Tag Archives: sexual assault

22 hospitals fined, failed to comply with emergency contraception law

Wisconsin has fined 22 hospitals in recent years for not complying with a law requiring them to offer emergency contraception to rape survivors.

Continue reading 22 hospitals fined, failed to comply with emergency contraception law

Lawmakers question Wisconsin AG about 6,000 untested rape kits

About 16 months ago, the Wisconsin Department of Justice received federal grant money to test rape kits but the DOJ has tested nine out of 6,000 kits.

State Sens. Jon Erpenbach and Lena Taylor and state Reps. Gordon Hintz and Katrina Shankland are asking Attorney General Brad Schimel why.

Here’s the lawmakers’ letter to the AG:

We were deeply concerned to learn that the Department of Justice has tested only nine of Wisconsin’s estimated backlog of 6,000 rape kits after receiving federal grant funding sixteen months ago. You can be assured that we will ask you to explain this delay when you appear before the Joint Committee on Finance at an agency briefing in the coming weeks.

While we appreciate the department’s thoroughness in developing a rape kit inventory process and planning a public outreach campaign, the process has been severely lacking in urgency and accountability.

On Oct. 2, 2016, USA Today reported that seven months after DOJ sent its Data Collection Tool to law enforcement agencies, nearly a third had not responded with their inventory of untested rape kits in storage.

This raises questions as to why DOJ was not more vigilant in following up with nonresponsive agencies.

Were attempts made to contact agencies and arrange an appropriate timeline for response?

What steps will the department take to ensure that these delays do not continue and this situation is addressed with the urgency it demands?

When recently questioned on the matter, you stated that “a few hundred” sexual assault kits had been tested. This is demonstrably false.

The reality is that testing has only been completed on nine kits. That’s nine incidents of sexual assault out of 6,000.

Your misleading statements and purposeful lack of transparency only contribute to the growing public perception that your department is mismanaging federal funds and failing to get justice for survivors.

We recognize that some survivors may not want their kit tested, but wonder how other survivors feel about the 2.5-year backlog.

Any delay of justice that could have been prevented is a miscarriage of justice. We look forward to your response, and will continue this line of inquiry at the upcoming DOJ agency briefing, where we expect your presence in person.


Senator Jon Erpenbach, 27th Senate District

Senator Lena Taylor, 4th Senate District

Representative Gordon Hintz, 54th Assembly District

Representative Katrina Shankland, 71st Assembly District

Wisconsin student accused of assaulting 4 more women

A University of Wisconsin-Madison student already accused of sexually assaulting a woman in his apartment this month has been charged with sexually assaulting four other women since early 2015.

Alec Cook, 20, of Edina, Minnesota, faces seven counts of second-degree sexual assault, three counts of third-degree sexual assault, two counts of strangulation, two counts of false imprisonment and one count of fourth-degree sexual assault.

The complaint prosecutors filed Thursday accuses Cook of assaults dating back to March 2015. Prosecutors said one of the women was assaulted multiple times during a ballroom dancing class she was attending with Cook this past spring. Cook also is accused of assaulting a woman he met at a party in March 2015; a woman he met in a human sexuality class in February; and a woman he met during a psychology class experiment in August.

Cook was charged last week with assaulting a woman in his apartment the night of Oct. 12 after the two studied together.

Media apeports of those charges have driven dozens of women to report to police their encounters with Cook.

Officers searching Cook’s apartment found a black book listing women he’d met and documenting his “sexual desires” and including the word “kill” without explanation, authorities said.

Dane County Circuit Court Commissioner Brian Asmus set Cook’s bail at $200,000 cash during a brief hearing. Cook made no statement at the hearing.

His attorneys, Jessa Nicholson and Chris Van Wagner, told reporters after the proceeding that they believe the ballroom assaults never happened. The rest of the encounters, they claimed, were consensual.

Van Wagner showed reporters a page from Cook’s book with the word “Killed?” written at the top and said it’s unclear what it means.

He said Cook has been vilified on social media but the prosecution’s case is “just dust.” Women are coming forward because they’ve seen social media postings about Cook and have become frightened, he said.

“He’s been painted as the face of evil,” Van Wagner said. “That’s wrong.”

According to the complaint, the accuser from the Oct. 12 incident says she went to his apartment after studying with him at a campus library. She said he assaulted her for 2 1/2 hours, maintaining what she described as a “death grip” on her arm or body.

Another woman came forward two days after charges were filed in that case. She said she met Cook at her friend’s birthday party in March 2015. Two weeks later she visited his apartment, where he began kissing her forcefully, then sexually assaulted her.

The same day that Cook was charged with the Oct. 12 assault, two other women reported being assaulted by him.

One woman told police she was in a ballroom dance class with Cook during the spring 2016 semester. She accused him of repeatedly touching her while they were dancing despite her telling him to stop. The touching occurred 15 to 20 times over the semester, she said.

The class instructor told investigators she got an email from the woman saying she was uncomfortable with how Cook touched her. The instructor responded by speaking to the class about appropriate contact during dances. Another woman told police that she met Cook during a human sexuality class and began dating him in January, the complaint said. She said he assaulted her at his apartment in February.

Another woman told police that she met Cook during a psychology class experiment. They had consensual sex at his apartment in August, the woman said, during which he tried to choke her. After taking a break to smoke marijuana, Cook tried to have sex with her again, this time slapping her and leaving bruises.

Why did Republicans wait until now to dump Trump?

Why now? And why this? For the legion of Republicans who abandoned Donald Trump on Saturday, recoiling in horror from comments their party’s White House nominee made about using his fame to prey on women, there is no escaping those questions.

For months, they stomached his incendiary remarks about Mexicans, Muslims, prisoners of war, a Gold Star military family and a Hispanic judge, along with offensive statements about women too numerous to count. Democratic critics argue that their silence — or the promise to vote for Trump, but not endorse him — amounted to tacit approval of misogyny and racism.

There were no good answers Saturday, and few Republicans attempted to offer any.

Some, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, didn’t say anything at all about the top of the party’s ticket. A steady stream of others revoked their endorsements or called for Trump to drop out of the race, condemning the New York billionaire in emailed statements and carefully crafted tweets.

Those fleeing from Trump may ultimately say it was the shock of hearing and seeing the businessman’s crudeness on video that prompted them to finally walk away. On Friday, The Washington Post and NBC News both released a 2005 recording of Trump describing attempts to have sex with a married woman. His words were caught on a live microphone while talking with Billy Bush, then a host of “Access Hollywood.”

Some may draw a distinction between Trump’s outrageous earlier comments about women, minorities and others by noting that this time, the businessman wasn’t just being offensive — he was describing actions that could be considered sexual assault. In the video, Trump is heard saying that his fame allows him to “do anything” to women.

“Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything,” he says.

But with a month until Election Day, and early voting already underway in several states, the truest answer to why Republicans are dropping Trump now — and why they’re dropping him over this — is likely political.

During the Republican primary, GOP officials worried that disavowing Trump would alienate his supporters and hurt the party in congressional races. In the general election, Trump’s crass behavior also seemed easier for Republicans to tolerate when stacked up against Democrat Hillary Clinton, a candidate so reviled by many in the GOP that virtually nothing Trump did seemed worse than the prospect of her becoming president.

But these new revelations come at a time when the White House race seems to be slipping away from Trump. He’s been unable to attract support beyond that offered by his core backers. His performance in the first debate was undisciplined and he followed it up by tangling with a beauty queen whom he shamed two decades ago for gaining weight.

“There were people who were just starting to feel like this ship was going down and now this gives people a good excuse to jump off,” said Katie Packer, a Republican strategist who advised Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign and led an unsuccessful effort to prevent Trump from becoming the GOP nominee.

While some Republicans expressed astonishment and dismay over Trump’s 2005 comments, those who steadfastly refused to endorse him throughout the campaign suggested their party knew full well what they were getting with the brash real estate mogul and reality TV star.

“Nothing that has happened in the last 48 hours is surprising to me or many others,” said Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was critical of Trump when he ran against him in the primary and has remained so for months.

Privately, even Republicans who didn’t formally revoke their support for Trump conceded there was little he could do to right his campaign at this point. Early voting is already underway in some key states and the comments aired in the video will likely be unforgivable with independent women, a constituency Trump desperately needs to win if he has any hope of beating Clinton.

The last hope now for many Republicans is that an unimaginable election year will still end with the GOP in control of the Senate. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Nevada Rep. Joe Heck, both locked in tight races, joined the parade of officials Saturday who said they simply couldn’t stand by Trump anymore.

For Ayotte, the move earned her no quarter from her Democratic opponent, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan.

“She has had one example after the next of Donald Trump’s despicable words and his despicable behavior as reasons that she should have disavowed him,” Hassan said. “It took her until now when the revelation of his comments from a decade ago were made to decide that politically she couldn’t stand with him anymore.”

Look for more of the same in races nationwide. Democrats made clear Saturday they would spend the next month trying to ensure they and other Republicans get no credit for walking away now.

Wisconsin Innocence Project client freed after 24 years in prison

Daryl Dwayne Holloway walked out of Green Bay Correctional Institution a free man Oct. 5 after serving 24 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit.

Holloway was accompanied by his attorney, Keith Findley, and a team of law students from the Wisconsin Innocence Project who worked on his case, according to a news release from UW-Madison.

A Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge signed the order freeing Holloway on Oct. 4.

Prosecutors in the Milwaukee district attorney’s office had agreed that exculpatory DNA results warranted the reversal of Holloway’s convictions in a 1992 sexual assault case.

“This case represents one example of the power of post-conviction DNA testing to help us achieve justice and of a prosecutor’s office recognizing that power and working with defense attorneys to find the truth, rather than just protect old convictions,” said Findley, a University of Wisconsin-Madison law professor and co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project.

Findley said Holloway’s case received renewed interest in April 2015, when now-retired Assistant District Attorney Norm Gahn conducted a review of the case file.

Gahn discovered conflicting DNA reports issued by separate labs that had previously analyzed evidence in the case. The conflicting reports meant that at least one of the labs made an error in its analysis.

Gahn contacted Holloway’s attorney, who reached out to the Wisconsin Innocence Project for help.

Findley and a team of law students reviewed the file and convinced prosecutors that remaining evidence from the case should be analyzed by an independent third-party laboratory.

The new DNA report identified numerous errors in the previous testing and identified the presence of male DNA from an unknown third party. Test results conclusively excluded Holloway as the perpetrator of the crime for which he spent more than two decades in prison.

The Milwaukee County district attorney’s office cooperated with the Wisconsin Innocence Project to draft a stipulation of facts with a joint recommendation to Judge Jeffrey Wagner to vacate Holloway’s conviction.

Wagner, who presided over the wrongful conviction in 1993, ordered the conviction vacated and dismissed all charges.

“This is a remarkable example of a prosecutor doing the right thing, motivated by the search for justice. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office deserves tremendous credit for this exoneration,” Findley said in the release.

Conduct code may have silenced rape victims at Baptist school

The sexual assault scandal that took down Baylor University’s president and football coach also found a problem with a bedrock of the school’s faith-based education: a student conduct code banning alcohol, drugs and premarital sex that may have driven some victims into silence.

Investigators with the Pepper Hamilton law firm who dug into Baylor’s response to sexual assault claims determined the school’s rigid approach to drugs, alcohol and sex and “perceived judgmental responses” to victims who reported being raped “created barriers” to reporting assaults.

Some women faced the prospect of their family being notified.

“A number of victims were told that if they made a report of rape, their parents would be informed of the details of where they were and what they were doing,” said Chad Dunn, a Houston attorney who represents six women who have sued Baylor under the anonymous identification of Jane Doe.

The nation’s largest Baptist university is a notably conservative place in one of the most conservative states in the country. Dancing on campus was banned until 1996. Fornication, adultery and homosexual acts were included in an official list of misconduct until May 2015, and the current policy stresses that “physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity.”

Students can still be expelled for using drugs or alcohol, though late last year it included amnesty for minor offenses.

Pepper Hamilton investigators urged the school to expand amnesty to sexual conduct code violations; the federal government told all U.S. universities in 2011 that conduct policies may have a chilling effect on reporting sexual assault.

“Amnesty is a no-brainer,” said Shan Wu, a former federal sex crimes prosecutor who is now a criminal defense attorney specializing in student legal issues. “Unfortunately, these codes force students to engage in life-or-death calculations,” added Wu, who isn’t involved in the Baylor case.

Baylor officials say they are already making changes. Interim President David Garland, who took over in late May for ousted president and chancellor Ken Starr, said the university considered all of the firm’s recommendations as “mandates.”

“Expectations for our students are outlined in university conduct policies and are a reflection of our faith-based mission,” school spokeswoman Tonya Lewis said, noting that the amnesty provisions for drug and alcohol use should assure sexual assault victims that Baylor will focus on their allegations. Baylor has repeatedly declined to comment specific cases.

“Student safety and support for survivors of all types of interpersonal violence are paramount to the mission of Baylor University,” Lewis said.

But such offers of amnesty are too late for women who previously reported assaults and told Pepper Hamilton investigators about hurdles they faced in dealing with Baylor officials. Eight former Baylor students have brought three federal lawsuits against the school, outlining rape allegations as far back as 2005 that they say were either ignored or discouraged from reporting.

Dunn would not allow his clients to be interviewed by the AP to protect their identity, but relayed questions to them.

Two women said they were pushed to accept alcohol conduct violations when they reported their assaults, or feared sexual conduct violations if they did.

One woman said her case began when she called police to report a physical assault on another woman at an off-campus party. Police demanded to know if she was underage and had been drinking, then arrested and reported her to the school office that investigates conduct code violations, she said. She told Baylor officials her drinking was a result of being raped a month earlier and detailed what happened in person and in a letter.

She received an alcohol code violation and told to do 25 hours community service, and when she tried to appeal, the woman said Baylor officials urged her to drop it. The school never pursued her rape claim.

“I was told by many Baylor staff that they couldn’t do anything for me because my assault was off campus, yet they had no problem punishing me for my off-campus drinking,” the woman said. Schools are bound by federal law to investigate on- and off-campus sex assault allegations.

The threat of a sexual conduct violation was a “common issue” that Baylor did nothing to dispel, another woman said.

Even when the code of conduct wasn’t an overt issue, some women who reported sexual assault said they were grilled about their behavior.

Stefanie Mundhenk, a former Baylor student who The Associated Press is identifying because she has publicly blogged about Baylor’s investigation into her 2015 rape allegations, told the AP that she was never threatened by conduct code violations but was repeatedly questioned about her sexual history.

“I was alarmed,” said Mundhenk, who is not among those suing Baylor. “It was biased and it was unfair. They were trying to gauge if I was a loose woman. They were looking to attack my reputation.”

On the web

For information about reporting sexual assaults and addressing the crisis on college campuses:


It’s On Us

50 years of feminism: from ‘gal wanted’ to Hillary Clinton

Fifty years ago, when a small group of activists founded the National Organization for Women, the immediate issue that motivated them was sex discrimination in employment. They were irate that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was refusing to ban “Help Wanted Male” and “Help Wanted Female” job advertising.

Typical were ads seeking a “well-groomed gal” for a job as a receptionist.

Flash forward to today: Women comprise close to 50 percent of enrollment in U.S. medical schools and law schools. One-third of federal judges are women, compared to just a handful in the 1960s. The U.S military is opening all combat jobs to women.

At NOW and elsewhere in the diverse ranks of the feminist movement, there’s deep pride in these changes, but also a consensus that the 50th anniversary — to be celebrated June 23 — is not an occasion to declare victory.

“The battle goes on,” said Eleanor Smeal, a former president of NOW who heads the Feminist Majority Foundation. “So many of the things we fought for have been achieved, but we still do not have full equality.”

Among the issues viewed as unfinished business: a wage gap that favors men over women, the persistent scourge of sexual assault and domestic violence, and the push in many states to reduce access to legal abortion.

Once virtually alone as a national, multi-issue feminist group, NOW shares the activist stage today with a multitude of other players — ranging from youthful online organizers to groups focused on specific issues such as abortion rights, campus rape and workplace equity. NOW’s membership and revenues are down from its peak years, and some younger feminists wonder if it is losing some relevance.

The situation was very different back in 1966. NOW’s founding was a pivotal moment in the rebuilding of a vibrant feminist movement in the U.S. after a period of relative dormancy in the 1940s and ‘50s.

“The momentum of the feminist movement that won suffrage and expanded women’s rights in the early 20th century had waned,” says NOW in its own history. “A negative media blitz proclaimed the death of feminism and celebrated the happy, suburban housewife.”

The so-called “second wave” of U.S. feminism gained momentum in part because of “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan’s 1963 book that gave a voice to women frustrated by the gender inequities of the status quo. Friedan was among the co-founders of NOW and was chosen as its first president at an organizing conference in October 1966.

She also wrote the Statement of Purpose adopted by NOW at that conference.

“The time has come for a new movement toward true equality for all women in America, and toward a fully equal partnership of the sexes,” the statement says. It vowed “to break through the silken curtain of prejudice and discrimination against women in government, industry, the professions, the churches, the political parties, the judiciary, the labor unions, in education, science, medicine, law, religion and every other field of importance in American society.”

Fifty years later, only patches of that silken curtain remain, and Hillary Clinton will have a chance this fall to add the ultimate breakthrough by becoming the first woman elected president. NOW has eagerly endorsed her, while depicting her Republican rival, Donald Trump, as “a boorish, babbling bigot who disrespects women.”

Trump prides himself on an ability to draw large crowds to his rallies; for many years, that was a hallmark for NOW as well. An estimated 100,000 people turned out for a 1977 march in Washington in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which ultimately failed to garner support from enough states to win ratification. Far larger crowds assembled for abortion-rights marches in 1989 and 1992.

In subsequent years, there have been only a few mass mobilizations of feminists. NOW’s president, Terry O’Neill, says the drop-off in revenues and dues-paying membership resulted in part from a drop in engagement by activists who, after a 1992 Supreme Court ruling, perceived less of a threat to abortion rights.

O’Neill declined to provide financial details, but said NOW’s national headquarters in Washington is down to a staff of 11, about a third of the size 25 years ago.

Another iconic feminist institution, Ms. magazine, also faces financial challenges.

“It’s nip and tuck, but we manage to always find the resources,” said Kathy Spillar, executive editor of Ms. since 2006. She said the magazine, a nonprofit, gets by with revenue from donors, special events and advertisements.

Ms. is only slightly younger than NOW, first appearing in 1971 as an insert in New York magazine, and publishing its first stand-alone issue in January 1972. Today it publishes quarterly but has a Facebook site and online blog that have attracted millions.

In their early years, NOW and Ms. were among a small handful of national entities with a broad mission of empowering women and girls.

“Now there are so many organizations, you can’t count them,” Spillar observed, saying they work well together.

While younger feminists appreciate NOW’s legacy, some also question its tactical skills and its demographics.

O’Neill, a 63-year-old white woman, says NOW would like to further diversify its membership, but acknowledged that its activist base is largely middle class or upper middle class. Racial diversity “is a continuing issue,” O’Neill said, citing NOW’s outreach to black sororities at U.S. colleges and its calls to tackle the racial wage gap as well as the gender wage gap.

Jamia Wilson, an African-American feminist writer in New York, said NOW and other long-established women’s groups “paved the way for many of us to be able to realize our visions and do our activist work.”

However, Wilson, 35, said these groups should make “bold moves” to recruit more women of color into leadership positions and work more closely with marginalized communities, such as transgender women and women who served time behind bars.

Generational rifts have surfaced in the presidential campaign, as many young women backed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race rather than Clinton. When renowned feminist Gloria Steinem suggested that Sanders’ young female supporters were doing so in order to meet young men, there was enough outrage to prompt an apology from Steinem.

Jessica Valenti, a New York-based author who founded the popular blog Feministing in 2004, said younger feminists, acting individually or in small groups, have become adept on online organizing and activism.

“That doesn’t mean the big national organizations are unnecessary,” said Valenti, 37. “I would love to see them continue to get funding and do work, but my hope is that they take cues from younger organizers and that their work evolves with us.”

One example of online activism is UltraViolet, an advocacy group that uses the internet to mobilize rapid responses to public comments or actions that it views as sexist. Since its founding in 2012, its campaigns have helped build public pressure that contributed to the resignation of an Alabama-based federal judge accused of beating his wife, pressured Netflix to expand paid parental leave, and recently mounted a petition drive seeking the ouster of a judge who sentenced a former Stanford University swimmer to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.

“We want to change the calculus that it pays to ignore or harm women,” said UltraViolet’s co-founder, Nita Chaudhary. “We exist to create a cost for sexism.”

Chaudhary doesn’t view UltraViolet as a rival to larger, older groups such as NOW.

“We create space for other groups that are better resourced to step into the cause,” she said.

It’s never been easy to quantify America’s feminist movement — many women consider themselves feminists to a degree yet don’t share some core beliefs of militant activists.

According to a recent national survey by the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation, six in 10 women and one-third of men in the U.S. depict themselves as feminists _ higher figures than in some polls a few years earlier. However, four in 10 respondents in the new poll viewed the feminist movement as “angry,” and a similar portion said it unfairly blames men for women’s challenges.

Among the critics of contemporary feminism is Christina Hoff Sommers, a former philosophy professor who is a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

In an interview, Sommers hailed NOW’s original mission statement as “an inspiring document” with goals that have mostly been achieved.

“It seems the more things improve for women, the more aggrieved many feminists become,” Sommer said. “There’s never a time when they say, ‘We’ve done it. It’s time to celebrate.””

Sommers said there’s still a pressing need for women’s-rights activism in many foreign countries, a need that American feminists could help address.

Spillar, who has expanded Ms. magazine’s international coverage, said U.S. women would have more influence abroad if they gained more clout at home.

“If we had half the seats in Congress, think how much more of a voice we could be,” she said.

In some respects, the United States lags behind many nations on women’s issues. According to a U.N. report, it is one of only three countries worldwide _along with Oman and Papua New Guinea — without a nationwide policy of paid maternity leave. Only a handful of U.S. states have mandated paid family leave.

Ellen Bravo, a Milwaukee-based activist who advocates on behalf of working women, contends that the dearth of family-friendly policies in the U.S. is rooted in the undervaluation of women and the work that they perform.

“In the past, the mindset was that there were always women ready to take up the caregiving tasks at home — and they would continue to do it for free,” Bravo said. “The mindset is still there, even though the facts on the ground have changed.”

Now, she says, many activist groups are campaigning simultaneously to curtail workplace inequality for women and expand the potential for men to handle more caregiving duties at home.

One workplace advocacy group, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, has found that raising gender-related issues bolstered its efforts to get a higher minimum wage for restaurant workers who rely primarily on tips.

Though the group’s 18,000 members include men, about two-thirds of them are women. Saru Jayaraman, the group’s co-founder and co-director, said the wage campaign gained momentum after activists sought to demonstrate that workers dependent on tips were subjected to disproportionately high levels of sexual harassment.

“Suddenly we were the new wave of feminism and gender justice,” said Jayaraman. “It allowed us to get more support.”

While efforts proceed to support women in unglamorous workplaces, there’s also been a popularization of feminism at the other end of the social spectrum. Among the pop culture icons embracing the term are Beyonce, Taylor Swift and even the Muppets’ Miss Piggy.

Andi Zeisler, co-founder and editorial director of Bitch Media, warily analyzes this phenomenon — which she calls “marketplace feminism” — in a new book, We Were Feminists Once.

She worries that feminism is becoming a feel-good buzzword as the struggle for gender equality shifts “from a collective goal to a consumer brand.”

“The problem is — the problem has always been — that feminism is not fun,” Zeisler writes. “It’s complex and hard and it pisses people off. It’s serious because it is about people demanding that their humanity be recognized as valuable.”


5th annual ‘Wrap Around the Capitol’ on April 9

The Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault will stage the fifth annual “Wrap Around the Capitol” at 2 p.m. on April 9.

The event marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Denim Day,  recognizing the more than 1.4 million survivors of some form of sexual violence in Wisconsin and calling for action against such violence.

Participants will gather inside the Capitol Building’s Rotunda in Madison.

An announcement from the organizers said: “Held as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Wrap Around the Capitol involves a rally, this year inside the Capitol. Survivors of sexual violence, allies, advocates, and other community members are invited to gather in a symbolic act to end sexual violence. This event joins an international effort to end sexual violence in solidarity with survivors and their allies.”

Denim Day, observed in the United States on April 29, originated in Italy.

In the 1990s, an 18 year-old woman was raped by a 45 year-old driving instructor in Italy. The perpetrator was arrested, prosecuted, convicted of rape and sentenced to jail. However, the court overturned the rape conviction because the judges said the victim must have consented to sexual contact since her jeans were so tight the perpetrator could not have gotten them off without her assistance.

Outraged, the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans to work. This gave rise to Denim Day.

Get connected

For more information on Denim Day, see our Denim Day page.

See what is going on across Wisconsin for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (www.wcasa.org) is a membership agency of organizations and individuals working to end sexual violence in Wisconsin. Among these are the 51 sexual assault service provider agencies throughout the state that offer support, advocacy and information to survivors of sexual assault and their families. WCASA works to ensure that every survivor in Wisconsin gets the support and care they need. WCASA also works to create the social change necessary to ensure a future where no child, woman or man is ever sexually violated again.

NYPD investigating sexual assault at Stonewall

New York City police are searching for a man suspected of sexually assaulting a transgender woman in a bathroom at the historic Stonewall Inn bar in Greenwich Village.

Police said this week the 25-year-old woman was in a unisex bathroom at the bar when a man who has not been identified entered and sexually assaulted her.

Police said the suspect fled the bathroom, but then returned a short time later and assaulted the woman a second time.

Police said the assault happened around 11:40 p.m. on March 26. The woman was treated at an area hospital.

There have been no arrests but the New York Daily News reported that surveillance video shows the suspect sought by authorities.

Stonewall Inn is the site of 1969 riots that helped give rise to the LGBT civil rights movement.

Anyone with information regarding the assailant’s identity is urged to call New York’s Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

There have been no arrests but the New York Daily News reported that surveillance video shows the suspect sought by authorities.
There have been no arrests but the New York Daily News reported that surveillance video shows the suspect sought by authorities. — PHOTO: Courtesy Daily News

ACLU sues over federal funds to Catholic bishops

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued for records related to the federal government’s award of funds to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has routinely denied survivors of human trafficking access to critical health care because of its religious beliefs.

The suit, filed under the Freedom of Information Act, seeks documents related to a $2 million federal grant awarded to the USCCB.

The ACLU said the group received taxpayer money despite a court ruling that the government had violated the Constitution by giving USCCB a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract to provide services to human trafficking survivors despite restricting their access to reproductive health services.

“We are shocked and deeply concerned to see history repeating itself with millions of taxpayer dollars funneled into the hands of a religious group that has a long history of refusing critical health care services to the most vulnerable people in their care,” ACLU senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri stated. “The court has ruled that the federal government cannot give federal funds to those who impose their religious beliefs on others by withholding critical healthcare to those who have been through unspeakable horrors. The public has a right to know what’s going on.”

Case against the Catholic Bishops

In 2009, the ACLU filed a lawsuit alleging the federal government violated the Constitution by permitting USCCB to impose its religiously-based restrictions on the types of services trafficked individuals can receive with taxpayer funds.

In 2012, a federal court ruled in favor of the ACLU.

During the course of the case, the federal government ended its relationship with USCCB. So, in 2013, an appeals court held that the case was moot.

Then the government awarded the Catholic bishops $2 million in September 2015.

More than 14,000 individuals are trafficked into the United States each year. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals are made to labor against their will through force, fraud, or coercion.

The ACLU said many women who are trafficked are raped by traffickers or their acquaintances. Some women who have been trafficked become pregnant after being raped. Denying reproductive health services and referrals for these services, further victimizes trafficked individuals.

The ACLU said obstructing access to reproductive health care for trafficking survivors is not the only situation in which the federal government allows USCCB to harm vulnerable populations.

USCCB also receives millions of taxpayer dollars to care for refugee and undocumented immigrant minors and has restricted their access to reproductive health services, including contraception and abortion, despite the high rates of sexual assault that these teens suffer.

In addition, USCCB prohibits Catholic hospitals from offering — or even discussing — certain reproductive health care services, even when those services are necessary to protect a woman’ s health or life. These hospitals also receive federal funding and are subject to government oversight.  Nearly one in nine hospital beds in the country is in a Catholic facility.