News Violence

Nebraska Lawsuit Charges Deliberate Indifference by Authorities in Sexual Assault of Immigrant Woman

Kari Ann Rinker

The ACLU of Nebraska filed a federal lawsuit this week against the Cass County Sheriff and Jail Administrator for reckless disregard of a female immigrant sexually assaulted while in detention.

The ACLU of Nebraska filed a federal lawsuit this week against the Cass County Sheriff and Jail Administrator.  If the accusations contained within the brief to Nebraska Federal District Court are correct, this case involves numerous shocking, down-right despicable problems with the federal immigration system, and confirms the validity of the fears immigrant women face when confronted with situations of domestic violence,. The case also exemplifies how incarcerated victims of sexual assault face daunting, often insurmountable barriers when trying to seek justice from their attackers.  

The brief to the Nebraska court tells the story of 27-year-old Claudia Leiva Deras, who came to this country from Honduras with her mother, who fled her country of origin to protect herself and Claudia from domestic violence.  Claudia was living as an undocumented resident in Iowa when in 2009, a domestic violence call resulted in her being detained by immigration authorities. According to the brief, a Nebraska contract with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE)[RESULTED IN CLAUDIA BEING MOVED BY AUTHORITIES FROM Iowa to A DETENTION facility in Cass County, NE. 

It was during her stay in the Cass County Jail that a fellow detainee, who was female, sexually assaulted Claudia by violently digitally penetrating her and who also physically assaulted and threatened her.  After the assault, Claudia remained silent because there were no Spanish speaking guards at the ICE-contracted facility. After four months, Claudia did finally did report the assault to a jail employee after a Spanish speaking detainee convinced Claudia to report the crime.  Claudia was denied medical care and was told, “Immigration doesn’t pay for that.”  She was instead offered a Tylenol.  Claudia’s immigration attorney made repeated requests for a medical examination and was repeatedly denied.  The sexual assault she had suffered was violent, caused bleeding and continued pain.   

The brief goes on to explain how Claudia did eventually receive medical care after she was moved back to a detention facility in Iowa.  Claudia’s immigration application was granted under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which provided Claudia with asylum in the U.S. due to her and her mother’s flight from domestic abuse in Honduras.  Claudia is now going through the process of becoming a full citizen.  It simply took a competent attention from immigration authorities, which should have been present throughout her detention. 

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The Nebraska ACLU brief states, “Defendants have acted with deliberate indifference to the health, safety, and serious mental health needs of Plaintiff and have subjected her to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of her rights.”  The ACLU is suing on behalf of Ms. Deras for compensatory and punitive damages for violating her constitutional and civil rights and for her costs, expenses and attorney fees associated with her ordeal.  The ACLU brief states that Claudia “continues to experience serious trauma and mental health problems relating back to the sexual assault she experienced and continues to have a need for one-on-one counseling and mental health care.” 

In her willingness to work with ACLU in the filing of this lawsuit, Claudia is taking a stand for immigrant women, survivors of sexual assault and bringing attention to the difficult plight of immigrant women facing situations of domestic violence within our borders.   


News Violence

Justice Department Addresses Systemic Gender Bias in Police Responses to Assault Complaints

Kanya D’Almeida

The Department of Justice on December 15 took steps toward preventing gender bias in police responses to sexual assault and domestic violence with a 26-page guidance document.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on December 15 took steps toward preventing gender bias in police responses to sexual assault and domestic violence with a 26-page guidance document.

Developed in collaboration with advocates for survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse, the guidelines call on law enforcement officers to recognize and address their assumptions or stereotypes about domestic violence, treat victims with respect and refer them to appropriate services, properly identify the assailant, and thoroughly investigate all reports of sexual abuse.

In an interview with Rewire, Sandra Park, a senior staff attorney in the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project, said that the ACLU and its partner organizations first raised these issues with the DOJ three years ago, partly due to the Obama administration’s openness to discussing policing in the context of sexual abuse and domestic violence, and partly because of then-ongoing advocacy efforts around one survivor in particular, a Colorado woman named Jessica Gonzales.

On June 22, 1999, Gonzales contacted the Castle Rock Police Department to report that her estranged husband, Simon, had kidnapped her three daughters, ages 7, 9, and 10, from her front yard, violating a domestic violence order of protection.

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Gonzales made repeated entreaties for ten hours, both over the phone and in person, to law enforcement authorities to search for her missing children. Each time they informed her there was nothing they could do, advising her to “call back later” if the kids still hadn’t returned home.

At dawn the following morning, Simon Gonzales drove with his three daughters in tow to the police station and opened fire. A gun battle ensued after which the police recovered from the vehicle his lifeless body as well as those of his children.

Whether the girls were murdered by their father or died in the hailstorm of bullets fired during the shootout is still unclear; the Castle Rock police never conducted a full investigation into the incident, and for many years the federal government, all the way up to the Supreme Court, denied that Jessica had a constitutional right to police enforcement of the restraining order.

That changed on August 17, 2011, when, in a landmark decision, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that the United States was responsible for violating the human rights of Jessica (who was named in the petition as Jessica Lenahan) and her daughters, and recommended the adoption of institutional and policy reforms aimed at tackle the underlying issues leading to the 1999 tragedy.

Advocates like Park say the DOJ’s recent guidance document represents an important step toward implementing the commission’s recommendations.

“Domestic violence-related calls constitute the single largest category of calls received by police departments, so how police officers respond to domestic violence and sexual assault has a huge impact on the lives of women, families, and communities across the United States,” Park said in a statement released Tuesday. “Police practices can either help end the cycle of violence or they can perpetuate it.”

The ACLU in October conducted a comprehensive survey, involving some 900 attorneys, advocates, and organizations, on police responses to domestic and sexual abuse. A majority of respondents—88 percent—reported that police tended not to take survivors at their word, or blamed them for the violence. Several respondents described situations in which police inaction, or dismissal of a report, actually increased a batterer’s likelihood of retaliation.

Furthermore, survivors tend to avoid interactions with law enforcement due to what the ACLU terms “collateral consequences,” including subsequent involvement with child protective services, the possibility of criminal charges, and fear that interaction with the criminal justice system will “trigger immigration or deportation proceedings.”

Respondents to the ACLU survey also said survivors who were financially dependent on the abuser were concerned about the loss of income or child support if the partner was arrested. Some 77 percent of respondents said contact with the police “sometimes” or “often” led to either the victim or abuser losing housing, employment, or welfare benefits.

“The numbers of those affected by domestic and sexual violence are too high, and we know that a significant percentage of those people will right now say that they will never call the police again if they experience domestic and sexual violence because of past bad experiences,” Park explained.

“The key is to improve that first interaction between a survivor and an officer, [because] when an officer responds appropriately to a survivor it really shapes to what extent a survivor has trust in the criminal justice system to protect them,” Park continued.

She pointed to the example of Daniel Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City police officer who was recently found guilty on 18 of 36 charges involving the rape or sexual assaults of 12 Black women and one 17-year-old.

“In this case, we know that none of the victims reached out to the police except one—largely because they did not think the police department would trust their allegations,” Park said. “In the end it was only because the last survivor felt that her credibility was not undermined by other factors and came forward” that an investigation began, eventually leading to Holtzclaw’s dismissal from the police force and subsequent guilty verdict, she added.

The seventh of the eight principles laid out in the new DOJ guidance specifically deals with officers who commit sexual assault or domestic violence, and clearly lays out ways in which law enforcement agencies should hold their personnel accountable for such violations.

Gender bias in law enforcement responses to domestic abuse and sexual assault has a long history. In 1991, three years before the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) came into existence, then-Sen. Joe Biden stated that after decades of state law reform, “it [is] still easier to convict a car thief than a rapist [and] authorities [are] more likely to arrest a man for parking tickets than for beating his wife.”

Biden was referring to prevailing social and institutionalized notions that intimate partner violence and domestic abuse was a “private matter,” not to be hauled into the public realm or held up to scrutiny, and the even more troubling tendency among law enforcement agencies to distrust survivors.

An average of 20 people suffer physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner every single minute—totaling ten million people annually—according to a national survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year. Each year, two million women are raped, while seven million men and women are victims of stalking.

Approximately one in five women, compared to one in 71 men, have experienced rape, while one in four women have suffered “severe physical abuse” at the hands of an intimate partner, compared to one in seven men. Some 16.2 percent of all women have experienced stalking, according to the CDC, while 5.2 percent of men have experienced the same.

The numbers clearly show that intimate partner violence and domestic and sexual abuse disproportionately impact women, making the DOJ’s guidance a welcome first step toward tackling the epidemic, advocates say.

Roundup: One Day You’re In, and the Next Day, You’re Out

Beth Saunders

Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) is likely out of a job, and the pill celebrated 50 years on Mother's Day.

Who’s In

President Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. If she is confirmed, the nation’s highest court will have three female justices for the first time in history.  Where she stands on the issues remains to be seen – which is exactly why she may have been nominated in the first place. According to CNN Politics:

Why she may be chosen: Her lack of a substantive paper trail on hot-button issues may blunt initial conservative criticism over where she stands on these topics. She has a reputation as a political pragmatist and consensus-builder who enjoys the support of liberal and conservative academics. That perceived ability to reach across the aisle could help Kagan on a divided high court. Her relative youth (she would be the youngest member of the court) could give Obama a longer judicial legacy. She also would provide greater gender diversity to the bench.

Who’s Out

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Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) will not be on the ballot come November after losing in the Republican caucus for not being conservative enough. Although his primary fault appears to be voting for the bank bailout, some on the far-right also believe he wasn’t fully committed on “life” issues –  despite supporting the preferred National Right to Life position 53 out of 55 scored votes. His alleged offenses include:

  • Authored health care legislation that includes abortion coverage.
  • September 10, 2009 Voted for Cass Sunstein to be a Regulatory czar. Sunstein says “abortion should not be seen as murder of the fetus but instead as a refusal to continue to permit one’s body to be used to provide assistance to it.”
  • September 13, 2000 voted against urging China to end its forced abortion policy.
  • February 2, 2000 voted to provide special penalties in bankruptcy against pro-life protesters.
  • February 18, 1993 Voted for taxpayer funded research using tissue from fetuses from elective abortions.
  • February 11, 1998 Voted against a ban on human cloning
  • July 18, 2006 Voted to allow taxpayer funding for stem cell research on human embryos.
  • February 10, 1998 Voted for David Satcher for Surgeon General. Satcher supported partial birth abortion.

Mini-Roundup: In case you hadn’t heard, the birth control pill turned 50! Everyone and their mother are talking about it. Plus, Raquel Welch claims our moral standards have plummeted.


May 10, 2010

Saving women’s lives without abortion – National Post

Five bills Gov. Crist should veto – Tampabay.com

Abortion debate could continue, even with Crist’s decision – Florida Times-Union

Sen. Bennett is No ‘Staunch’ Conservative – Human Events

Popular Pill Still Causing Controversy – KFBB NewsChannel 5

Opposing view on women’s choice: New law empowers women – USA Today

Bill Poehler: Abortions are being done on your dime – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Abortion issue is really all about choice – Guelph Mercury

Sidney Thomas’ Western roots would add regional diversity to the court – CNN

Does the Pill Cut Women’s Sex Drive? New Study Sees Link – TIME

Control issues – Naperville Sun

”Justice Kagan”? And Happy Birthday, Birth Control Pill! – 89.3 KPCC (blog)

Pill’s golden anniversary hailed as testament to women’s rights – Oregon Daily Emerald

HIV/Aids activist flees China for US – The Guardian

China mulls routine HIV test for pregnant women – Xinhua

Cultural Attitudes and Rumors Are Lasting Obstacles to Safe Sex – New York Times

Anti-AIDS project benefits Bharatpur sex workers – Times of India

Dr. Drew Commends Bristol Palin and Sarah Palin’s Parenting – Babble Magazine (blog)

Uganda film festival provokes maternal health debate – The Guardian (blog)

Abortion law is criticized, defended off base – Tulsa World

Giving birth should be safer – Dailyrecord.com

Woman Fired For Breastfeeding Files With EEOC – North Country Gazette

Mom clings to hope despite losing limbs after childbirth – Houston Chronicle

Elena Kagan: Obama’s safe yet daring Supreme Court pick – San Francisco Chronicle (blog)

May 9, 2010

Making informed choices on abortion – The Star-Ledger – NJ.com (blog)

Protesters want Crist to veto abortion bill – Tampa Tribune

Red Family, Blue Family – New York Times

A Spreading Peril for Women’s Privacy and Freedom – New York Times

Ultrasound mandates in abortions cross a line – USA Today

Bill Poehler: Abortions are being done on your dime – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Canadian women’s groups feel chill over abortion policies – AFP

Confused about federal take on women’s health – Guelph Mercury

Pro-choice advocates celebrate mother’s day with a protest rally – Examiner.com

As the pill turns 50, family planning too costly for many – Kansas City Star

Tories play politics with women’s lives – Calgary Sun

Maryland Film Festival: ’12th & Delaware’ highlights gulf in abortion standoff – Baltimore Sun (blog)

Other views: Taxpayer funds shouldn’t pay for abortions (May 9) – Florida Today

Our views: Veto this bill (May 9) – Florida Today

ACLU says Louisville’s abortion clinic one of the worst in the country – WHAS 11.com (subscription)

‘The Pill’ packed great promise, but what’s really changed in 50 years? – Vancouver Sun

Birth Control On Market For 50 Years – cbs4qc.com

Realizing the Impact of Birth Control on its Fiftieth Anniversary – GlobalShift

It’s sex o’clock in America – CNN

Clinical trials to begin for male contraceptive gel – 89.3 KPCC

Faith Salie: Happy Birthday to the Pill – CBS News

Birth Control Pill turns 50 – WKOW-TV.com

Ironically The Birth Control Pill Turns 50 On Mother’s Day – WFMY News 2

Contraceptive Pill marks 50th anniversary — but fight is not over yet – Times Online

Happy Birthday, the Pill – Truthdig

A Brief History of Birth Control – Connecticut Business News Journal

Birth Control Pill Turns 50 – WCTV

Being an older mom: ‘It feels like what was supposed to happen’ – Northwest Herald

Guest commentary: No woman should die giving life – The Ames Tribune

The Pill turns 50 – Daily News & Analysis

The morning after – Boston Globe

The pill — a modern philosopher’s stone – Los Angeles Times

Bitter pill to swallow – Winnipeg Free Press

Mothers reflect on birth-control pill on its 50th anniversary – Denver Post

Birth control pill marks 50 years – NewsOK.com

FDA Approves First 4-Phasic Oral Contraceptive – Medscape

Contraceptives have come a long way but the pill remains popular – Tampa Tribune

Center to serve gay youth planned for Baltimore – Baltimore Sun

These camps will also give kids a summer to remember – Detroit Free Press

HIV center opens in TF – Twin Falls Times-News

Lawyers try to join biting case – Detroit Free Press

Honoring mothers worldwide – Politico

‘ME NOW, Baby Later,’ inspires Texas teens to delay parenthood – KVUE

More women waiting later to have children – The Tennessean

C-section rates tick upward as doctors fear being sued – Poughkeepsie Journal

What you need to know about Pap tests – Bismarck Tribune

We want the best for all mothers, children – The Tennessean

Mothers are good to have … and we often take them for granted – Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Wisdom born in teen moms’ lives – Kansas City Star

May 8, 2010

Rhonda Copelon, Lawyer in Groundbreaking Rights Cases, Dies at 65 – New York Times

Abortion issue tough for some Dem gov candidates – Centre Daily Times

Women’s health choices include abortion – Edmonton Journal

Demographics of Abortion: Race, Poverty and Choice – Huffington Post (blog)

Workshop: Abortions, breast cancer linked? – Hilton Head Island Packet

Abortion CHILL – Winnipeg Free Press

Abortion bill: Rubio says sign, Meek says veto-Latest Kendrick Meek Headlines – New York News Today

Abortion law differs from 1999 version – Arizona Republic

‘The Pill’ packed great promise, but what’s really changed in 50 years? – Vancouver Sun

The pill is 50, but India still undecided – Times of India

Family planning workshop for pharmacists to be organized – Yemen News Agency

50 years of ‘the pill’ — and here’s yet another one – Los Angeles Times (blog)

Masters of the Uterus – Mother Jones

Soaring tide of teenage pregnancies – Hampshire Chronicle

Bedroom to Boardroom: How the Pill Changed Lives – CBS News

1.4million on new pill – and most are paying for it – Sydney Morning Herald

The pill celebrates 50 years of sexual freedom – The Money Times

The pill, and different contraception methods – Independent

The Birth Control Pill Amazingly Turns 50 On Mother’s Day – SmartAboutHealth

Birth control pill could put women off macho men – Canada.com

Women Have Come a Long Way, Baby – Tonic

50 years on, birth-control pill’s formulation and marketing have evolved – Winnipeg Free Press

The big power of a tiny pill – Vancouver Sun

Canada hit for position on family planning – Ottawa Citizen

NHS cuts funds for sex health campaigns – Scotsman

S.Africa, changing track on AIDS, faces challenges – The Associated Press

HIV-positive man faces sex-assault charges – Ottawa Citizen

World Cup Welcome: A Billion Condoms and 40000 Sex Workers – CBS News

Celebrate: Save a Mother – New York Times

Happy Mother’s Day: You’re fired! – Danbury News Times

May 7, 2010

Why Taxing Abortion Is Bad Policy, Kansas Pro-Life Bill Well-Intended But Wrong – LifeNews.com

University of Wisconsin Medical Center Still Plans to Offer Late Abortions – Ms. Magazine

Tory G8 abortion stance unjust: journal – CBC.ca

Bredesen fails to sign abortion bill – Weakley County Press

The Lancet slams Canada’s G8 abortion stand – CTV.ca

The pill: Making motherhood better for 50 years – Washington Post

Tories’ abortion stand slammed as ‘hypocritical and unjust’ – Toronto Star

Tories called out on Congo rapes – Toronto Star

America’s favorite birth control method turns 50 – The Associated Press

Abortion veto choice is defining, or redefining, moment for Charlie Crist – Daily Caller

G8 Battle Breaks Out Over International Abortion Funding – Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute

Abortion documentary stirs controversy – Albany Times Union

What Every Girl Should Know – New York Times

Fifty years of the Pill – Irish Times

50 years of a sometimes bitter pill – BBC News

Poll: Most Say The Pill Improved Women’s Lives – CBS News

Saying goodbye to your menstrual cycle – WDTN

As the Pill turns 50, the little agent of modernity still arouses trouble – Globe and Mail

‘The pill’ turns 50: Has it lived up to the hype? – Atlanta Journal Constitution

Lawmakers Raise Concerns about Pentagon Approval of Plan B Pill for US Bases – Lifesite

The Pill: 50 Years Later – FOXNews

Five best and worst places to be a mom – CNN (blog)

Birth Control Pill Turns 50: 7 Ways It Changed Lives – U.S. News & World Report

The pill: Making motherhood better for 50 years – Washington Post

Where’s the male birth control pill? – CNN

Wisconsin Provides Additional Funding For HIV And AIDS Health Care – Gov Monitor

Midwives’ services in high demand – Montreal Gazette

More women giving birth after 40 – Baltimore Sun

As the pill turns 50, 200 million more women still need it – SOS Children

Survey: Teens uninformed about sex – Journal Times