File this one under It’s About Time: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has announced that the military is implementing new strategies to prevent sexual assaults and improve their current system for responding to sex crimes. According to official data, there were 3,191 reported sexual assaults in 2011; however, these crimes so often go unreported that Panetta and his team estimate the actual number to be astronomically higher — closer to 19,000. The new plan includes better training for victims’ advocates, increased funding for investigators, and an improved data system to compile sexual assault information across different branches of the military. While these changes aren’t necessarily revolutionary, it is a sign that the armed forces are taking sexual assaults more seriously, and that’s a step in the right direction. [The Raw Story]
“Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
This is the new, expansive definition of rape approved by the FBI last week, which will more accurately reflect how sexual assaults are tabulated by the government in its Uniform Crime Report. The FBI’s working definition of “rape,” created in the 1920s, had been roundly criticized by everyone from police chiefs, sex crime investigators, and victims’ advocate for only defining assault as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” That definition entirely left out male victims and ignored incidents when the victim was penetrated against his or her will orally, anally, with an object, and under the influence of drugs or alcohol (such as being roofied). As a result, the number of sexual assaults released by the FBI’s annual crime report drastically under-reported the crimes perpetrated in the country. Keep reading »
Just because Michele Bachmann dropped out of the 2012 presidential race doesn’t mean we’re in the clear — there are still plenty of candidates who would love nothing more than to restrict women’s reproductive rights. Newt Gingrich was asked by a voter yesterday whether he supports abortion if the woman was impregnated via rape or incest. And what do you think Mr. Compassionate had to say about that?
No, I wouldn’t make exceptions. What I would try to do is create a program that would enable women in those circumstances to have support and help them through whatever process they needed both in terms of counseling and in terms of if they wanted to give up the baby for adoption. Keep reading »
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has always been against a woman’s right to choose. As Texas governor, he has supported bills to restrict access to abortion and made public statements like “Every life lost to abortion is a tragedy.” However, Perry had believed abortion should remain legal in cases of rape, incest, or if the woman’s life is at risk.
Not for long: in the past week, Perry’s pro-life stance took a sharp — and deadly — turn to an even further extreme. And then, barely a day later, he backtracked on abortion yet again. Keep reading »
Sexual assault and the threat of sexual assault are used as a way to control women. Nowhere is that more present, lately, than in Egypt where female protesters have been forced to undergo “virginity tests” administered by soldiers when they are arrested and imprisoned. Yesterday, a Cairo court sided with protester Samira Ibrahim, age 25, who was assaulted with a “virginity test” after she was arrested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in March, and ordered that the military stop forcing its way into women’s bodies. The court’s ruling claimed, “These acts involve deliberate humiliation and intentional insult to women participating in protests.” Keep reading »
If you write for a living — especially opinion writing, and especially as a feminist — you set yourself up for criticism. You really have no control over how others respond to your work, other than choosing not to write it. By attaching your name to your views, you put yourself in the position to be agreed with, judged, lauded, mocked, quoted reverently, misinterpreted, called somebody others “must read”, called crazy or ugly or both. I’ve experienced all these things at some point in my career.
It sucks, though, when the worst of those experiences happen from within the feminist community. Keep reading »
I was a virgin until a month before my 21st birthday. I was on my second date with a guy named Craig, a 20-something blond surfer type who got my number after I made him a chai tea to go at the coffee shop in his neighborhood where I worked. I was lying on his bed and the Best of Willie Nelson was playing on his CD player. He had a tapestry hanging on the ceiling and there was a poster for the critically un-acclaimed jam band, The String Cheese Incident, on the wall. I felt him enter me and it hurt like hell, but I was flying high on the notion that I had finally conquered two fears — the fear of having sex and the fear that I never would. Afterwards, I was a little embarrassed by the spotting of blood on his sheets — should I offer to wash them? — but I still couldn’t contain my excitement. Keep reading »