In The News

Dec 21, 2010

NATIONAL – The FBI reports that the number of hate crimes declined from 7,783 in 2008 to 6,604 in 2009. However, FBI officials note that figures aren’t exactly comparable from year to year, because the number of law enforcement agencies providing data increased. The report finds that half the hate crime incidents were racially motivated, 20 percent were based on religion, and 18 percent on sexual orientation.


NATIONAL – A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that no federal laws regulate whether sex offenders can work in public or private schools and that people with histories of sexual misconduct sometimes evade background checks and get new positions in other districts, especially if they were allowed to resign quietly instead of being terminated. Thirty-five states have laws restricting offenders from working in schools, the report finds, but they vary widely and enforcement can be spotty. Some school districts fail to perform criminal background checks, and some that do search only criminal databases in their own state, thereby missing convictions that occurred in other parts of the country. “It is very clear from GAO’s work that there was a major breakdown in the schools highlighted in this report – and quite possibly, in many more schools across the country,” Representative George Miller (D-CA), outgoing Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, told the Associated Press


MILITARY – There was an increase in the number of sexual assault reports at military academies during the 2009-2010 academic year. The Department of Defense released its Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the United States Military Service Academies  on December 15. It shows 41 sexual assaults reports during the Academy Program Year 2009/2010, compared to 25 reports the previous year. Officials say the increase may result from increased reporting as a result of training, education and victims’ confidence in the department’s ability to respond, rather than an increase in sexual assaults, although they admit that most assaults likely still go unreported. The Service Women’s Action Network, which criticized the findings, the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, and a group of Yale Law School students have filed a lawsuit seeking access to sexual assault records to determine the extent of the problem, the Associated Press reports.


MA – “Boorish and unoriginal” is how Boston University (BU) Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore described a website that rates the attractiveness of its students, the Boston Globe reports. The site – – allows users with a email address to upload photos of women and then rate which are “hotter.” Critics have called the site demeaning and the BU student union condemned it, saying it “encourages a culture of judgment and objectification.” The site’s creator, sophomore Justin Doody, said he plans to add a rating system for male students.


MO – A year after police changed how they handled domestic violence calls, Kansas City had two fewer domestic violence homicides and a seven percent drop in aggravated domestic assaults, the Kansas City Star reports. Police officers now use an 11-question checklist to help determine if a victim is high-risk. If a victim answers yes to certain questions – for instance, has the suspect ever used a weapon against you – then officers call a domestic violence counselor and encourage the victim to talk. Kansas City is one of five regions testing the program.


NY – White Plains Mayor Adam Bradley was found guilty earlier this month of attempted third-degree assault and three counts of second-degree harassment stemming from several incidents involving his estranged wife. At the trial, Fumiko Bradley testified that her husband had slammed her fingers in a door and thrown scalding tea on her. Despite calls for him to step down, Mayor Bradley said he will not resign. He also said he plans to appeal the verdict.


UT – On December 10, a federal jury convicted Brian Mitchell of kidnapping and transporting a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity. Mitchell took Elizabeth Smart, then age 14, from her home in Salt Lake City and held her for nine months. While a captive, Smart was repeatedly raped, forced to drink alcohol and sometimes kept chained. During the trial, Mitchell’s attorneys did not contest his actions but claimed that he was mentally ill and that he believed he was following instructions from God, reports the New York Times.


VA – The Virginia State Crime Commission is backing “significant” changes to the state’s protective order laws, the Roanoke Times reports. The Commission would broaden these laws to cover anyone with a legitimate fear of being a victim of violence and eliminate any requirement for a criminal warrant to be issued before a protective order is granted. At present, stalking orders cannot be issued unless a criminal warrant has been issued and there are multiple threats. The Commission’s recommendations will be considered during the General Assembly session that begins next month.


EGYPT – A group of independent volunteers has launched a website devoted to collecting and publishing reports of sexual harassment in Cairo. Women can send reports of harassment via Twitter, Facebook, email or text message. Organizers use the reports to map out harassment “hot spots.”  Over time, they plan to conduct community outreach in those areas. HarassMap’s creators hope the website will help raise awareness and change the “social acceptability of harassment,” the Christian Science Monitor reports.