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March 27th, 2015
Thanks to failed Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, rapists, pedophiles and other perpetrators of sexual crimes against women are escaping some of the punishment for their crimes.
A provision in the Violence Against Women Act – originally passed in 1994 and drafted by Joe Biden’s office, reauthorized in 2000 and in 2005 – allows victims of sex crimes (rape, child pornography)to seek restitution for their crimes from their attackers.
Emily Bazelon has an excellent story in the New York Times Magazine about two women who have used this provision after videos and images of them as they were raped and molested by family members were circulated across the Internet:
The provision for restitution, enacted in 1994, had yet to be invoked in a case of child-pornography possession. The basis for such a claim wasn’t necessarily self-evident: how could Amy prove that her ongoing trauma was the fault of any one man who looked at her pictures, instead of her uncle, who abused her and made the pornography?
Marsh suggested that Amy see a forensic psychologist, Joyanna Silberg, who evaluated Amy and said she would need therapy throughout her life and could expect to work sporadically because of the likelihood of periodic setbacks. Silberg attributed these costs — Amy’s damages — to her awareness of the ongoing downloading and viewing. “Usually, we try to help survivors of child sexual abuse make a very strong distinction between the past and the present,” Silberg, who has given testimony on Amy’s behalf for restitution hearings, told me. “The idea is to contain the harm: it happened then, and it’s not happening anymore. But how do you do that when these images are still out there? The past is still the present, which turns the hallmarks of treatment on their head.”
Marsh put together a lifetime claim for Amy totaling almost $3.4 million. With the crime notices arriving in the mail, Marsh started tracking men charged with possession of her pictures. He looked, in particular, for wealthy defendants. He planned to use the concept of joint and several liability to argue that each defendant should be on the hook for the full amount of his client’s damages — that is, for millions of dollars. Joint and several liability is often used in pollution cases: when several companies dump toxic waste in a lake over time, a plaintiff can go after the company with the deepest pockets, and a judge can hold that single company responsible for the entire cost of the cleanup — with the understanding that it’s up to that polluter to sue the others to pay their share.
This is the sort of concept that would seem to defy ideology. Victims deserve to be paid restitution for the crimes committed against them by their attackers and those (in the case of child pornography) who help to propagate the crime.
And yet, the House of Representatives under Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor have allowed the Violence Against Women act to expire for the first time in 19 years.
The newest version of the bill adds more people who had been excluded from protection in previous versions. Particularly LGBT Americans.
Because God forbid LGBT victims of sexual crime be allowed to pursue justice! So the House GOP passed a partisan version of the bill without these protections, once again showing us that their version of America is reductive, not expansive as has been the American tradition.
They did this knowing it would die in the Senate or be vetoed by the President for inadequately protecting Americans.
In addition to cutting off the right of restitution, letting the Act lapse will hurt funding for services and programs like the federal rape shield law, community violence prevention programs, rape crisis centers, legal aid for female survirors of domestic violence, and on and on.
At the same time, the right is touting the availability of assault weapons as somehow a blow in favor of protecting women from domestic violence. They support the fantasy and work to hurt the provisions and programs based in reality helping real Americans.
In other words, the same old crusty ideals of exclusion that are now the bread and butter of the mainstream right, and they’ll blame the media when they lose the vote among women by margins like 55%-44% (and even worse with single and non-white women).
March 27th, 2015
March 26th, 2015
March 26th, 2015