This post is reprinted from The Huffington Post with the permission of its authors.
What’s the biggest myth about street harassment? That men of color comprise the majority of offenders.
It’s a myth as old as this nation: the idea that Black men are more likely to be sexual predators — especially of white women. Consider D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth Of A Nation,” that builds an entire narrative on the idea of the black brute. From the Scottsboro boys to Emmitt Till, history as well as popular culture, the justice system and virtually all other facets of American society still hold the deeply entrenched notion of Black men as people to be feared.
But the myth doesn’t stop with history. In a recent New York Times article, a White woman living in a mostly Caribbean community (Crown Heights, Brooklyn) gets physically assaulted by a Latino man and wonders if it’s her fault, as if moving into a mostly Caribbean community was the city-dwellers equivalent to “asking for it.” A few years ago, a woman, also writing for The New York Times, reported on her experience doing aid work in the Congo and hearing repeatedly from other European aid workers that sexual harassment, violence, and rape in those areas “is cultural,” instead of, as she duly notes, “a tool of war.” The myth that Black and Latino men are innately sexually aggressive is one that extends beyond our national borders. Keep reading »
An 89-year-old woman is suing a Minnesota nursing home for punitive damages because she was forced to spend 72 hours in a mental health unit after she reported that she was raped by 30-year-old Andrew Scott Merzwski. According to court documents, the woman was a resident at Edgewood Vista senior living facility near Duluth the night that Merzwski entered her room as she was preparing for bed and began taking off his clothes when she invited him to stay and watch a movie. Though she refused his advances, Merzwski later admitted to having sex with her after the victim’s daughter called the police. Merzwski was eventually sentenced to 53 months in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender for a period of 10 years.
But the remaining issue is Edgewood Vista’s egregious mishandling of the crime, which included not only failing to report the crime to police immediately, but mistreating the victim. After the elderly victim reported the rape, Edgewood Vista responded by sending her to a psychiatric ward at St. Luke’s Hospital for nearly three days, where, according to the nurse who eventually examined her, she was locked in a cold room with nothing but a blanket. When nurse examiner Theresa Flesvig finally was able to do a physical examination, she found the “biggest tear” as a result of rape that she had ever seen in her career. Keep reading »
Caroline Heres, Julie Gelb and Jackie Reilly are on a mission to decrease sexual assault on college campuses. Last fall, Caroline and Jackie, who are students at Syracuse University, discussed the fact that they’d both been assaulted. What started as a chat between two friends evolved into a need to take action. Together, they decided to spread the word by contacting Syracuse sororities and holding a meeting about helping one another prevent assault
The pair received an encouraging response, and it quickly became clear that they had major potential on their hands. They teamed up with their sorority sister Julie Gelb, a PR major, to create Girl Code Movement. The organization aims to bring college women together across the country and encourage them to be active, empowered bystanders to help prevent rape through identifying possible victims and keeping them out of harm’s way. Keep reading »
“The Vagina Monologues” playwright Eve Ensler has been speaking out about violence against women and girls with her V-Day movement for years. But she took things to a whole new level on February 14 of last year: One Billion Rising, her call to action that made headlines all over the world and even prompted celebrities like Anne Hathaway to speak out about gender-based violence. The premise was simple: on February 14, all over the world, women and men were asked to stop what they were doing and dance in the name of ending violence against women. Last year, one billion people “rose and shook the earth” through dance to strike back against the startling UN statistic that 1 in 3 women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. One Billion Rising will be back in 2014 for a second round, and we are all invited to participate. This year, Ensler is screening a short film she created with Tony Stroebel about last year’s movement. “One Billion Rising” will be available to watch online on January 19, the same day it’s set to premiere at Sundance Film Festival. The film compiled footage of One Billion Rising from all over the world, and was put together with contributions of filmmakers from 207 countries. Check out the trailer and share it with everyone you know so we can make this year’s movement even bigger.
Calling himself only “Jean Paul,” the photographer who snapped over 1,000 photos over 27 minutes of Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson during their now-infamous lunch in London on June 9 is interviewed in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair. “I saw her lurch violently backwards,” the paparazzo told the magazine about the incident. “I thought Charles was demonstrating something. It lasted about 30 seconds. Then he did it a second time, and it was so violent, with such force, that her head snapped backwards … I was taking pictures the whole time.” Keep reading »