The problematic Devos meeting with MRA and the problematic response to it.

Politico reported that Betsy Devos is planning on including several problematic groups in a discussion about Title IX, specifically the “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL) that was released during the Obama Administration instructing schools how they should remain in compliance with Title IX when it comes to sexual harassment and assaults.

I am not surprised one bit that Betsy Devos is planning on meeting with these so called “Men’s Rights Advocacy” groups. These groups have gone so far as to suggest that we consider the use jury nullification and acquit all accused rapists until the “problem” of false rape accusations is dealt with. (Elam and his cohorts have crawfished away from their initial strong support of such an idea and have instead suggested it was akin to a Swiftian suggestion. I don’t believe them for a second.) MRA will focus on the “Kanin Study” to “prove” that false rape accusations make up nearly half of all total rape accusations. They use Kanin to say that false rape accusations are an “epidemic”.  The study is flawed for many reasons (unscientific, small sample size, etc) but these MRA groups will cling to it like it is the gospel. No real evidence exists to show that false accusations of rape are any more frequent than false accusations of any other crime. I have also seen MRA claim that a not-guilty finding means the claim was false. This is absolutely untrue.

One of the groups that is actually getting to meet with Devos, The National Coalition of Men, once suggested that Ray Rice wouldn’t have hit his wife had she not annoyed him. This is the kind of people that Devos is valuing in her meeting. One of the planned upcoming projects for this website is going to be an ongoing criticism of these MRA, what they say, and why they are often wrong about the issues they advocate for. MRA will often try and derail conversations about rape by injecting stories of false accusations of rape. They will often try and equate the pain that a rape victim goes through with the pain of a false accusation. The latter in no way comes close to the former.

The DCL includes some very good protections that colleges should set in place for persons who come forward as victims of sexual harassment or assault. However, one thing that I have pointed out previously is the potential problematic nature of both requiring the school to punish rapists instead of enabling law enforcement to do its job better and the requirement that schools use a lesser “preponderance” standard for an accusation of criminal behavior. Schools are often not well suited to investigate and punish people for crimes. Even if they were , the Federal Government shouldn’t be able to set a lower standard to punish someone for criminal behavior when they would have to meet the higher standard if brought to a court of law. If I had my way, I would rewrite the dear colleague letter in a way that kept the protections against harassment during the investigation. I would require the schools to set up counseling services for victims of sex crimes and empower those services to aid students in coming forward and bringing the criminal claims to law enforcement.

One example of why the preponderance standard is a bad idea and why we should leave punishment of criminal investigations to the police is Caleb Warner. The school, using a preponderance standard, kicked Mr. Warner out after he was accused of rape. Police, however, concluded that he did not rape the accuser and instead she was the one who lied. After a long ordeal and multiple attempts at appeals, Warner finally had the ruling against him reversed. However, the damage had already been done.

So my problem here with Devos is not that she is actually wanting to hear from people on both sides of the issue. Had she decided to meet with pretty much anybody else on this issue, perhaps I would even applaud her for listening to both sides of the story in order to try and make an informed decision. Unfortunately, the groups that she is including would just throw the baby out with the bathwater and them doing so would place victims of rape back into the targets of rapists and abusers.

But then the pendulum swings back the other way. One problematic response is from the Wonkette. I agree with the author on most of her points.

  • Affirmative consent should be the standard when it comes to consent
  • Past sexual history shouldn’t be allowed as proof that rape didn’t occur.
  • Ladies nights promote rape culture.
  • “Good faith” belief that you didn’t rape, the standard that MRA support, is BS.

So what is my problem? Well, I was once falsely accused of sexually assaulting somebody. I was in high school. My false accuser, “K”, claimed that an assault happened on day one but then came back to see me on day two to hang out. She even asked my friend to leave his room so that we could be alone. No charges were ever brought because it was obvious after the police took her report that her story didn’t hold water. However, the impact of the false accusation has lasted for over 20 years. When a news story reports another clear case of false accusations (like what happened in Hofstra, or Duke, or even the Caleb Warner case) I will have nightmares of it happening again. I react badly simply when someone says something false against me. I have fought very hard to stop myself from always needing to have the last word when people are saying false things about me about anything. And it has only been within the last few years or so that I have realized that my inability to let certain things go when people say false things about me directly pertains to the false accusation in my past. MRA groups have not made it easier on me either. Because of their lies about the frequency and scope of false accusations as well as their impacts, it makes it harder for victims like myself to come forward without being pigeonholed as being one of them.

So when I read the author of the Wonkette story say that lying about sexual assault “is not an actual thing” it makes me mad. It is a thing. It is a thing that happened to me. She is ignoring real pain.

When I read her article that states:

Families Advocating for Campus Equality is a group formed by mothers of sons who have been accused of sexual assault, who are very sad that all these mean women ruined their sons’ bright futures by accusing them of sexual assault, which they know for a fact their good boys never would have done.

I have to wonder what she might have said to my mother, who was also sure that her son did not do such a thing and was worried about my future. Now please do not get me wrong. FACE itself is a horrible group because it dares to suggest that being falsely accused of rape is totally the same thing as being raped. It isn’t. Not by a long shot. Looking at the FACE website I see several issues with what they raise. They want a “definition of incapacity”. How about this, if the person you want to get naked with would be considered too drunk for you to sign a business contract with them, the person is too drunk to consent.

Clearly one can be critical of the tactics used by FACE, or any other MRA group for that matter, by attacking their stances (like equating the pain of rape with the pain of being falsely accused of rape) without being dismissive of real victims of false accusations.

And that is my point. The overall feel of this article is one that is dismissive of people who have legitimately dealt with being falsely accused. And while what happened to us is unlikely to happen to most people, that doesn’t lessen the real impact these accusations have had on our lives. This is a well written article on false accusations and why it is harmful to just ignore their reality. I urge everyone to read it.

But one thing I really do not get is why some people are so quick to try and sweep false accusations under the rug. Every false accusation of rape contributes to the rape culture. Each example where it is shown that someone has lied about being raped makes it that much more harder for victims of rape to come forward and be believed. Do you believe that the Duke Lacrosse case helped or hurt future rape victims? Do you believe that the Hofstra case helped or hurt future rape victims? If you really want to combat rape culture, wouldn’t you aggressively fight against those who falsely accuse? The snide comments about the falsely accused should be saved for those who falsely accuse.

I do disagree with the author on one other point. She says:

HERE IS AN IDEA, DUDES: If you’re not sure, you can ask! It’s not even that hard. The woman is right there, in front of you. Just ask. Like you would with basically anything else you do in life that involves another person, other than, apparently, sticking your dick inside of them.

Asking is not enough. If a person is in front of me who is three sheets to the wind, any affirmative answer given to my question would not be considered acceptable consent.

And to those of you who DO want to have meaningful discussions about false accusations and what should be done about them, I have a couple of tips that will make things better for all of us. Do not go into spaces where rape is being discussed and bring up “false accusations”. Doing so derails needed conversations about rape and often talks over victims of rape who should have their stories heard. Also, do not give false accusations “undue weight”. Understand that while they suck, they are rare. Finally, you need to understand that the presumption of innocence doesn’t mean we have to ignore people who have been raped. We can both embrace the presumption of innocence and treat people who come forward with a rape accusation with decency and respect.

tl;dr
Devos is horrible for meeting with MRA.
MRA are horrible for a stupid number of reasons and should have no input on Title IX
False Accusations are extremely rare but they do happen.
Yes means yes, unless the person is too drunk to consent. At that point, any yes is a no. Just be a good person and get them home safely.
Don’t be a jerk to victims of crimes.

Liberal Dan Radio 1/29/2015: I’m just here so I don’t get fined.

On the January 29, 2015 episode, Liberal Dan Radio goes BEAST MODE (except I promise I will have more to say on the issues than Lynch). I will discuss Lynch and his desire to not speak. Should he be expected to give a meaningful interview? Or should they require him to speak and are his responses irresponsible?

The measels outbreak at Disneyland is spreading and is causing a renewed conversation about vaccinations and the harm that anti-vaxxers beleive they cause (despite scientists and the medical community stating otherwise). I will discuss my problems with anti-vaxxers and what we should be doing about them.

The scandal surrounding rape culture in colleges, especially at the UVA, has caused some surprising responses by national sorrorities. They have banned their members from going to fraternity parties at UVA. I will discuss why this action is plainly hurtful to victims and promotes rape culture.

Marissa Alexander, the woman who was denied “Stand Your Ground” when she fired a gun in the air near her abuser has been let out of jail and instead placed on house arrest. I will revisit these laws and explain why there are two justice systems.

Those issues, headlines, tweet of the week, and more at 8pm Central on Liberal Dan Radio: Talk From The Left, That’s Right.

I still have a GoFundMe campaign that I am running, please consider a contribution if you like the podcast or want to advertise on it.

Why I disagree with the Jezebel article on The Newsroom

The HBO program The Newsroom deals with many issues, one of them being the way that “old media” is reacting to “new media”. In her article pertaining to the most recent episode of The Newsroom, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd ends it with a description of a character death.

At the end of Sunday’s episode, Charlie Skinner, The Newsroom‘s moral dad played by Sam Waterston, has a heart attack and croaks, hitting his head on a desk near a computer on the way down—a symbolic sledgehammer that was meant to parallel the way the “internet” is “killing” “real journalism,” or something.

Skinner is a character who is a member of the old media. He fights tooth and nail with younger reporters and especially with the new owner over the direction the media is going. Some of the other old media types have also been seen to fight the new media at varying levels and with varying levels of frustration with the use of the internet and sites like twitter. Often some very good points are brought up in their hesitance to fully embrace the tools that the internet provides. Often times these characters are hesitant to embrace any of those tools. Shepherd seems to take this as the show itself sending the message “old media good, new media bad”. But if Sorkin is Dr. Frankenstein and the show his monster, I believe that a lot is overlooked with that simplistic view of television.

There are people in this world who are old media. Those people do drag their feet when it comes to embracing the new tools that the internet gives us. In order for The Newsroom to be a credible show, if it has old media types working for ACN (the news company featured in the show) then it has to portray them as old media types. When I watch the show (as I discussed on Liberal Dan Radio tonight) I don’t view the show as lauding old media as being king and scoffing at new media. I see a message that says “these old media guys really need to get with the program or they will fall behind”. Real life has flawed people and as such any show is going to have to have flawed characters in order to be realistic.

Which brings me to the initial subject of the article written in Jezebel, an article not on old vs new media but on rape, rape culture, and how The Newsroom handled a case of rape in this of all weeks where Rolling Stone fumbled the ball and showed horrible journalistic practices in its covering of rapes on UVA. A criticism that Shephard has is that the show was “poorly timed” as if Sorkin and HBO chose to release this episode in the middle of the Rolling Stone controversy. I think it may be a matter of dumb luck, be that luck good or bad.

This particular episode had a sub plot of the producer, Don, and his assignment by his new boss to go investigate a campus website that was created to expose rapists on campus. He was to find the creator of the website and one of her rapists and put them on camera together in studio. Don obviously is uncomfortable with this idea well before “the scene” that has caused much ire on the internet. But eventually Don is able to do some “old school” “detective work” and find the creator of the website. (Another criticism by Shephard is that Mary calling Don’s detective work “old school” was Sorkin trying to make Mary look bad. I took it as Mary being sarcastic to Don. But to each their own I suppose.)

Shephard is critical of every single bit of this scene. Another issue she brings up is with how Don refers to the rape that is alleged by the female character as a “kind of rape”. This of course is not what a rape victim would want to hear. And of course a reporter asking a victim of rape about her rape should not belittle the rape. However, Don is nervous and flawed and does not behave in a manner in which the perfect reporter would behave in that circumstance.

Another part of the show discussion has Mary (the victim) stating to Don “The law is plainly failing rape victims. That must be obvious to you”. His response is:

“It is, but in fairness, the law wasn’t built to serve victims … I’ve heard two competing stories, one from a very credible woman who has no reason to lie, the other from a guy I judge to be a little sketchy who has every reason to lie, and I’m obligated to believe the sketchy guy… I believe I’m morally obligated. I’m the guy who goes around saying OJ’s not guilty because a jury said so.”

Is that the best way to respond? It is correct to say that the law wasn’t built to serve victims. Ben Franklin once stated that it would be better for 100 guilty people to go free than have one innocent person locked up. We have an adversarial system of justice that should make it difficult to put people away in prison. Now, do you explain this to a rape victim who is visibly upset? That doesn’t seem to be the ideal thing to say under the circumstances. Perhaps he could have worded the later part better? Maybe instead of saying “and I’m obligated to believe the sketchy guy” he could have said “while I do not believe you are lying I also feel morally obligated to treat people as innocent until proven guilty in a court of law”. This might be a better way to put it, and it might not be. But, again, Don is nervous and flawed and does not behave in a manner in which the perfect reporter would behave in that circumstance.

And I think you see my point here. People are not perfect. If placed in that situation I guarantee you that I would be fumbling around and that I would not say the right things. I would stumble. I would make mistakes. I would misword things in ways that I would realize later were horribly stupid. But that is how life works. People like Don exist today. And a show cannot be taken seriously if it ignores that such people existed today when presenting such a situation. Had Don not been the fumbling idiot who is condescending to this victim, it would seem less real. Don has been a fumbling idiot when it comes to other interactions with women as well. If he all of a sudden starts acting perfect around women, that would be going out of character. And the biggest mistake that The Newsroom could make would be to have all of its characters be perfect people in a perfect way.

Sometimes the best example to give in a tv show is to show what not to do in a given situation. I cringed when he said “kind of rape”. I cringed when he said he was “obliged to believe the sketchy guy”. And that is the point. We are supposed to cringe at such things. We are supposed to see them go down and say “wow, that didn’t go well”. We can then use our hindsight in this fictitious universe where nobody was actually hurt and show the flaws that exist in society. We can look at the flawed characters and say “look guys, that is what you look like when you act this way towards victims of rape… STOP IT!”. That The Newsroom has such flawed characters in it does not make the show disdainful of women. It makes the show more realistic. It makes the show more credible. It also opens the door for good conversations on how we all should be treating persons who come forward as victims of rape.

 

Liberal Dan Radio 12/10/2014: Bad Things

On the December 10, 2014 episode of Liberal Dan Radio:

The torture documents were released by the Senate this week. Some call it a political ploy, others call it needed oversight. I will discuss certain aspects of the law and why we should consider ourselves to be a better nation than others.

An episode of Newsroom aired on Sunday and it caused a stir in feminist circles. People did not appreciate how Sorkin handled the topic of on campus rape. However, I believe the criticisms are misguided and I will discuss why.

I believe I also found a bug on healthcare.gov. I will go into that in more detail. Of course, bugs are meant to be fixed and are not an excuse to bring the whole thing down so calm down conservatives.

Finally, I have started a GoFundMe page in order to sell advertising for the show as well as encourage people to chip in and help support the show if they like it. So please, contribute.

Those stories, headlines, tweet of the week and more on Liberal Dan Radio: Talk From The Left, That’s Right:  Wednesday 8pm Central on Blog Talk Radio.

How the CA “Yes Means Yes” law gets it wrong

I want to start off by being clear. “Yes Means Yes” is the standard that all people should use when having sex with other people. “No Means No” is antiquated and puts the responsibility on the victim to say no instead of putting the responsibility on all parties involved who want to have sex to make sure that all other parties involved also want to have sex. No means no implies that the absence of a no means consent is given. That is horrific. That allows for people like Cee Lo to say that unconscious people cannot be raped. Yes means yes implies that in the absence of a clear yes, it is rape.

So why do I have problems with the law? Well there are several issues.

1) Sex does not always simply involve two people. 

This is the wording from the law:

An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity

Both parties implies only two. So the law is not specific enough to handle cases handled on college campuses. This is a relatively minor issue but it is one that was missed in the drafting of the law. It also shows that the people writing the law were ignoring reality because the idea that college sex is limited to only two people at a given time is frankly a silly one.

2) Rape happens on more places than just colleges.

Rape can happen anywhere, and by anyone. It can take place in high school. It can take place in the workplace. It can take place at your house. It can take place in a friends house. It can take place in a car. It can take place on a date. It can take place in a back alley (those are rarer than some might have you believe). So why draft a law setting a “Yes Means Yes” standard but only having that standard apply to colleges? That just doesn’t make any sense to me at all. A “Yes Means Yes” standard should be universal and apply to everyone, not just on colleges.

3) Government is abdicating its responsibility of punishing rapists.

This law is not setting forth any standards to be used by law enforcement or the courts to adapt an affirmative consent standard universally across the state of California. Instead it is pushing its responsibility to investigate and punish rapists onto college disciplinary boards. I doubt that all California colleges who are covered by this law are up to the task of determining the guilt or innocence of an individual. Are these panels made up of, or at least headed up by, judges who are adept at determining if someone committed an act of sexual violence? I do not have faith in that idea at all.

Parts of the law do contain requirements like protecting the anonymity of the accuser and other such measures that the university should be required to take in order to make the environment as safe as possible for victims after they come forward. I take no issue with this at all. However, since it is the job of government to punish rapists, it should not be passing that job off to college administrations. Do you want some community college board determining if you committed an act of violence against another? I sure would not.

4) The burden of proof is too low. 

In setting the standards in this law, California has set:

A policy that the standard used in determining whether the elements of the complaint against the accused have been demonstrated is the preponderance of the evidence.

Since government is abdicating its responsibility it is also taking away a measure of due process from the accused. California is basically saying “hey, we do not do a good enough of a job punishing people who rape, so lets get our numbers up by making colleges do our work for us and while we are at it lets make it easier for them to punish people accused of crimes than it is for us”. Proving beyond reasonable doubt is a GOOD standard to have in criminal cases. It puts the burden on the state to prove that a crime has taken place  It makes it less likely for a mistake to have been made. Just like the mistake that was made with Caleb Warner.

5) This is just about money.

The law requires universities to do all this to get state funding. The punishment for noncompliance is no state money. Each section starts with:

In order to receive state funds…

An issue as serious as rape shouldn’t be tied to if a school gets money or not.

Rape on college is a big deal and a big problem. We do need to look at all the ways that we can educate people that rape will not be tolerated, on how to best step in to help others who might become a victim, and how to best deal with rape charges when they do come forward. To me, the governmental abdication of responsibility and a lowered burden of proof is not the way to accomplish these goals.

Victimizing victims with child support

An Arizona man, Nick Olivas, was sexually violated by a 20 year old woman when he was only 15 years old, by the nature of the fact that no child under 16 can legally consent to sex of any kind under Arizona law. No charges were pressed at the time. Olivas said he was uncomfortable with the situation at the time. However, he was unaware that he could go to the police and that the sexual act was a crime.

The rape produced a child. Now that the statute of limitations has run out and she can no longer be charged with the crime of rape (despite the fact that we all know that it was a rape that occurred) she sought child support from her victim. She was successful. Not only was she awarded child support in the future, he was assessed charges  for past child support that he “should have” paid plus a 10% penalty for those past due child support payments that he knew nothing about. Apparently it is the responsibility of rape victims to know when their rapists give birth and to support the children that they did not legally consent to creating.

I have no problem with the idea that the simple act of a male consenting to sexual relations with a woman causes him to be financially responsible for any child that results. But this is not what we are talking about here. This is rape. This person could not consent to the sex that was had and it is a travesty of justice to seek monetary payments against him. Defense of the law will typically come in the form of “it is not the fault of the child” that the child was born. Not only does this miss the point, since we can find other ways to support kids born from these situation, these arguments sound horribly similar to the arguments made against abortion rights in the case of rape.

Men’s rights advocates, who are usually wrong on many issues, will come out against these support laws as being wrong. They are right to oppose them but they do so for the wrong reasons. They will likely blame feminism for their existence. In fact one twitter user, who may or may not be an MRA (but sounds like one) states that this was the result of feminism.

I disagree. In reality laws like this are caused by the patriarchy and if feminism is successful in dismantling the patriarchy these laws will go away. Here are my reasons why the patriarchy is to blame for such laws.

The Patriarchy supports the idea that women are caretakers and men are the bread winners. Many of the flaws in our system that MRA will blame feminism for are because of archaic social views that a child should be raised by a woman and should be financially supported by men. Eliminating the gender pay gap, breaking up archaic gender roles, and embracing that both parents have equal roles in raising a child will go a long way in fixing the perception that women should be the ones who get custody and support payments. Once this happens, the laws can be changed to reflect our new social norms.

The Patriarchy supports the idea that men are pursuers and women are to be pursued. You have heard the arguments before. That teen boys who get to “score” with “older babes” are “lucky”. Regardless of what age of consent laws say, male victims who are incapable of consenting to sex under the law are scoffed at when people suggest that they have been victimized. These male victims must have wanted it, according to the tropes, and that must make it ok (or at least “better” than when an older male sleeps with a female who is legally incapable of consenting to sex). By keeping the idea that men pursue and women are pursued we not only retain the idea that women are possessions, but we also deny men the ability to say that they are victims. It contributes to why Olivas never initially contacted the police.

Eliminate the patriarchy and you help solve the problems that exist in this case. Eliminate feminism, and these problems continue as nobody is left to fight the actual root causes of those problems. 

Liberal Dan Radio 9/3/2014: Victim blaming and backwards thinking

On the September 3, 2014 episode of Liberal Dan Radio:

Several celebrities have had nudes of them released that were obtained by people hacking their accounts. Some people are suggesting that keeping your pictures in “the cloud” is not a safe way to store such pictures and that such people are just “asking for it”. Others suggest that taking such pictures altogether are them asking for it. Others see hypocrisy in the treatment of female celebrities and male celebrities. I will cut through the hype and give my feelings on why some scenarios are different than the others and also explain why some of this blame being placed on the persons who took those pictures is just another example of victim blaming. Victim blaming just victimizes the victim.

More victim blaming comes at the hands of Cee Lo Green. After being accused of raping a person who was drugged, he had the gaul to suggest that sex with an unconcious person is not rape. Seriously. Forget you…

Another example where a victim is again victimized is the case of Nick Olivas, a male in Arizona who at 15 had non consensual (read rape) sexual relations with a 20 year old woman. As a 15 year old he could not consent to sex with the 20 year old but yet he is financially responsible for it? That makes zero sense.

Finally, I will discuss the ruling in Louisiana today that upheld the Louisiana ban on same sex marriage. Again, Louisiana bucks national trends to the detrement of its citizenry. Louisiana will eventually be forced to recognize marriage equality, but it will be dragged there kicking and screaming.

Those topics, headlines, tweet of the week and more at 8pm central on Liberal Dan Radio: Talk From The Left, That’s Right.

Liberal Dan Radio January 8th, 2013: Propaganda for Kids

On the January 8th, 2014 episode of Liberal Dan Radio:

First a shout-out to the Good Men Project for republishing my post about Phil Robertson and his comments about marrying 15 year olds. Go check out their site.

There is a picture going around Facebook that supposedly proves why Walmart cannot raise hourly wages to a minimum of $15 an hour. Perhaps you have seen it or not. Either way, I will debunk the image and show why none of the information on it should be believed.

Rapist from Steubenville, Ma’lik Richmond, was released from prison this past week. The statment from his lawyer was one of the most disgusting piece of rape apologia I have ever read. I will go over what was said and why the statement was completely irresponsible.

Finally, as a gag gift for the holidays, I received a coloring book that told me all about the wonder that is Ted Cruz. I have posted a few images on the show slideshow. Any parent who gets these kinds of coloring books for their children should be reported for child abuse. It is really sad.

All those topics plus headlines, words of redneck wisdom, tweet of the week and more this week on Liberal Dan Radio: Talk From The Left, That’s Right.