In The News

May 8, 2009

MILITARY – Reports of sexual assault in the military rose nine percent over last year, but only a small number of cases went to military courts or were referred for non-judicial punishment. In about 20 percent of cases (643 of the 2,923 reported), the victim sought care or made a report but refused to provide all the information necessary to pursue an investigation. The Associated Press reports that, “The Defense Department allows those limited reports on the theory that it encourages victims to at least seek care when they might otherwise keep silent.”

NATIONAL – In late April, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will approve the sale of Plan B, emergency contraception, over-the-counter to 17-year-olds. Plan B is highly effective at preventing pregnancy and is most commonly used by rape victims and women who want to avoid pregnancy after having unprotected sex. For years, many violence prevention and reproductive rights advocates have urged the federal government to make it available without a doctor’s prescription; some accused the FDA of putting politics ahead of science when it refused to do so during the Bush Administration, the Washington Post reports.

FL – The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence found a 37 percent increase in the demand for emergency shelter services from August to December 2008, the Pensacola News Journal reports. Florida advocates cautioned that domestic violence occurs when the economy is good or bad, but said the economic downturn is taking a toll.

MA – State legislators honored the Bridgewater-Raynham public school district for its work with high schools to provide skill groups and peer and adult mentoring programs to help students build safe and supportive relationships, the Raynham Call reports. Bridgewater-Raynham was one of 30 schools and districts that received funding through the innovative Safe and Supportive Learning Environments program. Each grantee program addresses the educational and psycho-social needs of children who witnessed violence and had other adverse experiences. The Bridgewater-Raynham program has been extended to middle school to better prepare eighth grade students making the transition to high school.

NC – A gunman entered a Carthage nursing home and opened fire in March, killing seven elderly residents of the home and one nurse. Robert K. Stewart was wounded by Carthage police and taken into custody. Officials believe that Stewart may have targeted the nursing home because his estranged wife, Wanda Luck, was on duty when the shootings occurred. However, she was in a locked ward for Alzheimer’s patients and not hurt, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. Several members of Luck’s family told reporters that Stewart drank heavily and was prone to violent rages.

AFGHANISTAN – President Hamid Karzai said the Afghan government will change a law that critics say legalizes rape within marriage. A review of the law, which has been the subject of broad international criticism because it introduces Taliban-era restrictions on women and sanctions marital rape, was ordered last month. President Karzai told activists last month that he had not read the legislation when he signed it, Reuters reports. President Obama and many U.S. lawmakers have been among the critics. Three hundred Afghan women walked through the streets of the capital to protest the new law, and then delivered a petition calling for its repeal. The law was crafted to affect only the Shi’ite Muslim community, 15 percent of Afghanistan’s population. Critics have accused Karzai of signing the legislation in haste because he faces re-election this summer and wants to curry favor with Shi’ite voters.

INDIA – An article on the Lancet’s web site finds that more than 100,000 young women age 15 to 34 were killed in fires in 2001. Researchers believe that kitchen accidents, self-immolation and homicides related to different forms of domestic violence – including bride burnings and dowry deaths – are the main reasons that young women are dying in fires. The article said, “Fire-related injuries are an important public health problem in India, and need urgent attention.” The number of young women killed is six times higher than the number reported to police.