Philadelphia Debut of ‘The Hunting Ground’ & Discussion with Filmmaker

“Triumphant… a stirring call to action” – Indiewire   The Hunting Ground is a moving new documentary from the Oscar-nominated filmmakers behind The Invisible War. Their new film explores the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, and the broad failure of university administrators to protect victims and hold assailants accountable for their actions. As much as The Hunting Groundis about failures of our society and institutions, it is also an illuminating profile of the college activists who, by working together, transformed themselves from rape survivors to advocates demanding reform. The incredible young women featured in The Hunting Ground successfully sparked a long-overdue conversation what college administrators can and should be doing to prevent and properly adjudicate sexual assault. Now, we want to continue that conversation with you. This Friday, The Hunting Ground will premiere in Philadelphia at the Ritz Five theater. Following the 7:05 screening, The Hunting Ground producer Amy Ziering, Laura Palumbo of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center NSVRC, Kristen Houser of Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape PCAR, and Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy will discuss the film. We understand that Friday is an important religious holiday, but wanted to extend this invitation to learn more about this incredible wave of activism, meet the film’s producer and hear from Carol, who served as an advisor to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and who has a cameo appearance in the film. The Women’s Law Project has provided legal assistance to students for many years. Recently, WLP spoke out against flawed criticism of the new adjudication process implemented at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where Carol is also a lecturer in Women’s Studies. We hope to see you on...

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WLP Attorneys: Penn Professors Are Wrong

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff   Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy, Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson and Staff Attorney Amal Bass, lawyers with extensive experience working with Title IX, the civil law that prohibits discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding, have written an open letter responding to University of Pennsylvania professors’ criticism of their school’s new system for adjudicating sexual assault complaints. The background: Last month, in response to ongoing criticism and national debate regarding how schools should appropriately handle accusations of sexual assault, the University of Pennsylvania announced a new disciplinary system designed to improve adjudication of rape allegations. The changes went into effect on February 1. From the Philadelphia Inquirer: Penn joins a growing number of schools around the country that have examined their practices in the wake of increased scrutiny over the handling of sexual assault and harassment on campus. More women are coming forward to lodge complaints, and men who are accused of assault in some cases are suing universities for disciplinary action taken against them. More than 90 universities around the country — Penn is not one of them — are under review by the U.S. Department of Education for their handling of sexual assault. Last week, 16 of the University’s 49 tenure or tenure-track law school faculty members (16 of 67 full-time law school staff, according to the school’s website) signed an open lettercriticizing the new system. The dean of the law school did not sign the letter. On Wednesday, 26 students at University’s law school responded to their professors’ criticism and defended the new system. From the letter from students to professors: “[Your] letter perpetuates the harmful myth that survivors of sexual violence should be disbelieved, silenced and denied non-criminal relief unless they seek and obtain criminal conviction of their assailant.” Specifically, the law students accused the professors of “conflating” the rules, scope and evidentiary standards applicable to courtroom trials of criminal defendants with the actual issues at hand, which are the rules, scope and evidentiary standards of the school-based adjudication process for identifying student misconduct. “[The professors’] Open Letter must be seen for what it is: a disagreement with Title IX’s mandate that sexual assault survivors not be made to struggle through grievance procedures that specially insulate those accused of sexual assault,” wrote the students. Attorneys at the Women’s Law Project with extensive experience working with Title IX also responded to the professor’s letter. From today’s Philadelphia Inquirer: With all due respect, the 16 law professors who have objected to the new disciplinary procedures for sexual violence have it wrong… Our decades of experience working directly with victims...

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FBI Releases First Annual Report Using Revised Definition of Rape

By Tara Murtha The FBI recently released the preliminary annual Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics for 2013. The statistics reflect data submitted voluntarily from 18,415 city, county, state, tribal, campus, and federal law enforcement agencies. While the data is not a complete picture of the number of crime reports to police in the United States, it is significantly closer to accurate in one area in particular: rape. The 2013 UCR report is the first annual report to use the recently revised definition of rape. This  report represents a significant milestone in a long campaign to move national data on sexual assault reports to police closer to reality. The UCR report numbers are important because the data informs policy, our cultural understanding of problems that must be fixed in society, and the amount of grant money allocated to fund advocacy organizations working on behalf of victims of sex crimes and to improve institutional responses. Women’s Law Project led the charge to revise the FBI’s UCR definition of rape. In 2010, Executive Director Carol E. Tracy detailed the problem at a hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. In 2011, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Advisory Policy Board voted in favor of changing the definition of rape in its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Summary Reporting System (SRS) to reflect what the public understands to be rape, and to conform with state felony sex crime statutes. Before the revision, the FBI defined rape as “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” It excluded many other variations of rape and all male victims. In other words, it was “narrow, outmoded, steeped in gender-based stereotypes, and seriously understated the true incidence of sex crimes.” The FBI definition of rape had not been updated since the system was established in 1929. The revised definition is “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” It encompasses male victims and offenders, includes drug-facilitated rape and reflects the various kinds of nonconsensual penetration of rape. “This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at the time. “The public has the right to know about the prevalence of sex crimes,” said Terry L. Fromson, Managing Attorney of the WLP. The FBI projected that the number of rapes will increase by as much as 41.7% as the more inclusive definition is implemented. This increase, however, does not necessarily mean that...

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Sexual Assault

Prior to 2011, no surveys reported the prevalence of rape in Pennsylvania. The NISVS reported that during a woman’s lifetime in Pennsylvania, 18.8% or 960,000 will experience rape, and 2.3 million women will be subjected to sexual violence other than rape. 5% of rape victims of reproductive age (12-45) become pregnant as a result …

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Rape Results in Estimated 32,101 Pregnancies Yearly

5% of rape victims of reproductive age (12-45) can become pregnant as a result of a rape, resulting in an estimated 32,101 pregnancies each year. Unwanted pregnancy: 5% of rape victims of reproductive age (12 to 45) can become pregnancy as a result of rape, resulting in an estimated 32,101 pregnancies each year, most occurring among adolescents and resulting from assault by a known, often related perpetator. The risk of pregnancy may increase when the assailant is an intimate partner.  There is a risk of poor pregnancy outcomes when a woman is pregnant at the time of the rape. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Source for all of the info shared above:...

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960,000 Will Experience Rape

The NISVS reported that during a woman’s lifetime in Pennsylvania, 18.8% or 960,000 will experience rape, and 2.3 million women will be subjected to sexual violence other than rape. Until recently, no surveys reported the prevalence of rape in Pennsylvania. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) report estimates that in Pennsylvania 18.8% or 960,000 women were raped, and that 45.3 percent or 2.3 million women are subjected to sexual violence other than rape. The only other available Pennsylvania-specific data relate to those who report to police or who seek counseling services from Pennsylvania’s sexual assault service providers. Under the federal Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system, police reporting of crime data is voluntary. However, in 2004, Pennsylvania created the Pennsylvania UCR Program, which requires local, county, and state police authorities to submit monthly crime statistics to the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), and requires the PSP to publicly report such data on an annual basis. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Source for all of the info shared above:...

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Sexual Assault May Include Physical Injuries

Physical consequences of sexual assault may include physical injuries, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), chronic pain, gynecological problems, and unwanted pregnancy. The physical consequences of sexual assault may include: Physical injuries: 31.5% of women victims incur an injury in addition to the rape itself, victims also suffer minor scratches, bruises and welts, broken bones, dislocated joints, sore muscles, sprains, strains, chipped or broken teeth, knife wounds, internal injuries, and loss of consciousness. Studies find an elevated prevalence of STIs among survivors of sexual violence. Chronic pain, headaches, and stomach problems. Gynecological problems: Common consequences of forced sex include vaginal bleeding, genital irritation, pain during menstruation, and sexual dysfunction. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Source for all of the info shared above:...

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13% of Rape Victims Attempt Suicide

The rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is three times greater among women who were raped as children; 13% of rape victims attempt suicide. PTSD, Depression, and Other Mental Health Problems: Nearly one-third of rape victims develop PTSD; the rate of PTSD is three times greater among women who were raped as children.  One-third of victims experience major depression in their lifetime.  Victims of sexual assault by someone they know tend to experience more severe psychological stress due to self-blame.  Victims of drug and alcohol facilitated rape also have an increased risk of PTSD, major depression, and substance use disorders. Among other mental health problems, 13% of rape victims attempt suicide. Sexual abuse is significantly associated with the development of addictions in women.  Research suggests that some survivors of sexual assault may self-medicate to deal with the depression or anxiety resulting from the assault.  Rape victims are more likely to use illicit drugs and prescription drugs for non-medical reasons than non-victims.  One study found that 73% of the sixty women interviewed in a residential substance abuse treatment facility had been raped, and 45% had been raped more than once. Sexual assault survivors may also experience eating disorders:  26.6% of women with bulimia nervosa were raped at some point in their lives. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Source for all of the info shared above:...

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One-Fifth of Rape Victims Receive Care

Only about one-fifth of rape victims receive post-rape medical care. Only about one-fifth of rape victims receive post-rape medical care.  Research also shows that only 11.7% of women who got pregnant as a result of rape received immediate medical attention, while 47.1% received no rape-related medical attention. To the extent that someone reports the crime, her first source of medical care may be the emergency department to which she is transported by the police after they respond to a call for assistance.  In some cities, there may be a specific forensic unit established for sexual assault victims; Philadelphia has established such a unit to save traumatized victims from the long waits for treatment they would experience in busy urban emergency departments. Other cities, like Doylestown, instruct police to take victims of sexual assault to designated hospital emergency departments.  At the medical facility, survivors receive treatment for injuries, a forensic exam, treatment for STIs, and emergency contraception. Sometimes this care is provided by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE Nurse), who is specially trained.  If a SANE nurse is not on staff, a hospital may call one to come in and perform the exam.  In addition, the emergency department may have a relationship with a local sexual assault advocacy agency, which may provide an advocate to assist the survivor, at her request. Many victims do not seek assistance; studies show that only 14-43% of survivors seek help from such services.   SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Source for all of the info shared above:...

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Solutions for Sexual Assault

To effectively combat rape and sexual assault in the U.S., an integrated response system and services infrastructure is required. Health Care Health care providers must screen for sexual assault. Services should be trauma-informed (respectful of patients as survivors, maximizing survivor control over recovery, respecting need for safety, emphasizing strengths, minimizing re-traumatization, and providing culturally competent services). Funding for sexual assault programs should be increased to provide more immediate and long-term support for victims of sexual assault. Insurers should be required to cover treatment of sexual trauma as a reimbursable mental health service. Law Enforcement The FBI should proceed with all deliberate speed to implement the change in the definition of rape in the Uniform Crime report so that accurate data about the true incidence of serious sex crimes can be reported to the public and appropriate resources directed to combat this violent crime. Leadership organizations such as the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and the National Sheriffs’ Association must identify systemic gender bias in the handling of sex crimes and take steps to ensure local police authorities have effective policies, procedures, and training programs to improve their response to sex crimes. Local, State and federal police authorities should adopt policies that require full documentation and investigation of sex crime complaints, prohibit polygraphs, and require supervisory review for proper crime classification and unfounding. Local, state, and federal police authorities should implement training programs on victim behavior, interview techniques, and how to respond to victims of sexual assault. Pennsylvania General Assembly In 2012 Pennsylvania adopted a new law which allows for expert testimony in criminal cases involving sexual offenses. This law permits the prosecution or the defense to call experts who, because of their “experience with, or specialized training or education in, criminal justice, behavioral sciences or victim services,” can help juries and judges understand “the dynamics of sexual violence, victim responses to sexual violence and the impact of sexual violence on victims during and after being assaulted.” More resources must be allocated to victim services to increase the availability of counseling and advocacy services, free pregnancy counseling, and confidential testing for HIV/AIDs and...

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