Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Thursday new feature: Conversation starters

In Sexual Assault Awareness on August 20, 2009 at 8:00 am

Starting today, we will be featuring a new article that significantly adds to the discussion on sexual violence, every Thursday for Conversation Starters.

This week we’re featuring this thoughtful and important discussion on prison rape and how societal views of prison rape may be potentially perpetuating it.  I think it’s an article that is definitely worth reading.  It addresses many issues that I think are drastically overlooked.

Why is it that the rape that happens in prisons is deemed okay and acceptable punishment?  At what point did the people who commit crimes become less than people?  It’s a difficult subject on so many levels.  The truth of the matter is that we rely on our justice system to appropriately punish the people who commit crimes, but somehow those people become less human in the minds of many people.  Criminals cannot have crimes committed against them is an opinion that is too common.

I applaud Anna Clark of AlterNet for her excellent article, addressing this issue for so many people who do not have a voice.

Marriott Hotel Controversy

In Sexual Assault Awareness on August 19, 2009 at 4:15 pm

After a woman was raped at gunpoint in front of her children at a Connecticut Marriott, she decided to sue the hotel where she was staying for not properly securing their grounds.  The hotel promptly responded with this remark:

[The victim] failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities.

This is just the sort of thing that should be intolerable.  The hotel’s actual responsibility in the matter is not what is appalling, instead it is the way they reacted to it and the completely thoughtless way they blamed the victim for what happened to her.  It was never appropriate for them to issue such a statement, whether they were trying to “save face” or not.  The alternative, issuing an apology statement and agreeing to increase their security on their premises, would have been sufficient, though I guess in this case they were only seeing the dollar signs they would lose.    It’s hurtful and ignorant.  What were they thinking?  Wasn’t there someone sitting around saying – hey, maybe this isn’t a good idea?  Apparently not.  Despite all of the information we put out there, despite the many times we have said it’s never appropriate to blame the victim, instances like this still happen.  To add insult to injury, the hotel also disclosed the woman’s identity by issuing subpoenas to family, acquaintances and coworkers.

The attorney for the woman also said:

Under the facts of this case, blaming the victim is without any justification whatsoever. It never had any place in this litigation and it has re-traumatized the victim.

Once again, I ask, is it ever appropriate?  The only perpetrator in this crime is the rapist.  He is totally and completely to blame for the horrific crime he committed against this woman and her family.

So what can we learn from all of this?  That our work is never done.  It’s still just as important to raise awareness about the dangers and ignorance associated with blaming the victim.  This is obviously something that needs to be focused on more.  Victim blaming should never be seen as a valid defense, in any crime.

Domestic and Sexual Violence in Later Life presentation by Lisa Furr

In Professional Training on August 18, 2009 at 6:50 pm

The Coalition on Violence and Vulnerable Populations is hosting a presentation and focus group on Domestic & Sexual Violence in Later Life. We are hoping you will attend to learn about the issues unique to individuals in later life who have been or are at risk for domestic and sexual assault. We would also like people to stay after the presentation for a focus group so we can hear from you on how to better provide services to elderly victims you serve, how to provide support to your staff to identify victims, and other concerns you have in serving elderly victims of sexual and domestic violence.

September 3, 2009 at Fairview at River Club


9:00 am “Responding to Domestic and Sexual Violence in Later Life”
Lisa Furr, Project Coordinator – Central Virginia Taskforce on Domestic and Sexual Violence in Later Life – Virginia Center on Aging.

10:00 am Focus Group— Led by the Coalition on Violence and Vulnerable Populations and facilitated by Lisa Furr.

Directions: http://www.fairviewatriverclub.com RSVP to carol@rcasa.org

Afghan Women’s Project

In Awareness Campaigns on August 18, 2009 at 3:17 pm


Sometimes, when searching for news stories to blog about, it’s usually what makes me angriest that day.  This is great for getting riled up, but at the same time it’s difficult to always focus on what is negative.  I try and turn the things that make me angry into something constructive, and I think I have been, thus far, successful.

So, what was making me angry this week was the new law in Afghanistan that has received plenty of press already.  I was especially frustrated by a news interview that showed Afghan President Karzai justifying the law by stating that Afghanistan is not America, it is a Muslim country.  I’ve decided not to post the video and not to say what I really think about President Karzai; instead I will only say this: Religion is never an appropriate justification for the objectification of women. Never.

Now, I’d like to present to you some women who are not letting their situation and the injustices against them stop them from having their voices heard.  The Afghan Women Writer’s Project is an effort by Afghan women, both through a  blog & Facebook.  These are unbelievably strong women who are not letting the censorship of government or men get in the way of their voices.

From poetry to expository prose to fiction, this blog will keep you reading for hours.  It’s a beautiful tribute to the strength of these women.

Here are some examples of the writing you can find on their blog:

“Afghan Woman” by Roya

Who asks about my identity?
I am lost on the pages of history books.
Look at my tired face
And the dried tears in my eyes.
My first name is “Afghan woman”
My last name is “Suffer.”

My First Swimming Lessons by Meena

Please go check out these women and support them in the endeavor by leaving a comment.

Raising awareness

In Awareness Campaigns, Sexual Assault Awareness on August 12, 2009 at 7:20 pm


Photo credit: hebedesign

In the non-profit world we do a lot of raising awareness.  In fact, when I began this blog, one of the primary purposes I outlined for this space was to reach a wider audience in order to raise awareness about sexual violence and the survivors of sexually violent crimes.  When we raise awareness, we bring attention to injustices that are affecting our friends, family and neighbors so something will be done about it.  It is talking – talking about the problem, so someone might find the courage to do something about the injustices that we see every single day.  The truth is that there are just too many things to be angry about; unfortunately, there are just too many injustices to cure with one blog or one non-profit or one person.  That is why raising awareness is so important.  Here at RCASA we work daily to eradicate sexually violent crimes and to help heal the survivors who struggle with the aftermath of their attacks daily.

So in the end what do you focus on when you are trying to raise awareness?  You focus on what is important to you or your organization.  No injustice is less than another; no injustice is worth ignoring.

Two things have recently brought this concern to my attention, and that is all the press that Hilary Clinton’s requests to end the sexual violence associated with political and military conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and this article I came across entitled Undocumented immigrants: sexual victims or sexual predators.

Both topics are extremely important concerning sexually violent crimes, both those that occur on US soil and those that occur elsewhere.  When there are victims that are suffering after being sexually assaulted, our prejudices should become irrelevant and our desire to help those who are in danger and in crisis should overcome any opinion we may have.  This statement is prompted by comments and posts I have seen around the internet, which I will not link to here, that state we should focus only on the crimes that are happening close to home and only to those people who are US citizens.  I’m afraid that this is a dangerous opinion to have.  Here at RCASA, we devote our monetary and physical support to the survivors who are living in and around central Virginia, but that does not mean we will keep quiet about injustices against the victims of sexual violence, no matter what part of the world they are from or what their criminal background may be.  Though our funds may not go immediately to protecting them, our words will, hopefully, carry further and arrive in the hands of those who can affect change in the lives of these victims.

So if you feel really strongly that one group is being ignored over the other, instead of belittling the efforts of someone who is only trying to address a specific injustice, raise awareness about your own cause.  We are all trying to make a difference, around the world and for all people.

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