All Articles Tagged "sexual assault"

Columbia Student Emma Sulkowicz Carries Mattress Symbolizing Her Rape At Graduation

May 20th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Last year, we wrote about Emma Sulkowicz and her brave and artistic protest against her alleged rapist, Jean-Paul Nungesser and the school they both attended, Columbia University.

In case you missed the story, Sulkowicz told Columbia that Nungesser raped her and they failed to do anything about it. She then filed a police report. She told authorities that she and Nungesser had a consensual, sex on two occasions. But later, when the two reunited to have consensual sex again, things turned violent. According to Sulkowicz, Nungesser hit her across her face, choked her and pushed her knees to her chest, leaning on them to keep them in place. He then held her wrists and penetrated her anally.

Unfortunately, Sulkowicz wasn’t the only woman who alleged Nungesser had assaulted them as well. The university told her they were not responsible. And when she went to the police they didn’t take her seriously either, going so far as to tell her that 90 percent of rape cases were “bullshit.”

So in response to the unfair treatment she received from both the University and the police department, she turned her horrific experiences with not only the rape but the university and the authorities into an art piece called “Carry That Weight.” For the piece Sulkowicz carried her mattress around with her, every day on campus for as long as she attended the same school as her rapist.

Naturally, a girl carrying around a dorm mattress caused quite a bit of attention for Sulkowicz and the University.

Eventually, Columbia investigated the matter and found there wasn’t enough evidence to punish Nungesser.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Sulkowicz carried the mattress for nine months. In the meantime, Nungesser, who was the first to reveal his identity after Sulkowicz started receiving nation-wide attention, filed a lawsuit against Columbia for allowing what he says was sustained harassment against him. He wanted the lawsuit to ban Sulkowicz from carrying the mattress.

Though the school sent out graduation guidelines barring students from bring “large objects which could interfere with the proceedings or create discomfort to others,” Sulkowicz, like she had been doing for almost a year, brought her mattress.

She graduated from Columbia, along with Nungesser, magna cum laude on Tuesday. She, along with four other graduates helped her carry the mattress as she walked across the stage. Other students wore red tape in solidarity, referencing No Red Tape, Columbia’s anti-sexual assault activist group. Many are reporting that when Sulkowicz crossed the stage, she refused to shake the University President’s hand.

Check out the video of Sulkowicz and the other ladies helping her carry that mattress.

Bill Cosby Addresses Rape Allegations …And Has Us All Scratching Our Heads

May 15th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Bill Cosby Addresses Rape Allegations

Source: ABC

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby, in the midst of allegations from more than 30 women who say he drugged or raped them, partnered to help improve the underfunded school system in Alabama. While he was there for philanthropic reasons, his interview with “Good Morning America,” took a turn toward the scandalous when reporter Linsey Davis asked Cosby about the rape allegations.

Davis asked, “Are you prepared for the backlash if a young person comes up to you and says, ‘My mom says you’ve done some bad things.’ How will you answer them if they are pressing you, ‘Are you guilty, did you do it, are the allegations true?'”

Cosby responded:

“I’m not sure that they will come like that. I think that many of them say well, ‘You’re a hypocrite. You say one thing, you say the other.’ My point is, ok, listen to me carefully: I’m telling you where the road is out. Now, you want to go here or you want to be concerned about who’s giving you the message?” 

Davis: Are you concerned that the allegations will overshadow your message?

“I have been in this business 52 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. And reality is, the situation. And I, I can’t speak.”

Then Davis told Mr. Cosby that many, even his fans, are concerned about his legacy and she wanted to know if he, himself is concerned. He shook his head before saying:

“I really know about what I’m going to do tomorrow. I have a ton of ideas to put on television about people and their love for each other.”

Yes, you read those quotes correctly. And yes, they are a little sparse on actual answers to the questions posed. But if you want to see Cosby answer these questions for himself, you can watch the video below.

What do you think about Bill Cosby finally addressing the allegations? Do you think Alabama schools made a good decision in partnering with him?


ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News

Female Police Officers More Likely To Arrest Female Sexual Predators

April 27th, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Police Officers

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Reporter Barbara Goldberg of Reuters penned a new article about the rise of female sexual predators, namely those who are in the education field. The article, which details how male students are in fact victims and not boys entering manhood through sexual relations with their teacher, comes of the heels of Barbara Walters’ 20/20 interview with Mary Kay Letourneau-Faulaau and her husband, Vili Fualaau. Letourneau-Faulaau had an affair with her now-husband when he was her middle school student. Now she is requesting that her name be taken off the sex offenders list since she is married to Fualaau, lives with their two daughters and has not had another affair with a minor.

Recently, there have been more headlines about female teachers who have had affairs with their male students. Goldberg notes in her article: “In U.S. schools last year, almost 800 school employees were prosecuted for sexual assault, nearly a third of them women. The proportion of women facing charges seems to be higher than in years past, when female teachers often got a pass, said Terry Abbott, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education, who tracked the cases.”

Although many male students who become sexual assault victims internalize the crime as something to gloat about, Slate says society should know female sexual predators work just like their male counterparts. They flatter their younger victims by allowing them to “feel more grown-up than they are.”

The public will see more female predators go to prison because of the increase in high-ranking women in the law enforcement field. David Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, told Goldberg, “Law enforcement is increasingly feminized, and women are much less prone to the old attitude: ‘Oh, this is just some kid who got lucky.’ They recognize the issues involved and they go after women who violate the statutes.”

Abbott also says social media enables sexual behavior because the professional barrier becomes erased. Particularly if a female educator is close in age to her male students, the students then try to justify their relationship with their teacher.

In the research conducted by Abbott, male law enforcement officials may give female predators a reduced sentence because of the belief that women cannot be as harmful as their actions indicate. Women in law enforcement try to ensure female predators are sentenced appropriately because they’re more likely to refer to the letter of the law. For female law enforcement officers, female predators and their behavior will not be excused.

Could You Turn Your Child In To Police If He/She Committed A Heinous Crime?

April 27th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Could You Turn Your Child In To Police

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With law enforcement killing innocent or unarmed Black people with alarming frequency, many of us can’t imagine willingly turning our relatives in to the police.

But that’s exactly what one Chicago-area woman did. According to NBC Chicago, after seeing surveillance photographs of her 15-year-old son on the news, she turned him in to the Maywood Police station.

The boy, who’s name has been released to the media despite his status as a minor, allegedly took $2,000 from his victim and used it to pay for his graduation fees, friends, junk food and Air Jordan track suits, last Monday, April 20.

But it wasn’t just robbery.

Prosecutors said the middle school student dragged his victim, a 41-year-old woman by her hair, punching her repeatedly before sitting on her head. When she was lying on the ground of the train, in the fetal position, he thrust himself against her and placed his hands inside of her pants, sexually assaulting her. He also groped her on the outside of her clothes and slapped her buttocks.

No one was on the train at the time, so he dragged her to another enclosed area where he pushed her face down and allegedly kept punching, kicking and stomping all over her body demanding cash.

He eventually took the money from her purse and picked up her iPhone from off the ground. He told the woman not to move until he left. When the doors closed and the train started to move again, she pulled the emergency button and was assisted by a Chicago Transit Authority employee.

The woman, who said she planned to wire the cash to relatives, suffered concussions and cuts all over her body. And days after the attack, was still vomiting as a result of her injuries.

Once his mother turned him in, the boy told authorities that he got onto another train traveling in the opposite direction. He threw the woman’s phone in a puddle.

He allegedly wrote a handwritten confession and gave Chicago police a recorded statement of his criminal actions. He told police where he threw the phone and it was recovered along with the jacket he wore on the day of the assault and the clothes he later purchased with the woman’s money.

Though the boy’s mother, whose name has not been reported, was the one to turn him in, she was still visibly upset when the State Attorney spoke to the media after the boy’s bond hearing.

According to the Chicago Tribune, she screamed, “Don’t talk that (expletive) about my child. Quit talking all of that (expletive) on the (expletive) news.” A sheriff’s deputy eventually asked her to leave.

As if this story weren’t tragic enough, the boy who had also been found delinquent as a juvenile back in November, was charged as an adult. Since the city decided to pursue adult charges, both his name and picture have been released in first the local, and now national media.

While this young man’s actions were particularly heinous and worthy of legal punishment, certainly time in jail or a juvenile detention center; I wonder if there is any opportunity for rehabilitation? In my mind, that’s always a possibility, but I wonder if law enforcement shares that sentiment when they look at this clearly disturbed child.

Frankly, I commend this boy’s mother for turning her child in to law enforcement. His victim suffered, and is likely still suffering tremendously because of his actions. And she likely saved some other people, particularly women, from undergoing a similar scenario. With the ability to protect her son completely stripped away from her, a lot of women would not have been so brave.

Still, I wonder if she could have made some type of arrangement or deal to ensure that in addition to whatever punishment he receives that he’s also required to undergo therapy and treatment.

This is devastating; still, with the right type of reformation, it doesn’t seem too late for a better ending than beginning.

Ladies, particularly the mothers out there, what would you do in this situation? Do you think this boy should have been charged as an adult, with his name and picture released to the media? Would you turn your son in to the police?

Hero: Homeless Man Stops Attempted Rape

April 1st, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: NBC 4 (Washington)

Source: NBC 4 (Washington)

 

It’s so easy for us to demonize the homeless. We assume that they are lazy, dirty, addicted to some type of substance, or just ultimately responsible for landing in their current situation. Rarely, do we consider the fact that sometimes life is just hard. And homeless doesn’t necessarily equate to a deficiency in character.

Example: Ketrell Ferguson, a recently homeless man in Washington, D.C. The local NBC affiliate reports that around 3:30 a.m. Ferguson was looking for a place to sleep when he heard screams and noticed a struggle between a man and woman, behind a bus stop. Initially, he thought it was a robbery, but when he continued looking he realized the man on top of this woman was trying to rape her.

Acting quickly, Ferguson grabbed a stick that was laying nearby and a half of a brick. Ferguson, who said he’s had family members who’ve been raped, said he had to do something.

“As soon as he lifted his head up, I smacked him with the stick, hard as I could in his head.  And he fell off the lady, stumbled, stumbled and I smacked him again. And I just kept smacking him with the stick, I mean, as hard as I could.”

Then he went to a nearby building and told them to call the police, that there had just been a rape.

Ferguson’s actions helped police find 23-year-old Alemen Gonzalo about an hour later. He was bleeding from the head.

Police say that Gonzalo tried to pay the woman for sex and she refused.

He was charged with assault with the intent to commit first-degree sexual abuse.

Ferguson said, “Even though I’m going through hard times, God put me in a place where I could help. I was at the right place at the right time.”

Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Why Black Women Don’t Report Their Sexual Assaults

March 25th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Why Black Women Don't Report Their Sexual Assaults

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I’ve been gravely disappointed during this ongoing Cosby scandal. Partially because the Bill Cosby I’d watched and admired was now marred by this scandal but mostly because of the people in my circles who tried to demonize the women who spoke out against him. After all, I never knew Bill Cosby. I do, however, know the family members, friends, distant associates and others who asked questions like “why are these women just now coming forward?”

Sad.

This type of thought pattern just showed that there is a gross ignorance among people about sexual assault and what happens, emotionally and psychologically, to the women who have endured it.

And while I’ve tried to fight the good fight on my Facebook page and in conversations where it happened to come up, explaining that there is no set way to process trauma; now there is empirical, anecdotal evidence to support what I had been saying all along, especially as it pertains to Black women.

A New York based human right’s organization, called Black Women’s Blueprint, is conducting an ongoing study which found that nearly 60 percent of Black women have been involved in a coercive sexual assault by the time they are 18-years-old.

And in relaying her own story, one of these women explained in an article with Raw Story why it’s so hard for Black women to report their sexual assaults to the authorities.

If we report our assaults to police, we risk being retraumatized not only by the inhumane process of reliving a violent experience through sharing its gory details – but also by the violence of the criminal justice system itself , which treats rape victims like suspects . Worse yet, the police themselves commit assault with impunity ; often, they target black women in particular , knowing our existence at the intersections of racism and misogyny make crimes against us far less likely to be investigated .

To be a “ good rape victim ” is to immediately report your assault to the police (even knowing you will likely never see “justice” ), but to be a good black person is to avoid the police entirely because your life quite literally depends on it . The tightrope walk is impossible.

These words sound alarmingly like the ones Beverly Johnson wrote when she detailed her sexual assault with Cosby. You might recall that she hesitated coming forward because, with all the racial tension in the country these days, she didn’t want to be the Black woman attempting to drag a Black man down.  

She knew before the essay was even published that she would be in for a world of scrutiny and judgement.

And she was right. My heart broke as I watched people, some of them MN readers (women), call Johnson everything but a child of God for daring to step forward with this story.

If Johnson, with her illustrious career and the respect she’s earned in the industry, was torn down in this way, imagine what happens to the “unknown” women who tell their doubting family members and law enforcement officers about their own sexual assaults? The outcome is not likely to provide any closure. In fact, the experience of being doubted, questioned or further victimized might just result in even more trauma.

To paraphrase one of my Facebook and real life friends: ladies and gentlemen, the women in your life, who’ve been quietly living with the secrets and burdens of their own sexual assaults, are watching you and your reaction to this whole Bill Cosby situation, wondering if they should continue to remain silent and whether or not you’ll doubt them too.

Bill Cosby, His Accusers And The Way We Treat Women Who Say They Are Victims Of Sexual Assault

January 13th, 2015 - By Alexandra Olivier
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Shutterstock

Shutterstock

To date, 29 women have come out and accused Bill Cosby of varying levels of sexual assault. Woven throughout their stories are the same claims of drug use and an abuse of both Cosby’s power and celebrity status. The allegations date as far back as 1965 and as recent as 2008. And while there are no criminal investigations going on for any of these claims, a few of his accusers are launching civil lawsuits.

Despite the overwhelming uproar and the many allegations, the embattled comedian has kept very quiet. As his lawyer put it, “he will not justify these allegations with a response.” So instead, the few friends he does have left in the business have been stepping up to take the heat for him. Most of them are women.

Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Keshia Knight-Pulliam, Whoopi Goldberg, Jill Scott, Stacey Dash and Vivica Fox have all come to the defense of their friend, mentor and/or former co-star. Most of these women have dismissed or questioned the claims of these accusers, and a few have even called the allegations baseless, much like Cosby’s lawyer has every time a new accusation surfaces.

But while they feel that they’re speaking up for good reason, their dismissal of what these women have allegedly gone through is hurtful.

When the media swarm began and women from all walks of life started to come forward, I didn’t want to believe them either. This is someone I grew up watching faithfully. He was behind the strong on-screen African-American family I would hope to one day have when I reached adulthood. This is a man known for his many philanthropic efforts. This is also a man who motivated me during his commencement speech at my alma mater, Temple University.

But something is definitely going on that can’t be ignored.

Whoopi Goldberg’s open skepticism of Barbara Bowman’s accusations on “The View” came off as distasteful: “Don’t you do a kit when you say someone has raped you? Isn’t that the next step once you make an allegation? Don’t the cops take you into a hospital for a kit?” Her questions may seem appropriate, but her choice to pose them on her platform is what keeps other victims of sexual assault from coming forward.

Phylicia Rashad’s own controversial comments and choice to make this situation less about the women and more about a legacy being tarnished alludes to the idea that their hurt and shame isn’t worth listening to.

Like Goldberg and Rashad, I wanted to find “holes” in these stories. I questioned and asked, why now? But that is simply victim shaming, and finding an excuse for Cosby, who chooses to use this situation as material for his stand-up.

And while I look up to most of these women and can appreciate that they have positive relationships with Cosby, they were not there and certainly shouldn’t shut down these women and their stories. Without the facts, you can’t dismiss them or Cosby, so people should stop trying.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Discounting these women for when they decided to come forward sends a message to other victims that the road in seeking justice may be too hard and not worth the fight, especially if and when your attacker is rich and famous. Bowman claimed that she was laughed out of an attorney’s office once for coming up with such “stories” about what she had claimed to have been through.

Rape and sexual assault are very hard to talk about. Whether the alleged attacker is John Doe who bags groceries, or a powerful actor with a lengthy list of accomplishments, it is not the VICTIM who should be heavily scrutinized.

We don’t know what happened 20, 30 or 40 years ago in those dressing rooms or within the walls of the home he shares with his wife, Camille. But in such a high-profile case, we should not put these women on trial just because they have been unable to put Cosby on trial within the courts.

 

“I Was Just Sexually Assaulted By My Uber Driver”: Man Arrested And Charged For Raping Passenger

December 30th, 2014 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Chicago Police Department

Chicago Police Department

A former Uber driver in Chicago has been hit with criminal assault and criminal sexual battery charges after a young woman said he forced himself on her during a ride home.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the woman was hanging out with her co-workers on the North Side of the city when she decided to call an Uber in the early hours of November 16. She was picked up by Maxime Fohounhedo around 3 a.m., and instead of riding in the back per the usual, she was asked to ride shotgun. Fohounhedo claimed that he didn’t know the directions to get to her place and said she should sit in the front to point out where he should go.

After a short while, Fohounhedo started to touch the woman inappropriately as he pulled up to a residence that was not her own, and she ended up blacking out. It’s unclear if she blacked out from his attack or from being inebriated, but when she awoke, the woman told police that Fohounhedo was on top of her, and on top of her in an unidentified residence on the 2600 block of West Lawrence Avenue.

According to the Tribune, Fohounhedo finally took the woman to her residence after assaulting her, and when she got home, she contacted a friend to tell them that she had been raped. According to the Washington Post, in the police report, officers said that her message to her friend read like this:

“I was just sexually assaulted by my Uber driver and I’m supberb[sic] drunk, but I need someone to remind me to follow through to make sure this never happens again.”

Hours later, she went to police and filed a report. Afterwards, she was taken to the hospital.

Since then, Fohounhedo, who was a driver for the lower cost option UberX, was removed as a driver by the company and charged by police. He is scheduled for a bond hearing today.

Back when police were first investigating the assault claim, a spokesperson for the company, Jennifer Mullin, had this to say:

“We immediately removed the driver from the Uber platform when we learned of the incident and are cooperating with the Chicago Police Department in the ongoing investigation.

This is an appalling and unacceptable incident, and first and foremost our thoughts are with the victim and her family.”

Mullin also stated that drivers do undergo a “rigorous background check.”

Uber is a car ride-sharing service available in more than 50 countries, and it was picked as USA Today’s tech company of the year in 2013. But Uber has also faced quite a bit of criticism, specifically from taxi companies who oppose it, as well as from people who criticize it for occasional exorbitant trip prices and for putting passengers and other people’s safety at risk. In August, a driver suffered a seizure that resulted in the individual hitting a pedestrian. A man was reportedly kidnapped in D.C. after an Uber driver wouldn’t let him out of the car as it was being chased by police. And a driver in San Francisco was charged with manslaughter after hitting a family walking in a crosswalk. A 6-year-old girl died.

But despite all that, the service is gaining popularity for its convenience, and considering that taxi cab drivers aren’t out here with flawless records, more needs to be done in general to ensure the safety of passengers.

Study Finds Impoverished Women Experience Sexual Assault At Higher Rates

December 24th, 2014 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Image Source: Shutterstock.com

Image Source: Shutterstock.com

With sexual assault awareness on the rise, the Department Of Justice recently released a study looking at which women have the greatest risk of being raped and, surprisingly, the study found women who don’t enroll in college have a higher risk at being raped than their collegiate counterparts. Study authors Callie Marie Rennison of The University Of Colorado and Lynn A. Addington of American University noted in their New York Times editorial piece:

“We found that the estimated rate of sexual assault and rape of female college students, ages 18 to 24, was 6.1 per 1,000 students. This is nothing to be proud of, but it is significantly lower than the rate experienced by women that age who don’t attend college — eight per 1,000. In other words, these women are victims of sexual violence at a rate around 30 percent greater than their more educated counterparts.The focus on sexual violence against some of our most privileged young people has distracted us from the victimization of those enjoying less social and economic advantage.”

Rennison and Addginton also discovered that despite the statistics stating women who don’t go to college have an increased chance at becoming sexually assaulted, they didn’t find any studies that could specifically point to where the connection lies between rape and socio-economic disadvantages. Their study did find women who lived in households with annual incomes less than $7,500 are sexually victimized 3.7 times more than women who live in households with incomes of $35,000 or more. Home ownership is also a factor concerning sexually assault, with the study stating “Woman living in rented properties are sexually victimized at 3.2 times the rate of women living in homes that they or a family member own.”

In the conclusion of their study, Rennison and Addington claim it is important for sexual assault awareness campaigns to focus on women who are marginalized and don’t have the same resources as those who are educated. Interestingly enough, there are women who are enrolled in higher education but still lack basic resources they are believed to have. Depending on the campus culture, many sexual assaults and rapes go unreported or uninvestigated leaving victims to fend for themselves.

Jezebel also notes, campuses are not “rape-riddled places in society” where parents cannot send their daughters without feat of assault, but the way campus administrations have historically handled rape allegations has lead the greater public to expect the disappointing norm: closed-door hearings and a lack of disciplinary consequences. What appears to be the missing link between poverty, sexual assault and even education is how law enforcement participates in bringing justice to victims.

New Bracelet Says It Will Protect You From Sexual Assault

December 24th, 2014 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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This past summer, a group of North Carolina State University students launched their roofie-nail polish alert product. By just swirling your fingernail in your drink, you would be able to tell if you had been drugged:

If common date rape drugs such as GHB, Xanax or Rohypnol are present in the drink, the nail polish color will change. The inventors of Undercover Colors: Stephan Gray, Tyler Confrey-Maloney, Tasso Von Windheim, and Ankesh Madan state via their business Facebook Page:

With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger. If her nail polish changes color, she’ll know that something is wrong. Through this nail polish and similar technologies, we hope to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught. In effect, we want to shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators. We are Undercover Colors and we are the first fashion company empowering women to prevent sexual assault.

More recently, another company called Stiletto has released their own product to help keep women from becoming victims of sexual assault. Used as a bracelet or necklace, Stiletto is a pendant that can be double clicked when a woman is harmed or feels unsafe. It will notify her emergency contacts along with a text that can include a selfie, other emergency contacts to call, medical conditions and her insurance information according to Cosmopolitan. The pendant will also share the woman’s location and call 911 for her.

“The very nature of wearables, because they are on the body, there is an expectation that they need to be more fashionable, more stylish, and more unique to the individual,” said , Michael Kisch, CEO of Soundhawk a wearable technology company. He also claims within the next few years wearable tech products with help tackle issues such as personal security. Moreover, stories of sexual assault and domestic violence have been making headlines here and around the world more and more this year.

According to Stiletto’s website, the pendants currently cost an between $179 and $349. This also creates a financial barrier and raises the question: What demographic or even type of woman do these companies want to keep safe?