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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Opinion: Should False Rape Accusers be Sued? By Roxanne Jones

 
Roxanne Jones wrote another great piece a few weeks ago that I posted in the articles page but did not post here on the Home page. 

It’s not just a rape issue, but false sexual abuse and battery accusations are made everyday and the results are just as detrimental. Remember Jonathan Montgomery, his case is not the rare occurrence that lawmakers and prosecutors tend to claim.  

Mary
 

Opinion: Should False Rape Accusers be Sued? December 17, 2013
By Roxanne Jones

Eighty years -- that's about how long it took the state of Alabama to posthumously pardon the last three of nine men  who were falsely accused and wrongly convicted of raping two white women on a train. They infamously were called the Scottsboro Boys, because the nine black men were just 12- to 19-years-old when they were arrested in 1931. 

It turned out that the women, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, had lied to police about the rapes. At one of the trials, Bates recanted her testimony, saying she had made it all up. Still, the all-white jury convicted the boys, one after another. 

Forty-three years later, a similar story: This time it was Delbert Tibbs, who died recently of cancer. Tibbs spent nearly three years in prison in Florida after he was convicted in 1974 of a rape and murder that he had nothing to do with, according to the Florida Supreme Court. 

Ancient history, you say? We've moved past those shameful days of unequal justice, you insist. Think again. 

In 2012, according to the FBI, nearly 87,000 "forcible rapes" were reported. That's down 7% from the number of rapes reported in 2008. Law enforcement agencies estimate that the number of false rape accusations ranges from 2% to 8% annually, or between 2,000 and 7,000 cases each year. 

Exact numbers are difficult to track because of the lack of in-depth research on false rape cases and because of the varying definitions of what constitutes an "unfounded" rape claim. It can mean the alleged victim did not try to fight off the suspect or suffer injuries, was not threatened with a weapon or the victim and perpetrator had a previous relationship. 

Law enforcement experts agree that rapes are widely underreported, and no one is suggesting that violence against women isn't a serious problem. But experts do not dispute that false rape accusations can and do happen. Many of those innocent men end up in prison or with lives shattered. 

One of the unfortunate statistics 

In 2002, Brian Banks was one of those unfortunate statistics. He was just 17 when a classmate, Wanetta Gibson, 15, falsely accused him of raping her at school. Banks, then a top football talent, spent more than five years in prison and five years on probation for rape and kidnapping. 

He was exonerated after he got his accuser to admit on tape that she lied about the rape. Banks later explained that his attorney had advised him to take a plea bargain and avoid a jury trial because "... I was a big black teenager, and no jury would believe anything I said." 

The Long Beach Unified School District sued his accuser, and she has been ordered to repay the $750,000 she was awarded in a lawsuit against the district. 

It seems more men who insist they have been falsely accused of rape are trying a new tactic: suing their accusers in civil court, mostly for defamation. They are seeking to repair their ruined lives, save their careers and clear their names. Make no mistake, I could never defend men who rape and believe even harsher penalties are needed for rapists. But I can understand why some men are opting to fight back. And I even agree with this strategy in some cases.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: How the Government Encourages Kangaroo Courts for Sex Crimes on Campus By Cathy Young

 
Guilty Until Proven Innocent, December 17, 2013
How the government encourages kangaroo courts for sex crimes on campus By Cathy Young

One evening in February 2012, Vassar College students Xialou "Peter" Yu and Mary Claire Walker, both members of the school's rowing team, had a few drinks at a team gathering and left together as the party wound down. After a make-out session at a campus nightspot, they went to Yu's dorm room, where, by his account, they had sex that was not only consensual but mainly initiated by Walker, who reassured her inexperienced partner that she knew what to do. At some point, Yu's roommate walked in on them; after he was gone, Yu says, Walker decided she wanted to stop, telling him it was too soon after her breakup with her previous boyfriend. She got dressed and left.

The next day, according to documents in an unusual complaint that Yu filed against Vassar last June, Yu's resident adviser told him some students had seen him and the young woman on their way to the dorm. They had been so concerned by Walker's apparently inebriated state that they called campus security. Alarmed, Yu contacted Walker on Facebook to make sure everything was all right. She replied that she had had a "wonderful time" and that he had done "nothing wrong"-indeed, that she was sorry for having "led [him] on" when she wasn't ready for a relationship. A month later Walker messaged Yu herself, again apologizing for the incident and expressing hope that it would not affect their friendship. There were more exchanges during the next months, with Walker at one point inviting Yu to dinner at her place. (In a response to Yu's complaint in October, attorneys for Vassar acknowledged most of these facts but asserted that Walker had been too intoxicated to consent to sex and had been "in denial," scared, and in shock when she wrote the messages.)

Last February, one year after the encounter, the other shoe dropped: Yu was informed that Walker had filed charges of "nonconsensual sexual contact" against him through the college disciplinary system. Two and a half weeks later, a hearing was held before a panel of three faculty members. Yu was not allowed an attorney; his request to call his roommate and Walker's roommate as witnesses was denied after the campus "gender equity compliance investigator" said that the roommates had emailed him but had "nothing useful" to offer. While the records from the hearing are sealed, Yu claims his attempts to cross-examine his accuser were repeatedly stymied. Many of his questions (including ones about Walker's friendly messages, which she had earlier told the investigator she sent out of "fear") were barred as "irrelevant"; he says that when he was allowed to question Walker, she would start crying and give evasive or nonresponsive answers. Yu was found guilty and summarily expelled from Vassar.

New Rules for Campus Sex

Yu, a U.S.-educated Chinese citizen, is now going after the Poughkeepsie, New York, school in federal court, claiming not only wrongful expulsion and irreparable personal damage but sex discrimination. His complaint argues that he was the victim of a campus judicial system that in practice presumes males accused of sexual misconduct are guilty. His is one of three such lawsuits filed last summer. St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia is being sued by an expelled student, New York state resident Brian Harris, who likewise claims he was railroaded by a gender-biased campus kangaroo court. And in August college basketball player Dez Wells sued Ohio's Xavier University for expelling him in the summer of 2012 based on a rape charge that the county prosecutor publicly denounced as false.

While the lawsuits target private colleges, they also implicate public policy. That was especially true in Wells' case: When he was accused, Xavier was under scrutiny by the federal government for its allegedly poor response to three prior sexual assault complaints, and his attorney says he was the "sacrificial lamb" to appease the U.S. Department of Education. In the other two cases, there was no such direct pressure, but the charges were adjudicated under a complainant-friendly standard that the Obama administration has been aggressively pushing on academic institutions.

In April 2011, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights sent a letter to college and university presidents laying out guidelines for handling reports of sexual assault and harassment. One key recommendation was that such complaints should be evaluated based on a "preponderance of the evidence"-the lowest standard of proof used in civil claims. (In lay terms, it means that the total weight of the believable evidence tips at least slightly in the claimant's favor.) Traditionally, the standard for finding a student guilty of misconduct of any kind has been "clear and convincing evidence"-less stringent than "beyond a reasonable doubt," but still a very strong probability of guilt.

Last May the government reiterated its commitment to the "preponderance" standard in a joint Department of Justice/Department of Education letter to the University of Montana following a review of that school's response to sexual offenses. The letter was explicitly intended as a "blueprint" for all colleges and universities; noncompliant schools risk losing federal funds, including student aid eligibility. Meanwhile, the Department of Education also has launched civil rights investigations into complaints by several college women who say they were sexually assaulted by fellow students, then revictimized by school authorities when their assailants either went unpunished or received a slap on the wrist. The schools under scrutiny include the University of Southern California, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

'Rape Culture'

The federal war on campus rape is unfolding amid a revival of what Katie Roiphe, in her landmark 1994 book The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism on Campus, dubbed "rape-crisis feminism"-a loosely defined ideology that views sexual violence as the cornerstone of male oppression of women, expands the definition of rape to include a wide range of sexual acts involving no physical force or threat, and elevates the truth of women's claims of sexual victimization to nearly untouchable status. This brand of feminism seemed in retreat a few years ago, particularly after a hoax at Duke University drew attention to the danger of presuming guilt. (In 2007, the alleged rape of a stripper by three Duke lacrosse players sparked local and national outrage-until the case was dismissed and the young men declared innocent.) Yet in 2013, the concept made a strong comeback with a sexual assault case that gained national visibility in January and went to trial in March. This one was in Steubenville, Ohio.

The facts in Steubenville were ugly enough. A 16-year-old girl who got very drunk at an end-of-the-summer high school party was repeatedly sexually assaulted while unconscious or barely conscious. One boy, 17-year-old Trent Mays, penetrated her with his fingers, tried to get her to perform oral sex, and essentially used her as a masturbation aid; another, Ma'lik Richmond, briefly participated in the abuse. Three other teenagers witnessed at least some of these acts (which took place in a car and in the basement of a home after the girl left the party with the boys), taking photos and a video. The next day, Mays bragged about his exploits and mocked the girl in text messages to friends, to whom he also sent her nude photo. When Mays and Richmond, both star players on the Steubenville High School football team, were arrested and charged with rape a few days later, many residents in the football-worshiping small town sympathized with the boys and were inclined to assume that the girl-an out-of-town private school student-was lying to cover up her misbehavior.

This sordid saga arguably shone a spotlight on the dark underside of small-town "football culture," which can breed a sense of entitlement and impunity in popular athletes. Yet the national press coverage, fueled by wild rumors of unspeakable brutalities (the girl was said to have been drugged, kidnapped, urinated on, and gang-raped for hours) and of an official cover-up, turned into a far more sweeping indictment of America's "rape culture"-a term that suddenly migrated from the fringes of feminist rhetoric into mainstream discourse.

Like many radical theories, the idea of rape culture contains plausible elements of truth: Some traditional gender arrangements have indeed encouraged cavalier or even tacitly accepting attitudes toward certain kinds of sexual violence. For much of history women have been treated to varying degrees as men's sexual property, with rape condoned if not legitimized in some circumstances: for example, in marriage (including forced marriage), or toward women who transgressed norms of feminine propriety. Even in the United States, as recently as 40 years ago, juries could be instructed to consider "unchaste character"-such as being single and on birth control-as a strike against an accuser's credibility, and courts often treated submission to overt physical intimidation as consent (at least in acquaintance-rape situations). And there is some basis for the argument that the conventional script of male pursuit and feminine coyness-with "no" routinely taken to mean "try harder"-can sometimes blur the lines between consent and coercion.

But this history is only one part of a complex mix of cultural attitudes-a mix that has long included genuine societal abhorrence of rape as a violation of female personhood. It is a measure of this abhorrence that when feminists in the 1970s challenged the unjust treatment of rape victims, the reforms they advocated-such as dropping resistance requirements that did not apply to other violent crimes, or barring the use of a woman's sexual history to discredit her-were soon enacted with overwhelming support. Moreover, the social response to sex offenses has been complicated by many factors besides sexism, from a general human tendency to sweep sordid matters under the rug to the difficulty of proving crimes that occur in intimate settings; these factors have affected male victims, too. Feminist theory offers no convincing explanation for why a homophobic patriarchy would also fail to protect boys from adult male sexual predators.

And yet the "rape culture" trope has gained such sway that even a New Yorker writer highly critical of activist zealotry over Steubenville offered a disclaimer to defend the term. In an article in the magazine's August issue, Ariel Levy cited a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report stating that one in five American women are victims of rape or attempted rape and a recent Pentagon survey finding that one in four active-duty service members have been sexually assaulted. The problem, she concluded, could not be so pervasive unless there was a rape-enabling culture treating sex as "something men get-and take" from women.

But what do these numbers mean? The Pentagon poll defined sexual assault broadly enough to include a slap on the behind-and half of its self-reported victims were men. The CDC study treats all sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs as rape, with no distinction between unconsciousness and impaired judgment. Even the CDC's definition of rape by force could include such transgressions as unwanted penetration with a finger (no matter how brief) during an otherwise consensual make-out session. The respondents were never asked if they thought they were assaulted; in a comparable survey, the federally sponsored 2007 Campus Sexual Assault study, two-thirds of the women classified as victims of drug- or alcohol-induced rape and 37 percent of those counted as forcibly raped did not consider the event to be a crime. (And these were college women in the age of mandatory campus date-rape awareness programs.) Notably, when CDC survey respondents were asked about victimization during the previous 12 months, men reported being "forced to penetrate someone"-an act classified as sexual violence other than rape-at the same rate that women reported forced penetration. Either "rape culture" goes both ways, and women also sexually assault their male partners with alarming frequency, or the CDC definition of sexual violence needs rethinking.

Quarterly Reports Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services: Progress Report Housing for Individuals Committed at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation (VCBR)


I recently came across these reports and wanted to share them with an anyone who is interested. 

The VCBR is where the Commonwealth indefinitely civilly commits Sexually Violent Predators (SVP's). 

Mary 
 

The October 2013 Report is overdue:

July 2013 Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services: Progress Report on the Plan for the Housing of Additional Individuals Committed for Treatment at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation  http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD1472013/$file/RD147.pdf 

April 2013 Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services: Progress Report on the Plan for the Housing of Additional Individuals Committed for Treatment at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation  http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD1162013/$file/RD116.pdf 

January 2013 Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services: Progress Report on the Plan for the Housing of Additional Individuals Committed for Treatment at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation  http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD4202012/$file/RD420.pdf 

October 2012 Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services: Progress Report on the Plan for the Housing of Additional Individuals Committed for Treatment at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation  http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD2442012/$file/RD244.pdf 

July 2012 Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services: Progress Report on the Plan for the Housing of Additional Individuals Committed for Treatment at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation  http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD1582012/$file/RD158.pdf 

April 2012 Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services: Progress Report on the Plan for the Housing of Additional Individuals Committed for Treatment at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation  http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD1222012/$file/RD122.pdf 

January 2012 Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services: Progress Report on the Plan for the Housing of Additional Individuals Committed for Treatment at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation  http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD722012/$file/RD72.pdf 

October 2011 Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services: Progress Report on the Plan for the Housing of Additional Individuals Committed for Treatment at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation  http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD2842011/$file/RD284.pdf 

July 2011 Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services: Progress Report on the Plan for the Housing of Additional Individuals Committed for Treatment at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation  http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD1392011/$file/RD139.pdf
 

I could not find an April 2011 Report 

I could not find a January 2011 Report
 

January 14, 2011 DBHDS Virginia Sexually Violent Predator Program and VCBR
 

FY 2012 Annual Report: Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services

FY 2011 Annual Report: Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services

FY 2010 Annual Report: Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services

November 2013 Status Report on Virginia Offender Transitional and Re-entry Services

 
This report was recently posted for anyone who is interested. 

November 2013 Status Report: Virginia Offender Transitional and Re-entry Services

Out Going Governor Bob McDonnell Submits His Final Budget for Upcoming 2014 Virginia General Assembly

 

Update:


McAuliffe gets first lesson on budget: no amendments, January 5, 2014
Panel will not hear amendments from new governor

Original Post:

The complete proposed 2014-2016 Virginia Budget can be read here. 

The 2014 Virginia General Assembly session begins on Wednesday January 8th and Governor-Elect Terry McAuliffe will be sworn in on Saturday January 11th. 

The Proposed Budget will become legislation (bills) within the House and Senate. Then amendments, edits and deletions will occur during the 2014 60-day session. Plus newly elected Governor McAuliffe will submit his own version, or edits to fit his agenda. 

At this point within this initial version, there is NOTHING directed towards the monitoring or management of Sex Offenders or those Civilly Committed as Sexually Violent Predators, issues that in previous years have been slipped in after the initial bill submission. So I will do my best to keep an eye on all the Budget Bill versions as we move though the 2014 session. 

I really expected to see something in reference to this November Politifact: Truth-O Meter.
There could still be an individual bill for it.
Politifact/Bob-O-Meter: Increase penalty for sexual battery of children, November 11, 2013
·         McDonnell Promises To: Elevate sexual battery, when the crime is committed by force or where the offender is an adult and the victim is three years younger, to a Class 6 felony.
·         Politifact Rules: No Action / Promise Broken

The Public Safety Bullets of the Budget can be read here.

The 2014-2016 Budget includes Prisoner Re-entry initiatives that can be read here. 

Re-entry Initiatives:
  • Provides funding for emergency housing for offenders upon release. This will enable the Department of Corrections to provided temporary lodging for hard to place offenders to minimize public safety risks and to assist with re-entry. Adds $533,517 the first year and second year of the biennial budget.
  • Increases funding for inmate education program. The funds are for the cost of administering GED testing and for additional computers in classrooms, and funding for part-time instructors to enable the Department of Corrections to enhance its re-entry efforts. Adds $331,660 for the first year and $482,773 the second year in general fund support.
  • Provides funding for the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment grant match. The Department of Corrections was awarded a federal grant to provide substance abuse treatment services to improve its re-entry services. The grant program serves over 300 inmates and is established in 11 correctional facilities. For FY14 the state match is $342,147; and the state match for the first year is $537,660 and $586,538 for the second year of the new biennial budget. 
All of this could change we just have to wait and see. 

Mary