Colleges Aligned Against Sexual Exploitation

As I am finishing my second and final year of graduate school in social administration (social work in layman’s terms), I am very fortunate to be interning at a fantastic organization, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE). The organization is an advocacy organization that strives to address the culture, institutions, and individuals that perpetrate, profit from, and/or tolerate sexual exploitation. CAASE is made up of three sectors: community outreach and engagement, policy advocacy, and legal services. Our vision is to eradicate all forms of sexual violence and exploitation from society.

CAASE has played a prominent role in influencing policy on human trafficking and the sex trade. Our End Demand Illinois Campaign (EDI), started in 2009, has produced many successes such as the Illinois Safe Children Act, which is the first law in the nation to make minors immune from prosecution for prostitution. Also, the EDI campaign has helped to pass the Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act, which offers sex trafficking victims the opportunity to have prostitution convictions removed from their records.

Being a leader in eliminating sexual exploitation from our community, CAASE is frequently contacted by students who are interested in becoming allies and passionate about eradicating sexual violence and exploitation. Unfortunately, we are a small albeit busy office so we do not have the capacity for students to come into the office and complete projects. But CAASE did not want to shun such an important and zealous group of students. Therefore, CAASE has helped college students in Chicago and beyond start Colleges Aligned Against Sexual Exploitation chapters. The purpose of the CAASE chapters is:

  • To act as a non-profit, non-sectarian, non-partisan, voluntary organization affiliated with the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.
  • To establish a constituency to work in pursuit of the elimination of sexual exploitation.
  • To study and take action on international, national, state, local, and campus issues related to sexual exploitation.
  • To educate the campus community about issues regarding sexual exploitation.

So far, we have started chapters at the College of Dupage, DePaul University, University of Chicago, Roosevelt University, and Northeastern University. We are also in the process of starting chapters at the University of Illinois Chicago and Loyola University. We are so excited to be starting these chapters.

College students are very important allies in ending sexual violence. As SAFER knows, sexual violence on college campuses is both pervasive and often not addressed appropriately. Student groups on college campuses who focus on issues of social justice are rooted in concepts of compassion and activism. These values form the framework for students’ leadership roles in human rights efforts. Indeed, prostitution and human trafficking are human rights violations that occur in communities all over the world, including the United States. More specifically, Chicago is a central hub for victims of trafficking. Approximately 16,000-24,000 women and girls are in prostitution a day in Chicago. Mobilizing students is one of many ways we can strive to eradicate sexual violence and provide support for victims of the sex trade and sexual violence.

If you are a student in Chicago and you are interested in starting a chapter, please do not hesitate to contact me at djenkins@caase.org.

Accused Rapists Just “20 year-olds Behaving Like 20 year-olds”

We’ve been following the De Anza case for years now. The quick recap for those who are unfamiliar is that a 17 year-old girl attended at party at the house of a local college baseball team where she says she was gang-raped by 9 of the ballplayers. She says that she was too drunk to consent, so drunk in fact that she has no memory of the incident. Much to everyone’s shock, the DA at the time refused to prosecute the case, claiming that there was no evidence (despite the three other young woman at the party who intervened, saying they witnessed a passed out girl being assaulted by multiple men). A civil case followed, but no one was found liable.

Although the new DA is apparently reviewing the evidence to see if a criminal case is in fact warranted, Jessica Gonzalez (who had never been publicly named before) has chosen to speak out about what happened to her four years ago (video above). She is now 22, and maintains that she was passed out and could not have consented to sex. The local news also interviewed three of the jurors in the civil trial, who say that Jessica’s inability to remember anything, as well as a blood alcohol level did not seem to indicate that she would have been passed out, made it impossible for them to find anyone liable. (See the video after the cut for more.)

We all know that rape cases are difficult to prosecute. Even though this case seemed to have more hard evidence of a rape than most do (LIKE WITNESSES), I’m not surprised by the response of the jurors, and honestly don’t envy their task. But I am extremely disquieted by the language of the defense lawyers, who contend that their clients did not gang-rape anyone. They say that the young men were invited to have group sex and they happily participated. One lawyer completely blows my mind:

“I don’t see what else they could have done…they were lured into a very troubling scenario by a provocateur and they fell for it.”

How many levels of fucked up is this? Let’s just focus on one: it was a “troubling scenario” yet there was NOTHING THEY COULD DO? Yeah, I’ll say it’s troubling. When I walk into a room and see a group of men taking turns having sex with a visibly intoxicated woman and cheering each other on, I am troubled. But ya know what my mind doesn’t do? It doesn’t process the situation as “oh gee, guess there is NOTHING I CAN DO but join in!” In fact, I think there are a lot of alternative actions any of those young men could have taken. For one, they could have stopped what was going on to ask Jessica how she was doing and try to figure out if she was in a state to consent to sex. What a novel idea!

But, apparently we don’t expect that kind of basic decency and conscience from our youth. Because really, they were just being kids! That’s what kids do all the time, right? Get wasted and have group sex? This one lawyer seems to think so:

“This wasn’t anyone’s finest moment. It was 20 year-olds at a party behaving like 20 year-olds at a party.”

Kids these days and their gang bang parties! Amirite??? In all seriousness, I consider myself to be a pretty sex-positive person, and if you are in control of all of your faculties and want to have sex with nine guys at a party, I mean it wouldn’t be my choice but it’s also none of my business. HOWEVER, is it just me or is this not a particularly common occurrence? I mean, did I just miss out on all the consensual 10-person sex parties in college? Is this really “20 year-olds behaving like 20 year-olds?” I find this justification absurd and offensive. It’s the same thing as saying that sexual violence is a result of “guys being guys.” In sum, no matter what the outcome of a case like this is, the shit defense attorneys say in regards to rape continues to be completely insane.

I remain impressed by Jessica Gonzalez, who somehow managed not to slap the ABC reporter interviewing her. At one point in the video below, the pictures that the defense used against Jessica are brought up—these pictures were taken years after the incident when she had moved to Nebraska and show her partying and being “lewd,” etc. Says the reporter: “how could you put yourself in another situation…drinking to excess and exhibiting this behavior that they could point to…?”

Jessica Gonzalez just looks at her and says, “Well, how do you deal with it? How do you deal with something like this? I mean, I still don’t know. I’m trying. I’m trying to move on.”

Continue reading

De Anza Civil Trial Comes to a Close

And no one was found liable. I can’t say I’m surprised, given how the case played-out in court, with all the “look at this party girl acting all slutty, how could she be raped?” garbage. And guess what? That tactic works. Let’s hear from some of the jurors:

But other jurors believed the men and other witnesses, who testified that the girl brought beer to the party, performed a public lap dance and invited them in explicit terms to have group sex.

“She came there kind of looking for it,” said one male juror, a 62-year-old software engineer.

Another female juror, No. 8, of Los Gatos, was not convinced that the teen had reached a peak blood-alcohol level of 0.27 in the bedroom, as the plaintiff’s expert toxicologist had testified. The defendants’ expert, on the other hand, said she peaked later.

“I don’t think she was comatose,” she said. “She was just having a good time — they were all having a good time.”

Please allow me to vomit as I consider how the girl who says she was raped by multiple people was just “looking” to have a “good time.”

But instead of ruminating on that, I’d rather hear what she has to say after all of this. Jane Doe released the following statement through her lawyers, and I would like to feature them here in full to give her the last word:

This lawsuit was never about money. I filed this lawsuit to get justice.

I thought that I would need a verdict in favor of me to make me feel at peace.

But I have come to realize that I have already ‘won’ by getting my day in court. Finally, I can begin the healing process.

I never believed I was strong enough to make it through this trial, and at the beginning I wasn’t sure I was going to. But I did.

They wanted me to be quiet, they wanted me to be weak, but I stood up for myself and every other woman who has been frightened to speak, and ultimately, silenced.

I will be forever grateful to the women who I believe saved my life: Bryeans, Chief, and Grolle. These women gave me the courage to stand for justice and take action, just as they did that night. They are my heroes.

This is the end of the trial but not the end of my fighting for and on behalf of victims of sexual assault. The only positive outcome from my experience is, perhaps, my story preventing another crime. My wish now is for my full recovery so I can be the mom I want to be, and move forward with my life.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me, either directly or indirectly, through this extremely difficult time.

Tuesday Campus Link Round-Up

I came to my computer today ready to write an incensed post about how the De Anza civil trial is playing out, to find that Cara at The Curvature had me covered. Please read her post for the full update on the trial, but beware the depressing amount of victim-blaming/”slut-shaming” involved in this case.

Last year, SAFER did a training at SUNY Geneseo, where a survey of students showed that “about 15% of women and 8% of men in [the sample] were severely sexual assaulted.” I was excited to read last week about their Sexual Assault Teach-In, which included a presentation from the awesome folks at Green Dot.

The National Union of Students in Australia is undertaking a large-scale survey of college students, and has so far found that “1 in 10 female students have experienced sexual violence while in university.”

A student at San Diego State University describes her frustrating experience with campus police after being raped and beaten by her then-boyfriend. She wanted to file for a restraining order, but the campus police would not release the report to her, which included the photographs of her injuries. Here’s something you never want to read: “I was at Staples taking pictures of my bruises, doing all of this on my own, paying out of pocket.”

Jessica Valenti called out university responses to sexual violence this weekend, mentioning the Yale frat chant, and the recently released recommendations of the task force that was subsequently formed at Yale. The recommendations focus on education, but the full report can be found here.

Finally, there is an interview with Heather Corinna of Scarleteen over at Where is Your Line? I really loved her answer to the question “How do you think we, as young activists and students can best make a difference?” and wanted to share it here:

Value your own voices and experiences where they are right now and get them out there, ideally to a larger audience that just the people who you’re working with. I often hear young people who feel that there’s no point in them speaking up and out because older people won’t care or some peers won’t care. However, even for those who won’t care — and whose adultism is their problem and bias — plenty do care, and more to the point, your peers do care and they need to see and hear you to help them feel and be more empowered.

Everyone also needs all of you to speak to where you have been and where you are, rather than trying to speak from a place that isn’t yours, or is a place you’re not at yet, but think you need to be at to have authority or earn respect. Not only do you not need to be anywhere but where you are, giving your own experiences and the you-of-right-now the weight they deserve, and YOU giving them authority is incredibly powerful. Not just for you, but for other people who, by virtue of age, gender, of having been victimized, who are of color, who are in any way oppressed and silenced by someone else. Doing that models that authenticity is more powerful than conformity and that oppression is something we have the capacity to change, even when we’re the ones oppressed, and we do that not by making ourselves people we aren’t and more like those who are oppressing us, but by refusing to be anything other than ourselves.

Early March Campus News Round-Up

It’s been a while since I did a proper one of these. Here’s what’s going on:

The De Anza civil trial is underway, and one of the three girls who intervened that night has given her extremely disturbing (graphic and triggering) testimony of what she saw. For background on the De Anza case, check out some of our older posts on it.

CUNY’s sexual assault policy is featured in this article about dating violence on college campuses.

A campus rape survivor in Kentucky is advocating for “extending protective order laws” to include people in “dating relationships.” I can’t really believe that isn’t already the law. Apparently in Kentucky only married folks have abusive partners? What? 44 other states (plus DC) already cover the rights of those experiencing dating violence, so let’s hope Kentucky follows suit.

Students at Dickinson College were out protesting yesterday, calling for a more comprehensive response to sexual assault on campus. Meanwhile, a student at the University of Oklahoma wrote a great editorial on why the school’s policy, including it’s 30-day statute of limitations (!!!) needs to be changed.

Students at Colorado State University are actually debating whether or not to raise student activities fees by three or four dollars to support the work of the Women and Gender Advocacy Center.

Nortre Dame is being accused of not properly responding to a rape case AGAIN. Meanwhile, Nortre Dame’s sexual assault awareness week seems to be focused on alcohol instead of how to be accountable to student safety.

The University of Minnesota, which you may remember has been dealing with a number of reported sexual assaults this year, is requesting that greek community members attend this April’s “presentation on preventing sexual violence.” However, the school says that they can’t mandate anyone to attend. Which…I don’t think I buy.The piece goes on to describe the “self-governance” granted to greek life on most campuses and leaves me pretty unsettled, including a reference to greek judiciary processes. Anyone know more about how this works? I’m going to look into it.

De Anza Witnesses Respond to Botched Investigation

Last week I posted about the newest terrible development in the De Anza College rape case, which was thrown out because of “insufficient evidence”: the physical evidence in the case was never even tested. Cara has a much longer, and really good post about this over at The Curvature.

Yesterday the three women who witnessed the gang-rape but were not called to testify at the grand jury spoke out about this latest insane failure on the part of the Santa Clara district attorney’s office. I really recommend that you read the full editorial, as it’s quite powerful. Excerpt below:

As people closely connected to this case, we were told that a complete and thorough investigation was performed by the offices of the district attorney and attorney general. In the words of Attorney General Jerry Brown, “No stone will be left unturned.” We now know that this was not the case.

It was announced to the public that no charges would be filed due to two issues. The first was whether or not the sex was consensual. We believed then, and still believe, that an unconscious 17-year-old girl, with a blood-alcohol level of .32, did not give consent to have sex on a dirty mattress on a floor in a room full of several boys.

The second issue was the inability to identify the boys who actually had sex with the victim. In the majority of sexual assault cases, there is typically limited evidence that goes beyond “he said, she said.” What happened in the De Anza rape case provided an abundance of evidence. But both the district attorney and the attorney general stated that they could do nothing because the evidence was insufficient.

It wasn’t insufficient — it simply was ignored.

Monday College News Round-Up

If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time (you’re the best!) you might remember the De Anza rape case. The case in which three women were ready to testify saying that they witnessed a girl being raped at a De Anza college party (and tried in to stop it) but for some reason, the county never asked them to give grand jury testimony and the case was dropped for lack of evidence. Well, apparently it only gets worse, as yesterday’s news reports that:

The Santa Clara County crime lab never tested some physical evidence seized in the De Anza alleged gang-rape case after the district attorney’s office notified the lab that “no further testing was needed,” a crime lab supervisor has testified in an ongoing civil case. That untested evidence, according to a written report submitted by a crime lab examiner, included clothing, a comforter, a vomit-covered paint can, and a sheet from the hospital examination of the alleged victim. In sexual assault cases, such evidence often is tested for DNA that could link the accused perpetrators to the victim.

Last week Feministing published a guest post from three student activists at Wheaton College (MA) who have made some very articulate and appropriate demands from their school in regards to reforming the sexual misconduct policy. Similarly, Wesleyan University students, alumni, and parents have joined forces to demand that the school create a staff position dedicated to sexual violence.

The University of Maryland is starting up a new mandatory sexual assault prevention education program for incoming students next year. There aren’t details on the program but “it will likely be incorporated into freshman orientation and be similar to the university’s online alcohol education program, AlcoholEdu.” Does anyone have any experience with online modules like AlcoholEdu? I haven’t seen one yet, and hope to fix that this summer, but my knee-jerk reaction is that something like sexual assault prevention requires personal interaction. Or maybe I just need to get with the way of the future…?

Depressing Update

The De Anza rape case, in which three women witnessed the sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl, will not be moving forward. It sounds like prosecutors botched the case by offering immunity to three of the rapists, in hopes they would testify against their friends. Unsurprisingly, this strategy didn’t work out.

I’m disappointed with the criminal justice system, and would hope that at least De Anza College is taking some sort of action to change the culture of their baseball team, who hosted the party where the assault occurred (and, of course, to remove any of the rapists from campus).

The one bright spot in this is the fact that there are truly amazing people out there. These three women are heroes. They charged past nine men, in a situation that must have been absolutely terrifying, to carry the victim to safety. We need more people like them in the world.

Update on the lack of an update in the De Anza case

A year later, De Anza College is still waiting to hear whether any of the men who three women prevented from continuing to rape a semi-conscious 17 year old will face criminal charges. The District Attorney refused to prosecute, saying there wasn’t enough proof that a crime had been committed. The Attorney General of California is reviewing the case, and has been for 8 months. The theory seems to be that if they wait long enough, people will have forgotten and their decision won’t cause the firestorm of controversy the first decision not to prosecute did. But seriously people, read the description of what the women saw when they decided to intervene, and tell me that you think that the 17 year old girl freely consented to sex with these men?

These women, by the way, remain huge heroes of mine. They are so brave and so willing to put themselves on the line to help out another person. I hope that faced with a similar situation I would be as forceful and as fearless.

Alleged rape victim’ s rescuers threatened: Soccer players are called names after intervening at party

It seems no good deed goes unpunished, while bad ones continue to. The women who took action in this case, and the assaulted woman who continues to want to press charges, are heros. I hope other people will be inspired to step up when they see something wrong.

I think SAFER should set up some annual awards for Best Bystanders, Athletes Making a Difference, Best Prosecutor, Most Proactive Campus Security Team, Best Student Education Campaign, Most Effective Student Movement, etc. Submit your nominations now! Alleged rape victim’s rescuers threatened: Soccer players are called names after intervening at party