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The V Word

Advocating to end sexual and domestic violence

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Sexual harassment

The V Word at the Women’s Convention – #Metoo with Rose McGowan

We attended the Women’s Convention in Detriot and got to hear Rose McGowan talk about #metoo and her call to action to make change in Hollywood.

You can hear the first part of her speech to the hundreds of attendees.

The V Word: Soliciting Prostitution

Welcome to today’s edition of The V Word.

 

There have been many times I have been out at a club or music venue, out at a diner late, out walking, or sitting in one of the many Fan triangle parks. Someone has approached me to to ask me to come work for them. The first time it happened, I did not understand what the person was asking. Then I realized, the person was asking me to do sex work for them. Sometimes they just asked and walked away when I said “no”.  Other times the person became persistent, not leaving the table or area I was in…..harassing me and requiring me to leave.  Sometimes I was even handed a card with just a phone number on it and asked to call if I changed my mind.

The other way I was often approached was walking down the street or standing around campus and someone would yell: “How much?”

Seems pretty brazen doesn’t it? Yelling at you in public or handing you a card to call them back, asking you to do sex work.

But of course, this only happened when I was either alone or with just one or two other woman. I started realizing that it does not happen when you are in a group or have males with you.

I talked with other women and trans-women. It is not really that uncommon. Both yelling at you on the street or approaching you in public places… and being persistent about it.  In fact, it happens all the time to young girls, women, trans-women, young males and trans-men.

At first, I did not know what to do and neither did many of the women and trans-women I talked to. How do you report someone who is “just offering you a job” or someone who has driven away by the time you can do something?

Is it illegal?  Yes.  This falls under harassment and is a human rights issue.  It places women and other groups marginalized by gender, gender expression and sexual orientation at risk when they are in public.  It limits women and trans-women ability to be in public as easily and safely as men.

There are legal options.

And so, what is this called legally? Soliciting Prostitution. And it is a crime in Virginia.

The law is 18.2-346 = Soliciting for the purposes of prostitution is illegal. If a street harasser solicits sexual activity from you, you can report the person.

You can also make the case that harasers who yell, “How much?!” or offers you money, or offers you anything else in trade for sex, even in jest, are soliciting prostitution.

I am not making a judgement on consensual sex work, but I do think it is inappropriate and harassing for a person to make assumptions about your sexual availability and make you feel uncomfortable. I think it is inappropriate and harassing for a person to be persistent about trying to recruit you into sex work.

There is a penalty for soliciting prostitution. Soliciting an adult for prostitution is a Class 1 misdemeanor and may result in confinement in jail for up to twelve months and a fine of up to $2500 or both.

The penalty is higher if the person is a minor.

Soliciting for the purposes for prostitution and sex work is sex trafficking. The awareness of sex trafficking has become a much larger issue now. Next week, I will talk more about sex trafficking and options to pursue.

To review: Soliciting for the purpose of prostitution or sex work is illegal and can be reported.

Need help or more information? Here are some options…

For information on how to report in the Richmond, Virginia, USA area, 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. In Virginia, USA, to find a center closest to you… you can call the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline, hosted by The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance at 1-800-838-8238.

That is the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.

Listening from outside of Virginia?  You can call RAINN (rape, abuse, and incest national  network) at 1-800-656-hope.

That is 1-800-656-hope.

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.

The V Word: Upskirt Photo

Welcome to today’s edition of the V Word.

 

I was in court one day. I give expert witness testimony on cases of sexual and domestic violence and child abuse. That day I wore a dress. I was sitting there in the lobby waiting for my turn to testify and what do you think I notice? The Sheriff’s deputy trying to take an upskirt photo of me with his camera phone. When I got up to walk toward him, he moved into a part of the courthouse I could not get to. I considered pursuing it but at the time did not know if I could. When I got out of court the deputy was gone. So then I looked up the law.

Do you know what an upskirt or down-blouse photo is? It is when someone tries to photograph up the inside of your skirt or doWwn the front of your top, or otherwise observes, films or photographs you in an inappropriate way without your knowledge or consent.

The law has been in existence since 2005 and so I am pretty sure that deputy knows the law and knew that in fact he was engaging in unlawful filming or photography of a person.

So for you secret filming perpetrators out there with your camera phones, what that means is that it is illegal to hold you phone or camera beneath a person or between a person’s legs to film or to photograph a person’s intimate areas, yes it really is illegal to hide cameras to film someone without their knowledge and when the person expects privacy.

That also means it is illegal to photograph someone in places like public bathrooms, places where people change their clothes, hotels (as in a recent case out at a Richmond mall?

…. So no cameras in the walls and no cameras in toilets (yes that has happened, remember Rockefeller hiding cameras in the toilets of the Rockettes bathroom?).

Now, while some states are doing nothing about upskirt photos,Virginia is and it is illegal. If this has happened to you, you have legal options to pursue.

There is a law (18.2-386.1) that Unlawful Filming, videotaping, or photographing of another is a Class 1 misdemeanor and it is punishable by 1 year in jail and or a fine of up to $2500 or both.

So to review….

It is It is illegal to to place a recording device directly beneath or between a person’s legs to film or photograph the person’s intimate parts or underwear when it it would not otherwise be visible and when the person should reasonably expect privacy.

If a harasser films or photographs you someplace like public restrooms, dressing rooms, locker rooms and hotel rooms, you can report the person.

It is also illegal for anyone to intentionally film or photograph a non-consenting person if the image exposes the private areas of the person’s body.

If a street harasser or perpetrator takes an up-skirt or down-blouse photo of you, or otherwise observes or photographs you in an inappropriate way, you can report the person.

Need help or more information? Here are some options.

For information on how to report in the Richmond area, you can call the non-emergency line at 646-5100, that is 646-5100 or go by a local police department office.

For help with counseling and advocacy, local rape crisis and domestic violence shelters can provide services. To find a center closest to you… you can call the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238. That is the Virginia Family Violence & 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 handle @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 97.3, read and produced by me, Carol Olson.

The V Word: Street Harassment

Welcome to today’s edition of The V Word

 

Street Harassment, has this happened to you? It has happened to me.

One day I was walking in the Fan area, heading toward Carytown. A male riding a bike comes up alongside me. He starts making sexually suggestive comments to me. I try to ignore him and keep walking. He asks me for a date. I say no and keep walking. I turn down a street and he follows me. So then, he starts yelling obscenities at me for not agreeing to go on a date with him. He continues following me several blocks until I get to a business and go into one to ask for help. Only then does he ride away.

In case you are wondering where I am going with this, I am going to talk about street harassment.  And I know I will get a resounding “YES”, from every woman and trans-woman to this question: Have you been the subject of street harassment such as forced conversations, cat calls, sexually suggestive comments and obscene gestures? Did the offender keep it up even when you said no or tried to walk away?
Some people have asked me, what exactly counts as street harassment? And is it just on the street? The advocacy movement defines it as any action or comment between strangers in public places that is disrespectful, unwelcome, threatening and/or harassing, and is motivated by gender, gender expression or sexual orientation. And no it does not just happen on the street. It can happen in stores, college campuses, concert venues, etc. Any place where a person is harassing you publicly. And to top off an already bad experience of being harassed in public, women or trans women are either told it’s a compliment and/or are often blamed for its occurrence because of their gender, their gender expression, what they were wearing, where they were walking or the time of night. And, amazingly enough, women and trans-women are often told that males cannot help themselves. Now that argument always shocks me, because if men can not control themselves, there are a lot of things we ought to limiting them from. And another thing happens, many people minimize street harassment thinking that since it doesn’t involve touching, it is therefore less dangerous. Not so. It is just as dangerous as other forms of harassment and interpersonal violence. And it can escalate to stalking and assault.

Remember my story above? The offender did not stop bothering or following me until I got to a business section and went into a store.  Street harassment is a human rights issue because it limits women’s and trans women’s ability to be in public as often or as comfortably as most men.

So to review, street harassment includes:

  • Verbal harassment – like yelling sexually suggestive comments,
  • Up-skirt photos – which is taking photos up women’s clothing or down their shirts.
  • Indecent exposure – and yes you flashers listening – that means your junk specifically,
  • Following people,
  • Groping – which is grabbing, touching, fondling any part of the body.
  • Obstructing paths – which is preventing someone from getting by you so you can harass them in all the ways I just listed.

So listeners, has any of this happened to you? What can you do? Or listeners, any of you doing any of the above?

In Virginia, there are 5 laws that may apply to the various forms of street harassment.
1. Disorderly conduct (this one is rarely used but can apply in some circumstances) – and is a Class 1 misdemeanor with 12 months of jail and/or $2500 fine.
2. Profane swearing and intoxication – and since street harassers are often mixing alcohol with their abuse, this one can apply – and is a class 4 misdemeanor with a fine of $250
3. Slander and libel – This law, interestingly enough, focuses specifically on banning people from falsely and derogatorily speaking about a chaste female’s character. While evaluating women based on their chastity is outdated, this statute can be used when women are called derogatory names.
4. Soliciting Prostitution – soliciting for the purpose of prostitution is illegal. If a street harasser solicits sexual activity from you or yells “how much”, you can report him or her. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor and may result in jail time of up to 12 months and/or a fine of $2500 – the penalty is higher if the person solicited is a minor.
5. Unlawful Assembly – it is illegal for 3 or more people to gather for the purposes of doing something through force or violence that is likely to jeopardize public safety, peace or order and that makes someone else fear for his, her or their safety. So, if at least 3 people are engaging in street harassment together and they make any kind of threat of force against you or make you fear for your safety, you can report the persons. The penalty is a class 1 misdemeanor with up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of $2500

Need help or more information? Local rape crisis and domestic violence shelters can provide services. To find a center closest to you, you can call the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.

The V Word is recorded in the studios of WRIR 97.3 LP, read and produced by me, Carol Olson.

 

Good news for military: the National Defense Authorization Act is signed

Here is some positive news for advocates against sexual and domestic violence. This week, after much anticipation, President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. This includes 19 amendments to significantly reform Department of Defense sexual assault and sexual harassment policies.

This bill is significant in that it has the largest number of sexual violence provisions ever signed into law. The Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) have worked tirelessly for two years to advocate for these changes. While the NDAA is a bill that focuses on the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense (DOD), It also deals with multiple military issues. It is the mechanism used by Congress to provide oversight and mandate change within the military.

Again, SWAN’s advocacy work is key as they provide bipartisan legislative recommendations to both the House and Senate to improve the welfare of service women and women veterans. Kudos to SWAN and their advocacy to introduce more provisions based to improve the way the military handles sexual assault and sexual harassment in the ranks. Specifically, the law now provides for:

  • Prohibiting the military from recruiting anyone convicted of a sex offense
  • Mandatory separation of convicted sex offenders
  • Insurance coverage for abortions in cases of rape or incest for service women and military family members
  • Retention of restricted report documentation for 50 years if so desired by the victim
  • The creation of “Special Victims Units” to improve investigation, prosecution and victim support in connection with child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault cases
  • Allowing victims to return to active duty after separation to help prosecute sex offenders
  • The creation of an independent review panel comprised of civilian and military members that will closely examine the way that the DOD investigates, prosecutes, and adjudicates sexual assaults
  • Required sexual assault prevention training in pre-command and command courses for officers
  • Improved data collection and reporting by the military on sexual assault and sexual harassment cases
  • Annual command climate assessment surveys to track individual attitudes toward sexual assault and sexual harassment
  • A review of unrestricted sexual assault reports and the nature of any subsequent separations of victims who made those reports
  • Notification to service members of the options available for the correction of military records due to any retaliatory personnel action after making a report of sexual assault or sexual harassment
  • Requirement for DOD to establish a policy for comprehensive sexual harassment prevention and response
  • Language that will allow better oversight and tracking of DOD’s implementation of sexual assault provisions from prior Defense Authorizations in order to ensure they are being enforced properly

SWAN’s goal is to eradicate sexual assault and sexual harassment through the transformation of military culture. The passage of the 2013 NDAA is another critical step in moving the military one step closer to change.

Please consider making a gift to help SWAN end sex discrimination and promote equality and justice in the military!

About SWAN
SWAN is a nonpartisan civil rights organization founded and led by women veterans. SWAN’s works to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and freedom to serve without discrimination, harassment or assault; and to reform veterans’ services to ensure high quality health care and benefits for women veterans and their families.

Service Women’s Action Network | 220 E. 23rd Street | Suite 509 | New York | NY | 10010

Some articles posted by SWAN

Read the New York Times story on the relationship between Maxim magazine and the military.
Click here to read The Daily Beast’s coverage of the passage of the Shaheen Amendment.

Watch this Al-Jazeera clip on the VA Military Sexual Assault Claims process here.

Check out this Federal News Radio piece here on the rise in reported sexual assaults at military service academies.

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