Believe women – Thanks Baltimore Sun!

Thanks in part to reporting done by The Sun newspaper, the Senate Crime & Drugs subcommittee has asked the Office of Violence Against Women to discuss the problem of impunity in rape cases. Now if we can just get them to look at all the other cases – like those in family court, for another.

U.S. Senate committee to hold hearing on rape investigations

The Sun reported in July that Baltimore for years led the nation in the percentage of rape cases in which police concluded that the victim was lying, with more than 3 in 10 cases determined to be “unfounded.” Other cities have seen disturbingly high percentages of uninvestigated or dropped rape cases in years past, and a women’s advocate in Philadelphia pushed for the congressional hearing after the Sun’s investigation reignited concerns.

So the police are our first “judge & jury”…

The Sun analysis showed that four out of 10 calls to 911 over a five-year period had not generated a police report, having been dismissed by officers at the scene. Victims have reported being interrogated by detectives about their motives and truthfulness, while others said patrol officers ignored their allegations.

“We just took what we wanted”

This is an incredible video of a warden & therapist who runs a counseling program in a prison in South Africa, a country where 28% of men admit to committing rape.

Here’s the article by Elena Ghanotakis: South Africa:  Inside the Culture of Rape

My guide inside Pollsmoor was warden and therapist Chris Malgas, who runs a counseling program for convicted offenders using groupwork and individual therapy. My follow up story is a raw look at some of those interactions between Chris and his group, a testament to why it’s so difficult to stop South Africa’s cycle of sexual abuse.

Most of the sessions took place on the prison roof, away from the chaos and overcrowded conditions below. For safety reasons, we could only film during the mornings before the prison was locked down for the afternoon.

The perpetrators testimonies provide a grim picture of growing up in the townships and the crimes these men committed. Many talked about being exposed to violent gang culture from a young age, where rape was a rite of passage. “We just took what we wanted,” one gang member told me; it was “part of everyday things.”

Here’s the video – it’s 11 minutes long, but don’t let that put you off – it’s very interesting:

Believe women

Here’s an account of a rape in Salon:

Why didn’t I scream when I was raped?

Towards the end of the story, you’ll find this paragraph:

Eventually, more than three decades after the crime took place, a long investigation would lead the police to discover something that denial and disbelief had not allowed them to see back then: This man attacked 44 girls from 1970 and 1973.

Had the community believed these girls (her & her sister were raped) and shown commitment, perhaps these senseless rapes – 44 of them – could have been prevented.

Rape is not in the hands of women (and men) to prevent. It is in the hands of communities – to show commitment to preventing violence, to believe victims, to thoroughly investigate claims, and to both prevent and prosecute criminal acts.

“Nice guys”…rape

Okay, I grappled with the title on this one. The topic overlaps on so many of my posts about women’s credibility in abuse allegations and men’s “nice guy” portrayal in the media. Here were my options:

1) “Nice guys”…rape

2) He’s “not that kind of guy”

3) Liar until proven honest

Read Jaclyn Friedman’s:   How the media should treat sexual assault allegations against Al Gore

The Tribune piece asks the question, “How can you judge the credibility of a sexual assault charge when there are no witnesses and apparently no physical evidence?” It’s a good question, but why not ask, “Why, in cases of sexual violence, is the victim assumed guilty of lying until proven innocent?” We assume that accusers of other crimes are credible enough to report unless there’s clear evidence to the contrary: a repeated history of making false claims, for example. Or evidence that the two people in question weren’t in the same place at the same time. Barring these sorts of clear contravening evidence, media outlets should consider sexual assault accusations credible enough to report.

Why indeed. Other victims of crimes are not presumed to be lying. Research finds it’s bias and NOT that other women have made false allegations and, therefore, have made it harder for honest women to be taken seriously.  

But sexual predators aren’t monsters. They’re men (about 98 percent of them are, anyhow). They can be handsome and seem kind. They can be well-liked. They can do you a favor and think nothing of it. They can kiss their wives in public and mean it. They can be brothers, boyfriends, best buddies, talented film directors, beloved athletes, trusted priests and even (prepare to clutch your pearls) lefty political heroes who seem like genuinely nice guys. What they all have in common is the sociopathic rush they get from controlling another person’s body.

What’s more, our fierce attachment to the idea of the obvious monster has the exact opposite of the intended effect: it puts all of us in great danger. Every time we indulge it, we give cover to the actual sexual predators among us: we discourage victims from reporting because we’ve already told them we won’t believe them, and, when charges do get filed, we’ve already encouraged the police, prosecutors, judges and juries to make like we do and find whatever reasons they can to dismiss, diminish and deny justice. All of which means that these guys—these nice-seeming guys in your community—are free to attack again and again. Which, research shows, they do.

If you’ve ever seen Dateline’s To catch a predator or watched America’s Most Wanted, you’ll understand that most of these men who commit abuse and murder are seemingly “nice guys.” They’re men that look like your neighbors, like your boss, hell, to me, they’re men I might consider dating. They’re not nice though, are they? But they come with no signs on their foreheads, no warning signs, no monster masks….

The DIY guide to preventing rape

Okay, I shouldn’t have done it, but I did. I read the comments on the Ad campaign: She didn’t ask for it  And, well, here’s what I came up with from compiling the comments –

The DIY Guide to Preventing Rape

Okay, ladies, before you begin getting all emotional and shrill, rest assured rape is not that common. In fact, it’s a rare phenomena. Most rape charges are false allegations, anyway. (Note: men frame men, which requires skill; women falsely accuse men, which only requires vengeance and lying) Why, just an allegation is enough for any man to lose his job, his home, his friends, and his savings. So, most of you are just ruining men’s lives by these trumped-up charges. And, for the small minority of women that are truly raped, we have these guidelines for you to follow so you can prevent yourself from getting raped:

  • If you watch your alcohol intake, we men can go ahead and drink and not cause you any trouble. That’s because a sober woman can handle a drunk man. Even if we’re drunk, hell, we still understand consent, so don’t you worry your little heads about our drinking. But you – keep it to a minimum. We’re not trying to be like the Middle East and prevent you from drinking – we’re not like that – we just want you to be respectable and keep your drinking to just a few rounds.
  • We know you buy clothes to impress men, so why don’t you just cut that out? Buy practical garb – again, this aint’ the Middle East  – we ain’t saying you gotta wear a burqa or anything like that – but, you know, keep it on the modest side. The sight of your body – well, no one can be responsible for their actions if they see parts of you exposed.
  • And, flirting, we all know that that’s just asking for trouble. What would you expect?

If you follow these 3 simple guidelines, created by us for your benefit, it will prevent a rape, which, afterall, is not that common, especially when you couple these rules with some good old common sense. Why, you too can prevent your own rape!

Now, let’s see how these rules – compiled from comments on the article  – compare with some risk-reduction (not prevention – that would focus on rapists behavior) suggestions.


In a social situation

  • When you go to a party, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, check in with each other and leave together.
  • Practice safe drinking. Try not to leave any beverages unattended or accept drinks from someone you don’t know or trust.
  • Have a buddy system. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if something is making you uncomfortable or if you are worried about your or your friend’s safety.
  • If someone you don’t know or trust asks you to go somewhere alone, let him or her know that you would rather stay with the group.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way out of a bad situation.
  • Safe drinking

  • Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe in any situation, go with your gut. If you see something suspicious, contact the police immediately
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended while talking, dancing, using the restroom, or making a phone call.
  • At parties, don’t drink from punch bowls or other large, common open containers.
  • Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust and never leave your drink unattended – if you’ve left your drink alone, just get a new one. If you choose to accept a drink, go with the person to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself.
  • Watch out for your friends, and vice versa. Always leave the party or bar together. If a friend seems out of it, is way too intoxicated for the amount of alcohol they’ve had, or is acting out of character, get him or her to a safe place immediately.
  • If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, call 911, and be explicit with doctors so they’ll give you the right tests (you’ll need a urine test and possibly others). The National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE) can often send an advocate to the hospital to help you through the whole process.
  • And, RAINN states 1/6 women and 1/33 men will be sexually assaulted. 60% of rapes will go unreported. And, only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail.

    So guys (and ladies), victims cannot prevent their own rapes. They can reduce their risks, but like humans we sometimes let down our guards, we sometimes drink too much, and yes, sometimes we reveal too much flesh – none of these are reasons for a sexual assault. We need to start talking about prevention and all that that entails – promoting healthy relationships, developing coping skills, respecting human rights, etc.

    She didn’t ask for it

    She didn’t ask for it. She didn’t want it. She didn’t have it coming to her.

    So goes the thinking in this great article in Salon, covering an ad campaign in Scotland – Ad campaign: She didn’t ask for it 

    It starts with a familiar scenario: Pretty girl in a bar wearing a short skirt. Continuing the generic vibe of the scene, a guy catches a glimpse of her and exclaims to his buddy: “Check out that skirt — she’s asking for it!” Cut to the same girl earlier that day looking at skirts in a department store. The saleslady asks if she could use some help. The girl replies matter-of-factly: “Yeah, thanks, I’m going out tonight and I want to get raped. I need a skirt that will encourage a guy to have sex with me against my will.” The clerk excitedly coos: “The blue one. Definitely the blue one.”

    Feel a wee bit unsettled? Aye, you should. Women don’t flirt, drink or dress their way into rape, and the ad highlights the absolute absurdity, and basic inhumanity, of the “asked for it” attitude. As the Scots would say, the spot is pure dead brilliant.

    Very sadly, if you read the comments on this article, you’ll see that readers still “don’t get it.” They liken women dressing sexy to leaving a Mercedes Benz ulocked. Following this logic, why is it that women on the beach in bikinis don’t get raped? Aren’t they just like a fleet of unlocked Mercedes? How about strippers? Are they asking for it? (OH! You say there are rules to follow at these clubs? And, if they’re not enforced, the guy can get tossed out? Oh, I see! )This guy’s logic just doesn’t add up. And it’s very, very sad.

    Here’s the video on YouTube: Not Ever

    Here’s research that might help explain all those misogynist comments we find on rape-related articles:

    Men lack sympathy for rape victims

    The results showed that men had less sympathy for rape victims overall and tended to blame the victim more than women did. In particular men were blamed for not fighting back.

    The men questioned in the study classed assaults on gay men as the least serious especially if the victim was conscious.

    Attribution of blame in cases of rape:  An analysis of participant gender, type of rape and perceived similarity to the victim


    This paper reviews studies exploring the effects of a variety of factors on participants’ judgments of hypothetical depictions of rape within an experimental setting. The focus is on attribution of responsibility or fault to the victim or attacker and related judgments. Three aspects have been reviewed: the effect of participant gender, the type of rape depicted (stranger rape, date rape or acquaintance rape) and perceived similarity with the victim/perpetrator in line with the defensive attribution theory. There are limits to generalization due to populations studied and methods used, and the observed effects of several factors are either minimal or inconsistent. However, some factors have consistent effects on judgments. Findings indicate that men engage in victim blaming more readily than women; victims who are acquainted with their attacker tend to be assigned more responsibility for a rape; and participants who view themselves as similar to the victim attribute more blame to the perpetrator of the rape, demonstrating the effects of “harm avoidance” and “blame avoidance.”

    A situational model of sexual assault prevention through bystander intervention


    Bystander intervention is a potentially potent tool in the primary prevention of sexual assault but more information is needed to guide prevention programs (Banyard 2008). Undergraduates (378 women and 210 men, primarily White) at a central coast California university completed an anonymous questionnaire measuring five barriers identified by the situational model of bystander intervention (Latane and Darley 1970) and bystander intervention behavior. As expected, the barriers were negatively correlated with intervention, were greater for men than for women, and intervention likelihood was affected by perceptions of victim worthiness, especially for men. Hypotheses predicting a positive relationship between having a relationship with the potential victim or perpetrator and intervention were supported. Implications for sexual assault bystander intervention programming are provided.

    And, finally, here’s a study that looked at the media:

    Media attributions of blame and sympathy in ten rape cases


    This study builds upon previous research investigating the nature of magazine coverage of rape cases between 1980 and 1996. The previous research examined the low versus high visibility cases vis-a `-vis case characteristics. The present examination explores condemnation in rape cases in light of case characteristics. A total of 123 articles have been compiled from national magazines. Ten rape cases are included in this study. Concerns pivot around media attribution of rape culpability. The research questions whether the victim’s/offender’s race and/or class affects the media’s exculpation or vilification of the rape victim and/or offender. In other words, the study investigates whether there is a perpetuation of the victim blaming ideology by the media as it pertains to certain rape cases. The research goes on to explore whether the rape scenario, e.g. stranger, acquaintance, single offender or multiple offenders impacts media attributions in rape cases. The findings of this content analysis are viewed in the context of the backlash against feminism and the ‘feminist’ rape reform movement. It is important to understand the phenomena of beliefs about rape in the present era of the backlash that continues to erode gains of the feminist and the rape reform movements.
    Understanding the backlash against feminism and the rights we’ve worked so hard to protect – in both sexual assault and domestic violence – is extremely important in understanding attitudes. Also, understanding that there’s been backlash against the Civil Rights Movement, the LGBT community, being PC, etc. is important because we see that the backlash is not just intended for women & their allies but rather is a wide net, including progressive issues that bring about change.
    For us, the backlash is mainly from men (and some women) protecting the privileges that patriarchy affords them – status, respect, promotion, entrance into networks, public presence (representation), etc.  This includes the “right” to abuse – silence protected that “right” until the 1970s, when the Victims Rights Movement started. Exposing these abuses has not been made without a fight. There’s been “false memory syndromes,”  “false allegations” propaganda, and the “Fathers Rights” guise that are uses as tools to fight back. (The Fathers Rights people stopped domestic violence victims from getting free legal aid; they want to limit restraining orders; they sue domestic violence shelters; and, they believe domestic violence is mutual, just a “mistake,” and can be resolved in couples counseling, even battering.)
    We have to recognize backlash and fight to preserve the gains we’ve made. Progress – egalitarian beliefs and marriages – offer men a chance to have healthier and longer lives (the bread winner status is stressful) and healthier relationships with their wives and children. Healthy relationships benefit us all – this is worth resisting the backlash and forging ahead.      

    Blaming the victim

    Here’s a recent study that compares blame between rape cases and robberies.  It’s important to look at how we blame victims because anyone can be guilty of this – the police, the judiciary system, the medical field, and the media – and we owe it to victims to extend empathy and compassion, not blame. From headlines that claim “nagging” was the cause of a murdered wife or that proclaim a “nice guy” “snapped” and killed his family to the appearance/demeanor of a sexual assault, we need to re-evaluate how we assess these crimes.

    Blaming the Victim and Exonerating the Perpetrator in Cases of Rape and Robbery:  Is There a Double Standard? 


    Steffen Bieneck and Barbara Krahé  

     Research in legal decision making has demonstrated the tendency to blame the victim and exonerate the perpetrator of sexual assault. This study examined the hypothesis of a special leniency bias in rape cases by comparing them to cases of robbery. and robbery of a female victim by a male perpetrator and made ratings of victim and perpetrator blame. Case scenarios varied with respect to the prior relationship (strangers, acquaintances, ex-partners) and coercive strategy (force vs. exploiting victim intoxication). More blame was attributed to the victim and less blame was attributed to the perpetrator for rape than for robbery. Information about a prior relationship between victim and perpetrator increased ratings of victim blame and decreased perceptions of perpetrator blame in the rape cases, but not in the robbery cases. The findings support the notion of a special leniency bias in sexual assault cases. 



     The tendency to shift blame from the perpetrator to the victim has been widely demonstrated to affect judgments about sexual assault cases, both in the field and in controlled laboratory research. Analyses of police files, trial observations, and interviews with legal professionals have shown that holding women responsible for precipitating sexual assaults is a common aspect of legal decision making that has been linked to the problem of high attrition rates in sexual assault cases (e.g., Brown, Hamilton, & O’Neill, 2007; see Temkin & Krahé, 2008, for a review). Experimental studies using case scenarios have also shown that observers are quick to attribute blame to a victim  of sexual assault and to correspondingly reduce the blameworthiness of the alleged perpetrator, especially in those cases that deviate from the “real rape” stereotype of a violent attack of a stranger on an unsuspecting victim (Stewart, Dobbin, & Gatowski, 1996). For example, observers tend to attribute more blame to the victim, and less blame to the perpetrator, the closer the prior relationship between the two (e.g., Krahé, Temkin, & Bieneck, 2007; Viki, Abrams, & Masser, 2004). Research has further shown that if the perpetrator exploits the fact that the victim is too drunk to resist rather than using force, an incident is less likely to be considered a genuine rape complaint and the perpetrator is seen as less likely to be culpable (Schuller & Wall, 1998).

    From the discussion:
    It was found that perpetrators of robbery were blamed more than perpetrators of rape and that victims of rape were blamed more than victims of robbery. More important, the study showed that within each type of crime, background information about victim intoxication and prior victim–perpetrator relationship operated differently. For the robbery cases, perpetrator blame was the same regardless of whether the victim was drunk or previously known to the perpetrator, and perceptions of victim blame were equally unaffected by these characteristics. By contrast, this information critically affected perceptions of perpetrator and victim blame in the rape cases. If the victim was too drunk to resist, she was blamed more and the perpetrator was blamed less than if the victim was overcome by force. Victim
    blame also increased the closer the prior relationship with the perpetrator, and perpetrator blame showed a corresponding decrease. The findings support previous research summarized by Krahé and Berger (2009) demonstrating schematic information processing in rape cases that undermines the victim and exonerates the perpetrator.  No gender differences in judgments about the scenarios were found in the present data. Typically, men are more inclined than women to blame the victim and exonerate the perpetrator in rape cases (although some recent studies showed similar tendencies in men and women; see Temkin & Krahé, 2008). This should make them less likely to differentiate between rape and robbery in their perceptions of perpetrator and victim blame. That clear differences
    between judgments about rape and robbery were found despite the fact that women were overrepresented in our sample by about 3:1 attests to the robustness of the double standard.


    The anti-rape condom

    While it doesn’t hurt to have more options for preventing sexual assault, I’m not sure how I feel about this anti-rape condom. I would love to be able to walk on some trails in my neighborhood – by myself – but I’m not sure I would put on this condom in order to do so. Personally, I’d like something more convenient – like something that could fit into my hand or pocket.

    New anti-rape female condom, Rape-axe, debuts at South Africa’s World Cup

    Dr. Sonnet Ehlers has invented Rape-axe, a female device with jagged hooks that latch onto a man’s penis during penetration.

    The doctor is distributing 30,000 of these condoms in South Africa during this year’s World Cup.

    “It hurts,” Ehlers told CNN. “He cannot pee and walk when it’s on. If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter.”

    South Africa has one of the highest rape rates in the world, according to Human Rights Watch. It is also believed that 16 percent of the population is living with HIV.

    Rape-axe is inserted like a tampon and when embedded to a man the device can only be removed by a doctor.

    Here is another story from the NY Times on the increase of violence against women, particularly rape, in Haiti.
    Since the earthquake, international relief groups have expressed concerns about violence against women, especially in the camps under their watch. Poor or nonexistent lighting, unlockable latrines, adjacent men’s and women’s showers and inadequate police protection have all been problems.