TIME India

New Delhi Authorities Backtrack on Controversial Exam for Rape Victims

INDIA-RELIGION-CHRISTIAN-WOMEN-RAPE
SAM PANTHAKY—AFP/Getty Images A woman attends a peace protest in Ahmedabad on March 20, 2015, in the wake of the gang-rape on an elderly nun.

Medical authorities had already recommended against the digital vaginal exam in 2014

Authorities in the Indian capital, New Delhi, have made a hasty about-face after granting local doctors permission to perform digital vaginal examinations on victims of rape and sexual assault. The permission, which appeared to contradict a medical ban, was made in a circular sent to local hospitals, the BBC reports, and drew a fierce backlash.

According to Indian news site Firstpost, the circular described the so-called two-finger test as “essential” and said that forgoing it “would amount to incomplete assessment of the survivor.”

New Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain said that criticism of the circular misrepresented authorities’ intentions, which were to seek higher conviction rates. The document also stressed that the “informed consent” of the victim should be sought.

However, India’s Supreme Court ruled that the humiliating and outdated procedure violated a woman’s privacy in 2013. It was subsequently banned by the Department of Health Research and the Indian Medical Council in guidelines issued in 2014.

Despite that, the test is still performed in some parts of India.

Sexual violence, and the harassment of women, have been sensitive topics in India since a brutal 2012 gang rape in Delhi sparked nationwide protests and made headlines around the world.

Following criticism of the circular, Jain clarified that digital vaginal examinations “cannot be performed for ascertaining sexual assaults,” the BBC said.

[BBC]

TIME Sexual Assault

Student Who Carried Mattress in Rape Protest Unveils New Project

Columbia Student Carries Mattress Around Campus Until Her Alleged Rapist Is Expelled
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Emma Sulkowicz, a senior visual arts student at Columbia University, poses with a mattress, which she says she will carry every where she goes in protest of the university's lack of action after she reported being raped during her sophomore year, on September 5, 2014 in New York City. (Andrew Burton--Getty Images)

Performance art video shows a campus assault — though Emma Sulkowicz says it's "not a re-enactment"

A Columbia University student who carried a mattress around campus to protest the administration’s refusal to expel her alleged rapist has made a follow-up project– a performance art video about her alleged rape.

Emma Sulkowicz, who says she was raped by another student in 2012, has become one of the most prominent faces of campus sexual assault because of her senior thesis project — entitled Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) — about what she considers to be the poor handling of her rape allegations by university authorities.

In a statement accompanying the video, which was first reported by New York, she writes that the video “not a reenactment” of her own rape, but “may seem like one.” The video project is called Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol, translates to “this is not a rape”– an allusion to surrealist Rene Magritte’s famous painting The Treachery of Images, more commonly known as Ceci N’est Pas Un Pipe, or “this is not a pipe.”

Sulkowicz writes on the website for the project that the video is “not about one night in August, 2012.” Instead, she says, “I want to change the world, and that begins with you, seeing yourself. If you watch this video without my consent, then I hope you reflect on your reasons for objectifying me and participating in my rape.”

You can watch the project, which contains graphic scenes, here. On Friday, there appeared to be technical difficulties loading the video.

TIME Research

Sexual Violence Against Children Is a Worldwide Problem, Study Says

New surveys show many victims do not receive help

Sexual violence against children is a global problem — and few receive supportive services exist for its victims, according to recent data released from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday.

The new numbers show at least 25% of females and 10% of males report experiencing a form of sexual violence as a child. The results come from Violence Against Children Surveys that were conducted between 2007 and 2013 among men and women ages 18 to 24 in Swaziland, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Haiti and Cambodia. The findings are published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The surveys asked about childhood sexual violence experienced before individuals turned 18. Sexual violence was defined as unwanted touching, unwanted attempted sex, pressured or coerced sex and forced sex. Girls were more likely to be victims of completed acts of unwanted sex than boys.

Among the seven countries surveyed, Cambodia had the lowest rates of reported sexual violence against girls and boys, at 4.4% and 5.6% respectively. Swaziland had the highest rates of reported sexual violence against girls, at 37.6%. Zimbabwe had the second highest rate for girls at 32.5%. Haiti had the most similar rates among both genders.

The study authors report that high levels of sexual violence experienced in children — and low levels of support afterward — can cause a cascade of lifelong struggles, including unwanted pregnancy, depression and disease. “Experiencing trauma as a child can contribute to biologic changes, such as altered hormonal responses as well as mental illness, such as depression, or other psychological changes like poor social relations and low self-esteem, all of which elevate risk for developing chronic diseases,” the study authors write.

The research has limitations, including the possibility that recall might be imperfect among those surveyed and the fact that some people in the study may not have disclosed their experiences. Still, the researchers note that understanding the prevalence of sexual violence can help in the formation of interventions for various countries.

TIME India

Uber’s Taxi Application Rejected by New Delhi After Sexual Assault Claims

Members of All India Mahila Congress, women's wing of Congress party, shout slogans and carry placards during a protest against the rape of a female passenger, in New Delhi
Anindito Mukherjee—Reuters Members of All India Mahila Congress, women's wing of Congress party, shout slogans and carry placards during a protest against the alleged rape of a female Uber passenger, in New Delhi on Dec. 8, 2014

More bad news for the embattled but ultra-successful company

Uber’s application to operate in New Delhi has been rejected in the wake of alleged sexual assaults committed by drivers working via the ride-sharing app, according to reports.

Letters sent to the company by state authorities detail how Uber failed to comply with the Home Ministry-imposed ban in the wake of the alleged rape of 27-year-old woman by one of its drivers in December last year, the Wall Street Journal reports. The driver denies the charge and his trial is ongoing.

But authorities have now sprung into action after a 21-year-old woman accused another Uber driver of sexual assault over the weekend.

Similar applications from two more app-based cab aggregators, OLA cabs and Taxi4Sure, were also rejected by local authorities.

Uber Delhi’s general manager Gagan Bhatia said in statement Wednesday that that the rejection of the company’s license was “unfortunate,” indicating that the company would apply again once federal guidelines were in place for registration.

“We welcome the opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue with the Delhi government to seek necessary permissions,” Bhatia said, according to the WSJ.

[WSJ]

TIME Research

Rape Is Common Among Female College Freshmen, Study Shows

Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014.
Alex Garland—Demotix/Corbis Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014.

Sexual assaults and rape have reached "epidemic levels," researchers say

A new study of first-year women at a large private university in the Northeastern U.S. reveals that many freshman women have suffered some form of rape.

The study looked at 483 women (a relatively small study size) who were a representative sample of the freshman class and who volunteered to partake in the study. The women filled out questionnaires when they arrived on campus, at the end of their fall semester, at the end of their spring semester and at the end of the summer following their first year at college. The study was published Wednesday in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Before entering college, about 18% of the women reported enduring a completed or attempted incapacitated rape (involving drugs or alcohol) since age 14, and 15% reported being victims of completed or attempted forcible rape. Over the study year, the researchers found that 9% of the women reported experiencing attempted or completed forcible rape and 15.4% reported attempted or completed incapacitated rape. Some of the women in the study reported more than one incident. At the end of the study, the lifetime experience of forcible rape was 21.7% among the women in the study, and 25.7% for incapacitated rape.

In general, rape involving drugs and alcohol was most common among the women in the study. The data also suggests that women who had already undergone a rape before entering college were more likely to report experiencing rape during their first year. “These findings are important not only for sexual assault prevention but for mental health promotion on campus as previous work has illustrated that multiple exposures to violence are strongly associated with poor mental health, including suicidality,” a corresponding editorial on the study reads. The study authors add that risky drinking behavior should be a target for prevention.

The researchers conclude that incapacitated and forcible sexual assaults and rape have reached “epidemic levels” among college women. The findings are among a small population of women, but underline that rape is not an altogether uncommon experience among young women. While it should be noted that the study looks at self-reported rapes and not clinically validated assaults, it’s also important to note that Department of Justice data suggests up to 80% of rapes and sexual assaults of female college students go unreported.

The study replicates findings in a number of other studies, which tend to find that close to 1 in 5 women in college are sexual-assault victims. But over the past year, there’s been a great deal of controversy about using the results from one study as a stand-in for a national average of college rape victims. This has been particularly true of the 1-in-5 number often cited by the White House, which comes from the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study of two different colleges. This new study was much, much smaller — its value should be taken as one data point to build a broad picture of sexual assault on America’s campuses.

“These data make clear that prevention programs for both men and women in both high school and college are necessary,” the study authors write. “Programs may need to address trauma-related concerns for previously victimized women.”

TIME India

Indian Nurse Who Spent 42 Years in Coma Following Brutal Rape Has Died

The 68-year-old had been a pivotal figure for the South Asian nation's debate over euthanasia

Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug, a former nurse who spent over four decades in a vegetative state after being raped at a Mumbai hospital in 1973, died Monday morning after a heart attack following a bout of pneumonia. She was 68.

“She was recovering and all her other medical parameters were fine. Today she suffered a sudden attack and could not be saved,” Dr. Ahmad Pazare, head of medicine at Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial hospital (KEM), told the Indian Express.

Shanbaug began working as a junior nurse at KEM in the early 1970s, after moving to the city from the southern Indian state of Karnataka. On Nov. 27, 1973, she was brutally attacked by a hospital sweeper named Sohanlal Bhartia Valmiki, who tied her to a dog chain and sodomized her. The incident left her in a vegetative state owing to serious brain injuries. For the past 42 years, she had been confined to ward No. 4 of the same hospital.

In March 2011, Shanbaug became the face of the debate on euthanasia in India after the country’s Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by the writer Pinki Virani that sought permission for a “mercy killing.” Virani’s move was opposed by the nurses and doctors at the hospital who had looked after Shanbaug since she was attacked.

Her rapist served seven years in prison after being convicted of robbery and attempted murder.

TIME

Girls Who Escaped ISIS Describe Systematic Rape

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Bilgin Sasmaz—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivers a speech during a press conference at UN headquarters in New York on April 9, 2015.

Girls are forced into marriage and sold as gifts, aid group says

As they destroy antiquities and capture cities, ISIS fighters have also been engaged in a systematic campaign of rape and sexual violence against Yezidi women and girls in Iraq and Syria, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday.

According to the report, the widespread rape of girls and women from the Yezidi Christian minority group—is part of a organized system of abuse that includes slavery, forced marriage, and giving girls as “gifts” to different men. According to a recent U.N. report, about 3,000 people are currently in ISIS captivity, many of them Yezidi women. Last year, ISIS published an article that lays out its defense of sex slavery on religious grounds, despite the fact that sex slavery is condemned by the international community. “The confluence of crises wrought by violent extremism has revealed a shocking trend of sexual violence employed as a tactic of terror by radical groups,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said earlier this week.

One 20-year-old Yezidi woman told Human Rights Watch that ISIS held her and about 60 other women in a wedding hall in Syria, to be raped at will. They were told to “forget about your relatives, from now on you will marry us, bear our children, God will convert you to Islam and you will pray.” Here’s how she described the scene:

From 9:30 in the morning, men would come to buy girls to rape them. I saw in front of my eyes ISIS soldiers pulling hair, beating girls, and slamming the heads of anyone who resisted. They were like animals…. Once they took the girls out, they would rape them and bring them back to exchange for new girls. The girls’ ages ranged from 8 to 30 years… only 20 girls remained in the end.

As horrific as these stories are, they’re not quite new. Human Rights Watch published a similar report detailing ISIS’s forced marriages and conversions of Yezidi people last year, which focused less on specifically sexual abuse and more on widespread devastation of Yezidi communities. Still, international outrage has done little to stop the violence. “People feel quite powerless in the face of a group like ISIS,” says Liesl Gerntholtz, Human Rights Watch Executive Director for Women’s Rights. “Traditional tactics like naming and shaming just don’t work for them.”

ISIS is not the only Islamist militant group to use sexual violation as a tool of terrorism. This week marks the one-year anniversary of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls from a school in northeast Nigeria. Based on how Boko Haram has treated other female captives, many fear that the schoolgirls have been forced into marriage or sold into sex slavery. Shortly after the kidnapping, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau boasted that he had taken the girls and planned to “sell them on the market.”

More: Boko Haram Has Fled But No One Know the Fate of the Chibok Girls

But despite the atrocities, there is a glimmer of hope in the latest report on ISIS and the Yezidi women. Yezidi religious leaders have issued statements welcoming abused Yezidi girls back into the community after they escape from their captors, a move that may ease the widespread social stigma against girls who have been victims of sexual assault. “That is unusual, and for me personally, that was a heartwarming part,” says Gerntholtz. “They need to be accepted back, they need to be supported. This was very important and very influential to make sure there were no honor killings or honor-related violence.”

TIME Research

Relatives of Sex Offenders Are 5 Times More Likely to Commit Similar Offenses Finds Study

Genetic factors were found to increase the risk of a sex crime conviction

A new study of thousands of male sex offenders found that close relatives of people convicted of sexual offenses were up to five times more likely than average to commit similar offenses themselves.

Researchers found that about 2.5 percent of brothers and sons of convicted sex offenders are themselves convicted of sexual offenses, compared to about 0.5 percent of the wider public. The correlation, according to the study, is largely due to genetic factors rather than shared family environments.

“Importantly, this does not imply that sons or brothers of sex offenders inevitably become offenders too”, Niklas Langstrom, professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “But although sex crime convictions are relatively few overall, our study shows that the family risk increase is substantial. Preventive treatment for families at risk could possibly reduce the number of future victims.”

The study, which analyzed data on 21,566 men convicted of sex offenses in Sweden between 1973 and 2009, was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

TIME Media

4 Takeaways From the Report on Rolling Stone’s UVA Rape Story

A retraction follows an accounting of an "avoidable journalistic failure"

Rolling Stone magazine on Sunday officially retracted a story about a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house that drew national attention to the issue of campus sexual assault, apologizing to readers after an external report faulted the reporting, editing and fact-checking of the now discredited piece.

The story of a gang rape suffered by a student the magazine called Jackie sparked outrage and put the university and the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on the defensive. But it was quickly cast into doubt by reporting from the Washington Post and others that noted key inconsistencies. In March, Charlottesville police said they were “not able to conclude to any substantive degree” that the incident had occurred.

“We would like to apologize to our readers and to all of those who were damaged by our story and the ensuing fallout, including members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and UVA administrators and students,” Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana wrote in a note accompanying the release of a Columbia School of Journalism autopsy on the story. “Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings.”

Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the article, also apologized Sunday.

“I want to offer my deepest apologies: to Rolling Stone’s readers, to my Rolling Stone editors and colleagues, to the UVA community, and to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article,” she said in a statement. “Reporting on rape has unique challenges, but the journalist still has the responsibility to get it right. I hope that my mistakes in reporting this story do not silence the voices of victims that need to be heard.”

Here are four takeaways from the Columbia School of Journalism report:

The story was a “journalistic failure that was avoidable”
The report faulted failures in reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking. Dana called it an “individual failure” and a “procedural failure, an institutional failure … Every single person at every level of this thing had opportunities to pull the strings a little harder, to question things a little more deeply, and that was not done.”

The desire to “believe the victim” played a key role
The report notes that even the magazine’s editors and Erdely “have concluded that their main fault was to be too accommodating of Jackie because she described herself as the survivor of a terrible sexual assault.

“Social scientists, psychologists and trauma specialists who support rape survivors have impressed upon journalists the need to respect the autonomy of victims,” the report said, “to avoid retraumatizing them and to understand that rape survivors are as reliable in their testimony as other crime victims.”

Doubts quickly mounted internally after publication
The editors knew that Jackie had refused to identify the lifeguard she said led her to the attack, and allowed Erdely to go ahead with the story anyway without knowing the lifeguard’s name or “verifying his existence.” After the story was published, Erdely again asked Jackie to name the lifeguard, but she couldn’t spell his last name. “An alarm bell went off in my head,” Erdely said. “How could Jackie not know the exact name of someone she said had carried out such a terrible crime against her — a man she professed to fear deeply?”

Don’t expect heads to roll
The report said the magazine’s top editors are “unanimous in the belief that the story’s failure does not require them to change their editorial systems.

“It’s not like I think we need to overhaul our process, and I don’t think we need to necessarily institute a lot of new ways of doing things,” Dana said. “We just have to do what we’ve always done and just make sure we don’t make this mistake again.”

Read next: Rolling Stone Apologizes, Retracts Discredited Rape Story

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Education

Watch Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity’s Video on Ending Sexual Assault

Fraternity member describes what constitutes consent

The fraternity Pi Kappa Phi released a video Thursday pledging support to the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign to stop sexual assault.

In the video, different men relay definitions of what does, and does not, constitute consent. Some examples of consent they give are setting boundaries, open communication and “asking and hearing a yes.” Consent is not given, they say, if the partner is passed out, drunk, coerced or silent.

Pi Kappa Phi has been in national headlines recently when its North Carolina State University chapter was suspended for a book filled with racist and sexist comments written by the fraternity brothers.

“It’s On Us” was launched by the White House in September 2014. The first video for the campaign contained celebrity appearances by Jon Hamm and Kerry Washington; President Obama then made his own clip that was broadcast during the Grammy Awards in February.

 

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