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Vocapedia > USA > Violence > Rape




Illustration: Marissa Espiritu/CapRadio


How Rape Affects Memory And The Brain,

And Why More Police Need To Know About This


August 22, 2021    7:00 AM ET




















Illustration: Aidan Koch


Rape on Campus: Anna’s Trauma

The Rape Case:

Hobart and William Smith, and Readers, Respond


JULY 15, 2014


















Suzie Champoux mourning at the grave of Sophie Champoux,

who committed suicide after being raped several times

while in the army.


Photograph: Mary F. Calvert


Surviving Rape in the Military


Dec. 17, 2014


















Illustration: Aidan Koch


Punch After Punch, Rape After Rape, a Murderer Was Made

The execution of Lisa Montgomery

would be an injustice on top of an injustice.


Dec. 18, 2020

















warning: explicit / distressing











































































































Brown’s ‘Rape List,’ Revisited        NYT        26 September 2014



Brown’s ‘Rape List,’ Revisited        Video        Op-Docs | The New York Times        26 September 2014


Brown University faces questions

about how it responds

to a student’s charge of sexual assault,

two decades after similar accusations


sparked a national reform movement.


Produced by: Julia Liu and Alison Klayman

Read the story here: http://nyti.ms/ZeTrxU

Watch more videos at: http://nytimes.com/video


















Legacy of the Tailhook Scandal        NYT        21 May 2013




Legacy of the Tailhook Scandal        Video        Retro Report | The New York Times        21 May 2013


Military sexual assault

is not a new phenomenon.


A second look at the Tailhook scandal in 1991

reveals what happened then.


And what it all means now.


Read the story here: http://nyti.ms/16EBx8A

Watch more videos at: http://nytimes.com/video































USA > be raped        UK










be raped






























USA > rape        UK / USA








for-one-survivor-its-the-most-freeing-experience-in-the-world - August 23, 2021






https://www.propublica.org/article/you-save-as-long-as-you-have-to - May 22, 2021













alaska-sexual-assault/unheard-survivor-stories/ - June 1, 2020













netflix-series-based-on-our-work-explores-costs-of-not-believing-rape-victims  - Sept. 5, 2019


























































































































































rape in the military














internet > rape videos


















sexual abuse










sexual assault




























marital rape

















gang rape






gang rape








livestreamed gang rape






rape in colleges /  sexual violence on college campuses













prison > rape






Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003






rape jokes






statutory rape






serial child rape












instead-of-asylum-ice-put-her-in-a-hotel-and-sent-her-back - August 4, 2020














serial rapist


for-one-survivor-its-the-most-freeing-experience-in-the-world - August 23, 2021






























be anally raped










sexual assault / rape victim


netflix-series-based-on-our-work-explores-costs-of-not-believing-rape-victims - Sept. 5, 2019

















RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)

is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.


RAINN created

and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline



y rainn.org/es)

in partnership with more than

1,000 local sexual assault

service providers across the country

and operates the DoD Safe Helpline

for the Department of Defense.


RAINN also carries out

programs to prevent sexual violence,

help survivors,

and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.



























DNA identification of a suspect












Corpus of news articles


Violence > Rape > USA




Is Delhi So Different

From Steubenville?


January 12, 2013

The New York Times



IN India, a 23-year-old student takes a bus home from a movie and is gang-raped and assaulted so viciously that she dies two weeks later.

In Liberia, in West Africa, an aid group called More Than Me rescues a 10-year-old orphan who has been trading oral sex for clean water to survive.

In Steubenville, Ohio, high school football players are accused of repeatedly raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl who was either drunk or rendered helpless by a date-rape drug and was apparently lugged like a sack of potatoes from party to party.

And in Washington, our members of Congress show their concern for sexual violence by failing to renew the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark law first passed in 1994 that has now expired.

Gender violence is one of the world’s most common human rights abuses. Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined. The World Health Organization has found that domestic and sexual violence affects 30 to 60 percent of women in most countries.

In some places, rape is endemic: in South Africa, a survey found that 37 percent of men reported that they had raped a woman. In others, rape is institutionalized as sex trafficking. Everywhere, rape often puts the victim on trial: in one poll, 68 percent of Indian judges said that “provocative attire” amounts to “an invitation to rape.”

Americans watched the events after the Delhi gang rape with a whiff of condescension at the barbarity there, but domestic violence and sex trafficking remain a vast problem across the United States.

One obstacle is that violence against women tends to be invisible and thus not a priority. In Delhi, of 635 rape cases reported in the first 11 months of last year, only one ended in conviction. That creates an incentive for rapists to continue to rape, but in any case that reported number of rapes is delusional. They don’t include the systematized rape of sex trafficking. India has, by my reckoning, more women and girls trafficked into modern slavery than any country in the world. (China has more prostitutes, but they are more likely to sell sex by choice.)

On my last trip to India, I tagged along on a raid on a brothel in Kolkata, organized by the International Justice Mission. In my column at the time, I focused on a 15-year-old and a 10-year-old imprisoned in the brothel, and mentioned a 17-year-old only in passing because I didn’t know her story.

My assistant at The Times, Natalie Kitroeff, recently visited India and tracked down that young woman. It turns out that she had been trafficked as well — she was apparently drugged at a teahouse and woke up in the brothel. She said she was then forced to have sex with customers and beaten when she protested. She was never allowed outside and was never paid. What do you call what happened to those girls but slavery?

Yet prosecutors and the police often shrug — or worse. Dr. Shershah Syed, a former president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan, once told me: “When I treat a rape victim, I always advise her not to go to the police. Because if she does, the police might just rape her again.”

In the United States, the case in Steubenville has become controversial partly because of the brutishness that the young men have been accused of, but also because of concerns that the authorities protected the football team. Some people in both Delhi and Steubenville rushed to blame the victim, suggesting that she was at fault for taking a bus or going to a party. They need to think: What if that were me?

The United States could help change the way the world confronts these issues. On a remote crossing of the Nepal-India border, I once met an Indian police officer who said, a bit forlornly, that he was stationed there to look for terrorists and pirated movies. He wasn’t finding any, but India posted him there to show that it was serious about American concerns regarding terrorism and intellectual property. Meanwhile, that officer ignored the steady flow of teenage Nepali girls crossing in front of him on their way to Indian brothels, because modern slavery was not perceived as an American priority.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has done a superb job trying to put these issues on the global agenda, and I hope President Obama and Senator John Kerry will continue her efforts. But Congress has been pathetic. Not only did it fail to renew the Violence Against Women Act, but it has also stalled on the global version, the International Violence Against Women Act, which would name and shame foreign countries that tolerate gender violence.

Congress even failed to renew the landmark legislation against human trafficking, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The obstacles were different in each case, but involved political polarization and paralysis. Can members of Congress not muster a stand on modern slavery?

(Hmm. I now understand better the results of a new survey from Public Policy Polling showing that Congress, with 9 percent approval, is less popular than cockroaches, traffic jams, lice or Genghis Khan.)

Skeptics fret that sexual violence is ingrained into us, making the problem hopeless. But just look at modern American history, for the rising status of women has led to substantial drops in rates of reported rape and domestic violence. Few people realize it, but Justice Department statistics suggest that the incidence of rape has fallen by three-quarters over the last four decades.

Likewise, the rate at which American women are assaulted by their domestic partners has fallen by more than half in the last two decades. That reflects a revolution in attitudes. Steven Pinker, in his book “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” notes that only half of Americans polled in 1987 said that it was always wrong for a man to beat his wife with a belt or a stick; a decade later, 86 percent said it was always wrong.

But the progress worldwide is far too slow. Let’s hope that India makes such violence a national priority. And maybe the rest of the world, especially our backward Congress, will appreciate that the problem isn’t just India’s but also our own.

Is Delhi So Different From Steubenville?,






Want a Real Reason to Be Outraged?


October 27, 2012

The New York Times



THE silliness began when Todd Akin claimed during his Senate campaign in Missouri that in the case of “legitimate rape,” women “shut that whole thing down” to prevent pregnancy. Then, a few days ago, Richard Mourdock of Indiana seemed to blame God for such pregnancies, saying this was “something God intended to happen.” I think God should sue him for defamation.

But our political system jumps all over verbal stupidity, while giving a pass to stupid policies. If we’re offended by insensitive words about rape, for example, shouldn’t we be incomparably more upset that rape kits are routinely left untested in the United States? And wouldn’t it be nice if Democrats, instead of just firing sound bites, tackled these underlying issues?

A bit of background: A rape kit is the evidence, including swabs with DNA, taken at a hospital from a woman’s (or man’s) body after a rape. Testing that DNA costs $1,200 or more. Partly to save money, those rape kits often sit untested for years on the shelves of police storage rooms, particularly if the victim didn’t come outfitted with a halo.

By most accounts, hundreds of thousands of these untested kits are stacked up around the country. In Illinois, 80 percent of rape kits were going untested as of 2010, Human Rights Watch reported at the time — embarrassing the state to begin a push to test all rape kits.

In Michigan, the Wayne County prosecutor, Kym Worthy, said she was shocked to discover more than 11,000 rape kits lying around untested — some dating to the 1980s. Worthy said that her office is now going through the backlog and testing those that are running into statute of limitations deadlines.

So far, of 153 kits tested, 21 match evidence in a criminal database and may involve serial rapists. But Worthy, who herself was raped while she was in law school, says the broader problem is indifference to sex crimes.

“Sexual assault is the stepchild of the law enforcement system,” she said. “When rape victims come into the criminal justice system, they are often treated poorly. They may be talked out of pursuing the case.”

The bottom line, Worthy said, is that “sexual assault is not taken as seriously as other crimes.” That — more than any offensive words — is the real scandal.

Kamala Harris, the attorney general of California, eliminated the rape kit backlog in state crime labs after she took office. “If you don’t test it, you’ve got a victim who is absolutely petrified, and you’ve got a rapist who thinks he got away with it,” she said. “There could be nothing worse as a continuing threat to public safety.”

The lackadaisical attitude toward much sexual violence is seen in another astonishing fact: Sometimes, women or their health insurance companies must pay to have their rape kits collected.

“No other forensic evidence collection is treated in this way,” said Sarah Tofte of the Joyful Heart Foundation, which has focused attention on the rape kit backlog. If her home is broken into, she notes, the police won’t bill her or her homeowner’s insurance company “for the cost of dusting for fingerprints.”

Yet another indication of cavalier attitudes: In 31 states, if a rape leads to a baby, the rapist can get visitation rights. That doesn’t happen often, but the issue does come up. In Massachusetts, a convicted rapist is suing for access to the child he fathered when he raped a 14-year-old girl.

One way to start turning around this backward approach to sex crimes would be to support the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (Safer) Act, a bipartisan bill in Congress that would help local jurisdictions count and test their rape kits.

According to data from the Department of Justice, one person in the United States is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes. A slight majority of rapes are never reported to the police, and others are never solved. For every 100 rapes, only three lead to any jail time for the rapist, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

There has been plenty of outrage this year, justifiably, at the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts and Penn State for averting their eyes from sexual abuse of children. Yet America as a whole typically does the same thing when it comes to the trafficking of teenage girls by pimps, which amounts to rape many times a day. The police often treat those girls as criminals, rather than victims, even as the pimps get away.

These problems are not insoluble, and we are seeing progress. Some prosecutors are going after pimps in a serious way, and according to surveys, sexual assault has fallen by 60 percent over the last couple of decades. Even the furor over the comments by Senate candidates shows that times are changing.

So, sure, let’s pounce on politicians who say outrageous things. But even more, let’s push to end outrageous policies. Routine testing of rape kits would be a good start.


I invite you to comment on this column on my blog,

On the Ground.

Please also join me on Facebook and Google+,

watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

Want a Real Reason to Be Outraged?,






Nearly 1 in 5 Women in U.S. Survey

Say They Have Been Sexually Assaulted


December 14, 2011

The New York Times



An exhaustive government survey of rape and domestic violence released on Wednesday affirmed that sexual violence against women remains endemic in the United States and in some instances may be far more common than previously thought.

Nearly one in five women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point, and one in four reported having been beaten by an intimate partner. One in six women have been stalked, according to the report.

“That almost one in five women have been raped in their lifetime is very striking and, I think, will be surprising to a lot of people,” said Linda C. Degutis, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the survey.

“I don’t think we’ve really known that it was this prevalent in the population,” she said.

The study, called the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, was begun in 2010 with the support of the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Defense. The study, a continuing telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 16,507 adults, defines intimate partner and sexual violence broadly.

The surveyors elicited information on types of aggression not previously studied in national surveys, including sexual violence other than rape, psychological aggression, coercion and control of reproductive and sexual health.

They also gathered information about the physical and mental health of violence survivors.

Sexual violence affects women disproportionately, the researchers found. One-third of women said they had been victims of a rape, beating or stalking, or a combination of assaults.

The researchers defined rape as completed forced penetration, forced penetration facilitated by drugs or alcohol, or attempted forced penetration.

By that definition, 1 percent of women surveyed reported being raped in the previous year, a figure that suggests that 1.3 million American women annually may be victims of rape or attempted rape.

That figure is significantly higher than previous estimates. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network estimated that 272,350 Americans were victims of sexual violence last year. Only 84,767 assaults defined as forcible rapes were reported in 2010, according to national statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

But men also reported being victimized in surprising numbers.

One in seven men have experienced severe violence at the hands of an intimate partner, the survey found, and one in 71 men — between 1 percent and 2 percent — have been raped, many when they were younger than 11.

A vast majority of women who said they had been victims of sexual violence, rape or stalking reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, as did about one-third of the men.

Women who had experienced such violence were also more likely to report having asthma, diabetes or irritable bowel syndrome than women who had not. Both men and women who had been assaulted were more likely to report frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, limitations on activity, and poor physical and mental health.

“We’ve seen this association with chronic health conditions in smaller studies before,” said Lisa James, director of health for Futures Without Violence, a national nonprofit group based in San Francisco that advocates for programs to end violence against women and girls.

“People who grow up with violence adopt coping strategies that can lead to poor health outcomes,” she said. “We know that women in abusive relationships are at increased risk for smoking, for example.”

The survey found that youth itself was an important risk factor for sexual violence and assault. Some 28 percent of male victims of rape reported that they were first assaulted when they were no older than 10.

Only 12 percent of female rape victims were assaulted when they were 10 or younger, but almost half of female victims said they had been raped before they turned 18. About 80 percent of rape victims reported that they had been raped before age 25.

Rape at a young age was associated with another, later rape; about 35 percent of women who had been raped as minors were also raped as adults, the survey found.

More than half of female rape victims had been raped by an intimate partner, according to the study, and 40 percent had been raped by an acquaintance; more than half of men who had been raped said the assailant was an acquaintance.

The public release of the report was postponed twice, most recently on Nov. 28. The findings are based on completed interviews lasting about 25 minutes each; they were conducted in 2010 with 9,086 women and 7,421 men.

Nearly 1 in 5 Women in U.S. Survey Say They Have Been Sexually Assaulted,






Federal Rape Definition Too Narrow,

Critics Say


September 28, 2011
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Thousands of sexual assaults that occur in the United States every year are not reflected in the federal government’s yearly crime report because the report uses an archaic definition of rape that is far narrower than the definitions used by most police departments.

Many law enforcement officials and advocates for women say that this underreporting misleads the public about the prevalence of rape and results in fewer federal, state and local resources being devoted to catching rapists and helping rape victims.

“The public has the right to know about the prevalence of crime and violent crime in our communities, and we know that data drives practices, resources, policies and programs,” said Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia, whose office has campaigned to get the F.B.I. to change its definition of sexual assault. “It’s critical that we strive to have accurate information about this.”

Ms. Tracy spoke at a meeting in Washington on Friday, organized by the Police Executive Research Forum, that brought together police chiefs, sex-crime investigators, federal officials and advocates to discuss the limitations of the federal definition and the wider issue of local police departments not adequately investigating rape.

According to the 2010 Uniform Crime Report, released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week, there were 84,767 sexual assaults in the United States last year, a 5 percent drop from 2009.

The definition of rape used by the F.B.I. — “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will” was written more than 80 years ago. The yearly report on violent crime, which uses data provided voluntarily by the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies, is widely cited as an indicator of national crime trends.

But that definition, critics say, does not take into account sexual-assault cases that involve anal or oral penetration or penetration with an object, cases where the victims were drugged or under the influence of alcohol or cases with male victims. As a result, many sexual assaults are not counted as rapes in the yearly federal accounting.

“The data that are reported to the public come from this definition, and sadly, it portrays a very, very distorted picture,” said Susan B. Carbon, director of the Office on Violence Against Women, part of the Department of Justice. “It’s the message that we’re sending to victims, and if you don’t fit that very narrow definition, you weren’t a victim and your rape didn’t count.”

Steve Anderson, chief of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, said that the F.B.I.’s definition created a double standard for police departments.

“We prosecute by one criteria, but we report by another criteria,” Chief Anderson said. “The only people who have a true picture of what’s going on are the people in the sex-crimes unit.”

In Chicago, the police department recorded close to 1,400 sexual assaults in 2010, according to the department’s Web site. But none of these appeared in the federal crime report because Chicago’s broader definition of rape is not accepted by the F.B.I.

In New York City, 1,369 rapes were reported by the police department, but only 1,036 — the ones that fit the federal definition — were entered in the federal figures. And in Elizabeth Township, Pa., the sexual assault of a woman last year was widely discussed by residents. Yet according to the F.B.I.’s report, no rapes were reported in Elizabeth in 2010.

In a recent survey conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum, almost 80 percent of the 306 police departments that responded said that the federal definition of rape used by the Uniform Crime Report was inadequate and should be changed.

Greg Scarbro, the F.B.I.’s unit chief for the Uniformed Crime Report, said that the agency agreed that the definition should be revised and that an F.B.I. subcommittee would take up the issue at a meeting in Baltimore on Oct. 18.

“Our goal will be to leave that meeting with a definition and a mechanism,” Mr. Scarbro said. But he noted that law enforcement agencies would have to support any change.

A more comprehensive definition of rape is used by the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS, started by the F.B.I. in 1988 to address deficiencies in the Uniform Crime Report. But that system covers 28 percent of the population and has not gained wide traction as a reporting method. If the F.B.I. does adopt a broader definition, law enforcement agencies — especially those that use the federal standard in their own counts — may find themselves explaining a sudden increase in reported rapes.

“You can’t ignore the politics of crime,” said Charles H. Ramsey, commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department and the president of the police research forum, who backs changing the federal definition.

“With the new definition it’s going to dramatically change the numbers,” Mr. Ramsey said. Police chiefs will then need to explain to the public that the increase represents an improvement in reporting, rather than a jump in actual numbers of sexual assaults.

The Chicago Police Department uses a definition of sexual assault laid out by Illinois statute. Currently, the Uniform Crime Report does not include any rape statistics from Chicago; a footnote in the report says that the city’s methodology “does not comply with the Uniform Crime Reporting Program guidelines.” The Chicago Department plans to start reporting the subset of rapes that meet the federal definition to the F.B.I., according to Robert Tracy, chief of crime control strategies.

But Tom Byrne, chief of detectives in Chicago, told the participants at the meeting on Friday that “Technically we’re going to be taking rapes off the books.”

The gap between the federal counts and the real numbers reported to the police may be most apparent in small towns, said Robert W. McNeilly, police chief in Elizabeth Township, just outside Pittsburgh.

“When we have a sexual assault in a small town, people know about it, people talk about it,” Chief McNeilly said. “But when the U.C.R. report comes out at the end of the year and we report zero rapes, I think we lose credibility.”

In some cases, however, police departments contribute to the problem. The Baltimore Police Department made sweeping changes in the way it dealt with sexual assault after The Baltimore Sun revealed last year that the department was labeling rape reports as “unfounded” at a rate five times the national average.

The problem, said Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, was rooted in the attitudes and lack of understanding of officers and detectives toward rape and rape victims.

“We didn’t just suddenly veer off the road and strike a tree — this was a very long process that led to this problem,” Commissioner Bealefeld said.

After making changes, the department saw an 80 percent reduction in “unfounded” classifications. But because they were misclassified, Commissioner Bealefeld said, those reports never reached the F.B.I. or appeared in the Uniform Crime Report.

“When you unfound those cases, you take it off your U.C.R. numbers, as though they never occurred,” he said.

    Federal Rape Definition Too Narrow, Critics Say, NYT, 28.9.2011,






After Strauss-Kahn,

Fear of Rape Victim Silence


August 24, 2011
The New York Times


She seemed to be the perfect witness. She came forward right away, disclosing detail after damning detail of a sexual attack that, backed by forensic evidence, seemed airtight. She stuck to her story. But then her case fell apart after prosecutors questioned her credibility. The charges against the man she accused, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, were dropped.

Now, rape victims, women’s rights advocates, detectives and prosecutors are sifting through the wreckage of the case of the accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, trying to determine what it will mean for rape cases — already among the most delicate in the criminal justice system — in the days and months to come.

Advocates for domestic violence victims said women who are raped would almost certainly be more fearful of stepping forward, knowing that everything in their past may be exposed; indeed, reporting of rapes usually drops in the aftermath of high-profile sexual assault cases. This reluctance, experts said, will be heightened for new immigrants, who are already fearful of authority, often fleeing a sexually violent past.

“This is going to twist and turn things around,” said Susan Xenarios, head of the Crime Victims Treatment Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center.

Other advocates said the dismissal relayed a chilling message that rich and powerful men were more likely to get away with sexual assaults. Still others said the facts of the Strauss-Kahn case were unique unto themselves.

Experts said rape crisis centers usually see a drop in reported cases in the aftermath of high-profile sexual assault cases, especially those in which the prosecution failed, like the case against Duke University lacrosse players; the recent acquittal, on the most serious charges, of two New York police officers who visited a drunk woman repeatedly in her apartment; and the William Kennedy Smith case in the 1990s.

More rapes go unreported than not: according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 6 in 10 sexual assaults are not reported, and just 6 percent of rapists serve jail time.

Michael J. Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, said the publicity of this case would unquestionably be a deterrent for some women. “I’m sure some will hesitate,” he said. “They’re really dragged through the mud, and they’re victimized a second time.”

That thought was echoed by Richard Emery, a longtime civil rights lawyer, who said: “The victim is terribly, terribly tortured, at every level. First by the crime itself. And secondly by the system. There’s no escaping.”

Lynn Hecht Schafran, senior vice president of Legal Momentum, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization for women and girls, said the Diallo case did have its uncommon aspects. The Manhattan district attorney’s office, she noted, went to “unique lengths” to explain its reasoning in dropping the case. The unusual background, including prosecutors’ contention that Ms. Diallo repeatedly lied about her past, should not be a deterrent to other women, she said.

“Victims do not have to be pristine to be believed in court,” Ms. Schafran said.

None of the women’s advocates interviewed expressed doubt in Ms. Diallo’s claim that she was assaulted. And they said her initial account of a gang rape in her home country — which she later admitted was false, contributing to the undoing of her case — could be explained by her anguished state and troubled past, several advocates said.

Dorchen A. Leidholdt, director of the center for battered women’s legal services at the Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit group that works with victims of domestic violence, noted that a vast majority of Guinean immigrant women had suffered from female genital mutilation, and many were forced into early marriages.

“Erratic responses are something that we see over and over again,” Ms. Leidholdt said. “Her behavior was consistent with a trauma victim.”

Women from tightly knit West African communities in New York were especially focused on the dismissal, saying it lent credence to entrenched beliefs that governed behaviors and attitudes among Muslim immigrants here: that in the event of a sexual attack, a woman is still to blame.

“In Africa, if something happens to you, you have to shut your mouth,” said a 35-year-old former saleswoman from West Africa, who left a job as a home attendant after a charge in her care made sexual advances, and who did not want her name published for fear of community retribution. “But when you come here from Africa, you think that there’s protection for women’s rights.”

Still, several women said they were inspired by Ms. Diallo.

A 23-year-old graduate student who is from Guinea and lives in the Bronx said Ms. Diallo’s allegations emboldened her to lodge a complaint against a professor who had made sexual advances and offered her a higher grade if she complied. The woman, who requested anonymity for fear of community stigmatization, was raped by a family member years ago, she said, yet until recently never told anyone. She said the dismissal in the Diallo case suggested to her that people in power would always be protected.

“I feel more vulnerable,” she said.

As for Ms. Diallo, the young graduate student said the former hotel worker had already been ostracized among New York’s Guineans for being an “unlucky woman.”

“This situation,” the young woman said, “is going to make things worse.”

    After Strauss-Kahn, Fear of Rape Victim Silence, NYT, 24.8.2011,






A Woman. A Prostitute. A Slave.


November 27, 2010

The New York Times



Americans tend to associate “modern slavery” with illiterate girls in India or Cambodia. Yet there I was the other day, interviewing a college graduate who says she spent three years terrorized by pimps in a brothel in Midtown Manhattan.

Those who think that commercial sex in this country is invariably voluntary — and especially men who pay for sex — should listen to her story. The men buying her services all mistakenly assumed that she was working of her own volition, she says.

Yumi Li (a nickname) grew up in a Korean area of northeastern China. After university, she became an accountant, but, restless and ambitious, she yearned to go abroad.

So she accepted an offer from a female jobs agent to be smuggled to New York and take up a job using her accounting skills and paying $5,000 a month. Yumi’s relatives had to sign documents pledging their homes as collateral if she did not pay back the $50,000 smugglers’ fee from her earnings.

Yumi set off for America with a fake South Korean passport. On arrival in New York, however, Yumi was ordered to work in a brothel.

“When they first mentioned prostitution, I thought I would go crazy,” Yumi told me. “I was thinking, ‘how can this happen to someone like me who is college-educated?’ ” Her voice trailed off, and she added: “I wanted to die.”

She says that the four men who ran the smuggling operation — all Chinese or South Koreans — took her into their office on 36th Street in Midtown Manhattan. They beat her with their fists (but did not hit her in the face, for that might damage her commercial value), gang-raped her and videotaped her naked in humiliating poses. For extra intimidation, they held a gun to her head.

If she continued to resist working as a prostitute, she says they told her, the video would be sent to her relatives and acquaintances back home. Relatives would be told that Yumi was a prostitute, and several of them would lose their homes as well.

Yumi caved. For the next three years, she says, she was one of about 20 Asian prostitutes working out of the office on 36th Street. Some of them worked voluntarily, she says, but others were forced and received no share in the money.

Yumi played her role robotically. On one occasion, Yumi was arrested for prostitution, and she says the police asked her if she had been trafficked.

“I said no,” she recalled. “I was really afraid that if I hinted that I was a victim, the gang would send the video to my family.”

Then one day Yumi’s closest friend in the brothel was handcuffed by a customer, abused and strangled almost to death. Yumi rescued her and took her to the hospital. She said that in her rage, she then confronted the pimps and threatened to go public.

At that point, the gang hurriedly moved offices and changed phone numbers. The pimps never mailed the video or claimed the homes in China; those may have been bluffs all along. As for Yumi and her friend, they found help with Restore NYC, a nonprofit that helps human trafficking victims in the city.

I can’t be sure of elements of Yumi’s story, but it mostly rings true to me and to the social workers who have worked with her. There’s no doubt that while some women come to the United States voluntarily to seek their fortunes in the sex trade, many others are coerced — and still others start out forced but eventually continue voluntarily. And it’s not just foreign women. The worst cases of forced prostitution, especially of children, often involve home-grown teenage runaways.

No one has a clear idea of the scale of the problem, and estimates vary hugely. Some think the problem is getting worse; others believe that Internet services reduce the role of pimps and lead to commercial sex that is more consensual. What is clear is that forced prostitution should be a national scandal. Just this month, authorities indicted 29 people, mostly people of Somali origin from the Minneapolis area, on charges of running a human trafficking ring that allegedly sold many girls into prostitution — one at the age of 12.

There are no silver bullets, but the critical step is for the police and prosecutors to focus more on customers (to reduce demand) and, above all, on pimps. Prostitutes tend to be arrested because they are easy to catch, while pimping is a far harder crime to prosecute. That’s one reason thugs become pimps: It’s hugely profitable and carries less risk than selling drugs or stealing cars. But that can change as state and federal authorities target traffickers rather than their victims.

Nearly 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, it’s time to wipe out the remnants of slavery in this country.

A Woman. A Prostitute. A Slave.,










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