Category Archives: misogyny

Sexual Assault Victim Faces Contempt of Court Charges for Naming Attackers

A 17-year-old sexual assault victim named Savannah Dietrich — who has given permission for her identity to be made public — has been held in contempt of court and faces a potential jail sentence and fine for tweeting the names of her assailants. Dietrich did not make a false allegation, or even an unfounded one; in fact, her assailants pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism last month. But they are juveniles — like Dietrich, who they victimized — and therefore their “confidentiality” is considered of the utmost importance, and a court order had been issued for her to not speak about the case.

Frustrated by what she felt was a lenient plea bargain for two teens who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her and circulating pictures of the incident, a Louisville 17-year-old lashed out on Twitter.

“There you go, lock me up,” Savannah Dietrich tweeted, as she named the boys who she said sexually assaulted her. “I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell.”

Now, Dietrich is facing a potential jail sentence, as the attorneys for the boys have asked a Jefferson District Court judge to hold her in contempt because they say that in naming her attackers, she violated the confidentiality of a juvenile hearing and the court’s order not to speak of it.

A contempt charge carries a potential sentence of up to 180 days in jail and a $500 fine.

“So many of my rights have been taken away by these boys,” said Dietrich, who waived confidentiality in her case to speak to The Courier-Journal. Her parents also gave their written permission for her to speak with the newspaper.

“I’m at the point, that if I have to go to jail for my rights, I will do it,” she said. “If they really feel it’s necessary to throw me in jail for talking about what happened to me … as opposed to throwing these boys in jail for what they did to me, then I don’t understand justice.”

Dietrich’s very interview could also be considered contempt of court on the same grounds that her tweet of the boys’ names likely will be:

The boys’ attorneys, however, have asked the court to continue the order barring Dietrich from speaking to the media about the assault case or allowing the newspaper or anyone else to witness the contempt hearing.

Emily Farrar-Crockett, deputy division chief of the public defender’s juvenile division and one of Dietrich’s attorneys, said her client was advised that her interview with the newspaper could “potentially” be a violation of the judge’s order.

“But she feels it’s important to speak out and chose to do so,” Farrar-Crockett said.

This is how defense attorneys and criminal courts work — to revictimize sexual assault survivors in order to protect rapists.

Dietrich’s assailants not only sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious at a party, they also took photos of the attack and spread them around to their and Dietrich’s peers. While enacting sexual violence against her, documenting it, and joyfully sharing it, they most certainly were not concerned with her “confidentiality.” But now theirs has been deemed of the utmost importance — at the expense of the right of their victim to publicly name what they did to her.

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Teacher Who Was Reinstated After Sexual Abuse Allegations Admits to 20 Additional Victims

Mugshot of Danny Acker, a white man with brown hair and a full beard. He faces the camera while standing against a light blue background.Trigger Warning for discussions of childhood sexual violence, sexual violence in schools, and rape denialism

A story of prolonged sexual abuse against children over 25 years shows the dangers of not believing sexual violence survivors who step forward with their stories. In Alabama, a now-retired elementary school teacher named Danny Acker (left) has been charged with four counts of first-degree sexual abuse against two female students under the age of 12. At the time of his arrest, the teacher allegedly confessed to molesting an astonishing 21 female students throughout his career.

Making a horrific story even worse, the school board knew he had a history of sexual abuse allegations all the way back in 1993, were given the opportunity then to remove him from his position of authority, and chose instead to reinstate his job as a fourth-grade teacher. Indeed, they say that given the opportunity, they’d do it again.

Two longtime Alabama school board leaders are defending the panel’s decision in 1993 to reinstate an elementary school teacher who was accused of molesting a student, even though the teacher is now charged with more abuse.

School board President Lee Doebler and Vice President Steve Martin said students, parents and community leaders encouraged the Shelby County Board of Education to return 4th grade teacher Danny Acker to his Alabaster classroom, and the board agreed 5-0. Doebler and Martin are the only board members who remain from those days, and both said they did the best they could with the information they had.

“Looking back, given the evidence we had I would have made the same vote,” Doebler said. “I wish we had some evidence, but unfortunately, we didn’t.” …

Shelby County’s superintendent placed Acker on leave in October 1992 when a student accused him of touching her improperly at her home. A county grand jury reviewed the case and did not return an indictment.

Martin said the superintendent recommended Acker’s dismissal. The school board held a hearing in February 1993 that lasted more than eight hours and then voted unanimously to keep him.

Martin said there were no witnesses and no physical evidence. He said the abuse was alleged to have occurred during babysitting rather than at the school.

Doebler, who was also the board president in 1993, said many students, past and present, and their parents turned out as character witnesses to support Acker, and the board was heavily influenced by the grand jury’s decision to take no action.

“There was no evidence presented to us to indicate the grand jury was incorrect,” he said.

Martin said Acker’s father, longtime County Commissioner Dan Acker, made no effort to influence the decision. “The dad did not call anyone or discuss it with anyone,” he said.

The tragedy here is not only that so many girls were sexually victimized in ways that can never be erased, but also that when shown quite dramatically and horrifyingly the error of their methods, those with the power to have stopped this abuser still do not see the inherent flaw in their system.

When a young girl reported having been sexually abused by a popular and trusted adult male teacher, the school board failed to treat her testimony with the respect that it deserved. Instead, they sided with power. When given the choice between the word of a young girl and the word of an adult man who wielded authority over her, they chose the adult man. When reflecting on the consequences of potentially making the wrong decision, they decided that an innocent man losing his job would have been a greater travesty of justice than countless vulnerable children being placed at the mercy of a predator. They sided with adults’ rights at the expense of children’s rights, with men’s rights at the expense of girls’ rights. They sided with historically and presently white supremacist and patriarchal standards of “evidence” and justice without thinking twice. And then they appealed to our sense of “fairness” to claim that this is the way it ought to be.

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Trans Woman Transferred to Male Prison After Being Raped by Cis Guard

Trigger Warning for discussions of sexual violence, prison violence, anti-trans violence, rape apologism, and transphobia and misgendering.

Recently, a woman was allegedly raped orally by a prison guard at Riverside Correctional Facility. She reported the assault to authorities, and an investigation was begun. During that investigation, officials learned that she was not cis, as they had apparently been assuming, and promptly transferred her to a male prison (trigger warning on the link).

Jovanie Saldana, who has been named by prison authorities and the media despite being the victim of sexual assault, has now had her basic rights violated many times over. She was violated when a prison guard entered her cell and forced her to perform oral sex on him. She was violated when her brave decision to report this assault resulted in an investigation that placed her under scrutiny and revoked her right to privacy. She was violated when she was sent to a male prison, both denying her true gender and placing her at extreme risk of further physical and sexual violence. And she was violated when her name was released and spread without concern for her privacy or safety.

Clearly, trans prison inmates are not seen to be deserving of the same rights as their cis, non-inmate counterparts. That Saldana is a black woman also could not have helped these already abusive and oppressive figures to see her as more human. (Indeed, trans women of color are at much higher risk of violence than white trans women.) Saldana’s cousin strongly believes that the transfer to a men’s prison is retaliation for her rape allegations; the timing, media attention, and reaction of the prison guard’s union certainly make these charges credible.

If true, it means that the Pennsylvania prison system essentially punished an inmate for reporting rape by subjecting her to likely future rapes. (Fifty-nine percent of trans women are sexually assaulted while incarcerated, and the vast majority of trans women inmates are housed in men’s facilities.) Even if retaliation was not the primary motive behind the decision to move Saldana, the facts remain the same; a victim of prison rape has not been protected, but instead placed in a position where future prison rape is more likely than not.

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Rape or “Bondage Session Gone Haywire”? Rape Apologists Speculate.

Trigger Warning on post and links for graphic descriptions of sexual violence against sex workers, including sexual torture; rape apologism

This past April, a woman who was doing sex work was picked up by one John Hauff and driven to his home to engage in a pre-negotiated sexual encounter. Hauff requested some bondage elements in that encounter — to which the woman agreed, while setting strong limits.

John Hauff allegedly violated those limits wildly. Instead of loosely tying her to the bedpost and stimulating her with a vibrator, as she says she agreed, he allegedly chained her to the ceiling and forced painful sexual acts on her involving extreme bondage, paddles, electrical shocks, speculums, and catheters.

The first page of this article in the Seattle Weekly offers a lengthy, extremely explicit description of the allegations in question.

The second page goes on to begin (technically in the second paragraph down):

But is John Hauff a monster? Or is there, as some in the bondage community suggest, another way to interpret what happened between John Hauff and the woman he picked up on Aurora Avenue on April 2—one that makes Hauff less a cruel and sadistic rapist than a participant in a bondage session gone haywire?

Rape is not BDSM[1. I’ve chosen to use the term “BDSM” in this post as the sexual acts in question, both consensual and non-consensual, include far more than “bondage” (the term of choice in the article) alone. I am not, however, a member of a BDSM community and am open to suggestions on better phrasing.] gone wrong. And what has been alleged is not “BDSM” or “bondage” but rape and sexual torture. Anyone in bondage/BDSM communities making the argument that there is only a thin line between BDSM and rape is doing themselves an incredible disservice. They serve not to speak for the rights of those who wish to engage in consensual, non-mainstream sexual behavior, but for rapists. To conflate BDSM enthusiasts with rapists is to wrongly vilify BDSM and its participants, the vast majority of whom don’t rape people. And it is to suggest that anyone who agrees to any BDSM elements in a sexual situation is more or less requesting to be raped.

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Omaha Teacher Retained Position After Multiple Student Allegations of Sexual Assault

Eighth-grade teacher Shad Knutson has been charged with three counts of sexual assault against three different female students over three years. He is no longer working for Nathan Hale Middle School, where all of the alleged assaults were committed, but he did remain employed with them for three years after the first allegation was made. Numerous additional allegations were made in the years that followed. And still, the school’s “investigations” resulted in his remaining employed, until several months after police finally got involved.

School policy has come into question after a former eighth-grade teacher was accused of sexual assault. Did Omaha Public Schools do enough when students came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Shad Knutson?

The 34-year-old taught at Nathan Hale Middle School for three years. Each year, a different female student came forward, claiming he touched them inappropriately. But it took until last fall for police to get involved.

Now, Knutson faces three counts of felony sexual assault.

One board member brought up his concerns at a committee meeting Monday. Justin Wayne said he wants police involvement from the very start of an investigation into reported abuse. He said let teachers teach and let police follow the facts.

“As long as OPS’s process and an outside person’s process come to the same conclusion, it’s OK. It’s when they differ (that) there’s an issue,” Wayne said.

OPS said repeated internal investigations into the reports of sexual harassment turned up no credible evidence. But prosecutors disagree.

School staff and district leaders said its policy works. They said they prioritize student safety, while protecting educators from false reports.

Except that student safety clearly isn’t being prioritized when the policy on the sexual assault of 13-year-old girls seems to apply a three-strikes before you’re out rule.

While the question admittedly gets a lot murkier when there are minors involved and the offender is a government-paid and sponsored employee, as a general rule I am not opposed to keeping internal reports of misconduct internal. Victims often do not want to get law enforcement involved, for very good reason. I believe that their choices in terms of reporting methods should be respected (while all options should also be made available and accessible to them), and I do believe that there should be means outside the broken U.S. judicial system for dealing with sexual violence.

The problem, however, occurs when these local systems of accountability are, like the judicial system itself, more invested in protecting the rights and reputation of abusers than the rights and safety of victims. Institutions are notoriously bad at holding themselves accountable. While schools are supposed to be in the business of serving and protecting students, they far too frequently are much more interested in protecting themselves as entities.

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New Congo Rape Statistics Inspire Competitive Headlines, Not Much Else

A new study about the ongoing rape epidemic in the Congo has some rather terrifying statistics to offer. According to USA Today, 420,000 women are raped in the DRC every year.

Or, if you ask the Boston Globe, 1,152 women are raped every day. The Guardian reports that 48 women are raped every hour. And the Sydney Morning Herald ups the ante even further by putting the number at one rape every minute.

Even if all of the varying numbers did add up just so, I can’t be the only one wondering when exactly this ongoing campaign of sexual terrorism against women turned into a competition over which Western newspaper could write the most shocking headline. Nor can I refrain from asking what, exactly, is the magic number of rapes that will suddenly make us care? Would the headlines still be blaring if it were 30 rapes an hour? Is one rape every one and a half minutes just too few that the numbers needed to be fudged and made even more sensationalistic? Do we, as Western observers, care more now than we would if the number were actually one rape every five minutes?

Do we care now? Will the subject merit our true attention? Will we suddenly start listening to Congolese survivors? Are we ashamed for not having listened more closely before, for not believing the full magnitude when women were already telling us the truth? Do we feel better now that a U.S. organization has officially verified their lived experiences? Or will we remain indifferent until the numbers hit two rapes every minute? Five rapes every minute? One every second? Where precisely is the cut off point for compassion and a sense justice? How many women must be raped before we start to care enough to look at the causes? How high do the numbers have to be?

I am in no way trying to suggest that these numbers do not matter. Nor am I arguing that they are not horrific, that they do not deserve attention, or that headlines on the topic are unwarranted. What I’m condemning is the objectifying and imperialistic tendency towards disaster porn. What I’m criticizing is the refusal to engage with the issue of violence in the Congo in an in-depth and ongoing basis that puts these numbers in context, and the decision to instead resort to pearl-clutching headlines designed to shock Western readers with information we already had and will continue to ignore.

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An Open Letter to the De Anza Rape Victim

Dear Jane Doe,

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that they put you through this. Both the ordeal of the rape and the ordeal of having your entire life dragged through the mud, after all of which they refused to provide you with the simple dignity and decency of an acknowledgment of what they did to you. I’m sorry that money and reputation were valued more highly than your human worth — they judged horribly wrong. I’m sorry your community did not stand more strongly behind you. I’m sorry that all of us, as a society, created a world where this was possible. I am so, so sorry.

I believe you.

I believe that they raped you that night. I don’t care how many courts in the world say otherwise. This trial did not diminish my belief in you. For while excuses which suggest that rape victims bring their assaults on themselves may sway some, they do not move me.  They convince me only of their speakers’ lack of ethics, their inability to perceive sexual violence as serious in the first place, their lack of true defense that involves meaningful consent from the accuser. In any judicial system that did not exist inside a rape culture, that did not buy myths which serve to uphold a system in which men can rape with impunity, yours would have been a slam-dunk instead of a disaster. This I know.

In all that I have read about your rape, your trial — and it has been quite a bit — I have seen remarkably few people who have slandered you, called you names, and attacked your personhood argue that you were not violated, that you consented to what happened. I have seen them almost always argue, instead, that you simply deserved it.

They are all wrong. Every last one of them. You did not deserve it. You did not deserve it. You did not deserve what they did to you. Nothing you wore, nothing you said, nothing you did, nothing you drank made you deserve it. You did not deserve it. I hope you know that.

I believe that these men raped you. And you deserved that acknowledgment from a court of law instead of some random blogger. You deserved an award in your favor, not my empty words.

But I support you. There are others here who also support you. We believe you.

And though none of us are you, or have experienced just what you have now, your fellow rape survivors stand in solidarity with you, as people who have been assaulted, disbelieved, devalued, and pushed aside. As people who deserve more from the societies we live in.

You deserved more. I’m sorry. And because it cannot be said enough: I believe you.

In Love,
Cara Kulwicki