From the Star Tribune, man who confessed to raping two girls, 13 and 15, was giving a plea-deal with a sentence of the time he had already served — 361 days. The county attorney, James Backstrom, said this will allow for avoiding potentially traumatizing the victims by requiring them to testify.
The new Director of Public Prosecutions in England & Wales, Alison Saunders, has said juries should be warned about myths and stereotypes associated with rape BEFORE they hear evidence:
Ms Saunders said: “There is lots of really good practice now, so the judge gives the jury directions on myths and stereotypes. But, what normally happens is that they’re given at the end of the case when the jury is just about to go out and deliberate.
“All of us are human – you’re going to hear the evidence, you’re going to make a judgement and then you’re told to set your judgement aside and [are told by the judge] these are the things you should be taking into account – actually it’s better to hear that at the beginning.”
It’s an interesting article, based on an interview with Alison Saunders and Martin Hewitt, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on adult sexual offences.
Not Alone April 29, 2014
The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault has released its first report. A snippet:
Among the most promising prevention strategies – and one we heard a lot about in our listening sessions – is bystander intervention. Social norms research reveals that men often misperceive what other men think about this issue: they overestimate their peers’ acceptance of sexual assault and underestimate other men’s willingness to intervene when a woman is in trouble. And when men think their peers don’t object to abusive behavior, they are much less likely to step in and help. Programs like Bringing in the Bystander work to change those perspectives – and teach men (and women) to speak out against rape myths (e.g., women who drink at parties are “asking for it”) and to intervene if someone is at risk of being assaulted.
Suit filed to stop Campus SaVE Act March 3, 2014
According to a March 2 press release, a University of Virginia rape victim has filed a landmark civil rights action in an effort to halt the Campus SaVE Act – a new U.S. federal law which is scheduled to take effect this week, on March 7.
The suit alleges that SaVE undermines women’s civil rights in various ways, including that it permits colleges and universities to mandate that victims prove their credibility under an exceedingly rigorous “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. In contrast, the April 2011 Dear Colleague Letter issued by the Department of Education as a clarification/guidance for Title IX requires only that victims meet a much lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard.
Under SaVE, the higher burden of proof will only be allowed in cases involving violence against women, and will not be applied to cases involving violence against students based on other protected class categories such as race, disabilities and ethnicity. The victim alleges in her suit that it is unconstitutional to subject violence against women to weaker legal standards compared to violence based on these other categories.
Another objectionable provision in SaVE requires schools to apply state criminal law standards to violence against women cases on campus. Current law requires schools to apply more generous federal civil rights standards so that, for example, a sexual assault is proved as long as the conduct was “unwelcome.” Under SaVE, “unwelcomeness” will not be enough. The victim will have to prove that the conduct violated state criminal law, which in most states means the victim will have to prove both non-consent and that the assault involved the use of force.
Because the more generous standard of “unwelcomeness” will continue to apply to cases involving violence that occurs on the basis of race, disabilities and ethnicity, the victim alleges SaVE violates women’s equal protection and due process rights.
UVA is under investigation by the Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for allegedly mishandling a sexual assault case on campus where a female student was drugged and raped by a male student. Allegations include that a UVA nurse falsified medical records and reported there were no injuries consistent with sexual assault despite multiple findings of significant injuries; and that UVA lost or destroyed photographs of the victim’s injuries.
According to the press release, UVA has not expelled a single student charged with sexual assault in more than 10 years. In the case currently under federal investigation, UVA’s own Sexual Misconduct Board ruled that the victim was “compelling” and “credible,” yet the Board cleared the accused of all charges, ruling the evidence was insufficient. UVA later granted the accused a teaching assistant position on campus.
Many advocacy groups have expressed support for the funding provisions in SaVE that will go toward anti-violence training and education programs. Those provisions are not being challenged in the lawsuit.
What’s wrong with ‘stand your ground’ laws? February 28, 2014
For one, “White-on-black homicides are 354 percent more likely to be ruled justified than white-on-white.”
ThinkProgress has some other disturbing facts, here.
What’s the state of your state? January 25, 2014
Readers: Does your state/city/municipality have non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ communities? Is there relevant legislation in place or pending that you know of? Post here on the state of the laws in your place of residence with regard to LBGTQ equality for the sake of our readers on the market, and save some already exhausted candidates some time.
Obama gave his task force 90 days to recommend best practices for colleges to prevent or respond to assaults, and to check that they are complying with existing legal obligations. The task force — which includes the attorney general and the secretaries of the Education, Health and Human Services and Interior Departments — was also asked for proposals to raise awareness of colleges’ records regarding assaults and officials’ responses, and to see that federal agencies get involved when officials do not confront problems on their campuses.
Gender-neutral language debated in the House of Lords January 15, 2014
There was an interesting and well-informed debate in the House of Lords in December 2013 on gender-neutral language in legislation. One illustrative highlight:
In my view, it was perfectly reasonable for Jack Straw in 2007 to call for an end to any such male stereotyping in our use of English, specifically rejecting the Interpretation Act 1978 and its reiteration of the convention that masculine pronouns are deemed to include feminine reference. If it ever worked, that convention no longer does, and there have been convincing psycholinguistic experiments showing that sentences such as “Anyone parking his car here will be prosecuted” predominantly call up images of a man doing the illicit parking.
To return to the policing Bill, we find that most amendments are thoroughly sensitive in this respect, with anaphoric reference employing “he or she” or repetition—“a person … that person”. But among the minority using the traditional “he”, there are striking cases, especially in Amendments 93 to 95, where the singular masculine pronoun is used no fewer than 18 times. In all of them, the antecedent of “he” is surely a tell-tale phrase: “the judge”. Since we do indeed have a judiciary that is largely manned by men, it is hard to believe that the use of “he” in these amendments really means “he or she” rather than endorsing one particular male stereotype as a fact of life.
(The speaker here is Lord Quirk, who founded the Survey of English Usage in 1959. I really don’t like the fact that we have an unelected upper house in the UK, but the fact we get contributions like this gives me pause.)