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The V Word

Advocating to end sexual and domestic violence

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July 2014

The V Word: Vacation and Sexual Assault

July 28 2014

Welcome to today’s edition of The V Word.

You can listen to today’s episode here: https://soundcloud.com/carol-ann-olson/07-28-14-the-vword-1

Today’s question came from a friend, what are the risks of assault while on vacation and what can you do if you are assaulted while on vacation or while on a cruise ship?
The risks?
The FBI states that sexual assault is the dominant threat to women and minors while at sea, with the majority of assaults happening on cruise ships.
(See December 2005statement of Chris Swecker, Assistant Director of the Criminal Investigative Division of the FBI, before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and 
International Relations and Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources.)
In fact, sexual assault is the leading crime reported to the FBI – comprising 55% of crimes at sea that are reported.
(See March 2007 statement of Salvador Hernandez, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, before the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.)

The exact rate of sexual assault aboard cruise ships is difficult to determine. It is hard to precisely pinpoint the extent of the problem because there is no reliable way to asses whether the cruise lines are accurately reporting all on-board sexual assaults, and what is reported is not automatically made public. This, coupled with the fact that sexual assault is one of the least reported violent crimes. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, as many as 60% of onshore sexual assault victims decline to report the crime against them. It is likely that many cruise passengers who experience sexual assault on the cruise also will not report the crime, and therefore such crimes will not become part of industry cruise safety statistics.
So what can a survivor do if assaulted? Is reporting important? Yes. And there are things you can do. As with crime onshore…

Physical evidence is very important in sexual assault cases, and can deteriorate as time passes. As such, victims should not change clothes, avoid bathing if possible, and have a physical exam at the first opportunity. You should take these steps even if you are unsure about whether to report the crime to police. If you decide to pursue a prosecution at a later time, these steps preserve evidence that will assist the prosecutor.
If you are a US citizen and out of the US when assaulted, contact the US Embassy. A consular officer or after-hours duty officer from the U.S. Embassy may be able to accompany victims of sexual assault for the medical exam. You should get medical attention to determine if you have been injured in any way and to discuss treatment and prevention options for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The U.S. Embassy can provide you with a list of local doctors.

RAINN provides a list of suggestions
If You Are a Victim of Rape/Sexual Assault While Aboard a Cruise
Do not shower, and do not wash your clothes or bedding (as this may damage or destroy valuable evidence) until you have had a forensic examination by qualified medical personnel.
Immediately seek treatment in the emergency room of the nearest hospital or, if you are at sea, from the ship’s medical facilities for any physical injuries. Get a forensic examination to ensure that any evidence is collected; and take photos of any physical injuries or bruises and of the scene of the incident.
If you are onboard the ship when the crime occurs, immediately telephone the FBIand U.S. Coast Guard about the crime, and get advice on how to proceed. You can reach FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. at 202-324-3000, while the emergency numbers for the U.S. Coast Guard are: (1) Atlantic Area Command Center (for Great Lakes, Gulf and East Coasts) – (757) 398-6390; (2) Pacific Area Command center (for the Hawaiian, Alaskan and Pacific Coasts) – (510) 437-3700.
FBI jurisdiction over sexual assault at sea arises under federal criminal law. The Bureau has jurisdiction in these four circumstances: (1) if the cruise vessel is owned in whole or in part by a United States company, (2) if the victim or the perpetrator is a United States national or if the vessel departs or arrives in a United States port anytime during its voyage, (3) if the offense was committed by or against a United States national outside the jurisdiction of any nation (i.e., in international waters), and (4) if the offense occurred in the United States territorial sea within 12 miles of the United States coast.
If the crime occurred on-board the ship, also report the incident to a cruise ship security officer as soon as possible. Insist that the scene of the crime be secured until law enforcement officials arrive.
Get the names and contact information of any individuals (both crew members and passengers) who witnessed or were involved in the incident.
If the crime occurs when you are on foreign soil, seek advice from your nearest embassy or consulate concerning local resources and report the crime to the local police. (Remember that not every country’s legal definition of “rape” and “sexual assault” is the same.) Consular duty personnel are available 24/7 in over 260 Foreign Service posts abroad; and they can provide U.S. citizens who are victimized while traveling with a variety of forms of emergency assistance.

Here are some of the ways a U.S. consular officer can assist:
Contacting your family, friends, or employers;
Locating medical services;
Meeting other emergency needs that arise as a result of the crime;
Providing information about the local criminal justice process and about the case itself;
Obtaining information about local resources to assist victims, including foreign crime victim compensation programs;
Obtaining information about U.S. crime victim assistance and compensation programs on your behalf, and
Obtaining a list of local attorneys who speak English.
Consular officials cannot:
Investigate crimes;
Provide legal advice or represent you in court;
Serve as official interpreters or translators; or
Pay your legal and medical bills or other fees.

For help or information? Here are some options…
To reach the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in the U.S., call 888-407-4747 (during business hours) or 202-647-5225 (after hours).
If you have been assaulted onshore in the US, call 911. Local rape crisis centers have advocates they can send to help support you and provide information.
For information on how to report an assault in the Richmond, Virginia, USA are, you can call the non-emergency line at 804-646-5100, that is 804-646-5100 or go by a local police station office. The main Richmond office is located at 200 West Grace Street.
For help with counseling and advocacy, local rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters can provide services. To find a center closest to you… you can call the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238. That is the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.
Want to share a story or ask a question? Email me at thevword.radio@gmail.com or tweet me at my twitter account: @preventviolence. You can read the transcript for this show and past shows on my blog at http://www.thevword.org
The V Word is recorded in the studios of WRIR-LP 97.3, read and produced by me, Carol Olson.

Contact information of U.S. embassies, consulates, and consular agencies for U.S. citizens traveling abroad.
More information about consular assistance for victims of crime abroad.
Seek support from the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE), the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline (www.rainn.org), or your nearest rape crisis center. If the FBI is involved in investigating your case, you also may want to contact the FBI Office for Victim Assistance about the status of the criminal investigation: 866-828-5320.
Call your physician when you return home and make sure you receive the proper medical care and longer term counseling if necessary.
Should you decide to pursue a civil claim, seek the advice of a legal professional. Your state bar association can refer you to a lawyer with expertise in maritime and admiralty law.

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The V Word: University Sexual Violence

July 14 2014

Welcome to today’s edition of The V Word.

Listen to today’s episode here: https://soundcloud.com/carol-ann-olson/2014-07-14-thevword-campus-rape

Are you a college student? Are you a parent of a college student? Then no doubt you have been reading the news lately about sexual assault on college campuses.
I have been getting stories sent in by students…. While using force, containment and brutality are means used to rape a person and happens on college campuses. There are other actions perpetrators use to sexually assault someone. threats, chemicals like alcohol and drugs, groping, sexual harassment and stalking are used to sexually coerce someone. Perpetrators like to think that using a variety of ways to coerce someone makes it consent.. but it is not consent – it is coercion and it is sexual assault.
Have you ever given someone a sleeping pill to make them drowsy and then had sex with them? That would be considered sexual coercion.
Have you ever threatened to out someone’s sexuality or orientation in order to get them to agree to have sex with you? That is sexual coercion..
Have you ever given someone enough alcohol to make them drunk and incapacitated with the purpose to have sex with them? That would be coercion and rape.
Providing someone with a chemical to reduce their inhibitions or to get them to agree to something they wouldn’t do sober or alert is sexual assault.

Varying reports from the Department of Justice Services, to the White House, to the Office on Violence Against Women, to the statistics from local rape crises centers all find that 20 – 25 % of female college students are sexually assaulted. That’s every fourth or fifth woman on campus. So let’s follow stats… if the current count of women in college is 57% and college classes tend to hold 20 – 30 students (to large lecture classes that hold 100), in a class of 30 students… 4 or 5 are survivors of sexual assault – on campus… In a class of 100 students… 14 or 15 are survivors of sexual assault – on campus…. How many people in college… around 21 million in 2011… so that means… almost 3 million female students are survivors of sexual assault on campus or through college related activities.

What is the impact of sexual assault on college students? The impact is large and ongoing. With the new information regarding trauma on our brains… interpersonal violence received, like sexual assault and physical assault have a permanent impact on our brain which impacts our ability to process, modulate feelings, and manage behavior. This happens even if you witness acts of violence.
What are some of the results:
Trauma related psychiatric and medical issues can be profound
Mentally: Post Traumatic Stress disorders, depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders, and relational disorders are common,
medically: sexually transmitted diseases that can result in sterility or immune deficiency disorders that can result in chronic and life threatening illnesses. head injuries are common and often overlooked, that can result in long-term cognitive issues.
Survivors of campus sexual assault have a higher percentage of dropping out of school, of having significant drops in grades, of dropping out of activities and jobs.
Survivors of campus sexual assault can have more difficulties with relationships due to a reduced ability to trust others.
Survivors of campus sexual assault can turn to alcohol and other drugs to help with the insomnia, nightmares, hypervigilance, and mood instability that can develop.
Appropriate trauma counseling may not be readily available in campus health or counseling centers or even all rape crisis centers due to lack of funds or resources.

What are the issues with colleges letting perpetrators continue to live on campus and attend classes? It promotes an environment where justice is not served, where females students are not respected, but most importantly, it provides an environment where sexual perpetration on females and males is accepted and facilitated.
Here is the question I ask myself…. If the majority of students in college are now women, if sexual perpetration still is targeted at mostly women, and if colleges are not protecting women… what happens if women stop going to those colleges? what happens if women boy cot those colleges? What happens if women create new and safer means to achieve higher education?
Frankly I am amazed colleges do not do a better job of taking care of the majority of their student enrollment. After all, isn’t that where the money comes from? the students and their parents?

For help or information? Here are some options…
If you have been assaulted, call 911. Local rape crisis centers have advocates they can send to help support you and provide information.
For information on how to report an assault in the Richmond, Virginia, USA are, you can call the non-emergency line at 804-646-5100, that is 804-646-5100 or go by a local police station office. The main Richmond office is located at 200 West Grace Street.
For help with counseling and advocacy, local rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters can provide services. To find a center closest to you… you can call the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238. That is the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.
Want to share a story or ask a question? Email me at thevword.radio@gmail.com or tweet me at my twitter account: @preventviolence. You can read the transcript for this show and past shows on my blog at http://www.thevword.org
The V Word is recorded in the studios of WRIR-LP 97.3, read and produced by me, Carol Olson.

Repost: Fairfax County (Virginia) Office for Women & Domestic Violence Services

This is a great new collaboration that I am passing from the DVAC and as posted on the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance newsletter.

 

Sexual and Domestic Violence Advocacy Agency Spotlight: Fairfax County Office for Women & Domestic and Sexual Violence Services

DVAC: A One-Stop Shop for Victims of Domestic Violence and Stalking

Photo below: Teresa Belcher, Advocacy Team supervisor and manager of the DVAC project

Victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking in Fairfax County can now access a variety of services in one accessible, centralized location. Located in the Historic Courthouse, at 4000 Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax, the Fairfax County Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) is a comprehensive, co-located service center, staffed by both county agency and community non-profit partners. These DVAC partners provide culturally responsive information and support services for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking and their families as well as promote the accountability of offenders of these crimes through specialized prosecution and offender supervision. The Fairfax County Office for Women & Domestic and Sexual Violence Services (OFWDSVS) provides an on-site supervisor to coordinate services at the Historic Courthouse location among all the partners providing services on-site. The Advocacy Services team of OFWDSVS is located on-site. OFWDSVS also provides management of the US Dept. of Justice grant that currently funds a large part of this project and coordinates and collaborates with all partners to ensure client and community needs are met.

DVAC is made up of the following county & community-based partner agencies:

  • Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court’s Court Services Unit
  • Fairfax County Office for Women & Domestic and Sexual Violence Services
  • Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney
  • Fairfax County Police Department and the Victim Services Section
  • A Way Forward, providing direct client monetary & goods assistance
  • Ayuda, serving the legal and social services needs of the immigrant community
  • Legal Services of Northern Virginia, providing low-cost legal representation for family issues
  • Northern Virginia Family Services, providing multi-language counseling services
  • Shelter House, Inc., providing crisis shelter for domestic violence victims and services to homeless families
  • Tahirih Justice Center, helping immigrant women fleeing gender-based violence obtain legal status and representation
  • The Women’s Center, providing low-cost counseling services in the community

At DVAC, community victim advocates, system-based advocates, and other service providers offer a safe environment where victims can feel comfortable exploring their options and accessing the services and resources they may need. For the most part, services are free and confidential. Some of the services DVAC can provide to victims include:

  • crisis intervention,
  • emotional support and options for counseling;
  • education about the criminal and civil justice systems (including civil protective orders);
  • victim advocacy, including safety planning, court accompaniment, Criminal Injuries Compensation, assistance with emergency shelter, and
  • other referrals to off-site county and community-based resources.

DVAC also provides services to offenders (off-site only) through a protective order compliance officer, including probation counseling regarding compliance with conditions of civil protective orders and referrals to Batterer Intervention Programs or related treatment, family, or social service resources.

Victims can access DVAC services by calling the Information & Intake line at (703) 246-4573 from Monday through Friday, 8am to 4pm.

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