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Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women, Action & the Media, and my lovely co-editor of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape does a video to accompany her amazing article at The Nation, “How the Media Should Treat the Sexual Assault Allegations Against Al Gore.” (Transcript after the jump)

A Palestinian man has been found guilty of rape after having sex with a woman who thought he was Jewish.

CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated has nominated Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauyea to be California’s next chief justice – if confirmed, she would be the first Filipina-American to head the state’s judiciary.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) just released a new set of guidelines on vaginal birth after cesarean.
Jaclyn Friedman transcript:
Nearly a month ago, the National Enquirer broke the news that a massage therapist in Oregon claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Al Gore. Since then, the media has snickered, rolled its eyes, and steadfastly refused to report the story. Instead, they’ve trotted out excuses in Gore’s defense, often treating it as a simple choice between defending Gore’s integrity or indulging in a base appetite for celebrity scandal, as if there wasn’t a real possibility that a real 54-year-old woman had suffered a very real and violent assault.

I get it. Sexual assault is scary. We want to think it could never happen to us or anyone we love—or could be committed by anyone we respect. We want to avoid thinking about it so much that we weave a web of soothing fiction: she wanted it, what did she expect in her line of work, she’s obviously just after his money. And, of course: he’s a really good guy. He would never do something like that.

It’s natural to want to imagine the perpetrators of sexual violence as monsters. It’s a monstrous act, after all. But sexual predators aren’t monsters. They’re people. They can be handsome and seem kind. They can kiss their wives in public and mean it. They can be brothers, boyfriends, best buddies, talented film directors, beloved athletes, trusted priests and, yes, even lefty political heroes who seem like genuinely nice guys.

As I write in my essay on TheNation.com, the excuses used to cast doubt on the victim’s credibility are easily debunked. But the “credibility” question itself is a red herring. Why, in cases of sexual violence, is the victim assumed guilty of lying until proven innocent? We assume that people who say they’ve been victims of robberies or kidnappings are credible enough to report on unless there’s clear evidence to the contrary. Barring that, it’s the media’s responsibility – and our own – to take allegations of sexual violence seriously.

I don’t know if Gore did what he’s been accused of, and neither do you. But when we ignore cases like this, we send a terrible message to the victims of powerful men everywhere: that they’re just not important enough to care about. And we tell those powerful men that they can treat women however they want to, so long as they look good in a suit and make a convincing powerpoint slideshow.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted July 22, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    I take the Al Gore story very seriously. Though my aim is for ultimate forgiveness with all who commit violent crime, that is itself a two way street and one that does not absolve the accused of their blame or their potential punishment in court.

  2. Posted July 22, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Each time a rape takes place, and each time a rapist is found guilty, the reaction, it seems, is always “but he seemed like such a ‘normal” guy.” Thing is, if said behaviors are “normal,”– if coercing and using power and position for sex is normal, what exactly is “”abnormal” in this case?

    Too often, we jump all over stories of guys like Phillip Markoff and Joran van deer Sloot because they appear “abnormal,” and we focus on the psychological make-ups of these rapists, yet we never seem to talk about the “normal”guy, guys like Al Gore, and my friends and me, and your friends and yours, who — if not rapists – exhibit sexually aggressive behaviors everyday that can lead to assaults and rape.

    Until we acknowlege that we live in rape culture, and that all of us have been exposed to said culture – women and men alike, but particularly men – of all classes, races and education, we’ll never be able to fully give the survivors the justice and support they deserve.

    Ending rape and sexual assaults begins with acknowleging it’s a male problem that has nothing to do with a person’s position in life – Al Gore is no exception.

    Marc

  3. Posted July 23, 2010 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    i LOVE the new lay-out, it’s so much better!!!

  4. Posted July 23, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I heard about the Palestinian man and Israeli woman on NPR, and was really torn. On the one hand, it has a lot of xenophobic elements, because they’re right– were the situation reversed, and were the woman Muslim and the man Jewish, it’s unlikely Israeli judges would have bothered to bring it to trial. On the other hand, lying about something to have sex with someone who would not otherwise have sex with you is really objectionable to me– the woman does have a right to refuse to have sex with someone of another religion or race, even if it seems bigoted. She should have a right to decide what criteria to apply to her lovers.

    I suppose, though, that since it was consensual,despite the false pretenses, it might fall under a tort of seduction more than anything else… I’m the first person to say that if you consent to sex while drunk it’s rape, but I’m having a hard time calling this the same.

  5. Posted July 24, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    im glad to see ACOG’s revised view on VBACs, but now the hurdle is to get the actual hospitals and ob/gyns to change their policies and practices. and while they say VBAC is not about idealogy or lifestyle but “safe practices” where indicated and to take an “individualised approach” to each labour i cant help but remember their blanket smearing of homebirths/midwife assisted births in the wake of “the business of being born”(release feb 6 2008) and their “calling captain obvious” releases when it comes to induction (july 21 2009) and injesting during labour (august 2009).

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