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Domestic Violence and Corporate America

Domestic Violence 2 Between the years 2003 and 2012 domestic violence accounted for 21% of all violent crime reported in the United States. [BJS]  So, why does it take the dismissal of a star athlete in a nationally adored sport to get our attention?  Yes, Ray Rice has been dismissed from the Baltimore Ravens NFL team, an action which has drawn universal praise for the Ravens front office – however, as the statistic should illustrate, Mr. Rice is certainly not alone.

76% of domestic violence victims are men, 24% are women. [BJS] The definition of domestic violence appears to predict these numbers, as the Department of Justice describes it”:

“…a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.  Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”

The Department of Justice goes further, identifying elements which are components of domestic violence:  The abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and/or psychological. [DoJ]  In the instance of Mr. Rice, the behavior was clearly physical.  However, when an organization such as the NFL, or any other corporation for that matter, announces a Zero Tolerance policy for domestic violence what is it talking about?

Mr. Rice’s behavior in the elevator was obviously physical, and just as obviously abusive.  The incident was also highly visible.  Perhaps at this point it’s important to ask what if the abuse in question isn’t obviously physical, and isn’t documented on video for all the world to eventually see?

What if the abuse is within the confines of the household, and is primarily sexual?  What if the abuse constituted marital rape?  Here we find the radical conservatives hawking the notion that there is no such thing as spousal rape.  Consider Richard Black, Virginia state senator now running for Congress:

The rabidly conservative Republican was one of the state delegates who argued against criminalizing spousal rape in 2002, asking his fellow assemblymen, “How on earth you could validly get a conviction of a husband-wife rape when they’re living together, sleeping in the same bed, she’s in a nightie, and so forth, there’s no injury, there’s no separation or anything.” [TDB]

She’s in a nightie, and so forth…?”  Mr. Black’s line of argument appears to be if it’s difficult to prove then it ought not be prosecuted?  If she’s in her night clothes that’s an invitation to rape?  Is this comparable to “if her skirt is too short?”  Black is, unfortunately, not an outlier.  Remember Senate candidate Todd Akin’s reference to “legitimate rape?” Or, Richard Mourdock’s commentary on a rape caused pregnancy being what God intended? [TDB]

And then the unreconstructed harridan of the Right, Phyllis  Schlafly chimed in:

I think that when you get married you have consented to sex. That’s what marriage is all about, I don’t know if maybe these girls missed sex ed. That doesn’t mean the husband can beat you up, we have plenty of laws against assault and battery. If there is any violence or mistreatment that can be dealt with by criminal prosecution, by divorce or in various ways. When it gets down to calling it rape though, it isn’t rape, it’s a he said-she said where it’s just too easy to lie about it. [RWW]

In other words, once you’ve said “I do” it’s I will  and I will and I will?  In order for a rape to be a rape there has to be such physical violence as to be the visible result of a battery?  If there is ‘mistreatment’ there are laws which might be applied? What laws? According to her lights, not the laws against sexual assault.  She can divorce him, but do so in the knowledge that what he did to her he may now do to others?  And, it’s “just too easy to lie about it?”  Mrs. Schlafly is now dredging down into “Beware little boys, she’s probably going to cry rape or pregnancy if you have sex with her” territory.

What the Right wants to ignore is the fundamental definition of domestic violence.  It’s not a matter of who meant what when they said, “I do,” it’s “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”  Physical or sexual violence in this instance isn’t a matter of merely forcing an unwilling partner to engage in sex for the pleasure of the partner – It’s sex used as a weapon to gain or maintain power and control.

Would the NFL, or any other corporate entity take a Zero Tolerance stance against economic abusive behavior – in which the victim is controlled by the purse strings?  Would they be intolerant of a person who took complete control of the family finances, excluding the partner from any control over any spending money?  Would they be intolerant of an abuser who refused to allow a spouse to continue her education? To take on a paying job? These kinds of power games aren’t going to show up on casino video screens, but they are all too common as forms of spousal abuse.  In this instance, it’s money used as a weapon to gain or maintain power and control.

How about emotional abuse – continuous and continual denigration, constant assaults on the spouse’s self esteem – the message is relatively clear: “You are incapable of functioning without me, and therefore I will be incomplete control”  Or, what of psychological abuse – creating an atmosphere of fear by intimidation, threats to the victim and the children, the destruction of personal property or pets, or forcing isolation from family and friends?  Now we have words, and force, used as weapons to gain or maintain power and control.

Verizon has taken a corporate stand against domestic violence, framing it correctly as a public health problem – women who have been abused are more likely to experience more chronic health problem.   A number of corporations have partnered with Domestic Violence Solutions in Santa Barbara, California,  which offers a 40 hour training program on domestic violence and its ramifications targeted for therapists, medical personnel, social service professionals,  law enforcement personnel, volunteers, and friends and family. General Electric requires a criminal background check, including any references to domestic violence, for employment in its aviation division. [DL GE] The corporation is quite clear about not tolerating sexual harassment in the workplace, but its manual doesn’t directly address domestic violence away from work.

Other corporations are involved with the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence.  This organization has been functioning since the mid 1990’s toward a more general vision: “We envision enhanced corporate profitability through reduction of rising expenses related to partner violence, such as health care costs and expenses due to low productivity, high turnover, and absenteeism.”  

While corporate efforts to prevent domestic violence are laudable, it’s difficult for an employer to discern which employees might be perpetrators of domestic violence.  Some of the strategies used to hide the abuse are associated with being a ‘good guy’ on the shop floor or in the cubicles. Among the prevalent behavior strategies used by abusers are:  (1) Having a very different public and private persona. (2) Projecting blame.  (3) Claiming loss of control or anger management issues, (4) Minimizing or denying the abusive behavior. [CW.gov]  Likewise, it can often be difficult to determine who’s the victim when the physical injuries are hidden, or explained away, or the victim conceals problems out of shame, apprehension, or fear.  [CW.gov]

So, here’s to the National Football League and the Baltimore Ravens for sending a strong message: We don’t condone domestic violence.  And, here’s hoping for several improvements in the way we address the issue of domestic violence in America.

(1) Every corporation in America should have a written policy on domestic violence.  The policy should provide guidelines for handling abusers, and for providing help for victims.  Direct policy statements aren’t just the right thing to do, but as the CAEPV points out there are direct economic benefits for corporations which implement zero tolerance policies.

(2) Every major employer, public and private, should acknowledge in its policy statements that domestic violence also includes the less visible elements of economic, emotional, and psychological abuse.

(3) Every major employer, public and private, should have personnel available as part of its human relations divisions who are trained to deal with cases of domestic violence – of all kinds not only physical and sexual — and there should be clear directives about immediately assisting employees in need.  In other words, the Shelter should be on speed-dial.

(4) Every major employer, public and private, should have the same concern for its brand (or “Shield”) as evidenced by the Ravens, i.e. domestic violence is never acceptable in any form, and those guilty of it (in any form) will face immediate dismissal.

It doesn’t matter if she’s the ‘little woman’ at home, it doesn’t matter if she said “I do,” it doesn’t matter if she’s in a nightie, it doesn’t matter if she’s not in a casino elevator on camera – it only matters that there is a victim and an abuser, and the abusers aren’t so valuable to any organization or institution that they can’t be replaced.

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Poor George

Breakfast Club TrapPoor George (Will). Poor misunderstood George. He wants us to know that he really really really takes rape so seriously that he’s opposed to “jerry built” campus processes and procedures in place to deal with it. [TPM]

Here’s his first major point:

“What I say is that: A) I take sexual assault more seriously than I think they do, because I agree that society has correctly said that rape is second only to murder as a serious felony,” Will said. “And therefore, when someone is accused of rape, it should be reported to the criminal justice system that knows how to deal with this, not jerry-built, improvised campus processes.” [TPM]

Where to begin?  (1) Sexual assault is a category of criminal activities which includes rape. See NRS 200.364.  It may also include crimes like lewdness with a child.  This leads us to the next (2) point — University of Nevada campus police officers are ” certified under the laws of the State of Nevada. They perform the same function as officers from city, county and state agencies – enforcing all local, state and federal laws and ordinances within the jurisdiction of the University of Nevada, Reno.” [UNR]  The meaning of all this is simple — report a rape on campus and a law enforcement official — not some ‘jerry built’ system is supposed to respond.  Perhaps Mr. Will remembers college differently than the rest of us. However, he has one more big point to make:

“Second, I take, I think, sexual assault somewhat more seriously than the senators do because I think there’s a danger now of defining sexual assault so broadly, so capaciously, that it begins to trivialize the seriousness of it,” he added. “When remarks become sexual assault, improper touching — bad, shouldn’t be done, but it’s not sexual assault.” [TPM]

It isn’t? This is not for Mr. Will to determine. In the case of the University of Nevada campus in Reno there is nothing trivial about the definition of sexual harassment:

“No employee or student, either in the workplace or in the academic environment, should be subject to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature. Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature. It refers to behavior of a sexual nature that is not welcome, that is personally offensive, and that interferes with performance.  [UNRedu]

UNLV’s policy [UNLV pdf] on rape and sexual harassment might be an instructive piece of reading for Mr. Will.  Far from “capacious” or “trivializing” the policy is a straightforward discussion, including definitions of specific terms such as assault, stalking, rape, etc.

This should be about the time for someone to remind Mr. Will of the old saw — when in a hole stop digging. No amount of intellectualizing, hypothesizing, or rationalizing is going to make his comments sound any better than in their original form.

Actually, Mr. Will has had several reminders, from an ob/gyn, from columnists who have shredded his assumptions, and from the St. Louis Post Dispatch which dropped his column.  The saddest part of the entire mess into which Mr. Will has inserted himself is that his arguments are based on little more than the old “Boys will be Boys,” and “She asked for it” canards.

It’s 2014. We don’t need any more recitations of why those two assumptions are devoid of any substance, and equally lacking in intellectual honesty.  Smugness doth not righteousness bestow, and ersatz intellectual rationalizations do not  support reasoned discussions.

Mr. Will has officially joined the Rush Limbaugh school of gender relations in which women are “subject” to men, women are the “lesser half,” and women who don’t care for this situation are ‘phony victims’ or worse… it’s a trap.

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The Detective’s Advice

Rape CollageHere we go again.  Another season, another high profile case of sexual assault.

“The family of the woman who identified Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston as the man who sexually battered her criticized the Tallahassee Police Department Wednesday, saying a detective warned against proceeding with the case because Tallahassee is “a big football town” and she would be “raked over the coals.” [USAT]

The bad news is that the detective may very well have been correct.  We’ve seen this movie before.  The current story may bear comparison to the 2010-2011 case of sexual assault coming from the University of Missouri (ColTrib) in which a prosecutor opined: “It’s the big story. The local press starts calling me at home. And it’s very unpopular to accuse a football player.” {The System, Jeff Benedict, Armen Keteyian, Random House 2013}

The allegations also call to mind one of the incidents involving Steeler’s QB Ben Roethlisberger, the allegation of sexual assault in Milledgeville, GA in which the scene wasn’t secured, the QB wasn’t interviewed, and evidence disappeared:

“Roethlisberger’s accuser elected not to continue with the case, as her lawyer explained, “…a criminal trial would be a very intrusive personal experience for a complainant in this situation, given the extraordinary media attention that would be inevitable. The media coverage to date, and the efforts of the media to access our client, have been unnerving, to say the least.”  [SBNation]

While the high profile cases hog the headlines, there were 243,800 cases of rape/sexual assault in the U.S. in 2011. [BJS pdf] All too often the accusers in these cases face some of the same hurdles, albeit in a less dramatic environment.

The myth of the Wanton Woman:  The basis for this myth is the male fear that a woman impregnated by a family member, friend or acquaintance may “cry rape” in order to force a marriage or to justify an abortion.  Indiana state representative Eric Turner (R) made headlines with this memorable comment on the floor during a 2011 debate over an abortion related bill:

“I just want you to think about this, in my view, giant loophole that could be created where someone who could — now I want to be careful, I don’t want to disparage in any way someone who has gone through the experience of a rape or incest — but someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest.” [OTB]

Then there’s the ubiquitous false accusation statistics, the “2-8% stat,” which keeps popping up during discussions of rape and sexual assault.  Ah, there are Jezebels out there who for reasons of revenge, retribution, or rationalization level assault charges against innocent men, and though there may be such persons (and they usually make the news because the instances are relatively rate) — there is at least one importance distinction to be made:  There is a crucial difference between an “unfounded” charge and a “false” charge.

A false charge may well be just that — a false allegation related to family dynamics and/or  personal animus which renders the accusation completely untrue.  However, when the statistics are compiled the number of reports of rape and sexual assault are listed, and then compared to the number of rape or sexual assault prosecutions the statistics can be misleading.

The problem is obvious and immediate — a rape or sexual assault may have indeed happened BUT (1) the rape was reported too late to satisfy prosecution guidelines or requirements, (2) there may be discrepancies in the victim’s story over time, (3) a lack of corroborating evidence, (4) a lack of cooperation by witnesses, (5) the victim may have been inebriated or under the influence of drugs, (6) the victim may have a history of prostitution, (7)  the victim may be uncertain about the chronology of events in the case, (8) the report may be made in the wrong jurisdiction, or (9) an inaccurate address may have been supplied by the victim. [Kanin, MNedu pdf 1993]  In short, because a rape or sexual assault accusation may be “unfounded” according to the prosecution it may still be a “true” statement concerning the actual incident in question.

For every 100 rapes and sexual assaults reported to authorities 10 lead to an arrest, 8 cases are prosecuted, 4 will lead to a conviction. [RAINN] What we don’t know from the statistics is how many of the cases which were not prosecuted because they fell into one or more  of the 8 categories listed above at the national level.   We can see from these numbers that it is little wonder women are reluctant to press for prosecution.

The Myth of the Misunderstood Male:  There’s a range of problems encapsulated in this mythology.  A common defense is a some variation on “she really wanted it.”  In other words, it was consensual.  She wanted it because “she was a sexual temptress, and rape doesn’t happen to nice girls.” [UIC edu] Consent also has some more nuanced legal implications than most pundits are willing — or able — to analyze.

There is a difference between “legal” and “factual” consent.  Consider the situation in a statutory rape.  An under-aged girl may indeed factually consent to intercourse, but she may not legally do so.   Or, there may be some nuanced difference between “attitudinal” consent and “expressive” consent.  These raise the questions related to what the woman says and what the woman does in the situation.  Then there’s “actual” vs. “imputed” consent in the mix.  Did the victim overtly express, or act in such a manner to preclude the “consent” defense, or by her lack of words or actions did she imply that she opened the door to a consent defense? [Westen,OSU pdf]

In short, there was no rape because… it never happened, or in case it did someone else did it, or it wasn’t a rape because she wanted it.  She was in the wrong place? She was in the emotional, mental, or physical condition? She was dressed inappropriately… for a medieval resident of a nunnery… The man was just “misunderstood.”

The Myth of the Absolute Believers: Another myth associated with accusations of rape and sexual assault concerns who must be believed.  The oft cited tenet “innocent until proven guilty” is appropriately applied to the defendant, and correctly asserts that the legal burden of proof is on the prosecution.  However, this doesn’t mean that the victim is necessarily being untruthful.   The burden of proof requires that the prosecution can establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed, that the perpetrator did it, and that the defendant did it intentionally.

That the prosecution cannot set forth a case which meets all the legal requirement in the court room doesn’t mean that the victim of the crime was a lying sexual temptress, of questionable repute, when the report was made to the authorities.

The Myth of the Locker Room Culture:   In some circles, there is a mythology of the Locker Room Culture which supposedly excuses the excesses of athletes (or in some instances members of the military) by asserting a variation on the Boys Will Be Boys defense.   Fortunately, the statistics from the Department of Justice in a March 2013 indicate that the rate of sexual violence against female victims in the U.S. has declined from 5 per 1000 in 1995 to 1.8 per 1000 as of 2005. [BJS pdf]  This cuts both ways, on one hand the decline indicates that rape is not as prevalent in American society as we might come to believe by reading only the headlines.  On the other hand, it does not serve to diminish the significance of   rape cases reported or detract from the argument that there are instances in which the Misunderstood Male defense is inapplicable.

The decline does not, for example, provide any succor to those involved in the Steubenville incident about which a grand jury has reconvened, or to the Maryville, MO attack.  That there has been a decrease in the number of reported instances of rape and sexual assault doesn’t speak to the efforts of adults to excuse the behavior or to obstruct any investigation of the incidents.

Arguing that a “rape culture” exists doesn’t address the actions of the participant in the crime, but relates to the willingness of others to accept, excuse, obstruct the investigation, or manipulate the results of rape or sexual assault allegations.

That reports of rape and sexual assault in the U.S. military show an increase doesn’t necessarily demonstrate a system tolerance for those crimes.

“The 3,553 reports of sexual assault complaints filed in the first three quarters of 2013 are already more than the 3,374 for all of fiscal year 2012. The 2013 numbers also represent a 46 percent increase over the same time period in 2012.” [ABC]

The increase may indicate that service members are now more willing to come forward with official complaints.   The public outrage over the Steubenville, Maryville, and military headlines may be good news — demonstrations that our society at large is less willing to tolerate the old Boys Will Be Boys mentality than in previous eras.

Courage and Integrity

It takes courage to make a statement to authorities about a rape.  As with all prosecutions the victim must replay the traumatic event, except in the case of sexual assault it is highly, horribly, personal.  It takes courage from law enforcement personnel to take on the force of opinion from some sectors of the community when investigating an allegation of rape or sexual assault.  It takes courage on the part of prosecutors to bring charges when the outcomes may have impacts beyond the immediate well being of those directly involved.

It takes some integrity to believe both that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty and that the accuser may be equally honest about the nature of the incident reported.  It takes integrity to hold institutions (schools, military units) accountable for the safety of their constituents.   It takes integrity to avoid jumping to the conclusion that because an accuser or defendant is unwilling to testify in court we should necessarily assume he or she is being dishonest.

A bit of courage and integrity in these cases, in all cases, would be useful as we seek to diminish the scourge of rape and sexual assault from our society.   There was a kernel of truth to the detective’s warning that prosecutions are difficult — for all concerned — it will take some courage and integrity to make the system work for the victims as well as for those accused.

*Recommended references:  Kanin, “False Rape Allegations,” UMN edu 1994. (pdf) Lisak, et. al. “False Allegations of Sexual Assualt: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases,” Northeastern University, Sage Publications list. Vitchers, “Crying Rape” On Innocent Men Doesn’t Happen As Often As You Might Think,” PolicyMic, May 2013.  Gross, “False Rape Allegations: An Assault On Justice,” Forensic Examiner, Spring 2009 (15).  Planty, Langton, et. al “Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 1994-2010,” Bureau of Justice Statistics, March 2013.

Peter Westen, “Some Common Confusions About Consent in Rape Cases,” Ohio State U. Law, 2005. (pdf) Hansen, Alcohol Intoxication in Rape Allegations and Legal Defenses,” PotsdamEdu.   Vachss, The Charge of Rape, The Force of Myth, Common Dreams via Daily Camera, 2003.

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Too Good Not To Share: The GOP Rape Advisory Chart

Compliments of Brainwrap at Dkos:

Republican Rape Chart So, how’s that “Reaching Out To Women” thing going?

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Getting the Signals in our Invisible War

Invisible WarIf you’ve watched “The Invisible War” and were unmoved — get therapy. If you’ve read the recent New York Times article about sexual assaults against men in the military and are still unconvinced the issue of sexual assault is a minor priority for our Armed Forces  — think again.

In its latest report on sexual assault, the Pentagon estimated that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. Of those cases, the Pentagon says, 53 percent involved attacks on men, mostly by other men. [NYT]

If you’ve thought we could reduce the issues to one or two buzzwords, for example “it’s cultural,” or “it’s power and dehumanization” that’s also missing some of the more nuanced topics intrinsic in the matrix.

Whether the incidents of criminal behavior are an example of outright rape, a hazing gone terribly wrong, or somewhere on the continuum of disgusting human decisions from A to B, they illustrate the complexity of the problem for both the military and civilian authorities.

Simplifying, and over-simplifying, the issue insures only that we’re avoiding real solutions while seeking quick fixes.   Some quarters are anxious to apply the Quick Fix which best fits with their religious or ideological agendas.

One such Quick Fix suggestion comes from the radical right which protests that the demise of DADT and the adoption of an alleged “homosexual agenda” is the cause of sexual assaults in the Armed Forces.   Even a nano-second of rational thought would dispel this bit of ideological mythology —  rapes are not related to homosexual or heterosexual activity.  Again, rape isn’t about intimacy; it’s simply assault and battery with another weapon.  [WVU.edu]  The average age of a rapist in the overall population is 31 years, 52% of rapists are white, and 84% of rape victims report no weapon — just physical force — was used to perpetrate the crime. [RAINN]

Another Quick Fix comes from the “Little Woman” School of Ideological Thought.  See, sayeth the apologists for male miscreants, if there were no women in the military there would be no problem. Once more, take a nano-second to digest this ridiculousness.  The military would still have a “53% problem” if there were no women in the picture.  If the Quick Fix Ideologues are dismissed from sentient considerations, there’s a better chance of having some rational discourse.

If we’re looking for solutions to the military facet of the sexual assault problem, then we might want to start at the beginning.  As of 2010 the U.S. Navy’s policy on moral waivers left the decision to initiate a “moral waiver request” to the CNRC (Commander, Navy Recruiting Command) for major misconduct, including sexual assaults if there were “2 juvenile major misconduct offenses or a combination of 1 adult and 1 juvenile major misconduct.”  Zero might be an option?

Budget cuts and the reduction in military personnel needs after the windup of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq may further reduce the “incoming” problems.  “In 2006, about 20 percent of new Army recruits came in under some type of waiver, and by the next year it had grown to nearly three in 10. After the Defense Department issued new guidelines, the percentage needing waivers started to come down in 2009.” [ArmyTimes] Most of the waivers for sexually categorized offenses were granted for incidents of consensual intercourse in which one of the participants was a juvenile.  Zero would still be nice.

There’s a problem with the second step.  Common sense might dictate that if a person has committed a rape or other form of sexual assault while in military service the chances the individual will be allowed to re-enlist are diminished and therefore the “problem” will be passed back into the civilian population.

The Army, in an internal slide presentation, is blunt: “Re-enlistment is a privilege, not a right; some ‘fully qualified’ soldiers will be denied re-enlistment due to force realignment requirements and reductions in end strength.”

In a memo earlier this year, Army Secretary John McHugh laid out more stringent criteria for denying re-enlistment, including rules that would turn away soldiers who have gotten a letter of reprimand for a recent incident involving the use of drugs or alcohol, or some soldiers who were unable to qualify for a promotion list. [Army Times 2012]

The good news might be that some who are not “qualified for promotion” because of sexual misconduct will be out of the service, the bad news is that they’re back on Main Street.  There’s worse news to come — most of the sexual misconduct cases in the military aren’t adjudicated:

Military Sexual Assault CasesThe numbers are unpleasant reading. The odds against prosecution are in the perpetrator’s favor.   The non-prosecution of sexual assaults is a lose-lose proposition, neither the military or civilian segments of our population are well served by the current system.

We’re in thornier territory when considering how to prevent the necessity of sexual assault prosecutions in the Armed Forces.  Severely limited waivers might be a start, but it’s not the answer. Neither can we trust re-enlistment curbs to provide a substantial solution.

We do know one thing about criminal behavior.    “Research to date generally indicates that increases in the certainty of punishment, as opposed to the severity of punishment, are more likely to produce deterrent benefits.” [TSP pdf]  It’s the CERTAINTY of punishment, not necessarily the severity of the punishment which reduces criminal actions.   Now, review those statistics in the graphic above one more time — what is happening to the Certainty Principle?

If those who engage in sexual assaults in a military context are convinced that the statistics are on “their side,” and they will in all likelihood NOT be prosecuted for their criminal behavior then we can logically expect — no matter how forceful the rhetoric or severe the penalties — there will be no significant reduction in the incidents.

Now we’ve come to a truly disconcerting state of affairs.  If the assaulter comes to believe that little can or will be done to prevent his or her egregious behavior, and the certainty of punishment is diminished, then we can only expect the assaults to continue, in military or civilian life.   The sensible way to break this cycle is to insure that punishment is certain, in both contexts.

No more “boys will be boys” from either unit commanders or from judges anxious that a perpetrator should not be burdened with a “record” at a relatively early age.  No more “she was asking for it by walking home from work unchaperoned.”   No more “You have to question whether the girl was ‘just saying it’ because he dumped her,” when only about 2% of all rape accusations are demonstrably false.  [Stanford edu]  No more “He (or she) just didn’t get the signals.”  Most people in intimate relationships are fully aware of their partners’ “signals.”   There might be some helpful signals.

Signal One:  Rape and sexual assaults are not sex crimes.  Those  actions are all about dominance and power.  Dominance and power used to gratify immediate wants — not needs.  The number of married individuals who commit rapes should be sufficient proof that passion has precious little to do with the assault; the persons quite often have consensual relations with willing partners, thus there is no need for rape.

Signal Two: Sexual assaults resulting from hazing or bullying are still sexual assaults.  Again, the narrative is all about power and dominance.  Granted women are the most obvious target for male predators because of their assumed less powerful status, but the assaults on young men in the military would seem to support the assertion that if male superiority is underpinned by acts of domination and displays of physical power then we’ve laid the foundation for assaults on vulnerable young men.   Apologists for male bullies appear to have adopted the premise that any restrictions levied on a young man’s physical behavior with regard to hazing and bullying  constitute a diminishing  of his “manhood.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  [TRC]

Signal Three: Blaming the victim is unacceptable.  Whether the attempt at justification incorporates the “he (or she) was asking for it” line or “it was just kid stuff” or  the victim should “man up and be quiet about it,” the signal should be the same. A rape is a rape is a rape, and sexual assault is sexual assault — and those behaviors are criminal.

Once we decide that rape is really a crime, and not, for example, an evening gone awry, then the need for further research into the issue is obvious.  In part because rape prosecutions are relatively rare in both military and civilian courts the data is necessarily scanty and current research results should be handled with caution.  [Yale edu]

Signal Four: There is no ‘rape culture.’   In fact, rape and other forms of sexual assault are antithetical to American culture.  There is no acceptance of sexual assault in American society, if by this we are talking about shared customs, laws, and institutions.  Neither western culture nor American social norms tolerate the deviance on display in sexual assaults.  A person wouldn’t be too far out on the clichéd limb arguing that a powerful motivation for ‘supporting the accused’ comes from the knowledge that conviction in court, or in the court of public opinion, of sexually related offenses means the rapist is marked for certain shame.   Asserting that an individual’s abusive and criminal behavior is part of a wider set of shared values only serves to dilute the personal responsibility which should attach to the rapist or abuser.

Signal Five: Outliers are not evidence. There is a small but vocal minority opinion in this country that bullying ought not to be “demonized” lest it interfere with the development of masculine personalities.  Some of the same voices argue for the myths given above concerning the ‘homosexual agenda’ and the proponents of the Little Women School of Masculine Domination; however, these should register for what they are — radical elements unrepresentative of this nation’s mores and values.  While they make interesting headlines and generate cable news commentary they should not be taken as seriously as some of the punditry appear to assume them to be.   Most Americans understand that women’s vaginas do not magically  ‘shut down’ when confronted by a rapist’s sperm. Most Americans understand that rape is rape, and there is no such thing as a “legitimate rape.”  Most Americans understand that bullying is unacceptable and don’t want their children subjected to it, nor do they want their offspring doing it.

Perhaps when we make these five signals clear to those in authority — in both military and civilian realms — we truly can be, in the Army’s terms — All We Can Be.

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No one could be that stupid? Could they? Updated

There are two notions, both dangerous, lurking in the 2012 election.  They are as alive and well in Nevada as they are in Florida, or any other “swing” state. They are both wrong.

The first is that the Republicans really truly wouldn’t think of doing something so idiotic as to actually transform the Medicare program from a defined benefit framework to a “coupon care” program in which seniors would have to beat through marketing bushes to find health insurance corporations willing to sell them policies.

The Medicare Malaise

Haven’t we been listening?  Republican have been trying to stop or privatize the Medicare program since 1964. [Politifact]  They called it “socialized medicine” then and they are still calling it “socialized medicine” now.  Fast forward to 2012 — the Ryan Budget Plan first called for transforming the Medicare program to a voucher (premium support) plan and later changed the plan to allow people to opt for the traditional program.

Tweaking the plans allows the GOP to rebuff charges that they are “eliminating” the Medicare program — however, what’s left after a significant number might opt for private insurance plans would be the least healthy and wealthy among us, making the traditional program all but unsustainable.

Secondly, the “option” idea so beloved by the Republicans is already available under the Medicare Advantage banner.  An elderly person can, and many do, purchase highly profitable  Medicare Advantage policies from private health insurance corporations.  By adopting the Romney/Ryan scheme the “choice” essentially moves from being able to chose between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans to being a “choice” between private health insurance corporation policy offerings in the long run.  The Romney/Ryan plan offers current seniors their choice between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage-like policies — but makes the choice much less likely and more expensive for those soon to reach retirement age.

Every election since 1964 has contained some Medicare element incorporated into the dialogue and the conversations have remained almost identical.  Medicare is either “socialized medicine,” or it’s a “government take over;” what hasn’t changed is the GOP intention to transform it into a so-called “free market” program to the benefit of health insurance corporations and their Wall Street allies.   This isn’t a line of attack they dreamed up for the 2012 elections. It IS the expressed intent of a party which appears to have fewer and fewer moderate members each election cycle.   Moderates who might have been counted upon to keep the transformation of Medicare at bay have been losing ground in the GOP.  The extremists who believe the Free Market Fairy will be able to sprinkle enough dust to justify privatization are the ones at the helm.

The extremists lead us to the second topic about which we should be listening more closely.

Are you listening ladies?

No one would be dumb enough to really call for a Personhood Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — would they?  They certainly would.  No one in this day and age would be arguing about “legitimate” rapes? Surely not. Oh, yes they are.

A Rape Is A Rape — Or is it?

Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, said in a debate on Tuesday that “even when life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.” [NBC]

“Trying to distance himself from the “legitimate rape” comment that Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) made last week, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith (R) stirred up further controversy by comparing a pregnancy caused by rape to “having a baby out of wedlock.”  [HuffPo]

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan says that he personally believes that rape is just another “method of conception” and not an excuse to allow abortions.”  [OTB]

Missouri Senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s classic: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” [Atl]

One major candidate making a fool of himself is an outlier, two is unfortunate, three is a trend — and four is an indicator that these candidates, all male and all Republican, have little regard for women’s health, and less regard for women’s choices.  This isn’t a recent bloom of this particularly nasty philosophical fungus.  Let’s return to October 2009.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) sought to insert an amendment into the Defense Appropriation Act to prevent the government from doing business with contractors who would not allow employees to take rape cases to court 30 — yes, THIRTY — U.S. Senators voted No. [Sen 308]

Alexander (R-TN)  Barrasso (R-WY)  Bond (R-MO)  Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)  Burr (R-NC)  Chambliss (R-GA)  Coburn (R-OK)  Cochran (R-MS)  Corker (R-TN)  Cornyn (R-TX)  Crapo (R-ID)  DeMint (R-SC)  Ensign (R-NV)  Enzi (R-WY)  Graham (R-SC)  Gregg (R-NH)  Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)  Johanns (R-NE)  Kyl (R-AZ)  McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)  Risch (R-ID)  Roberts (R-KS)  Sessions (R-AL)  Shelby (R-AL)  Thune (R-SD)  Vitter (R-LA)  Wicker (R-MS)

What does it say about the Republican Party when four of its candidates for major offices in 2012 and thirty of its Senators in 2009 have medieval (or earlier) political stances on rape?  *The Franken Amendment passed and was signed into law — no thanks to the Dirty Thirty who opposed it.

What does it say about a political party when it controls the House of Representatives and passes 55 bills with topics running the gamut from de-funding Planned Parenthood to restricting abortion rights to weakening domestic violence provisions?  [TPM]

What does it say about a political party when its standard bearer’s campaign refused comment on the House Energy & Commerce minority report on “anti-women” bills was released in September?  Or, when its standard bearer can’t be relied upon to answer even a simple question about support or opposition to legislation calling for equal pay for equal work?

Sometimes the obvious is the honest.  Voting for the Republican candidates in 2012 is hazardous to women’s health — if they are elderly, or approaching retirement age and expect Medicare to be there for them.   It is just as hazardous if the woman in question is young and facing the prospect of diminished health care services like the loss of affordable treatment at Planned Parenthood clinics, or  if Republicans can repeal Obamacare and its provisions for cancer screenings.   It is truly hazardous to the health of women of child bearing age who having been raped must assume the cost of taking the pregnancy to term, and then bear the responsibility for raising the child — or the trauma of both the rape and the act of releasing the child for adoption.

Did it occur to the Republican candidates, who so easily dismiss the controversy about ill-informed or downright brutal remarks on rape and its potential consequences by saying they were “misunderstood,” that they’ve yet to offer any legislation dealing with the economic burden placed on the women under consideration?  Much less the social, and psychological burdens which must be carried for a lifetime?

If the comments made during this campaign season by major Republican candidates, and the actions of Republicans in the Senate, and the actions of the House of Representatives during the 112th Congress, aren’t enough to convince any sentient person that the GOP means what it says — there isn’t much more to speak of — until they actually do it.  And, they’re getting closer each election.

We’d all be much better off if this stops before we say — “I didn’t  think they’d really DO it.”

UPDATE: Think Progress helpfully adds more names to the roster of Republican candidates who share these antiquated and uninformed views:  Rep. Steve King, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, CT Senatorial Candidate Linda McMahon, PA Senatorial Candidate Tom Smith, WI State Rep. Roger Rivard, and OH State Rep. Jim Buchy.

See also: Sally Kohn, Salon, August 24, 2012.

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Filed under 2012 election, abortion, Medicare, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights