“Unfounded” Sexual Assaults

Women are such liars, eh?  From Jennifer O’Connor at This Magazine:

According to Statistics Canada, for a case to be deemed unfounded “the police investigation must establish that a sexual assault did not occur or was not attempted.” In 2002-the most recent StatsCan info available-an average of 16 per cent of sexual offences reported to police nationwide were classified this way, a rate that had remained steady since 1991. (By comparison, seven per cent of other violent crimes, such as homicide, abduction and robbery, were catalogued as unfounded in 2002.) “I think it’s a statement on women’s equality,” says Susan Havart, administrative coordinator and counsellor at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa. “Sexual assault cases are perceived differently in the courts and through the legal system. It speaks volumes that those that they don’t want to do anything about or can’t do anything about get pushed into that unfounded category.”

Cases …  are not pursued to court, nor are they reported to the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System, a national database that allows police to identify whether someone may be responsible for multiple offences. They are not included in annual statistical reports, and, in many jurisdictions, information about them is only available through Access to Information requests. StatsCan no longer requires law enforcement agencies to supply data regarding these files. Most people don’t even know the term exists. How does an investigation establish that “a sexual assault did not occur or was not attempted”? Too often, by scrutinizing who a woman is and overlooking how investigations are supposed to be done.


Lee Lakeman is a spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres and has been a rape crisis counselor for more than 30 years. Having answered crisis lines across the country, she’s noticed some patterns. If a woman lives in a poorer neighbourhood, a rural area or on a reserve, if English isn’t her first language, if she’s reporting about a man with any social privilege, or if she has none, she is more likely to have her case labelled unfounded. “Our biggest problem,” says Lakeman, “is women are not taken seriously when they report and are immediately questioned as to their integrity.”

Just one more example of how women are made invisible.  By the way, the false reporting of a crime is a criminal offense.  I wonder why there aren’t more charges of public mischief against women reporting sexual assaults that are “unfounded”?  Not that it hasn’t happened, mind you …

This is a great article.  Go read

Here’s the website of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres

Towards Trangression

From Vision, Violence, and Voice: A journey from liminal to transgressive spaces by Stephanie Urso Spina:

What one does first and foremost is survive the trauma — to persist in spite of it. Then one works (perhaps for a lifetime) to process it, often in uniquely personal ways. Thus, it remains a part of one’s history, one’s self. Some after-effects of trauma will always be with me but I suspect that most of these are common, although possibly in a lesser degree, to the fortuity of having been born female. For example, I startle more than most at loud noises or sudden movements. Until a few years ago, I went to great lengths to avoid traveling alone at night, even if just a short drive to the local grocery store. I remain hyper-vigilant, but given the proclivities of the society we live in, that is more likely prudence than psychogenic pathology.

 The point is that the goal is not to transcend trauma but to endure — and not without cost. Proteanism recognizes that the pain and despair never completely disappear. It is not an effort to “fix people,” but to understand them in all of their complexity so that we may demystify the role of society and better understand the practices that construct our sense of self, other, and “reality,” and thereby fix our inappropriate social structures instead. In order to do this, we must challenge the legitimacy of the hegemonic order. We must create “becoming spaces” (Derrida, 1981, p. 27) where we can think, speak, and act in ways that both mark and transgress imposed limits; where we can disrupt the dominant discourse and so reconstruct it. Sexual abuse is not an isolated phenomenon or private event. It is woven into our social fabric. It is a public issue. It is our anger and our outrage, not our silence, that will hold society accountable and provoke change.

Read the whole article here at Radical Psychology

Hoping Obama Will Help

My dreams have been full of the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo for months and months and my heart cracks a little more each time I think of them.  The Bush administration, the U.N., my country and the powerful countries of the world have been unsuccessful in ameliorating he conditions for women in Congo, to the extent that anyone has tried.  These days, I often push thoughts of those women aside out of feelings of despair.

Thus, it was with a sense of relief and great hope that I read the following open letter to President-Elect Obama at The Huffington Post:

On December 5, 2008, a few days before the 60th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a group of global and domestic women’s organizations gathered in New York to frame a shared agenda for advancing global women’s rights. Determined to use their collective strength and expertise to work together to advance a global agenda for women’s freedom, safety and agency, they crafted the following open letter to President-elect Obama and committed to working together to see their vision come true in this century.
Dear President-Elect Obama,

As a group of women leaders who have given our lives to the transformation, protection and empowerment of women in the United States and globally, we want to begin by congratulating you. We are honored and proud to have you lead the nation during this historic time. We also welcome your call to action, reminding us of what we have always known — that as global citizens we cannot solely rely on any one administration’s ability to bring about change, but must be steadfast in pushing forward our own vision and agendas.

We represent a historic movement for change: millions of women across the globe with innovative ideas, influential constituencies and collaborative solutions. We are calling on you to ensure that women are equally represented in everything, from your administration’s infrastructure to its decision-making and solution building. We are calling on you to exercise leadership in dismantling the structures that perpetuate gender inequality, impede women’s full participation in society and thwart real progress for people around the world.

As war rages in Gaza, it is clear that the time has come to dismantle militarism as the dominant ideology in world politics. We must ensure that women take the lead in building lasting peace in the Middle East, ending genocide in Darfur, stopping femicide in the Democratic Republic of Congo, fighting the War on Terror in Afghanistan, and ending the war in Iraq.

Though the select-few women who hold leadership positions in this country’s political system inspire us; women represent more than 50% of the population and deserve more than marginal representation. We believe that in order for your vision of change to succeed, women must be in positions of power. While US women gained the right to vote 100 years ago, to date only 14% of the US Congress are women. This must change.

The major economic, security, governance and environmental challenges of our times cannot be solved without the equal participation of women at all levels of society — from the home to institutions of national and global governance. Women’s voices must be central in all major discussions including the economic crisis, overhauling our education system. Long-term investments in women’s education, health and leadership development are equally critical. Economic structures continue to marginalize women. Consider this: women represent two-thirds of the world’s labor yet we own less than 1% of the world’s assets.

In addition, more than 500,000 women die each year because of inadequate medical and reproductive care. Violence against women is a pandemic that determines women’s realities, impeding their access to education and economic self-sufficiency. This global epidemic is undermining the future of the world, as women are at the heart of all communities and families; we literally carry the future in our bodies.

Yet these are not “women’s issues.” In fact, such investments are vital to economic growth and the well-being of all individuals, communities, societies and nations. Consider India’s economic transformation of the past 15 years: The World Bank finds that states with the highest percentage of women in the labor force grew the fastest and had the largest reductions in poverty.

As policy makers, activists, researchers, and grant-makers we have spent our lives investing in women and know that these kinds of investments have immeasurable and fundamental impact for the better. Worldwide, women are uniquely positioned to bring innovative insights and creative solutions to global leadership forums. If we hope to improve existing economic, peace and security, and human development frameworks women must not only be included, but must be at the heart of the discussion.

We are calling on you to be the President who ushers in the time of women. Our vision of the future is one in which women and men are equal partners, standing shoulder to shoulder in confronting the world’s challenges. We welcome, with hope and anticipation, your shared commitment to this vision.  [emphasis mine]

We represent more than half of the world’s human potential. And our time has come.


Linda Basch, PhD
President, National Council for Research on Women

Mallika Dutt
Executive Director, Breakthrough: Building Human Rights Culture

Eve Ensler
Founder, V-Day

Adrienne Germain
President, International Women’s Health Coalition

Sara Gould
CEO, Ms. Foundation

Christine Grumm
CEO, Women’s Funding Network

Geeta Rao Gupta
President, International Center for Research on Women

Carolyn Makinson
Executive Director, Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children

Kavita Ramdas
CEO, Global Fund for Women

Zainab Salbi
President, Women for Women International

In February, V-Day will be in  five American cities with its “Turning Pain to Power” tour – New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Dr. Dennis Mukwege will be on the tour with Eve Ensler.  Dr. Mukwege runs the Panzi Hospital in the DRC, offering services to women and girls who have been raped and won the 2008 UN Human Rights Prize.

Check out the V-Day site for more information on the tour and for tickets.  Please!

DR Congo

Amnesty International Call for Protection of Civilians in Democratic Republic of Congo


From The Guardian.co.uk:

Last year, Médecins Sans Frontières estimated that 75% of all the rape cases it dealt with worldwide were in eastern Congo. Many young women have been abducted into sexual slavery. In some villages, armed groups kill the men and rape all the women. Many are left HIV positive and pregnant. In some larger towns, such as Shabunda, Congolese human rights groups estimate seven out of 10 women have been raped.

Doctors say the onslaught against women is notable not only for its scale but for its brutality. Gang rapes are commonplace and frequently accompanied by torture in which women are mutilated by having guns or stakes thrust into their vaginas, or their genitals slashed with knives. One in four who make it to hospitals in Goma and Rutshuru require major surgery. More than a third are teenagers.

Human rights groups say that while rape is a product of many conflicts, its systematic nature in Congo makes it a “weapon of war” used to terrorise and punish communities or as a tool of ethnic cleansing.


Feminist Analysis of Sexual Violence

Taken from Mariangela Di Domenico, La violence faite aux femmes: à travers les agressions à caractère sexuel, (Quebec City: Conseil du statut de la femme, 1995)

This paper will discuss some of the theoretical foundations of various feminists’ analysis on male violence against women. These feminists were the first to analyze sexual violence against women from a socio-political perspective. They alerted the public to a problem which, prior to their work, had received scant attention. What little information there had been, was presented through the lens of psycho-biological determinism. Due to the theoretical nature and complexity of the analysis found in the feminist literature, we have had to limit ourselves to the key events. Also, we have chosen to focus on certain authors we judged to be particularly significant. Because feminism is a practice as well as a theory, it is clear that a study of the writing on its own will provide only a glimpse of the scope and richness of the analysis developed by this movement.

This paper is divided into sections that group authors representing the major currents of feminist analysis of male violence. During the 70s, for example, writers accorded a predominant role to socio-political structures; since the 80s, a more global vision has emerged, in which sexuality, the construction of heterosexuality and the social control of women constitute the main elements.

Read excerpts from the paper here

The World is Indifferent to DRC

From IPS:

International lust for the enormous mineral and resource riches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) abetted by international indifference has turned much of country into a colossal “rape mine” where more than 300,000 women and girls have been brutalised, say activists.

“Rape is being used as a deliberate tool to control people and territory,” said Eve Ensler, a celebrated U.S. playwright and founder of V-Day, a global movement in 120 countries to end violence against women and girls.

“The rapes are systematic, horrific and often involve bands of rebels infected with HIV/AIDS,” Ensler, who recently returned from the DRC, told IPS.

Ensler was in Toronto to help raise funds for the Panzi Hospital in the DRC’s South Kivu Province where many rape victims are brought. Once a maternity hospital, Panzi Hospital now provides free care and refuge to 3,500 victims of sexual violence each year. Denis Mukwege leads a team of six surgeons who routinely work 18-hour days to repair women’s extensive internal injuries.

Hundreds of women and children were raped yesterday, hundreds more today. This is an economic war that uses terror as its main weapon to ensure warlords and their bands control regions where international companies mine for valuable metals like tin, silver and coltan, or extract lumber and diamonds, Ensler said.

Coltan is a rare and extremely valuable metal used in cell phones, DVD players, computers, digital cameras, video games, vehicle air bags, and more. It has long been implicated as both the source of funding and primary cause of the ongoing conflict and extraordinary violence against women.

“A friend mapped the locations of the mass rapes in the DRC and they correspond to coltan mining regions,” she said.

This “blood coltan” — akin to blood diamonds — generates billions of dollars of sales every year for electronics manufacturers in rich countries and brings hundreds of millions of dollars to rebels and others who control the coltan-producing regions. Coltan is also produced in other countries, and the DRC’s “blood coltan” is often transported to those countries to give it a sheen of conflict-free provenance.

Over five million people have been killed in the ongoing war following the overthrow of the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997. The United Nations’ largest-ever peacekeeping force of 17,000 has been in the DRC since 2000. However, it is a vast country the size of Western Europe, and with few roads.

Last Jan. 22, rebel groups signed a peace treaty with an ineffective DRC government accused of corruption and complicit in the rape of women. Despite the treaty, thousands of women and young girls in the eastern Congo have been raped this year in the region that borders Rwanda and Uganda where coltan and other minerals are found. Large-scale fighting resumed in July, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

“The failure of the international community has created a catastrophe in the DRC,” said Stephen Lewis, former U.N. special envoy for AIDS in Africa and founder of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, a charity that supports 300 grassroots projects in Africa. Headquartered in Toronto, the foundation is a financial supporter of the Panzi Hospital.

Last June, the U.N. Security Council, chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, passed Security Council Resolution 1820 condemning the use of sexual violence against women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations.

Lewis told IPS that while the resolution was an unprecedented agreement by the world community, “not a thing has happened since then. It is as if the world exalted in the fine words of the resolution and then let its intent die.”

He is also critical of the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy to the region, Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria, who is meeting rebel and government leaders but who has not met with the women of the Congo. Women must be brought to the table, Lewis said. They were also excluded during the previous peace negotiations.

“We have to stop the raping or the war will never end,” he said.

The U.N. Security Council recently voted to send an extra 3,000 peacekeepers to eastern Congo to help protect civilians affected by the fighting. By most accounts, that effort will fall far short. “With 50,000 U.N. peacekeepers, the women of the DRC could be protected,” said Lewis.

Three years ago, the global community agreed it has a responsibility to protect people when a government is unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens from the worst violations of human rights. However, there has been widespread failure to live up to that commitment, which Lewis characterises as “an appalling and grotesque indifference by the world community”.

Lewis, a Canadian, is especially outraged that Canada — which championed the “responsibility to protect” principle — has been “completely and utterly silent on the DRC”.

Read the rest here

The Trial of Artemisia Gentileschi

From Tracy Marks:

Little is known about the circumstances under which Agostino Tassi was charged for raping Artemisia Gentileschi, but scholars believe that her father heard rumors and confronted them both. Both Cosimo Quorli (who had tried but failed to rape Artemisia, who had stolen one of her paintings, and who had helped Agostino plan visits to her house when her father was absent) were charged. The trial lasted for seven months in 1612, and received considerable publicity.

The transcripts of the trial, included in Mary Garrard’s Artemisia Gentileschi, reveal that:
a) Tuzia, supposedly an older friend of Artemisia who lived in the same house as the Gentileschi’s, betrayed Artemisia by letting Agostino in to Artemisia’s house through her apartment.

b) Agostino was a convicted rapist, who had previously served time in jail, and had been known to have raped both his sister-in-law and his previous wife. His wife was missing, presumed dead, and everyone believed that he had hired bandits to kill her. Artemisia did not know that he was married until the middle of the trial.

c) Agostino was obsessed with Artemisia, had prevented her from marrying Modenese, whom her father had arranged for her to marry, had spied on her and hired men to watch her around the clock, and had been known to have many jealous rages in regard to her proximity to other men. He also had bragged to many that he had deflowered her.

d) Since the first sexual encounter, Agostino had been continually promising Artemisia that he would marry her, and continually postponing the marriage, but using his promise as a means of convincing her to continue sexual relations with him.

During the trial, Artemisia was tortured with the sibille, thumbscrews, involving cords of rope tied around her hands and pulled tightly, in order to “prove” that she was telling the truth. During the torture, which of course seriously injured her hands, she was repeatedly asked whether or not Tassi had raped her, and she continually responded, “it is true, it is true.”

Read more about Gentileschi here

Rape & Death in Congo

From Michelle Rice at the Sydney Morning Herald:

In Congo there is belligerent rape by all sides. Shooting, looting and raping go hand in hand. Rebels and soldiers take everything from people who have almost nothing to give.

“There are guns and rape. You cannot stop rape until you stop war,” says Clarisse Kasaza, a World Vision aid worker who works with rape victims.

“In 2006 many families started hiding their wives, mothers and daughters in the ceiling. But eventually bandits became suspicious and if they didn’t see women in the home they started shooting the roof. There is nowhere for women to hide here.”

Martha, now 43, has committed her life to helping rape victims and caring for children born from rape. “Three times a month I speak in communities to help people understand the crime of rape and I teach other women to be helpers in their communities.”

In the past year of fighting, a group of 90 women has formed around Martha to support one another. They meet weekly and those rejected by their husbands after being raped have taken a house together.

“We also have a revolving loan so we can build up a market business and savings for the group. That way we can afford to feed our children and send the children to school.”

Martha’s 18-year-old daughter, Venacia*, helps look after the 12 orphaned children who share her home. “They are like brothers and sisters,” she says. “We play together. I teach them how to help around the house and make them food.”

Venacia sees the worst of it every week. “One month ago I saw soldiers raping two girls. And then one of them pushed sticks up the vagina … She was bleeding very badly. I ran to get my mother and when we got back one of the girls had died. We took the other one home to care for her.

“I am angry every time my mother brings women to our house and I see them suffering. And I am scared because I know this could happen to me.”

More than 2000 rape cases are reported in the North Kivu region a month. One community in Rutshuru, now under rebel control, reported 150 cases in a month. But most are not reported. “Women are scared and fear discrimination, community isolation or being thrown out of home by their husbands,” Kasaza says.

Not everyone is happy about Martha’s help. Last month she was again raped while collecting firewood and last week she was attacked in her home by soldiers who demanded she stop doing this work with women. But she is not discouraged.

“It’s what keeps me going. I have thought about ending my life many, many times. But then I see the children I have and the women who need support and I stop myself.”

* Martha and Venacia are pseudonyms.

Read the whole thing here

These numbers are startlingly gruesome.  Men, women and children are dying and the low estimate is that 2000 women and girls are being raped in the most barbarous fashion, imaginable, every month.

from Amnesty International

OH NOOoo, Helen!

Actress Helen Mirren:

“I’m more careful when I’m being interviewed by a woman because, from experience as well as reading articles about other women, I know there is a little stiletto knife hidden behind the back.”

She continued: “In a rape case, the courts – in defence of a man – would select as many women as they could for the jury, because women go against women.

“Whether in a deep-seated animalistic way, going back billions of years, or from a sense of tribal jealousy or just antagonism, I don’t know, but other women on a rape case would say she was asking for it. The only reason I can think of is that they’re sexually jealous.”

Mirren said date rape was a “tricky area” and something men and women had to work out between themselves.

It grieves me to say it, but Mirren has a serious case of internalised misogyny.

via Fuck Politeness

VAW Across Cultures

From the Canberra Times:

A new report suggests one in five ACT teenagers has witnessed an act of domestic violence against their mother or stepmother.

The report, which looks at the issue of family violence and the perceptions of young people, shows Canberra teenagers are among the 500,000 young people around the country to witness violence at home.

The An Assault on our Future report will be issued by the White Ribbon Foundation today .

It shows nearly a third of teenage boys nationally believe that violence against women is “not a big deal” with a similar number believing “most physical violence occurs because a partner provoked it”.

Report co-author and researcher Michael Flood said the findings echoed the experience of many people working in the field.

He said the attitudes of some young men were being negatively influenced by parents, peers, the media and pornography and the study the results showed a need for more targeted campaigns against family violence.

“It is remarkable that a substantial minority of young males thinks violence against women is OK in some circumstances when she’s led you on or she’s flirting,” he said.

The report showed a large number of girls had experienced sexual assault or attempted rape, and nearly a third of Year 10 girls reported having experienced unwanted sex.

“I was surprised just how common it is for girls and young women in particular for girls or young women to be pressured or forced into sex,” Dr Flood said.

What kind of a researcher is Dr. Michael Flood that he hasn’t heard how common it is “for girls or young women to be pressured or forced into sex”?  WTF?!  And “unwanted sex”?  Hmmmmmm.

And from The Daily Star (Bangladesh):

The UNFPA report on the state of the world population this year finds that the concept of gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence, often does not resonate within the Bangladeshi society and is not readily identified, even among many victims themselves.

The report also mentioned that those who do recognise themselves as survivors of violence often remain silent because of the dishonor associated with this taboo.

This must be due to the fact that 80% of Bangladesh’s population is Muslim.  They just have no respect for women in Islamic countries.