The real reasons some black women refrain from reporting injustices

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The real reasons some black women refrain from reporting injustices

As decades-old sexual assault allegations increase, so does the question: why didn’t women report it sooner? Shame, fear of reprisals and the unfortunately common belief that they are responsible for provoking the offender are just a few of the many reasons why women choose not to report a threat, harassment or assault.

Of course, individual women will have their own unique reasons but, as a group, Black women are the least likely to report. Surveys point in part to cultural reasons, ranging from pressure to protect Black men to not putting personal business in the street. Notably, however, Black women also say that they don’t think anything good will result from reporting. What we are or aren’t able to imagine after we’ve been victimised matters because the action we take will be the one that we can imagine bringing the desired outcome – and if we can’t imagine it, we won’t act on it. Black women don’t report at the same rates as other women because Black women can’t imagine being treated justly.

The 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume said that ‘nothing is more free’ than the human imagination. Perhaps. But for some of us, imagination is overwhelmed by dehumanising experience. As a result, we are paralysed, and the kind of imagining involved in taking action is undermined. The range of imaginable outcomes directly impacts the range of possible courses of action that the imagination presents to the mind. Depending on what we imagine as an outcome, we might decide to alert the authorities – or, alternatively, we might decide not to tell anyone, let alone the authorities. What we imagine as a desirable, realistic outcome will guide us to the action that we imagine will bring it about. What we imagine will depend on what we’ve experienced, and if we can’t imagine an action bringing about the desired outcome, we won’t take that action.

As a Black woman, I hold affirming beliefs about myself balanced against the reality that society doesn’t share them. This is what the sociologist W E B Du Bois in 1903 called double consciousness – seeing myself in one way, while simultaneously aware that oppressive society sees me in another – and it truncates the faculty of imagination. It takes the mind on a wild, dizzying ride that dead-ends in a paltry selection of actions to bring a desirable outcome. Black women navigate life doubly, even triply conscious at the intersections of gender, race and sexuality, polluted with traffic and noise. Our situation is unique.

This September, Christine Blasey Ford gave her testimony of sexual assault before Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the US Supreme Court. Writing an op-ed in The New York Times in response, the legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw reflected on lessons still unlearned since Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas before his own Supreme Court nomination in 1991: ‘We are still ignoring the unique vulnerability of black women.’ Those of us who are, like Hill, multiply marginalised have to contend with the power of intersecting negative outcomes from everywhere – including ‘our people’. Sandwiched between antiracist groups who sided with Thomas and ignored Hill’s gender, and feminist groups who ignored her race, Hill was subsequently split in two – with neither group caring about the wellbeing of the woman they were busy cleaving. Under these continuing circumstances, what Black woman readily imagines being taken seriously, being seen as someone worthy of protection, and receiving justice as a realistic outcome?
In those brief moments between a harassment, assault or threat, and imagining what to do, our imagination presents us with an array of possible actions we can take. Those precious moments are crucial to our wellbeing. If our imagination is full of the ugly ways that the authorities interact with people like us, if it is cluttered with the doubt and distrust we know we are likely to face from people who don’t know us (and some who do), we might be unable even to conceive of doing anything more than disclosing to a person we trust, let alone turning to an authority.

In 2015, I received a letter via snail mail from a man who – credibly – threatened to come to the campus where I work and ‘teach me a lesson’. He was enraged by an op-ed I wrote for The Washington Post after I visited Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Virginia. In the article, I wrote that, during my tour, many white visitors chose to visit only the house, bypassing the slave quarters. I said that it shouldn’t be an option to avoid confronting something so critical to US history, given that slavery’s legacy continues to this day. I received more than 700 online comments. Of the comments I read, most were nasty, ad hominem attacks on my gender, race and sexual orientation. To them, I wrote a response. I didn’t know what to do about the threatening letter.

Someone unlike me in the ways that matter would have immediately contacted campus security, but that never occurred to me. I couldn’t imagine that I would be seen as someone worth protecting. I also did not imagine calling the police when I was the victim of an attempted sexual assault at the age of 19. I didn’t consider reporting it – it simply never came to mind.

My life matters to me, but I’m aware that it doesn’t matter – or doesn’t matter much – to many others, precisely because it is a black life. There wouldn’t be a Black Lives Matter movement if this were not so. Expecting Black women who have been harassed, sexually assaulted or threatened to report it is asking them to do something Herculean: override an overwhelming number of experiences in which they have been doubted, disbelieved, ignored, treated unjustly by the police, and told to keep silent to protect ‘our’ men by people we trust. Black women are squarely in a vortex of contradiction, leaving our imagination blunted – and a void where justice should be.

Ironically, while our imaginations fail, the privileged ones’ imaginations are impoverished. The ones who navigate the world virtually free from the experience of repeatedly being doubted and disbelieved, the ones whose experience with denial is to refuse it, will be unable to imagine what it is like to be us, or to have to search through a sea of negative outcomes to locate a couple of positive ones – if our imaginations let us – that we then often discard. They will refuse to try to imagine what it is like to be the prey of predatory men in a racist rape culture.

Let us hope that as more women disclose, report and pursue justice, our collective imagination will coax justice out of fantasy and into reality. As for me, I was lucky that nothing came of that threat. I was lucky that the sexual assault wasn’t ‘completed’. And it’s a good thing, too, because I can only imagine what would have happened if it had.


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D.L. Hughley Speaks on Hypocrisy of How Some Wealthy Men Accused of Sexual Assault Are Treated

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Comedian and radio host D.L. Hughley highlights the difference between two powerful celebrity men who’ve both been accused of sexual misconduct.

Bill Cosby, who starred in one of the most popular Black sitcoms in the 80’s was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault on Thursday (Apr.26). However, many are wondering why others such as Harvey Weinstein and President Trump, who face a boatload of similar allegations of sexual assault, remain free men.
— Read on

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Ainsley Earhardt: Roy Moore loss is a referendum on Harvey Weinstein

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Read the story at Mediate

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GOP State Rep. Accused of Raping 17-Year-Old Sings Hymn Before Declaring: ‘No Reason I Would Resign’

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It seems like every day a new media or political figure is accused of having committed some form of a sex crime. Oh wait, it is every day, sometimes multiple times in one day. Yipes.

Today’s contender in the “worst male in the world” contest is Kentucky Rep. Dan Johnson, who has been accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party while he was acting as her preacher.

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After a Rape: Navigating the Trauma, Part I

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After a sexual assault, the journey toward healing is filled with formidable roadblocks of self-blame, depression and crushing anxiety. But painful as this process is, survivors are benefiting more than ever from programs designed to help them navigate the trauma of rape.

In many communities, it’s becoming easier to report a rape to law enforcement. Rape crisis centers in every state provide 24-hour hotlines, short- and long-term counseling, and advocacy for navigating the system.

This was not always the case. Rape survivors in the past routinely faced more trauma and humiliation as they made their way through a maze of law enforcement, medical and legal proceedings.

“Rape survivors were not taken seriously,” recalls Elsa Granados, executive director of the rape crisis center in Santa Barbara, Calif. “They were dismissed, ridiculed, told to get over it.”

But as the women’s rights movement blossomed in the early 1970s, attitudes started to change and help for survivors of sexual assault became more accessible.

Following an assault, the first step for survivors often is an in-depth medical exam conducted by nurses trained as sexual assault nurse examiners or by other specially trained medical personnel. These practitioners learn to conduct a forensic exam while meeting the physical and psychological needs of survivors.

“One of the most important things we do is listen to [survivors] and believe them,” says Susan Yokoyama, a sexual assault nurse examiner in Bend, Ore. “For the exam, the patient has to relive what has occurred. That’s often hard,” she says.

“The person’s body is the crime scene. We have to ask point-blank questions like, ‘Where did he put his penis?’ We collect DNA swabs wherever [the perpetrator] touched the victim,” Yokoyama says. “We check for trace samples like hair that can be compared to samples where the assault took place. We check for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV exposure, and we make sure the woman has a physician for referral.”

The exam, which can take two hours, can serve as a first step toward healing. “We spend a lot of time with victims,” Yokoyama says. “We see them start to heal a little. Their affect is lighter when we’re done. The role of the nurse is to be supportive, and the idea is to give them back a feeling of control.”

Sharon, a sexual assault survivor in a small town in Idaho, received that kind of support when she went to the emergency room after an attack. “I didn’t have to wait—I went right into the exam room because an advocate had let them know I was coming,” she says. “The nurses and doctors treated with me with such kindness because of what I went through.”

Keeping medical personnel trained and up to date can be difficult, especially in rural communities. Practitioners in sparsely populated areas conduct very few exams a year, “so it’s hard to keep up their skill set,” says Nicole Broder, program coordinator for Oregon’s Sexual Assault Task Force. “It’s also hard to provide enough coverage [geographically].”

Oregon is making a big push to correct that by offering more training in outlying areas. Instructors have trainees conduct mock sexual assault exams to stay in practice. Trainees also learn how to serve as expert witnesses in court cases, Broder says.

Another important step for survivors is reporting their attack to law enforcement officials, something many women are hesitant to do for a variety of reasons, ranging from fear of the perpetrator to fear of not being believed.

“Our society still does a lot of victim blaming,” says Beth Raub, assistant director of the Christopher G. Money Victim Witness Assistance Center, part of the district attorney’s office in San Luis Obispo County, Calif. Some survivors “don’t want to relive the assault,” she says. Others are plagued by shame, self-doubt or the feeling that nothing is going to happen even if they report.

As a result, only 310 out of 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

It took Amy (her name has been changed here to protect her privacy) two years to work up the nerve to report her attack after she was raped in Flagstaff, Ariz., at the age of 20. “It was really hard to talk about it,” she says. “I felt I lost myself, and I felt disgusted.” She finally felt empowered to make the report after undergoing counseling.

Sharon, another survivor, put off calling authorities in her Idaho town because she feared reprisal. At 57 years old, she had endured years of sexual assaults and violence at the hands of a man who threatened to harm her family if she exposed him. She reported her attacker to police only when “I was ready to die because of all the abuse—psychologically and physically.”

It used to be common for survivors to face an indifferent or even hostile reception when they reported a rape. Police in cities such as Philadelphia added insult to injury. According to The Guardian, “for years, (Philadelphia) detectives had got away with filing rape cases under a noncriminal classification code that was the equivalent of sweeping them under the carpet.”

After prodding from women’s advocates and an investigation by the FBI, Philadelphia police did an about-face. With regard to treatment of rape survivors, they now have one of the country’s most progressive departments.

In 2013, Human Rights Watch issued a report about how police in four cities—Philadelphia, Grand Rapids, Mich., Kansas City, Mo., and Austin, Texas—have created a compassionate, nonjudgmental environment for survivors to tell their stories.

But progress in this area varies from community to community. In many cities, law enforcement officials still view rape survivors with suspicion rather than offering support. Consider Amy’s treatment when she reported to the Flagstaff police that she’d been raped in the past. “They were not supportive,” she says. “They asked, ‘How do we know you’re not lying?’ ”

About the time of her assault in 2011, an innovative program called Callisto was developed to allow college students to report rapes without approaching law enforcement personnel. (Amy didn’t use Callisto to report her assault, but she has since recommended that the school she now attends work with that organization.)

When a survivor uses Callisto, she has three ways to proceed. She can go online to record time-stamped details of her assault in a confidential file; she can electronically report the assault to her school; and/or she can opt into a matching system, which means the information she enters will only be released to school authorities if another user identifies the same perpetrator. (The third option is the only one that requires the identity of the assailant.)

Callisto offers two pluses for survivors: It gives them control over how their story is shared, and it helps identify serial rapists who may have attacked other women.

According to the Callisto website, “less than 10% of college assault survivors report to administrators, local police, campus security, or other authorities. … When survivors do report, the most common motivation is to protect their community. Most survivors would report if they knew their assailant was a repeat perpetrator.”

Callisto partners with seven U.S. college campuses, and students and parents are encouraged to recommend other schools for the program.

Regardless of her reporting method, if a survivor chooses to press charges, she can expect a lengthy legal journey. “It can be an arduous process,” says Raub of San Luis Obispo County.

Her office provides trained advocates to help survivors navigate the system. “The advocates explain the arraignment, the preliminary hearing, the mechanical process of the criminal justice system. If the district attorney needs to meet with a survivor, the advocate can be in room. If a survivor has to testify, the advocate can sit on the stand with her. Advocates also keep survivors updated on their rights and on what’s happening in the case.”

When it comes to prosecution and conviction of perpetrators, statistics are grim. Of the 310 out of 1,000 rapes that are reported, only 11 wind up being referred to prosecutors, according to RAINN, the national anti-sexual violence network. Of those, a mere seven cases result in felony convictions, and only six lead to incarceration of the perpetrator.

This is because prosecutors must prove an attack beyond a reasonable doubt. “There has to be enough evidence,” Raub says. “It can be a big problem coming up with that proof. If a person was drugged or drunk [at the time of the assault], that person may not be able to provide enough evidence to meet the burden of proof.”

Amy, who was sexually assaulted in Flagstaff, says she is proud she had to strength to report the attack, but she wasn’t satisfied with the results.

Initially, the parents of her attacker offered her money to drop the proceedings. “They wanted to pay me off, wanted me to shut up. It was white privilege at its finest,” says Amy, who is Laotian-American.

The amount she was offered would have been enough to pay off her hefty student loans, but “I wasn’t doing it to make money,” she says.

In court, the perpetrator denied the attack, but witness testimony made Amy’s case. “He was suspended from Northern Arizona University indefinitely, but he just got probation,” she says. “I’m not happy with the verdict.”

Sharon, the Idaho survivor of multiple sexual assaults by the same man, did see her abuser go to jail. “He’s still in prison,” she says. “He got a 24-year fixed sentence and another six years on top of that.”

Helping get the perpetrator off the streets—something she may not have been able to do had she not received the kind of support she did—gave Sharon her life back. “I knew he’d be locked up and couldn’t get to me, nor my kids nor any of my family,” she says. “That was one of the main ways he controlled me.”

Barbara Dunlap is an award-winning journalist with years of writing and editing experience at publications such as the San Francisco Chronicle. She also served on the board of Winning Over Anger & Violence, a nonprofit working to end the cycle of violence in central Oregon.

Part 2 of this report will examine rape crisis centers and the services they provide survivors, including confidential hotlines, counseling and advocacy.

By Barbara Dunlap/TruthDig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Why Bill Cosby’s Criminal Case May Now Be Dismissed

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If former Pennsylvania District Attorney Bruce Castor made a promise not to prosecute Bill Cosby in 2005, this could doom prosecutors in the sexual assault case filed against him in December.

Here’s why.

Cosby’s attorneys say he ONLY agreed to testify in a sexual assault civil case based on this prosecutorial promise. You would expect, at the time, if Cosby’s attorneys thought he might be charged criminally in connection with that case, that they would have advised their client to invoke his right not to incriminate himself. They would have been crazy not to do so.

Instead, Cosby testified – describing in detail his various sexual encounters with young women and use of drugs – which he claimed were (basically) consensual. And now, those very admissions by Cosby, are the heart of the criminal case brought by Kevin Steele, the newly elected Montgomery County district attorney. (Side note: Steele was elected based on a campaign promise to prosecute Cosby)

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Video: Daniel Holtzclaw OKC Cop Accused of 13 Rapes Verdict

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