Posts tagged ‘sexual assault’

Don’t Be a Bystander


Last week, outside of a homecoming dance held at Richmond High School, in Richmond, Calif., a 15-year-old girl was gang raped and sexually assaulted for over 2 hours by a handful of young men while onlookers watched. It was not until one student overheard others bragging about it at the dance that the police were called to the scene. When they arrived, they found the young woman half-naked near a picnic table, less than a block from the entrance to the school dance. (source)

Five suspects have now been charged in the rape and beating of the girl. But what is more astounding is that roughly 12-20 people (according to accounts) witnessed the gang rape over the 2-hour span and did absolutely nothing about it. In fact, some took pictures with their cell phones.

“She was raped, beaten, robbed and dehumanized by several suspects who were obviously OK enough with it to behave that way in each other’s presence. What makes it even more disturbing is the presence of others. People came by, saw what was happening and failed to report it.” — Richmond Police Lt. Mark Gagan (source)

The Bystander Effect

Some psychologists ascribe the behavior of the onlookers to “The Bystander Effect.” According to studies, individuals are less likely to intervene in an emergency/crisis if there are other people around:

“When something unusual happens, we look to others to figure out how we should react. If we see other people doing nothing, we usually conclude that nothing should be done. The problem occurs when everybody assumes the same thing, a phenomenon that psychologists call ‘pluralistic ignorance.’” (source)

That makes us all sound like mindless animals, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, many studies have found that this is the case, more often than not.

Stand Up. Say Something. Call 911.

It took over 2 hours for someone to call police to the rescue of this teen girl. In the recent case of Phillip Garrido, all his neighbors thought he was creepy and probably up to something illegal. But because no one was willing to push the matter, Jaycee Duggard was imprisoned in his backyard for 18 years.

We might think it is uncomfortable to intervene in a domestic dispute. Or we might think that someone else will call 911. We may even fear for our own safety if we witness the victimization of another. But studies have shown that when people know about the Bystander Effect, they are less likely to sit idly by while someone else is in trouble.

So consider this your education. Don’t be a victim of the Bystander Effect. When you see someone in trouble, being assaulted or victimized; stand up, say something, and call the police. You may prevent this type of atrocious act from happing to another teen girl outside a high-school dance.

For other perspectives on this case:
Rape: America’s Least Reported Crime
Bystanders No More: Teaching Kids to Respond to Violent Crime
Friend of Gang Rape Victim Blasts School Officials Over Safety
Richmond High Rape—What Do We Do With This?

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November 2, 2009 at 10:00 pm Leave a comment

Domestic Violence Statistics Not Low Enough

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 552, 000 females, age 12 and older, experienced non-fatal violence from an intimate partner in 2008. In 2007, 1,640 females were killed by an intimate partner, making up 70% of all intimate partner homicides. And although the numbers of women killed by an intimate partner has declined in the last decade, I don’t know anyone who thinks these numbers are low enough.

To make things worse, the reach of domestic violence goes beyond the immediate victim. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 38% of victims of domestic violence had children under the age of 12 living in the home. And of those children in the home, it is estimated that 60% directly witnessed the violence. (See full statistics from the BJS here.)

Societal Impediments

For some reason, our society, and many others across the globe, have an aversion to interfering in domestic violence incidents. Some people feel that it’s a family matter or that they have no business getting into a fight between spouses or family members. This attitude has even been reflected in law enforcement practice, waiting for a battered woman to press charges against an abuser before taking any legal action. But perhaps things are changing with a new program created by the Baltimore Police Department.

A New Way to Fight Domestic Violence

The Baltimore PD has created a new Family Crime Unit designed specifically to intervene in domestic violence situations early, before these situations descalate into serious injury or death. According to Peter Hermann, of the Baltimore Sun, the new unit has been modeled after the homicide division, in order to more aggressively act on domestic violence incidents and prevent further violence before it happens. And the unit is already seeing some success. For example, this year, Baltimore has only seen 4 domestic killings, as opposed to 13-14 in years previous. And this success comes at a time when the economy is down, traditionally a time when domestic violence rises. (Read about the extent of the program here.)

Their approach to domestic violence is something that needs to be modeled in other law enforcement agencies across the county. Domestic violence is NOT just a family matter. It affects us all. Be aware of the issues and become an active citizen in favor of a smarter, more aggressive domestic violence response unit for you local law enforcement agency.

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October 26, 2009 at 11:00 pm 2 comments

Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention just released their study, Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey. The study included over 4,500 juveniles age 17 and younger and covered topics from bullying, to child maltreatment, to sexual victimization. Here are some interesting findings:

  • Children 7-10 years old are the most likely to experience physical assault/bullying from siblings and peers
  • Nearly 1 in 10 surveyed had been sexually victimized, and nearly 20% of all girls are sexually victimized by the time they are 17
  • 1 in 5 children suffer maltreatment (physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, and more) by the time they are 17
    Children 10-13 are at the highest risk for kidnapping than any other age group
  • Overall, adolescents age 14-17 are at the highest risk for witnessing or being the victim of physical abuse and sexual victimization of all types

Any violence against children is too much violence against children. Talk to your kids about what they can do to protect themselves from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Foster a relationship with your children that is open and honest, where they can feel safe talking to you about these issues. Overall, as adults and parents, we need to be the examples for our children. If we are physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive to them or others—or let abuse we see go unreported—they will learn from us.

Let’s all work together to stop violence against children. Here’s one organization that is trying to help: They have great resources for parents for raising awareness and combating child sexual abuse.

Read the entire results of the study here:

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October 12, 2009 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Preventing Sexual Abuse Through More Than ‘Stranger Danger’

Jaycee Lee Duggrad, kidnapped in 1991 by Phillip Garrido

Jaycee Lee Duggrad, kidnapped in 1991 by Phillip Garrido

As someone who follows sex offender issues, I have seen a myriad of recent articles in the media that throw blame at the California parole system, the Contra Costa County Sherriff’s Office, the California state sex offender registry and other governmental agencies for not better protecting Jaycee Lee Duggard and not catching Phillip Garrido sooner (see this article for a blame list that runs the gammut). But throwing blame at governmental agencies only distracts us from the real threats to our child’s safety.

Family and Friends

High-profile cases like this stoke our fear that our children will be abducted by the creepy guy at the end of the block or that some stranger will snatch our children off the street. But, really, that creepy guy at the end of the street is probably much less of a threat to your child than your friendly neighbor, a family friend, or close relative: 93% of first-time sex offenders are friends, acquaintances, or family members—people who are not yet on any registry.

It’s scary to think that your husband, brother, son, aunt, or niece is the most likely person to sexually assault your child. So we put it out of our minds, and we focus on the registered sex offender down the street who we have never met and never talked to.

What We Can Prevent

In reality, despite the waves of criticism being lobbed at California laws and law enforcement for not finding Duggard sooner, there is little to no evidence that Duggard’s actual kidnapping could have been prevented. It has been widely reported that Duggard was snatched off the street—within sight of her own home—as she walked to a nearby school bus stop. Her own stepfather saw the kidnapping take place and was powerless to stop it. But this is an extremely rare case. Protecting your child from sexual predators within your own circle of friends and family is much more preventable.

Go Beyond ‘Stranger Danger’

The first step is talking with your children, not just about “stranger danger,” but about inappropriate touching or inappropriate conversations with people they already know. Let them know that they have the right to say “no” to an adult or teen who makes them feel uncomfortable—even if that person is a friend or family member.

In addition, create a relationship with your child wherein they feel comfortable sharing anything with you. Many child predators shame their victims by telling them that their parents won’t love them or want them anymore if they found out what they did. Make sure your child knows they can always talk to you about anything without shame or remorse.

More Tips

I highly recommend taking a look at this list of suggestions about how to talk to your child and prevent sexual abuse by someone they know:

Also, here is a sobering site that lists sex offender statistics:

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September 17, 2009 at 7:55 am 1 comment

Bullying Increases in Intensity—More Criminal Charges

Although it is unclear whether these incidents have increased in intensity or whether more people are reporting them, parents and schools are growing increasingly unafraid to prosecute bullies as criminals. USA Today reports that, in the last 20 years, criminal charges and parental litigation have increased in cases of juvenile bullying.

In addition, it seems that the bullying cases are bringing to light more disturbing and cruel assaults than in years past. For example, the USA Today article cites cases involving sodomizing with broom handles and hockey sticks and simulated rape in addition to physical beatings. And in at least one case, a student was held down while the bully rubbed his genitals on the victim’s face.

What makes these cases worse is the fact that majority of them are not isolated incidents, but rather once a victim comes forward to a parent or teacher a history of bulling and abuse is uncovered.

The key to preventing this type of abuse before it starts is an open line of communication between parents and children, teachers and students. Make sure your children know that they can talk to you about anything. Create the type of relationship with your child where they will feel safe talking to you in an open and honest way.  In addition, talk to your children about bullying and speaking up when they see it. Many of the cases of bullying uncovered a number of witnesses that for some reason or another did not tell parents or teachers about the abuse of another student.

Communication is key to keeping your children safe.


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July 10, 2009 at 11:38 am 1 comment

University of Kansas Lets their Underwear Hang Out for Sexual Violence Awareness

Local Women’s Advocacy Groups on and around the University of Kansas campus are taking advantage of Sexual Violence Awareness month by creating awareness campaigns for students, according to a story in One of the most striking is a series of clothes lines hung with men and women’s underwear. The underwear displays messages and thoughts about sexual violence written by students.

Annie McKay, assistant director of the Emily Taylor Resource Center, says that people are only aware of sexual violence when it is propelled into the media headlines, and then people forget about it. “The challenge,” she says,  “becomes garnering student interest the other 300 days of the year when it’s not on the front page of the paper,”

Since April is Sexual Violence Awareness month, take this opportunity to educate yourself, your loved ones, and friends about sexual assault, rape, and other sexually based crimes. The more knowledge you have, the better you will be able to protect yourself and help victims of these heinous crimes.

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April 10, 2009 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment



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