Roundup: Huge Increase in Number of Reported Sexual Assaults, Dallas County Reconsiders Ban on Condom Distribution

Emily Douglas

Caroline Kennedy supports Roe; incidence of rape and sexual assault much higher than previously reported; Dallas County health workers still not allowed to distribute condoms; Katha Pollitt on Rick Warren.

Caroline Kennedy Opposes Restrictions on Abortion Rights, Supports Same-Sex Marriage
In campaigning for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate seat, Caroline Kennedy has not yet made her platform or political philosophy known.  But the New York Times has obtained answers to 15 preliminary questions probing her views on same-sex marriage, reproductive rights, workplace union organizing, and immigration, among other subjects.  On marriage: “Caroline supports full equality and marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.”  On abortion:

…Ms. Kennedy appears to oppose restrictions on abortion rights, including laws that would require young women to notify a parent before obtaining an abortion. But asked if she would support any state or federal restrictions on late-term abortions, Ms. Kennedy did not directly address issues like so-called partial birth abortion, instead simply offering an endorsement of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault Much Higher than Previously Reported
Via Jill Filipovic at Feministe: The Department of Justice has begun gathering statistics on "private" crimes using a real person rather than a computerized system.  Writes Jill, "The new statistics, which were gathered by real people instead of a computerized voice, show a 42 percent increase in reported domestic violence and a 25 percent increase in rape and sexual assault."

Human Rights Watch has more analysis:

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The National Crime Victimization Survey, based on projections from a national sample survey, says that at least 248,300 individuals were raped or sexually assaulted in 2007, up from 190,600 in 2005, the last year the survey was conducted. The study surveyed 73,600 individuals in 41,500 households. Among all violent crimes, domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault showed the largest increases. Except for simple assault, which increased by 3 percent, the incidence of every other crime surveyed decreased.

And HRW also offers policy recommendations:

 

  •   The Obama administration should appoint a special adviser on violence against women in the US;
  •   Congress should restore full funding to the Office on Violence Against Women;
  •   The Department of Justice, through the National Institute of Justice, should authorize comprehensive studies that more accurately track sexual and domestic violence in the US, especially among individuals who are least likely to be surveyed by the National Crime Victimization Survey;
  •   Congress should increase funding for sexual and domestic violence prevention, intervention, and treatment programs;
  •   Congress should amend the federal Debbie Smith Act, a grant program designed to eliminate the rape kit backlog, but that states can and have used for other kinds of DNA backlogs;
  •   The US should ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which obligates states to prevent, protect against, and punish violence against women.


Dallas County Health Workers Still Not Allowed to Distribute Condoms

A Dallas Commissioners Court decision prohibits condom distribution by health workers, even as the number of those infected in Dallas County has been steadily increasing, reports the Dallas Morning News:

Before 1995, county health workers routinely ventured into local communities to hand out condoms and needle sterilization kits to those with the greatest risk of infection. But that year, a narrow majority of commissioners voted to end the practice, saying it encouraged illegal and immoral behavior.

"Any barrier to receiving condoms needs to be eliminated," Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms, a Dallas nonprofit, told the Morning News. "It’s better to go in the communities that are high risk because they may not come to you."

Katha Pollitt on Rick Warren: "A Bridge Too Far"

In the Los Angeles Times, Katha Pollitt invites readers to try a thought experiment:

To understand how angry and disappointed many Democrats are that Barack Obama has invited evangelical preacher Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inaugural, imagine if a President-elect John McCain had offered this unique honor to the Rev. Al Sharpton — or the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. I know, it’s hard to picture: John McCain would never do that in a million years. Republicans respect their base even when, as in McCain’s case, it doesn’t really return the favor.

Pollitt adds, "Only Democrats, it seems, reward their most loyal supporters — feminists, gays, liberals, opponents of the war, members of the reality-based community — by elbowing them aside to embrace their opponents instead." 

Pollitt discusses Warren’s beliefs on abortion and gay marriage, but also notes the Saddleback Church approach to heterosexual marriage:

At his Saddleback Church, wifely submission is official doctrine: The church website tells women to defer to their husband’s "leadership" even when he’s wrong on important issues, such as finances. Never mind if she’s an accountant and he flunked long division, or if she wants to beef up the kids’ college fund and he wants to buy shares in the Brooklyn Bridge. The godly answer is supposed to be "yes, dear." Is elevating this male chauvinist how President-elect Obama thanks women, who gave him more than half his votes?

Roundups Politics

Trump Taps Extremists, Anti-Choice Advocates in Effort to Woo Evangelicals

Ally Boguhn

Representatives from radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue praised Trump’s commitment to its shared values during the event. “I’m very impressed that Mr. Trump would sit with conservative leaders for multiple questions, and then give direct answers,” said the organization's president, Troy Newman, who was in attendance at a question-and-answer event on Tuesday.

Making a play to win over the evangelical community, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump met with more than 1,000 faith and anti-choice leaders on Tuesday for a question-and-answer event in New York City and launched an “evangelical advisory board” to weigh in on how he should approach key issues for the voting bloc.

The meeting was meant to be “a guided discussion between Trump and diverse conservative Christian leaders to better understand him as a person, his position on important issues and his vision for America’s future,” according to a press release from the event’s organizers. As Rewire previously reported, numerous anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ leaders—many of them extremists—were slated to attend.

Though the event was closed to the media, Trump reportedly promised to lift a ban on tax-exempt organizations from politicking and discussed his commitment to defending religious liberties. Trump’s pitch to conservatives also included a resolution that upon his election, “the first thing we will do is support Supreme Court justices who are talented men and women, and pro-life,” according to a press release from United in Purpose, which helped organize the event.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, told the New York Times that the business mogul also reiterated promises to defund Planned Parenthood and to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a 20-week abortion ban based on the medically unsupported claim that a fetus feels pain at that point in a pregnancy.

In a post to its website, representatives from radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue praised Trump’s commitment to their shared values during the event. “I’m very impressed that Mr. Trump would sit with conservative leaders for multiple questions, and then give direct answers,” said the group’s president, Troy Newman, who was in attendance. “I don’t believe anything like this has ever happened.” The post went on to note that Trump had also said he would appoint anti-choice justices to federal courts, and repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Just after the event, Trump’s campaign announced the formation of an evangelical advisory board. The group was “convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America,” according to a press release from the campaign. Though members of the board, which will lead Trump’s “much larger Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee to be announced later this month,” were not asked to endorse Trump, the campaign went on to note that “the formation of the board represents Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of those diverse issues important to Evangelicals and other Christians, and his desire to have access to the wise counsel of such leaders as needed.”

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Much like the group that met with Trump on Tuesday, the presumptive Republican nominee’s advisory board roster reads like a who’s-who of conservatives with radical opposition to abortion and LGBTQ equality. Here are some of the group’s most notable members:

Michele Bachmann

Though former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann once claimed that “women don’t need anyone to tell them what to do on health care” while arguing against the ACA during a 2012 appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, her views on the government’s role in restricting reproductive health and rights don’t square away with that position.

During a December 2011 “tele-town hall” event hosted by anti-choice organization Personhood USA, Bachmann reportedly falsely referred to emergency contraception as “abortion pills” and joined other Republican then-presidential candidates to advocate for making abortion illegal, even in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. During the event, Bachmann touted her support of the anti-choice group’s “personhood pledge,” which required presidential candidates to agree that:

I stand with President Ronald Reagan in supporting “the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death,” and with the Republican Party platform in affirming that I “support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.

Such a policy, if enacted by lawmakers, could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception. A source from Personhood USA told the Huffington Post that Bachmann “signed the pledge and returned it within twenty minutes, which was an extraordinarily short amount of time.”

Bachmann has also claimed that God told her to introduce a measure to block marriage equality in her home state, that being an LGBTQ person is “ part of Satan,” and that same-sex marriage is a “radical experiment that will have “profound consequences.”

Mark Burns

Televangelist Mark Burns has been an ardent supporter of Trump, even appearing on behalf of the presidential candidate at February’s Faith and Family Forum, hosted by the conservative Palmetto Family Council, to deliver an anti-abortion speech.

In March, Burns also claimed that he supported Donald Trump because Democrats like Hillary Clinton supported Black “genocide” (a frequently invoked conservative myth) during an appearance on the fringe-conspiracy program, the Alex Jones show. “That’s really one of my major platforms behind Donald Trump,” said Burns, according to the Daily Beast. “He loves babies. Donald Trump is a pro-baby candidate, and it saddens me how we as African Americans are rallying behind … a party that is okay with the genocide of Black people through abortion.”

Burns’ support of Trump extended to the candidate’s suggestion that if abortion was made illegal, those who have abortions should be punished—an issue on which Trump has repeatedly shifted stances. “If the state made it illegal and said the premature death of an unborn child constituted murder, anyone connected to that crime should be held liable,” Burns told the Wall Street Journal in April. “If you break the law there should be punishment.”

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland founded Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM), which, according to its mission statement, exists to “teach Christians worldwide who they are in Christ Jesus and how to live a victorious life in their covenant rights and privileges.” Outlining their opposition to abortion in a post this month on the organization’s website, the couple wrote that abortion is wrong even in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. “As the author of life, God considers an unborn child to be an eternal being from the moment of its conception,” explained the post. “To deliberately destroy that life before birth would be as much premeditated murder as taking the life of any other innocent person.”

The article went on to say that though it may “seem more difficult in cases such as those involving rape or incest” not to choose abortion, “God has a plan for the unborn child,” falsely claiming that the threat of life endangerment has “been almost completely alleviated through modern medicine.”

The ministries’ website also features Pregnancy Options Centre, a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) in Vancouver, Canada, that receives “financial and spiritual support” from KCM and “its Partners.” The vast majority of CPCs  regularly lie to women in order to persuade them not to have an abortion.

Kenneth Copeland, in a June 2013 sermon, tied pedophilia to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, going on to falsely claim that the ruling did not actually legalize abortion and that the decision was “the seed to murder our seed.” Copeland blamed legal abortion for the country’s economic woes, reasoning that there are “several million taxpayers that are not alive.”

Copeland, a televangelist, originally supported former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) in the 2016 Republican primary, claiming that the candidate had been “called and appointed” by God to be the next president. His ministry has previously faced scrutiny about its tax-exempt status under an investigation led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) into six ministries “whose television preaching bankrolled leaders’ lavish lifestyles.” This investigation concluded in 2011, according to the New York Times.

James Dobson

James Dobson, founder and chairman emeritus of Focus on the Family (FoF), previously supported Cruz in the Republican primary, releasing an ad for the campaign in February praising Cruz for defending “the sanctity of human life and traditional marriage.” As Rewire previously reported, both Dobson and his organization hold numerous extreme views:

Dobson’s FoF has spent millions promoting its anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ extremism, even dropping an estimated $2.5 million in 2010 to fund an anti-choice Super Bowl ad featuring conservative football player Tim Tebow. Dobson also founded the … Family Research Council, now headed by Tony Perkins.

Dobson’s own personal rhetoric is just as extreme as the causes his organization pushes. As extensively documented by Right Wing Watch,

Dobson has:

Robert Jeffress

A Fox News contributor and senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Jeffress once suggested that the 9/11 attacks took place because of legal abortion. “All you have to do is look in history to see what God does with a nation that sanctions the killing of its own children,” said Jeffress at Liberty University’s March 2015 convocation, according to Right Wing Watch. “God will not allow sin to go unpunished and he certainly won’t allow the sacrifice of children to go unpunished.”

Jeffress spoke about the importance of electing Trump during a campaign rally in February, citing Democrats’ positions on abortion rights and Trump’s belief “in protecting the unborn.” He went on to claim that if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Hillary Clinton were elected, “there is no doubt you’re going to have the most pro-abortion president in history.”

After Trump claimed women who have abortions should be punished should it become illegal, Jeffres rushed to defend the Republican candidate from bipartisan criticism, tweeting: “Conservatives’ outrage over @realDonaldTrump abortion comments hypocritical. Maybe they don’t really believe abortion is murder.”

As documented by Media Matters, Jeffress has frequently spoken out against those of other religions and denominations, claiming that Islam is “evil” and Catholicism is “what Satan does with counterfeit religion.” The pastor has also demonstrated extreme opposition to LGBTQ equality, even claiming that same-sex marriage is a sign of the apocalypse.

Richard Land

Richard Land, now president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, was named one of Time Magazine‘s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” in 2005 for his close ties with the Republican party. While George W. Bush was president, Land participated in the administration’s “weekly teleconference with other Christian conservatives, to plot strategy on such issues as gay marriage and abortion.” Bush also appointed Land to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2002.

According to a 2002 article from the Associated Press, during his early academic career in Texas, “Land earned a reputation as a leader among abortion opponents and in 1987 became an administrative assistant to then-Texas Gov. Bill Clements, who fought for laws to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion” in the state.

Land had previously expressed “dismay” that some evangelicals were supporting Trump, claiming in October that he “take[s] that [support] as a failure on our part to adequately disciple our people.”

News Violence

Texas Lawmaker Questions Number of ‘Pure, Sober’ Campus Sexual Assaults

Teddy Wilson

A recent report charges that campus sexual assaults involving alcohol or drugs are underreported due in part to "fear of disciplinary consequences."

Texas Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton) said Tuesday during a house committee hearing about sexual assault in higher education that she wanted to know how often a “pure, sober sexual assault” occurred on college campuses.

The Texas House Higher Education Committee held the hearing on policies and initiatives to address the prevention and elimination of sexual assault at the state’s colleges and universities.

“I was listening for mention of drug or alcohol abuse and, you know, I think those two conversations are so intertwined,” Crownover said during the hearing. “I would be curious to see how many times a pure, sober sexual assault happened. And I think that’s something we need to talk about. The two are so intertwined, I don’t see talking about one without talking about the other.” 

“I come from a public health attitude, and everything you hear in public health has to do with drug abuse,” Crownover told the Dallas Morning News after the hearing. “You wonder, if nobody drank, what would happen to rape, car wrecks, all sorts of things.”

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The involvement of alcohol and drugs in campus sexual assaults was among the topics discussed during the committee hearing. According to a recent survey, 18.5 percent of the female undergraduates surveyed at the University of Texas at Austin who had experienced sexual assault since entering college reported that they were “incapacitated” at the time.

“blueprint” for campus police responding to sexual assault, published last month by the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, noted that “the most common sexual assault at [institutions of higher education] are non-stranger cases that involve drug and alcohol use. Research shows that drinking alcohol increases the risk of assault, although alcohol consumption never causes or justifies sexual assault.”

The blueprint report charges that campus sexual assaults involving alcohol or drugs are underreported, due in part to “fear of disciplinary consequences.”

Around 9.2 percent of sexual assaults across the state of Texas are reported to police, according to the report.

Andrea Pino, co-founder and director of policy and support at End Rape on Campus, told Rewire that Crownover’s statements reinforce stigma about sexual assault. 

“These comments illustrate a damaging trend in officials knowing too little about the reality of sexual assault,” said Pino, whose colleague, Annie Clark, co-founder and executive director of End Rape on Campus, testified at the committee hearing. “Too many cases do involve alcohol, and incapacitation does not make an assault less legitimate, as some officials choose to believe.”

Crownover issued a statement to the Dallas Morning News after the hearing saying that her comments had been “taken out of context.” 

“Let me be clear, whether or not the victim of a sexual assault was intoxicated does not mitigate, condone, or excuse the actions of the other party,” Crownover said. “However, I do not think we can properly address the issue of sexual assault on college campuses without also discussing the role drugs and alcohol play in this important issue.”

The Texas legislature convenes once every two years, and during the interim years, committees hold hearings on a variety of subjects to prepare for the next legislative session. Leaders of both the house and state senate direct the committees on what topics and issues to study.

House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) issued a directive in November to the committee on higher education to research and make recommendations about how to stop sexual assault on campuses across the state. 

More than one in four women undergraduate college students were sexually assaulted through physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation during their time on campus, according to a survey by the Association of American Universities (AAU).

Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin were among the 27 universities that participated in the survey.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has investigated dozens of universities across the country for Title IX violations related to sexual assaults on campus. Among the universities investigated was Crownover’s alma mater, Southern Methodist University, which was found to have violated Title IX.