RSS

Author Archives: melissaspatz

What do YOU think about media coverage of gender-based violence?

Have you been frustrated with media coverage of the issue of violence against girls & young women?

Are there facts you think the press should know? Ways you think the issue should be framed?

Or are there journalists and news outlets that you think have done a great job, and should be considered a model for reporting?

This is your chance to share your input as we create a Media Toolkit to suggest ways that news outlets can better cover the issue of violence against girls & young women.  Please fill out this survey by November 30!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 14, 2011 in Media

 

New Occasional Paper from YWAT on engaging young men as allies

On November 2-3, 2007, fifteen young men gathered to participate in the Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team’s (YWAT’s) Male Ally Training.  The training was created by Ed Mills and members of the YWAT.  Lillian Matanmi, a leadership team member of the YWAT, was the primary coordinator of this project.

Now Ed Mills and members of YWAT have prepared a report on the event.  The report summarizes what took place and indicates some of the training’s strengths and weaknesses.  It also discusses the participants’ – both trainees and facilitators – written and oral feedback, and contains a brief appendix with some of the activities, evaluations and facilitators’ afterthoughts.  The YWAT hopes that this report will be of assistance to other individuals and organizations seeking to create similar trainings.

The report — along with workshop activities and evaluations — is available on the Taskforce website.

The Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team has also developed a toolkit titled “Where Our Boys At? Involving Young Men as Allies to End Violence against Girls.”  In the toolkit, YWAT shares some of the resources (including curricula) that it has developed and perhaps even more importantly  discusses the challenges and accomplishments of its three-year campaign.  The toolkit can be found here!

Thanks to Ed and the members of YWAT for sharing their learnings!  If your group has similar evaluations to share, and would like to submit a proposal for an Occasional Paper, please email us at chitaskforce@gmail.com.

 

Now that Tiawanda Moore is free, what lessons can we learn?

On August 18, 2010, Tiawanda Moore went to the Office of Internal Affairs to file a complaint, alleging that a police officer had sexually assaulted her.  Getting the runaround from the officers at Internal Affairs, and feeling threatened and intimidated, she pulled out her Blackberry to get proof that they were refusing to help her file her claim.  As many of you know by now, Ms. Moore was charged with “eavesdropping” on the police, a charge that can bring up to 15 years in jail.

Today, I’m so happy to announce, she was acquitted, and her nightmare is over.

But there are lessons to be learned from this, and changes that are needed, and I think it’s important that we take the time to think about what happened here, and what it says about the need for systemic reform.

I was in court today, along with my good friend and colleague Mariame Kaba and a small group of supporters.  The closing arguments we heard spoke volumes about the injustice that this young woman – and I fear, young women in general – experience at the hands of the police and the states’ attorney.

“THEY WERE STALLING, INTIMIDATING HER, BULLYING HER NOT TO MAKE A COMPLAINT.”

Ms. Moore’s attorney, Robert Johnson, spoke eloquently about her experiences of injustice.  His description of what had happened to Ms. Moore, based on the testimony and the tape itself, which had been played for the jury, filled in some of the details on her harrowing experience at Internal Affairs that you may not have heard.

First, he said, when she made the appointment, she was told to bring any witnesses who could support her allegations.  She brought her boyfriend, but he was immediately told to go home or go to McDonald’s to wait for her; no interview was held.  The police urged her not to file a complaint, insisting that the assaulting officer was “a good guy.”  On the tape, there’s a promise that what happened to her will never happen again (proving, as Robert Johnson pointed out, that they believed that she had been assaulted).  There’s the insistence that instead of filing a complaint, she should “go a different route.”  (On cross examination, the officer admitted, correctly, that there is no other route for victims of police sexual harassment in the system.)  And there’s the fact that when she became concerned and wanted to speak with another officer, the police locked the door and told her she could not leave.

Imagine how scary this experience must have been.  Imagine the power dynamics in the room, of this 19-year old young woman trying to plead her case to two police officers, and getting this kind of response.

The only conclusion you can reach is the one Robert Johnson reached:

“The plan was to kill this complaint from the very beginning….  They were stalling, intimidating her, bullying her not to make a complaint.”

HERE WE GO AGAIN, FRAMING THE VICTIM AS THE PERPETRATOR

And what did the State have to say about what happened?  Brace yourself, because here’s their theory.

Tiawanda Moore, they said, was on a “fishing expedition.”  They alleged that this young woman came in all the way from Indiana, not because she had been assaulted by a police officer and wanted to make a complaint.  No, the real reason according to the State was that she “wanted them to say the case was going nowhere.  That’s what she wanted them to say.”

What?  Didn’t she say on the tape itself that she’s concerned about how many other young women have been sexually assaulted by this officer?  Absolutely, said the State, and that is just proof that she was “editorializing,” by which I suppose they meant she was trying to make her case for public consumption.

If this sounds crazy to you, like the world’s gone mad, consider the State’s conclusion as to the power dynamics at play when she went to file her claim.  Is it the police that are in a position of power?  No.

“It is her that is in control…. You can’t push Tiawanda Moore around, she’s not going to let you.”

After all, the State’s Attorney added, “What motive do the police have to protect this officer?”

“JUST ANOTHER DAY IN INTERNAL AFFAIRS”

Now that we can breathe a huge sigh of relief that Tiawanda Moore won’t be facing jail time for this travesty, I am left with a deep fear that what she experienced may in fact be, to quote the State’s Attorney, “just another day in Internal Affairs.”

The concerns raised by groups like the ACLU, and activists like Chris Drew, over the Eavesdropping Law are important and valid.  Our avenue for defense against all types of abuse of power by law enforcement must be protected.  Citizens should be able to record police abuse, and to use recordings to hold the police accountable for such abuse in court.  Period.

Beyond that, though, let’s not lose focus on how the system failed this young woman at every level.  It is important that we remember that Tiawanda Moore’s terrible experience with the system as a young woman survivor of violence was most likely not a fluke.  Instead, her experience points to what young women are up against, and the need for systemic changes.

Young women in Chicago are at risk of sexual assault by the police.  Tiawanda Moore is certainly not the only young woman to allege that she has been sexually assaulted by a police officer.  In Chicago, and in other cities as well, young women have come forward to say that they have been assaulted by their local police officers.  Here in Chicago, there have been rallies in support of survivors of police violence, and groups such as Women’s All Points Bulletin – whose director, Crista Noel, was present in court as well to support Tiawanda Moore today – are working to draw attention to these cases, and to provide crucial support for women.

And can we really believe, as the state alleges, that Internal Affairs is deeply committed to supporting survivors of police violence?  Literature from Chicago Activists Against Police Sexual Assault, a new group that is holding rallies around the issue, quotes these statistics from a 2007 study by the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago.

  • The odds that a Chicago police officer charged with abuse will receive any form of meaningful discipline are 2 out of 1,000. But as the U.S. Dept. of Justice has found, only 1 in 10 citizens ever even report police abuse for fear of reprisal, and distrust of the investigatory process.
  • Between 2002 and 2004, 85% of abuse complaints were dismissed without ever interviewing the officer.
  • 75% of Chicago police officers with multiple charges of abuse never receive any discipline whatsoever
  • Brutality complaints are 94% less likely to be found as having sufficient evidence by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) than in the nation as a whole.

Yes, it does sound like what happened to Ms. Moore was what might be expected on any typical day.

And now we can add the State’s Attorney into the mix.  For months, the Taskforce has called for the State’s Attorney to drop these ridiculous charges against Tiawanda Moore.  They refused.  Today’s closing arguments made it clear that the State’s Attorney cannot be relied upon to protect young women from police violence.  The topsy turvy world view that was presented in court today – a world in which young women supposedly have power over the police – was startling and frankly, frightening.

We all have a lot of work to do if we are going to make Chicago safer for young women.  Systems change at every level is called for.  What are your thoughts about what needs to be done?

 

New Occasional Paper: C.R.I.M.E. Teens Project

The Taskforce is happy to announce the release of our latest Occasional Paper, by youth and adult allies at the C.R.I.M.E. Teens Project!

The C.R.I.M.E. Teens Project (Compassion, Respect, Inspiration, Motivation, Empathy) is a grassroots, youth led violence prevention program.  Since its inception in 2009, the C.R.I.M.E. Teens have worked toward multiple achievements, most notably presenting to hundreds of elementary, middle school, and professional populations through an adolescent-centric perspective of community, school, relational, and familial violence, and authoring and publishing a book targeted to educators and direct service professionals on how to better understand the youth experience of violence.

This paper is a written collaboration between the C.R.I.M.E. youth and the adult supporters to dive deeper into the critical issues of violence against young girls and women, particularly focusing on cyber bullying, relational violence, and teen dating relationships.  The young women of the C.R.I.M.E. Teens also provide personal narratives of their own experience with complex trauma and violence and their stories of resilience and advocacy to aid other young girls and women in their own recovery.

In the words of one of the program’s youth,

“The violence rate toward and between women is increasing in Chicago neighborhoods. We have all witnessed violence in our own ways. We want to talk about how we experienced violence and what we have learned from it.  We are a group of teens trying to stop violence and help communities come together as one. As youth, people think just because we are teens, we don’t really CARE, but we do; we want to use our voice to help make change.”

You can read the paper by C.R.I.M.E. Teens here.

 
 

New Occasional Paper: The Bad Encounter Line, by YWEP

We are thrilled to share with you the latest Occasional Paper, by C. Angel Torres and Naima Paz of the Young Women’s Empowerment Project!  The paper looks at the organization’s Bad Encounter Line, which they describe like this:

The Bad Encounter Line (BEL) is a way to report bad experiences you have had with institutions such as police, the health care system, public aid, DCFS, CPS, etc. In our research we noticed so many girls and transgender girls reporting bad encounters from systems that are set in place to help them. So we wondered is the same happening to boys as well; so we expanded the BEL to reach them as well, and as we have been receiving data we have learned that these systems are affecting all genders. Based off the BEL, we started a task force for street based youth and wrote a Bill of Rights that we want non-profits to sign so they have to be accountable to us and can’t get away with denying us help.

The paper is available for downloading – along with the Bill of Rights that YWEP members developed – on the Taskforce website.

We thank the Young Women’s Empowerment Project for their powerful and important work, and for their willingness to share it with us through the Taskforce.  We encourage you to read what the young people from YWEP have to say about this issue, why it matters, and how they are taking concrete steps to address it.

Stay tuned for our next two papers, to be released this fall, both featuring youth voices….. The first, by youth and adult allies at the CRIME Teens Project in Bronzeville, describes their approach to addressing bullying, cyberbullying and teen dating violence. The second, by youth leader Tiara Epps of Beyondmedia Education, will be in the form of a video diary, and will share her learnings from the Chain of Change project.

If you are interested in submitting an abstract for our next round of Occasional Papers, please email us at chitaskforce@gmail.com.

 
 

A morning in court in support of Tiawanda Moore

Cross-posted from Prison Culture, by Mariame Kaba

The first thing that strikes me when I see Tiawanda Moore is that she looks so very young. The second thing is that she reminds me of my cousin Fatime. She has the same fine features and beautiful dark skin. She is slight in build and is wearing glasses. Every black person in the U.S. has a sister, friend, cousin who looks just like Tiawanda Moore.

I arrived at Cook County Criminal Court at 9:30 this morning for a scheduled 10 am hearing on Ms. Moore’s case. I sat in the “holding area” reserved for spectator and the accused. Large tinted windows separate me from what’s happening inside where the judge and attorneys hold court. We can hear the proceedings happening past the large windows and glass doors through a horrible sounding speaker system. The sound keeps cutting on and off. I get frustrated so I walk through the doors to alert someone about the technical difficulties. A woman who appears to be waiting for a relative to be called for his case informs me that this is the norm and that when I hear Ms. Moore’s case called I should walk inside and stand by the doors if I want to support her. I thank her for the advice.

Promptly at 10 am, Ms. Moore’s name is called and she walks up to the judge with her attorney, Robert Johnson. I get up and stand inside the doors toward the back so that I can hear what is happening. The judge makes a couple of pronouncements that I as a layperson don’t understand. Then he invites the Assistant State’s Attorney and Mr. Johnson to use his chambers to review some items for discovery. The  item of interest is the internal review report from the Chicago Police Department which has been kept underwraps.

Ms. Moore walks out back toward the “holding area” and I follow her out. She sits on one of the nondescript wood benches that court watchers and the accused share. I walk over to her and introduce myself. I let her know that I am one of the co-founders of the Taskforce and that we have been trying to bring attention to her case. She shakes my hand which feels really small in mine. She is soft-spoken and shy. She thanks me for helping her. We go outside the courtroom and she starts telling me about her case. Shortly, we are joined by her lawyer, Mr. Johnson. He says that he expects to look over the internal review documents today and will make a motion demanding that the case be brought immediately to trial.

Ms. Moore tells me that she is invoking her right to a speedy trial. This ordeal is of course weighing on this 21 year old young woman. I can’t even begin to imagine the stress of these regular trips to criminal court. It was obvious to me today that the State of Illinois is stalling for time. I speculate that they do not want a public hearing of the audio recording that Ms. Moore made of the police when they would not take her complaint seriously. This is of course conjecture on my part but the first hearing in this case was scheduled for February 7th and the expectation was that trial would begin shortly thereafter. Today is June 23rd and still there has been no trial. State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has no case against Tiawanda Moore and she ought to pursue an investigation against the rogue police officer who abused his power by sexually assaulting Ms. Moore in her own home.

The Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women intends to continue to pressure the State’s Attorney to end this unjust prosecution. We will keep you apprised of the developments in this case.

To learn more about the background of this case, you can read the following pieces:

New York Times Article

Radley Balko’s Huffingpost Article

You can help by signing our petition demanding that Anita Alvarez drop the unjust charges against Tiawanda Moore.

 

3 things that might surprise you about Slutwalk Chicago

Slutwalk Chicago came to town yesterday and it was great!  Here are 3 facts that might surprise you about the event and the Slutwalk movement.  These three facts have been underreported – and in some cases even twisted – by the mainstream media.

1.  Slutwalk wasn’t (mostly) about sluts. 

There were certainly women with signs saying “slut” and dressed in provocative clothing – and more power to them!  It was great to see women so comfortable in their own skin, reclaiming the street.

But don’t believe the media hype, or the carefully selected media images, suggesting that the march consisted of 2,000 women in lingerie.  Most of the marchers were wearing everyday clothing, of all varieties, reflecting their individual identities and personal styles.  The overall message was to put an end to victim-blaming, no matter what survivors are wearing.

2. Men were a central part of Slutwalk Chicago. 

Men marched on their own, with their girlfriends, with their boyfriends, and in groups.  Men worked as volunteers along the route to support the marchers.  They cheered and chanted, they held signs saying “An injury to one is an injury to all” and “Fight for a World Without Sexism.”

This was one of the most moving and underreported aspects of the march – to see men out on the streets demanding an end to violence against women is a huge shift in a movement that has long alienated male allies.

We in the anti-violence movement need to embrace this change, and to further encourage male allies to organize workshops, rallies and other events to speak out against violence.

3. It’s time for the anti-violence movement to listen to younger women, who have developed important new messaging. 

If you think an anti-violence march only has the message of “end violence,” then listen up: this march aimed to promote positive sexuality that is consensual and free from violence.  Posters like “Wow, I like sex so so much when it’s consensual!” send an important message that many younger women in the movement have embraced.

You hear it from groups like SHEER (Sexual Health Education to End Rape), a group that has partnered with many organizations in Chicago, including the Taskforce, to build a new sex-positive anti-violence movement.  In their own words, SHEER is

a survivor centered, sex positive, pro-consent coalition formed to prevent sexual assault, abuse, harassment and victim blaming and to address myths about rape by promoting an affirmative consent standard as the cornerstone of healthy sexual interactions. An affirmative consent standard calls for the use of enthusiastic consent that is active, mutual and ongoing throughout a sexual encounter.

This new messaging is helping to shape the movement going forward, and it was displayed in full force at Slutwalk Chicago.