Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Christmas Story

On Christmas Eve, Renota and Saundra Brown were found dead in the basement of a home in Omaha, Nebraska. Saundra's boyfriend Fabian Hands was arrested in connection with their murders and the alleged rape and assault of Saundra Brown's daughter. According to KETV:

Police said they went to a home at 4213 N. 21st St. on Christmas Eve. When police entered the home, they discovered the bodies of two females in the basement. Also inside the home was a relative of the victims, who told officers that she had been sexually assaulted. While police talked to her, Hands came from the bedroom and allegedly assaulted her in front of police.

As tragic as the story is, what caught our attention were follow-up interviews with the perpetrator's brother:

In my heart of hearts, I know my brother wouldn't have sexually assaulted anyone.

Sandra and my brother, Fabian, were verbally abusive to one another and sometimes it got physically abusive to one another. They had a strange and unusual relationship. They would fight just to make up. They decided to stay together -- even him talking to me recently about getting married.

Fabian was like a sweet giant. He loved people. He loved life, and I know for a fact he loved Saundra.
There was known to be violence in the relationship, the bodies of his girlfriend and her sister were found in the basement, and police witnessed Hands assaulting his girlfriend's daughter. Yet his brother still cannot fathom that Hands would have perpetrated violence against a woman?

It is difficult to think that people we know and love are capable of such acts, but we know that, in Georgia, between 1/4 and 1/3 of all women will be abused or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Each of these assaults has a perpetrator, and though he may be your son, brother, childhood sweetheart, best friend from college, a deacon at your church, your financial planner, or the captain of your child's soccer team, that does not mean that he is not capable of violence. Batterers may look very different in public than they do at home, and one of the most important things that you can do to end domestic violence is to believe women when they disclose the abuse to you, and to stand with the survivors in demanding accountability for violence rather than making excuses for a criminal because he is "such a great guy."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rape is Rape is Rape

Earlier in the week this shocking notion was given a credible face in the UK. For those of you who don't want to visit the link, according to the Daily Mail, John Redwood (a former Tory cabinet minister and currently a senior Tory adviser) has stated in response to the UK's recent conversations on strengthening rape laws:
None of us want men to rape women, but there is a difference between a man using unreasonable force to assault a woman on the street, and a disagreement between two lovers over whether there was consent on one particular occasion.
(emphasis added)

This comes just a few weeks after Tory leader David Cameron said this at the Conservative Women's Organisation:
We have a situation where rapists think they can get away with it, while victims fear not being believed and wonder what's the point of pursuing the criminal process. How can any civilised country, that sees the sanctity of consent to sex as a vital right for every woman, accept these facts?
Good question Mr. Cameron, too bad it is in contrast with the views of one of your top advisors. Redwood has declined to retract his statement and is adamant that anything he said falls in line with Cameron's views.

At least it appears the person in charge of overseeing rape policy (Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker) has it right.
I have made it clear that rape is rape, wherever it happens. It does not matter who commits it or what the circumstances are.

In fact, almost 90 per cent of rapes are committed by men who know their victims, so this type of rape is the biggest problem we have to deal with - not something to be dismissed as a lesser crime.
From the available data it is 73% in the United States .

There is a lot of discussion in the United States concerning the degrees of rape and the rapability of the victim. The attitudes of Redwood have surfaced here in the form of so-called "gray rape", which was popularized by Laura Sessions Stepp in Cosmopolitan magazine and is slowly but surely gaining ground in mainstream culture.The general consensus between Stepp and John Redwood seems to be that if you know him, and dare to be alone with him, he gets to rape you. Stepp casts "gray rape" as something different from date rape, but the scenario she describes is in fact the most typical known version of rape. In the story, she allegedly (her research methods have been found to be quite faulty/disingenuous) interviews a recent college graduate who tells the following story:

Alicia had asked another student, Kevin, to be her “platonic date” at a college sorority formal. The two of them went out for dinner first with friends and then to the dance. She remembers that they got drunk but not what she would call sloppy wasted.

After the dance, they went to Kevin’s room and, eventually, started making out. She told him flat out that she didn’t want it to proceed to sex, and he said okay. But in a few minutes, he had pushed her down on the couch and positioned himself on top of her.

“No. Stop,” she said softly — too softly, she later told herself. When he ignored her and entered her anyway, she tensed up and tried to go numb until it was over. He fell asleep afterward, and she left for her dorm, “having this dirty feeling of not knowing what to do or who to tell or whether it was my fault.” While it felt like rape to her — she had not wanted to have sex with Kevin — she was not sure if that’s what anyone else would call it.

“It fell into a gray area,” she said recently. “Maybe I wasn’t forceful enough in saying I didn’t want it.” Even today, she is reluctant to call it rape because she thinks of herself as a strong and sexually independent woman, not a victim.
Let us be clear, if the situation went down as described here, it. was. rape. End of story. If someone says no, and the other person proceeds anyway, it is rape. The only "gray area" is the artificial one created by rape apologists like Redwood and Stepp. Our popular culture and discourse surrounding women, men, femininity and masculinity already fosters a rape culture. We can't let this type of idiocy become public policy in the United States or abroad.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Update on Aqsa Parvez

This morning the Herald Sun published this story highlighting more details of the tragic case of Aqsa Parvez which we first brought to you in a post yesterday.

It appears from the story that Parvez's father has been charged with second-degree murder and her brother has been charged with obstruction of justice. Reports from her friends also indicate that this was an on-going conflict and that Parvez had already moved out of the residence a few weeks prior, and only returned home on Monday to collect the remainder of her things.

At the very least, Canada's leaders (secular and Islamic) are recognizing this as part of a pervasive societal problem rather than an indictment of one religion.

But a spokesman for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) said he is dubious of opinions the girl's death resulted from a clash of cultures.

"Teen rebellion is something that exists in all households in Canada and is not unique to any culture or background," CAIR-CAN's Sameer Zuberi told AFP.

"Domestic violence is also not unique to Muslims.''

The death of Parvez "was the result of domestic violence, a problem that cuts across Canadian society and is blind to colour or creed", echoed Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association.

The two groups and 18 other Muslim groups in an open letter to prosecutors asked for the strongest possible prosecution of her killer, and "zero tolerance for violence of any kind against women or girls".

Inexcusable Journalism from the New York Post

If there was ever any doubt, the New York Post has provided us with concrete evidence that main stream culture doesn't take violence against women seriously. Here is their headline for an article regarding Ike Turner's recent passing.


Bear in mind someone doesn't just slap these headlines up. They have to be approved by a series of editors. This was considered the best possible headline for this story, not by just one idiot, but by a group of successful professionals.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Developing Story just put up a link to the story from Toronto of a teenage girl allegedly murdered by her father in a dispute over wearing her hijab, which is a traditional Islamic headscarf.

Friends of the teenager identified her as Aqsa Parvez and said they were shocked by her death but said her family was very strict. “She got threatened by her father and her brother,” Dominiquia Holmes-Thompson told the newsaper. “He said that if she leaves, he would kill her.”

While this is not a case of spousal abuse, the threats above are eerily reminiscent of those leveled at women living in violent situations. This case illustrates why sweeping social change is so important if women are to be viewed as full human beings who have the right to live and make their own choices without fear.

So-called "honor killings" are not condoned by Islam regardless of the situation. This type of violence can only blossom if the surrounding secular cultural ideas support it. Women may be able to drive, but we are still in large part viewed as property which is why these terrible murders happen even in the West.

We at The Big Picture will be keeping tabs on the development of this story as details become available.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stalking is not the new yoga.

Twenty minutes later, we get our shot in profile. She’s aiming for incognito, with the hood of her sweater jacket up and the white winter hat pulled low on her forehead, but there’s no longer much point in trying to hide. We found her. Good thing it’s just us.
These chilling words are the final sentences of Becca Tucker's recent column in the New York Press entitled "I'll Be Watching You." Tucker alledges in her column that she is exploring the increase in celebrity stalking as it relates to the heightened amount of personal information available on the Internet. She picks Claire Danes as her subject and essentially stalks her for a few weeks, discerning her address, her usual breakfast spot, and other personal things about Ms. Danes that make tracking her a relatively easy task.

The principal idea for the column is a good one, and if Tucker had concentrated on how life-altering and terrifying being stalked is, then perhaps this blog entry would be praising her work. However, instead of centering her column on the experts she interviewed, or the disruption and fear that stalking causes for the victim, she essentially published a Martha Stewart style "how-to" guide for celebrity stalkers including what street Claire Danes lives on, and what search terms and websites one might use to find another person's street address. Even when she interviews behavioral experts on stalking, the language Tucker uses and the way she frames their quotes makes stalking look like a new trend or hobby rather than a deadly serious problem.

When she isn't giving would-be stalkers advice on how to pursue their victims, she's minimizing the effects and dangers of stalking.

The good news is, celebrity stalkers tend to be nonviolent. While it’s estimated that as many as 40 percent of stalkers do get physical, most of those instances involve grabbing, punching, slapping or fondling, and are targeting former intimate partners, not strangers. There have only been 17 recorded instances of homicide attempts by celebrity stalkers (see sidebar)—ever, anywhere in the world, according to Louis Schlesinger, professor of forensic psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and author of a 2006 case study of an obsessed fan who tried to kill Bjork, then killed himself.

Oh, only 17 people. Exactly how many people have to die before stalking is considered a violent crime? Notice that she skims over the affect of stalking on us regular folk. She also doesn't address the fact that most celebrities have security resources (bodyguards, etc.) that people like us generally don't have access to.

Between columns like these and the disgraceful merchandise shown below which was featured in a previous The Big Picture entry on Wal-Mart, it is clear that our society still views stalking as a harmless if somewhat annoying compliment rather than a violent intrusion.

To let the editors at NY Press know that stalking is not a joke, e-mail David Blum at

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Girl Shot 6 Times Protecting Her Mother

A 7-year-old-girl in Detroit was shot six times while attempting to shield her mother from an abusive ex-boyfriend.
Alexis Goggins, a first-grader at Campbell Elementary School, is in stable condition at Children's Hospital in Detroit recovering from gunshot wounds to the eye, left temple, chin, cheek, chest and right arm. The girl's mother, Selietha Parker, 30, was shot in the left side of her head and her bicep by a former boyfriend, who police said was trying to kill Parker.
Teens are especially likely to attempt to intervene in altercations while trying to protect their mothers, but this child was only 7, and the gunman was said to have "pumped" shots into her "without hesitation". Alexis and the gunman were separated when he arrived at her house with a firearm and the apparent intent to kill.