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Rape: The Credibility of the Accusers

Informed Comment - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 11:51pm

(Informed Comment) – When a psychology professor stepped forward to share her story of an alleged assault by the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, more than one commentator noted the academic credentials of Doctor Blasey. As a professor myself, I can appreciate the privilege of being taken more seriously than the average person.

When another woman spoke out about an alleged sexual assault by Roy Moore in 2017, though, the situation was different. Like Blasey, she had been a teenager in the 1980s when the alleged attack occurred. However, she was a “3x divorced, 3x bankrupt, Payday Loan lowlife (who was accusing) a public servant with an impeccable personal and professional record” according to one online comment of an article on a conservative website.
This contrast between these two women shows that credibility is a precious social commodity that we can take for granted if we are believed because of our race, social class, and other privileges.

During the surge of sexual misconduct allegations in 2017, the people denying the alleged victims’ credibility often stressed the motivations of money and attention. Now during the Kavanaugh controversy, critics are accusing Blasey of yet another motivation—political intrigue.

Certainly, the likelihood of determining what actually had happened to these women three decades ago is slim indeed. Even for more recent allegations, though, the prevalence of rape myth acceptance can impede an investigation and trial. Rape myths include: most rape accusations are false, the victim was partly (or entirely) to blame, and males cannot be raped. The alleged victim of Kobe Bryant, for example, lacked credibility because she was only a hotel employee and he was a celebrity. Unfortunately, one research study claims that people who were educated about rape myths still held on their beliefs.

As our society progresses with the #MeToo movement, how can we destroy the rape myth that most accusers are liars? First, we must recognize the underlying misogyny of the rape myth that undermines the credibility of the accuser. The males who are also victims of sexual assault are the collateral damage of the widespread violence against women. For decades, feminists have been claiming that sexual harassment and other misconduct were prevalent in this society—only to be dismissed as man haters or even worse, somebody without a sense of humor. A recent tweet of Donald Trump, Jr. compared Blasey’s allegation of a brutal attack to a child’s love note, which demonstrates that some people still consider sexual assault to be nothing but a joke.

The second action that we should take is to reconsider the alleged victims’ culpability. Situations do not cause rape; only rapists cause rape. I have never been raped. This is not a boast, since I am no smarter or more moral or more sensible than any rape victim. I am simply lucky that the men I have encountered were not rapists. In the Blasey allegation, the teenaged girl did nothing wrong. It is completely normal for a girl that age to go to a party. Millions of females go to parties and do not get raped because they did not encounter a rapist.

Lastly, we should recognize that most rapists are not slobbering monsters who hide behind dark bushes. Instead, they are often good-looking and personable men who get along well with most women. The letter from the 65 female supporters of Kavanaugh, then, is completely meaningless. He could have been kind to 65 million females and still be a perpetrator. The reaction of “he’s a good man—- he could not do that!” is understandable but not helpful in determining the truth about allegations.

Life would be simpler if men who mistreat women had signs on their foreheads about their true nature. Instead, we have to acknowledge that men like Senator Robert Packwood could be both a feminist advocate and a man who had harassed many women. He was no monster. His interactions with most women were probably positive and uplifting for them. However, many persons are complex creatures who can compartmentalize their behaviors and even hide a darker side.

It will be hard work, then, to strengthen the credibility of the accusers to ensure a fair hearing. We can begin by fighting misogyny, refusing to blame those who were attacked, and realizing that rapists do not appear as monsters. Any alleged victim deserves our respect instead of being called an opportunist or other calumnies. Any alleged victim deserves a decent amount of credibility.

Klement, K. R., Sagarin, B. J., & Skowronski, J. J. (2018). Accusers lie and other myths: Rape myth acceptance predicts judgments made about accusers and accused perpetrators in a rape case. Sex Roles, , 1-18.


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Democracy Now! As Blasey Ford Alleges Kavanaugh Assaulted Her, Will Senate Repeat Mistakes Made with Anita Hill?

Haley Says Russia ‘Actively Working’ to Subvert North Korea Sanctions

World News (NY Times) - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 11:43pm
The remarks by Ambassador Nikki R. Haley reflected frustration over North Korea’s failure to take serious denuclearization steps.

Russian military plane vanishes from radar over Syria

BBC News - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 11:39pm
An aircraft with 14 people on board has disappeared from radar screens, Russia's defence ministry says.

Paper review: Brexit 'darkest hour' alarm and savings rate 'rip-off'

BBC News - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 11:34pm
A range of stories are on Tuesday's front pages, including Brexit and low interest rates for savers.

South Korea’s Leader Greeted by Chanting Crowds in North Korea

World News (NY Times) - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 11:18pm
Fighting in the Korean War ended in 1953, but a peace treaty was never signed. Now North Korea wants a deal before it commits to denuclearizing.

Putin agrees with Erdogan to Spare Syria’s Idlib from Assault if Radical Fighters Withdraw

Informed Comment - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 11:10pm

By Maria PANINA | –

Sochi (Russia) (AFP) – Moscow said Monday there would be no assault on Syria’s Idlib as the leaders of Russia and Turkey agreed to create a demilitarised zone around the Syrian rebel-held province.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who are on opposite sides in the deadly seven-year conflict in Syria — met for over four hours in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi to decide the fate of Idlib, home to three million people.

AFP/File / Muhammad HAJ KADOUR. Fears have been raised of an imminent air and ground attack to retake the last major opposition bastion.

“We will prevent a humanitarian tragedy which could happen as a result of military action,” Erdogan said after the talks.

Putin said the two leaders agreed to create a 15-20 kilometre-wide demilitarised zone along the line of contact between rebels and regime troops by October 15.

This would entail a “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib including the Al-Nusra Front, he added.

Putin and Erdogan also agreed on the withdrawal of “heavy weaponry from this zone,” including tanks, multiple launch rocket systems, and rocket launchers belonging to all armed groups, the Russian leader added.

The demilitarised zone will be secured with the help of “mobile patrol groups of Turkish contingents and contingents of Russian military police,” Putin said.

By the end of the year, transportation routes between the key port of Latakia and Aleppo as well as Latakia and the major city of Hama must be restored, he added.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the agreement between Putin and Erdogan meant that no military action would be taken against Idlib, Russian news agencies reported.

Russia-backed forces of the Syrian regime have massed around Idlib province in recent weeks, sparking fears of an imminent air and ground attack to retake the last major opposition bastion.

The United Nations and non-governmental organisations have repeatedly warned that such an offensive would unleash a “bloodbath” and “humanitarian catastrophe” in Idlib.

Turkey has repeatedly called for a ceasefire to avert a possible attack.

Erdogan and Putin met previously on September 7 in Tehran for a three-way summit with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

At that summit the Russian and Turkish leaders openly disagreed over how to deal with the rebel stronghold, which borders Turkey.

– Mass exodus fears –

Turkey’s military has reportedly sent reinforcements to Idlib in recent weeks.

Tanks and other hardware, with a convoy of 50 military vehicles, were sent over the border Sunday, according to the Hurriyet daily.

Russia and Iran are key allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Turkey however backs opposition fighters seeking the ouster of the Syrian leader. It has said a large-scale offensive against the rebels could trigger a mass exodus towards its border.

Russian and Syrian air strikes, artillery fire and barrel bomb attacks have killed more than 30 civilians across the province in the past month, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The bombardment has slowed over the past week, however, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that the Syrian regime is not preparing a major offensive against Idlib, adding that Moscow will do everything to protect civilians.

AFP/File / OMAR HAJ KADOUR. Turkey has said a large-scale offensive against the rebels could trigger a mass exodus towards its border.

“What is being presented at the moment as the beginning of a Russian-backed offensive by Syrian forces is not a faithful representation of the facts,” Lavrov said.

“We are doing everything to ensure that the civilian population would not suffer,” he said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday said Turkey was ready to cooperate with anyone in the fight against terror groups in Syria.

But he criticised the Damascus regime for using the presence of jihadists to legitimise a possible operation in Idlib.

The Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, when the Assad regime launched a crackdown on pro-democracy protests. The crackdown evolved into a complex conflict involving jihadists and world powers.

It has killed an estimated 360,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.

Featured Photo: TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/AFP/File / Handout. Putin and Erdogan met in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

US imposes new tariffs on $200bn of Chinese goods

BBC News - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 11:09pm
The new taxes target $200bn worth of Chinese goods, marking the largest round of US tariffs so far.

Men’s Bodies and the Politics of Abortion

Informed Comment - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 11:01pm

(Informed Comment) – Regardless of one’s evaluation of his overall performance, Judge Brett Kavanaugh merits an A for his ability to sidestep or evade questions on any controversial issue. I get the impression that he spent hours practicing non-answer answers to a familiar battery of anticipated questions. Whether these evasions will continue to work in the face of new and pointed accusations remains to be seen. One moment, however, did break the usual pattern.

Unfortunately this question has received less attention than it merits. Here is how Julia Conley, a staff writer for CommonDreams, describes the exchange: “Kavanaugh refused to say whether he agreed with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s straightforward statement, made at her 1993 confirmation hearing, that a woman should be treated as “a fully adult human responsible for her own choices,” citing the need to observe “judicial independence” numerous times when Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) attempted to extract an answer. Seeing that the line of questioning was leading nowhere, Harris moved on to a simpler inquiry.

“Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?” Harris asked.

Kavanaugh appeared stumped, eventually conceding, “I’m not thinking of any right now, Senator.” “

Viewing the video I would agree that Kavanaugh did appear stumped, but I am tempted to say his was a pregnant pause in the proceedings. Men do not become pregnant, and in our society they are not asked to sacrifice their bodies. The very possibility is so far beyond the pale as to throw off even Kavanaugh’s well scripted performance. Inserting gender equality into the debate on reproductive rights might change that debate in fundamental ways.

I don’t believe human life begins at conception, but I have no iron-clad argument to convince an opponent. Nonetheless, if protection of innocent life is our motive, responsibility must be shared equally between men and women. In this society, denying women abortion imposes all the risks of sustaining innocent life on women.

The late Village Voice columnist Ellen Willis once advocated re-centering the abortion debate on equality of sacrifice. (See her book No More Nice Girls, “From Forced Pregnancy to Forced Surgery.) As far as I know that provocative piece did not spark much debate and comment. That is a shame.

Pregnant women must sacrifice their careers, comfort, health, and sometimes even lives to have a. baby. The stresses are only increasing. If my child, or any child, becomes gravely ill and needed my body, e.g., for bone marrow, liver, or kidney I might feel a moral obligation to surrender all or part of an organ, but government can’t compel me to accept the risks these procedures entail.

If there is an absolute obligation to sustain innocent lives, men need to accept dramatically increased risks and responsibilities. A detailed portrayal of the medical demands that might reasonably be made of men, especially as the frontiers of transplant and genetic medicine expand, could shake up the abortion debate. Some citizens might demand a draft for male kidneys, livers, and bone marrow. Organ donations upon death might be made a requirement for men rather than merely an option.

Other citizens within conventionally gendered families might still maintain the “natural” role of women as primarily responsible for the health of all life. Such an argument might be hard to sustain in a world where the possibility of motherhood and the process of having a baby are now so heavily medicalized. My suspicion, however, is that even some pro-life families would entertain the notion that if men will not sacrifice their health for sons or daughters, women should not be forced to bear such sacrifices alone.

Nonetheless, children are our future. Society must move beyond expanding “choice” for women to a more complete appreciation of the sacrifice involved in parenting. Many women face unrelenting physical, emotional, and economic distress. It is hard even to acknowledge let alone address any inner doubts about a cause to which one devotes so much of one’s life. It becomes all too easy to regard those who reject such roles as selfish or even evil. The sorry treatment of women as mothers does much to fuel the bitterness of the abortion debate.

Society must do more to expand the cultural and economic space for women in all modes of life—better family planning resources and sex education, parental leave policies for mothers and fathers, more free time for families and family emergencies, more opportunities for a voice in their children’s education, jobs that pay men and women equal and sustaining incomes. There is some reason to hope such an agenda might change abortion politics. Even some Catholic organizations are coming to the belief that economic justice for women and families would do more to reduce abortions than the harsh legal barriers.

The boundaries in the culture war are not fixed and impermeable. Progressives can expand opportunities for many families to live out their own values. Such a course may not convert all cultural conservatives to progressive causes and probably won’t sway Operation Rescue. Nonetheless, the foundation and the hope of democratic politics is that over time subtle transformations in moral and political vision will allow more of us to live together even as we continue to disagree on some core principles.


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

CBS News from Sep 6: “Kavanaugh refers to birth control as “abortion-inducing drugs”

Accusations of a ‘Nightmare’ Vacation Test China’s Relations With Sweden

World News (NY Times) - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 10:58pm
China has imposed travel warnings after it said three Chinese tourists were “brutally abused” by the Swedish police as they were ejected from a hostel in Stockholm.

Damning forensic evidence turned out not to exist in 33-year-long Texas murder case

The Raw Story - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 10:57pm

Blood-Spatter Expert in Joe Bryan Case Says “My Conclusions Were Wrong” A hearing to determine whether Joe Bryan should be granted a new trial came to a dramatic conclusion on Monday with a surprise, eleventh-hour admission from the expert witness whose testimony had proved critical in convicting th...

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Former criminal prosecutor calls it ‘dumb’ to force Kavanaugh accuser to testify without any investigation

The Raw Story - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 10:50pm

While many might relish in the success of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser appearing before Congress to tell her story, one former sex crimes prosecutor finds it idiotic that there’s no investigation. “I was a sex crimes prosecutor,” said Cynthia Oxney. “...

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Emmy Awards 2018: Thandie Newton and Claire Foy among British winners

BBC News - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 10:23pm
Thandie Newton, Charlie Brooker and Claire Foy are among the winners at the 70th annual Primetime Emmys.

Meet SpaceX’s First Moon Voyage Customer, Yusaku Maezawa

World News (NY Times) - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 10:17pm
Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese fashion entrepreneur, and several artists would follow a looping path around the moon aboard a new rocket. When the flight might occur is uncertain.

Seth Meyers mocks Fox News host Jeanine Pirro as someone who ‘looks like she uses demon rats all the time’

The Raw Story - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 10:14pm

Late night host Seth Meyers mocked Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro after she went off the rails over Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) withholding information that accused Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Pirro called Feinstein a “demon rat.” Meyers joked tha...

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Brexit report to consider workforce impact

BBC News - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 9:49pm
More than 400 businesses and industry bodies contributed to the Migration Advisory Committee report.

‘Delay doesn’t mean dishonesty’: CNN’s Cuomo shuts down critiques questioning Kavanaugh’s accuser for coming out now

The Raw Story - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 9:26pm

As news broke that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual misconduct by his high school peer — Republican were quick to cry dishonesty. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor in California, accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault while the two were in high school more than 30 years ...

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Elon Musk unveils first tourist for SpaceX 'Moon loop'

BBC News - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 9:19pm
The first private passenger to fly around the Moon with SpaceX will be a Japanese billionaire.

WATCH: Rachel Maddow shows never before aired footage of Anita Hill describing the ‘most difficult part’ of testifying

The Raw Story - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 9:16pm

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow dug up never-before-aired footage of Anita Hill reflecting upon her experience testifying about alleged sexual harassment at the confirmation hearings for Clarance Thomas. Maddow came across a transcript of the unaired footage, and shared it with her viewers to conceptual...

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'Shameful': US slashes number of refugees it will admit to 30,000

Al Jazeera - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 9:05pm
US to cap number of refugees allowed into country to a record low of 30,000 in 2019, down from 45,000 limit this year.

‘This case is taking us back 27 years’: Michael Avenatti calls Kavanaugh assault scandal Trump’s Anita Hill

The Raw Story - Mon, 17 Sep 2018 - 8:56pm

On Monday, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault scandal is taking America back 27-years. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor in California, accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in an article pub...

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