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Rape and Sexual Assault

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Quiverfull Christian Cleric: “The Sexual Act … Cannot Be Made Into an Egalitarian Pleasuring Party. A Man Penetrates, Conquers, Colonizes, Plants. A Woman Receives, Surrenders, Accepts.”

I have been reading about the resignation of Doug Phillips, a long-time leader in the homeschooling and quiverfull movements, someone I’ve written about here on this blog.  In doing so, I’ve come across plenty to be disturbed about. But the following I find beyond disturbing. It is the writing of Doug Wilson, a long-time pastor, author and leader in homeschooling/quiverfull circles and a good friend of Doug Phillips.  Phillips sells his books.

I was excommunicated 20 years ago this coming July.  When I was a member of this community, while there was much to be concerned about, there was nothing (that I knew of anyway) so egregious as what I’ve read over the past couple of days, this, arguably, being the most egregious of all, written by Wilson:

A final aspect of rape that should be briefly mentioned is perhaps closer to home. Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.

When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.

This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.

But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.

True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.

This quote was included in a blog post at Love, Joy, Feminism by Libby Anne.   She links to the original post and a follow-up post, but the links don’t go anywhere now.  That this is the kind of thing that is being thought — believed — much less taught, including to young people, is horrifying.  I want to rescue them all. I wish I’d never read this, never seen it.  I wish there were something I could do to stand against it meaningfully.  It is abusive and sickening.

The Disappearance of Gertude Beasley

“Gertrude Beasley’s memoir of growing up dirt poor in and around the Bible Belt town of Abilene, My First Thirty Years, was released in 1925 by Contact Press in Paris. That’s the same press that published James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. H.L. Mencken hailed Beasley’s book as one of the best coming-of-age books ever …

“Despite these accolades, her memoir is largely unknown. Its violent and sexually deviant material caused it to be banned in Britain, where Beasley was living at the time. Most copies were destroyed by Scotland Yard and U.S. Customs. The few that made it to Texas were mostly yanked off shelves by the Texas Rangers, probably on the orders of prominent Texans maligned in her book. Then the author vanished. She was 35. Continue reading

Manipulation, by Rebecca Mott

“No wonder that women that in the middle of girlfriend experience and or escorting must believe they are empowered, that it must be safer than other forms of prostitution – and that in many ways it is not prostitution.

“To see it as prostitution, is to see your own terror, to know that punters have pre-planned to hurt you bad, to understand that there is always some manager/businessman/pimp profiteering from your hell.

“That is too much for most prostituted women to bear – of course they make themselves dead to their own reality, of course they will speak of it as empowering and their free choice, of course they must believe without any real evidence that they are manipulating the men.

“To know the cold and death-loving reality of escorting and or girlfriend experience is so terrible is can destroy the essence of the prostituted woman.”

Link

“Intentional Sex Torts” — 2

Note:  I was going to post this as a comment to the original “Intentional Sex Torts” thread, but I couldn’t import the formatting (I formatted it inside of a “New Post” box on my dashboard) and don’t have time to reformat.  And, maybe it’s better to start a fresh thread anyway, for several reasons.  So, here it is.   Deana Pollard Sacks’ article in full is here.  Her post at Feminist Law Professors is here.  – Heart

I read through this thread reasonably carefully last Saturday and excerpted some things which I thought were important to talk about.  Before I composed a response, though, Ann Bartow posted the link to Deanna Pollard Sacks’ article, which I have read.  I thought it was great that Sacks’s actual article addressed each of the points I thought deserved discussion. Continue reading

“Intentional Sex Torts”: Making Laws That Work for Women and What Happens to Feminist Attorneys Who Try

To the extent your reality does not fit the law’s picture, your rape is not illegal.  The implications of this for everyday sex life are that any man who knows a woman of the same race can probably get away with raping her.  The better he knows her, the  more likely he is to get away with it.   Married women in states that do not have a law against marital rape are the ultimate example…

What does all this mean for having no mean no?  When no can legally mean yes, what does yes mean in everyday life?  When rape passes legally as intercourse, what is sexual intimacy?  The law of rape deeply affects sexual intimacy by making forced sex legally sex, not rape, every night.  Every day, because women know this, they do not report rapes nine times out of ten.  When a woman does report, the media have the legal right to print her name and picture, making her into everyday pornography…Many women, no matter how violated they were, do not call what happened to them rape if they do not think a court would agree with them.  In this ultimate triumph of law over life, law tells women what happened to them and many of us believe it.  When asked, “Have you ever been raped?” many women answer, “I don’t know. Continue reading

The Silencing of Tracy K. Barker: Sexually Assaulted by State Department Official, Raped by Halliburton/KBR Supervisor in Iraq, Denied Justice

Tracy Barker, former Halliburton/KBR Employee

by Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff, Women’s Space, May 4, 2008

Introduction

Last January I blogged about Jamie Leigh Jones, a Halliburton/KBR employee in Iraq who was brutally gang-raped by co-workers after having had her drink surreptitiously drugged.   She was so badly injured in the attack, she required surgery.  She was seen by a doctor and a rape kit documented the rapes (though part of the rape kit mysteriously disappeared while in the “care” of Halliburton employees).  After the rapes, Jones was imprisoned in a container for several days, deprived of basic necessities of life and was guarded by Halliburton/KBR employees to prevent her escape.  She managed to gain access to a cell phone, called her father in Texas, and her father contacted a Republican legislator, Ted Poe, who secured Jones’ release and return to the U.S.  Jones was in Iraq for only four days.  Upon her return she retained attorneys, but Halliburton/KBR maintains, and Courts have so far agreed, that Jones must submit her claims to binding arbitration rather than filing a civil lawsuit because she signed a “binding arbitration clause” hidden in an 18-page employment contract she signed before she left for Iraq.  Unlike civil and criminal court proceedings, arbitrations are private and confidential, not disclosed to the public. 

Jones testified about the rapes before a Congressional investigatory committee (Youtube video of her testimony can be viewed at the link above to my January post.)  The Department of Justice was subpoenaed to testify before the committee as well but declined to appear.  As things stand, women employees of defense contractors in foreign countries may be, and are being, sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, battered and raped with impunity and their only recourse is private arbitration with their employers once they manage to escape what often amounts to captivity and are back in the U.S.

After I blogged about Jamie Leigh Jones, I began receiving e-mails and comments from relatives of another woman, Tracy Barker, who had also been employed by Halliburton/KBR, and who had also been raped in Iraq.   Barker’s story seemed complicated and the e-mails and comments I received were sometimes hard to follow.   I wasn’t sure what to make of what I was reading and knew I needed to do some investigation.  I spent time today, finally — having yesterday received another comment to my blog on behalf of Tracy Barker –  investigating the claims of those who have loved and supported her.   I pulled up U.S. District Court dockets from the Southern District of Texas and the Eastern District of Virginia, read all of the relevant and substantive pleadings and viewed all of the exhibits attached to the pleadings.   I read the comparatively few articles I could find online about Barker, a New York Times article, (also posted on Truthout),  an article on People’s Speak Radio,  a post written by another American woman blogger raped in Iraq, and the few comments to the posts, which I believe included comments by counsel retained by Halliburton.  Barker’s story resonated and rang   true to me, and I am convinced that she and her family members are reporting events which deserve as much public attention as can be gathered on her behalf.  Barker, her husband and her family strike me as decent, honest and hardworking citizens who have repeatedly been shocked and stunned, as they should be, by the treatment Barker has received from her employer, government officials, attorneys, arbitrators, courts, corporate executives, HR personnel and news media they believed they could trust.

For the most part Barker has been silenced, prevented from telling her story.  She was summoned to the same Congressional hearing to which Jamie Leigh Jones was summoned but was not permitted to testify.  She had only two hours’ notice that she needed to board a flight to attend the hearing.  She had just given birth to twins who were born prematurely and were in intensive care.  Nevertheless, she traveled to Washington D.C. at her own expense of  $1,300.  In the Youtube video below, a somber Barker is visible seated behind the podium where Jamie Leigh Jones is speaking.  Having traveled all that way immediately post-partum, she never got the chance to speak for herself before the assembled Congressional committee.

Tracy Barker is the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and the wife of a career Army soldier, Galen Barker, who has served on the Golden Knights Parachute Team for 24 years.  She is the mother of five children. 

Sexually Harassed and Threatened by Supervisors in Baghdad

Barker began working for Halliburton in 2004 in the “Green Zone” in Baghdad. 

Shortly after her arrival in Baghdad, her supervisors, Crystal Daniel and Barron Marcee, began to sexually harass and threaten her.  She observed that they were also threatening and sexually harassing Iraqi women who would at times cry and approach her for help.  At one point one of these supervisors choked an Iraqi woman, “Sunni”, in a conference room as though attempting to kill her.  Shocked and outraged, Barker reported these events through what she believed was a confidential program allowing employees to make complaints through Halliburton employees in Houston.  But Barker’s complaints were not kept confidential; instead they were forwarded on to her supervisors, who then retaliated by stepping up the threats and sexual harassment.  When she resisted, just as with Jones, Barker was imprisoned in a container where supervisors attempted to force her to sign a false statement that she was guilty of bad conduct and where she was denied any contact with the outside world, including her husband.   She was not allowed to even use the bathroom except under the surveillance of Halliburton/KBR employees.

Pornography Papering Basra Office Walls

Barker was then transferred to Basra.  When she arrived, a number of men were present and waiting for her.  She was told by a manager the men were there to see how “good looking” she was.  She shared a working space with several men.  The walls and halls  throughout were completely covered with pornography, including photographs of male coworkers visiting brothels in Thailand, as they frequently did, and photographs of animals copulating.   Copies of these images on the wall above her desk are attached as exhibits to documents in the lawsuit she filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and I saw them.  One of them depicted a supervisor in bed with the caption, “We try to get you into bed.”

“What Happens In Basra, Stays in Basra”

There was no HR department in Basra, so Barker complained about her supervisor, Sherman Richardson, to someone she understood to be an HR employee working for the State Department, Charles Hermanen.  Hermanen said the woman Barker was replacing had complained of the same problems and had left because of them, and that other employees had complained about Richardson as well, but that “Sherman will be Sherman.”  This was Barker’s introduction to the oppressions and abuses she would experience in Basra, where the motto, it was said, was “What happens in Basra, stays in Basra.”

At one point private meetings were held by the State Department in conjunction with Halliburton where women– soldiers, contractors and State Department employees — were told they were not safe in Basra because of the men’s behavior.  They were warned NEVER to go anywhere alone.  They were told of break-ins into women’s quarters, theft of undergarments, and peeping Toms.  They were also told if they reported these meetings, they would lose their jobs. 

Sexual Harassment by Basra Camp Manager Craig Grabein

As time passed, Basra Camp Manager Craig Grabein, a married man in his 40s from Texas, began sexually harassing Barker, knocking on her door at all hours of the day and night, telling her he would protect her from all of the other predators there if she would have sex with him.

Scared, Barker determined to get to Kuwait to report these events to the Halliburton/KBR HR office there.  Every time she was scheduled to go, however, her name would be removed from the manifest at the last moment, so she couldn’t leave.  When she was finally able to leave, she was followed, threatened, then left alone in a staging area in Iraq in the middle of a war zone.  She hitched a ride to Kuwait on a food truck driven by a British soldier and rode 19 hours through a war zone, aghast as she passed starving children and insurgents all along the way.  She arrived in Kuwait only to be told by Halliburton employees to return to Basra and to say nothing.

She returned to Basra and found that all of her belongings had been removed from her room.

She began talking daily by phone with a woman employee of Halliburton/KBR, but she was not allowed to travel. 

Attempted Rape by U.S. Embassy Official Ali Mokhtare

Barker’s job in Basra was to see to it that equipment was functioning properly at the Basra camp or to see to  it that it was replaced.  One evening Ali Mokhtare (below), Deputy Regional Coordinator for the U.S. Regional Embassy Office in Basra, Iraq, the second highest ranking representative of the United States Government there, told Barker he was having trouble with his air conditioner.

Barker went to his quarters to investigate, but when she arrived, Mokhtare didn’t mention his air conditioner.  Instead, he asked whether she would like to join him in having a Jack Daniels and Coke.   Barker tasted the drink and found it very strong.  Barker spoke with Mokhtare about other job opportunities for herself and her husband.  But then, Mokhtare grabbed Barker’s blouse, told her he had been trying to see what was under her blouse all day, and attempted to kiss her.  She fought him, and he wouldn’t allow her to leave his room.   Instead he told her stories about “chop chop square” in Saudi Arabia where people lost their limbs and tongues and told her about a Filipino woman he heard of who had been raped repeatedly by a Saudi prince.  The woman had killed herself when no one believed her story. 

Barker was able finally to flee in terror with Mokhtare in pursuit, yelling at her in Farsi.  A woman who saw what was happening and who spoke Farsi told Barker Mokhtare was threatening her.  

Paraded Before Male Employees of Halliburton

Barker reported the attempted rape to Halliburton/KBR and State Department security and was again locked up for three days in a container and allowed no contact with anyone.   When she snuck out and used a pay phone to call her husband, who was trying to contact someone he knew from Black Water who might be able to rescue her, she was caught and forced to stay in the container for another day.  She spent her days in the locked container crying, pleading for help, and hiding under a bed holding a knife. 

After she had been in the container three days camp supervisors forced her to put on the clothes she had been wearing when Mokhtare attacked her — a shirt, vest and trousers — and to parade through a common area filled with men so they could determine whether the men found her clothing sexually provocative.  

Barker was consistently refused medical care and was not allowed to leave Basra. 

Meanwhile, Mokhtare had been questioned by security personnel about the incident.  This is what he said about the incident, taken directly from a Diplomatic Security Service Memorandum dated June 25, 2005, and filed as an exhibit in Barker’s Southern District of Texas lawsuit:

Subject [Mokhtare] stated that he and Barker had some initial job related discussions and the remainder of their conversation was professional.  Subject said that Barker wore a buttoned vest with a white undershirt underneath.  He claimed the vest and the shirt had plunging necklines.  Subject further stated that Barker continually pulled at her vest and shirt as if to expose her breasts.  Subject admitted that he pulled her vest and shirt opened (sic) and said to Barquer (sic) “What do you have behind there?”  [Investigator] asked subject if he thought Barker was interested in an advance or some type of romantic or sexual contact.  Subject repolied in the negative.  Upon further questioning… Subject said, “I admit it was an inappropriate move.”  He also said, “I made a mistake and it was stupid.”

… Subject claimed he conveyed several stories about briefings he received of Saudi misconduct and observations of  “chop/chop square” where punishments such as cutting out tongues and chopping off limbs took place.  Subject further stated that he told Barker a story abot a Saudi Prince who allegedly raped a Philipino woman who later committed suicide because no one believed her story….

[Investigator] asked what happened upon Barker’s departure.  Subject said that as Barker got up to leave he stood and they hugged at which point he kissed her cheek.  Subject further stated that Barker turned her hed towards his mouth giving him the impression that she wanted to be kissed.  Subject admitted that  Barker put her hand over her mouth and said no.  Subject said he released the  hug at that point and offered to walk her back to her accommodation trailer.

In other words, Mokhtare admitted he had attacked Barker and blamed her for his attacks.  It is interesting– when Barker recounted the events of that night, she remembered touching the pendant on a necklace given to her by her husband that she wore all of the time, the kind of thing we do as women when we are scared and are attempting to comfort ourselves. 

Mokhtare is still employed today by the State Department.

Raped by Camp Manager Craig Grabein

Hearing that a doctor had been stranded at the base, Barker contacted him, told him what happened, and ignoring the orders of her supervisors that she stay in Basra, the doctor placed her on a manifest to leave the next day.  She was given sleeping pills.  That night camp manager, Craig Grabein, the man who had been continually sexually harassing her, demanding sex from her in exchange for his “protection,” entered her room and raped her.  She woke up to find him on top of her.    She immediately reported the rape to the doctor and to authorities*.  She left Basra the next day.

Silenced at Home

When Barker returned to the United States, she was told by a State Department investigator, Lynn Falango, that Mokhtare would be stripped of his security clearance and prosecuted.  He never was.  Later Falango called Barker to tell her what had happened to Barker in Iraq was being covered up and that Barker should hire an attorney.  Falango said she had been told not to contact Barker again and that the case had been taken from her when she tried to get Mokhtare prosecuted.

A few months later Barker was surprised when she began receiving calls and correspondence from other women Halliburton/KBR employees who had also been raped in Iraq.  These women said Falango had given them Barker’s name and number as someone who had gone through the same thing and might be able to help, apparently since no one else could!  The inference is that one of the women who contacted Barker was Jamie Leigh Jones, although Jones’ name is not specifically mentioned in court documents as one of these women.

State Department Hush Money

In November of 2005, Barker received a phone call from Attorney Advisor, Henry Norcom, who worked with the Civil Rights Office of the State Department.  He offered her $3,500 to drop the allegations against Mr. Mokhtare.  Barker refused and was then told her case was closed. 

EEOC Finds in Favor of Barker

Barker had filed charges of discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation with the Houston Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission once she got back to the U.S.  I read the EEOC reports and they found in favor of Barker,  and stated that Halliburton retaliated against Barker following her good faith report of sexual harassment, and that instead of addressing Barker’s complaint, they tried to orchestrate her termination. **

Civil Suits Dismissed

Barker filed a civil suit against Halliburton/KBR, Mokhtare, and others in the U.S.  District Court for both the Eastern and Southern Districts of Texas.  Her case was first moved from the Eastern to the Southern District, then was ultimately dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because of the “mandatory arbitration” clause Barker had signed with Halliburton/KBR.  In issuing his order on August 16, 2007, Judge Gray H. Miller wrote:

All of these arguments address the wisdom of arbitration as a whole and more specifically arbitration of sexual harassment claims. Whether it is wise to send this type of claim to arbitration is not a question for this court to decide. District courts are bound to follow the precedents set by higher courts. And, that precedent is quite clear: Barker’s claims are included within the ambit of claims proper for arbitration. Sadly, sexual harassment, up to and including sexual assault, is a reality in today’s workplace. …Although Congress has expressly exempted certain types of employment claims from the reach of the Federal Arbitration Act, it has not addressed sexual harassment claims. …Therefore, unless and until Congress tells the courts that binding contracts to arbitrate do not include these types of claims, Barker’s policy arguments cannot prevail. For all of the foregoing reasons, Barker’s claims must be arbitrated pursuant to the arbitration provision of her employment contract. (Bolds mine).

I noted that within the past month, a motion for consideration (basically an appeal of the judge’s decision) brought by Barker’s attorneys was denied. 

Judge Miller severed the complaints against Mokhtare and transferred them to the Eastern District of Virginia.  Mokhtare attempted there to be granted “certification,” which would exempt him from prosecution based on the fact that he was acting as an employee of the State Department and hence was immune from prosecution.  A couple of weeks ago, the Virginia judge denied Mokhtare this certification.  The case continues.

Silenced

In the meantime, Tracy Baker has been all but silenced.  She was not allowed to tell her story to the Congressional investigatory committee.  She was not allowed to tell the most important parts of her story to ABC’s 20/20.***  She has been told by a Texas judge that her only option is mandatory, private arbitration with Halliburton/KBR, the company that allowed and ignored her rape, battering, imprisonment and abuse for over a year.   Hillary Clinton refused to help her because, said Clinton, Barker wasn’t a resident of the state of New York.  She is being told that having been sexually assaulted by a top-ranking State Department official, raped by a Halliburton camp manager, and continually sexually harassed, imprisoned and tormented throughout her employment in Iraq are  employment “grievances” to be resolved by arbitration.   She suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and cannot work.

Conclusion

I don’t know why Jamie Leigh Jones, who spent only four days in Iraq, has received the amount of publicity and support she’s received, compared with Barker who spent over a year there in both Baghdad and Basra.  I can’t help but wonder whether it is because, as Barker was told, “Gang rape sells, not sexual assault or ‘just’ rape.”  I wonder whether it might be, in part, because Barker is French Basque/Spanish and is hence a woman of color, therefore not the kind of complainant the blonde American Jamie Leigh Jones is, or because Jones’s father was the kind of man who could gain the immediate attention of a Republican legislator with a quick phone call, securing his daughter’s release within three days of the attacks on her.  I wonder if it might be, in part, because Barker is a mother of five, instead of a young woman in  her 20s with no children.  I wonder whether it was because Barker saw too much, knew too much, including about the attacks of Halliburton employees on Iraqi women as well as Halliburton employees.  I wonder if, despite Mokhtare’s own admissions, Barker going to his room  – even though as part of  her job, it was up to her to address the problem he said he had with his air conditioner — made her claims less interesting or credible somehow.  I suspect, in part, it might be because at times, Barker has seemed to castigate and blame herself, to express guilt and remorse for being unable in her drugged exhaustion to fight Craig Grabein off when he raped her, in the way, women often blame ourselves, as though it is up to us to keep men from raping us, instead of up to men to stop raping women. 

Whatever the reason, the silencing of Tracy Barker is an outrage.  Her story must be heard, and she must receive justice.  To that end, I have written this post.  Please, spread the word.

Tracy K. Barker’s website

______________________________________________

* When the doctor, Dr. Pakkal, who rescued Barker, was later questioned, he said he had seen so many women who had been raped in Basra, he couldn’t remember Barker specifically.

** The EEOC found that Barker’s supervisors in Baghdad were abusive to both men and women in their charge and so they did not find that the supervisors’ abuse was on the basis of Barker’s sex.

*** Both the State Department and Halliburton/KBR declined to discuss Barker’s case with 20/20.

Sources for this article:

  • Documents, pleadings and original source documents filed as exhibits and attachments,  in Tracy K. and Glen D. Barker v. Halliburton Company d/b/a KBR (Kellogg, Brown & Root) Services Company, Inc.; KBR Technical Services, Inc.; Ali Mokhtare; Services Employees International, Inc.; and the United States of America, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Beaumont Division), Case No. 4:07-cv-02677;
  • Documents filed in Tracy K. and Glen D. Barker v. Halliburton, et al., U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria, Case No. 1:2007cv01231
  • The blogs and websites linked in this article.

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End the Violence Against Women Now

One in 3 women and girls may be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetime. Shocking, isn’t it?

But what’s equally upsetting is that most women don’t denounce their abusers because they are afraid of further violence and of being stigmatized. Help us speak out for these women.  Add your name to this rapidly growing book of names so it becomes a powerful lever to advocate for change. Be counted and let survivors of violence know that they can count on you.

Add your name to this rapidly growing book of names.

Thanks, Helzeph.

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Update: Cesar Armando Laurean Arrested in Mexico — Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach and Her Unborn Child Murdered: Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean Sought

Update April 11, 2008:  Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean has been apprehended in Mexico, thin and with a buck in his pocket.  He said he’d been hiding out, eating fruit he found and sleeping in fields.   His tattoos and the fact that he didn’t speak Spanish well raised suspicions among police.  He is to be extradited to the United States, which could take a while.

Update January 27, 2008:   Marine Cpl.  Cesar Armando Laurean has been indicted for first degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and theft for forcing Maria Lauterbach to remove money from her bank account on the day she was killed.  Laurean was indicted in absentia by a grand jury in South Carolina.  U.S. authorities are working with Mexican authorities to find him and extradite him to the U.S. to stand trial.  A cousin reported having seen and spoken with Laurean at the cousin’s liquor store outside of Guadalajara.  The cousin said he didn’t know about the indictment and didn’t learn that Laurean was wanted by police until he later saw news reports on television.  He said he and family members, who didn’t know Laurean well and had seen him only a few times over the past 10 years, were shocked by the reports.

The baby Maria Lauterbach was carrying was a girl.  Tests are underway to determine whether Laurean was the baby’s father.

As usual, the reporting of this hideous murder has been unbelievably hateful.   I don’t fault Maria’s mother and stepmother for talking about Maria having lied in the past.  That is what they both told Marine investigators because apparently it was their experience with their daughter, and they couldn’t retract statements made about Maria long before she was murdered. 

It’s the way the media is reporting what the mother and stepmother said that is disgusting and despicable.  So what if Maria lied?  So what if her mother and stepmother reported that she lied?  So what if she lied every single day of her life? 

Is it somehow more important to discuss Maria Lauterback’s possible “lies” than it is to discuss Cesar Laurean having bludgeoned her with a crowbar, slit her throat, burned her body and buried her in his backyard?

Whatever lies she may have told whenever, they are irrelevant.

It is irrelevant whether, or that, she lied, and it is certainly irrelevant that she may have been “vulnerable,” as the Associated Press reported.  So what if she was?  Consider the first paragraph of the AP report of Lauterback’s “vulnerability”:

A slain Marine’s image as a woman who struggled with the truth made her vulnerable and may have triggered events that led to her violent death, her mother says.

In fact, her mom doesn’t say Lauterback’s vulnerability “triggered events” that led to her death.  She said her vulnerabilities made Lauterback the “perfect victim,” those vulnerabilities including her daughter’s beauty and “credibility problems.”

It’s sad that this is what her mother believes, and I would certainly disagree wholesale with what she said there, but she sure didn’t say her daughter’s vulnerabilities triggered the events which caused her death!

Why does it matter now, at this point, whether Laurean raped Maria Lauterbach or not?  Whether they had consensual sex or not?  Why is anybody even talking about this, or about whether or not Laurean “really” harassed Lauterbach on the Marine base where they both worked. 

Do people honestly believe a man who is capable of murdering a woman and her baby and burning them in his backyard is not also capable of raping her, relentlessly harassing her, and destroying her life?

Why is what Maria Lauterback may have done to Laurean or in her past or at any time any issue at all?  For anyone?  Anywhere? 

Nothing she ever did at any time in her life has anything at all to do with this atrocity that ended her life.

Cesar Armando Laurean confessed, in writing, to his wife that he had burned Maria’s body and her daughter’s body and buried them in his back yard.  He bought paint at Home Depot and painted over the blood that covered the walls and ceiling in his house.  Coroner’s reports show that Maria died from blunt trauma to the head, not from having had her throat slit.  Even if by some absurd and preposterous stretch of the imagination someone believed Laurean when he said Maria slit her own throat, that  isn’t what killed her.  Blunt trauma to the head killed her, and we know she didn’t inflict that trauma on herself. 

Below are a few very stark images which tell the real story.  They tell who the real liar was.  They evidence who in fact, has the credibility problems.  They give the lie to these claims that Maria was “friends” with this man, or on “good terms” with him, and especially, they make it clear she wasn’t lying with respect to him.  They also evidence a level of callousness, hatred and cruelty that is hard for me even to  imagine. 

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This is the fire pit Laurean built.  He wrote telling his wife that he burned Maria and her baby’s bodies and buried them here.

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 Video cameras captured Laurean entering a Home Depot store on two occasions and buying the paint which was used to cover blood stains (above) as well as the cinder blocks for the fire pit. 

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 This video camera shows Laurean using Maria Lauterback’s ATM card after her death.  The grand  jury also evidently had enough evidence to indict him on armed robbery for having forced Maria, at gunpoint, at some point to withdraw money from an ATM machine.

In view of the facts, the photos, the e-mails, does anybody agree we ought to focus on what Laurean is up to, not what Lauterback might have been up to before Laurean murdered her?

Letty, who has been posting updates to this thread in Spanish, has posted several recently.  I’m hoping someone can translate her comments because she has been providing information from news media in Mexico that is different from what is available to us here in the U.S. Continue reading

Chief of Immigration Enforcement Awards Employee for Blackface Costume, References to Krome Detention Center

 

Published: April 9, 2008
WASHINGTON — The nation’s top immigration enforcement official ordered the destruction of photographs of an office Halloween party that showed a white agency employee dressed as a black detainee, according to a Congressional investigation whose report was released on Tuesday.

James Estrin/The New York Times

Julie L. Myers, an assistant secretary of homeland security, had a role in awarding a top prize to a white employee dressed as a black detainee for an office Halloween costume contest.

The Democratic staff of the House Committee on Homeland Security said Julie L. Myers, the assistant secretary of homeland security for immigration and customs enforcement, ordered that the photos be removed from a digital camera in a “coordinated effort to conceal” her role in awarding one of the top costume prizes to the employee.

The report said Ms. Myers, who was acting assistant secretary at the time, might have moved to cover up the events to avoid derailing her Senate confirmation.

The Congressional committee provided no evidence of an intentional cover-up.

Kelly A. Nantel, an agency spokeswoman, confirmed Tuesday that Ms. Myers had ordered that the photographs be deleted, but said she had done so because she belatedly realized that the costume was inappropriate and that it would be offensive if the photos were included in any agency publications.

But Ms. Nantel said that Ms. Myers never tried to cover up that the event had occurred. In fact, Ms. Myers sent a message to all agency employees two days after the party acknowledging that “a few of the costumes were inappropriate.”

“To suggest she somehow coordinated a cover-up is absolutely false,” Ms. Nantel said.

News reports about the offensive costume first surfaced last year, after an employee who attended the party at the agency headquarters filed a complaint with the homeland security committee.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has 16,000 employees, enforces immigrations laws and operates detention centers holding about 30,000 people awaiting trial or deportation.

Ms. Myers had been a judge at the Halloween contest. The staff member who won the “most original costume” prize wore a dreadlock wig, what looked like a prison jumpsuit and black face paint.

“I’m a Jamaican detainee from Krome — obviously, I’ve escaped,” the employee, referring to a detention center in Miami, announced to the judges, provoking laughter, according to the Congressional report.

Ms. Myers then posed for photographs with the employee — whose name was not released — smiling for the camera.

The report said that, under orders from Ms. Myers, the employee was reprimanded after the party and told that he would be relocated from the agency headquarters to a field office. The Congressional committee staff said that the move was an effort to conceal the event.

Photographs of the winning costume were not, however, permanently deleted from the camera. Agency employees were able to recover them, and a picture of a smiling Ms. Myers next to the winner is in the report.

Ms. Myers’s nomination to oversee the immigration agency was delayed while questions surfaced about her qualifications and her ties to the White House and to some senior officials. Ms. Myers, a niece of Gen. Richard B. Myers of the Air Force, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was confirmed by the Senate in December.

“The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo”

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Dear Editor:
 
I am writing from Women Make Movies, a non-profit distributor of independent film, to let you know about the upcoming national HBO broadcast premiere of THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO, a groundbreaking documentary that exposes the systematic rape and torture of thousands of women and girls happening in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), being used as a weapon of war.
 
A survivor of gang rape herself, Emmy-Award® winning filmmaker Lisa F. Jackson travels through the DRC to understand what is happening and why.  This award-winning documentary features interviews with activists, physicians, even the indifferent rapists who are soldiers of the Congolese Army.  But the most moving moments of this film come as dozens of survivors recount their stories with pulverizing honesty and detail, providing inspiring examples of resistance, courage and grace.
 
Women Make Movies is proud to be distributing THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO and we invite you to tune in to the national broadcast premiere, April 8 at 10pm on HBO.
 
The national broadcast of this powerful documentary offers an unprecedented opportunity to break the silence that surrounds this urgent, serious issue.  THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO also provides a way to discuss violence against women as a global issue, a human rights violation affecting women throughout the world.  We ask for your support in helping us spread the word about the women in the DRC and their all-too-important story.
 
 
Here’s how you can help:
 
» Post a link to the announcement on blog or website
  [http://www.mynewsletterbuilder.com/tools/view_newsletter.php?newsletter_id=1409660503]
»Tune in to the broadcast premiere on HBO, April 8, 10pm
» Forward this e-mail to listservs, discussion groups, your colleagues and friends
 
» Learn more about the film 
 
With the broadcast approaching so quickly, we’re doing all we can to solicit support from as many diverse constituencies as possible. Thank you so much in advance for your attention to this request!
 
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.
 
Sincerely,
 
Liza Brice
Online Marketing and Outreach Coordinator
WOMEN MAKE MOVIES
 
462 Broadway, Suite 500
New York, NY 10013
tel 212.925.0606 ext. 317 | fax 212.925.2052 | lb@wmm.com | www.wmm.com

Earlier posts about rape in the Congo are here and here.
 

What Clinton and Obama Could be Doing: “Leveraging the Power of Race and Gender”

Leveraging the Power of Race and Gender

by KAVITA NANDINI RAMDAS

As the contest for a Democratic presidential nominee enters its final stages, the feminist dilemma has become palpable and painful. My inbox has been filled with passionate and provocative pieces from Katha Pollitt, Frances Kissling, Caroline Kennedy and Feminists for Peace and Barack Obama, all explaining why they are not supporting Hillary Clinton. Equally strong commentary in support of Clinton, and dismissing Obama, has arrived from Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan, Ellie Smeal and Ellen Malcolm. All decry the misogyny evident in media coverage of the candidates and grapple–with varying degrees of success–with race and gender conflict. Clinton fans mention in passing that Hillary has been an international voice for women’s rights.

As a feminist whose daily work focuses on the challenges facing women outside the United States–particularly those living in poverty, in war zones and under extreme patriarchal control–I think these conversations have a surreal quality. They are surreal because they are so perfectly American in their insularity. What is alarmingly absent from our conversations and arguments, even as they allude to race and gender, is any sense of how our decisions affect the well-being of people across the planet–not least the status of women, 51 percent of us, who are being treated with appalling brutality around the globe.

There is something profoundly wrong when a conversation about qualifications to be President of the most powerful nation in the world ignores the reality facing most of that world’s inhabitants. While American pundits debate whether Clinton is being targeted unfairly, for example, thousands of women and children in Gaza are being collectively punished as Israel, a neighboring state and former occupying power, withholds food, fuel and electricity. Yet who is talking about that? In the face of such a travesty of human rights and international law, not one of the presidential candidates, regardless of race or gender, has the gumption to speak out and say this is wrong. Not one has said that he or she will not tolerate such behavior by any ally of the United States.

We live in a world where women are facing an epidemic of rape in conflicts from Nepal to Chiapas to the Democratic Republic of Congo, yet neither Clinton nor Obama has seen fit to mention it. Recent reports of the widespread murder of educated women in Iraq by religious extremists are adding new horror to an already horrifying situation but are going almost unreported. Women and children today form the bulk of the world’s refugees and make up the majority of the world’s poor. Despite doing more than two-thirds of the world’s labor, women own only 1 percent of the world’s assets. Yet not one presidential candidate has chosen to highlight the profound threat that gender inequality is posing to the development, economic stability and future peace of our world.

At times like these, the practical politics of US elections are staggeringly oppressive. We are told by the experts that Americans do not care about, or vote on the basis of, what happens in the rest of the world. We hear claims that presidential candidates cannot raise these issues during the race: we just have to trust that they will do better once they are in office.

That is not good enough. I want to hear from the woman running for President why being a woman and a mother matters to her and how it will inform her leadership. I want her to stand up for the millions of women who are not heard here or around the world. I want her to chart her course as the wisest, most humane President this country has ever seen, not to show us how much more macho she can be as our next Commander in Chief.

Women in the developing world are not reassured when they see Madeleine Albright standing next to Hillary Clinton. They have not forgotten that this former Secretary of State, when questioned about the death of more than 500,000 children as a result of sanctions against Iraq, responded that the price had been worth it. Most would prefer a President tough enough to say that Iraqi children matter to her as much as American children and that she would use the awesome power of the presidency to ensure the safety and well-being of all the world’s children. Hillary Clinton would not be alone if she chose to own her power as a skilled and qualified politician and as a woman.

There is a rising number of fiercely feminine and feminist leaders around the globe–people like Michelle Bachelet of Chile, who is unafraid to be an agnostic single mother in a deeply Catholic country, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, whose first act as president was passing legislation against sexual violence. Hillary has a unique chance to stand alongside them. For her to dance so gingerly around the question of gender in international affairs is to miss an extraordinary opportunity to use gender as a platform for healing the deep wounds left by the previous presidency.

But my high expectations are not limited to Hillary. I have equally high goals for the man who says he will unite us. Obama has his own powerful but underutilized tool: race. What prevents him, for example, from drawing analogies between the plight facing women–many of whom live in subjugation simply by virtue of their gender–and the experience of slavery? And why stop there? By owning the question of race on an international stage, Obama would have an amazing opportunity to reach out to people worldwide–who are in more need of hope than most Americans could imagine. Regardless of whether there are votes in it, this is of profound relevance to all of us in this country.

Yet Obama is also missing this chance. What is happening when a truly multiracial candidate, whose first name means “blessing” in Hebrew and Arabic and whose middle name is Hussein, feels he must spend his moral capital proving his Christian credentials? What I want is for Obama to stand with my husband, a man born and raised in Pakistan, who now is asked to step aside for a random search each time we board an airplane. He needs to tell us that he knows only too well that if he were not a US senator but an ordinary man with a foreign name going on vacation with his family, this could happen to him. I’d like to hear from him that when he looks at the United States or the world, what he sees are not Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews or atheists but simply human beings desperate to be treated with dignity and respect.

Like Clinton, Obama, too, can find inspiration and solidarity with a new generation of global leaders emerging from the shackles of their minority status. For the first time in Latin American history, for example, indigenous or mixed-ancestry leaders are holding power as the head of state in Bolivia and Venezuela. Obama has an unparalleled opportunity to speak to them from an empathetic perspective. And as September 11 showed us, our foreign policy is only a short step from our domestic concerns.

The next President needs the ability to demonstrate the inner courage and conviction that comes from owning his or her “otherness.” As a woman and a mother, Hillary Clinton could bring insights and perspectives no other  President in US history could have brought to the negotiating table of war and peace. As the stepson of an Indonesian Muslim and the son of a Kenyan and a white woman from Kansas, Barack Obama manifests what it means to be a global citizen. What is at stake in this election is not merely the historic first that would be accomplished if either a black man or a woman became the next US President. What is at stake is the fragile future of our shared world.

Kavita Ramdas  is President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women.  Thanks to the Global Sisterhood Network for the link to this essay
 

Dear Mr. President

Thanks to Chrysalis of the Women’s Security Council.

Megan Williams Update

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eeni posted an update to the Megan Williams thread saying that one person, a woman, has pled guilty to a hate crime in the horrific assaults on Megan Williams.  Five persons have been indicted for having raped and tortured her. 

I went to the site of the attorney quoted in the link, Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice, (above in the photo with Megan Williams and her mother) , which eeni provided, and found the following information as to how we can help and support Megan Williams:

Send checks or money orders to:
Welana Megan Williams Fund
Chase Bank

707 Virginia St.
Charleston W. VA 25301
All money goes directly to the Williams Family

On the Black Lawyers for Justice site, there is also a link to an Associated Press video in which Megan Williams tells her story.  

Heart
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Request for Help from Stop Porn Culture — Help Congolese Women and Girls Fight Sexual Violence

Dear Stop Porn Culture Supporters,
Last month, SPC was contacted by Groupe d’Action pour le Droit (GAD), a non-profit NGO in the Democratic Republic of Congo that advocates for the human rights of children, youth and women affected by sexual violence. They do counseling for survivors of sexual trauma and community education about the issue. The conditions that GAD is working in are horrendous to say the least. The United Nations characterizes the conflict in the DR Congo as “one of the bloodiest the world has known since World War II.” According to Amnesty International,

“Tens of thousands of women and girls have suffered systematic rape and sexual assault since the devastating conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) began in 1998. Rape, sometimes by groups as large as twenty men, has become a hallmark of the conflict, with armed factions often using it as part of a calculated strategy to destabilize opposition groups, undermine fundamental community values, humiliate the victims and witnesses, and secure control through fear and intimidation. It is not unusual for mothers and daughters to be raped in front of their families and villages, or to be forced to have sex with their sons and brothers. Rapes of girls as young as six and women over 70 have been reported. Young girls are also regularly abducted and held captive for years to be used as sexual slaves by combatants and their leaders.”

You can read more about the rape epidemic in the DRC in this New York Times article from October 2007:  “Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War.”

GAD has identified pornography as a factor in these atrocities. GAD’s president, Kubuya Elie, has requested the help of Stop Porn Culture.  He would like to come to our slideshow training in July. We are deeply moved that GAD believes we can offer them assistance: there are no women anywhere who need our help more.In order to bring Mr. Elie to Boston, we need your help. Besides the slideshow training, we plan to arrange meetings with human rights groups here that are working against trafficking and have resources for trauma victims. We estimate it will cost at least $4,000 to do this. As you know, SPC is an all-volunteer organization with an annual budget of zero. It can only happen if you make it happen. Please consider donating whatever you can to help us help GAD and the women of the DR Congo. The sooner you can do so, the sooner we will know whether we can make flight arrangements for Mr. Elie. No amount is too small to make a difference for the women enduring these conditions of sexual brutality and slavery.Please make checks out to Feminists Against Pornography, earmarked “for DRC.”  And thank you for participating in this important work.In solidarity,
Carol Corgan, Gail Dines, Matt Ezzell, Susan Falupel, Lierre Keith, Robert Jensen, Jesse Pierce, Denyse Snyder, and Rebecca Whisnant  for Stop Porn Culture
Stop Porn Culture
PO Box 813
Northampton MA 01061
Thanks to eeni at radical misfit and to Lierre Keith for sending this to me.

In Support of Hillary Rodham Clinton: Good-bye to All That, Part II, by Robin Morgan

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by Robin Morgan (and thanks to the Women’s Media Center)

“Goodbye To All That” was my (in)famous 1970 essay breaking free from a politics of accommodation especially affecting women (online version is here.)  During my decades in civil-rights, anti-war, and contemporary women’s movements, I’ve avoided writing another specific “Goodbye . . .”. But not since the suffrage struggle have two communities — the joint conscience-keepers of this country– been so set in competition, as the contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) and Barack Obama (BO) unfurls. So.

Goodbye to the double standard . . .

  • Hillary is too ballsy but too womanly, a Snow Maiden who’s emotional, and so much a politician as to be unfit for politics.
  • She’s “ambitious” but he shows “fire in the belly.” (Ever had labor pains? )
  • When a sexist idiot screamed “Iron my shirt!” at HRC, it was considered amusing; if a racist idiot shouted “Shine my shoes!” at BO, it would’ve inspired hours of airtime and pages of newsprint  analyzing our national dishonor.
  • Young political Kennedys –Kathleen, Kerry, and Bobby Jr. — all endorsed Hillary. Sen. Ted, age 76, endorsed Obama. If the situation were reversed, pundits would snort “See? Ted and establishment types back her, but the forward-looking generation backs him.” (Personally, I’m unimpressed with Caroline’s longing for the Return of the Fathers. Unlike the rest of the world, Americans have short memories. Me, I still recall Marilyn Monroe’s suicide, and a dead girl named Mary Jo Kopechne in Chappaquiddick.)

Goodbye to the toxic viciousness  . . .

  • Carl Bernstein’s disgust at Hillary’s “thick ankles.”
  • Nixon-trickster Roger Stone’s new Hillary-hating 527 group, “Citizens United Not Timid” (check the capital letters).
  • John McCain answering “How do we beat the bitch?” with “Excellent question!” Would he have dared reply similarly to “How do we beat the black bastard?” For shame.

Goodbye to the HRC nutcracker with metal spikes between splayed thighs.

If it was a tap-dancing blackface doll, we would be righteously outraged — and they would not be selling it in airports. Shame.

Goodbye to the most intimately violent T-shirts in election history, including one with the murderous slogan “If Only Hillary had married O.J. Instead!”   Shame.

Goodbye to Comedy Central’s “Southpark” featuring a storyline in which terrorists secrete a bomb in HRC’s vagina.

I refuse to wrench my brain down into the gutter far enough to find a race-based comparison. For shame.

Goodbye to the sick, malicious idea that this is funny.

This is not “Clinton hating,” not “Hillary hating.” This is sociopathic woman-hating. If it were about Jews, we would recognize it instantly as anti-Semitic propaganda; if about race, as KKK poison.  Hell, PETA would go ballistic if such vomitous spew were directed at animals. Where is our sense of outrage—as citizens, voters, Americans? Continue reading

“Peep Toe & Toe Cleavage”? Woman-Only Commuter Coaches: Yes! (Update — Woman-Only Buses Now in Mexico City)

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Mexico City’s woman-only buses were rolled out January 24.

Mexico City has become the newest city to debut woman-only buses.  While the city has long operated woman-only subway cars during rush hour, complete with police overseeing the segregating of the sexes on subway platforms, the woman-only buses are new, a response to women’s ongoing complaints of being harassed, sexually assaulted and mistreated by men.  Reports say that women are thrilled with the buses and being able to ride safely without worrying about being accosted.   

I went looking to see if there might be a Youtube video about the new buses and instead discovered yet another reason women need them.  When I did a search on Youtube using the words “Mexico woman only buses”, one of the top links was to a a video made by a perp with a foot fetish who, unbeknownst to a woman bus passenger, videoed her feet and posted the thing to Youtube under the title, “Girl on Bus (Peep Toe & Toe Cleavage)”.  How disgusting is it to have to worry not only about being groped, harrassed, assaulted, treated rudely, subjected to sexist commentary while commuting  – last week during my own bus commute, I was subjected to a male passenger’s loud, obnoxious, animated, misogynist descriptions of his visits to a strip bar and his complaints (directed to the entire back section of the bus like he was a fracking entertainer or something) that he always manages to show up on days the  “ugly girls” are working — we also have to worry about being surreptitiously filmed with the films posted to youtube for the enjoyment of perps, rapists and misogynists everywhere!

Here is the video I pulled up (I flagged it but don’t know what good that will do):

I’m aware of all of the arguments some feminists make against such buses, that they might make it easier for sexists to force women into segregated facilities. Nevertheless, I know of no woman personally who would not appreciate and use these buses if they were available. No woman wants to be sexually harassed, groped, abused or mistreated by men. 

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What follows is my earlier post from May of 2006 about woman-only buses in Rio de Janeiro.
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Continue reading

The Padlocked Vagina — Rape as Torture in the Congo

WARNING — MAY TRIGGER

“To intensify the cruelty, soldiers are even shooting women in the vagina, destroying their systems so completely that numerous operations are necessary—and even then repair may not be possible.”

By Suki Falconberg

“Go where you are least welcome; it is where you are most needed.”
–Abigail Kelley Foster

Of the many rape zones on Rape Planet Earth, the Congo is currently the most savage. After gang raping women and girls, soldiers are piercing their labia and padlocking their vaginas shut. Hot plastic as well as sticks and bayonets are being inserted into the women. Six-month-old girls have been raped to death.

Gang rapes are so severe that many women are suffering from fistula (the tearing of the vaginal wall so that the contents of the colon and urine seep in). Unable to reach medical care, some women are dying of massive infections. Even if the women do reach a doctor, fistula is very hard to repair—few practitioners can do it.

To intensify the cruelty, soldiers are even shooting women in the vagina, destroying their systems so completely that numerous operations are necessary—and even then repair may not be possible.

Despite how horrifying all this seems, there is nothing new Under the Rape Sun. ‘Fistula Rape,’ I call it—needing to find my own vocabulary for a reality rarely written about. The Romans, at one time, inflicted it on women in wartime. The Japanese were masters at it—the soldiers own photos of Nanking show naked, dead Chinese women in the streets, objects like pitchforks shoved into them.

Nothing new, either, about “sexual terrorism,” the use of women’s bodies as battlefields for male cruelty, for political ends—we have seen it all before, in Bangladesh, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur. (And now in Iraq.)

Anderson Cooper, reporting on the ‘fistula rapes’ in the Congo on a recent 60 Minutes (13 Jan. 2008) asks why men do this? It is a huge question. As a gentle woman, I have no answer. Do you men hate us women so much that you have to destroy our vaginas and our wombs, the very source of life itself?

But this article is not really about fistula rape or the Congo or that huge question in the previous paragraph. It is about the Padlocked Vagina and about my place in this confusing world. I am what is called a ‘dissident’ voice. I am a woman who speaks against those who inflict sexual suffering (whether it be in the Congo or in Iraq). As such, I am, according to my government, a terrorist.

Previously, the American Congress labeled me one when they passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. It condemned me for speaking up for the other animals species we torture by the billions (in factory farms and in labs, for example). Now the “Thought Police” are promoting a Homegrown Terrorism Bill (H.R. 1955/S. 1959) that tells me my ‘dissident’ voice is a danger to my country.

My take on all this is hardly original: A democracy is strong precisely because of its dissident voices. All Americans should nod to me, in approval, or maybe even clap for me–with high rejoicing–that I speak up. I don’t want my vagina to be padlocked next. It has been through enough.

To not sound too corny, as an American I cherish my rights. That first amendment is precious beyond gold and diamonds to me. (Never mind that I never buy gold and diamonds because of the exploitative way they are mined and marketed—it is the metaphor I am after here.) Being a woman of little courage, I tremble every time I exercise my first amendment right to be a dissident voice. But I am aware that I live in a country that, so far, has let me speak—loudly, dissidently—without imprisonment, torture, or execution.

When I saw this photo  [Warning, May Trigger] of the Congolese woman being held down, the most sensitive area of her body being pieced, it was like having cold water thrown on me. It was a wake-up call. I don’t want to be that next padlocked vagina. I sit in comfort, in front of my computer. I am relatively safe—no immediate threats of physical violence, no one beating me up. Despite having known some severe sexual mistreatment in the past (like gang rape and being a ‘dirty joke’ to a lot of men since I sold sex, once, a long time ago), I realized, when I saw this picture, that at least I was not having my vagina padlocked. What a joy! To sit here, with the freedom to write–and an unpadlocked vagina, too! This is true happiness.

After I write this article, I can get up and take my dog for a walk. No bleeding, infected, padlocked vagina holding me back. Then I can come home, to a warm, safe room, out of the winter chill, and give Boromir (that’s my dog’s name) a treat and we can both sit by the fireplace—me with a (vegan) buttered English muffin and hot chocolate (vegan) by my side–and watch an old movie on TV. I can sip my cocoa and pet his big, comforting body (having a big dog makes a cowardly woman like me feel safe).

I have to keep being a dissident voice in order to keep Boromir safe and myself safe and my vagina free from being padlocked.

Suki Falconberg, © 2008

*********************
Suki is an ex-prostitute and a contributing writer for Cyrano’s Journal Online. Her novel, Tender Bodies and Whore Stories, an erotic fantasy with a satiric edge set in the world of military prostitution, is available at www.xlibris.com/Bookstore. The sequel, Comfort the Comfort Women, is also available at that site.

Link – WARNING — GRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHS — MAY TRIGGER

Suki e-mailed this article to me with permission to publish it.  You’ll recall her powerful letter to Ken Burns which I published not long ago.  — Heart

Sokari has written of rape in the Congo here and here.

THE JAMIE LEIGH JONES GANG RAPE SCANDAL: HALLIBURTON/KBR EMPLOYEE GANG RAPED IN IRAQ BY AMERICAN CO-WORKERS WHO CANNOT BE PROSECUTED

The young woman testifying before Congress in the video above is Jamie Leigh Jones, an amazingly courageous young woman. Be warned, her testimony is immensely disturbing and might be triggering. Jones was gang raped in Iraq by at least seven men — all American employees of Halliburton’s former subsidiary, KBR (as she was at the time) — after drugs were put into her drink during a casual gathering of Halliburton employees. She passed out from the drug and awoke to find herself bleeding, bruised and in great pain. She had been raped anally and vaginally. She suffered such severe injuries to her breasts during the course of the rapes that she has had to undergo reconstructive surgery and must undergo more surgeries in the future. She is in constant pain.

She immediately reported the rapes and was examined by a doctor who used a rape kit. The doctor confirmed and documented that she had been anally and vaginally raped. Photos were taken of her injuries.  Later, those photos and some of the evidence in the rape kit disappeared while in the custody of Halliburton/KBR.

For 24 hours after the rapes, Jones was held prisoner in a container without food and water. She was finally able to borrow a cell phone and called her father in Texas, who called his state representative, Ted Poe, a Republican. Poe contacted the State Department who contacted the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Representatives of the embassy then rescued Jones.

Jones took the job with Halliburton, a U.S. multinational corporation which provides technical products and services for oil and gas exploration and production, in 2005. Halliburton is, bottom line, a war profiteer. When the U.S. goes to war, the government contracts with Halliburton/KBR and similar U.S. corporations to set up shop in the war zone to reconstruct destroyed infrastructures: power plants, telephone exchanges, sewage and sanitation systems, schools, oil pipelines. Halliburton/KBR and similar war profiteers are paid by U.S. taxpayers.  In other words, the U.S. goes to war, countries are devastated, and we hire these corporations supposedly to rebuild. It’s this, among other things, which makes war such a profitable venture for the United States.

Jones was a young military wife and took the assignment in Iraq because she wanted to support the U.S. war effort. She was assigned to an all-male unit and from the beginning she complained to superiors that she was being harassed and was continually being subjected to catcalls. Those catcalls and that hostile, assaultive work environment ultimately became a gang rape which has forever changed Jones’ body, heart, soul and life.

Conyers’ Witness Questions at the KBR Rape Hearing (noting that the Department of Justice did not respond to subpoenas and is basically stiffing the entire American citizenry.)

The Department of Justice has brought no criminal charges against Jones’ rapists or against Halliburton/KBR. As a result of policies and regulations set in place primarily by the Bush Administration, contractors in Iraq are immune from prosecution under both Iraqi and  US law.  Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers did subpoena the Justice Department after learning of what happened to Jones, but the Justice Department simply declined to appear. Short of wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ that the Justice Department will hold itself in contempt for failing to abide by the subpoena, there is really nothing more Conyers can do.

After the rapes, Jones was harrassed by Halliburton/KBR and told she had two options: to make what happened to her “go away,” or to say goodbye to her job. Since her ordeal, she has learned that she is far from alone. She is one of many women who have taken jobs with Halliburton/KBR and other defense contractors overseas during wartime, who were subsequently raped by male coworkers, and who found themselves without options so far as criminal prosecution. Rape victims could keep silent and continue to work alongside their rapists and to take the risk they would be raped again, or they could blow the whistle and be fired, knowing either way, charges would not be filed.

Jones has filed a civil lawsuit against Halliburton and KBR, but KBR wants a private arbitration, which it claims is required by the employment contract Jones signed. If a private arbitration were to take place, instead of a judge, a jury and a public record available to the media and to the general public, there would be a private arbitrator hired by the parties with no official record.

Jones has created the Jamie Leigh Foundation to continue her fight for justice and to work for legislation which would protect the human and civil rights of women who are raped or otherwise sexually assaulted while working abroad for United States corporations.

The Jamie Leigh Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping United States citizens and legal residents who are victims of sexual harassment, rape and sexual abuse while working abroad for federal contractors, corporations, or government entities. We believe that overseas contractors and corporations should act responsibly, and be held accountable to provide safe housing and a work environment free of sexual harassment, and limit the potential for abuse. We believe that United States civilians who perpetrate crime while working in foreign countries should be held accountable for their actions. The Jamie Leigh foundation will assist victims through advocacy, education, referral and providing support. We work toward the day that no person shall face sexual abuse and harassment, and all persons, regardless of gender, will be able to work without fear, consternation, and safety concerns.”

Here are some ways you can immediately help:

Write your local senator or congressman asking them to:

  • encourage more stringent jurisdictional guidelines for criminal prosecutions of criminal contractors who work outside of the territorial limits of the United States.
  • create a protocal for forensic examinations on government contractor victims.

Sign these petitions

 

Read the “Slaughter-Poe” letter which might serve as a model for your own letter-writing and which provides names of legislators who have stepped up to do battle on behalf of raped employees of U.S. corporations abroad.

You can also donate to the Jamie Leigh Foundation via Paypal.

Remember that Jones was gang raped in 2005, over two years ago, and has been pursuing justice ever since.  I only learned of this today, and only because of an incoming link to my article about Maria Lauterbach to a thread on bulletin boards on a site entitled “Not Alone.”  At the end of the thread that linked to my blog post, there was a link to this post on AfterDowningStreet.org, which in turn led me to this post.

I found myself reeling, reading all of this.  I read three major newspapers every single day.  I watch the news every night at 10.  I pay attention to the blogosphere and to the internet in general.  I am on numerous feminist and women’s e-mail loops as well, yet until now – mostly by happenstance, because I don’t normally click on incoming links – I had not heard of this atrocity.  That these crimes can’t be prosecuted is unconscionable and is hard to believe.  That the Department of Justice does not show up when subpoenaed and that there is nothing that can be done about that is horrifying.  How many women have been raped or gang raped or sexually assaulted abroad while working for one of the top 10 war profiteers  (as of 2004) as follows:

  • Aegis
  • Bearing Point
  • Bechtel
  • BKSH & Associates
  • CACI and Titan
  • Custer Battles
  • Halliburton
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Loral Satellite
  • Qualcomm

How many men have raped their female coworkers while working overseas, laughed about it, and walked away?

Is that one of the perks, for some men, of working overseas during wartime, the freedom to rape any coworker you like with impunity, knowing you will never have to pay for what you’ve done?

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Rebecca at Spinning Spinsters

One night, I stay behind in the club, waiting to go home with the DJ. I wanted him. He had a reputation of hating women. I knew that he was the sort of man that I deserved.I thought I know how he would treat me. Oh, I was so naïve.

I can see it now. Now I see a teenager attempting to make sense of her world. She tries so hard.

I see her whenever I see “street-wise” kids out looking defiant. I can see their fear. I can feel their emptiness. As I see them now, now I can cry.

Then, I could not allow myself to think. I could not feel. All I knew to do was to keep moving.

I allowed him to take me to his flat. He never looked at me. After all, I was a whore. So far, so normal.

In his room, I was fascinated by all his posters. Pictures of women crawling to the camera on their hands and knees. Some were dragged along with chains, some in cages. I thought that I understood.

When he fucked me, it was so hard, so quick. I could hear somewhere that I was screaming. Only, I never made any noise. I could never show that much fear.

But he was hitting me, telling to stop screaming. He threw out of his flat. I had no time to think if I was in pain.

Only, I found that I could not stop bleeding. I just ignored it.

The bleeding went on for days. The pain would not fade. I could hardly walk. I fainted going down the stairs.

Read Rebecca at Spinning Spinsters.

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Michfest Online Winter Festival and Tent Revival-2

Staceyann Chinn

Staceyann Chinn  had us on our feet, fists raised, crying and hollering on opening night of last year’s festival.  If you can, see her in person.  You will never forget her.

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