On this episode of Reality Cast, author Jen Doll will walk us through her adventures in the wedding-industrial complex, just in time for wedding season. I also have a segment on the backlog of untested rape kits and another one on the increasing weirdness of conservative fear-mongering.
Speaking of wedding season, BuzzFeed’s got a cute video called “Things You Do at a Wedding That’d Be Creepy Anywhere Else.” Funny stuff.
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A little harmless fun with our usually unexamined traditions.
Research shows that most rapes are committed by serial rapists, men who rape one woman after another, usually without much fear of ever meeting justice for it. There are a lot of reasons for this. For one thing, reporting rates are low. And even if you report, the cops often can’t or won’t put together a case. It’s really hard to prosecute a lot of rapes, in part because juries often blame the victim. No wonder rape reporting rates are so low! And then there’s another problem: Even if the victim does everything she’s told to do, even if she goes to the hospital and undergoes an invasive rape kit and cooperates with law enforcement in getting DNA and other physical evidence, that rape kit may just sit on a shelf never getting tested. The damage that does is serious. USA Today interviewed one victim, Natasha Alexancho, about what happened after she got a rape kit done after a stranger attacked her at gunpoint as she was trying to enter her house.
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Yes, nine years this man was free to roam the streets, raping women at will, in no small part because no one got it together to test this rape kit. The backlog of untested rape kits is an incredibly serious, nationwide problem. When NPR did a report on it, they found it was not uncommon for detectives to close a case as unsolved long before rape kits could be tested. The Urban Institute is trying to bring more attention to this problem with a new report showing how screwed up the funding stream for dealing with rape kits is. In order to prevent states from charging rape victims for rape kits, the federal government requires states to cover the forensic costs of testing a rape kit. But states have figured out a way to force victims to pay for it anyway, by poaching the money to pay for them from victim services, funds set up to provide counseling, lost wages, and medical care for victims. But rape kits are not a victim’s service! Rape kits are primarily about forensics. It’s about the victim being helpful and providing evidence, often at great personal cost to herself. This NPR report should really drive that home.
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This is an ongoing problem, where sexual assault is treated as somehow different from other crimes, treated like more of a personal matter than a crime. Police would never consider it the job of victim services to, say, comb over a robbery scene for fingerprints or do an autopsy on a murder victim. But when it comes to rape kits, which are also a form of evidence collection, it’s suddenly seen as a social service issue instead of a forensics issue. Perhaps this is why rape kits are so frequently treated by law enforcement as not being a budget priority, leaving so many of them to languish on the shelves. One victim got so frustrated when her rape kit kept not being processed that she finally offered to pay for it herself.
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It’s good that there’s a ban on forcing victims to pay for it themselves. However, it’s not much better to simply not do the testing. Again, and I cannot reiterate this enough, most rapists rape over and over again. Every day you delay testing is a day that the rapist could be out there, raping someone else.
While, in this victim’s case, the rape kit didn’t produce enough evidence to lock anyone away, that doesn’t mean that it’s not extremely valuable to go through these backlogged rape kits and start testing them. Cleveland, Ohio did that, making a project of taking that backlog and forcefully going through it. The results have been outstanding.
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That’s right. They’ve been able to indict 100 separate men for rape, just by carefully going through the cold case files and testing the rape kits. Many of these men are murderers. Thirty percent of them were indicted in more than one rape. Testing rape kits is expensive, yes. But it’s clearly more expensive, in terms of continued human suffering and straight up financial loss, to let rapists roam free.
It’s a hard thing to measure, but it seems lately to me that conservative lies about things like sexuality and gender are getting bolder and more outrageous lately. Sen. Marco Rubio was on Sean Hannity’s radio program recently, and they were congratulating each other for being climate change denialists, which is, realistically speaking, like patting each other on the back for claiming that the earth is flat and gravity is an illusion. But not just content to lie about the evidence that has amassed demonstrating that man-made global warming is real, Rubio decided to double-down and lie about the science regarding when “life” supposedly begins.
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This is a lie. In fact, the scientific consensus is the opposite of what he says. Contrary to his implication, there is no evidence that conception turns non-living things into living things. It turns two living things—a sperm and an egg—into another living thing. Incidentally, that happens to be true every time a cell divides. The scientific consensus is not that life “begins” but that life is a continuous stream, and that far from starting at conception, life began over three billion years ago. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s the astrophysicist and the host of the science documentary Cosmos on the issue of when life begins.
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Nor is it true that science says that a unique human person is created upon conception. On the contrary. For instance, science has shown that some times, after conception, a zygote splits into two while reproducing and they drift apart in the womb. If both grow into full-term babies and are born, we call them identical twins. If science actually said that “life” begins upon conception, then those twins would be considered one person. But they are not. The reality is that science understands a fertilized egg for what it is: a fertilized egg. Science has taught us that up to half of them die on their own without ever starting a pregnancy, also showing that a fertilized egg cannot be mistaken for a person. But the claim that a fertilized egg is a person is a religious claim. All the available science we have actually counters that claim, which is no doubt why the medical establishment is largely pro-choice. In other words, Rubio was dressing up religion and calling it science. All while looking at actual science, regarding global warming, and denying its validity.
Meanwhile, when it comes to just pulling something out of your ass and pretending it’s factual, it’s hard to beat state Rep. Charles Van Zant of Florida, who was on about one of the right wing’s latest conspiracy theories, this bizarre paranoia about Common Core in public schools. He was attacking a group called American Institutes for Research, which was hired to create standardized tests in schools. Somehow, Van Zant got it into his head that standardized tests would turn kids gay.
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Look, I get it. There’s a lot of legitimate criticisms of Common Core, which is a set of national standards for what schools should be teaching kids. But it’s clear that the conservative movement is only against it because President Obama endorsed it. And this is just evidence, like Rubio’s attempts to tie climate change to anti-choice idiocy, of conservatives trying to tie every subject they’re on about to their sexual paranoias and bigotries. Because they know that hating other people for their personal sexual choices is what really wakes their audiences up. Worried they’re starting to drift into accepting the truth about global warming? Scream about abortion. Afraid they might start to ask what’s wrong with having standards for what kids should be learning in math class? Tell them those standards are a secret plot to turn kids gay. It’s shameless.
But few things are more dishonest and self-serving than people who oppress women and pretend they’re fighting the Nazis by doing so. Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, interviewed California megachurch pastor James L. Garlow for the Daily Caller, and he had this to say about abortion clinics.
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It’s hard for me to believe you really take the Holocaust seriously when you think of the Jews who died as having no more value or worth than a mindless embryo the size of a pencil eraser. Indeed, I would argue this is a form of anti-Semitism, just as much about minimizing the seriousness of the Holocaust as anything else. But, as a reminder, the Nazis actually strengthened laws against abortion. Of course they did. They were a far-right movement that taught that women’s job was to stay at home and have babies for the Fatherland. But Pastor Garlow seems to think abortion was just invented recently, when, in reality, it’s been around as long as human civilization itself.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Keith Ablow is the source of all sorts of nuttiness edition. Last week, I addressed Keith Ablow of Fox News dogging on sex education. Now listen to him burrow in and literally say that wearing leggings in front of a boy is the same thing as hitting him.
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I cannot convey to you how smug he was when he said this, no less surrounded by four women wearing skirts above the knees that would have been considered immodest when he was a kid, thereby neatly destroying his argument that men cannot handle seeing skin they’re not used to seeing. But yes, school is a place for learning, particularly how to be in the real world. In the real world, in places like Fox News studios, men have to be around women who are looking sexy without acting like lust monsters who can’t control themselves. And so school is as good a place as any to teach that lesson. They need to learn before they’re adults and can lose jobs, dates, and friends by acting like they can’t control themselves around women.