Monthly Archives: June 2011

Governor’s Signature Would Stop Rapists From Being Doctors in Illinois

With the help of 1600 Change.org members, an Illinois bill that would revoke the medical license of a convicted sex offender has passed the state legislature. Just one thing stands between it and becoming law: the signature of Gov. Pat Quinn.

It seems like quite the no-brainer — who wants to be the guy that says: “Rapists as doctors? That seems a-okay to me!” But, unfortunately, we can’t rely on something seeming like a no-brainer.

After all, the Chicago Tribune investigation that sparked this legislation revealed that certain decision-makers don’t think sexually assaulting patients is that big a deal. The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation allowed a gynecologist to rape or sexually assault multiple patients before finally getting around to disciplinary action years later. The judge, who agreed the doctor has sexually assault or harassed at least three women, felt all that warranted was a nine-month suspension. Then good ol’ Doc Smith could get back to professionally poking around in women’s vaginas. Shudder.

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Connect the Dots Coalition Will Rally Tuesday for NYPD to Take Rape Seriously

Former New York police officers Ken Moreno and Franklin Mata were found not guilty on charges related to rape. The verdict’s perceived injustice — felt even by members of the jury themselves — has given rise to protests over the way the NYPD deals with sexual assault. But the then-officers were found guilty of official misconduct: they admitted to going back to the woman’s apartment without their department’s permission multiple times during the course of the night. On Tuesday, the cops will receive their sentences. And the Connect the Dots coalition wants to make certain they get the maximum punishment possible.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, the Coalition will stage a rally in Foley Square, next to the courthouse. As with last month’s rally immediately following the decision, protesters are asking the police to “take rape seriously,” in addition to making sure that the guilty partners don’t get off with a slap on the wrist.

This isn’t the first time advocates have called on the NYPD to do so, either. Last year, another petition ran on Change.org: “Tell the NYPD to Stop Undercharging Sex Crimes and to Take Rape Seriously!” The action came in response to the revelation that reports of sexual assault and rape were being misfiled as misdemeanors to make the department’s crime statistics look better, a practice that might have let a serial rapist go undiscovered longer than otherwise. While police promised to improve their lying ways, concerns how the force deals with sexual assault continue.

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Walmart, Macy’s, Target, Kohl’s, and Hanes Have a Rape Problem

Walmart’s been all over the news this week, in response to the Supreme Court decision that its female employees cannot bring a class action lawsuit against sex discrimination. But as disturbing as Walmart’s record is on discriminating against women working in their stores, there’s another area for major concern that has received little media attention. I’m talking about factories that produces clothes for Walmart stores, where women are controlled through debt bondage and regularly raped.

Walmart’s not the only well-known brand putting tainted clothes from Classic Fashion factories in its stores (although it is the biggest buyer) — Macy’s, Target, Kohl’s, and Hanes all source from the same abusive Jordan factories. An Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights report chronicles a tale of 13 to 18.5 hour workdays, 6 to 7 days a week, for minimal pay and poor living quarters. Thousands of female workers, most immigrants from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, or India, face the threat of deportation if they lose or leave their jobs.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Managers grope and fondle the employees regularly, ostensibly to get them to work faster, and, even more horrifying, many repeatedly rape their workers. “Kamala,” deported after she became pregnant (a typical occurrence), describes her assault at the hands of a quality control manager: “I was molested in every way… That man tortured me. He took a lot of sexual advantages from me… I had to fulfill everything he desired because I was placed in an extremely vulnerable situation and intimidated… My whole body is in pain… I cannot face my mother and father. I am destroyed. I cannot even change clothes before my mother because Priyantha has destroyed me. I have teeth marks all over my body.”

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With One Week Left, Farm Workers and Allies Fast for Fair Treatment

If CA Gov. Jerry Brown doesn’t sign the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act by a week from today, the bill will die. But it won’t go gentle into that good night — from the moment the bill landed on the governor’s desk last Thursday, farm workers and their allies have been making quite a stir on its behalf.

An estimated 1000 farm workers marched in Sacramento on June 16th to urge Gov. Brown to sign a bill that would protect farm worker safety, chanting “Si Se Puede” (“Yes We Can”). Eighty-one-year-old Taurino Carlos spoke movingly of the harsh conditions he has endured as a farm worker over the decades to the present day — he hopes that the next generation can enjoy better, safer conditions than he has been subjected to.

Too many farm workers have died because their employers deny them the simplest of needs — rest, shade, water. Farm workers like 17-year-old Maria Isavel, whose touching story motivated 16,000 Change.org members to take action on her behalf. A United Farm Workers petition on Change.org is asking Gov. Brown to sign the bill, which was introduced to the State Assembly on the anniversary of Maria Isavel’s untimely death, and take a stand for farm workers state wide.

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Sex Trafficking Survivors Group to Dilbert Creator: Rape Isn’t “Natural Instinct”

Over 1000 Change.org members have signed a petition launched this weekend by the anti-trafficking organization With More Than Purpose, telling Dilbert creator Scott Adams to publicly apologize for a recent blog post “insinuating that the act of a man raping a woman is a natural instinct.”

Adams writes in “Pegs and Holes” (which you can read in full on his website): “Now consider human males. No doubt you have noticed an alarming trend in the news. Powerful men have been behaving badly, e.g. tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world. … The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable. In other words, men are born as round pegs in a society full of square holes. Whose fault is that? Do you blame the baby who didn’t ask to be born male? Or do you blame the society that brought him into the world, all round-pegged and turgid, and said, ‘Here’s your square hole’?”

In response to the campaign, Adams left a comment on the petition accusing the creator of taking his words out of context and offered a fake apology: “I apologize to anyone who — against all reason — believed I issued a statement condoning violent crimes against women. But I also think you should be a little bit embarrassed that you would believe such a thing.” These unreasonable, ought-to-be embarrassed people include two Change.org members who identify themselves as child rape victims in the comments. Oh, and of course co-Founder and Executive Director of With More Than Purpose, Nikki Junker, herself a sex trafficking survivor.

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NYPD Fails to Apologize to Woman Pulled Over for Wearing Short Skirt

Dutch tourist Jasmijn Rijcken reported that she was biking down a Manhattan street, minding her own business, when a cop pulled her over — for wearing too short a skirt. Apparently, Rijcken’s bare legs were “distracting the cars” and “dangerous.” It seemed so absurd to be pulled over for “cycling while sexy,” Rijcken thought the officer was joking, but he became angry and demanded her ID. She went straight back to her hotel and changed into pants, covering up her “killer” legs.

As Margaret Hartmann points out at Jezebel, you’d think the NYPD would be quick to assure women that they don’t have to worry about the fashion police monitoring the length of their skirts — the last thing you want to deal with when dressing for the summer heat. After all, they’re already being scrutinized after a controversial “not-guilty” verdict that many people believe let an NYC cop get away with rape. Over 5000 Change.org members have already signed a petition started by the feminist group Permanent Wave telling the NYPD to implement comprehensive sexual assault and harassment training and a zero-tolerance policy.

Instead, this is what Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne had to say: “Whether this story bears even a modest semblance of what actually occurred is impossible to establish without being provided the purported officer’s name and getting his side of the story.” So not only is he failing to apologize for the sexual harassment, or assure women that the NYPD is not going to start acting like a Catholic school and insisting that your skirts go past your fingertips, he’s also suggesting that the complainant is a big fat liar.

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Thoughts on SlutWalk: Can “Slut,” Like “Queer,” Be Reclaimed?

Can we reclaim “slut” as a positive term?

Sophie Jones has an interesting commentary on SlutWalk, criticism thereof, and the ensuing “feminist debate about the politics of linguistic subversion” at The F-Word.

She starts by tackling those feminists who criticized SlutWalk as a misguided attempt to promote the “right to be called ‘slut.'” Jones writes: “Some women argue that SlutWalk is just an expression of what Nina Power has called Feminism™, in which gender equality is rebranded as the right to buy whatever you want on the way to your burlesque class, whether it’s a diamond-encrusted vibrator or a pair of effing shoes.” I, like many SlutWalk supporters, have been frustrated by this misunderstanding of how and why the term is being used. That said, I’m also in complete feminist support of burlesque classes, vibrators, and “fuck-me shoes.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be sexual or sexy — it’s a woman’s right and still not an invitation to rape.

Jones sums this issue up as “a clear case of these writers simply misinterpreting the mission of Slut Walk, which is not a protest ‘for the right to be called ‘slut’ but a protest for the right to dress however you want free of the presumption you are ‘asking for it’.” Then we move on to more interesting questions: even if the point of SlutWalk isn’t about reclaiming the word “slut” — can we? and should we? Continue reading

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Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny: Advocates Rally to Demand Commissioner Wiener’s Resignation

“Have you heard about the fraulein [woman] who came over from Germany? She was walking in the park and eleven men jumped on her and were raping here and the fraulein said ‘nein, nein’ and so two got off.”

Hahaha … oh wait. That’s not funny. At all. But apparently New Mexico’s Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener thinks rape jokes are hilarious. In an investigative report into Commissioner Wiener’s behavior — launched in response to a complaint of sexual harassment by a County Commission employee — County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver testified that he told a joke along these lines at a meeting (despite the attempt of one of his colleagues to cut him off).

In response to this and other incidents, a group of concerned New Mexico individuals have started a Change.org petition under the name “Women Against Workplace Discrimination,” calling for Wiener’s resignation. The County Commission meets today, and a “Rape’s No Joke” rally will take place at 4:30 MST outside their offices. “Our message today is that Rape is No Joke,” stated Neri Holguin, one of the organizers. “Bernalillo County Commissioner Weiner doesn’t get it. In New Mexico, 1 in 4 females will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. These are harrowing numbers and there’s nothing funny about it.”

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MA State Rep. Fattman Says Rape Survivors Should Fear Reporting Crime

Newsflash: Massachusetts State Rep. Ryan Fattman believes that rape and abuse survivors ought to be afraid to report their assault, assuming they are undocumented. No really.

We hear a lot of justifications for the flawed “Secure Communities” program, which requires local law enforcement to fingerprint both criminals and victims alike and check these prints against a federal immigration database. While it sounds innocuous enough, this causes mass insecurity by deterring undocumented immigrant victims and witnesses from going to the police to report violent crime, out of fear that they will be the ones who end up behind bars. The justification usually rests on pooh-poohing these concerns and attempting to brush them aside as illegitimate. But State Rep. Fattman is taking a new approach: “My thought is that if someone is here illegally, they should be afraid to come forward.”

He went on to explain to Mother Jones that his quote was taken out of context. The context? “If someone got into a car accident, it’s obviously a tragic event. But if they’re drunk and they crash, it’s a crime. If that person was drunk and survived the accident they would be afraid to come forward. I think if someone is here illegally they should be afraid to come forward because they should be afraid to be deported.” To recap: rape survivors are equivalent to drunk drivers.

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It’s Up to CA Gov. Jerry Brown to Stop Farm Worker Deaths

Maria Isavel was only 17 when she died — you can see in the photo to the left just how young the teenage farm worker was. She had her whole life ahead of her. She was engaged, pregnant, beloved. And she died due to an inhumane employer who forced her to work without rest, shade, or water. She died due to the failure of the California government to enforce its own safety regulations.

She died, and the employer and safety coordinator who caused her death — who had been fined previously for the same dangerous work conditions that killed Maria Isavel — got away with a bit community service. She died, and the government agency that fined Merced Farm Labor yet never bothered to collect the fine or check that conditions had improved faced no consequences. She died unnecessarily, and too many other farm workers have also died preventable deaths.

There has been no hint of justice for the severing of Maria Isabel’s young life. But California Governor Jerry Brown has the opportunity to change things, to protect future farm workers like Maria Isavel. He can sign SB 104, the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act, which would give these mistreated workers the right to organize for their own protection.

Maria Isavel’s uncle, Doroteo, has been fighting for the passage of this bill — even losing his job in an act of retaliation — along with his fellow laborers and United Farm Workers. The bill was brought up for a vote in the California Assembly on May 16, the anniversary of Maria Isavel’s death. With its passage through both branches of the CA legislature, it now rests on Gov. Jerry Brown to do the right thing and sign the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act into law.

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