Rape culture

I went to a conference once where the speaker had Googled ‘sexual assault’ and within a 24 hour time frame, she produced story after story of a society riddled with rape – of girls raped by men, of college students assaulted on campus, of women jogging in the park. It was startling.

Now consider how under-reported rape is. The media often focuses more on false allegations of rape than the problem of not reporting it, so most people tend to have more sympathy for the accused than the abused.

If the media reported on it, and society understood it better, perhaps we as a society could do more to prevent it. Reporting on false allegations – that just fuels the belief that people won’t believe you if you’re raped. Victim blaming will also prevent you from reporting. The recent NY Times article did just that – and did little to educate readers on the reality of rape. Here are a few more posts on the topic:

The careless language of sexual violence    

Here are some posts on campus assaults:

Students protest Dickinson College ignoring protection from sexual assault (pictures of the protest)

Dickinson college students want more information on sexual assaults on campus

Warning: the link below is highly offensive. Please hit the “report abuse” button on the upper left hand side:

Man debates: rape: deaf vs. blind

Hands down, deaf people are the better of the two to rape. If you’re raping a girl, what does she do? She cries and screams for help. Well, if she’s deaf she’ll be whining, but she won’t be calling out for someone to save her ass. She’ll squawk something that sounds like a seal with his slippery little cock slammed in a door. This will be annoying, of course, but no one will care. People will probably just think that some retard sprained her ankle. Thus, nobody will come to help her, and the neighbors will be pissed off at all the ruckus. Plus, I don’t have to stuff a sock in her mouth, which is one less thing I have to bring along in my rape tool kit, which includes the following:*.

*That’s why a deaf person is the preferred choice by many a rapist. You can sneak up behind them and they won’t hear you.

There are many more blogs and web sites with similarly offensive text (and pics). Angry Harry comes to mind. He refutes rape stats and claims most are false allegations.

Rape is a problem all over the world. I’ve posted links to articles that state 1 in 3 South African men admit to rape. I heard a woman talk about violence against women in Guatemala – she said gang members have to rape and kill girls for their initiation. She said since these men aren’t skilled in killing, they hack the body. All I could think was: they treat bulls better in Spain. And here’s a recent article about the rapes in Congo (many are classified as “atrocity rapes”):

UN squad starts work in mass rape zones 

But given the scale of conflict-zone sex assaults, Zahinda warns that his four-person unit –with two positions yet to be filled–can’t possibly respond to every incident of mass rape.

“If we were going to respond to individual cases we would be responding every second,” he told Women’s eNews in a recent phone interview. “People are raped every day in eastern Congo.”

Of course they can’t respond to every mass rape — women’s (and men’s) sexual assault are not prioritized. They go on the back burner, like many of the other issues we have.  I recently posted an article where a guy from US AID said women represented a “special interest group” and considered our human rights “pet projects.”

Women: How long are we going to take this?

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One less

Check out Jodi Jacobson’s great article in RH Reality Check: The Millennium Development…Guys? It made me heartsick to read about an agency like the UN putting a bunch of males, particularly males holding the viewpoints that these guys do, in charge of groups responsible for advocating for maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, economic development, etc.

Consider also that virtually all of these issues remained invisible–or just plain unimportant–to the largely male power structures in every country for the past several decades, until the global women’s movement gained traction in their fight to put them on the global agenda.

Given these realities, it would seem that appointments to a recently convened United Nations High-level Advocacy Group focused on pushing for progress on the Millennium Development Goals would take pains to put high-level women in charge–at least in equal numbers to their male counterparts–of advocating for maternal health, child health, and HIV and AIDS, as well as those “other things” like economic development, in which women, as all the development literature has repeated ad nauseum for 40 years, are essential actors.  

This is especially problematic because:

Men continue to control the agenda and to decide how much or how little money and attention will be paid to ending the epidemic of pregnancy- and sexually-transmitted infection-related deaths and illnesses that robs millions of women of their lives and health every year worldwide.  Men continue to decide what priorities will be on the table when they do “pay attention” to these issues, and when they won’t, for reasons of their own political or financial agendas or their own ideological or political affiliations or all of the above, address honestly one of the leading and most preventable causes of pregnancy-related death and illness, that being unsafe abortion. Men continue to decide  whether they will, for the sake of ideology cloaked as “common ground,” push for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that leave women disproportionately vulnerable to HIV and AIDS, leave the issue of safe abortion out of research and international documents, confront other issues like stoning as “adulterers” women who’ve been raped, or “accept” that ending the war in Afghanistan likely means leaving women to the “mercy” of the Taliban.

Personally, this paragraph was one of the most upsetting:

So why is it that Bob Geldof, the Irish singer and political advocate is being assigned to advocate for “all MDGs”–including those addressing maternal and child health and HIV and AIDS, when Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile who grappled directly with high rates of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion in her own country, is assigned only to the MDG focused on gender equality and empowerment? (The MDG, by the way, which everyone agrees is the lowest priority in terms of funding and which also can’t be separated from the others.) Geldof and his colleague Bono–no matter how well-intentioned–both are associated with the ONE campaign, which, while it advocates for ending poverty in Africa, has also advocated for abstinence-only-until marriage programs in PEPFAR, to deny HIV-positive women access to family planning services, and against efforts to address safe abortion as an integral aspect of women’s health and rights.

I used to be a member of the ONE campaign. Ugh. I don’t know why, but I was unaware they supported abstinence-only or denied family planning services, including abortion. Moreover, I’m flabbergasted Bob Geldof, a known fathers rights proponent, is heading a maternal and child health group. Has the world gone mad? Here’s the comment I posted on Jodi’s article:

Bob Geldof is a Fathers Rights Advocate – Here he is on video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-MGHd5rz84

Note how he blames fatherlessness (read: single moms) for raising criminals and causing other social ills. Gender & marital status have little to do with raising a criminal – poverty, racism, sexism, lack of resources, lack of role models in general, drug policies, lack of gun laws, etc. have to do with social ills and crime – not single women.

 In regard to his stats & philosophies on family court, it should be noted that family court IS for couples with high conflict, most of them with domestic violence, child abuse, or child sexual abuse. Other couples (85-90%) create their own parenting plans – those that can’t – go to Family Court.

 Research finds that when men SEEK (key word) custody, they actually have higher rates of success than women. Disturbingly, batterers often seek custody (to further their control) and GET IT.

 Here’s an overview on Wikipedia on Fathers Rights Movement. Note that it has been extremely difficult to get an opposing view of the  FR movement on Wikipedia, but currently I see some sentences have been inserted that reflect opposition – thankfully. Geldof is listed at the end as a notable supporter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fathers’_rights_movement

 It should also be noted that some advocates refer to the FR gang as the Abusers Lobby. Many of their members have had prior conflict, charges of abuse, convictions, stalking charges, etc. Here’s a compilation of charges by researcher Michael Flood: http://angelzfury.blogspot.com/2010/02/use-of-violence-by-fathers-rights.html 

 Geldof, like many other FR proponents, support traditional families – meaning they’d like to make it harder for women to get a divorce, they don’t like losing the respect of being a father/bread winner/family man, they’d like to have control over women and children, etc. — this is NOT the person who should be heading a committee for maternal and child health — this makes me sick to my stomach.

Count me as ONE LESS member of the ONE Campaign and one more of the disheartened women who has looked – but often fails to see –  progress from the UN.

UN and women

Alas, more sad news….

A recent court case in New York confirmed that you can’t sue United Nations officials on the basis of gender discrimination.  Lucky for them.  A quick look at UN practices in hiring, promotions, assignments, dispute settlement, compensation and high-level appointments suggests a clear and systematic pattern of bias against women.  “If the UN were a private company located in New York City, it might have gone bankrupt years ago from paying off gender discrimination settlements,” says one UN insider, a man with long experience in these issues with only slight hyperbole. 

Read more here: The UN and Women:  Walking the walk on Empowerment?

Have women really progressed?

Here’s a press release from the UN discussing the status of women’s rights in the world. As Hillary Clinton has said, women’s rights are human rights. Unfortunately, they are often seen as “women’s issues” or as something that, since women tolerate the abuses, must be okay. People that work in sweat factories can be said to be working “voluntarily” or accepting their condition, but it’s a human rights abuse nonetheless. We have to stop rationalizing women’s human rights abuses and start resolving these issues.

Ms. Yade said 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the situation of women had not really improved. They had progressed, of course, but it was a path filled with obstacles, where steps backwards remained a possibility. Discrimination against women found its source in the continuance throughout the world of practices and prejudices from another time, in the persistence of both de facto and judicial discrimination. These inequalities were linked to the inferior social status which continued to be applied to women, and by the public debate that was tainted by this.

Mr. Despouy said sometimes inequality stemmed from the application of the law and not the text itself, for example in the area of property and ownership. As to administration of justice, women often had problems participating in it. Important issues were at stake for women, such as child custody among others, and therefore they needed access to the judiciary. Discrimination against women continued to be a major issue on the human rights agenda and the Human Rights Council could not turn a blind eye on it. Discrimination did not only take place in one area, women suffered discrimination everywhere.

Mr. La Rue said all human beings regardless of age, culture, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, among others, should have the right to develop their opinions and express them. It was very important to focus on freedom of expression from the point of view of women. Women had been silenced both in domestic legislation, international practice and customs in some countries around the world. It was necessary to create a safe space for freedom of expression and for the exchange of opinion, in all spheres of life: the family, society, domestic legislation and international instruments. Freedom of expression was a main instrument to halt violence against women and all forms of discrimination.