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.

 

TIME reproductive rights

Ohio State Rep: Why I Spoke Out About My Rape and Abortion

Teresa Fedor is a Democratic member of the Ohio House of Representatives.

Ohio state representative Teresa Fedor on the shattering incident that compelled her to fight for a woman's right to choose, and against the "Heartbeat Bill"

As an Ohio legislator, I have witnessed for nearly 15 years legislation introduced that intends to marginalize or completely eliminate a woman’s reproductive rights. The most recent and arguably worst offender is House Bill 69, termed Ohio’s “heartbeat bill,” which would ban an abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. This bill allows no exceptions for victims of incest or rape, but only ones when a mother’s life is endangered or when she is at risk of serious physical impairment. This means a woman undergoing or physician performing an abortion could be charged with a fifth-degree felony.

Last week, I again found myself enduring the arguments by those in support of House Bill 69. As one legislator after another spoke and gave no reason for excluding victims of incest or rape as exceptions, I felt the overwhelming need to voice my opinion regarding the potential impact of such inhumane legislation. I could no longer be silent.

As I was recognized to speak in the debate on the bill, which passed the House, my frustration was at its peak. At the core of my opposition lay a very personal story but one that I would have to disclose in order to underscore the seriousness of leaving out these exceptions. In one moment, without having planned to speak out beforehand, I made it known that over 35 years ago, I had been a victim of rape and underwent an abortion while serving in the military. Because this happened to me at such a young age, I refused to let this victimization define who I was going to be. More important, I was thankful I had the freedom to make this decision — back then. Unfortunately, it is this freedom that could be stripped from women today.

As the words poured out of me, I proclaimed, “You don’t respect my reason, my rape, my abortion, and I guarantee you there are other women who should stand up with me and be courageous enough to speak that voice. What you’re doing is so fundamentally inhuman, unconstitutional, and I’ve sat here too long. I dare any one of you to judge me, because there’s only one judge I’m going to face.

I dare you to walk in my shoes. This debate is purely political. I understand your story, but you don’t understand mine. I’m grateful for that freedom. It is a personal decision, and how dare government get into my business.”

As a young victim, I made a decision not to carry my pregnancy to full-term. I also know that many women who’ve been victimized by rape make a different decision and carry their pregnancies to full-term. There is no right or wrong answer, and I respect either decision. But it is a personal freedom that should be determined only by the woman whose life it impacts, not by the government.

As an elected official and public servant, I continue to stay true to what I believe is the right thing to do. For nearly a decade, I tirelessly promoted legislation to protect Ohio’s most vulnerable against the scourge of human trafficking. I am proud to have authored Ohio’s first of several anti-human-trafficking bills, setting a precedent throughout our state and country. Comparable to the abortion debate, this issue was widely misunderstood, and others ridiculed or minimized what I fought for.

Sadly, over the past four years, state governments have enacted 231 laws limiting access to abortion, with 26 new laws being passed in 2014, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute. Over the years I have felt that the escalating war on our reproductive freedom will require more voices speaking out at the risk of judgment and stigma in our culture. However horrific the circumstances, I was proud to speak truth to that power.

Fedor represents Ohio’s 45th district in the state’s house of representatives.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape

"The Divergent Series: Insurgent" New York Premiere
Tyler Boye—Getty Images Actress Ashley Judd attends the "The Divergent Series: Insurgent" premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on March 16, 2015 in New York City. (Tyler Boye--Getty Images)

"It was time to call the police, and to say to the Twittersphere, no more."

Actress Ashley Judd wrote an impassioned op-ed for Mic Thursday about the link between online harassment and physical abuse. After she endured hateful online vitriol for a seemingly harmless tweet about basketball, she saw a connection between that Twitter harassment and the cultural misogyny that she believes fueled her experiences with rape and incest early in life.

While watching a basketball game Sunday, Judd tweeted that the opposing team was “playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—.” She later got so much hatred and so many sexually violent threats on Twitter that she had to delete the original tweet. She wrote:

What happened to me is the devastating social norm experienced by millions of girls and women on the Internet. Online harassers use the slightest excuse (or no excuse at all) to dismember our personhood. My tweet was simply the convenient delivery system for a rage toward women that lurks perpetually. I know this experience is universal, though I’ll describe specifically what happened to me.

I read in vivid language the various ways, humiliating and violent, in which my genitals, vaginal and anal, should be violated, shamed, exploited and dominated. Either the writer was going to do these things to me, or they were what I deserved. My intellect was insulted: I was called stupid, an idiot. My age, appearance and body were attacked. Even my family was thrown into the mix: Someone wrote that my “grandmother is creepy.”

Soon, Judd realized that the hatred she was experiencing was related to the violence and abuse she had endured as a girl.

The themes are predictable: I brought it on myself. I deserved it. I’m whiny. I’m no fun. I can’t take a joke. There are more serious issues in the world. The Internet space isn’t real, and doesn’t deserve validity and attention as a place where people are abused and suffer. Grow thicker skin, sweetheart. I’m famous. It’s part of my job description.

The themes embedded in this particular incident reflect the universal ways we talk about girls and women. When they are violated, we ask, why was she wearing that? What was she doing in that neighborhood? What time was it? Had she been drinking?

Judd, who in addition to her acting career has been a vocal advocate for women’s rights and even has a degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, describes the rape and incest she experienced in her childhood, and recounts how her therapy allowed her to finally come to terms with an attempted oral rape that she also survived. But then, thanks to a single tweet about basketball, she was barraged with violent sexual threats online.

I felt like I had the chance to finally speak, fight and grieve, and be consoled and comforted. But then, on literally the very next day, I received a disturbing tweet with a close-up photograph of my face behind text that read, “I can’t wait to c-m all over your face and in your mouth.”

The timing was canny, and I knew it was a crime. It was time to call the police, and to say to the Twittersphere, no more.

The full essay is worth a read, and you can check it out here.

Read next: Colleges Need to Think Bigger To End Campus Rape

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME India

Thousands Set to Attend March to Protest Rape of Elderly Nun in India

The 74-year-old nun was sexually assaulted by six attackers who also ransacked the convent where she worked

Thousands of Indians are expected to take to the streets of the eastern city of Kolkata on Monday to protest the rape of an elderly nun that took place over the weekend.

Thomas D’Souza, the city’s Archbishop, condemned the “inhuman act” in a statement, according to the BBC. “It has brought a lot of shame and pain to all concerned,” he said.

The 74-year-old nun, who was sexually assaulted by six attackers after they burgled and vandalized her convent, is currently in a stable condition at a local hospital. Ten men have been arrested in connection with the incident, although none of them resemble the alleged assailants who were caught on CCTV cameras.

Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the state of West Bengal, where Kolkata is situated, vowed quick and severe consequences for the perpetrators when they are found. The state police’s special investigative branch has reportedly taken over the investigation.

[BBC]

TIME India

German Professor Sorry for Rejecting Indian Student Due to Nation’s ‘Rape Problem’

INDIA-RAPE-COURT
Noah Seelam—AFP/Getty Images Indian students of Saint Joseph Degree college participate in an anti-rape protest in Hyderabad, India, on Sept. 13, 2013

"I have many female students in my group, so I think this attitude is something I cannot support," she had written

A German professor from the University of Leipzig, whose refusal to grant an Indian student an internship because of his nation’s “rape problem” caused public outrage and prompted a stern diplomatic response, issued an apology late Monday for her statements.

“I have made a mistake,” said Professor Annette Beck-Sickinger, according to a statement uploaded on the website of the German embassy in India. “I sincerely apologize to everyone whose feelings I have hurt.”

Beck-Sickinger’s rejection email, which opened with the line “Unfortunately I don’t accept any Indian male students for internships,” went viral on Sunday. “We hear a lot about the rape problem in India which I cannot support,” the email continues. “I have many female students in my group, so this attitude is something I cannot support.”

Besides causing an uproar among Indian netizens, the rejection also drew the ire of Michael Steiner, Germany’s ambassador to India.

“Let me make it clear at the outset that I strongly object to this,” Steiner said in a letter to Beck-Sickinger. The ambassador commended India’s “lively, honest, sustained and very healthy public debate” around sexual violence, and the government’s commitment to dealing with the problem.

“Let’s be clear: India is not a country of rapists,” the letter continues. “I would encourage you to learn more about the diverse, dynamic and fascinating country and the many welcoming and open-minded people of India so that you could correct a simplistic image, which — in my opinion — is particularly unsuitable for a professor and teacher.”

Sexual assault has once again become a sensitive issue in the South Asian nation over the past couple of weeks, with a violent mob lynching an alleged rapist a few days after the Indian government banned a British documentary on the infamous New Delhi fatal gang-rape case of 2012.

TIME India

Filmmaker Leslee Udwin Denies Paying Delhi Rapist for Documentary Interview

INDIA-BRITAIN-FILM-WOMEN
CHANDAN KHANNA—AFP/Getty Images Leslee Udwin, director of the documentary India's Daughter, attends a press conference in New Delhi on March 3, 2015

India's Daughter was banned in India in part because of the rapist's comments in which he blamed his victim

British filmmaker Leslee Udwin, embroiled in controversy over her documentary about the fatal 2012 New Delhi gang rape that was banned by the Indian government last week, has vehemently denied reports that she paid one of the convicted rapists for his interview.

“I can tell you hand on heart that we have not paid 1 rupee to anyone we interviewed,” she told Indian newspaper the Hindu, shrugging off the allegations as a “smear campaign.”

Indian media outlets had earlier reported that Udwin paid Mukesh Singh — one of six men convicted of the rape and murder of a 23-year-old student a little over two years ago — the equivalent of $600 for his controversial interview. An investigation by Hindi-language Navbharat Times newspaper alleged that Singh had initially asked for more than $3,000.

Udwin also denied that the filming of the interview with Singh, in which he blames his victim for the rape and says her life may have been spared if she had not fought back, was done without his knowledge.

“As a world-renowned producer who has won a [BAFTA Award], I would never do a thing like that,” Udwin said.

The Indian government banned the film, titled India’s Daughter, over concerns that Singh’s comments would cause “apprehension of public disorder.”

NDTV, the channel scheduled to air the documentary before the government’s television ban resulted in the film going viral on YouTube, protested by broadcasting a blank screen between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunday.

The intended message of the film, Udwin said, was to tell the world to follow India’s example of protesting against rape and forcing the government to amend the status quo. According to the award-winning director, global statistics on rape that were a part of the Indian and international TV broadcasts did not make it to the BBC version that spread over the Internet.

“The government is inviting the world to point fingers at India, and call it undemocratic and unconstitutional,” she said. “Why are they intent on committing international suicide?”

TIME Crime

Arkansas Lawmaker Under Fire for Giving Adopted Daughter to a Man Who Raped Her

Rep. Justin T. Harris, R-West Fork, questions a witness during a meeting of the House Committee on Education at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. on Feb. 26, 2015.
Danny Johnston—AP Rep. Justin T. Harris, R-West Fork, questions a witness during a meeting of the House Committee on Education at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. on Feb. 26, 2015.

She was 6 years old

An Arkansas state lawmaker sent two of his adopted children to live with a man who subsequently raped one of them, according to a new report that has put the local politician on the defensive.

State Rep. Justin Harris and his wife adopted the two sisters, ages 3 and 6, in early 2013, the Arkansas Times reports. They had previously been removed from an abusive family situation. That October, Harris reportedly sent the girls to live with Eric Cameron Francis, a man he later hired to work as a teacher at a preschool he runs. Police say Francis raped the 6-year-old while she was in his care, and he and his wife eventually sent the sisters to a third household, where they remain. Francis is serving 40 years in prison under a plea bargain, the Times reports.

But the newly-disclosed fact that Harris sent the girls away has opened him to criticism in the wake of the Times report.

“Rep. and Mrs. Harris have suffered a severe injustice,” his lawyer said in a statment defending him, KATV reports. “Due to threats of possible abandonment charges, they were unable to reach out to [authorities] for help with children who presented a serious risk of harm to other children in their home. Upon the advice of both a psychiatrist and a pediatrician, they were forced to move the children to the home of trusted friends, who had a lot of experience with children with reactive attachment disorder. Rep. and Mrs. Harris are devastated about the outcome of that decision, but faced with no good option, they did the best that they knew how.”

Read more at the Arkansas Times

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