The Movement

Nicola’s Got Nerve

DNA evidence a real solace for survivors of sexual assault

Recently, another sexual predator in the New York City subway system was caught with an analysis of his DNA. From 2002 to 2005, Manhattan prosecutors say that the suspect, Darnell Hardware, was charged with rubbing himself up against young women on packed subway cars. With a rap sheet a mile long, he still had the gall to plead not guilty. The predator that attacked me had a similar delusion ~ that even though there was blatant evidence to the contrary (a condom, in his case), and multiple victims in his wake ~ that he would somehow be able to beat the rap. But there’s an old expression, “The body doesn’t lie.” DNA testing has become the almost incontrovertible “truth serum” for prosecutors, especially for cases involving sexual assault. In this case, the suspect had allegedly attacked multiple women and was able to successfully elude capture for years, but that didn’t stop his DNA from being charged while he was ‘in absentia.’

DNA testing has only become popular in the last two decades, but has already helped convict many violent criminals, as well as exonerate the innocent. Particularly for finding proof of sexual assault, which had formerly depended upon the victim’s testimony, DNA testing is a significant advancement. To increase the possibility of an attacker being convicted with DNA, a victim needs to have the presence of mind to not destroy any of this type of evidence. In their traumatic state, many victims find themselves inadvertently trying to revert their body and their environment back to the way things were before the crime took place. This is a natural reaction to sexual assault, which anyone can have, regardless of the level of violation. I, personally, can remember wanting to burn the dress I was wearing the day that happened to me on the subway. So it is vital to remind ourselves, that if the worst case scenario occurs, we know how to handle it ~ besides immediately getting to safety, the preservation of evidence is of paramount concern. As per the advice of RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, victims need to avoid doing the following after an assault: bathing or showering, using the restroom, changing clothes, combing hair, cleaning up the crime scene, or moving anything the offender may have touched. This can help to provide as much physical evidence as possible if the victim decides to complete a rape kit, administered by a SANE (a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner). A SANE’s testimony can even be used in the event that a case goes to trial. And DNA evidence can indeed catch a rapist, as in a case this past February in Houston, TX, where police apprehended the accused by taking saliva swabs from residents of his apartment complex.

Of course, the other side of this, is that there are many cases of sexual victimization in which no DNA evidence can be found, which works to the victim’s disadvantage. With the public now so used to hearing about DNA testing in the media and the courts, sometimes there is a rush to declare that a crime didn’t actually take place if no DNA evidence was found or preserved properly. But for those difficult cases that have gone unsolved for years, or have even gone cold for decades, DNA has become a saving grace. In recognizance of this fact, there is a movement to pass state DNA Arrestee Testing laws, spearheaded by the non-profit group DNA Saves. It advocates mandatory DNA testing from felony arrestees, and has already been passed in the House of Representatives with strong bi-partisan support. It is now awaiting approval by the Senate, and is known as “Katie’s Law,” which stands for the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act. Katie was a beautiful 22-year-old graduate student from New Mexico, whose body was found raped, strangled to death, and set on fire near her home in August of 2003. Through skin and blood recovered from under her fingernails, law enforcement was able to finally track down the killer, Gabriel Avilla. He had committed several other crimes, but because there had been no mandatory DNA testing at the time of his arrest in November of 2003, Katie’s murder went unsolved for three years.

Through reading about this case, as well as many others like it, I am thoroughly convinced that DNA testing should be mandatory for violent offenders, as they are already subject to fingerprinting. This requirement could bring about justice for victims and their families, save lives, and act as a deterrent to future sexual assaults. Victims and the groups which support them now have more power than ever to make it clear to predators that not only will there be zero tolerance for sexually violating another human being, but that if they do, the consequences will be life-altering. The Hardwares and the Avillas of this world will truly be put on notice when this important bill passes.

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demonstration

Kitty’s Story: “It would have been bad enough alone, but I was with my little girl”

Walking back home through the park at 6pm, with my 2 year old daughter, a group of men between 20 and 40- 4 in total sat drinking on a bench. One waved at me, then they began to shout at me ‘Slag’, ‘Slut’, ‘fat bitch’, ‘fucking slut’ etc. It would have been bad enough alone, but I was with my little girl. I didn’t respond, just ushered her out of the park with a heart heavy with the knowledge that this will no doubt happen to her some time in the future.

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Uncategorized

Fiona’s Story: “I wish I was able to walk around and not feel like I will be assaulted.”

I was walking to my summer camp this morning when I was harassed. First off, I would just like to state that I am a 13 year old girl. I don’t dress provocatively, and the same goes for today. I was wearing a knee length dress with a baggy sweater over it. I was also talking on the phone with my mom, like I always do to feel safer when I walk around by myself. I was walking down the street, and during a lull in my conversation with my mom, I noticed two men (mid 30s, medium build, average height) standing near a truck. Their eyes seemed to glaze over as they looked at my butt and legs, and one commented, “Damn, I’d like to smoke that shit.” I have no idea what it meant, but it didn’t feel right. I felt violated, but I kept walking. I regret not saying and doing all the things that I’ve trained myself to do, like flipping them off or humiliating them. I have been harassed so many other times, but I’ve never had a man say that he’s wanted to do sexual things to me. I wish I was able to walk around and not feel like I will be assaulted. Why are men such animals?

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Uncategorized

Sara’s Story: Dude jerking off

On Wednesday morning, June 29th during rush hour, I was standing on the platform at Elmhurst Avenue in Queens waiting for the train. The M train had just gone by so I was one of three people waiting for the R. I heard a person gasp behind me and I turned around to see a man standing too close to me. I moved away and didn’t notice what he was doing until I realized he was inching towards to me again. I then quickly noticed was that his shirt was too long for his height and underneath it his hand was moving rapidly. I moved towards the center of the platform and thought that would be the end of him until I turned to my left and there he was again. More people were now on the platform and I walked back towards the front and stood near another woman my age. I figured that if he followed me again this woman would at least notice and validate that I wasn’t imagining things! This is definitely not a common occurrence in my neighborhood. Luckily he didn’t follow me but I remember a friend of mine mentioning a girl once took a picture of a man who had been rubbing up against her on the train and that he was arrested; I thought at the least I could email it to my local precinct. I got my camera ready and started to walk towards the center of the platform, where I had left him, and all-of-a-sudden I saw him sprint up the exit. I looked up the stairs to see if he was gone and he was, but when I turned back around this woman was looking at me with this terrified expression and I knew I had definitely not imagined the whole thing!

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The Movement

here, there, and everywhere – I don’t want to be part of your sandwich.

BY CARA COURCHESNE, cross posted from her blog quarter.life.crisis

Yesterday, I was in a meeting where the topic of street harassment came up. The only man in the meeting asked me (sincerely and without being an asshole) the difference between someone who is genuinely trying to compliment a woman and someone who is actively engaging in harassment-like behavior.

A basic “what not to do” list is what I came up with.

1.) I am at work and you think it’s perfectly appropriate to comment on (any part of) my body, my tattoos, or my clothing. I used to be a waitress and one of the worst things – besides having a serve screaming toddlers – was having to deal with men who thought that because I was bringing their sandwich to their table, I wanted to be a part of their sandwich.

I do not want to be part of your sandwich. I smiled at you BECAUSE IT IS MY FUCKING JOB AND I AM BEING PAID TO BE NICE TO PEOPLE.

Generally, your waitress does not find it attractive when you lean in and make a comment about her “really, really, really nice hands” while your wife is in the bathroom (true story); when you put your phone number on the check (this screams that you’re terrified of me and/or you realize that you being a dick); when you ask if I want to sit down and have a drink (I’m at work, you tool); or when you decide to ask me really probing questions about various aspects of my physical appearance: “Is that hair real?” No, it’s fake and I reattach it every morning. “What does your tattoo mean?” Fuck off – in Dutch.

2.) You are at work and you think it’s appropriate to comment on (any part of) my body, my tattoos, or my clothing: When I’m in line getting my coffee in the morning; when I’m walking by your construction site; when I’m going to a meeting at your place of employment; when I am walking on the sidewalk and you lean out of the restaurant where you’re some sort of middle management to tell me that you would tap my ass; or really anyplace where I can call your boss and say, “Hey, Employee Douchebag is, well, being a douchebag on work time, and I’m not so sure that’s what you’re paying him to do,” is probably when you don’t want to engage in sexually harassing me. I will call you on that shit.

3.) I am walking my dog and you are driving by. I have a few reasons why I walk my dog. They are pretty simple. She has to pee/poop/needs exercise or it’s a nice day. That’s really about it. I’m not walking my dog because I feel like listening to your asshole comments about my breasts, because I enjoy hearing you yell “I want you to suck my dick!!!” out of your car window, or because I want you to ask me how old my dog is as a roundabout way of talking about numbers so you can get mine (true story). Chances are, I have thrown on the clothes I wore yesterday or I’m still wearing what I wore to bed, I haven’t had coffee, and I don’t want to talk to you. I want to scoop the dog’s poop and go back home. Don’t pull up next to me to talk to me unless you’re asking for directions. Fran will go Cujo on your shit. Really.

4.) At the gym. I hate going to the gym with a strong, burning passion that rivals little else. So, first of all, I’m not in a good mood when I’m there. Second of all, I want to leave as quickly as possible. I’m not there for social hour. This means that I don’t want you to come over and strike up a conversation about my glutes, and I don’t want to hear you muttering comments to your friends about my…workout style. And if you’re one of those guys who walks around the gym talking on his cell phone, that goes double for you.

5.) Really, anywhere. I have a right to be anywhere I need/want to be without having to listen to individual men or groups of men comment on anything about me – my hands, my hair, my glasses, my tattoos, my breasts, and my ass. I have a nice ass, I have awesome hair. I know that. I don’t need you to tell me.

The answer to the question, “How do I make sure that a woman knows that I’m making a genuinely nice comment and not being a street-harassing jerk?” is actually a simple one. If you think that you might be overstepping a boundary, you probably are. If you are taken aback by a woman who responds “negatively” to you when you were “just trying to be nice”, remember that she has a right to respond to you however she chooses and chances are, she has just had enough with comments directed at her physical appearance. Take it from me – it gets exhausting and actually makes me feel unsafe when there are multiple comments directed at my business.

And if you have a “poor little you, you’re so attractive, it must be so hard to be so attractive” response, then you need some serious education about your ignorant shit.

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Momo’s Story: “I was so embarrassed and humiliated because no one around me did anything”

This is the worst that has happened to me, (I seem to be a constant target of catcalls, and I don’t even dress sexy, like that should matter, just a shirt and jeans) and this happened to me 2 yrs ago at a bus stop. My car was not working at the time and was taking the bus. A drunk was walking towards the bus stop and I saw his lips move as trying to say something and I of course ignored him as I always do (since I have my headphones on) but this time this man had the audacity to stop in front of me to continue to try and talk to me while he touched & massaged his “baggage.” I had a long coat on, sunglasses, and headphones. Shocked and disgusted as he was only 2 feet away from me I immediately shoved him with the umbrella I was carrying as there was a possibility of rain that day…Looking back I wished I would have pushed him harder onto the street to make him fall onto oncoming traffic or hit his “baggage” with the umbrella to make him fall into fetal position. I was so embarrassed and humiliated because no one around me did anything and the one lady that was also waiting for the bus just 6ft away from me look up and down on me as if I did something wrong.

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The Movement

Progress or not? No misbehaving. No eve-teasing.

BY EMILY MAY

This sign was found by Blank Noise Project, an amazing anti-street-harassment project in India. The sign looks like progress, but is it really?

Let’s talk a look at the language. You might already know that “eve-teasing” in India is similar to “catcalling” in English, or “piropos” in Spanish. But “misbehaving” also has a double meaning. In the blog’s comments Pranavi writes, “”Misbehaving” […] not only pertains to sexual harassment but also “obscene behaviour” by couples. Thus the [sign] effectively encourages moral policing along with warning against sexual harassment of women.” An alternative translation to the sign: no PDA’s and no street harassment.

But what does it mean when we conflate consensual sexual behavior (like PDA’s) with non consensual behavior (like street harassment)? Back in the 1920’s there was an anti-street harassment club called the Anti-Flirt club. The name makes me cringe today (because flirting rocks!) but the term “street harassment” didn’t come about until 1981, so flirting was the only option. But today’s translation misses the mark.

In my mind, a world without street harassment is, to put it bluntly, a sexier world. It’s a world where everyone has the right to be who they are. That day. That minute. That hour. And let’s face it: we’re a lot of things. On any given day we can be happy or sad, bundled-up or sun-kissed, shy or sexy. And that’s what makes us awesome. And we should have the right to be who we are, and feel what we feel, without comments from the peanut gallery.

As countries around the world seek to address street harassment through public service announcements, what phrases would you recommend they use?

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Uncategorized

Safe Campus, Strong Voices

BY RACHEL JACOBS

The “Safe Campus, Strong Voices” Campaign is a national initiative for Campus Safety Awareness Month in September to raise awareness and increase advocacy on the issue of college sexual violence and the vast amount of under-reported cases as well as the injustices that many survivors face.  This groundbreaking campaign will focus on victim empowerment, prevention, bystander intervention, and provide tangible tools for both men and women to work together to create a safer campus. It will raise awareness and engage students to shatter the silence of campus sexual violence.

We at Security On Campus, Inc. and PAVE: Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment cannot do this alone though! We need your help to reach your campus community!  The Safe Campus, Strong Voices Campaign is looking for student leaders and faculty to work with us!  We will provide the tool kit and everything you need to create this on your campus in both September and beyond! Please join us in raising awareness and breaking the silence with students at your school. To get started, please visit our website at www.StrongVoicesCampaign.org. To purchase a tool kit, click on the “Get Involved!” link at the top of our site, or follow this link: http://www.wix.com/ange33/scsv#!contact Tool kits are being sold at a discounted price until July 22! Thank you in advance for your support and dedication to shattering the silence of campus sexual violence!

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Jovi’s Story: “I still feel like the real winner”

Okay so I’m a 14 year old girl from Washington and I just recently took a trip to New York for the FIRST time with my cousins & their friends. So it was my first day in New York and I was SO excited to go site seeing and to take a ride on the subway.  So as I was waiting for the subway this 30-something year old man kept staring at my cousins & her friends but then he stopped his wandering eye on me & started looking me up and down. It made me feel sick because that’s never really happened to me…I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen in Washington but I’ve never really noticed I guess. Well he stopped looking me up & down but then started staring at my legs & licking his lips, which I thought was hillarous because he kept trying to look to see if he could look up my dress which he obviously couldn’t cause I made sure I kept my legs crossed and I never really wear short revealing dresses. Anyway his friends were on the other side of the room so he walked right in front of me trying to look down my dress and still looking at my legs.  As he walked back in front of me with his friends he then said “Hey sexy!” and did a little shy wave knowing that my Aunt was near by. At that moment I felt so sick I didn’t know what to say or what to do because this had never happened to me!  Then it happened like it was fate my cousin stretched her legs out while he was walking & he was to busy staring at me like I was a piece of meat so then he FELL! I couldn’t help but laugh not from his pain but from the fact that my cousin had done this accidentally while I was tongue tied thinking what to say.  IT WAS DEFINITELY FATE.  He was so embarrassed even though he still stared at me and made gross remarks I still felt like the real winner as he left for his subway!

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demonstration

Courtney’s Story: I don’t want a ride from you.

As an eleventh grader I waited at a bus stop on a busy street in full daylight. I saw a pickup drive in front of me and then, as the driver saw me sitting alone in my uniform, slam on its brakes. The truck pulled into an alley next to me and the driver hurried over to me, offering me a ride. He insisted it would be faster than the bus.

I was instantly amazed that this was happening to me. Did he think I was that stupid? I was terrified that someone with obviously harmful intentions was approaching me so brazenly. It was amazing, though, how simple his ploy was, and how he anxiously repeated the offer as if repetition would change my mind.

I pointed to the bus, now thankfully in sight, and told him no, over and over. He kept insisting. Finally I ignored him, since I had no pepper spray. The worst part was that I was afraid to reach for my cell phone to call for help. What if he had been armed, and decided he couldn’t risk help coming for me? Finally, as the bus pulled up, he gave up, hurried into his truck and drove away.

I can’t believe that this happened to me in broad daylight, in such a public location. Although nothing so frightening has happened to me since, the incident convinced me that none of us are ever quite safe.

I got some pepper spray and now carry it at all times.

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