• Ocean/Corbis

    Ironic

    Pro-Women Org Boss Gropes Employees

    Four former workers are suing the National Association of Professional Women for alleged sexual harassment.

    Four former employees of the National Association of Professional Women, a women’s networking group, have sued the organization for alleged sexual harassment. Their former manager, Krissy L. DeMonte, allegedly pinched and grabbed their buttocks and called them vulgar names. After they complained, the lawsuit said, the employees were then fired or forced to resign due to hostile work conditions. In a separate lawsuit filed in January, another employee claimed that DeMonte regularly came up behind her while she was sitting at her desk, touched and rubbed her neck, and then moved her hands “to touch, rub and/or feel the top” of her breasts.

    Read it at The New York Times
  • Vladimir Godnik/Getty

    College Polish

    The Dangerous Ripeness of Twenty

    On the brink of adulthood, authority figures sometimes pose the greatest threat.

    This is the thing about 20: You’re ripe. And most people know it. They see it, smell it, feel it, sense it. And if you’re a girl like I was—trusting, hopeful, optimistic—you try to be good, you want to please people, your impulse to make everyone happy overrides any notion that you have a right to say no.

    I wasn’t especially pretty at 20—my butt was huge, my brown hair was a bottle red, I bought ill-fitting clothes from thrift stores or wore giant men’s button-down shirts as dresses with pumps and lots of eyeliner. But I was ripe. And there was a reaction to that ripeness that sometimes surprised me. When boys near my age, ripe in their own lithe and muscled ways, puffed up in my presence like mating doves, I couldn't help but feel pleased. Harder to deal with was the behavior of people I thought of as “grown-ups.”

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  • Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty

    NIGHTMARE ABROAD

    Facing Harassment Far From Home

    One American student faced unrelenting sexual advances while studying in India, she says.

    For University of Chicago student Michaela Cross, the beauty of India was voided by the near-constant sexual harassment she went through during a three-month study-abroad trip. As a South Asian studies major, even though she was aware of the culture she’d face, she says she was unprepared for just how much harassment she would endure. Her CNN iReport account, which is unconfirmed, has more than 900,000 views and 1,000 comments. In her report, she expresses her conflicted emotions: “Do I describe the lovely hotel in Goa when my strongest memory of it was lying hunched in a fetal position, holding a pair of scissors with the door bolted shut, while the staff member of the hotel who had tried to rape my roommate called me over and over, and breathing into the phone?” She says she took a leave of absence from the school and was diagnosed with PTSD. It is a cautionary tale and a topic not typically broached when Americans plan to go abroad, which is why Cross says she shared this difficult and personal information. 

    Read it at CNN
  • Senator Claire McCaskill says its blaming sexual violence on a "war on men" is ridiculous. (Office of Claire McCaskill)

    Hey, WSJ: There is No War on Men

    Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto said Claire McCaskill was launching a “war on men” and being “histrionic” about sexual assault in the military. Read the Missouri senator’s response here.

    After Air Force Capt. Matthew Herrera was court-martialed and convicted of the aggravated sexual assault of a female second lieutenant, his conviction was reduced by Lieutenant General Susan Helms to an indecent act. Helms— who did not watch the trial—was reportedly urged by her own legal adviser to reject the request to dismiss the sexual assault verdict. When Helms was tapped this March to be vice commander of the Air Force Space Command, Senator McCaskill put a hold on her nomination, due to ongoing concerns over the Herrera case.

    On June 17, Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto wrote an essay deeming McCaskill’s hold “an effort to criminalize male sexuality,” calling the senator’s description of the victim as a “survivor” “more than a little histrionic,” and suggesting the “hanky-panky” came about because the assaulted woman “acted recklessly” by drinking and then getting into a car with a man. Efforts by McCaskill and others to address the issue of military sexual assaults, he wrote, amounted to a “war on men.”

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  • ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP

    PRISON BREAKDOWN

    Sex Assaults Highest at Denver Prison

    Ten percent—possibly much more—of inmates report abuse.

    More than 10 percent of inmates at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility say they’ve been sexually assaulted or subject to sexual misconduct by the prison’s staff, according to a new study from the U.S. Department of Justice. As the Denver Post reported, it was the highest rate in the nation, four times the national average of 2.4 percent. In 2008, an inmate at the prison filed a lawsuit saying she’d been sexually assaulted by a corrections offer; she was awarded $1.3 million, though the officer involved was only sentenced to 60 days in prison. Several other prisoners filed another suit in 2011, but it was dismissed. Most women, inmates say, are afraid to report abuse, because the staff can retaliate by placing them in administration segregation. “So none of us say nothing about nothing,” one woman told The Denver Post.

    Read it at The Denver Post
  • Lieutenant Elle Helmer at the Vietnam War Memorial, is featured in "The Invisible War". (James Helmer/PBS)

    Women in Uniform

    Rapes Escalate in the Ranks

    Unreported sexual assaults soared in the U.S. military last year, even as outrage on the problem has reached the White House. Jesse Ellison reports.

    Tonight marks the television premiere of The Invisible War, an Oscar-nominated documentary feature and last year’s winner of the prestigious audience award at the Sundance Film Festival.

    Depending on your perspective, the timing is either a stroke of very good luck or an unfortunate embarrassment. The film, which will be broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens, is a searing examination of military sexual assault, an issue so endemic within the armed forces that a female soldier is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed in combat. Its television premiere comes just as the problem has been receiving more attention from the media and politicians—all the way up to President Obama himself—than perhaps ever before.

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  • Rapper Danny Brown performs onstage during the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival in California. (Frazer Harrison/Getty)

    Blaming the Victim

    Why Are We Not Calling the Danny Brown Assault Rape?

    The gender roles may have been reversed, but the rapper’s oral-sex sneak attack shares a lot in common with classic sexual assaults, says Amanda Marcotte.

    The scene played out like so many sexual assaults do. It’s a party atmosphere. The assailant takes advantage of the victim’s lowered guard and the general air of debauchery to force sexual contact on a nonconsenting person. After the attack, the apologists run in, denying that what happened counts as sexual assault and implying that the victim secretly wanted it. The victim’s erratic reactions are dissected endlessly to distract from the obvious: that sexual contact was forced on the victim against his will.

    We’re talking, of course, about Rapper Danny Brown, who was performing at a show when a female fan got on stage and sprung oral sex on him. He reportedly backed away quickly. Despite the fact that the victim in this case is male and his alleged assailant female, the story demonstrates how cultural norms, peer pressure, sexual shame, and gender roles all intersect to make it easy for sexual assailants to operate without much consequence. Kitty Pryde, who is currently touring with Brown, wrote an excellent piece for Vice expressing frustration at how most people don’t seem to see what happened as an assault:

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  • Bad Examples

    Study: Sexual Assaults Rise in Military

    According to new estimates from the Pentagon.

    There was a spike in sexual assaults in the military last year, according to a new Pentagon study that estimated 7,000 more sexual assaults in 2012 than the year before. The majority of these cases were unreported, as the military only recorded 3,374 reports of assault in 2012, compared to the 26,000 the Pentagon study estimated. The study was published just two days after the Air Force officer responsible for promoting sexual-assault prevention was himself charged with sexual battery. 

    Read it at The New York Times
  • Rick Gomez/Getty

    Hey Bey-BEE

    Dear Catcallers, Go Home

    An open letter to the fellas who can't let a lady walk down the street in peace.

    Dear Male Catcallers of the World,

    Has the horn-honking, “hey baby,” bird-whistle method ever actually produced results for you? Did it land you a date or a hot sleepover with the woman you objectified? Were your impulsive desires fulfilled after you so crudely complimented the size of her butt?

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  • Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News

    Due Process

    Title IX Almost Ruined My Son’s Life

    After a sexual-assault accusation.

    In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal today titled “A Mother, a Feminist, Aghast,” attorney Judith Grossman writes about her family's harrowing ordeal after her college-age son was accused of “nonconsensual sex” by an ex-girlfriend, several years after their relationship ended.

    Grossman’s piece reads like a Kafka-esque nightmare: with no preliminary inquiry by the school into the accusations, Grossman says, the college's Title IX office operated under the assumption that “my son would not be afforded a presumption of innocence.” A campus tribunal—seemingly, with no particular background in the law or in evaluating legal evidence—would rule on the claim, with only half of the tribunal needing to decide that the alleged incident “more likely than not” occurred for punishment to be meted out. The list of accusations against the boy were “vague statements,” Grossman says, “lack[ing] even the most basic information about the acts alleged to have happened years before. Nor were the allegations supported by evidence other than the word of the ex-girlfriend.” Her son was reportedly denied the right to represent himself with council at a hearing; the tribunal based its grilling on the “unsworn testimony” of the ex-girlfriend; and seemingly relevant evidence (emails, social media posts) about the nature of the ex-couple’s relationship was not allowed in the hearing. The school even allegedly told the boy not to discuss the matter with potential “witnesses,” nor was he allowed to question his accuser or the witnesses against him.

    Read it at The Wall Street Journal
  • Gregory Bull/AP

    Our Women In Uniform

    Hagel Calls For Military Rape Reform

    Defense Secretary calls for reform of military rape trial procedures.

    The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell now has some competition for most groundbreaking military retraction. Time and time again, stories of rape and sexual abuse have come out of the American armed forces, often with slap-on-the-wrist sentences for alleged offenders--as in the recent case of a senior Air Force officer who was convicted of sexual assault, but not jailed or discharged, as had been ruled. This tendency to overlook high-ranking officers’ sexual indiscretions is entrenched in military culture, largely because of a stipulation that allows commanders to essentially overturn court rulings of guilt or innocence (which is what happened in the case of the Air Force officer). On Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that he would put pressure on Congress to change this procedure. He will recommend that Congress take away the power of overturning jury’s findings from senior commanders, but allow for the possibility that they may alter the severity of the findings, for instance the length of prison time. Although this certainly is an encouraging step, many are still critical of Hagel’s decision, as military officials will still be involved in the chain of command and have jurisdiction to soften the blow of court decisions.

    Read it at Reuters