Rape Cases Decline; Court Reviews Abortion Ban

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(WOMENSENEWS)–

Cheers

The number of rape cases in the United States has declined by 85 percent since the 1970s, according to statistics released by the Justice Department, the Washington Post reported June 19. In 1979, 2.8 rapes occurred for every 1,000 people. In 2004, the rate had decreased to 0.4 rapes per 1,000 people.

The data is drawn from statistics collected by police departments as well as a national crime victims’ survey that is meant to track crimes not reported to officials. Because the declines have been consistent through the years, some organizations, such as the Washington-based Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, are seeing the drop as a byproduct of increased public awareness and prevention efforts as well as broader crime trends.

Not all advocates are convinced that the prevalence of rape is declining, however, and 1 in 6 U.S. women has been a victim of rape. A sexual assault occurs in the U.S. every two and a half minutes.

More News to Cheer This Week:

     

  • The Supreme Court gave victims of harassment and discrimination on the job wider legal protections in a ruling June 22 that made the 1964 Civil Rights Act more employee-friendly, according to press reports. Under their decision, justices adopted a broad definition of the kind of retaliation that is prohibited by the 1964 law. Now, employees who complain of harassment or discrimination do not have to be dismissed from their jobs to prove retaliation, a standard used in many districts around the country. Instead, retaliation can be proved if an employee can show any "materially adverse" action that might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from filing a complaint.
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  • The Supreme Court on Monday gave plaintiffs greater latitude in prosecuting domestic violence cases, The Associated Press reported July 19. In Hammon v. Indiana, the court ruled that statements made by victims of crime in emergency situations are permissible in court even if those victims do not testify at trial. In a separate case, the justices held that a Washington man’s "right to confront his accuser" was not violated because he could not cross-examine his ex-girlfriend, who claimed in a 911 call that he had assaulted her.
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  • Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., introduced a bill June 22 to require all HIV-prevention programs funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to address violence against women and would strike the requirement that one-third of the funding under the plan be directed toward abstinence-only programs. At the United Nations AIDS summit in New York three weeks ago, violence and discrimination against women were highlighted as a major factor in higher infection and death rates among women.
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  • Researcher say fertility treatments have enabled the births of 3 million children in the past three decades, Reuters reported June 21. Their report collected data from more than 52 countries, but noted that almost half of all treatments occur in the United States, Germany, France and Britain. About 200,000 children were conceived after fertility treatments in 2002.
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For more information:

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network:
http://www.rainn.org/

"Female Forklifter Takes Her Case to High Court" http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2709/

"Venezuela Will Retry Teen’s Accused Torturer" http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2479/

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Jeers

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to review a law that would ban almost all abortions after 12 weeks in the U.S. and allows only an exception for the life of the woman, according to press reports. The abortion ban was passed by Congress in 2003 as the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Act and has been struck down by three circuit courts and has never gone into effect. The Supreme Court will now review those lower court decisions.

The case, to be heard in the high court’s next term, will reveal the extent to which two newly appointed conservative justices–John Roberts and Samuel Alito–have shifted the court’s view on abortion rights. In 2000, former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was the tie-breaking vote in the court’s decision to strike down a similar law from Nebraska; she has since been replaced by Alito.

More News to Jeer This Week:

     

  • The election of Katharine Jefferts Schori on June 18 to a nine-year term as head of the U.S. Episcopal Church marked a new achievement for women in religion, yet has served only to deepen the schism between the U.S. church and its counterparts abroad. Schori voted in 2003 to ordain the church’s first gay bishop, a move that supported a controversial decision that is broadly criticized by bishops around the world. Following Schori’s election, Africa’s bishops attacked the U.S. bishops for failing to condemn homosexuality and electing a female leader who supports gay rights. "In the religious as in the secular world, opponent’s of women’s rights and opponents of gay rights are often the same people," noted the Los Angeles Times in a June 23 editorial.
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  • A racial and gender survey of sports editors and journalists at Associated Press member newsrooms indicates they are dominated by white men despite their charge of covering the diverse athletic arena. The survey of 300 newspaper sports staffs was conducted by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, and was initiated by the newspapers themselves. The new data indicate that 90 percent of sports editors are white men. Among editors of both genders, 1.6 percent were African American and Latinos were 2.8 percent. There were no Asians.
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  • Widespread discrimination and gender-based violence continues to plague Jamaican girls and women and leads to hundreds of deaths each year, the London-based Amnesty International said in a new report released June 22. Bringing a rape case to court is difficult, the report said, with only 1 in 4 sexual assaults reported and women frequently blamed for their own rapes. Girls are particular targets; in 2004, 70 percent of assaults were against girls. Amnesty has recommended a 12-point action plan to the government.
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Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief for Women’s eNews and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.

 

 


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