Saturday Reads: World-Wide Rape Culture and Other News

Newspaper, coffee and bagel at table

Good Morning!!

For the past two days I’ve been reading about the gang rape that took place in Steubenville, Ohio last August. This horrendous story got almost no national publicity until The New York Times published a long investigative piece on it on December 16. I’m sure you’ve probably heard about it by now too.

Sadly, it’s a familiar story. High school athletes sexually assault young girl, town closes ranks to protect boys and blame the victim. We’ve seen similar events again and again over the past few years and probably the only difference in these recent attacks on women from those in previous times–going by centuries–is that they get more publicity now and some people are outraged about them. But it doesn’t stop.

There was the Richmond High gang rape in California, the Pitt Meadows gang rape in British Columbia, the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in Texas, and most recently the death of a woman who was viciously gang raped in India.

Go here to watch a very good video of Amanda Marcotte and a Canadian blogger discussing our world-wide rape culture, focusing on the cases in India, Steubenville, and Pitt Meadows.

Another difference in these incidents from those in earlier times is that participants often take photos and videos of these horrendous events and either send them to each other or post them on-line. In the Steubenville case, participants even tweeted about what was happening as they watched! This creates more nightmarish problems for victims and for law enforcement, but may also lead to perpetrators getting caught even when there is a local cover-up. In Steubenville, an “Anonymous” group has been involved–hacking into computers to retrieve data that has been erased.

Shockingly, this week, as the Steubenville story broke nationally, we witnessed the shameful spectacle of House Republicans finally refusing–after months of stalling–refusing to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I should write about the Steubenville story today. It’s so disgusting that I haven’t even been able to bring myself to watch the video of students joking about the gang rape that the Anonymous group released. I didn’t want to subject all of you to something that I can barely stand to read about.

What I decided to do is give you a brief summary of what I’ve learned so far and post some links so you can read more if you are interested. I’m not going to name names, but you’ll see them if you go to the links.

Steubenville is a small town of about 17,000 people in southeastern Ohio just a short distance from the West Virginia border. Steubenville is crazy about their high school football team (nicknamed “Big Red”) and the team brings in a great deal of money to the community–through increased legal and illegal (gambling) business. There has apparently been a culture of protecting the football players and allowing them to run wild, and the perpetrators in this case are football players.

What I’ve gathered, based on the most recent stories and rumors, is that the victim (age 16) lived in West Virginia but had recently broken up with her boyfriend who was from Steubenville. The boyfriend was enraged about the breakup, and tweeted about the victim, saying she should be punished. He apparently encouraged at least one member of the football team to call the girl, befriend her, and urge her to attend a massive end of the summer party that took place in multiple locations. One of the locations was the home of the local prosecuting attorney whose son is on the football team.

The Anonymous hackers claim the girl was drugged immediately after she was picked up in a car by three football players. That can’t be confirmed because the girl didn’t get to the hospital in time for a date rape drug to be detected. It makes sense though, because the girl was unconscious throughout the night and doesn’t remember anything after she got in the car with the two perpetrators who have been arrested so far.

These two boys (both 16) carried the girl around like an object from house to house (there are photos), and she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by multiple attackers. This apparently happened during parties as the girl lay on the floor or in a chair, unresponsive. One onlooker even “joked” that she was dead. The NYT reports that at one point she vomited in the street and “she remained there alone for several minutes with her top off.” At one point a former football player who was a student at Ohio State University this year called for her to be urinated on. It’s not clear if that happened, but several people reported it.

The girl reportedly slept on a couch in one of the houses and was taken home early in the morning and left on her parents’ doorstep. She had no knowledge of what had happened to her until she started seeing the comments and photos on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The fact that she has no memory of the night at all certainly suggests that she could have been given a date rape drug. You’ll find a lot more information on Atlantic Wire if you go to that link.

When the girl’s mother realized what had happened, she took her daughter to the hospital and to the police, but it was too late to recover any evidence. The local prosecutor reportedly discouraged the victim and her family from pressing charges, warning that the community would turn against them and the media would never leave them alone.

Eventually two boys were arrested and charged as adults with rape and kidnapping, but many character witnesses testified for them, including the football coach (who is close friends with the Sheriff and who didn’t bench any of the other team members involved) and the kidnapping charge was dropped and the boys are now charged as juveniles. Their trial is scheduled for February. No one else as been charged, but after the story went national this week authorities said there could be more arrests. The case is now being investigated by special prosecutors and the local prosecutor and judge have recused themselves (BTW, the state attorney general is former Republican Senator Mike DeWine–remember him? In addition, the Atlantic reported yesterday that the football coach may be forced to resign. Today Anonymous plans to hold a public protest in Steubenville.

A few more links:

Prinniefied.com, the home of a crime blogger who kept the Steubenville story alive for months when there was little media coverage.

An early (September 2) story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer: Rape charges against high school players divide football town of Steubenville, Ohio

WTOV News 9 in Jefferson County Ohio: New developments revealed in Steubenville teen rape investigation

DailyKos: The Steubenville Rape – A Timeline

American Prospect: Purity Culture Is Rape Culture

The Atlantic: As a Girl in India, I Learned to Be Afraid of Men

The Atlantic: India’s Gender-Equity Problem

In Other News

Some interesting reads on other topics

A fascinating article at The Atlantic about the phenomenon of waking up under anesthesia: Awakening

Linda Campbell was not quite 4 years old when her appendix burst, spilling its bacteria-rich contents throughout her abdomen. She was in severe pain, had a high fever, and wouldn’t stop crying. Her parents, in a state of panic, brought her to the emergency room in Atlanta, where they lived. Knowing that Campbell’s organs were beginning to fail and her heart was on the brink of shutting down, doctors rushed her into surgery.

Today, removing an appendix leaves only a few droplet-size scars. But back then, in the 1960s, the procedure was much more involved. As Campbell recalls, an anesthesiologist told her to count backward from 10 while he flooded her lungs with anesthetic ether gas, allowing a surgeon to slice into her torso, cut out her earthworm-size appendix, and drain her abdomen of infectious slop, leaving behind a lengthy, longitudinal scar.

The operation was successful, but not long after Campbell returned home, her mother sensed that something was wrong. The calm, precocious girl who went into the surgery was not the same one who emerged. Campbell began flinging food from her high chair. She suffered random episodes of uncontrollable vomiting. She threw violent temper tantrums during the day and had disturbing dreams at night. “They were about people being cut open, lots of blood, lots of violence,” Campbell remembers. She refused to be alone, but avoided anyone outside her immediate circle. Her parents took her to physicians and therapists. None could determine the cause of her distress. When she was in eighth grade, her parents pulled her from school for rehabilitation.

Over time, Campbell’s most severe symptoms subsided, and she learned how to cope with those that remained. She managed to move on, become an accountant, and start a family of her own, but she wasn’t cured. Her nightmares continued, and nearly anything could trigger a panic attack: car horns, sudden bright lights, wearing tight-fitting pants or snug collars, even lying flat in a bed. She explored the possibility of post-traumatic stress disorder with her therapists, but could not identify a triggering event. One clue that did eventually surface, though, hinted at a possibly traumatic experience. During a session with a hypnotherapist, Campbell remembered an image, accompanied by an acute feeling of fear, of a man looming over her.

An article at The Atlantic on How Obama Decides Your Fate if He Thinks You’re a Terrorist

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has begun to formalize a so-called “disposition matrix” for suspected terrorists abroad: a continuously evolving database that spells out the intelligence on targets and various strategies, including contingencies, for handling them. Although the government has not spelled out the steps involved in deciding how to treat various terrorists, a look at U.S. actions in the past makes evident a rough decision tree.

Understanding these procedures is particularly important for one of the most vexing, and potentially most dangerous, categories of terrorists: U.S. citizens. Over the years, U.S. authorities have responded with astonishing variety to American nationals suspected of terrorism, from ignoring their activities to conducting lethal drone strikes. All U.S. terrorists are not created equal. And the U.S. response depends heavily on the role of allies, the degree of threat the suspect poses, and the imminence of that threat — along with other factors.

See the flow chart and read detailed explanations {shudder} at the link.

NYT: F.D.A. Offers Broad New Rules to Fight Food Contamination

The proposed rules represent a sea change in the way the agency polices food, a process that currently involves taking action after contamination has been identified. It is a long-awaited step toward codifying the food safety law that Congress passed two years ago.

Changes include requirements for better record keeping, contingency plans for handling outbreaks and measures that would prevent the spread of contaminants in the first place. While food producers would have latitude in determining how to execute the rules, farmers would have to ensure that water used in irrigation met certain standards and food processors would need to find ways to keep fresh food that may contain bacteria from coming into contact with food that has been cooked.

New safety measures might include requiring that farm workers wash their hands, installing portable toilets in fields and ensuring that foods are cooked at temperatures high enough to kill bacteria.

Whether consumers will ultimately bear some of the expense of the new rules was unclear, but the agency estimated that the proposals would cost food producers tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Mother Jones: Powerful Tea Party Group’s Internal Docs Leak—Read Them Here

FreedomWorks, the national conservative group that helped launch the tea party movement, sells itself as a genuine grassroots operation, and for years it has battled accusations of “astroturfing”—posing as a populist organization while doing the bidding of big-money donors. Yet internal documents obtained by Mother Jones show that FreedomWorks has indeed become dependent on wealthy individual donors to finance its growing operation.

Last month, the Washington Post reported that Richard Stephenson, a reclusive millionaire banker and FreedomWorks board member, and members of his family funneled $12 million in October through two newly created Tennessee corporations to FreedomWorks’ super-PAC, which used these funds to support tea party candidates in November’s elections. The revelation that a corporate bigwig like Stephenson, who founded the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and chairs its board, was responsible for more than half of the FreedomWorks super-PAC’s haul in 2012 undercuts the group’s grassroots image and hands ammunition to critics who say FreedomWorks does the bidding of rich conservative donors.

Big donations like Stephenson’s are business as usual for FreedomWorks. According to a 52-page report prepared by FreedomWorks’ top brass for a board of directors meeting held in mid-December at the Virginia office of Sands Capital Management, an investment firm run by FreedomWorks board member Frank Sands, the entire FreedomWorks organization—its 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) nonprofit arms and its super-PAC—raised nearly $41 million through mid-December. Of that total, $33 million—or 81 percent of its 2012 fundraising—came in the form of “major gifts,” the type of big donations coveted by nonprofits and super-PACs. (FreedomWorks’ nonprofit components do not have to disclose their funders.)

Well-heeled individual contributors ponied up $31 million—or 94 percent—of those major gifts, according to the FreedomWorks board book. Eight donors gave a half-million dollars or more; 22 donated between $100,000 and $499,999; 17 cut checks between $50,000 and $99,999; and 95 gave between $10,000 and $49,999. Foundations contributed $1.6 million in major gifts, and corporations donated $330,000.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today? I look forward to clicking on your links.