What Women Really Think

Aug. 25 2014 3:35 PM

Georgia Says Ex-Cop Convicted of Sexually Assaulting a Woman With His Gun Gets to Own a Gun

What does someone have to do in order to lose gun rights in Georgia? Apparently, sexually assaulting a woman at gunpoint—even threatening to anally penetrate her with the gun—is not enough. Ian Millhiser at Think Progress reports on the shocking case of Dennis Krauss, a now former police officer who was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in 1999 who had called 911 to complain that her husband was beating her. According to the appeals court decision that upheld Krauss's conviction, instead of helping the woman, Krauss threatened to take her to jail if she didn't have sex with him. 

Krauss checked them into a motel room while the woman sat terrified, thinking she was under arrest, in the car. "I had to, I was afraid to leave, he, you know, he is a police officer;  you don't just leave," the victim explained. Once he had her in the motel room, according to the 2003 appeals court decision, "Krauss took his gun from his gun belt and told the victim he wanted to have anal sex with her with the gun." Then he pushed her, pulled off her pants, and raped her.

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Aug. 25 2014 1:29 PM

Sex Offenders Housing Restrictions Are Pointless

This article originally appeared in Science of Us.

On Thursday, Joseph Goldstein of the New York Times reported that “Dozens of sex offenders who have satisfied their sentences in New York State are being held in prison beyond their release dates because of a new interpretation of a state law that governs where they can live.” In short, since 2005, sex offenders in the state can't live within 1,000 feet of a school, and a February ruling from the state's Department of Corrections and Community Supervision extended that restriction to homeless shelters.

Because the onus is on sex offenders to find approved housing before they’re released, Goldstein reported, they’ve been left with very few options, especially in densely-populated New York City, where there are schools everywhere. This has led to an uncomfortable legal limbo and sparked at least one lawsuit (so far) on behalf of an offender who is still in custody even though he was supposed to be out by now.

The unfortunate thing about this situation is that laws designed to restrict where sex offenders can live are really and truly useless, except as a means of politicians scoring easy political points by ratcheting up hysteria. There are many tricky social-scientific issues on which there are a range of opinions and some degree of debate among experts, but this isn't one of them. Among those whose job it is to figure out how to reduce the rate at which sex offenders commit crimes (as opposed to those whose job it is to get reelected, in part by hammering away at phantom threats), there is zero controversy: These laws don't work, and may actually increase sexual offenders’ recidivism rates.

Maia Christopher, head of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, sent Science of Us a policy paper her organization has prepared on this issue (it’s not yet online, but should be later this week). ATSA’s views on housing restrictions for sex offenders are completely straightforward: The group “does not support the use of residence restrictions as a feasible strategy for sex offender management” because of a lack of evidence they do any good.

The paper notes that these laws have proliferated—“[a]t least 30 states and hundreds of cities” have them—because of some basic misunderstandings about how sex crimes are committed. There’s a collective American fixation on the creepy image of a sex offender salivating just beyond the playground fence, but that’s just not how things usually work.

Rather, these crimes are generally committed by someone known to the victim—93 percent of the time when it comes to child victims, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics—and the majority take place either in the victim’s home or the home of someone they know. “Therefore,” the authors write, “policies based on ‘stranger danger’ do not adequately address the reality of sexual abuse.”

The policy paper goes on to run through some of the many studies on the subject. In Florida and Colorado, sex offenders who resided near schools or daycare centers didn’t reoffend more frequently than those who did not. In Minnesota, an analysis of 224 “sexual reoffense crimes” found that the “offender was a neighbors of the victim in only about 4 percent of the cases,” and “the authors concluded that residence restrictions would not have prevented even one re-offense.”

All the literature, in short, points to the same conclusion: restricting where sex offenders can live doesn’t appear to increase public safety one iota. It may decrease it, however, because the “unintended consequences of residence restrictions include transience, homelessness, instability, and other obstacles to community reentry.” Since “unemployment, unstable housing, and lack of support are associated with increased criminal recidivism,” and housing restrictions lead to all three, they’re a bad idea, ATSA argues.

As a social-science writer used to the hedge-y language of “This study suggests that A may cause B,” it felt weird to be exposed to a debate in which the evidence is stacked so highly on one side. So I sent emails to Karen Terry and Cynthia Calkins Mercado, both professors at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice whose primary area of expertise is sex offenders.

Would it really be accurate, I asked them, to say that there’s literally no evidence these policies are useful? “You are correct,” Terry wrote back. “To date, there is no empirical evidence that these policies reduce the rate of sexual offending.” Mercado concurred, and added that there’s “considerable evidence that these restrictions make readjustment to the community more difficult and thus may inadvertently increase risk for recidivism.” 

It should be said that these restrictions are just one part of a larger story—as Human Rights Watch, Radley Balko, and others have pointed out, U.S. laws governing sex offenses are broken in a myriad of ways. But getting rid of such housing laws would still be a step in the right direction, so it’s too bad that this is a pipe dream, at least in the short term. After all, what politician wants to stand up and say, “You know what? I think sex offenders should be able to live closer to children”?

Aug. 25 2014 12:09 PM

Why It Felt So Amazing When Beyoncé Stood in Front of That Glowing “Feminist” Sign

Rush Limbaugh's claim that feminism exists "to allow ugly women access to society" is going to be a harder sell now that Beyoncé stood in the dark in front of the glowing word "Feminist" at Sunday night's MTV Video Music Awards.

It's no surprise that Beyoncé identifies as a feminist: She featured a speech on feminism by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on her song "***Flawless" and wrote a piece for the Shriver Report titled "Gender Equality Is a Myth!" But the VMAs statement was next level—an unusually mainstream flaunting of feminist pride in our image-driven culture. And man did it feel good.

Aug. 22 2014 1:34 PM

Anti-Choice Leaders Denounce The Ice Bucket Challenge Because An Embryo Died Once

The exploding popularity of the "ice bucket challenge"—where people record themselves dumping ice water over their heads to raise money to fight the neurogenerative disorder ALS—has inevitably  attracted people who want to hijack the issue for their own ends. So it’s no big surprise to see  anti-abortion leaders trying to scare their followers off of joining in on the fun. As ThinkProgress reports, anti-choicers are arguing that it's not "pro-life" to try to save the lives of ALS sufferers, because doing so might involve the use of embryonic stem cells. Life, apparently, is at its most precious in the cellular form, as opposed to the your-beloved-grandmother-who-is-dying-of-ALS form. 

Lila Rose—the leader of Live Action who was last seen throwing a fit because sex educators at Planned Parenthood were caught answering direct questions asked by clients—complained that the ALS Association, which has been receiving donations via the ice bucket challenge, “chooses to support research that thrives from experimenting on and killing tiny, innocent human beings.” (Pictured here.) The Ohio Catholic Diocese agreed, discouraging its schools from participating. (The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, is demurring on this question.)

Think Progress contacted the ALS Association about the issue, and it clarified that most of its research is performed with the aid of adult stem cells, not embryonic ones. As for the one exception: "Currently, The Association is funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC), and the stem cell line was established many years ago under ethical guidelines set by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)." So anti-choice fanatics are discouraging people from fighting this horrible disease that causes much suffering to patients before they inevitably die because some embryo was used years ago to create a line of cells, none of which could actually develop into a human being. Got it. 

But even if the ALS Association was going hog wild with the embryonic stem cells, using multiple 4-day-old embryos (pictured here) a week to generate brand-new embryonic stem cell lines, so what? These embryos are taken from IVF clinics, where fertility doctors often make more embryos than they end up implanting so that they have back-ups if the first don't take. Embryos that aren't used for stem cell generation tend to end up in the trash. What anti-choice activists are really arguing is that we should cease intriguing research that could save many lives because there was once an embryo that was used to make stem cells instead of being thrown in the garbage. 

More human cells—mostly skin cells—probably die when you dump a bucket of ice water over your head than are actually in a four-day-old embryo (pictured here). If anti-choicers are really worried about cellular life, telling people to stop killing their skin cells for those greedy ALS sufferers would be the more direct approach.

Aug. 21 2014 4:28 PM

Wendy Davis Proposes Lifting the Statute of Limitations for Rape

State senator Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for Texas governor who rose to national fame last year by spearheading a fight against a draconian abortion bill, held a press conference Wednesday to highlight her ideas on how to fight sexual assault. Talking about her legislative efforts to process the estimated backlog of 16,000 untested rape kits in the state, Davis said she wanted to take the solution a step further. She proposed lifting the statute of limitations for sexual assault entirely, in no small part to make sure that rapists don't escape justice just because a rape kit lingered untested for so long that the window for prosecution closed. 

"While the bills I authored are helping to address the backlog of rape kits, the fact that we would throw survivors’ trauma and courage on a shelf for months or years without a second thought is offensive to them and to everything we say we stand for,” Davis said. “But then to turn around and make survivors pay the price for our failure and neglect by denying them justice is almost criminal in itself.”

Aug. 21 2014 2:58 PM

What It’s Like for a Working Mom in Oslo, Norway

The state of American child care is pretty abysmal. Day care is not well-regulated, the quality is often poor, and it’s expensive: In 35 states and Washington, D.C., it costs more than a year’s in-state college tuition. We are the only wealthy nation that does not guarantee paid vacation or sick days, so when a snow day or a fever keeps a child out of school, it can mean a career setback for many parents. And for working parents with low-wage jobs, things are even worse.

We point to other countries—often ones in Europe—as models of how to do child care right. But is it really so much easier to be a working parent in Paris than it is in Peoria? We asked working moms and dads from all over the world to tell us their child care experiences. Here is the first in our occasional series.

Name: Else Marie Hasle

Age:  32

Country: Norway

Occupation: Marketing professional (currently on maternity leave)

Partner's occupation: Senior engineer

Children: Natalia, 6, and Aksel, 22 months.

 

Hi, Else. What are your work hours?

When I’m not on maternity leave, my working hours are 37½ hours per week. This is a full-time job in Norway. I have flextime, so I can work 8 a.m to 4 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Who takes care of your kids while you work?

Up until roughly a year ago, our daughter went to a private day care in Oslo, which was government-sponsored (both private and public options are). You only pay about $420 per month for a full-time spot. We got a place there because she was born before Sept. 1 and we applied before March 1, and because we lived in the same building as the day care. The residents in the building got prioritized.

One important thing that is quite frustrating for Norwegian families is that your child has to be born before Sept. 1 to have the right to a place in a day care in August the following year. This is the “magical deadline.” Our son was born Oct. 8, 2012, and he could not get a place until this month, at 22 months old. If couples are young and they haven’t succeeded getting pregnant “in time,” some will often wait until next year to try again.

Aug. 20 2014 5:28 PM

This Week in Butts

Despite a few road bumps, the human rear end, especially of the female variety, is well on its way to pop culture world domination. I, personally, am struggling with deeply mixed feelings about this. On one hand, butts are awesome and shaking them is a good time for the shakers and any consenting shakees in the mix, unless they are Robin Thicke. On the other hand, all this staring at hineys raises some age-old questions about the sexual objectification of women. When is it kosher for ladies to shake that healthy butt? Perhaps two new tush-centric pop culture moments from this week can help guide us toward a better understanding:

Aug. 20 2014 2:13 PM

Sports Illustrated Tells Us to Remember Mo’Ne Davis’ Name. How Long Until They Forget?

It’s been a big week for Mo’Ne Davis. Since the 13-year-old South Philly baseball player pitched a shutout to send her team to the Little League World Series last week, she’s amassed 17,000 Twitter followers, attracted praise from Billie Jean King and Lil Wayne, been claimed as a role model for little girls across America, and, this week, ascended to the cover of Sports Illustrated. The magazine elevates Davis to legend status: “Remember her name,” the coverline reads. “(As if we could ever forget).”

That's a bold parenthetical for a magazine that's never seemed particularly committed to supporting female athletes in the long run. Davis cemented her place in sports history on Friday when she became the first girl in the LLWS to pitch a shutout, hurling 70-mile-an-hour fastballs that flummoxed the boys. (She's also just the 18th girl out of the 9,000 total kids who have competed in the LLWS, and the first female pitcher to win a LLWS game, period). Landing the SI cover marks an additional conquest of typically male territory. Of the 73 covers SI has published this year, Davis' cover is only the  sixth to feature a female athlete. Davis is currently the sole female athlete appearing on the homepage of SI.com, alongside around 50 male athletes or prominent sports figures. The other women on the homepage are an NFL cheerleader, a model wearing a swimsuit, and another model getting an ice bucket dumped over her head. Where are Mo'Ne Davis' role models?

Aug. 20 2014 12:46 PM

South Carolina: Where Men Murder Women and Legislators Don’t Care

Tuesday evening, the Charleston Post and Courier released a massive seven-part series on South Carolina’s failure to take domestic violence seriously—a failure that has resulted in the state leading the nation in the murder rate of women at the hands of men (currently the best measure we have for domestic homicide). The series, titled “Till death do us part,” is the result of interviewing “more than 100 victims, counselors, police, prosecutors and judges” to create a multimedia story chronicling the failures of legislators, law enforcement, social services, and even churches to do enough to fight the problem of domestic violence. Journalists Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes, and Natalie Caula Hauff unflinchingly place much of the blame on South Carolina culture: heavily conservative values about marriage and gender roles, as well as an enthusiasm for guns that makes it nearly impossible to get them out of the hands of men who want to kill women.

South Carolina, they write, is a state “where men have long dominated the halls of power, setting an agenda that clings to tradition and conservative Christian tenets about the subservient role of women,” leading to “a tolerance of domestic violence.” Even though research shows that the murder rate from domestic violence “declines three months” after a couple has been kept apart and “drops sharply after a year’s time,” power players in the state frequently prioritize keeping couples together over the victim’s safety.

Aug. 19 2014 2:05 PM

Fark Wants to Ban Misogyny. Is That Even Possible?

Fark—the irreverent online aggregator launched 15 years ago under the tagline “We don't make news. We mock it”—has pledged to ban misogyny from its comments section. “If the Internet was a dude, we'd all agree that dude has a serious problem with women,” Fark founder Drew Curtis wrote in an announcement on the site yesterday, citing a line from Mythbusters’ Adam Savage. As of yesterday, the site’s posting guidelines were “updated with new rules reminding you all that we don't want to be the He Man Woman Hater's Club,” Curtis continued. Examples of inadmissible language include “rape jokes,” calling “women as a group ‘whores’ or ‘sluts’ or similar demeaning terminology,” and “jokes suggesting that a woman who suffered a crime was somehow asking for it.” Racism and “LGBT bashing” are also now off-limits. Wrote Curtis: “This represents enough of a departure from pretty much how every other large internet community operates that I figure an announcement is necessary.”

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