulsion at Smith’s criminal charges for raping an eight-months pregnant patient while she was trapped in stirrups motivated state lawmakers do something about it. It’s taken them a few months (and a few hundred signatures from Change.org members), but the IL Senate has finally passed a bill saying no to sex crimes by docs.

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Student Who Admitted to Sexual Assault Still on UC Board of Regents

Update: Victory! After emails from over 800 Change.org members, Jesse Cheng has resigned from his position as student regent. “This is a victory for my case, but also for other victims of sexual assault, battery, and rape,” Laya commented in a press release. “We are one step closer for creating a place where women can step forward, demand, and actually receive genuine justice.”

“I am sorry for sexually assaulting you.” “I tried to rape you and I thank you everyday for not letting me do that to you.” These are the texts that University of California Student Regent Jesse Cheng admits he sent his ex-girlfriend, “Laya.” Yet despite these confessions and being found responsible for sexual battery by the UC-Irvine Office of Student Conduct, Cheng continues to be the sole representative of the UC student body on the Board of Regents. That’s what brought the Justice for Laya Coalition to protest on the intertubes and the sidewalk: “No means no, Jesse Cheng has got to go.”

“It is also doubly insulting that the delay in Cheng’s punishment comes in April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” critiques a press release by AF3IRM and the Mariposa Center for Change, member organizations of the Justice for Laya Coalition. Word. We’ve picked a campus sexual assault campaign to spotlight first in our coverage for Change.org’s Sexual Assault Week of Action because we’re just so damn inspired by all the impressive student activism occurring of late to change campus rape culture and so distressed by the fact that attending college increases a woman’s chances of becoming a victim of rape or attempted rape. That’s not something college administrators want in their promotional brochures.

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It’s Time … To Take Action Against Sexual Assault

“It’s time … to get involved.” It’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and that’s the theme chosen by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) for 2011. Well, Change.org members know all about getting involved. Just look at the almost 17,000 of you who successfully told Etsy that rape is not a joke, or over ten times that number who demanded that the South African government take “corrective rape” seriously — and won. Those campaigns represent only two of many in which Change.org members have stood against sexual violence. It’s time … to take action.

That’s why we at Change.org’s Women’s Rights cause are declaring this final week of April our Sexual Assault Week of Action. Every day, we’ll be blogging about different campaigns that fight the good fight against sexual assault which you can take action on, highlighting existing petitions on our site as well as exciting brand-new campaigns that will launch over the course of this week. You can check out our homepage at any time for 10 important petitions to sign to end sexual violence against women, campaigns that will be updated and rotated throughout the week o’ action.

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Apology for 1944 Gang Rape Victim Recy Taylor Heads to AL Gov. Bentley

Change.org members like you are bringing about some amazing successes on the Recy Taylor campaign: yesterday, the Alabama Senate passed the resolution apologizing for the state’s role in covering up the African-American woman’s Jim Crow-era gang-rape.

The resolution, introduced in the House by Rep. Dexter Grimsley, passed by voice vote in both branches of the legislature. Now, the bill to “declare such failure to act … morally abhorrent and repugnant” heads to Gov. Robert Bentley for his signature. And there are high hopes that this final step will come soon: according to the AP, Bentley “sees no reason why he wouldn’t sign it.”

Change.org has been working closely with Taylor’s devoted youngest brother, Robert Corbitt, whose petition on Change.org has attracted almost 20,000 signatures asking for an apology from the state of Alabama and city of Abbeville. This outpouring of support motivated Grimsley, Abbeville’s state representative, to introduce the resolution that unanimously passed the House last month, making it seem like the official apology would be a sure thing. But after the resolution languished without being brought to a floor vote in the Alabama Senate, advocates rallied once again, with the Alabama NAACP joining the campaign and calling state senators to urge them to take immediate action on the apology.

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Women’s Media Center to Wall Street Journal: Print Fair Coverage of Fair Pay

On April 12, the Wall Street Journal decided to honor Equal Pay Day with an anti-fair pay oped. While Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Rep. Rosa DeLauro were reintroducing the Paycheck Fairness Act, WSJ devoted its pages to wage gap denialism, courtesy of Executive Director Carrie Lukas of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum. Though the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics have calculated that women make 23 cents less on the dollar, the editors at WSJ didn’t see fit to present a balanced editorial or even a companion oped to the inaccurate anti-fair pay complaint.

But the Women’s Media Center isn’t letting WSJ get away with this biased coverage, misrepresenting the issues women face when it comes to equal pay. They’ve launched a call to action to hold the WSJ accountable, including a Change.org petition telling the Editorial Page Editors to run “fair and balanced coverage” of the wage gap “in order to adhere to the high journalistic standards WSJ attempts to embody.” WMC also helpfully suggests that there are “several members of the National Coalition for Pay Equity to choose from” in looking around for somebody who can provide an oped.

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