Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sheriff Gordon Smith, A Black Eye on the Bradford County, Florida Sheriff's Department

Florida is not my favorite state. It is a cesspool of political/ police corruption and Predator Panic. But the Bradford County Sheriff's Office has taken the cake with its latest publicity stunt. The small-time Sheriff has placed road signs in front of the houses of registrants in hopes of chasing them out of town.

"So far, 18 signs have gone up in cement buried deep into the ground on public property near the homes of offenders settled in and around the town of Starke — causing one so-called sex predator to leave town and two others to consider taking off...Says Smith: “I have no sympathy for them (sexual predators), and if they don’t like their options of the sign, move!”

The trophy photos for the sheriff and the Abu Ghraib guys are eerily similar
Despite all this, Sheriff Gordon Smith claims he will protect those people targeted by those signs from vigilante violence, but I have my doubts.

I'd like to point out he has deleted criticism on his FB page. He simply needs to read some of the internet comments to see why this is a bad idea:

SheriffGordon Smith seems to have some kind of sign fetish. He was recently sued over a rather gaudy 10 Commandments display. I wonder if he really believes Jesus would approve of the Sheriff's signs?

What Sheriff Gordon Smith has done violates the Constitution. In State of Kansas v. Schad, the courts ruled the signs run counter to efforts at rehabilitation:

Similarly, in the present case, the signage conditions exact a very harsh censure against Schad. Although Schad had been convicted of a sexual offense, the imposed signage conditions would work against any rehabilitation while on probation because wherever Schad would be, he would be “branded.” The signage conditions would not be helpful in restoring Schad to the ranks of society’s productive citizens…

Under the facts of this case, the probation conditions requiring Schad to post signs around his house and on his car announcing his sex offender status were not reasonably related to the rehabilitative goal of probation or to the protection of the victim and society. In short, probation is not to shield guilty individuals from the consequences of their crimes, but it is an attempt to reform their attitudes about acting out in a criminal way. Here, the signage conditions made Schad an object of condemnation and ridicule. The signage conditions only confirmed society’s outrage against Schad. The signage conditions were simply a punitive measure not reasonably related to rehabilitation.

Even the Fark website, which is usually filled with pro-sex-offender-law types, has been blasting this publicity stunt:

I have been a long time activist, been studying these issues for well over a decade now, and if there was ever  a constant in my studies it is this --the ones who make the most noise about "sex offenders" tend to have the most to hide. The Bradford County Sheriff's Office has quite a series of embarrassing scandals in their own department. Maybe that's why they need this diversion:

A Bradford County Reserve Deputy is in the Bradford County Jail for getting into a physical argument with his wife. According to the Bradford County Sheriff's Office, Ronald Gassaway's wife told their deputies at a gas station there that she was injured by Gassaway.

A 49-year-old former corrections officer and one of Bradford County Sheriff’s Office’s most-wanted has been found in Puerto Rico after an email tip led to him, according to authorities.

A Bradford county corrections officer is accused of trying to kill a co-worker after investigators said he shot her in the face. 

A former Bradford County sheriff’s deputy has been arrested on charges of having sex with a teenage girl while he was on duty as a high school resource officer at the girl’s school.

Maybe we should be posting signs in the yards of Bradford County Sheriff's deputies instead. They seem to be the ones we should be worried about.

 One last thing, I find it extremely creepy this harassment is posted right next to a call for the "National Day of Prayer."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

False rape culture is part of rape culture, too: Lauren Nelson and her 15 minutes of shame

Lauren the false-rape denier Nelson
A few weeks ago, some random blogger received her 15 minutes of virtual fame by writing an article on so-called "rape culture." It is always a hot button and sensitive topic for Feminists in particular, because this has been a long-standing cash cow for the Feminist agenda. But it wasn't so much that Lauren Nelson put her own crazy spin on the topic IN THIS ARTICLE, she felt the need to write a followup article called "Why I Won’t Publish Your Comments About False Rape Accusations," which is the more likely reason a blog at the far reaches of the internet universe jumped to the top 100,000 in the Alexa rankings (though that spike is short-lived and will return to the 17,000,000th place ranking soon enough).

I'm not keen on quoting Wikipedia, but it has a decent definition of "Rape Culture:"

Rape culture is a concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape...Although the concept of rape culture is a generally accepted theory in feminist academia, there is disagreement over what defines a rape culture and to what degree a given society meets the criteria to be considered a rape culture.

It is long acknowledged that "rape culture" is a Feminist catchphrase. It has long been used to shift the balance in courts to the point accusations of rape are accepted without collaborating evidence to support it. In today's society, an accusation pretty much guarantees conviction in at least the court of public opinion. One look at the comment section in any news article where a person is arrested and charged with a sex crime would reveal that much.

So why is the concept of FALSE RAPE ALLEGATIONS so repugnant to Feminists? The main answer is because anything that serves as a counterbalance to their inflated claims about the prevalence of rape in our society. Christina Hoff Summers, a well-known critic of the Feminist movement, has already exposed many myths propagated by Feminists, including the GENDER PAY GAP MYTH and the famous ONE IN FOUR WOMEN ARE RAPED MYTH. But that's a story for a different day. My focus is on Nelson's blatant disregard for false allegations.

Nelson attempts to justify her denial of false rape discussion by minimizing false rape cases. Nelson makes the following claim:

"First off, the idea that false accusations are a significant problem in rape is patently untrue. For this point, we turn to data." The problem is, Nelson refuses to even mention the studies or link to them, while offering her opinion as to why they are false. Lets look at her reasons.

1. "The sample sizes are painfully small. 1,300 participants is on the high end, while some had as few as 18. Not exactly representative." If sample size is an issue here, the same can be said for the studies that rape culture proponents claim. Many of the outlandish claims have come from relatively small sample sizes. Even the Koss survey (aka, the Ms. Study, so consider the source), the much-heralded study that Feminists use for the 1-in-4-women-are-raped myth, used a sample size of only three thousand. Many research conclusions are across the board use relatively small sample sizes, so the same principles apply to rape studies.

2. "The data is inconsistent. Even when it’s the FBI analyzing larger pools of data on crimes committed, false accusations are largely measured according to police report labels such as 'no crime' or 'unfounded.' The problem with these labels is that they do not translate into a false accusation." And by the same token, the few studies that address the under-reporting claims have relatively broad definitions of rape AND attempted rape. Christina Hoff Summers' critique of the Koss study reveals that the definition included having sex while intoxicated. So if you woke up next to who you thought was George Clooney but looked more like George Costanza the next day, and you regret your choice of partners, that fell under Koss's definition of rape.

Even the National Crime Victimization Survey uses "attempted rapes" under "unreported rapes." And, as I mentioned in my Sex Offender Myths Fact Guide (under Myth #9), even the NCVS admits their sample size is relatively small, and the estimate of underreporting; the NVS found 57 "unreported cases" out of sample size of nearly 71,000 people. To even rely on the NCVS then is a bit of a misnomer.

3. "The data is also only reflective of reports of a man raping a vagina with his penis. Until early 2012, the federal definition of rape excluded such crimes as female rape of male, same sex rape, digital rape, anal rape, oral rape or rape with a foreign object (they also exclude incest for some reason). The most recent data you’ll find is 2011. That means the available data on reported cases is so far from complete, it’s not even funny." And yet the NCVS includes not only completed rapes and attempted rapes (which I just described in the last paragraph). Nelson blatantly ignores this fact. Of course, the Koss/ Ms. study used pretty much the same criteria as the criteria Nelson study.

4. "The data is plagued by rape culture. The studies most frequently cited by those stumping on behalf of the falsely accused have been the subject of criticism in subsequent studies for failing to qualitatively evaluate the methodologies of the case categorizations. Many found that police officers frequently used subjective judgment calls in dismissing cases as unfounded. Other studies found direct evidence of bias in such dismissals when studied in the field." And what is the basis for this claim? Nelson does not offer any evidence to support this claim whatsoever. Who are the "many" who can verify what Nelson said? Who knows. Where are these studies that found bias? Nelson leaves it up to you to find them. I guess she didn't feel like sending us to fringe Feminist sites as the source. That's be like getting smoking stats from Joe Camel.

5. "In studies where data was not provided but gathered in the field, the methodologies used for determining a false report were suspect (and that’s putting it nicely)." She offers no further elaboration. It is merely opinion. Of course, ever study has limitations. Read any scholarly journal and you will see the researchers discuss limitations. Sample size, methodology, focus of the study, the goals of the researchers, and the reliance of laymen to interpret expert matters of law influences any study like this. Nelson's arguments are just as valid when used against her.

Now we reach the point where her logic takes a strange turn. Nelson starts out with 8% of known rape cases as false allegations, purportedly from the FBI. Then she claims that according to the FBI, only 37% of rape cases are reported. But she does not post a link to the FBI study; she posts a link to the CONTROVERSIAL and INACCURATE Enliven Project Meme that was passed around earlier this year (and thoroughly dissected and found to be bogus). In fact, I ranted about this same meme earlier this year. So Nelson is not even using an original rant. (As an aside, the 2010 NCVS numbers state only 50% of sex crimes go unreported, going by the same criteria as the previous studies.) It is like quoting a friend of a friend who heard it from Faux News. The Enliven Project meme got much of their info from RAINN, a victim industry advocate.

Regardless, using this logic, Nelson divides 8% by 37% and now false allegations are 3% of the total rape cases. She's not satisfied with these numbers, mainly because the numbers are still too high for her liking. So she invites us to think "hypothetically."

"Still not fantastic, I’ll admit, but far from justifiable as an interruption to important discourse. Still, I’m not satisfied with leaving it at that. Let’s talk hypothetically.

Let’s give the police the benefit of the doubt, and assume that their frequency of subjective dismissal justifies an adjustment down in the false reporting rate to 7%. There’s enough out there to justify a stronger cut, but we’ll be conservative.

And let’s say that, with only 37% of rapes being reported and sexual violence education woefully lacking, the amount of “unfounded” cases labeled as such due to lack of evidence to take it to trial –  as women shower, dispose of clothing, and so forth post attack - brings false accusation rate down again to 6%.

And lets assume – given that only 9% of cases ever go to trial and only 3% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail - that rape culture factors such as dress, former sexual encounters, use of alcohol, and so forth, account for enough perceived potential for reasonable doubt to derail an additional portion of those “unfounded” cases bringing down the rate once more to 4% (and that’s being generous).

I know this is all conjecture. It’s an exercise. Stay with me."

So at this point, even Lauren Nelson admits this entire exercise is a smoking pile of horse shit. But I wish to take just a moment to return to the under-reporting myth. Because under-reporting is truly an unknown factor (simply put, we have no way of knowing how many claimed unreported crimes exist or are indeed crimes), we can claim any number greater than 0% and less than 100%. Rape Culture proponents will claim numbers as high as the upper 90s, as suggested by the Enliven Project Meme. I already noted the NCVS, which is rather generous with its definition of rape and attempted rape, finds low numbers of under-reporting in a very large sample size. Nelson tries to argue this is "rape culture," but her argument falls flat.

If there is such a thing as rape culture, then there is also such a thing as False Rape Culture. Lauren Nelson makes the same arguments as many other false rape deniers. The justification is "It makes victims feel as though they won’t be believed if they do come forward." I find that hard to believe. After all, rarely do false accusers face incarceration, and in the very rare event a false accuser is convicted, they are rarely punished.

When a false rape accuser gets off with no penalties, THAT IS FALSE RAPE CULTURE.

Lauren Nelson: "If you want to comment about false rape accusations, it won’t be on this blog."

When Lauren Nelson denies and minimizes the harm of false rape accusations and states she will not allow anyone to discuss it on her blog, THAT IS FALSE RAPE CULTURE.

When a person finally gains an appeal due to faulty and contradictory evidence at trial, and a victim industry profiteer like Laura Ahearn accuses him of still being guilty and denying the chance he may be innocent, that is FALSE RAPE CULTURE.

When TV Analyst Wendy Murphy famously proclaims "I never, ever met a false rape claim, by the way. My own statistics speak to the truth," and maintains this position after watching the Duke Lacrosse case turn into an indictment against overzealous prosecutor William Nifong (and still put this crazy lady on the air), that is FALSE RAPE CULTURE.

When it takes 11 false allegation cases before a woman serves time for ruining lives, that is FALSE RAPE CULTURE.

When people serve decades behind bars and after being exonerated, and 2 of every five of them doesn't get any compensation for losing many years of their lives, that is FALSE RAPE CULTURE.

There is always more than one aspect of any issue. Feminists, and people like Lauren Nelson, would have you believe that acknowledging its existence is some kind of power issue, like rape. So denying their argument is basically tantamount to raping them. What faulty logic!

We have seen the power of false allegations that came as the result of overzealous prosecutors and awareness campaigns in the very recent past. Remember the Satanic Ritual Abuse cases of the mid 1980s-early 1990s? Bakersfield? McMartin? Little Rascals Day Care? Even the "West Memphis Three" (which were recently allowed release after taking an Alford plea, which prevents them from suing the state for wrongful imprisonment)? Or the many stories we hear of individuals serving years for crimes they didn't commit, released after DNA tests exonerated them or the accuser finally admits she lied?

False Rape Allegations and the culture that fails to address it should be as much a part of the conversation as rape culture discussions. It takes an honest approach from all sides, and denying one side only distorts the overall picture. There are brutal rapes, cases where the circumstances are not clear, cases where a rape occurred and the wrong man is imprisoned, and cases where someone flat-out lies about rape. This is all a part of the overall picture of rape False Rape Culture is very real, and will be around long after Lauren Nelson slinks back into obscurity.

Monday, April 1, 2013

My 10 year anniversary, of sorts...

Happy anniversary to me! No, I'm not referring to my ex-wife Brandi ( personally I'd love to forget she ever existed). Ten years (and 75 pounds) ago, on April 1, 2003, I was released from prison and moved to Cincinnati to begin a new life. I did not know what to expect. I had not lived in a big city since my family moved from Baltimore in 1982, when I was only five years old. However, my greatest fear was how to live my life on "The List."

My first taste of freedom was my 16 hour bus ride from Montgomery, Alabama to Cincinnati, Ohio. I hardly had any time to settle in before it was time to go register as a "sex offender." I was sitting at the Hamilton County Sheriff's office waiting to be processed. People were walking all over the place, heading the court, visiting inmates, getting fingerprints and police reports, and (thankfully) ignoring my presence. 

Do you remember your first time? I do. As tough as an individual I am, standing in that hallway awaiting my registration was a very nerve-racking experience. 

After nearly half an hour, I was finally called to the back. At some point while the registrar was typing in my information into their database, he received a phone call from one sounded like a "concerned citizen" who received a notification that a registrant was moving into the neighborhood. The woman was speaking so loud and frantically that despite sitting a fair distance away from the phone, I can hear every word the woman was saying.

The thing that got my attention the most was the response from the officer. First, he informed the woman that he had a legal right to live wherever he chose (at the time Ohio did not have a residency restriction law), and that they all have to live somewhere. A follow-up comment really caught my attention-- the officer stated that there was only one perfect person that ever existed and he was hung on a cross.

I have been registering for 10 years now. I know a lot of other individuals have had bad experiences while registering. I have been fortunate to have experienced relatively few problems while registering. The officers I see at the registry office would much rather be doing something else. They know this registry is a fruitless endeavor, and at times they have encourage me to fight back against the laws.

Being an advocate wasn't my first choice, but after 10 years of experience in a number of difficulties related to the laws, at times I see it as my only choice. I have not had as many difficulties his other individuals on the registry, but I have experienced my share of social ostracism, discrimination, and legal battles. I was originally classified as a "sexually oriented offender" and had the state not reclassified me arbitrarily, today would've been the day that I would've been removed from the list.

Perhaps there is a reason beyond my understanding why I am still on the list. I feel it is my calling in life to fight this injustice. We are on the unpopular side of the issue. It is very easy to pass laws against people on the registry because 10 years ago our movement practically did not exist. I did not discover any advocacy groups or activists in general until April 2004. 

Things are so much different now, it seems like a lifetime ago since that day the prison gates opened and I walked out into the "free" world. But the free world is not really free. Many laws have passed over the years to remind me of that fact. Registration laws that change arbitrarily, residency restrictions, typing "criminal sex offender" on my ID card in Scarlet letters, and the consistent denial of support services and employment. Because I have experienced all these things, I fight. I fight because these laws are wrong. I fight because these laws harmed me.

I have lasted 10 years on the outside. Depending on how you look at my story, you might say I have beaten the odds. One of the individuals in my group therapy classes in prison predicted I would be back in prison in three years, because the odds are against me. Victim industry advocates teach society that people like me are sent back to prison at alarming rates. A number of vigilante groups have attacked me, slandered me, and have claimed many times that my rearrest was imminent. Ten years later, I have proven every one of them wrong.

I have seen a lot of changes in the past 10 years. There was a time when there was practically no discussion about the collateral consequences of passing these laws. Over time, activists like myself have chipped the seemingly invincible armor of the victim industry, and we have made great strides over the years to make our voices heard and impact the laws that affect us. While there is much room for improvement, each small victory keeps the small glimmer of hope I keep in my heart alive. My hope began the day I sat in the registry office and listened to the words of the person assigned to punch my information into the online registry. That hope has continued over the years the actions of my fellow activists, from Mary Duval to Tom Madison to Jan Kruska and others who helped form a foundation upon which we can build a stronger network of reform advocates, to those of us who are continuing the fight today. Each time one of us appears in the news, speaks before a legislative committee, recruiting new activists, or even feels the comment boards with rational discussions about the dangers of these laws, my hope continues the grow.

The past 10 years have been a long, tiring journey, but it has given me hope for the next 10 years.