Thursday, May 22, 2008

Open Season

In March, we brought you the story of Ricardo Ferrante, 34, who was acquitted of any wrongdoing by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals after he snuck up behind a 16-year old in a Target and took photos under her skirt without her permission. The Court stated that this did not constitute a crime because the girl was in a public place and therefore had no reasonable expectation of privacy. The lone dissenting voter, Judge Gary Lumpkin, wrote " is open season for peeping Toms in public places who want to look under a woman's dress." He appears to have been correct.

Via Feministing

Charges against Brian Presken, 32, of Florida have been dismissed. Presken used a mirror to look under a woman's skirt at a Barnes & Noble in Pensacola last Summer. His attorney did not argue that he was innocent, but that the victim had no expectation of privacy in a public space.
Defense attorney Katheryne Snowden argued that the voyeurism charge should be dropped because Presken's accuser didn't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place under Florida law.

The law under which Presken was charged states, 'It is illegal to secretly observe someone with lewd, lascivious and indecent intent in a dwelling, structure or conveyance, and when such locations provide a reasonable expectation of privacy.'
Judge George J. Roark III agreed and dismissed the case. Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille stated that while he does not plan to appeal this decision, he will ask the Legislature to consider amending the statute during the next session to include incidences such as these. Marcille also intends to move forward on a disorderly conduct charge that is still pending against Presken.

It appears that this lack of protection under the law is a widespread problem. If you know of similar instances please contact your representatives to lobby for a change.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Law in Connecticut Allows DV Survivors to Teleconference Court Proceedings

The Connecticut Post reports
Victims of domestic violence and their children will be able to avoid face-to-face courtroom encounters and instead use teleconferencing to testify in divorce and custody proceedings, under a new law.

In reaction, Susan DeLeon, director of The Umbrella, which has a walk-in center in Ansonia and a shelter at an undisclosed location, agreed Monday that the new law is bound to help protect women and their children.

"I think it's a great idea," DeLeon said in a phone interview after [Governor]Rell signed the bill. "It will relieve a lot of anxiety for a victim who moves away." She said that some women might avoid getting a divorce because they know it means seeing their abusive spouse again, even if it's only in court.
The new law was inspired by the murder of Jennifer Magnano who returned to Connecticut from California last August for divorce proceedings and was murdered by her husband, Scott Magnano. Two of Jennifer Magnano's three children attended the signing.

Jennifer Magnano's death was a horrible tragedy, but the law it inspired has the potential to save the lives of others.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

90% of Teen Girls Report Sexual Harassment

A new study has been published concerning the way sexism is perceived by teen girls. The authors of the study surveyed 600 girls between the ages of 12 and 18, from California and Georgia who come from varied ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Ninety percent of girls reported experiencing sexual harassment at least once. Specifically, 67 percent of girls reported receiving unwanted romantic attention, 62 percent were exposed to demeaning gender-related comments, 58 percent were teased because of their appearance, 52 percent received unwanted physical contact and 25 percent were bullied or threatened with harm by a male. 52 percent of girls also reported receiving discouraging gender-based comments on the math, science and computer abilities, usually from male peers, and 76 percent of girls reported sexist comments on their athletic abilities, again predominantly from male peers.
Perhaps more important than the existence of sexism is the way in which girls interpret the harrassment. The study, which will appear in full in the May/June issue of Child Development, Vol. 79, Issue 3, under the title "Perceived Experiences with Sexism Among Adolescent Girls", notes that there are cultural factors which influence whether any given girl interprets sexist comments as an external problem (i.e. indicative of the shortcomings of the sexist) or as indicative of their own "flaws."

Girls who had been exposed to feminist ideas, either through the media or an adult such as a mother or teacher, were more likely to identify and report sexist behavior than were girls who had no information about feminism. Girls who reported feeling pressure from their parents to conform to gender stereotypes were also more likely to perceive sexism. Girls who felt atypical for their gender and/or were unhappy with stereotypical gender roles were most likely to report sexism and harassment.
The study's authors noted that it is important that girls learn that sexism is an external problem because frequent sexual harassment can lead to low self-esteem and the expectation and acceptance of demeaning behaviors in heterosexual romantic relationships.

H/T Feministing

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dennis Rodman charged with domestic violence is reporting today that ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman was charged with domestic violence Wednesday for assaulting his girlfriend, Gina Peterson, in a Los Angeles hotel room last month. Rodman was arrested on April 30, after Peterson called hotel security. According to police, Ms. Peterson suffered injuries to her arm. Rodman's spokesman and attorney do not deny his culpability, but instead they are trying to minimize this serious offense with some very familiar language.

Rodman spokesman Darren Prince says Rodman had had too much to drink when he got into an altercation with Peterson. Prince says the couple are still dating.

"We look forward to a successful resolution of this misdemeanor matter," said Rodman's attorney, Paul Meyer

Having too much to drink is not an excuse for violent behavior. That they are allegedly still together is not evidence of innocence. Many women stay in abusive relationships for one reason or another, that does not excuse the abuser's past or future actions. Finally, while the charge may be a misdemeanor, Rodman's attorney is trying to make it sound like he shoplifted a candy bar. A person who made his career off of his physical abilities is accused of assaulting someone who cares about him. That is a serious offense even if the penalty does not reflect it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Local Bar Owner thinks Homicide is Hilarious

Image taken from Shakesville

The AJC reports:
Just down the street from Marietta's famous Big Chicken, Mulligan's has carved a provocative niche in an increasingly multicultural area, thanks to its owner's ultra-conservative political views. If you live in Marietta, it's impossible not to know what's on Norman's mind, as he posts his views on signs in front of Mulligan's.

Among his recent musings: "I wish Hillary had married OJ," "No habla espanol — and never will" and the standard "I.N.S. Agents eat free."[emphasis added]

These offensive signs, however, did not draw community wide protest. It was not until owner Mike Norman began selling Obama '08 shirts with pictures of Curious George on the front that several organization including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Nation of Islam, and the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials organized a rally to protest the bar's racism. While it's very important to call out these racist and reprehensible actions, we cannot forget to highlight the misogyny as well, that this restaurateur would rather Hillary had been murdered than run for president.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Middle School Students Attack Assistant Principal

Police charged two 13-year-old Calverton Middle School students with attempted rape after they broke into their school and assaulted one of the assistant principals.

The administrator was able to fight off the students and call police. The students were identified using footage from the school's security camera, and arrested when they showed up for school the following day.

The students' bravado in showing up to school 24 hours after the attack makes clear that they felt there would be no consequences for their actions.
Head of the city's teacher' union Marietta English said what happened at Calverton over the weekend is another example of what's gone wrong.

"It goes back to these students thinking there is no consequence for their behavior. They came back to school on Monday thinking that they were going to go to class as usual. They didn't think anything was going to happen to them. It's ridiculous," she said.
Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore schools, has one piece of wisdom and hope to interject into the scenario.

I think it's tragic for a school...everytime a school has an incident like this it is devastating. And I think it's tragic in the life of the child. We cannot forget that every incident is an opportunity to intervene.
This why experiments like The Big Picture are important. "Every incident is an opportunity to intervene." Every incident has the potential to be a learning experience, a chance for us to draw parallels, connect dots, and make changes to attitudes and systems. This incident teaches us that children internalize the messages they see and hear, and if our society makes light of violence against women, allowing perpetrators to escape jail time or social punishments because their behavior is accepted, then even children will commit crimes against women without thought for the consequences. These lives of these children are ruined, and it will probably be impossible for this administrator, as well as other female staff and students, to feel safe in a school again.

Violence against women hurts everyone: women, men, kids, and communities.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Victims of Domestic Abuse Face Housing Bias

Sylvia Moreno at the Washington Post has written an article about the results of a fair housing study conducted by the Equal Rights Center this year.
The investigation was initiated by the Equal Rights Center, a Washington fair-housing advocacy group that has conducted civil-rights testing for 25 years. The study, done in January and February, covered 93 rental properties. It found that in 65 percent of the cases of domestic-abuse victims seeking housing, they were denied it outright or offered disadvantageous conditions to get an apartment.

The study was intended to calculate the extent of the problem one year after a law took effect in the District to protect victims of domestic violence from being denied rental housing, said Rabbi Bruce E. Kahn, the center's executive director. The legislation was designed, in part, to stem homelessness among women and children, who make up about half the city's homeless population. The leading cause of homelessness among women is domestic violence, advocates say.
The center had a staff person pose as an advocate calling on behalf of domestic violence survivors to various leasing agents. In 9% of cases she was denied an apartment, and in 56% of cases she was offered adverse terms and conditions for occupancy. The same leasing agents were then contacted by another woman on the same day who stated that she was looking for an apartment for herself. She was always offered the apartment though the study controlled for factors other than family violence.

Kathy Zeisel, a lawyer with the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, said the bias landlords and leasing agents have against victims of domestic violence comes from the stereotypical images that exist in society at large.

"They think that the mere presence of a victim of domestic abuse will cause danger to everyone around them in the apartment building," Zeisel said. "The stereotype is that they will invite the batterer back into the household or that they'll just continue to get into the same bad relationships. . . . But safe housing is really a key part in [the victim] being able to get away from that situation."
This same bias was shown in Wisconsin when the Safe Housing Act was enacted. Opponents to the bill worried that allowing victims of domestic violence to leave their lease would not "protect the other tenants."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Life Imitates "Art"

Last month we talked about Abortion Man, a "superhero" brought to you by Damon Wayans' WayOutTV. Abortion Man's evidently hilarious superpower was to, at the behest of hesitant fathers, beat up pregnant women until they miscarried. Violence against women is not funny, especially because of tragedies like this.

A judge sentenced two teens to life in prison for a beating that injured a pregnant woman and killed her unborn child.

Alfonso Price, 16, and Jebrell Wright, 17, will be eligible for parole in 23 years for their convictions on murder, felonious assault and kidnapping charges in the July 2007 attack. Authorities said the pair attacked 18-year-old Kerria Anderson, who told Price she was pregnant at the time with his unborn child.

The teens stomped Anderson in the hallway of an Over-The-Rhine apartment building after she refused to get an abortion, investigators said, and the fetus suffered fatal injuries.

Alfonso Price was a child himself when this incident occurred. Teenagers shouldn't have to be parents, and he may have been feeling scared or desperate, but that does not excuse his actions, nor explain why he felt that it was acceptible to use violence against a woman rather than respect her decisions, even if they did affect him deeply.

"Humor" like Abortion Man is one of the reasons we live in a society where violence of this type can happen. We make light of violence against women everyday, but this time two teenagers' lives are ruined, and one will probably never be the same again.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

International Violence Against Women Act

Here in the United States the Violence Against Women Act has provided many invaluable resources to domestic violence survivors. While there is room for improvement, and an on-going movement to protect VAWA's funding, we must remember that violence against women is a global epidemic. Apart from being a gross human rights violation, widespread violence against women actually stunts the economic growth of a nation.

Violence prevents women from:

Working: Violence reduces a woman's ability to work and provide for her family. In India, for example, a survey revealed that women who experienced even a single incident of violence lost an average of seven working days.

Staying at Work: In Kenya, 95 percent of the women who had experienced sexual abuse in their workplace were afraid to report the problem for fear of losing their jobs.

Getting an Education: Research shows that violence against women - including sexual assault, intimidation, and abuse - takes place in schools. Girls who are exposed to or experience violence are less likely to complete their education. A study in Nicaragua found that children of female victims of violence left school an average of four years earlier than other children.

Building Strong Communities: Women who experience violence are less able to benefit from and contribute to healthy communities.

The international situation parallels the plight of domestic violence survivors in the United States. According to, studies show that a domestic violence survivor's degree of financial independence is the best predictor of whether or not she will return to her abuser. The CDC estimates that, "Victims of intimate partner violence lose 8,000,000 days of paid work each year--the equivalent of over 32,000 full-time jobs and 5,600,000 days of household productivity."
The good news is that violence against women is preventable and that there are proven solutions that work. The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), if passed, would, for the first time, comprehensively incorporate these solutions into all U.S. foreign assistance programs - solutions such as promoting women's economic opportunity, addressing violence against girls in school, and working to change public attitudes. Among other things, the IVAWA would make ending violence against women a diplomatic priority for the first time in U.S. history. It would require the U.S. government to respond to critical outbreaks of gender-based violence in armed conflict - such as the mass rapes now occuring in the Democratic Republic of Congo - within two months. And by investing in local women's organizations overseas that are succesfully working to reduce violence in their communities, the IVAWA would have a huge impact on reducing poverty - freeing millions of women in poor countries to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty.
We have the power at home and abroad to send the message that violence against women will not be tolerated. For a concise explanation of IVAWA and to sign the petition of support, please visit Women Thrive Worldwide.