Military Initiatives Launched; Rolling Stone Says Oops

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Credit: United States Forces Iraq on Flickr, under Creative Commons

Cheers

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled four initiatives to combat sexual assault in the U.S. military as the Pentagon released a preliminary report for 2014 showing signs of improvement after a three-year crackdown on the crime, Reuters reported Dec. 4. The report found a drop in overall cases of sexual assault and a greater willingness by troops to report assaults to authorities. But it also voiced concern that more than 60 percent of sexual assault victims believe they have been subjected to retaliation for reporting the crime.

More News to Cheer This Week:

The Food and Drug Administration is revamping its system to offer better information on drug labels for pregnant women, The Associated Press reported Dec. 3. Starting next summer, labels on new prescription drugs must clearly state what’s known about safe use during pregnancy or breastfeeding, including whether the information comes from studies in people or only animals. Older drugs will phase in the new labels over the next few years.

Four women who say they were sexually tortured as political prisoners following Chile’s 1973 military coup have filed a complaint they hope will bring to light dictatorship-era rapes that have been buried by fear, shame and silence, The Associated Press reported Dec. 4. The allegations were made in a complaint filed in May and the women gave their testimony to Chilean judge Mario Carroza this week. The women also are pressing Chile to update its 140-year-old penal code to classify the rape of political prisoners and torture as political crimes, which would subject violators to harsher sentences than currently allowed.

A Saudi activist has started a protest against the ban on female motorists after she was forced to spend a night sleeping in her car as she was blocked from driving into the country, The Independent reported Dec. 1. Loujain Hathloul, 25, risks being arrested if she drives over the border of Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates, where she got her license and where it is legal for women to drive. She has been stranded at the border for 24 hours so far as officials also confiscated her passport.

Jeers

Rolling Stone magazine acknowledged that it now had questions about an article it published that made detailed allegations of a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity, The New York Times reported Dec. 5. The magazine said that its trust in the sole source for the story, Jackie, the woman making the allegations, was misplaced. The magazine’s managing editor, Will Dana, wrote that there appear to be "discrepancies" in the description of the brutal gang rape in the article, "A Rape on Campus" by Sabrina Rubin Erdely.

This could have ramifications for all victims of sexual assault, Mic reported Dec. 5. The article says, "Rolling Stone’s expose certainly may have some truth to it, but the poor reporting and fact-checking of Jackie’s narrative, the emotional core of the story, will cast a shadow over virtually every similar testimony to follow. That’s not just terrible for the fraternity, if it was falsely accused, and Rolling Stone’s credibility, but for virtually every woman who has experienced sexual assault on a college campus."

Earlier this week, the president of the University of Virginia announced a number of changes to its policies concerning alcohol, Greek life and campus security as outrage continued to grow over the Rolling Stone article. Sexual assault training for faculty, meetings with leaders of Greek life, additional funding for trauma counseling and an evaluation of university alcohol policies were among the initiatives announced Dec.1, Time reported.

Meanwhile, female graduates are pushing to change response to sexual violence on the campus. Fourteen female members of UVA’s 1980 and 1981 law classes, including Kathy Robb, board chair of the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future, drafted a letter to the administration detailing the importance of creating programs and policies to counteract sexual assault and change the Greek culture on campus. "We believe that solutions that focus on protecting our young adults while arming them with a much more personal sense of community and responsibility offer the best chance of successful change," the letter stated. The law grads listed actions the university should take immediately, including providing additional resources for medical, legal and emotional support for students, a zero tolerance policy for violent behavior and confronting the leadership of the Greek system. "You have a unique opportunity to lead change in the culture’s acceptance of violence against women," the letter said of UVA’s recent national attention. "Seize this moment. Make it count."

More News to Jeer This Week:

Physicians at a New York City conference, A Deadly Divide: Global Disparities in Women’s Cancers, reported that breast and cervical cancer took the lives of nearly 800,000 women worldwide, with 85 percent of deaths occurring in less developed nations. Studies among African women have shown 75 percent of breast cancer patients seek care at the later stages. South African surgeon Dr. Miriam Mutebi said her hospital in Capetown detects breast cancer in the patients "as they walk in the door" because large tumors are visibly present.

Kenya’s bar association is calling for the prosecution of men who publicly strip women because of the way they dress, CNN reported Nov. 30. "The ongoing brutality that is stripping our women in public for allegedly dressing in an indecent manner must be brought to an end," Eric Mutua, chairman of the Law Society of Kenya, said in a statement.

Strict abortion laws in Senegal are forcing women to seek clandestine abortions and kill their own infants as a last resort, according to a new report by human rights groups, Yahoo News reported Dec. 1. Backstreet abortions and infanticide, a consequence of the West African nation’s abortion legislation, account for 38 percent of detention cases among women in Senegal, the report said.

At least three female sailors serving on submarines in the U.S. Navy were secretly filmed undressing and taking showers, officials have revealed, UPI reported Dec. 4. Investigators are questioning the 24-year-old man who they believe filmed the women and distributed videos of them nude.

At least 109 women have been prosecuted by the British police over the last five years for making false rape allegations, The Telegraph reported Dec. 3. The women reported rapes but were then aggressively pursued by authorities. Out of the convictions, 98 involved prosecutions for perverting the course of justice, which has a maximum life sentence, rather than the offense of wasting police time, which has a maximum sentence of six months in prison. WAR is now campaigning for the police to prosecute these women under lesser offenses, following the stance taken by Canada, the United States and Australia. In 2013, a study by the United Kingdom’s Crown Prosecution Service found that between January 2011 and May 2012, rape prosecutions totaled 5,651 prosecutions while 35 were charged for false allegations of rape.

Women forcibly admitted to government institutions and mental hospital suffer grave abuses in India, finds a Dec. 3 Human Rights Watch report. The authors called on the government to take immediate steps to shift from forced institutional care to voluntary, community-based services and support for people with disabilities. At least 70 million Indians live with psychosocial disabilities such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and more than 1.5 million have intellectual disabilities such as Down Syndrome.

Judy Huth, 55, sued Bill Cosby on Dec. 2 in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming sexual battery and emotional distress, I24News reported. Huth’s lawsuit alleges that Cosby molested her at the Playboy mansion in Los Angeles and told her to lie about her age, BBC reported Dec. 3. She was 15 years old at the time. Cosby’s lawyer had no immediate comment on the accusation.

Tributes are being paid in Germany to student Tugce Albayrak, who was killed after defending two female teens reportedly being harassed by a group of men, BBC News reported Nov. 30. Albayrak had intervened when she heard cries for help from the restroom of a fast food restaurant in the town of Offenbach, near Frankfurt, where the two were being harassed, German media reported. Later, one of the men returned and attacked her, striking her head with a stone or a bat. A man, 18, is in custody for his role in the Nov. 15 attack, which left Albayrak in a coma. Her life support was switched off last week.

Noted:

Veteran anchor Candy Crowley is resigning after 27 years with CNN, Hollywood Reporter reported Dec. 5. Crowley has been with CNN since 1987 and is currently the chief political correspondent and anchor of the Sunday morning show "State of the Union with Candy Crowley." She made history in 2012 as the first woman to moderate a presidential election in two decades.

U.S. fast-food workers and supporters marched for higher pay in Chicago, Milwaukee and Boston Dec. 4 as demonstrations advocating for a $15 minimum wage and other labor rights in about 190 cities began around the United States, Reuters reports Dec. 4. The union-backed actions are part of a push since 2012 for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour from $7.25, where it has held since 2009. Now in its third year, the "fight for $15" has expanded to include more sectors of the industry and more causes, with protests in Ferguson, Mo., and on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, The Christian Science Monitor reported Dec. 4.

The widow of Eric Garner, who died after a police officer put him in a chokehold, said she will never accept an apology from the officer a grand jury decided not to indict, ABC News reported Dec. 4. "Hell, no," said Esaw Garner, Eric Garner’s wife. "He’s still working, he’s still getting a paycheck, he’s still feeding his kids and my husband is six feet under.

U.S. birth rates hit a record low in 2013, federal researchers said, down 9 percent from a high in 2007, Time reported Dec. 4. The "baby bust," revealed in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicates that women are delaying having children until later in life. The declines were among women under 30, while the rates for women over 35 actually went up.

Spending an average of $25 per woman annually on sexual and reproductive health services would drastically lower the number of women in the developing world dying in pregnancy and childbirth and the number of newborn deaths, finds a report released Dec. 4 by the Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund.

The Baltimore Ravens are disputing the claim by Janay Rice, wife of running back Ray Rice, that the team told her to apologize for her role in the February domestic violence altercation that left her unconscious, ESPN.com reported Dec. 4. The team’s statement comes days after Janay Rice told "Today" that the team gave her and Ray Rice "a general script" of what to say at their news conference in May. She gave ESPN a similar account in a story published last week. Safety advocates have been watching the Ray Rice incident closely for signs of a turning point in how professional sports teams respond to domestic violence among their players.

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments Dec. 3 in Young v. UPS, a pregnancy discrimination case brought by Peggy Young, a woman forced off of her job at UPS while pregnant, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a press statement. In its court brief the ACLU argues that while Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 to end widespread practices of discrimination against women, paternalistic assumptions and outdated stereotypes continue to be used to justify sex discrimination, undermining Congress’s intention in passing the law. On Dec. 2 the ACLU announced the settlement of another pregnancy bias case involving another UPS worker that was on the brink of being heard by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The worker, Julie Desantis-Mayer, was briefly profiled in a Women’s eNews story that ran as part of our Bias Price series about the costs of gender bias over a woman’s life span.

December 1st was World AIDS Day and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1-in-4 people living with HIV are women. The data also indicate African American women and Hispanic women continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV compared with women of other races, WTSP reported.

A video of two sisters beating up three men, who were allegedly sexually harassing them on a moving bus in India, has gone viral on social media, BBC News reported Dec. 1. The men have been arrested and charged with assault, police said. The incident was recorded by a passenger on a mobile phone. Violence against Indian women has been in the spotlight since the gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi in December 2012.

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