Is it an epidemic?

thereginamom has continued to read the Twitter hashtag, , and so much more.  She remains deeply moved by the outpouring of experiences shared and the conversations that are happening within various local communities, in the mainstream media, and online.  Though the number of tweets has decreased, the sharing continues.  Never has trm ever been involved in such a powerful online action — and she’s been involved in many, as some of you dear Readers know.

sex assault stats ywcaThis infographic from YWCA Canada startled trm.  It clearly demonstrates the urgent, immediate need for change.  From what trm has read on Twitter we need to change the way reports of rape are handled by police and the justice system.  In order to do that, we need to change the way our culture looks at rape.  We need to end rape culture.

Rape culture was not a term familiar to trm until her daughter went away to university and shared posts about it on Facebook.  trm has learned how her experience of rape is a result of a culture that not so subtly condones rape.

How do we change this, dear Reader, and quickly?

Remember the women

Today is Remembrance Day, the day that the regina mom learned was set aside to honour our war veterans, those who fought so we could have peace.  What no one mentioned during her upbringing was the hundreds of thousands of women who suffered as a result of gendered power during times of war.  No one taught her that rape is a weapon of war.

Warring groups use rape as a weapon because it destroys communities totally, says Major-General Patrick Cammaert, former commander of UN peacekeeping forces in the eastern Congo. “You destroy communities. You punish the men, and you punish the women, doing it in front of the men.” Adds Cammaert: “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”

Rape has been a dishonourable camp follower of war for as long as armies have marched into battle. In the 20th century, perceptions of rape in war have moved from something that is inevitable when men are deprived of female companionship for prolonged periods to an actual tactic in conflict. The lasting psychological harm that rape inflicts on its victims has also been recognized: Rape is always torture, says Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Yes, rape is always torture.  The Amnesty International report, LIVES BLOWN APART, explores some of the horrors experienced by women and girls in war-torn regions

In most of today’s wars, civilian casualties far outnumber those of armed combatants. Women and men both suffer human rights violations in conflicts, such as unlawful killings and torture. However, the particular ways in which women are targeted for violence, or are otherwise affected by armed conflict, are usually overlooked.

Women and girls are more likely to be the target of sexual violence, especially rape. Women face extra, sometimes insurmountable, obstacles to obtaining justice, because of the stigma attached to survivors of sexual violence, and women’s disadvantaged position in society. Whether civilians or combatants, refugees or displaced people, the impact of war weighs particularly heavily on women.

In this report, Amnesty International shows some of the ways in which conflict affects women, and the many different roles which women play in conflict. Women are not only victims and survivors, but also activists, negotiators, peace-builders and human rights defenders. Attempts to address the human rights consequences of conflict, including its particular effects on women, can only be comprehensive and long-lasting if women play an active part in rebuilding society at all levels.

Last month, more than 100 countries agreed  to endorse the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The declaration holds that sexualized violence in conflict is in direct violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) and declares that the perpetrators should be pursued and arrested no matter where they are in the world. The declaration also calls upon signatory member states to do more than raise awareness to the issue and to provide better support not only to the victims but to national and international efforts to prevent and respond to sexualized violence in conflict.

80 nations refused to sign the Declaration, including Burma/Myanmar.

The international community, eager to praise these reforms, has neglected to call Burma out on its sexualized violence problem, ignoring the ingrained culture of impunity that has allowed sexualized violence to flourish for decades. The military regime that came to power in a 1962 coup has used rape, particularly against women in the ethnic and border regions, as a way to quell opposition movements and retain control. A weapon of war, the practice is typically employed to keep communities compliant by sowing fear and humiliation and punishing and interrogating those who would support opposition groups. Sadly, the Burmese military junta’s campaign of widespread and systematic sexualized violence continues unabated today.

And, shortly after that, the Government of Canada spoke out about violence against women in times of war.  But, the government refuses to provide funding through its international development program to help women who survive the atrocity and find themselves pregnant as a result and seek to terminate the pregnancy.

Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch is blasting the “abhorrent” practices of rape as a weapon of war and the forced marriage of young children in the developing world.

But she’s defending Canada’s refusal to fund any aid projects that might help the victims of such barbaric practices obtain abortions.

Leitch, who was at the United Nations on Friday to celebrate the UN’s International Day of the Girl, told The Canadian Press that Canada needs to target its aid efforts and has chosen to focus on pre- and post-partum maternal and child health.

How much does the regina mom despise her country of origin right now?  As one who has experienced rape, survived it and come out the other side of it, even though it did not take place in a war zone or a time of war, you can bet it’s more than a little.  The multiple impacts of rape are horrendous, without war thrown into the mix.
AI notes that the consequences of sexual violence experienced by females include “serious and chronic medical problems, psychological damage, life threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, forced pregnancy, infertility, and stigmatization and/or rejection by family members and communities.” Few victims of sexual violence have access to health care in their time of need.
We must do more to end the global war on women.

Legitimate what?

Over the past couple of days, the regina mom has read a number of pieces, some humourous, in response to a statement by US Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate nominee from Missouri,  regarding the medieval concept of legitimate rape.

How long has this no-pregnancy-in-rape theory been around?
“The idea that rape victims cannot get pregnant has long roots,” says Vanessa Heggie at Britain’s The Guardian. Think 13th century. One of the earliest British legal texts — Fleta, from about 1290 — has this familiar-sounding clause: “If, however, the woman should have conceived at the time alleged in the appeal, it abates, for without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.” Samuel Farr’s Elements of Medical Jurisprudence, a treatise from 1785 (second edition 1814), elaborates: “For without an excitation of lust, or the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place. So that if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, it is not likely she would become pregnant.”

What’s the medical underpinning of this theory?
From medieval times until the 19th century, doctors and laypeople alike widely believed that women only conceived if they had an orgasm, since the presumed female “seed” — needed to complement the male sperm to achieve pregnancy — was thought be secreted only during sexual climax. “By logical extension, then,” says Heggie, “if a woman became pregnant, she must have experienced orgasm, and therefore could not have been the victim of an ‘absolute rape’.”

Interestingly, and in stark contrast to what the right wing nut jobs (RWNJ) in the US have been saying, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon recently shared their findings into a hormone that’s present in semen. They now believe it “nudges a woman’s body to ovulate.”

In a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Saskatoon-based researchers and their colleagues in Chile went sleuthing in llamas and cows for the identity of a seminal fluid protein they’d previously found sends a signal to a female’s brain. That signal prompts the female brain to release hormones that stimulate ovulation.

Veterinary biomedical sciences Prof. Gregg Adams, who is with the university’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, says he expected to find a brand new protein in the seminal fluid. Much to their surprise, they found this poorly-understood protein (called ovulation-inducing factor or OIF) is the same molecule as an old friend in the nervous system that’s critical for normal neuron function.

the regina mom cannot wait to see how the RWNJs respond to this piece of legitimate science!

Col. Williams: Other questions lurk

The horrific crimes perpetrated by Canadian Forces‘ Colonel, Russell Williams, have forced those of us who’d rather not, to look at disturbing images which were presented as evidence in the courtroom.  You won’t find a link to those images here.  Why the media insists these images are publishable news, that this is a story of fetishism, is beyond me!  It’s sensationalist journalism, at best.  At worst, it’s abuse of the privilege and power afforded to the corporate media in this culture.   The media grabbed onto the wrong narrative.

As feminist blogger and activist, Elizabeth Pickett, points out, this story is about power and control, about the predatory behaviour of a decorated Colonel.  And the media has failed — royally — to tell that story.  Instead, they give several column inches to the Prime Minister’s defense of the Canadian Forces, where he named the Forces as victim.  Oh, yes, he did mention the direct victims, but only as an afterthought.  See what Dave, at the Galloping Beaver has to say about that!  Harper’s spin simply shows him for the misogynist he truly is.

As despicable as the PM is the police force that did not believe the crimes several female victims reported, that did not warn women that a perp was on the loose, and that took far too long to solve the case.  Antonia Zerbisias has been on the story from the get-go.  And she has been in recent conversation with one of the assault survivors who said:

I feel liked chopped liver & I can’t even comprehend how the little one is feeling. Now if I could get a message out to the masses it would be-if you survive a violent act of sex don’t report it, just run for cover & find your own protection minus the police & the system they represent.

Says a lot in a couple of sentences, doesn’t she?  The police force should be apologizing, rather than patting themselves on the back!  Their job was not well done.  Far from it!  One mainstream journalist at the Toronto Star finally got that part figured out:

Col. Russell Williams is a burglar, predator, rapist, torturer and killer. There’s nothing titillating about that and his crimes shouldn’t be viewed through the distorting prism of Tweety Bird underwear, lacy lingerie and puerile voyeurism. (Emphasis mine)

In a Facebook discussion, a friend posed another question.  Colonel Williams served our country in different parts of the world.  Predators do not become predators overnight.  Predatory behavior escalates.  So, are there women in other parts of the world who were violated by him?  Will we ever know?  Will anyone ever look?  Or, is that information already there, labeled classified, and hidden from the citizenry in the name of national security?  Could the Forces be a co-conspirator to these crimes?

So, there you go, MSM, we’ve done your thinking for you.  Now, will you dare to seek out the answers?

Violent Repression & the Agenda of the Elite – A Collection of Important G20 Stories

Further to yesterday’s post about what some women have endured at the hands of police while detained by Toronto’s horrific police force during the G20 demos in Toronto, here is a compendium of links put together by my friend, Pete Garden, who runs Turning the Tide Bookstore in Saskatoon.

Dear friends, fellow community members and supporters of Turning the Tide Bookstore,

As many of you know, 20 of the most powerful people in the world and their respective entourages gathered in Toronto and Huntsville, Ontario for the G8/G20 meetings. Protecting them was a $1 billion dollar security apparatus including a 6 km long security fence and thousands of police and private security. Mobility of the entire city was limited by the security presence and in many areas of downtown Toronto, Charter rights were suspended before the meetings even began. The events which unfolded over the weekend saw thousands (some say upwards of 25,000) of protesters taking to the streets to bring their challenges and concerns with the policies of this elite group of leaders to the attention of the world. The weekend also saw militant protesters in the black bloc attack corporate property and police vehicles followed by the largest mass arrests of protesters (nearly 1,000 people) in Canadian history.

While black bloc tactics of property destruction were a divisive issue within the movement and public at large, protesters were united in one voice against the draconian police crackdown on overwhelmingly peaceful protests. According to long-time social justice activist an author Judy Rebick who as at a press conference with police representatives today, the Toronto police have admitted to receiving stand-down orders while property destruction took place and many people suspect that police cars were abandoned in the middle of streets as decoys to attract vandalism and were let to burn for over 30 minutes for media photo-ops. Many believe that the police used this situation as a pretense to brutally repress protesters not involved in property destruction (about 50 to 100 people were involved in the vandalism while nearly 1000 have been arrested).

Meanwhile, independent media journalists and social media tools were used to document what happened over the weekend and what thousands of people around the world are seeing is quite shocking. Other independent and a handful of mainstream were providing substantial critical coverage of what was going on within the G8/G20 meetings.

Many of us have been glued to our computers watching as our friends in Toronto bravely challenged the security apparatus and felt brunt of the violent crackdown of the state. We hope that once you have seen and read about what happened over the weekend that you will take action both to support the protesters who were arrested and do what you can to hold our governments and the police forces responsible for their actions.

What we hope to provide here is some of the most important coverage and analysis of the events that unfolded on the streets and behind the fences at the summit.

Taking Action:

Stay tuned for the announcement of a Saskatoon fundraiser for the G20 arrestees.

http://movementdefence.org/G20appeal
Appeal for broad political support for the G20 arrestees.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Canadians-Demanding-a-Public-Inquiry-into-Toronto-G20/131026933597789
Facebook group demanding a public inquiry into the actions of the police in Toronto

Call your Member of Parliament, write a letter to your local newspaper, call in to radio shows, mobilize your friends.

The Issues:

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/6/28/toronto_police_arrest_over_600_in
Democracy now! has produced the best video piece overview of the summit and the issues of the protesters were raising.

http://www.rabble.ca/rabbletv
Rabble livestream rebroadcast of “Shout Out for Global Justice Teach-in” on June 25th with Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, Vandana Shiva, Leo Gerard, Maude Barlow, Pablo Salon, and Clayton Thomas-Muller

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/g8-g20/opinion/sticking-the-public-with-the-bill-for-the-bankers-crisis/article1620729/
Naomi Klein’s analysis of how the G20 leaders are sticking the public with the bill for the banker’s economic crisis.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3vRNBeMwVA
An interview with Vandana Shiva about the (il)legitimacy of the G20

http://www.metronews.ca/edmonton/canada/article/564338–harper-rejects-advice-to-eliminate-production-subsidies-for-oil-sands
Harper refuses to eliminate subsidies for the tar sands

http://toronto.mediacoop.ca/story/free-market-stealth-economics-g20/3867
Free Market Stealth Economics at the G20 – An analysis of the threat of bilateral trade agreements

Police repression and the security apparatus:

Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Heb9BXjYcII
Peaceful protesters singing O Canada rushed by a line of riot police

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiLt40d_AbU
Police attack a peaceful group gathering outside the jail to support their fellow activists

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7OA920pbv8
Journalists attacked, deaf man arrested for failing to hear police orders

http://vimeo.com/12925239
Independent journalist Amy Miller describes detention including rape threats, strip-searches of women by male officers and touching that could be considered sexual assault.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZgjX5vHt2o
A young man embarrasses police before protests by demanding his Charter rights while entering a public park

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaYbq484abs
Police surround protesters and attack at Queens Park on Saturday

http://toronto.mediacoop.ca/fr/video/compilation-videos-about-police-violence/3897#comment-4727
Compilation of videos on police violence

Articles:

http://www.thestar.com/article/828876–porter-when-police-stick-to-phony-script
The Miami Model – the blueprint used by Toronto police for repression during summits.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/828367–g20-law-gives-police-sweeping-powers-to-arrest-people?bn=1#article
Secret law passed to give police powers to violate charter rights and arrest.

http://rabble.ca/news/2010/06/challenging-toronto%E2%80%99s-corporate-security-walls
The link between the security fence construction and Canada’s arms industry

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/829921–i-will-not-forget-what-they-have-done-to-me?bn=1
“I will not forget what they have done to me” – 20 people arrested at the G20 tell of ‘inhumane’ treatment at the hands of police

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/28/world/americas/28security.html
A New York Times article critical of the police crackdown.

http://transformingpower.ca/en/blog/toronto-burning-or-it
Toronto is Burning! Or is it? By Judy Rebick – a look at the media distortions in the coverage of Saturday’s events.

http://toronto.mediacoop.ca/story/%E2%80%9Ci-woke-gun-pointed-me%E2%80%9D/3836
“I woke up to a gun pointed at me” – Pre-G20 house raids target activists and neighbours

The Black Bloc

http://nooneisillegal-montreal.blogspot.com/2010/06/g20-capitalism-is-attacked-in-streets.html
Agree with them or not, it is important to understand the black bloc and why people engaged in more militant tactics.

http://vimeo.com/12920201
Professor David McNally discusses the political ideology of Anarchism and the black bloc tactic.

Thank you for reading and please forward to your networks

UppityUpdate: TorStar editorial re the “brutal spectacle”

Women threatened while held in T.O. detention @ G20

I am so angry I am sick to my stomach. I’m about to cry because what I’ve discovered is too horrendous!

Amy Miller is an independent journalist aka a freelancer who was throttled and taken down then detained for 13 hours in Toronto on the weekend. She tells of harassment by the police — threats of gangbanging and rape — as well as of one woman who was strip-searched by a male officer and inappropriately touched, i.e. fingered. This is absofuckinglutely reprehensible!

Watch it here and then let’s determine how we, as the feminist movement, will respond to these atrocities in our own country.

Uppitydate: The Toronto Star has additional accounts of police harassment, abuse and brutality.

Uppidtydate 2: Another account, thanks to Joanne in the comments.