In The News

Sep 24, 2010

NATIONAL – Violent crime declined for the third year in a row, with an estimated 5.3 percent drop from 2008 figures, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported on September 13. According to Crime in the United States, 2009, there were 1,318,398 violent crimes last year – including 15,241 murders; 88,097 forcible rapes; and 806,843 aggravated assaults. However, many sexual violence experts challenge the definition of forcible rape used by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program (the agency that collects the data) because its definition does not include statutory rape, rape of males or other sex offenses such as attempted rape, assault, sexual battery, or sexual violence against children. In addition, rape is a vastly under-reported crime.


NATIONAL – The Food and Drug Administration has approved Ella, a new form of emergency contraception that can be taken as many as five days after sex to prevent pregnancy. Family planning proponents welcomed the news as a new option to prevent unplanned pregnancies, but some critics argue that the drug could be used to induce an abortion and that some men may slip it to unsuspecting women in an effort to coerce them. The Family Violence Prevention Fund’s kNOwMore initiative is creating a dialogue about birth control sabotage and reproductive coercion and its website features the stories of women who share their experiences with birth control sabotage and reproductive coercion.


MILITARY – Former Marine Cesear Laurean was found guilty of killing Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach and sentenced to life in prison without parole on August 23. Lauterbach accused Laurean of rape and the allegation, which threatened to derail his budding military career, was allegedly the motive behind the December 2007 murder. District Attorney Dewey Hudson told the jury in his closing argument, “He was a married man. He was her boss. He had sex with her,” the Washington Post reported. Laurean claims the sex was consensual and plans to appeal his conviction.


CA – A third domestic violence shelter was forced to shut its doors this summer as a result of California’s budget cuts. The Sexual Assault Coalition of Grass Valley (DVSAC) closed on June 30, the day last year’s emergency state shelter funding ran out.  Thanks to generous Grass Valley residents, the shelter staff has been able to create a system of “safe houses” in the community for women and children fleeing violence. “This is a giant step backwards for the state of California,” said Tara Shabazz, Executive Director of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. “The Governor and legislature owe it to Californians to reach a budget agreement quickly, and fully restore domestic violence funding. We can’t allow what happened in Grass Valley to happen in other communities.”


CO – Actor Charlie Sheen pled guilty last month to misdemeanor third-degree assault charges in the Christmas Day dispute with his wife, in exchange for the dropping of two more serious charges, the Associated Press reports. Sheen will serve 30 days in a rehabilitation center, followed by 30 days of probation and anger management. His wife, Brooke Mueller Sheen, told police that her husband wielded a knife and threatened to kill her after she told him she wanted a divorce.


NY – Late last month Governor David A. Paterson signed two pieces of legislation into law, one extending protection orders to witnesses in domestic abuse cases and the other protecting abuse victims who have fled their homes from being evicted. Under the new law, family court judges will be able to issue orders of protection to witnesses, not just victims. The other new law states that a victim who flees a rent-regulated apartment in New York City because of domestic violence cannot be evicted.


NY – David Johnson, a high-level advisor to Governor David A. Paterson, surrendered last month and was charged with misdemeanor assault and five other charges. He pled not guilty. Johnson is accused of threatening and assaulting former girlfriend Sherr-una Booker last year. The New York Times also reports that the F.B.I. is investigating whether the privacy of Booker’s electronic medical records was violated in February, a day after Governor Paterson denied to the newspaper that any violence had occurred between the couple. Johnson’s next court date is October 14.


VA – The University of Virginia has instituted a new policy that requires students to report any arrests or convictions since enrolling at the school. Students who fail to report incidents will face dismissal under the University’s honor code, the Washington Post reports. The school’s new president put the policy in place in response to the murder last spring of undergraduate Yeardley Love, whose ex-boyfriend George Huguely is charged with the murder. Huguely had previously been arrested for a confrontation with a female police officer. Critics of the new policy worry that the information collected will be misused or, as the Richmond Times Dispatch writes, the system “would fail to distinguish the foolish or larcenous… from the truly dangerous.”


AFGHANISTAN – Women in the country experience “extremely high rates of domestic violence,” according to a new report by the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the United Nations Development Fund for Women. It found nearly 2,000 cases of violence against women from October 2006 to mid-2009, including physical attacks, emotional abuse, rape and kidnapping, forced sexual intercourse, forced engagement or marriage, and restricted mobility. In about 40 percent of the reported cases, there was no follow-up and the outcome of the violence was “unknown.” The report was released one week after another report revealed that suicide rates among Afghan women have increased dramatically since the 1970s.


FRANCE – In a unanimous vote, the French Parliament has approved a law that makes “psychological violence” a criminal offense. Offenders will face up to three years in jail and a fine of 75,000 euros (about $90,000), the New York Times reports. The law is meant to apply to both sexes, but abuse of women is of particular concern to the members of Parliament who drafted the legislation. Psychological violence is defined by the new law as “repeated acts that could be constituted by words… that degrade one’s quality of life and cause a change to one’s mental or physical state.”