Tag Archives: sexual violence

Justice Dept. issues new guidance for police response to domestic violence, sexual assault | Policies follow investigations of gender-biased policing

The Department of Justice this week issued new guidance to law enforcement agencies, detailing how certain police responses to domestic violence and sexual assault violate victims’ civil rights.

“Gender bias, whether explicit or implicit, can severely undermine law enforcement’s ability to protect survivors of sexual and domestic violence and hold offenders accountable,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  “This guidance – developed in collaboration with law enforcement leaders and advocates from across the country – is designed to help state, local and tribal authorities more fairly and effectively address allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault.  In the days and months ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to work with our law enforcement partners nationwide to ensure that they have the tools and resources they need to prevent, investigate and prosecute these horrendous crimes.”

The guidance comes on the heels of DOJ investigations of gender-biased policing in New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Montana and Arizona that documented the systemic failure of police departments to properly investigate domestic violence and sexual assault cases or to hold police officers accountable when they commit domestic or sexual violence.

“Domestic violence-related calls constitute the single largest category of calls received by police departments, so how police officers respond to domestic violence and sexual assault has a huge impact on the lives of women, families and communities across the United States,” said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney in the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Police practices can either help end the cycle of violence or they can perpetuate it.”

Even when an assault clearly qualifies as criminal activity, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault may face disbelief, victim-blaming, and hostility from law enforcement.

The DOJ guidance calls on local police departments to examine their practices and policies relating to policing of domestic violence and sexual assault, which disproportionately impact women and LGBT people. It lays out the following eight principles that should guide police departments:

  • Recognize and address biases, assumptions, and stereotypes about victims
  • Treat all victims with respect and employ interviewing tactics that encourage a victim to participate and provide facts about the incident
  • Investigate sexual assault or domestic violence complaints thoroughly and effectively
  • Appropriately classify reports of sexual assault or domestic violence
  • Refer victims to appropriate services
  • Properly identify the assailant in domestic violence incidents
  • Hold officers who commit sexual assault or domestic violence accountable
  • Maintain, review, and act upon data regarding sexual assault and domestic violence.

“The new DOJ guidance is a critical tool welcomed by both law enforcement and community advocates that empowers them to work together to improve how domestic violence and sexual assault cases are handled,” said Park. “Survivors must have equal access to an unbiased criminal justice system that offers them protection and ensures that perpetrators cannot act with impunity.”

Courts and the DOJ have concluded that victims of domestic and sexual assault crimes are denied equal protection under the U.S. Constitution when these crimes are treated less seriously than other offenses based on gender bias. Victims’ due process rights are also violated when police commit acts of violence, such as sexual assault or when a victim is put at greater risk as a result of police conduct.

Domestic violence and sexual assault are two of the most prevalent forms of gender-based violence. In the U.S., over a million women are sexually assaulted each year and more than a third of women are subjected to rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, with women of color disproportionately affected.

Survey: 1 in 4 college women report unwanted sexual contact

Nearly a quarter of undergraduate women surveyed at more than two dozen universities say they experienced unwanted sexual contact sometime during college, according to a report.

The results of the Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey come at a time of heightened scrutiny of the nation’s colleges and universities and what they are doing to combat sexual assault. Vice President Joe Biden recently visited Ohio State University and highlighted several new initiatives, including mandatory sexual violence awareness training for the school’s freshmen beginning next year.

The survey was sent this spring to nearly 780,000 students at the association’s member colleges, plus one additional university. About 150,000 participated in the online questionnaire. Researchers said results could be biased slightly upwards because students who ignored the survey may have been less likely to report victimization.

The results were generally in line with past surveys on sexual assault and misconduct on college campuses — and confirmed that alcohol and drugs are important risk factors.

“How many surveys will it take before we act with the urgency these crimes demand?” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, who is pushing for passage of a bill that would address how sexual assault cases are handled on campus and the resources available to help students.

Researchers cautioned against generalizations from the data, partly because experiences of different students and at different schools could vary widely. It was not a representative sample of all the nation’s colleges and universities.

Some students attended schools that have recently grappled with reports of sexual assaults or misconduct, including the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ohio State.

University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan has said that a widely discredited and later retracted Rolling Stone magazine story about a gang-rape at a fraternity house harmed efforts to fight sexual violence and tarred the school’s reputation. Hazing that included excessive underage drinking and sexualized conduct — though none of it aimed at females — prompted the University of Wisconsin-Madison to terminate a fraternity chapter earlier this year. And Ohio State fired its marching band director last year after an internal investigation turned up a “sexualized culture” of rituals and traditions inside the celebrated organization.

The Obama administration has taken steps to push colleges to better tackle the problem of sexual assault, including releasing the names of 55 colleges and universities last year that were facing Title IX investigations for their handling of such cases. A settlement in one of those cases, between UVA and the U.S. Department of Education has been announced. It included several changes the university will make to the handling of sexual assault cases.

Other participating schools said survey results also would bolster their ongoing efforts. Dartmouth said it will form a committee of students, faculty and staff to analyze the data, as well as conduct its own attitudes survey starting in October.

Gregory Fenves, president of The University of Texas at Austin, said, “It is essential that we foster a campus that does not tolerate sexual assaults while strongly encouraging victims to come forward and report incidents.”

Overall, 23 percent of undergraduate women at the participating universities said they had been physically forced — or threatened with force — into nonconsensual sexual contact or incapacitated when it happened. That included activities ranging from sexual touching or kissing to penetration. For undergraduate men, the percentage was 5 percent.

The survey found freshman women appeared to be at greater risk than older students for these forced or incapacitated encounters. About 17 percent of freshman females reported sexual contact that was forced or while incapacitated; for senior-year students, the percentage had dropped to 11 percent.

The survey provided a rare glimpse into the experiences of the small percentage of students who are transgender or who don’t identify as either male or female. Undergraduates in that category reported the highest rate of the most serious nonconsensual acts.

“Our universities are working to ensure their campuses are safe places for students,” AAU President Hunter Rawlings said in a statement. “The primary goal of the survey is to help them better understand the experiences and attitudes of their students with respect to this challenge.”

The study found that only a relatively small percentage of serious incidents was reported to the university or another group, including law enforcement. Across the institutions, it ranged from 5 percent to 25 percent.

The most common reason cited by students for not reporting an incident was that they didn’t consider it serious enough. Others said they were embarrassed or ashamed or “did not think anything would be done about it.”

Those who chose to report the incidents, however, said they had generally favorable experiences. Well over half said their experience with the organization that handled the report was very good or excellent.

Twenty-six participating institutions were AAU member research universities: Brown; California Institute of Technology; Case Western Reserve; Columbia; Cornell; Harvard; Yale; Iowa State; Michigan State; Ohio State; Purdue; Texas A&M; and the universities of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota-Twin Cities, Missouri-Columbia, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Southern California, Texas at Austin, Virginia, Wisconsin-Madison and Washingtocn University in St. Louis. One nonmember, Dartmouth College, also participated.

Transcript: President Obama’s remarks on campaign against campus sexual assault

 This afternoon, in a speech in the East Room at the White House, President Barack Obama spoke about the “It’s On Us” campaign, a national public service to combat sexual assault on college campuses. The following is a transcript of the president’s remarks, provided by the White House:

Welcome to the White House, everybody.  And thank you to Joe Biden not just for the introduction, not just for being a great Vice President — but for decades, since long before he was in his current office, Joe has brought unmatched passion to this cause.  He has.  (Applause.) 

   And at a time when domestic violence was all too often seen as a private matter, Joe was out there saying that this was unacceptable.  Thanks to him and so many others, last week we were able to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the law Joe wrote, a law that transformed the way we handle domestic abuse in this country — the Violence Against Women Act.

     And we’re here to talk today about an issue that is a priority for me, and that’s ending campus sexual assault.  I want to thank all of you who are participating.  I particularly want to thank Lilly for her wonderful presentation and grace.  I want to thank her parents for being here.  As a father of two daughters, I on the one hand am enraged about what has happened; on the other hand, am empowered to see such an incredible young woman be so strong and do so well.  And we’re going to be thrilled watching all of the great things she is going to be doing in her life.  So we’re really proud of her.

     I want to thank the White House Council on Women and Girls.  Good Job.  Valerie, thank you.  (Applause.)  I want to thank our White House Advisor on Violence Against Women — the work that you do every day partnering with others to prevent the outrage, the crime of sexual violence.

     We’ve got some outstanding lawmakers with us.  Senator Claire McCaskill is right here from the great state of Missouri, who I love.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got Dick Blumenthal from the great state of Connecticut, as well as Congresswoman Susan Davis.  So thank you so much, I’m thrilled to have you guys here.  (Applause.)

     I also want to thank other members of Congress who are here and have worked on this issue so hard for so long.  A lot of the people in this room have been on the front lines in fighting sexual assault for a long time.  And along with Lilly, I want to thank all the survivors who are here today, and so many others around the country.  (Applause.)  Lilly I’m sure took strength from a community of people — some who came before, some who were peers — who were able to summon the courage to speak out about the darkest moment of their lives.  They endure pain and the fear that too often isolates victims of sexual assault.  So when they give voice to their own experiences, they’re giving voice to countless others — women and men, girls and boys –- who still suffer in silence.

     So to the survivors who are leading the fight against sexual assault on campuses, your efforts have helped to start a movement.  I know that, as Lilly described, there are times where the fight feels lonely, and it feels as if you’re dredging up stuff that you’d rather put behind you.  But we’re here to say, today, it’s not on you.  This is not your fight alone.  This is on all of us, every one of us, to fight campus sexual assault.  You are not alone, and we have your back, and we are going to organize campus by campus, city by city, state by state.  This entire country is going to make sure that we understand what this is about, and that we’re going to put a stop to it. 

     And this is a new school year.  We’ve been working on campus sexual assault for several years, but the issue of violence against women is now in the news every day.  We started to I think get a better picture about what domestic violence is all about.  People are talking about it.  Victims are realizing they’re not alone.  Brave people have come forward, they’re opening up about their own experiences. 

     And so we think today’s event is all that more relevant, all that more important for us to say that campus sexual assault is no longer something we as a nation can turn away from and say that’s not our problem.  This is a problem that matters to all of us.

     An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years — one in five.  Of those assaults, only 12 percent are reported, and of those reported assaults, only a fraction of the offenders are punished.  And while these assaults overwhelmingly happen to women, we know that men are assaulted, too.  Men get raped.  They’re even less likely to talk about it.  We know that sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter their race, their economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity -– and LGBT victims can feel even more isolated, feel even more alone.

     For anybody whose once-normal, everyday life was suddenly shattered by an act of sexual violence, the trauma, the terror can shadow you long after one horrible attack.  It lingers when you don’t know where to go or who to turn to.  It’s there when you’re forced to sit in the same class or stay in the same dorm with the person who raped you; when people are more suspicious of what you were wearing or what you were drinking, as if it’s your fault, not the fault of the person who assaulted you.  It’s a haunting presence when the very people entrusted with your welfare fail to protect you.

     Students work hard to get into college.  I know — I’m watching Malia right now, she’s a junior.  She’s got a lot of homework.  And parents can do everything they can to support their kids’ dreams of getting a good education.  When they finally make it onto campus, only to be assaulted, that’s not just a nightmare for them and their families; it’s not just an affront to everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve — it is an affront to our basic humanity.  It insults our most basic values as individuals and families, and as a nation.  We are a nation that values liberty and equality and justice.  And we’re a people who believe every child deserves an education that allows them to fulfill their God-given potential, free from fear of intimidation or violence.  And we owe it to our children to live up to those values.  So my administration is trying to do our part.

     First of all, three years ago, we sent guidance to every school district, every college, every university that receives federal funding, and we clarified their legal obligations to prevent and respond to sexual assault.  And we reminded them that sexual violence isn’t just a crime, it is a civil rights violation.  And I want to acknowledge Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for his department’s work in holding schools accountable and making sure that they stand up for students.

     Number two, in January, I created a White House task force to prevent — a Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  Their job is to work with colleges and universities on better ways to prevent and respond to assaults, to lift up best practices.  And we held conversations with thousands of people –- survivors, parents, student groups, faculty, law enforcement, advocates, academics.  In April, the task force released the first report, recommending a number of best practices for colleges and universities to keep our kids safe.  And these are tested, and they are common-sense measures like campus surveys to figure out the scope of the problem, giving survivors a safe place to go and a trusted person to talk to, training school officials in how to handle trauma.  Because when you read some of the accounts, you think, what were they thinking?  You just get a sense of too many people in charge dropping the ball, fumbling something that should be taken with the most — the utmost seriousness and the utmost care. 

     Number three, we’re stepping up enforcement efforts and increasing the transparency of our efforts.  So we’re reviewing existing laws to make sure they’re adequate.  And we’re going to keep on working with educational institutions across the country to help them appropriately respond to these crimes.

     So that’s what we have been doing, but there’s always more that we can do.  And today, we’re taking a step and joining with people across the country to change our culture and help prevent sexual assault from happening.  Because that’s where prevention — that’s what prevention is going to require — we’ve got to have a fundamental shift in our culture. 

     As far as we’ve come, the fact is that from sports leagues to pop culture to politics, our society still does not sufficiently value women.  We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should.  We make excuses.  We look the other way.  The message that sends can have a chilling effect on our young women.

     And I’ve said before, when women succeed, America succeeds — let me be clear, that’s not just true in America.  If you look internationally, countries that oppress their women are countries that do badly.  Countries that empower their women are countries that thrive. 

     And so this is something that requires us to shift how we think about these issues.  One letter from a young woman really brought this point home.  Katherine Morrison, a young student from Youngstown, Ohio, she wrote, “How are we supposed to succeed when so many of our voices are being stifled?  How can we succeed when our society says that as a woman, it’s your fault if you are at a party or walked home alone.  How can we succeed when people look at women and say ‘you should have known better,’ or ‘boys will be boys?’?”

     And Katherine is absolutely right.  Women make up half this country; half its workforce; more than half of our college students.  They are not going to succeed the way they should unless they are treated as true equals, and are supported and respected.  And unless women are allowed to fulfill their full potential, America will not reach its full potential.  So we’ve got to change.

     This is not just the work of survivors, it’s not just the work of activists.  It’s not just the work of college administrators.  It’s the responsibility of the soccer coach, and the captain of the basketball team, and the football players.  And it’s on fraternities and sororities, and it’s on the editor of the school paper, and the drum major in the band.  And it’s on the English department and the engineering department, and it’s on the high schools and the elementary schools, and it’s on teachers, and it’s on counselors, and it’s on mentors, and it’s on ministers. 

     It’s on celebrities, and sports leagues, and the media, to set a better example.  It’s on parents and grandparents and older brothers and sisters to sit down young people and talk about this issue.  (Applause.) 

     And it’s not just on the parents of young women to caution them.  It is on the parents of young men to teach them respect for women.  (Applause.)  And it’s on grown men to set an example and be clear about what it means to be a man. 

     It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable.  And we especially need our young men to show women the respect they deserve, and to recognize sexual assault, and to do their part to stop it.  Because most young men on college campuses are not perpetrators.  But the rest — we can’t generalize across the board.  But the rest of us can help stop those who think in these terms and shut stuff down.  And that’s not always easy to do with all the social pressures to stay quiet or go along; you don’t want to be the guy who’s stopping another friend from taking a woman home even if it looks like she doesn’t or can’t consent.  Maybe you hear something in the locker room that makes you feel uncomfortable, or see something at a party that you know isn’t right, but you’re not sure whether you should stand up, not sure it’s okay to intervene.

     And I think Joe said it well — the truth is, it’s not just okay to intervene, it is your responsibility.  It is your responsibility to speak your mind.  It is your responsibility to tell your buddy when he’s messing up.  It is your responsibility to set the right tone when you’re talking about women, even when women aren’t around — maybe especially when they’re not around. 

     And it’s not just men who should intervene.  Women should also speak up when something doesn’t look right, even if the men don’t like it.  It’s all of us taking responsibility.  Everybody has a role to play. 

     And in fact, we’re here with Generation Progress to launch, appropriately enough, a campaign called “It’s On Us.”  The idea is to fundamentally shift the way we think about sexual assault. So we’re inviting colleges and universities to join us in saying, we are not tolerating this anymore –- not on our campuses, not in our community, not in this country.  And the campaign is building on the momentum that’s already being generated by college campuses by the incredible young people around the country who have stepped up and are leading the way.  I couldn’t be prouder of them. 

     And we’re also joined by some great partners in this effort –- including the Office of Women’s Health, the college sports community, media platforms.  We’ve got universities who have signed up, including, by the way, our military academies, who are represented here today.  So the goal is to hold ourselves and each other accountable, and to look out for those who don’t consent and can’t consent.  And anybody can be a part of this campaign. 

     So the first step on this is to go to ItsOnUs.org — that’sItsOnUs.org.  Take a pledge to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault.  It’s a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be part of the solution.  I took the pledge.  Joe took the pledge.  You can take the pledge.  You can share it on social media, you can encourage others to join us. 

     And this campaign is just part of a broader effort, but it’s a critical part, because even as we continue to enforce our laws and work with colleges to improve their responses, and to make sure that survivors are taken care of, it won’t be enough unless we change the culture that allows assault to happen in the first place.

     And I’m confident we can.  I’m confident because of incredible young people like Lilly who speak out for change and empower other survivors.  They inspire me to keep fighting.  I’m assuming they inspire you as well.  And this is a personal priority not just as a President, obviously, not just as a husband and a father of two extraordinary girls, but as an American who believes that our nation’s success depends on how we value and defend the rights of women and girls. 

     So I’m asking all of you, join us in this campaign.  Commit to being part of the solution.  Help make sure our schools are safe havens where everybody, men and women, can pursue their dreams and fulfill their potential.

     Thank you so much for all the great work.  (Applause.) 

On the Web…

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/19/fact-sheet-launch-it-s-us-public-awareness-campaign-help-prevent-campus- 

http://itsonus.org 

Schools work to improve inclusion for all students

Isaac Barnett took a bold step last year: He told teachers and classmates at his Kansas high school that the student they had known as a girl wanted to be accepted as a boy.

His close childhood friend, who also identified as transgender, was ready to come out as well.

With the administration’s blessing, a segment featuring the two friends talking about their transitions aired in the school’s classrooms, alongside a basketball team promotion and a feature on the importance of the arts.

“I didn’t get any questions or hate or put-downs or anything like that,” said Barnett, now 18, adding that they called him Isaac immediately — a drama-free coming-out that would have been extraordinary in schools a decade ago.

Surveys show that schools in districts large and small, conservative and liberal, are working to help transitioning youth fit in without a fuss.

California this year became the first state with a law spelling out the transgender student rights in public schools, including the ability to use restrooms and to play on sports teams that match their expressed genders.

Another 13 states prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in schools. Dozens of districts, from Salt Lake City and Kansas City to Knoxville, Tennessee, and Decatur, Georgia, to Shorewood, Wisconsin, have adopted similar protections. 

Parents are increasingly seeking a comfortable learning environment for their transgender children, according to Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund executive director Michael Silverman.

His group represented the parents of a transgender Colorado grade school girl who was prevented from using the girls’ restroom until state civil rights officials ruled in her favor last year.

There’s “a new generation of parents who grew up in the age of the gay rights movement and are saying, ‘We want to do what is best for our children,’” he said.

The trend is likely to accelerate with help from the federal government.

Last month, the U.S. Education Department alerted districts in a memo on sexual violence that it would investigate civil rights complaints from transgender students under Title IX, the 1972 law that bans gender discrimination at schools.

The guidance gives families new leverage to negotiate access to locker rooms, sports teams and other kinds of accommodations covered under California’s law, said Mark Blom, a National School Boards Association attorney.

He said the memo surprised him, because courts have said Title IX doesn’t provide protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It’s going to create a real problem for school districts because the department has the right to go in and attempt to require the district under threat of losing federal funding to meet the standard the department articulates,” Blom said.

School officials in states without anti-discrimination provisions for transgender residents are also grappling with how to serve students whose needs conflict with traditional views about when and why boys and girls are separated.

The ACLU of Mississippi got involved last year when a high school senior wanted to dress in clothing to match his gender identity. The principal balked, saying the dress code required clothing to conform to his official birth gender, which is female.

The school board relented and stood by its decision, even after some parents and students complained, said Bear Atwood, then the state ACLU’s executive director.

“For a long time they would have told you we don’t have any trans kids here,” Atwood said. “But as more and more kids are coming out everywhere else in the country, that is true in Mississippi as well.

“There is this sense of, ‘We have to start figuring out how to deal with this,’” Atwood said.

Earlier in May, a Christian legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom, asked the Louisville, Kentucky, school board to overrule a high school principal who allowed a transgender freshman to start using the girls’ bathrooms.

The principal has since limited the student to using a specific girls’ restroom but said treating her like other female students adhered to the recent Title IX guidance.

“When the issue of gender identity was brought to my attention, I had to educate myself on the issue and what this means in terms of fair and just treatment of transgender people,” Atherton High School principal Thomas Aberli said.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco said schools should instead give transgender students the option of using staff or unisex facilities, as many do.

“The fact that we are in a position culturally where schools are just caving to these demands is very concerning,” he said.

Kim Pearson, training director of Trans Youth Family Allies, estimates that for every case that makes headlines there are dozens that are resolved quietly and easily.

Since she co-founded the support and advocacy group in 2007, Pearson has worked with parents and educators in half of the states. “If a school wants to get it, they will,” Pearson said.

Turnaround initiative

The White House announced in May private-public funding — more than $17 million — to help turn around low-performing schools and narrow the achievement gap. Money will be used to hire arts and music teachers, bring teaching artists, art supplies and music instruments into schools and integrate the arts into other core subjects. “Turnaround artists” include Elton John, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Marc Anthony, Rashida Jones, Tim Robbins, Trombone Shorty, Forest Whitaker and Alfre Woodard.

Slutwalk Milwaukee march, rally set for Sept. 7

The Slutwalk Milwaukee march and rally to raise awareness “regarding the lack of advocacy services for survivor’s of rape and sexual violence” takes place Sept. 7.

The walk begins at noon at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Marchers will head east on Wisconsin Avenue and north on Second Street to Pere Marquette Park, where the rally begins at 1 p.m.

A news release said:

“Our culture uses the word ‘slut’ to dehumanize and delegitimize survivor’s of rape. Beyond that, it places blame on the individuals who have been survivors of rape, rather than the rapists themselves.  In Milwaukee, there are no citywide programs to ensure 24-hour access to rape crisis services. Beyond this, there is no policy in place to allow an advocate for police and court appearances. The Slutwalk movement aims to end victim-blaming and improve the city’s services for survivors.”

The first such event took place in Toronto in 2011. The Toronto campaign’s website states, “We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.”

The movement has spread to more than 200 cities.

On the Web…

https://www.facebook.com/SlutWalkMilwaukee 

UN deplores Tahrir Square rapes, demands action

U.N. officials this week deplored reports that 25 women were sexually assaulted during recent protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and demanded that Egyptian authorities take steps to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Michelle Bachelet, the executive director of the U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, said her agency “is deeply disturbed by the gravity of recent attacks against women, including the reports of sexual assault, many of which occurred in the same Tahrir Square in which women rallied to contribute to a better future for their country.”

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said about 25 women were reportedly sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square in demonstrations in recent days, in some cases with extraordinary violence.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she deplores the attacks and the fact that authorities have failed to prevent them or bring the perpetrators to justice.

Tens of thousands of people took part in the demonstrations against President Mohammed Morsi, two years after mass protests toppled then-President Hosni Mubarak and led to a transition period in the country.

Up to 60 people were killed in the latest wave of protests, and more than 1,000 were injured. The violence spurred Morsi to declare a 30-day state of emergency and curfew in Ismailia, Suez and Port Said districts.

“As a vibrant force in civil society, women continue to press for their rights, equal participation in decision-making, and the upholding of the principles of the revolution by the highest levels of leadership in Egypt,” said Bachelet, the former president of Chile. She said Egyptian authorities must protect women and punish wrongdoers.

Tahrir Square, the center of the 2011 uprising, has been the scene of a number of assaults against women – both protesters and journalists – in the aftermath of the revolution. In October, a correspondent for France 24 TV was “savagely attacked” near Tahrir after being seized by a crowd, the network said.

Complaints about the problem, which has long been a feature of Egypt’s society, gained prominence during the 2011 popular uprising that unseated Mubarak. Women activists and reporters told of severe assaults by men in Tahrir Square, the focus of the mass protests.

Rights activists have faulted Morsi’s Islamist government for failing to take action against the wave of sexual assaults.

Group wants Vatican investigated by war crimes tribunal

Victims of clerical sex abuse are asking the International Criminal Court to investigate the pope and other top Vatican officials for possible crimes against humanity.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based nonprofit legal group, requested the inquiry on behalf of the U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. In court filings, SNAP argues that the global church has maintained a “long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence” despite promises to swiftly oust predators.

The complaint names Pope Benedict XVI, partly in his former role as leader of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Since 2001, that office has been responsible for overseeing abuse cases. Also named are Cardinal William Levada, who now leads that office, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who served as the Vatican secretary of state under Pope John Paul II, and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who now holds that post.

The complaint accuses those officials of creating policies that perpetuated sexual violence against minors, the equivalent of an attack against a civilian population. Attorneys for the victims also contend that rape, sexual violence and torture are considered crimes against humanity according to the international treaty defining the court’s mandate.

The Vatican’s U.S. lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, told The Associated Press that the complaint is a “ludicrous publicity stunt and a misuse of international judicial processes.”

SNAP president Barbara Blaine said going to the court was a last resort.

“We have tried everything we could think of to get them to stop and they won’t,” she told AP. “If the pope wanted to, he could take dramatic action at any time that would help protect children today and in the future, and he refuses to take the action.”

The odds against the court opening an investigation are enormous, according to AP. The prosecutor has received nearly 9,000 independent proposals for inquiries since 2002, when the court was created as the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, and has never opened a formal investigation based solely on such a request.