All Articles Tagged "jezebel"
When Justice Is Deferred: Why Are There Thousands Of UNTESTED Rape Kits In Police Storage Lockers Across The Country?
As if the trauma from a sexual assault wasn’t enough, here is a story of how our judicial system is wronging these victims again through forcing them to wait for years, sometimes decades, for their rape kits to be tested.
“We’ve spent a fair amount of time chronicling the battle of bada** Kym Worthy, the Wayne County, Michigan prosecutor who stumbled on over 11,000 untested rape kits at a former police storage warehouse back in 2009, the lack of funding Worthy was faced with even after arranging for a federal grant of one million dollars, and the emotional trauma incurred once again by the women who must revisit their rape, in some cases languishing a decade for lack of DNA evidence.”
For those unaware: a rape kit is a collection of evidence, including hair, clothing and DNA samples, taken from a rape victim’s body after a sexual assault has been reported. The key word here is “evidence” and that’s right, vital evidence, which could lead to the prosecution of criminals has been sitting untested on police lock-up shelves for years. The article goes on to say the following:
“Yesterday Worthy appeared on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams to discuss the progress in Detroit as well as its influence on the rest of the nation, whose attention have now been drawn to their own backlog of untested rape kits, each of which costs between $1,200 and $1,500 to test. So far, 600 of the Detroit kits have been tested, and prosecutors have discovered evidence of no less than 21 serial rapists. While his DNA sat on the shelf from 2002 to 2008, untested, one convict, Shelly Brooks raped and murdered five women. (Writing that actually made me nauseous.)”
Well, reading that has given me the same nauseous feeling in my stomach too. As noted by Worthy in the NBC interview, which is embedded in the Jezebel article, what is happening in the Detroit criminal justice system, unfortunately, is not an isolated incident. All across the country, there have been reports that collected forensic evidence in the thousands remains untested on the shelves of police departments and in crime labs.
“Police agencies across Ohio have sent more than 2,300 untested rape kits to a state crime lab for testing that could potentially help solve hundreds of sexual assault cases, some dating back decades.”
“The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reports its analysis of data from the Ohio attorney general’s office indicates police departments statewide could face about 850 potential cases resulting from DNA matches when all currently submitted kits are tested.”
“Attorney General Mike DeWine encouraged Ohio’s nearly 800 law enforcement agencies to clear their testable sexual assault evidence off shelves in December 2011 after media reports said many kits remained in storage.”
And in Illinois:
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said 51 sexual assault kits found in an evidence room at the Robbins Police Department were being sent to Illinois State Police for investigation. “The victims should know they will have their cases heard, and they will be treated like they should have been treated,” Dart said at a news conference Tuesday night. “My goal is to bring justice to these folks.” Dart said the untested kits, some dating back to 1986, were found several weeks ago on a shelf in the Robbins Police evidence room. Also found was a barrel of about 55 guns that were never sent to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to trace their original ownership.
And these separate accounts are just from the last week. In fact, the backlogging of rape kits by local crime labs appears to be a longstanding problem, which has been slow to gain resolution. According to a CBS News article from 2010, with the exception of New York and Pennsylvania, most of the 16 cities/states polled reported an excess of hundreds, if not thousands, of untested rape kits. And according to Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), which is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, a Justice Department report from 2001 had shown that DNA evidence from more than 32,000 unsolved rape and murder cases was never submitted to crime labs for analysis. And a more frightening statistic from this CBS News article from late last year estimates that between 180,000 and 400,000 rape kits remain untested nationwide.
Lack of funding and under-resourced crime labs were the primary reasons cited for why so many kits remain untested. However, as reported by the New York Times, in Texas, where a recent bill required law enforcement agencies to audit the number of untested rape kits in their evidence rooms, the law was met with resistance from some law enforcement agencies, who worried that force testing would clog an already congested justice system. So far, over 15,000 untested kits were discovered and the audit is nowhere close to being completed. However, Texas lawmakers are banking on the passage of the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act, which passed in Senate last week and could help free up federal dollars to actually get these kits tested.
Outside of the funding issue, for me, it just makes good sense that the testing of these kits should become of high priority simply for the fact that the DNA evidence collected can not only help law enforcement agencies close existing unsolved cases, but also prevents future assaults, aka got-damn crimes, from ever occurring (no telling how many serial rapists are walking around free all because the evidence to convict them remains locked away in some police agency’s storage locker). But in a country, where the legitimacy of rape still remains confusing to some, it is clear that good sense isn’t always common. Heavy Sigh.
Anyway, for those interested in supporting D.A. Worthy and the Detroit Crime Commission’s efforts to get the backlog of rape kits tested – and more importantly, helping sexual assault victims in Detroit receive overdue justice – please consider donating here.
Dodai Stewart of Jezebel writes about a viral video about women in rural parts of Senegal tattooing their gums black, as a sign of beauty.
According to the Stewart:
“In this video making the rounds, a woman named Marième, who lives in Senegal, goes to get her gums tattooed black. “I want black gums to obtain a more beautiful smile,” she says. “It’s become an obsession.” Later, she admits: “I’m scared.” As she should be! The procedure, which takes place outdoors using handmade needles and black powder made by burning oil and shea butter, is not for the faint of heart: Marième is in so much pain she cries and cannot get the seven layers of tattooing planned — she stops after four. “It hurts. I would never recommend this torture to anyone,” she says.”
Probably the most trill part of this video comes courtesy of a woman with an amazing beehive of hairstyle, who proudly states that of this ancient tradition “…Listen to me, tattooed gums and a silver tooth: that’s what’s attractive.”
Maybe WAR, the soul-funk band from the 70s was right: maybe the world is one big ole’ ghetto with tattoos, gold and silver fronts and rainbow-colored weaves. Surprisingly I’m cool with that.
Not exactly the gum tattooing. That actually sounds quite painful. I remember once contemplating taking my own life after a really bad toothache so I can’t imagine the emotions that would arise from getting repeatedly stabbed in the gums. The crazy vain things women do in the name of beauty. But I have to admit that there is something both satisfying and validating about women reveling, although painfully and probably unnecessary, in beauty standards outside our European-centered norms. Most particularly, having women declare admiration for a physical trait, which I have naturally and have never thought of as affectionately.
Historically speaking, being a “blue gum” was considered a derogatory racial slur, popularized in the South, used to describe a person with skin (down to the gums) so dark that they look blue. No one has ever made such a derogatory comment – not any that I can recall off hand – to me about my gums; but I do remember a playmate from my childhood pointing out my “oddity” in such a way that I instantly became conscious of it. She said something about having a Whoopi Goldberg in the Color Purple smile. And then she smirked in such a way that hurt just a little inside. It wasn’t long after that I learned to master posing in such a way as to not smile too wide, thus eliminating the risk of showing too much of my “discolored” dental margins. Only until fairly recently, have I learned to smile freely without worry about how gummy I might look. And only until watching this video, thinking, “you know, there is something kind of sexy about the contrast between my dark gums and my pearly whites…”
While having dark gums can be a sign of some periodontal issues like gingivitis and cancer, generally speaking having blackened gums is pretty benign and is more than likely a result of higher concentration of melanin in the skin. That right there is just another way in which our ancestors occasionally like to shine through. However, because anything outside the standard troupe that beauty can only exist in the form of being pink and pale (or as close to it as possible), dark gums are regarded as not as attractive, if not abnormal. As such, some folks go to extremes to rectify the “problem” including gum bleaching and surgery. Again, shaking my head what we folk do in the name of beauty.
If you are wearing pearls and have been known to clutch them often because you think that discussions of sex should only happen in the bedroom, the following post is not for you. But if you are down for an open and frank discussion about sexuality, by all means, continue reading below.
“In 2001, Glamour magazine assigned entertainment journalist Margeaux Rawson to interview the four Queens of Comedy — Adele Givens, Miss Laura Hayes, Mo’Nique and Sommore — about sex. The specific assignment was to uncover the “10 Commandments of Sex,” as decried by the Queens. Armed with all the buffalo wings and bottles of Veuve Clicquot her expense account could manage, the writer met the quartet of comediennes in a Los Angeles hotel suite. Alas, it appears as if the champagne and chicken should have been left in New York: Glamour deemed every inch of the transcript too “blue” for its perfume-scented pages. Lowbrow, on the other hand, considered the interview just lewd enough…”
Lewd is not quite the term I would use. This exchange about the dos and dont’s of all things sex with the self-proclaimed “Queens of Comedy” is balls-to-the-wall out there. I mean, from jump Mo’Nique sets it off with stuff that we can’t probably print in this post without making some of you blush. But lets just say the conversation involves lots of discussion about fellatio (both giving and receiving), junk size (and I quote: “If your package is too small, my favorite position is with another muthaf****), the avoidance of butt-play and S&M.
This conversation sounds familiar to me. I can remember vividly those days when a bunch of girlfriends and I would sit around – whether it be the bar or on somebody’s couch – and dish about what we liked, didn’t like so much, wanted to try, were NEVER gonna do (unless we were married) and all the other graphic details about our sexual conquests. You heard many of the words printed in the Jezzie article plus many more not even thought of.
Likewise, we were all different sexually – there was the one girlfriend that did and tried everything under the sun and always had a juicy story to share. There was the other girlfriend, who would blush and shake her head in embarrassment over our stories–that was until later in the conversation when she would drop some freaky bombshell that had the rest of our mouths wide open. And finally, there was the eavesdropping dude (perhaps the older brother or boyfriend of one of the girlfriends), who sat close enough to hear all of our sordid details without actually being involved in the conversation but would, from time to time, chime in to say something like: “I always knew girls were nastier than boys.” These frank and colorful dialogues were the essence of our sister girl circles. We felt free and safe to not only exhale but to inhale and exhale some more.
What’s your first reaction when you see a woman with her cleavage game on 10 in a pair of “jean panties” like the ones Kimbella wore on the season premiere of Love and Hip Hop? Chances are it’s not: I want to be her friend.
In a recent article on Jezebel, professor Hugo Schwyzer talked about a saying he uses to describe the relationship dynamic between females on the college campus where he teaches: “sisterhood is easier in the winter.” He said he’s actually noticed that during cold months when women are bundled up in sweaters and jeans there’s less hostility between females than in the warmer months where those students are more likely to murmur comments like, “This is school, not a nightclub,” when co-eds bounce into class in more revealing apparel.
Schwyzer’s theory was confirmed in a recent study in the journal, Aggressive Behavior, which found that when a conservatively dressed woman entered a room, females didn’t notice her, but when a woman walked in like she was auditioning to be on the cover of the next men’s magazine, there was a marked increase in hostility, and women reported they would be less likely to consider befriending her. The authors say the reason is that women who appear sexually available are not perceived as ‘‘safe” friends—basically, they’ll sleep with your man the minute you turn your back.
Schwyzer says the fact that women would stay away from certain females because they are seen as a threat to their relationships is problematic because women aren’t placing any expectations of sexual responsibility on their partners; rather they are policing other women’s sexuality. Schwyzer calls this the “myth of male weakness,” and while I agree that women shouldn’t try to control other women as negative outside influences on their relationship, I don’t think you need to necessarily invite a scantily clad woman into your home to flaunt her business in front of your man. Even if she isn’t promiscuous, men are still visual and there’s no need to dangle a carrot right in front of his face.
I think a better question about female friendships is why women place more stock in building or maintaining relationships with men than women, and are these same “befriending” trends seen among single women who aren’t worried about their man being stolen by a woman in revealing clothes?
Are you hostile toward women who dress revealing? Is it because you perceive them as a threat to your relationship or do you just think it’s inappropriate? Do you notice that you get along better with women when they’re more covered up?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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Dodai Stewart is an editor at Jezebel.com who has enlivened the offerings of this dynamic women’s blog since 2007. Based in New York City and part of Gawker Media, Jezebel is renowned as a respite for intelligent women looking to seriously discuss celebrities and jest about the absurdities of politics. Dodai is an African-American editor there who lends her seasoned expertise to this successful mix, parlaying her background as an executive editor and writer at magazines into her delightful execution in one of today’s most lauded media roles: star blogger. It is thrilling to see a black woman shine in such a prominent position, helping Jezebel.com generate monthly page views in the millions with her quick-witted perspective on the hottest issues of the day. Here is what this black beauty with buzz has to say about writing, pop culture and women working together politically for our greater empowerment.
It’s wonderful to see a woman of color at the helm of a powerful web site geared towards a general female audience. How do you use this platform to bridge the gap between the audiences in terms of understanding and perspective?
I do not attempt to write anything that makes sweeping generalizations about black people. I could never write from the vantage point of “black people are like this.” I try to write with honesty, from my personal perspective, which is as a woman of color. Explaining where I’m coming from can open the mind of someone who perhaps never considered how a woman of color might feel about a certain subject.
In particular I have noticed that online discussions between white and black women tend to quickly dissolve into blame games and negativity. Could the medium be used to promote better synergy between these groups?
Even if online discussions between black women and white women do dissolve into blame games and negativity — I am not sure that this is always the case — but at least there’s an open line of communication happening, with a diverse range of viewpoints. Although our commenter community is incredibly vocal, they are actually a very small percentage of our readership. So for every conversation that seems to dissolve and go nowhere, there are possibly a couple of hundred other people who digested the information and didn’t come away with the same negative result. But I believe, in most cases, a conversation is never a waste of time. Exchanging ideas is how we learn and grow.
It would be nice to think that we’ve gotten away from mammy and welfare queen imagery, but even a shallow look at black women’s portrayal in the media would tell you otherwise. The angry black woman is a stereotype most of us hate but some can’t break free of, and the strong black women archetype, or independent woman as we call it today, is a label we’ve come to embrace in many ways.
In her new book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America, columnist and Tulane University Political Science Professor Melissa Harris-Perry examines how black women are perceived in America and how these stereotypes affect the way we view ourselves.
The book’s main title is a nod to Audre Lorde’s “Sister Outsider,” a collection of essays focusing on race, gender, sexual identity, and social class. The subtitle, “For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Politics When Being Strong Isn’t Enough,” refers to Ntozake Shange’s inspirational choreopoem, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.”
“Fictive kinship” is one part of black women’s problem in terms of cultural and self-perception, Harris-Perry says. “The term fictive kinship refers to connections between members of a group who are unrelated by blood or marriage, but who nonetheless share reciprocal social or economic relationships. In this book, I draw on the deep tradition of black fictive kinship when I refer to black women as sisters. This imagined community of familial ties underscores a voluntary sense of shared identity.”