Twice victimized

I’m happy to see sexual assault getting more media attention these days, stemming from the Penn State scandal. I can only hope this will continue to snowball – to include family court cases, for example.

The New York Times ran this article and has a follow up next week on the care of victims:

The twice victimized of sexual assault

It is all too easy to see why. More often than not, women who bring charges of sexual assault are victims twice over, treated by the legal system and sometimes by the news media as lying until proved truthful.

“There is no other crime I can think of where the victim is more victimized,” said Rebecca Campbell, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University who for 20 years has been studying what happens legally and medically to women who are raped. “The victim is always on trial. Rape is treated very differently than other felonies.”

So, too, are the victims of lesser sexual assaults. In 1991, when Anita Hill, a lawyer and academic, told Congress that the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her repeatedly when she worked for him, Ms. Hill was vilified as a character assassin and liar acting on behalf of abortion-rights advocates.

Credibility became the issue, too, for Nafissatou Diallo, an immigrant chambermaid who accused the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of forcing her to perform fellatio in a Manhattan hotel room. Prosecutors eventually dropped the case after concluding that Ms. Diallo had lied on her immigration form and about other matters, though not directly about the encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn.

When four women, two of whom identified themselves publicly, said they had been sexually harassed by Herman Cain, the Republican presidential hopeful, they, too, were called liars, perhaps hired by his opponents.

Charges of sexual harassment often boil down to “she said-he said” with no tangible evidence of what really took place. But even when there is DNA evidence of a completed sexual act, as there was in the Strauss-Kahn case, the accused commonly claim that the sex was consensual, not a crime.

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Reporting – and many other jobs or activities – while female

There’s an article in the New York Times today about “Reporting While Female” by Sabrina Tavernise. Indeed, women human rights defenders face the same risks as reporters:

But women reporters face another set of challenges. We are often harassed in ways that male colleagues are not. This is a hazard of the job that most of us have experienced and few of us talk about.

Last week, CBS News said that its reporter Lara Logan was assaulted by a crowd of men in Cairo. CBS News did not detail the circumstances, but the network’s statement — that she had suffered a “brutal and sustained sexual assault” — said enough.

And, not only do reporters and women human rights defenders face these challenges but also Peace Corps Volunteers and many other women working, volunteering or travelling abroad. I’ve travelled quite a bit and have been harassed by men – groped, cat-called, and looked at like a lion looks at their prey. But I’d also caution that these actions happen in the US too – men asking women to show their breasts or butts, men  touching women inappropriatedly, or – as many of us female bloggers face – crude and threatening sexist remarks on our posts.

But – getting back on topic – the NY Times ran another piece similar to the above referenced artice:

Why we need women in war zones 

Look at the articles about women who set themselves on fire in Afghanistan to protest their arranged marriages, or about girls being maimed by fundamentalists, about child marriage in India, about rape in Congo and Haiti. Female journalists often tell those stories in the most compelling ways, because abused women are sometimes more comfortable talking to them. And those stories are at least as important as accounts of battles.

There is an added benefit. Ms. Logan is a minor celebrity, one of the highest-profile women to acknowledge being sexually assaulted. Although she has reported from the front lines, the lesson she is now giving young women is probably her most profound: It’s not your fault. And there’s no shame in telling it like it is.

Don’t use 1-800-Flowers this Valentine’s Day

From Change.org  – Please sign the petition & share with your friends on Facebook:

Valentine’s Day, which accounts for 40% of fresh flower sales annually, is fast approaching.

If you’re planning to order a bouquet from 1-800-Flowers — the world’s largest florist — you should know where most of those flowers really come from. 

At flower farms in Ecuador and Colombia — the countries that export the most to the U.S. — two-thirds of the workers are women. These women are routinely subjected to harassment and even rape from their male supervisors. They suffer eye infections and miscarriages from consistent contact with dangerous pesticides.

In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, they’re routinely forced to work 80-hour weeks with no overtime pay. Attempts to form a union are met with opposition by police and armed forces. 

Many retailers — such as Whole Foods and Stop & Shop — have taken the important first step of offering Fair Trade flowers to consumers who want no part of these abuses. Fair Trade certified farms must adhere to strict standards for workers’ rights, which prevents the abuses described above. 

1-800-Flowers is the largest florist in the world. Yet they offer no Fair Trade flowers at all.

Tell 1-800-Flowers to join other major retailers in offering Fair Trade flowers.