Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Steubenville, Ohio Rape Case

On August 11, 2012, in Steubenville, Ohio, a 16-year-old girl went to a party with her friends and woke up the next morning to discover that she had been raped by two of her classmates. The story immediately captured national media attention because of the digital record of the night: the perpetrators had photographed, recorded, tweeted, and text messaged information, documenting their actions that night.
Four of the victim’s classmates, football players at the local high school, were responsible for taking the girl from the party and transporting her to another location while she was incapacitated. Two of them, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, penetrated the victim with their fingers, which in the state of Ohio is classified as “digital penetration” and is considered to be rape. Mays also attempted to force the victim to perform oral sex on him while she was unconscious. After the crimes occurred, the perpetrators videotaped themselves talking about what they had done. This video circulated online for the next several weeks. The victim woke the next day in a basement, without clothing or memory of the night before (with the exception of a brief vomiting incident at the second house). In the coming days should would learn about what happened to her through social media and text messages, and she would subsequently drop out of school because of the shaming she received. Because of the status of Richmond and Mays as local football stars, there was a great effort by the administrators of the school to cover up the boys’ actions. They made attempts to delete or hide online evidence against the boys. Hacking websites, such as Anonymous, found the deleted videos and pictures and these could be used as evidence against the perpetrators. One of the identified hackers was caught and indicted for his actions.
After the case went to trial, both Richmond and Mays were found guilty of rape. Richmond was sentenced to a minimum sentence of one and was released after nine months. Mays was sentenced to a minimum of two years because he was also charged with dissemination of child pornography. Both are classified as “Tier II” sex offenders. Additionally, William Rhinaman, an IT Director for Steubenville City Schools was charged with tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, obstruction of a public official and grand jury perjury, because of his efforts to cover up the boys’ crimes.
There were two injustices that occurred here: the blame and shame that was placed on the victim and the lack of adequate punishment for the perpetrators. Victim blaming happens often in rape crimes; the victim is asked about what they were wearing, their level of intoxication, or what they did to have possibly encouraged the crime. This 16-year-old girl was blamed because she was underage and drinking at a party. The town blamed her for ruining the future of two football stars. This kind of blaming creates an environment in which victims of rape are afraid to come forward out of fear of not being believed. It also causes the victims to blame themselves after the fact, and less likely to report the crimes and pursue charges. Additionally, the two boys that were charged with rape both received two years or less in a juvenile detention facility. This small charge is not an adequate or severe enough punishment for two people who knowingly and actively sexually assaulted another person. Rapists often receive short sentencing for the sex crimes that they commit, mostly because of the difficult nature of proving that a rape occurred. The victim’s word is often the strongest piece of evidence and this is too often doubted and questioned.
As a society, we must stop perpetuating a culture in which victims of sexual assault are blamed or excessively questioned. The blame of the crime should not be set on their shoulders in any way. Additionally, we should demand harsher punishments for those convicted of sexual assault. The legal system should function in a way that holds sexual offenders responsible for their actions and allocates an adequate prison sentence. As individuals, my classmates should not tolerate victim blaming in their own lives. Additionally, they should get informed about the lack of imprisonment for sexual offenders and join advocacy groups doing work to right this wrong.

Noveck, Jocelyn. “Twitter, YouTube Make Steubenville Case Even More Complicated.” Huff Post. Huffington Post, 19 March 2013. Web. 31 March 2015.

Johnson, John. “Steubenville Prosecutor: Girl Too Drunk to Consent.” Newser, 13 March 2013. Web. 31 March 2015.

Almasy, Steve. “Two Teens Found Guilty in Steubenville Rape Case.” CNN, 17 March 2013. Web. 31 March 2015.

Monday, March 30, 2015

 The Injustice of a Lax Government: Sex Trafficking in Nepal
--Lydia Kang

The Story of Buna
When Buna was a young girl her mother died.  Her father remarried, but she would never have a mother-figure again to love her.  Instead, Buna’s upbringing was dominated by abuse.  Realizing that she would have to go out on her own for any chance of survival and independence, Buna left her home and opened a tea shop as a young adult.  She sold popular Nepali tea for pennies per cup.  In her humble shop, a man frequently visited her.  As he would talk to Buna, he became more and more interested in her pursuit for a happier life with greater opportunity.  One day, the man told Buna about the wide availability of jobs in India.  Excited to make a greater living for herself, Buna travelled with the man across the Nepal-India border.  When she arrived in India, the very man she trusted had sold her to a brothel in Mumbai.  When Buna refused to engage in prostitution, she was beaten over and over again.  Buna still refused.  At one point during her first years, she was forced to watch a young girl be brutally beaten and thrown out on the streets.  Buna never saw the little girl again.  Like any girl who refused to engage in prostitution, Buna knew what would happen to her if she continued to refuse.  She would face constant brutality and violence.  Some girls had even been thrown out a window to their death.  With no hope for escape, Buna had no choice but to cooperate with the pimps.  Because she was forced to have sexual intercourse with men several times a day, she developed an illness that made it impossible for her to “service” men.  Eventually, just like the young girl, she was discarded on the streets of Mumbai.  Unwilling to take responsibility of her, the Indian Government sent Buna back to Nepal, where she woke up in a hospital in Patan.  There, she was found to be HIV positive.

Nepal’s Depravity that Makes Women and Young Girls Susceptible to Sex Trafficking
               Sadly, Buna’s story is all too common in Nepal, a place of little opportunity for economic empowerment within the country.  As a result, over 100,000 women cross into India every year looking for work.  In many cases, sex trafficking “brokers” go into remote villages to speak to parents of young girls, offering their children either promising marriages or jobs in particular industries, such as tourism in Kathmandu or India.  After parents consent to sending their daughters away for a brighter future, the daughters are deceived and sold into sexual slavery.  Sadly, however, some parents are aware of their daughters’ fate and choose to profit from their exploitation.  The average age of young girls is from 10-18 years old.  Although statistics vary, social workers and NGOs have determined that an estimate of about 200,000 women and girls are currently working in brothels in India.

Existing Laws
               In comparison to other countries in Asia, Nepal has rather stringent laws against human trafficking.  The 1986 Traffic in Human Control Act provides that in the event that a woman being taken outside of Nepal by any person other than a close relative and who alleges that she is being taken away to be sold or placed into prostitution, the accused must prove that he/she is not transporting the woman for such purposes.  In Section 5 of this law, anyone who is in knowledge of individuals engaged or about to be engaged in trafficking may file a complaint with the police.  Unfortunately, the 1986 Act has been largely ineffective.  The procedural requirements surrounding Section 5 involve complex and prolonged mechanisms of report authentication, making the process of reporting trafficking highly impractical.  This is because once a complaint is made, it is sent to the nearest district court, where the court determines whether the complaint has reasonable ground to justify action.  Only until the court makes this determination does the police conduct the necessary investigations into the allegation –even if the allegation was made by the victim herself.  Another issue that the Act fails to specify is the term, “close relatives.”  Not only does the Act lack a formal definition, but it also assumes that family members cannot be traffickers, which in many instances is not the case.  It is furthermore important to note that women in most cases are led across the border on false pretenses and are unaware that they are being led into prostitution instead of a promised job opening.  Because women don’t know that they’re being trafficked when crossing borders, this Act is limited in usefulness.

The Foreign Employment Act of 1985 is another attempt at controlling the abuse and trafficking of women. The Act requires employment agencies that recruit workers for foreign jobs to be licensed.  It also prohibits foreign employment of women and minors without the permission of the government and his/her guardians.  This attempt would prove to be utterly ineffective because of the lack of security checkpoints along the border.  Despite its intentions, this legal initiative ultimately negates basic human rights, particularly pertaining to the freedom of movement.  Furthermore, this preferential target on the migration and employment of women undermines the government’s effort to promote women’s equality under the Constitution.

The Injustice
               While the injustice is utterly apparent in the thousands of women and girls who have been sold into sexual slavery, the greatest injustice expands to all women in Nepal.  Over the course of the past 30 years, Nepal has yet to see any significant progress in its trafficking prevention endeavors.  This is largely because the Nepali Government has made little effort in addressing this ever-increasing issue.  In 2013, the Government of Nepal initiated 375 prosecutions against human trafficking with only 119 convictions.  In this same year, a fourteen-person department was established within the Central Investigative Bureau to take on trafficking investigations.  Not only has the Government shown minimal commitment to the epidemic of trafficked victims through the small number of investigators, but its laxness is also evident by the absence of any specialized, trafficking-specific training for the investigators.  Even though Nepal has strict laws against trafficking, its ineffectiveness in conjunction with little to no government support leaves survivors hopeless in the unlikelihood of achieving justice.

What Needs to Be Done
               What also makes the Government of Nepal responsible for this heinous and widespread injustice is the fact that it has yet to take all available and possible measures to fight against sex-trafficking.  Of these measures is the United Nations TIP Protocol, which Nepal has yet to ratify.  The Protocol is a collective effort supplemented by the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.  This convention serves as the main international mechanism because of the fact that it is the first legally binding instrument with a uniform definition on trafficking in persons.  The significance of an agreed definition is that it allows the facilitation of a “convergence in national approaches.”  While Nepal may lack the resources to take on the full burden of the trafficking epidemic, international cooperation can help illegalize trafficking in a real and proactive way.

               There is so much that can be done with life-changing impacts for the women of Nepal.  As undergraduate students living in a privileged country, it is important to equip ourselves with the knowledge and training to be successful in our respective careers.  It is perhaps even more important that we have a reason for doing the things we do.  By becoming aware and learning what goes on in the world, we can become responsible citizens not just in our own society, but in the international community.  How much would it matter to someone in Nepal, someone like Buna, if they knew that there was someone on the other side of the world who cared about their injustice? 

"Buna." Free for Life. Free for Life International, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
Mountain Child's 5 Core Issues: 2 - Trafficking. Mountain Child, 2010. Film.
"NEPAL: NGOs Blame Lax Government for Rise in Human Trafficking." IRIN: Humanitarian News

            and Analysis 1 Jan. 2010. IRIN. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.
Sanghera, Jyoti, and Ratna Kapur. "An Assessment of Laws and Policies for the Prevention and
            Control of Trafficking in Nepal." Trafficking in Nepal: Policy Analysis. The Asia Foundation, 1
            Dec. 2000. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.
"Trafficking in Persons Report 2012." U.S. Department of State Diplomacy in Action. Bureau of
            Public Affairs, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
"2014 Trafficking in Persons Report." Kathmandu Nepal. Embassy of the United States, 1 Jan. 2014.
            Web. 25 Mar. 2015.
"United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto."
            United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. UNODC, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

From Barracks to Shelter

Think back to the last time that you had an interaction with a homeless individual.  Did you offer a helping hand to get them through their day or did you simply walk past as if they blended into their surroundings?  Did they look as if they had never made a contribution to the society that they were begging for help? Look closer, because according to statistics one of every ten homeless Americans was at one time a defender of our Freedom and Liberty.  Homeless Veterans account for nearly 12% of our homeless population.  On any given night, 50,000 Veterans sleep without a roof over their head or a meal in their stomach.  This injustice of turning a blind eye to those who have given so much to defend the freedoms we cherish is a travesty.  For many, they simply lack the support and environment to get back on their feet.

So why are so many homeless Americans Veterans? One reason is because of highly traumatic experiences faced by many Vets. A large portion of Veterans suffer from some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other lingering side effects.  PTSD is a huge factor in Vet homelessness due to the high correlation between it and depression.  Other contributing factors include the fact that many military occupations and training simply do not correlate to the civilian arena.  This factor puts many Vets at a disadvantage in the Job market place.  Without useable skills and training, job security is a serious issue.

Veteran Affairs is one organization that has been making a huge difference in the war on homelessness in the Veteran community.  Specialized programs offered by VA include health care that reach over 150,000 homeless Vets and other miscellaneous services that lend a helping hand to 112,000 other Vets.  Since the late 1980s VA’s programs have stressed community collaboration and partnerships to help combat homelessness in the Veteran community.  Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment. Along with this, Veterans require training relevant to the civilian job market. Veteran to Veteran programs have also been hugely successful, using the shared experience of the military and camaraderie to uplift and motivate individuals seeking help.

Now you may ask, “How can I make a difference in remedying this social injustice?”  The answer is relatively simple.  First, determine if there is a need in your community for Veteran assistance.  If there is a need, get others involved. People who care are the first step for solving the problem.  Many Veterans simply need someone for support and guidance to get their lives back on track.  You can also participate in local homeless coalitions that are already established in your communities.  Lastly, even if you don’t have time, make a donation or write to your elected officials.  By coming together to support and motivate those who have become homeless after serving our country, we can solve this injustice once and for all.

Fonseca, Maria L. "The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Care System and the People It Serves." Medical Care 34.3, Supplement: Databases: A Resource for Research and Decision Making (1996): n. pag. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. "National Coalition for Homeless Veterans." National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.
US Department of Veteran Affairs. Veteran Homelessness a Supplemental Report to the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. Washington, DC: Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2011. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Right to be Forgotten

            Imagine that there is a high school-aged girl at a party. Her friends convince her to have some punch and food, and, not wanting to disappoint, the girl agrees. Unbeknownst to her, however, the drink had been spiked with alcohol and the food laced with drugs. After a few hours later of eating, drinking, and partying, the girl collapses on the floor in a pool of vomit. Her friends then immortalize the scene with a photo that they upload to social media. They caption the image: “What happens when you Party too much?”

            Later, when the girl goes to apply for college, some of her applications are denied on the basis of the photo the admissions officers discovered online. The girl tries to have the image removed, but because it is not hers (even though it is of her), and because it displays true content, she is unable to have it deleted or suppressed. The image will invariably follower her around for the rest of her life, sealed in the time capsule that is the internet.

            Data permanence, or the idea that personal information online never goes away, is an injustice. It both deprives the victim of a chance to rehabilitate themselves and their reputation, and it perpetrates an unending cycle of punishment against them. It also impedes the opportunity to heal through forgiveness.

            When information is permanent it hinders society’s collective capacity to forgive. Consider, when a friend says something offensive, the passage of time gradually allows the memory to fade, making it easier to forgive the friend for their remark. Yet, when every memory is still fresh, still readily accessible, still clear and precise, it is much more difficult to move beyond such indiscretions and to reconcile. The wound is still open, so to speak.

The same principle is true of our online interactions. Because our online interactions are engraved in stone—they are inerasable, researchable, and clear as the first day they were posted—they are a constant irritant in that wound. They never allow forgetting to happen, and thus stymie efforts at forgiveness. Where forgiveness has not happened, where the memories of past wrongs are fresh, neither the victim nor perpetrator can move on. They are trapped in those past memories, and incarcerated in the violent feelings, thoughts, and actions of those prior moments.

Data permanence hinders progress and healing in other ways as well. It denies, for example, the victim of the right to rehabilitate their reputation. It normal life, when someone does something wrong, they are punished for their transgressions, but as those transgressions fade into the mists of time, victims have a chance to redefine themselves. Humanity’s imperfect memory gives them a fresh slate with which to repair their image. But, when memory is perfect, as digital memory is, it actively inhibits a victim’s capacity to revive their good name, because all of their past wrongs are just a few, easy clicks away. People have no chance to grow as individuals. They are perpetually victimized by their online breadcrumbs.

Those breadcrumbs and posts, however trivial they might seem, outlive their welcome. What might once have been a small error can never been forgotten and can always be researched. There is no sense of proportionality in the system in the sense that a mistake does not just punish you in the moment, in can punish you every year of your life from that moment on. That one image of that girl passed out will be accessible when she is 40, when she is 50, when she is 60, until the day she dies. Employers will always be able to find it, and many will use it to assess her, however unfair that may be. This total lack of equity in the scales of justice—that missteps can penalize people even after they have already paid in full for those mistakes—is categorically unfair and unreasonable.

The solution is to adopt the “Right to be Forgotten.” This is a right developed in the European courts that enables users to petition search engines to remove posts that are irrelevant or that are excessive for the goals of data processing. This would empower people like the girl to have links to the damaging photo removed, despite the photo not being untrue or her own property. As data permanence robs the victims of power, the right to be forgotten seeks to actively empower them, evening the scales and swinging them towards a fairer, more just balance.

Individuals have a role to play in combatting the problem as well. They can make a conscious effort to avoid posting or revealing compromising data about themselves online, and they can avoid posting that kind of information about others. Cultural shifts are important in fighting this problem, especially as it may be impossible to remove all links to all harmful posts. But justice demands that we at least try, because no one is due the kind of unending cudgel of a indiscrete post haunting and berating them for life.


Mayer-Shönberger, Viktor. Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Princeton:
Princeton UP, 2009. Print.

Sex Trafficking by Michelle Sherman

Sex Trafficking is when women, children and men are forced into prostitution and coerced into staying. It is also the enslavement of unwilling people who are coerced into a condition for any form of sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking. Pimps are the people who are the traffickers. They instill fear in their victims and make it so that they feel like they cannot leave. Sex trafficking accounts for 83% of all human trafficking and brings in $32 billion per year in just the U.S. 78% of adult prostitutes start off as juveniles.
Nevada is the only state in the U.S that has prostitution legalized. Brothels houses were first opened up in 1971. Despite prostitution being legalized, sex trafficking is still illegal. Sex trafficking slips under the cop’s radar though due to police targeting the prostitutes instead of the pimps and johns. In Netherlands and Germany, prostitution is legalized while sex trafficking is still illegal. However, Statistics show that sex trafficking brings in almost 90% of prostitutes in the Netherlands.

In order to make sex trafficking less prevalent, states and countries need to make more laws that would put harsher punishments on people who are caught purchasing a prostitute and selling/trading the victims. As of now, most states have purchasing a prostitute listed as a misdemeanor. Countries need to come up with law enforcement groups to help break up the trafficking rings and save these victims from endless sex abuse. Students can fight against sex trafficking by joining activist groups or write to congress about making harsher laws.

Sentenced to Die but then Exonerated

Here are the links to the news stories I discussed in class on Monday.  The Guardian published "Man freed 39 years after death sentence is awarded $1m in compensation" and the Washington Post published "Prosecutor accused of misconduct in disputed Texas execution case."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Shannon Werbeck

The 2012 Delhi Gang Rape
On December 16th 2012, a 23 year old women, Jyoti Singh, and her male friend boarded a bus to return home from seeing a film at 9:30pm. They were told this bus was going towards their destination and when they boarded the bus there was only six others on the bus. The six men taunted the couple asking why they were alone at such a late hour. The men then beat the women’s friend and dragged the women to the back of the bus. They beat her and after they each raped her they stuck a medal rod in her pulling out her intestines while the bus driver continued to drive.  After the beating and rape ended, the men threw the women and her friend out of the bus and drove away. Around 11pm the partially clothed victims were found on the side of the road by a passerby and he called the police. The police arrived and transported the couple to a nearby hospital where the female victim was given emergency treatment and placed on mechanical ventilation. Her injuries consisted of numerous bite marks all over her body and massive damage to her genitals, uterus and intestines. After undergoing many surgeries, Jyoti was eventually transported to a multi-organ specialty hospital where she passed away on December 29, 2012.
            This is an issue of justice because this is just one instance of rape in India.  In the documentary “India’s Daughter”, it states that a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India. When a woman gets raped in India they are usually the ones who get blamed. In this instance, the six men who raped Jyoti stated that they were “teaching her a lesson” because she was out after 6:30 at night with someone who was not part of her family. Many women are raped in India because men know that women will not say anything and even if they do they are not taken seriously. In fact, in India rape is considered shameful and if you are raped you might as well be dead.
            After the rape and death of Jyoti Singh there was much controversy on this issue. People protested throughout India resulting in police having to intervene, throwing tear gas, arresting and spraying protesters with water. There were even online petitions as well. People wanted the six men who committed this crime dead and they wanted stricter laws for the protection of women. People were also upset that one of the men was a juvenile and only received a three year sentence in a reform facility. One of the men hung himself in jail and the remaining four men were sentenced to death by hanging. However, these men have not been put to death yet and are able to appeal the Supreme Court’s verdict. The Supreme Court has yet to pass a judgment on the original verdict sentencing.
            The government’s response to these protests was several new assault laws and six new fast-track courts created specifically for rape prosecutions. However, in 2012 only one case conviction was obtained among the 706 rape cases filed. In 2013, there were 501 allegations of harassment and 64 rape cases reported; however, only four inquiries were launched. These “fast- track courts” seem to be moving at a slow pace. Also, there are only six fast-track courts and too many criminals are finding it easier to escape identification by preying on younger girls.
There are many actions that need to be taken to provide justice on this issue of the way women are treated in India. First of all, the fast-track courts need to work at an actual fast rate. Also, more needs to be done to change the mentality of how men view women in India. Men and women need to be more educated on issues of violence and gender stereotyping. They also need to be educated on women’s rights and the communities need to work together to develop a gender sensitive society. Most women do not even know their own rights. Yes, India has made several new assault laws; however, more needs to be done to protect the women of India. Punishing the perpetrators is important; however, working as a society to keep women safe is much more important. Police need to intervene more; however, many police have also raped women.
My classmates can do many things to encourage actions needed. First of all, being educated on this issue is the first step to helping. There are many online resources that enable students to learn about this issue. BBC has a documentary on this case that is very interesting: http://urbanasian.com/featured/2015/03/bbc-releases-indias-daughter-on-youtube/ . There is also a petition they can sign at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/petition-to-give-justice-to-delhi-rape-victim.html.

"BBC Releases India's Daughter on YouTube!" UrbanAsian. N.p., 05 Mar. 2015. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.
"India Fails to Silence a BBC Film Exposing the New Delhi Bus Gang Rape."Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.
"Death Penalties for Delhi Gang Rape." BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.
"Death Penalties for Delhi Gang Rape." BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.