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DC Council Passes Landmark Sexual Assault Reforms
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Advocacy and Letters - Press Releases
Written by DC Justice for Survivors Campaign   
Tuesday, 08 April 2014
April 8, 2014


Contact: Renee Davidson
DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC)
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DC Council Passes Landmark Sexual Assault Reforms
Grassroots Survivors’ Group Celebrates Success After Year of Mobilizing

Washington, D.C. — The DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) is elated that today DC Council took the first of two votes to pass the Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act of 2013 (SAVRAA), landmark legislation to improve how the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) handles sexual assault cases and treat survivors of sexual assault.

“This is a monumental step in both supporting survivors of sexual assault and improving DC’s sexual assault response system,” said Julia Strange, DC JSC organizer and Director of Programs and Policy for Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS). “This legislation means that those who report sexual assault in the District can expect that their cases will be followed through as efficiently as possible, and that they will be treated with fairness and respect,” added Sherelle Hessell-Gordon, DC JSC organizer and Executive Director of theDC Rape Crisis Center.

The final version of the bill passed by DC Council includes all criteria for which the DC JSC mobilized support. In full, the legislation: 1) Grants sexual assault survivors the right to have a sexual assault victim advocate present during hospital forensic exams and in subsequent in-person police interviews; 2) Mandates the prompt processing of rape kits; 3) Provides sexual assault survivors the right to the results of their rape kits and toxicology tests; 4) Mandates that an independent consultant make semi-annual public reports on progress that MPD makes in implementing reforms; 5) Codifies DC’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and requires it to conduct case review; 6) Requires an annual report on sexual assault from agencies that handle cases and evidence; 7) Establishes a task force to recommend further reform to the system, including additional roles for advocates, an effective system for complaints and juvenile sexual assault system reforms.

The DC JSC, a survivor-led grassroots coalition, has been working for over a year not to only to pass, but also to strengthen SAVRAA.The coalition, formed by Collective Action for Safe Spaces, (CASS), the DC Rape Crisis Centerand DC NOW, was established in response to evidence of police mismanagement of sexual assault cases in the District. The DC JSC is comprised of 23 organizations and over 400 individual community members. Over the past months, DC JSC members consulted with policy experts, collected hundreds of signatures in support of SAVRRA’s urgently-needed reforms, met with DC Councilmembers and testified at the December 2013 DC Council Hearing on the legislation, including sharing heart wrenching stories of their experiences of reporting sexual assault to MPD.

“Passing legislation that codifies the rights of survivors of sexual assault sends a powerful message to survivors that our community leaders care about their rights and are working to protect them,” said Susan Mottet, DC JSC organizer and President of the National Organization for Women, DC Chapter (DC NOW). “This bill was a survivor-driven advocacy effort, and we thank the brave men and women who testified and shared their stories,” said DC JSC organizer Marisa Ferri. “We’re encouraged that the passage of SAVRAA, especially along with DC JSC’s amendments, will help ensure that survivors who report their assault can begin the process of healing and obtaining justice.”

The Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act will be voted on again and then passed onto the Mayor to be signed into law.


Formed by Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) and National Organization for Women, DC Chapter (DC NOW), the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) is a grassroots coalition of sexual assault survivors, direct service providers, advocacy organizations, allies and community members working to increase and codify the rights of and improve services for survivors of sexual assault in the District of Columbia.
Advocacy Builds and Restores (or You May Be Doing it Wrong)
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Civil Liberties and Advocacy Efforts
Written by James Landrith   
Friday, 04 April 2014

Jenni Chiu, writing for The Huffington Post, on "Stop Making the Thin Girl Ugly":



I stumbled across a petition on started by a fellow blogger whom I happen to adore. I've met her. I've laughed with her. I've slept in the same hotel room with her. I find her intelligent and quite glorious.


I don't like her petition... though I may be in the minority.


The petition is to Francesca Bellettini, the CEO of Yves Saint Laurent with this request: "Do not use anorexic models in your advertisements anymore." She also wrote a blog post about it here.


My problem is that the petition was inspired by a photo of a thin model in an ad, and we don't know that this young woman is actually anorexic. Perhaps the genes she inherited, combined with her youth, keeps her rail thin. Isn't assuming all skinny girls are anorexic just as bad as assuming all bigger girls are lazy?




There is a sad and inexcusable tendency in social justice circles. Too often, activists are incapable of advocating for one group without intentionally (or not) tearing down or hurting another group. Inclusion does not require the moral and emotional bludgeoning of another group. Intentions matter, but so do the consequences of a particular advocacy effort. If you must hurt one innocent party to advocate for another party, then you don't understand the concept.
Read the rest here:


Keep Your Bags to Yourself (or You Aren't A Transit Ninja)
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Rape, Sexual Assault and Abuse
Written by James Landrith   
Wednesday, 05 March 2014
There is a lot of talk about how men need to be aware of the space they take up in public.  Some men are unaware or outright act like entitled children. I don't dispute the need for such conversations.  SOME men DO need to hear that message. I've had a lot of huge, overstuffed backpacks smack me in the head while seated or been knocked back by some clueless commuter who isn't compensating for the space his big, stupid bag is occupying while hanging in the air behind him.

As an introvert, I am always aware of the real estate I occupy. I am present without being dominant. I don't require anything more to feed my intellect and self-worth. I don't need to control or dominate a situation or location. I don't feel the need to fill a room with noise and posturing. As a male rape survivor of a female predator, I am even more aware of my surroundings. That does not mean I am worried about what will happen. It means that I want to be left alone and not have to deal with unnecessary, ridiculous situations that may be triggering or cause a spike to my PTSD.

I've carried a messenger style bag to work since the early 1990's while still on active duty. It usually contains, pens, note pads, PDA, books, Nook, documents, my lunch or whatever. I don't swing it around like I'm in a sword fight. I don't try to take off people's heads while getting on or off the train. I don't expect it to have it's own seat while others stand. I put it on my lap when traveling and hang it on my shoulder, but swung in front of me so it is not in the way while people pass. I believe it is my responsibility to watch out for others and not their responsibility to jump and duck as we navigate public spaces. Call me crazy, but I think that is how rational, mature human beings should behave in public.

Today on the train ride home, the car was about two thirds full. That was comfortable enough for a ride from DC to Alexandria, Virginia and left plenty of room to breathe and keep a polite distance. I maintained about two feet between the young woman to my front and my own person. Throughout the jostling and turns this was just fine to ensure we both had sufficient space. A few stops later and my new friend Entitled Woman gets on and takes up position behind me. At this station, about the same amount of commuters embarked vs. disembarked. Plenty of room was left in the car and a sufficient number of handholds were available. There was no reason to crowd. This person decided that she needed to get right behind me, pushing and shoving her stupidly large bag in my backside, all the while leaning into me for several stops. Every time we got jostled, she would shove back into me and try to dominate space as if the train were overcrowded during rush hour. Meanwhile, there was space behind her and on her other side. I closed up some of the space between me and the young lady to my front in order get her out of my back. Entitled Woman saw this as an excuse to push in further and continue her attempt at Metro dominance. This went on for several miles and through many stations until a seat opened up and she sat her rude, entitled ass down.


As relevant as conversations about space and public courtesy are for men and boys, it has been my experience far too often that plenty of women need the same teachings. There are simple courtesies that just don't seem to be taught, whether it is something as simple as keeping a polite distance; not expecting that your purse, laptop case or bag deserves it's own seat; or keeping your elbows tucked in and to yourself while riding. I'm not going to even get into how many purses and backpacks I've taken to the side of the head over 20 years of riding the train. While the experience I outlined above was not the end of the world, it is very commonplace in the Metro and can be a problem for those of us who are wired a bit differently. I am completely understanding of crowded, densely packed trains during rush hours and inclement weather. I deal with that through simple acceptance of it being a temporary nuisance that won't last long. That said, acting like an entitled asshat is not anyone's right where another person's bodily sovereignty is concerned. Flipping the genders in such interactions doesn't make it any more acceptable.

Is it really so hard to just respect EVERYONE?  Can we please stop pretending this a male only problem?  Truly, it isn't.
Last Updated ( Monday, 21 April 2014 )
Finding the Courage to Cover Sexual Violence
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About Me/Website - Press and Government Mentions
Written by Frank Smyth   
Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Finding the Courage to Cover Sexual Violence

By Frank Smyth

Committee to Protect Journalists

A sensitive if not taboo subject in much of the world, sexual violence often goes unreported. Covering sexual assault, including rape, can bring swift and unpredictable repercussions, leaving many journalists and others torn over how best to navigate the risks.


Women march for justice and security in New Delhi on January 2, 2013, following the funeral of a student who died after being gang-raped. (Reuters/Adnan Abidi)
Women march for justice and security in New Delhi on January 2, 2013, following the funeral of a student who died after being gang-raped. (Reuters/Adnan Abidi)


“You don’t have the courage. You don’t want to get into trouble,” Chi Yvonne Leina, an award-winning Cameroonian journalist and contributor to the women’s activist network World Pulse, told CPJ. “What you are reporting, who you are, can lead to changes in the way the community sees you,” she said. World Pulse describes itself as a network using digital media in more than 190 countries to connect women worldwide and give them a global voice.

But attitudes can change. In India, a fatal gang-rape case in Delhi in December 2012 ended up generating more coverage in Indian newspapers, on television news and commentary programs, and in social media forums than ever before. Four men were eventually convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. Their lawyers have filed an appeal. The media coverage and the case itself have, by all accounts, helped reshape attitudes about sexual violence. “The way girls think now has changed dramatically after this particular case,”Urmila Chanam, a columnist in northeastern India for the English daily newspaper Sangai Express, told CPJ.

Anyone reporting on sexual violence needs to be mindful of the potential risks not only to themselves, but also to the victims of the attacks.

“Think about the safety of the witnesses and sources,” Abdiaziz Abdinuur, a Somali journalist who was forced into exile after reporting on sexual assaults, told CPJ.

“We could do more damage,” said Chanam. Reporting sexual violence “disturbs the cultural elements in our country,” she explained. Yet Chanam, who is another World Pulse contributor, ultimately wants “every case to be reported.” She said that she gives the choice to the victim whether to report an individual case of rape, while collaborating more broadly with activists to change the way people perceive sexual violence.

Sometimes reporters pay a price for covering sexual attacks and their aftermaths. In July 2012, some Indian journalists were tipped off that a large group of men in Mangalore were chasing, beating, and groping teenage women at a local birthday party. The assailants were Hindu fundamentalists apparently upset at the way the women were associating with men. One local television journalist, Naveen Soorinje, called the police and filmed the scene. His subsequent TV report accused the police of responding slowly to his repeated calls about the attack.

Soorinje’s footage was used to identify dozens of suspects. But four months after the episode, Soorinje was himself charged with participating in the attack. He spent four months in jail until his release in March 2013. The Committee to Protect Journalists considers the arrest to be retaliatory.

Just over a week after the 2012 gang rape on a bus in Delhi of a 23-year-old female physiotherapy student, the police in Imphal shot and killed Dwijamani Singh, a reporter for a regional satellite television network as he was covering protests against sexual assaults of women. The protesters were demonstrating against both the Delhi gang-rape attack and a more recent gang rape of an actress in Imphal. Singh was killed as the police opened fire when some protesters turned violent, according to news reports.

Attitudes about sexual attacks in India remain mixed. In the Delhi gang-rape case, pressure from the girl’s parents and the nation’s press gave the case unprecedented attention, which helped lead to arrests. In what seemed like a reaction to the widespread media coverage, a lower court barred journalists from covering the “fast-track” trial for two months.

But the press continued to clash with the authorities throughout the trial. In March, the Delhi High Court lifted the ban on reporters, although some restrictions remained, including allowing only one journalist from each accredited media organization into the courtroom, and prohibiting journalists from publishing the names of the victim or witnesses. In April, the judge presiding over the case arbitrarily barred a British journalist for The Independent in London from covering the trial.

Attitudes about gender in India along with the economic implications for families may help explain why covering sexual violence can be such a challenge for the press. Attitudes toward women are “the core reasons” behind both the nation’s sexual assaults and why they are so often kept in the dark, said Chanam of the Sangai Express. “It starts before birth.”

Girls are considered less valuable than boys, she said, and selective abortions of female fetuses are common. For every 1,000 boys, 836 girls are born in India, according to a study using birth data as late as 2005 published in The Lancet. The families of a young female rape victim may also pay an economic price if the crime is made public, Chanam said. Most Indian marriages are still arranged, and the bride’s family is expected to pay a dowry to the groom’s family. The family of an unmarried woman who has been raped often does not want it made public, she explained, because that would only make it harder and more expensive for her to marry.

In many nations, a gender-based sense of “honor” is another reason why sexual violence is often kept out of the press. Publicity around a rape case “can be extremely dangerous for the rape victims themselves,” said Soroya Chemaly, a freelance feminist writer for various news outlets, including The Huffington Post.

Afghanistan is one nation where a family’s honor, or its perception, helps keep sexual assaults from being reported. “Afghans are very sensitive about honor,” Ali Shahidy, a writer and women’s rights activist who has since left Afghanistan for the United States, told CPJ. If a woman in the family is sexually assaulted, he said, “they keep it as close as they can to protect their honor.”

Such attitudes span the globe. “Sometimes you don’t want to identify the victims to protect the victims,” Achieng Beatrice Nas, an activist and World Pulse contributor from Uganda, told CPJ. “Sometimes you don’t identify the victim to protect yourself.”

But there’s another reason why crimes of sexual violence may go unreported. Government security forces are among the most common culprits in sexual violence, according to Lauren Wolfe, an award-winning journalist and director of the Women's Media Center's Women Under Siege project, a New York-based nonprofit group that documents rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict areas. “Most people we talk to won’t speak about it because they’re too scared,” said Wolfe, who has helped document sexual violence in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Sudan, and Syria. While CPJ’s senior editor, Wolfe wrote the CPJ report, “The Silencing Crime: Sexual Violence and Journalists.”

Sexism and misogyny also play a role in keeping sexual assault stories from being reported, Chemaly said. “Male entitlement” is at the root of the challenges reporters face covering sexual violence, she said, because some men feel “they have the right to abuse, the right to rape.” A study published in September 2013 in The Lancet based on interviews with men in Asian and Pacific nations noted a “high rape prevalence” that “is probably rooted in aspects of culture related to sexual entitlement and sex relations.”

In January 2013, Al-Jazeera’s English-language TV channel aired a report alleging that government soldiers in Somalia had raped women in refugee camps in Mogadishu. A few days later, the Somali freelance journalist Abdinuur pursued the same line of investigation and interviewed a woman who said she had been raped by soldiers. Abdinuur was promptly arrested to face a series of charges including “offending state institutions” and “false reporting,” even though he had never published any report based on the interview.

The police arrested the woman he interviewed, initially charging her with similar crimes. The authorities also questioned, but did not charge, Omar Faruk, a correspondent for Al-Jazeera’s Arabic service in Somalia. Abdinuur was finally released more than two months later, when the Supreme Court dismissed all charges. He fled to Uganda. “I was arrested,” he later said in anaudio interview with CPJ, “because of interviewing rape victims.”

CPJ archives include a number of other cases of journalists’ enduring reprisals after covering stories of sexual attacks. In 2000 in Kakamega, Kenya, two journalists from the daily newspaper, The People, were arrested and interrogated for hours for reporting that police officers had sexually assaulted three local women. In 2001, in Sri Lanka, A.S.M. Fasmi, a reporter with a Tamil-language newspaper, was detained and interrogated by intelligence agents after reporting a story about the rape of two women by security forces.

In 2006, Mexican journalist and activist Lydia Cacho was subjected to a trumped-up criminal defamation suit along with threats of violence. Tapes of telephone conversations between several people, including the then-governor of the state of Puebla and a local businessman, were delivered to the Mexico City offices of the daily La Jornada and W Radio, according to local media reports.

The voices of the men heard on the tape discussed plans to imprison Cacho and rape her in jail. Cacho had previously exposed a child pornography and prostitution ring involving government officials. In 2008, in western Mexico, two unidentified men beat and stabbed the deputy director of a local daily, Luis Pablo Guardado Negrete, who survived, while questioning him about a story on a sexual assault scandal at a local gym.

Of course, not all rape victims are women, as noted in a CNN report on James

Landrith, a former Marine based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, who has spoken out about his own rape and on behalf of other sexual assault victims, in particular men victimized by women. According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped. The actual number is most likely higher, experts say, as sexual violence is severely underreported in the United States as elsewhere, particularly among male victims.

Rape is also used as a tool of war. A World Bank study published in 2011 found that 48 women are raped every hour in the Democratic Republic of Congo, based on data collected in 2007. Many of the rapists are members of different armed forces. Many women and men have been reported raped in Syria since its civil war began in 2011. Government and allied militia forces committed more than three-fourths of the sexual attacks tracked by WMC's Women Under Siege project, which has documented many rapes and other crimes that were not otherwise reported in the press.

CPJ has also covered journalists who themselves were sexually assaulted or raped, most notably the widely-publicized case of CBS television correspondent and CPJ board member Lara Logan who was attacked while she was covering anti-government demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011.

In many other cases, sexual assaults are kept quiet because they occur within the home. Elisa Lees Muñoz is the executive director of the International Women’s Media Foundation, a Washington-based group that works with some of the world’s top female journalists. Muñoz said in an interview that a surprising number of the journalists from various regions, including the Middle East, are themselves victims of domestic violence. Yet this is one story that none of them will report or discuss in public.

“These are well-educated women who have a voice in their own societies,” Muñoz told CPJ. “Yet they won’t tell their own stories, so how could they tell others?”

These women are hardly alone.

“People are raped by their own husbands, and no one wants to talk about that,” said Beatrice Nas of Uganda. Even in cases that do not involve domestic violence, she said, the perpetrators are still people “usually known in the community.”

Journalists who have experience covering sexual violence counsel colleagues to respect the wishes and interests of victims, so as not to worsen their situation. “We leave it up to her,” said Chanam, referring to female victims of sexual violence.

Frank Smyth is CPJ’s senior adviser for journalist security. He has reported on armed conflicts, organized crime, and human rights from nations including El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Cuba, Rwanda, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Jordan, and Iraq.

UPDATE: This essay has been corrected to reflect that Women Under Siege is a project of the Women's Media Center.

Mentioned by Committee to Protect Journalists Regarding Sexual Violence Advocacy
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Rape, Sexual Assault and Abuse
Written by James Landrith   
Friday, 07 February 2014

So, um, the Committee to Protect Journalists has mentioned my advocacy work in their new edition of "Attacks on the Press, 2014 Edition: Journalism on the World's Front Lines."  The chapter on "Finding the Courage to Cover Sexual Violence" discusses media coverage of sexual violence, survivors and reporters who have faced such in the line of duty.





Apparently, they thought my advocacy on behalf of male survivors and exposure of female predators was noteworthy enough for a mention and referenced my CNN interview.

I've been mentioned in dozens of books before for my work with The Multiracial Activist and The Abolitionist Examiner, so I'm not new to getting cited or quoted.  This one is different though, as I actually got butterflies in my stomach reading it.  As an online publisher and freelancer, this one means a bit more to me.  The CPJ is an important organization with a needed mission.



Last Updated ( Friday, 07 February 2014 )
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